I love history. No, let me restate that. I love history. Viewing the dusty, blood-drenched battlegrounds of the ancients through the eyes of generals and soldiers makes me feel like I’m actually there in the middle of a war. Viewing the large king-of-the-hill game that has been played out throughout the entire scope of history is fascinating. There are so many nations that have at one point in time dominated the entire world and each of them had one weak spot, one chink in their armor, that led to their own downfall. But I haven’t always felt this way.
In high school I felt the same way about history as everyone else felt about math. American politics have never made sense to me, and to be honest they still don’t. War tactics and battle plans never intrigued me, and for some reason I could never keep Grant and Lee straight. I distinctly remember almost every history class trying to keep my heavy eyes from closing in sleep even though I sat in spit zone. My history teacher’s were great, I just never applied myself.
But it’s funny how when I actually started taking my faith seriously that my dull, black and white portrait of history became drenched in vibrant color. When I entered Bible college I had only been reading my Bible faithfully for a little over a year. For the first time in my life I faced questions that I didn’t have answers to. Who was Assyria? What were the war tactics used by Joshua in the Canaanite conquest? How were Jesus’ predictions of the destruction of the temple fulfilled? I had a very limited understanding of the history of the Jews and how Jesus played into all of that. Up until this point in my life I had viewed the Bible as a purely religious text, and my life definitely reflected the heartless religiosity that Jesus often spoke against.
However, Bible college thrust me right in the middle of history and forced me to view the Bible in the context of history. And to be honest, I hated it. The core of Eternity’s curriculum is built around five Foundations classes that briefly trace history and philosophy starting with establishing worldview and ending with contemporary crises. During my first two semesters, the Foundations classes were my least favorite, and I struggled twice a week to make it through another class that focuses on history, the one subject I couldn’t stand.
But then something happened. God made the Bible come alive by viewing it through history. Foundations taught me a brief overview of the Jews and the world that Jesus was born into. In my Old Testament Survey and Backgrounds classes, I became familiar with Assyria, Rome, Greece, and Babylon. We studied some of the war tactics of Joshua. And you know what happened? The Holy Spirit softened my heart and made me receptive to the historical backgrounds of the Old Testament, the New Testament, the post-biblical world, and the progression of thought, both philosophical and theological, up until present day. Now, Foundations is one of my favorite classes, and I’m sad to leave it behind.
History is important because it acts as a universal language. This makes it vital to understand, because having a healthy grasp on major historical events not only give Christians a bridge to the secular world, but it allows us to see the way Christianity has impacted the world. The victories of Christianity throughout history–the contribution to the rise of modern science or Christian involvement in Roman plagues, for instance–give Christians moments to look back on and return praise to God for continuing to use broken individuals to affect the world for better. Christianity’s failures–the involvement in the Crusades, the silence during the Holocaust, or the abuse of Orthodoxy, for instance–allow Christians to recognize their failures and grow to be more like the people Christ compels them to be.