The Inseparability of God and History

by Bruce Etter  via Veritas Press

Peanut butter without jelly? Maybe, but not preferably. Mashed potatoes without gravy? Are you kidding me? Not where I grew up. How about Oreos without milk? Well, now you’re just getting plain silly. Of course not. Certain combinations were simply meant to be. There are many others; Abbot and Costello, Batman and Robin, and the list goes on. The combination is so essential that there isn’t one without the other. There is a sense in which the two are really one. You can’t pull them apart.

A question that arises in discussions about education is the role of God and the Christian worldview. Is the Christian worldview essential to a true education? Are the two inseparable? Let’s focus specifically on the teaching of history. Is it possible to teach history without the “intrusions” of God and the Christian perspective? Some might say that history is simply the record of the past. It is a look at what events have transpired throughout time. Why bring God into the equation? Let’s consider the implications of this view.

If I am teaching on World War I, it is quite possible, actually likely, that I will not get around to mentioning the ancient Babylonian King, Hammurabi. Shocking? Of course not. And what is the clear conclusion we make? You might be able to make a connection of some kind, but Hammurabi is not essential to a study of World War I. We might even say that Hammurabi has nothing to do with World War I, and I think that is a fair conclusion. You could certainly make comparisons here and there, but I think you get my point. The same might be true of the presidency of Harry Truman and Xerxes, ancient King of the Persians. Again, you might be able to stretch and make an odd connection, but it is safe to assume that Xerxes is not particularly relevant to a study of Harry Truman. So, if I am a student in either of these settings, it is a safe conclusion that Hammurabi and Xerxes are not relevant to my understanding of these areas of history.

If I am a student sitting in a history class and never hear any mention of God or a Christian worldview, what am I to conclude? Why would a student conclude anything other than that God is not present or relevant or important in history? Unless I am hearing it somewhere else, I am going to conclude that God is not involved.

As a culture we have believed the myth that somehow it is possible to educate children in a “neutral” environment—it seems this has developed from the increasingly secular public or government schools and is now perpetuated by some classical educators. But all education is religious. Whether we say nothing or permeate our teaching with God, we are making a statement about God’s role either way. By excluding Him, we are saying that He is irrelevant, not present. But we know that God is the Lord of history. He raises up nations and brings them down. He is the Superintendent of the movement of history. He oversees it all, and orchestrates it all by His sovereign will. By not including God in our study of history we are essentially lying about the entire process. We are saying that He is absent and irrelevant when that is not the case.

If you choose to do so, you can separate your peanut butter from your jelly and your Oreos from your milk—at your own peril, of course. You can technically consume a peanut butter sandwich or an Oreo all by itself. But doing history with no mention of God is not truly doing history. Ignoring the most significant influence over the affairs of man is not remaining true to the spirit of what history truly is. The same is true of science, math, and foreign language. There is no area in which God is not present and sovereign.

This brings up the related topic of how we assess what we study. Often, parents express concerns about the material we cover in Omnibus classes. Much of it involves studying pagan authors with worldviews that are far from Christian. But it is vital that we expose students to this material and teach them how to assess it biblically. We have two choices; expose them to the material now, in the safety of a Christian environment in which they will learn how to interact with it and see logical conclusions of faulty worldviews, or shelter them from it and hope they deal with it properly when they are out on their own. The latter option has not proven to be an incredibly successful one.

In the safety of this environment we consider whether or not Plato’s view of reality was biblical. We examine the mentality of the Crusades. We consider the significance of the Pilgrims and Puritan theology. We interact with Karl Marx and critique his view of economics and government. And we consider the impact on modern man of writers like Dostoevsky, Nietzsche, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Permeating all we do is the question, “What does God’s Word say about THAT?” along with the question, “What does this mean for how I live my life today?”

God and history are indeed inseparable. We lie to ourselves and to our students when we teach history under any other assumption. And as we recognize God as the Lord of the past, we bring all ungodly philosophies under the scrutiny and correction of His Word. May God richly bless you as you continue to exalt Him in every discipline.