History Backwards

It is my pleasure to have a guest post today from Michelle Miller at Truth Quest History.

How is it possible that all those years I sat in school as a Christian girl—even when in Christian school—it never occurred to me that I had it backwards?! I seemed to be doing the right thing; my teachers were pleased and grades were good.

Yes, I was going with the program. Day after day, year after year in my history classes, I learned of famous people and their deeds. So did you, most likely. We may not remember the details now, but one thing was pushed deeply and unforgettably into our knowing…a thing so powerful, that most of us reflexively think and act in accord with it every time we address history.

This thing was never spoken. It didn’t need to be. No one had to tell us what history was. It was made obvious through the very nature of our history classes, which were all about people and their deeds. Humans were the stars in the pageant of history. The stage was theirs alone. There could be no doubt: history was the story of mankind. Behold the power of people!

Imagine my surprise, then, when the Lord began to rattle my cage with a breathtaking question: If people didn’t create themselves or the world they walk upon, how could they be the prime force of history? Why, He seemed to be implying I did believe them prime! I had to probe, for such a bodacious statement surely didn’t fit with my theology. I knew God was Lord and King. But when it came to history, apparently I had him being Lord and King in some back room while humans were in the Great Hall making it happen.

“Certainly,” I plied my children with the well-used phrase, “history is HIStory.” But we spent our days and years of homeschool history as I had done as a student: meeting one powerful person after another. When it was time to schedule a history unit or purchase resources I thought of what people we would study.

I wouldn’t let Evolution anywhere near our homeschool biology because it defiantly seeks to expunge the primary and powerful role of God from science, saying the universe shaped its own existence and acts of its own accord. Why hadn’t I noticed I was almost identically expunging Him from our history classes?! By the very nature of our emphasis, by our lop-sided diet of meet-the-culture books, by the way I had to awkwardly ‘tack on’ mention of God to the biography that was really our central focus, I was unintentionally casting humans as the center of history.

Actually, I’m not confessing pointedly enough. Stripped bare, the very purpose of our history had been knowing more about people. And all the while I was teaching history that way, I was worried, worried, worried. Would my children know God?

Would they be sure of God’s reality? Of His power in the past, present, and future? Would they fully believe the biblical truths they were taught at church and in our devotions? Would those truths ever seem connected to real life? It never occurred to me that history was a prime opportunity to teach them…to parade those truths convincingly!

Now, the light bulb was going off. Yes! The real reason for history was to immerse my children in the many convincing proofs of God’s existence and His love-saturated activity in the life of mankind! It was to let them see time and again that wherever God’s truths are sought and honored there is a bubbling up of freedom and of prosperity (in its fullest sense). History was the chance for the kids to see the absolute supremacy of spiritual things, for it shows with crystalline clarity that spiritual truth and freedom are necessary precursors to political truth and freedom, economic truth and freedom, social truth and freedom, etc. Why were we only memorizing terms and details about those topics…and then marking them off my teacher-to-do list (after patting myself on the back)?! Why were we not first seeing what God had initiated in those fields, and seeing how people responded to those beliefs? The outcome would potently show God’s rightness and reality.

Initiation. That is a key word here. History, if nothing else, is the chance to show one simple thing…that it is God who initiates…even human history. He did give us the awesome privilege of responding with free will, but He is the One initiating!

I wanted to start all over again with history, with our focus this time on what God had initiated each step of the way. And then we could see how people responded through what I now call the Big 2 Beliefs: Who did they believe God to be? And, what then, did that make mankind? I could see that those two pillars undergirded every other facet—big and small—of historical life. And now that I could see the rightful place of human response, those same responses—in government, economics, law, painting, architecture, literature, philosophy, science, social culture, etc.—took on much greater meaning. They had depth and context! They were not just soon-to-be-forgotten factoids! We were not just memorizing knowledge! We were digging into the heart of wisdom!

Funny thing, my children at the time—two now-grown sons—started to get excited. Factoids had been meaningless to them anyway. They didn’t care about getting a star on their papers. That was girly-stuff. But they were desperate for wisdom because it tapped into God. It tapped into His power and His plan for the world and their part in it. And all those things are not only part of the past and the present…but are very much the forces which will shape the future. History had come alive! My sons could not get enough

They also had something to hang on to when the shocking suffering of human history was exposed. Cynicism needn’t be the only response, because we could ask: What had God initiated, what had He intended for mankind…and how had humans responded?

This pointed up another exciting truth! Humans do play a powerful role in history, but in a different way than we had seen before. To be important, one did not have to be a headstrong Egyptian pharaoh, stiff-necked Roman caesar, or imperious Renaissance prince. We don’t have to be a gutsy general or a famous artist. Such have come and gone. Rather, since God is the real initiator, we each play a truly impactful role when we get on board with whatever He is doing. Scripture says many times that He moves through His church, so our part of the Body of Christ is not a ‘funless’ obligation, but an invitation to participate in the big stuff of this world!

In fact, we realized that we needed—when probing history—to look at the dominant spiritual beliefs or church of the area under study. Previously, I had unwittingly relegated “church history” to being a separate, hope-we-get-to-it-some-day topic because I was so busy teaching the “fact history” of all those kings and warriors I thought were running the show. What was I thinking?! If the Body of Christ was called to play the role of an ambassador, how was it doing? We didn’t get all denominational. We simply looked at the Big Two Beliefs in order to understand more of the spiritual forces at work in history and how they lined up with the most basic, supra-denominational truths of the Bible: Was the church acting as if it or God had the last word? What was it teaching people—probably more by example than by word—about the nature of human life?

This exploration told us a great deal about what the rest of the society—no matter the nation or century—believed, and how they behaved, for the church is being watched by the world. Wow, what a lesson on the role of the church as one of God’s tools! What a high calling for our children! What a high calling on our parental homeschooling! We are helping prepare our children to minister to this needy world, to “stand on the shoulders of giants,” and join the yet-to-be-written history of the future!

But whatever tools a family uses to explore the rich depths of history, what overarches all, what gives history significance is the dramatically-illustrated fact that the Lord is—as someone has said—the Centerpiece of Civilization!

Michelle Miller
Truth Quest History

Bio: As you might imagine, out of all of this, I began writing, with much encouragement from my dear homeschool friends who said they had homeschooled in large part to immerse their history studies in spiritual truth, but were not always sure how to do so. They had their children reading living books, but reported that it seemed superficial, detached, and uninsightful when they didn’t know which deeper lessons to emphasize. They wanted drawn out quite clearly the connections between the beliefs of an age and its government, wars, science, art, economics, literature, etc., and so they prodded me to learn and write what became TruthQuest History. It is now one of Cathy Duffy’s “Top 100 Picks.” I was also prompted to build a large homeschool library in our area. It now holds over 20,000 high-quality books, and it is a great joy to know that many children are digging into the great literature! Over the years, I’ve served as a homeschool speaker and consultant, and am currently a columnist for Homeschooling Today magazine, but homeschooling my own children has been my greatest calling! Two are still at home; two are grown and married. My husband and I, married for over 30 years, now have five grandchildren!

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