Today we hear many academic voices telling people that learning history is of little or no value. This is an extremely dangerous trend that may be too entrenched ever to correct.
This educational plague is rampant among the American and British peoples. It seems that few of our leaders understand what a colossal disaster it is!
“When history is taught at all nowadays, often it is taught as the unfolding of inevitabilities—of vast, impersonal forces,” syndicated columnist George Will wrote in his Dec. 23, 2001, column. “The role of contingency in history is disparaged, so students are inoculated against the ‘undemocratic’ notion that history can be turned in its course by great individuals” (emphasis mine throughout).
He then implied that America probably would not have been born without the bravery and leadership of George Washington. We came dangerously close to losing the Revolutionary War. “This nation was not inevitable,” Mr. Will wrote.
“General Washington, commanding ill-fed, ill-clad and barely trained forces against the world’s mightiest power, had been in retreat, as he would be much of the war. By Christmas night 1776 he desperately needed a victory and got one with the surprise attack on Trenton. … The human story would have had different contours if the bullets that sliced through his clothing during the French and Indian War had struck him.”
Great individuals do turn the course of history!
One of Winston Churchill’s greatest biographers, William Manchester, said that Churchill “saved Western civilization”—not just Britain and Europe. More accurately, Mr. Churchill was used by God to save Western civilization.
How important is it that we learn from that civilization-saving history?
Our most esteemed universities, however, neglect history and ignore its invaluable lessons. Mr. Will commented on a survey of seniors at 55 of America’s elite colleges that showed “only 22 percent knew that the words ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’ are from the Gettysburg Address. Forty percent could not place the Civil War in the second half of the 19th century. … Twenty-five percent thought the pilgrims signed the Magna Carta on the Mayflower. … To the question of who commanded American forces at Yorktown, the most frequent answer was Ulysses S. Grant.
“Such questions should not be difficult for high school seniors. But at the time of the survey, none of the 55 colleges and universities required a course in American history. And students could graduate from 78 percent of them without taking any history course.”
What a disturbing survey! Over three fourths of the students didn’t have to take even one history course!
Why is this information so shocking? Mr. Will concluded his column with the words of one of America’s Founding Fathers, former President James Madison—words that are inscribed on a Princeton building: “A well-instructed people alone can be permanently a free people.”
Are we about to lose our freedom? The answer is a resounding yes! We are going to lose our freedom and a lot more!
A Law of History
Henry Steele Commager wrote an introduction to Winston Churchill’s biography of his ancestor, Marlborough. In it Mr. Commager wrote that “Churchill’s reading of history reinforced his early education to exalt the heroic virtues. He was Roman rather than Greek, and as he admired Roman accomplishments in law, government, empire, so he rejoiced in Roman virtues of order, justice, fortitude, resoluteness, magnanimity.” Our nations live today because great leaders learned and practiced these heroic virtues! “These were British virtues too, and, because he was the very symbol of John Bull, Churchillian. He cherished, as a law of history, the principle that a people who flout these virtues is doomed to decay and dissolution, and that a people who respect them will prosper and survive.”
Learning lessons from great leaders of the past is critical to national well-being. If we respect and emulate those heroic virtues of history, we “will prosper and survive.” But if we flout them, our nations are “doomed to decay and dissolution.”
That is “a law of history.” The survival of nations is at stake!
The Lessons of History
Commager wrote, “[Churchill] accepted, instinctively, the attitude toward history which that century took for granted: that history, in the words of Bolingbroke, was philosophy teaching by examples. What is more, he was quite ready to stand there and point to the examples. Indeed we can say of Churchill what he himself wrote of Rosebery, that ‘the past stood ever at his elbow and was the counselor upon whom he most relied. He seemed to be attended by learning and history, and to carry into current events an air of ancient majesty.’
“Nowhere does this appear more simply than in the ‘Grand Theme’ which Churchill imposed upon his history of The Second World War: ‘In War: Resolution; In Defeat: Defiance; In Victory: Magnanimity; In Peace: Good Will.’ He read history as a stupendous moral scripture, and for him the writing was, if not divinely inspired, at least authoritative. More, it was straightforward and simple. History was a struggle between the forces of right or wrong, freedom and tyranny, the future and the past. By great good fortune Churchill’s own people—‘this island race,’ as he called them—were on the side of right, progress and enlightenment; by great good fortune, too, it was given to him to buckle these virtues onto him as armor in the struggle for a righteous cause.
“If history was philosophy teaching by examples, what lessons did it teach? …
“First, history was not just the pursuit of idle hours but was, itself, philosophy and, rightly read, furnished lessons which statesmen could ponder and apply.
“Second, history was both memory and prophecy. It provided the counsel and the solace of the long view both to the past and to the future. The contemplation of the ages which mankind had somehow endured, and survived, infused the student with patience, with humility, and with courage; the prospect of a posterity which, a thousand years hence, might pronounce the verdict that one generation had given to a nation ‘its finest hour’ encouraged resoluteness and hope, and strengthened the ability to confront crises that seemed insurmountable.
