Tuesday, December 9, 2008

How Should We Then Live

History is one of those subjects that should be tailor made to the student. It is not a boring subject; it is just the way it is often taught—an endless stream of facts and dates—that renders it the mind-numbing chore that it seems. When it is instead related as a story hung on the moments and events that tie the past to where we are today, it can be an exciting and eye opening experience.

One of the books that makes history and specifically western culture come alive to people living here in our postmodern world is Francis Schaeffer’s “How Should We Then Live?” In it, he does a brilliant job at showing how art and philosophy have led to where we are today; brilliant in part in that he did this twenty years ago and his efforts seem a bit prophetic.

The other enlightening aspect of this book is the appendix that reveals an aspect of history that is rarely relayed in school. Most of the time students are taught history in a series of movements: the history of the renaissance, the history of the reformation, etc. Schaeffer shows the way these various movements overlapped and even influenced each other. Who teaches that Luther’s 95 theses and the Sistine Chapel ceiling were done around the same time?

When we are able to look at the way philosophies shape the cultures that drive the events of history, and then see the way these events mold the philosophies that follow, it renders understanding where we are and where we are headed as a culture possible. Unfortunately today’s education does not do this and so our culture seems at best like a case of the blind being led by the blind. (At worst perhaps the dupes being taken by the snake-oil salesmen.)

1 comment:

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