Our Contempt For History - Part 1
He who does not learn from history is doomed to repeat it. Winston Churchill was a student of history, especially military history. William Manchester, one of his biographers, said he “saved Western civilization” during World War II. How? Churchill practiced history.
Are you a practicing student of history? Most people are not. In fact, the people of Britain and America see little value in teaching and learning history. “Today we hear many academic voices telling people that learning history is of little or no value,” the Trumpet’s editor in chief wrote in January 2006. “This is an extremely dangerous trend that may be too entrenched ever to correct.”
The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI), after conducting a comprehensive study of freshmen and seniors at 50 American colleges and universities, concluded last September that these schools “fail to increase knowledge about America’s history and institutions.” College seniors flunked a civic literacy exam, averaging a score of 53.2 percent. At many schools, seniors knew “less than freshmen about America’s history, government, foreign affairs and economy”—a fact ISI labeled “negative learning” (emphasis mine). Why would college seniors know less American history as they conclude their “higher” education than those who are just beginning it? ISI stated, “S
tudents don’t learn what colleges don’t teach.”
Why don’t colleges and universities teach more history? Actually, the answer to this question is a matter of history.
Contempt for History
The roots of today’s contempt for history go back to 18th-century Europe and America. Writers, philosophers and scientists dubbed the time period the Age of Enlightenment, or the Age of Reason. They were confident they were bringing the world out of medieval darkness and ignorance into the glorious light of human reason and the advances of science.
Those of the Enlightenment held the Roman Catholic Church primarily responsible for the mental slavery of the previous centuries, so scholars began the war against religion and the Bible. As the age progressed, all authority—religious and civil—came under fire. Many see the Age of Enlightenment as the spark that ignited the American and French revolutions.
Smug in their self-conceit, the so-called enlightened ones belittled most knowledge gained in the past. Even famed Greek philosopher Aristotle came under attack. The rationalists became the new source of knowledge—the educators of how to produce knowledge. Their methods of knowledge production (including the scientific method) required reliance on human reason alone.
It should not be surprising, then, to realize that the leaders of that age viciously attacked the subject of history. The enlightened rejected it as a source of knowledge. Alan Richardson writes that history “was held in low esteem by all except a handful of antiquaries and their circle of devotees; to the philosophical mind in the Age of Reason all history was vitiated by the credulity gullibility
of historians …” (History Sacred and Profane). The idea that recorded history could inform current decision-making “was
utterly foreign to the Age of Reason, as it is to rationalists in every age.”
In essence, the only history important to the rationalists was the history they were making. No one needed to look to the past; the present was all that mattered.
Unfortunately, the influence of the Age of Enlightenment on our modern educational system is now pervasive. Our world is suffering as a result. But do we see it?
Bible History Scorned
During the Age of Enlightenment, rationalists promoted human reason to chief judge of all truth. The Bible as a book of special revelation was maligned by rationalist criticism. Rationalists viewed the Bible as a confusing book. In fact, the men of that age believed they could have done a better job with the writing and design of the Bible. Richardson states: “They did not find in it what they thought they had a right to find. They would have expected the Intelligent Author of Nature … to speak clearly, as Locke and Newton did; he could not be regarded as the author of the jumbled collection of tales and legends, prophecies and portents, which comprised the allegedly sacred history of the Bible.”
The rationalists subjected the Bible to intense scrutiny—more than any other ancient text. The five books of Moses they pulled to pieces and belittled. At this time, the so-called higher criticism of the Bible developed in Germany. Influenced by both evolution and anti-Semitism, German rationalists led the way in attempting to destroy the Bible’s impeccable reliability. They insisted that Moses did not write the books attributed to him; some ridiculously suggested that writing had not been developed by Moses’s time. They regarded the Bible as a collection of highly suspect sheepskins. They viewed the miracles of the Bible as the attempts of undeveloped, pitiful men to explain events without the knowledge of science. They saw the history recorded in the Bible as a mixture of half-truth, myth and legend.
Essentially, German rationalists stole Bible history from humanity.
Who believes the Bible today? The majority in this world have come to greatly disrespect the Book of books. Most scholars scorn its history. Even some of the religious do not take the Bible seriously. Few use it as the authoritative guide of life.
Here is something truly amazing. Even though biblical archaeology has proved the Bible’s history true, many still hold to the views of higher criticism. Why? Human nature. A few—and only a few—rationalists admitted that they discredited the Bible because they wanted to throw off all authoritative restraints in their pursuit of a sexually immoral lifestyle.
Here is the point. You must decide if you are going to believe men who worship their own minds, or men who know and speak for the true God—the all-powerful Creator and Ruler of the universe.
The truth is, the Bible provides the all-important key to studying history.