“Third, history followed great cycles: The same themes recurred, again and again, the same drama was played out, from age to age; and as men had somehow survived the vicissitudes of the past there was ground to hope that they might survive those of the present and the future. Thus four times Britain had fought to rescue Europe from the grip of a tyrant—Louis xiv, Napoleon, Kaiser William and Hitler—and four times Britain had succeeded in saving Europe and, with it, the cause of liberty and justice. Here was a recurring pattern which augured well for the future of ‘this island race,’ and of mankind, for, as Churchill saw it, the welfare of mankind was inextricably intertwined with that of the English-speaking peoples.
“Fourth, history bore witness to the vital importance of national character, for character was as important to a people as to an individual, and every nation must be alert to defend and preserve it. That each nation had a special character Churchill did not doubt, and as he contemplated the long arch of centuries he was led to a fifth conclusion, that it was, above all, the English character which had lighted up the corridors of time, flickering now and then but mostly pure and clear and even luminous—the English character and that of England’s daughter nations around the globe.” Today, character isn’t even important enough to raise as a political issue in Britain and America!
Commager continued, “From all this flowed a sixth lesson, that the test of greatness was politics and war. …
“‘Battles,’ he wrote in Marlborough, ‘are the principal milestones in secular history. … All great struggles of history have been won by superior willpower wresting victory in the teeth of odds.’ [In the modern nations of Israel, God has broken the willpower (Leviticus 26:19).] And elsewhere he concluded flatly that ‘The story of the human race is war.’ Like those statesmen he most admired, Marlborough, Chatham, Wolfe, Clive, Washington, Lee, he was himself a war leader; alone of great war leaders he was a great war historian.
“History—not least the history of war—taught a seventh lesson, and taught it not only to Churchill but through him: the vital importance of leadership”—another disastrous failure in Britain and America (Isaiah 3:1-4).
Manfred Weidhorn, in his book Sword and Pen, said this about Winston Churchill: “In attempting to assess the ultimate significance of events, Churchill grapples with the problem of historical perspective. Incidents have one meaning at the time of their occurrence and another when they have become part of history.”
Many people have called Mr. Churchill a prophet. Here is the main reason: He tried “to assess the ultimate significance of events” in a historical perspective. All human beings are weak in this area, but we must strive to see not just the present, but also the past and the future.
Mr. Churchill also said that the further you see into the past, the further you can see into the future.
What we really need is God’s perspective. We should avoid human reasoning (2 Corinthians 10:5). Instead, we should reason with God (Isaiah 1:18).
Most people in the 1930s were almost totally unaware of Adolf Hitler’s grand design. That is because they were ignorant of Hitler’s own history. He had laid out his master plan in his book, Mein Kampf.
Around 50 million people were killed in World War ii. How many lives could have been saved if we had read and heeded Mein Kampf and then used our power to stop Hitler before he could do so much damage?
The Russians made a pact with Hitler at the beginning of World War ii. The world was alarmed. The Russians were delighted, though they should not have been. Hitler had written in Mein Kampf that he must conquer the Soviet Union. They were either ignorant of Hitler’s history or didn’t believe what he said and wrote.
As most people know, Hitler later marched into the Soviet Union.
The world finally believed Hitler when Mein Kampf became a terrifying reality!
How vital is it to learn that history?
Similarly, Osama bin Laden wrote and spoke about how he was going to attack and terrorize America. Most of our people ignored his declaration of war. When he bombed the World Trade Center in 1993, we still didn’t know about or believe his threats, even though that was the first time America had ever been attacked by terrorism inside its borders. It wasn’t until terrorists struck America on Sep. 11, 2001, that we finally believed bin Laden’s speeches and writings.
The great tragedy is that we have learned little if anything from the twisted histories of Hitler or bin Laden.
Mr. Churchill warned for almost a full decade about Adolf Hitler, and the British and American people refused to listen. Civilization was almost beyond saving when the jarring gong of reality struck! Our nations came close to losing World War ii because we rejected Churchill’s warnings too long!
Our failure to learn from Mr. Churchill’s warnings in the 1930s are helping to lead civilization into a nuclear war!
This is the historical perspective we must have.
Our leaders continually show an obsession with their “new” and “modern” ideas—ideas that have been proven over and over throughout history to be failures—and a contempt for history and tradition. That is a dangerous problem—the kind of thinking that destroys nations!
In recent years, America’s leaders have continually pushed Germany into dominating Europe—which demonstrates the ultimate contempt for extremely recent history! (The facts are truly shocking. To learn more about this vital subject, request my free booklet Germany’s Conquest of the Balkans.)
The solution is not in being a liberal or a conservative. The liberals believe in individualism, which often means they trust in their own human reasoning. Conservatives believe that people should learn from history, but God is often left out of the picture. Neither liberals nor conservatives rely on God as they should. Too many of their views are anti-God, and that is the worst plague of all. Generally they learn dangerously little from secular or Bible history.
However, the law of history is still there. Life will be extremely hard unless we learn this immutable law of history.
God prepared Winston Churchill to save Western civilization in World War ii. No such man is being prepared to save us from World War iii. But God is sending a warning about a nuclear catastrophe to come!
Our warning message is from the great God. And you can prove it. Will you?