Thursday, April 3, 2008

motivating the study of history

Jim Weiss lectured on the writings of G.A. Henty and talked about why we should study history:

-to see the big/bigger picture
-to learn (from what was done well-- or not)
-to have fun

Gary DeMar noted that history is difficult to motivate-- because it is not inherently obvious why it is useful (unlike, say, math and reading). So, if history is important, then it is important to find ways to make it seem more interesting and easier to learn. DeMar recommended memory devices, hypotheticals (e.g., what if Fidel had had a better fastball?) and the use of certain movies on historical figures (e.g., Dr. Ehrlich's Magic Bullet, Houdini, and Sgt. York), to promote the synthesis of historical events and what lies behind them.

DeMar also said a few other interesting things:

1.) It is popular, in Christian circles, to say that history is His (God's) story. In contrast, DeMar said it would be more accurate to say that history is man's response to God.

2.) He noted that history must have a moral base-- that historical events are typically judged as right or wrong (or at least some shade of gray). This requires a moral compass or foundation from which one can draw such inferences.

3.) The pursuit of history requires some hope in the future. If there is no future-- or the future is meaningless-- then the study of history will be a purely academic exercise. The study of-- and beliefs about-- the future is called eschatology. And interestingly, DeMar is adamantly NOT pre-millennial. Pre-millennialists believes that the world is going down the toilet and that Christ will return soon. This is a difficult position to hold, biblically and given the spread of Christianity across the world. (See: DeMar's End Times Fiction where he crushes the hermeneutics behind Tim LaHaye's book on eschatology.) But DeMar's point here is that pre-mills have little use for history since they have little hope in the future.


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