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!
George Will wrote this in his December 23, 2001, column (emphasis mine throughout): “When history is taught at all nowadays, often it is taught as the unfolding of inevitabilities—of vast, impersonal forces. 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” (Times Union).
He then implied that our nation likely would not have been born without the bravery and leadership of George Washington. We came dangerously close to losing the Revolutionary War.
Mr. Will wrote, “Two hundred twenty-five Christmases ago, history was being made around here. And recently Lynne Cheney … came here to advocate teaching history more extensively and more wisely than we currently do. …
“Cheney stressed that events around Christmas 1776 demonstrate ‘that this nation was not inevitable.’
“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!
Mr. Will continued, “Cheney recalled a 1999 survey of college seniors at 55 elite colleges, from Princeton to Stanford, which revealed that 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” (ibid.).
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? Here is Mr. Will’s conclusion: “… because as Madison [one of America’s Founding Fathers and former president] said, in words 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! If we don’t wake up, we will lose our freedom and much more!
A Law 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?
Henry Steele Commager wrote an introduction to Winston Churchill’s biography of his ancestor, Marlborough. In it Mr. Commager said, “… 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. 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 our national well-being. If we flout those heroic virtues of history, our nations are “doomed to decay and dissolution.” But if we respect and emulate them, we will “prosper and survive.”
That is a law of history. Our national survival is at stake!
How often have we heard that history repeats itself? It does—time and time again.
The Bible contains many prophetic books, including what are classified as the “major” and “minor” prophets. But there are also “former prophets” in the Bible—comprised of Joshua, Judges, i and ii Kings, and i and ii Samuel. These books are mostly about the history of Israel. (Write for our free booklet The Former Prophets.) They are called formerprophets for a reason. They were written by prophets and are filled with end-time prophecy. If we live the same lifestyles our forefathers did, we will attain virtually the same result—good or bad. History becomes prophecy. History prophesies the fate of nations, whether they will thrive or collapse!
This is “a law of history.” It is not about luck or happenstance. It is a law of history. If we break that law, the law breaks us!
Our nations live today because great leaders of the past learned and practiced heroic virtues.
A survey revealed that British school children have a disgraceful ignorance of history before they go to college. Many of them believe Hitler was the prime minister who led Britain to victory in World War ii!
These children are dangerously ignorant of even these fairly recent events. Our nations came close to losing World War ii because we rejected Churchill’s warnings too long!
How vital is it to learn that history?
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!
If we don’t learn from Churchill’s warnings in the 1930s, we will respond too late to prevent a nuclear war!
This is the historical perspective we must have. 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 of how we can be saved from a nuclear catastrophe!
Our warning message is from the great God, and you can prove it. Will you?
The Lessons of History
Commager wrote: “[Churchill] accepted, instinctively, the attitude towards 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 the Marlborough, ‘are the principal milestones in secular history. … All great struggles of history have been won by superior will power wresting victory in the teeth of odds.’ [Our will power has been broken (Lev. 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 (Isa. 3:1-4).
In A History of the English Speaking Peoples, Winston Churchill wrote about Britain’s greatest military hero (before he was eclipsed by Churchill), Lord Nelson. He related the story of when the British Royal Navy had blockaded Europe with about 40 ships, preventing the French from crossing the Channel to attack. However, in the autumn of 1805, Napoleon massed his invasion barges at Boulogne, believing, as Churchill wrote, “that the British fleets were dispersed and that the moment had come for invasion.”
The decisive battle took place in the waters off Cape Trafalgar, Spain. Nelson was outnumbered and outgunned. At daybreak on October 21, “he saw from the quarterdeck of the Victory the battle line of the enemy consisting of an advance squadron of 12 Spanish ships … and 21 French ships of the line under Villeneuve.” Nelson signaled his captains to form for the attack in two columns. Then notice what he did.
“Nelson went down to his cabin to compose a prayer,” Churchill wrote. “‘May the Great God whom I worship grant to my country and for the benefit of Europe in general a great and glorious victory. … For myself, I commit my life to Him who made me, and may His blessing light upon my endeavors for serving my country faithfully.’
