by Rev. Nate Atwood
Americans have wandered out of history . . . . We are overwhelmed by the instant moment headlined in this morning’s newspaper and flashed on this hour’s telecast. As a result, we can’t see the whole real world around us. We don’t see the actual conditions of our long-lived body national. . . . In a word, we have lost our sense of history. In our schools the story of our nation has been replaced by “social studies”—which is the story of what ails us. Neither our classroom lessons nor our sermons nor our books are any longer strong ties to our past.”
This is a penetrating observation made by the respected historian Dr. Daniel Boorstein in a 1970 Newsweek article. And if it was true in 1970, then how much more is it true today? After all, Dr. Boorstein made his comments before we had cable TV and the Internet.
History is important. In fact, the study of history is not only important, it is a deeply Biblical value. Dr. Charles Wolfe, a Christian historian and man who worked closely with Dr. D. James Kennedy, commented that the Bible was simply a nation recording her own history and God’s work in that history. Each succeeding generation was taught the story of Israel and what God did to birth and preserve their nation. In other words, the Bible sanctions the study of history in the
deepest possible terms.
It is reported that Adolph Hitler once said that he who controls the writing of a nation’s history controls the nation. Thus, Hitler revised German history and deliberately changed the original principles of Germany to a set of principles that permitted him to embark on a course of world domination. Controlling German education for roughly ten years, he raised a new generation of “Hitler Youth” who were propagandized by Hitler’s historical revisionism. It wasn’t Lutheran
Germany that practiced genocide and pursued satanic policies. It was a new Germany built on Hitler’s historical revisionism and theology of the Third Reich. Lenin and Stalin did the same for Russia.
Most adults are like me. We’re bad history students. We really don’t know the story of America and today’s students don’t know it either. Their greatest weakness is in their knowledge of the periods that may be most important, the Colonial and Federal periods, when the nation first achieved its unique identity.
Americans have wandered out of history. We know far more about the Washington Red-skins than we do General Washington; we know more about Elizabeth Smart than we do John and Abigail Adams. We live in the present and oftentimes we live in the trivial.
Let’s do something Biblical. Let’s remember our history. And let’s remember the part God had to play in it. As the Jews were careful to tell the story of their nation and God’s acts in that story, let’s not only tell the children the story of the Bible, let’s tell our children the story of America. And let’s do it not for selfish purposes of American pride or because we want to protect our standard of living. Let’s do it because we love truth. Let’s do it because the original vision of America was to build a country on the enduring values of Scripture so that she would be a testimony to the world that Scripture works. Let’s do it because there is a profound connection between human freedom and human dignity—both of which matter to God. Let’s do it to preserve this nation for our children and grandchildren. And let’s do it because a free nation provides the best environment in which to spread our faith in Christ both among our fellow citizens and throughout the world.
Let’s talk about the Declaration of Independence and the role Scripture had to play in its writing. Indeed, if we Americans have wandered out of history, let’s wander back into it.
(Part II, on the scriptural basis of the Declaration next week)
Reverend Nate Atwood has been in the ministry for sixteen years as an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church. He has been Senior Pastor at Kempsville Presbyterian Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, since Palm Sunday, 1999.