I had the privilege of attending an academic retreat in early February. The Alcuin Fellowship is a devoted group of educators whose love for learning in the classical tradition is infectious. Their mission is “to help classical Christian schools and homeschools grow and thrive through research, writing, and regular retreats…our love of learning is staked in a deeper love for God and zeal for Jesus Christ who is the fountainhead of all Truth, Beauty, and Goodness.” It was easy to benefit from being in the presence of such people.
While at the retreat, and through the help of a few PhDs in the room, we took a deep dive into a classical view of history. Why does history matter? How should we do the work of history? We sought to answer these questions by studying two different early historians: Heroditius and Thucydides. These names may sound like a plant species from a foreign land, and reading their works may be the last thing you find yourself doing on a Friday, but those in attendance were in the sweet land of milk and honey. It refreshed our minds and souls to engage these ancient historians.
After our rich discussions, a few of the professors brought out their prized historical possessions. We flipped through the pages of a Renaissance era book by Plutarch, and gazed upon some of the first coins in the world produced by the Lydians (circa 500 BC). Old books, ancient languages, myths and coins…what else could you ask for on a Friday evening?
We ended our time settling on an important question: what should the study of history do for our students? Our dialogue led us to conclude the following. First, history is the study of man in the world. As Christians, we might add that it’s the study of image bearers in a struggling world. Therefore, history should help us see patterns to human actions, giving us forms to understand our present time and enable us to carefully project into the future. Lastly, studying man in the world should humble us. We ought to wonder at man’s potential, seeing inherent beauty rise, and simultaneously watch man crumble, torn by destructive desires.
History should give us all much to consider, examples to imitate and warn, and ultimately to aid us into deeper wisdom for today.