“The fleets were drawing nearer and nearer. Another signal was run up upon the Victory, ‘England expects every man will do his duty.’
“A deathly silence fell upon the fleet as the ships drew nearer. Each captain marked down his adversary, and within a few minutes the two English columns thundered into action. … The Victory smashed through between Villeneuve’s flagships, the Bucentaure, and the Redoutable. The three ships remained locked together, raking each other with broadsides. Nelson was pacing as if on parade on his quarterdeck when at 1:15 p.m. he was shot from the masthead of the Redoutable … in the shoulder. His backbone was broken, and he was carried below amid the thunder of the Victory’s guns. … In the log of the Victory occurs the passage, ‘Partial firing continued until 4:30, when a victory having been reported to the right Hon. Lord Viscount Nelson, K.B. and commander in chief, he then died of his wound.’”
This was one of the greatest sea battles in history. It saved the British Empire. It appeared that Captain Nelson was outnumbered and outgunned. But was he? He turned to God with a beautiful prayer. He committed his life to his Creator.
Nelson sacrificed his life for the British Empire, and God gave him the victory.
How important is such a faithful example from our history books? What is the lesson of this inspiring leader?
Will we learn from history? Or will America and Britain have to learn the hard way that God saves nations—by being defeated, trusting ourselves instead of God?
Either way, we learn a lesson from history. But the latter way will bring the worst suffering ever known to man (Matt. 24:21-22; Dan. 12:1; Jer. 30:1-9).
God Saved the Union
Most people don’t realize how close we came to dividing this nation forever in the American Civil War. The reason we didn’t is because one man was used by God to save the republic.
Abraham Lincoln deeply feared that the republic could collapse. He turned to God for help. Just feel the emotion in his words. Mr. Lincoln, in a proclamation on March 30, 1863, declared a day of prayer and fasting. “[I]t is the duty of nations, as well as of men,” he wrote, “to own their dependence upon the overruling power of God … and to recognize the sublime truth, announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord. … We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of heaven. We have been preserved, these many years, in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation ever has grown,but we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.”
How many of our leaders today would declare a day of fasting and prayer? Do they have enough Bible knowledge to know what Mr. Lincoln meant when he said that it was “announced in the Holy Scriptures and proven by all history, that those nations only are blessed whose God is the Lord”? Mr. Lincoln knew that was a “sublime truth.” Beautifully sublime.
This president knew that secular and biblical history prove that fact. God blesses for righteousness and curses sinners (Lev. 26; Deut. 28; 30:19).
In the midst of the Civil War, Lincoln said, “We have forgotten God!” He had the faith and political courage to rebuke his country.
That is how America was saved! Can our college students learn from such history? The fate of our nations depends on it! Those students should be learning from Mr. Lincoln’s leadership and his faith!
We are now in a war against terrorism. Will our president tell us that we have forgotten God? We have! It will take the faith Abraham Lincoln had to win this war. Without it, we will lose!
That is how important it is that we learn from our history.
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 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!
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.
Even 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.
When the September 11 terrorist attack struck last year, we finally believed bin Laden’s speeches and writings. But only after some of his rantings had deeply afflicted us.
The great tragedy is that we learned little, if anything, from the twisted history of Hitler or bin Laden.
Learning From History
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 farther you see into the past, the farther you can see into the future.
What we really need is God’s perspective. We should avoid human reasoning (ii Cor. 10:5) and reason with God (Isa. 1:18).
“Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come” (i Cor. 10:11). God left us examples in our history. They were recorded in the Old and New Testaments to educate us. But few people heed God’s warnings. And we are going to pay the ultimate price if we don’t learn these God-inspired lessons.
In this end time, 95 percent of God’s people have gone astray because they failed to follow Herbert W. Armstrong’s example as he followed Christ. (For more information, write for a free copy of Malachi’s Message.)
The solution to all this 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 biblical history.
However, the law of history is still there. Life will be extremely hard unless we learn this immutable law of history.