(Scroll to the bottom to learn about a free book giveaway.)
Let me say a few words about the title, Stuck in the Present: How History Frees and Forms Christians. I find many Christians uninterested in the study of history. This, as I will argue throughout this book, is not only a shame, but it limits one’s formation as a Christian. Ironically, just paying attention to what is transpiring in the present does not give the proper context to evaluate what is actually transpiring in the present.
We need the longer view to evaluate and make sense of the present. We need a grounding in the full sweep of human events. Greater familiarity with the lived experience of our fellow humans throughout the ages gives us better tools for living wisely in our own time. Growing in our appreciation for history frees us from the shackles of our modern-day hucksters who try to convince us that the present is all that matters. As we will see, history frees and forms Christians in a myriad of wonderful ways.
A continual study (and our study of the past should be lifelong!) makes one less vulnerable to whatever fads are in vogue at the time. Studying history offers wisdom for every imaginable situation we encounter under the sun. Studying the past puts us in contact with people whose handling of their own challenges supplies needed perspective for our own.
It is great fun to have those “aha moments” when we begin to “connect the dots” between various events. It takes place, for example, when one makes the connection that the growing “democratic spirit” in America of the early nineteenth century was not only realized in the so-called political arena, but was increasingly embodied in the working assumptions of the church.
Let me add another example from Voltaire’s fascinating book, Candide. During my reading, I wondered whether the wealthy Venetian character by the name of Pococurante who said he was “tired of both beautiful women and paintings” happened to be a good example of ennui or what we Americans have come to understand as boredom. Boredom, like everything else, has a history! I decided to reach out to Professor Patricia Spacks who wrote Boredom: The Literary History of a State of Mind. Professor Spacks wrote back and confirmed that Pococurante was indeed a “classic example of boredom.”
These kinds of connections are both thrilling to make and give us a deeper appreciation for how the human story, what we call history, is intertwined in a myriad of ways. According to neuroscientist, Daniel Levitin, we are hardwired (he thinks due to evolution, I think due to God) to name our world. Not only are we hardwired to do so, but we delight in doing so:
This innate passion for naming and categorizing can be brought into stark relief by the fact that most of the naming we do in the plant world might be considered strictly unnecessary. Out of the 30,000 edible plants thought to exist on earth, just eleven account for 93% of all that humans eat: oats, corn, rice, wheat, potatoes, yucca (also called tapioca or cassava), sorghum, millet, beans, barley, and rye. Yet our brains evolved to receive a pleasant shot of dopamine when we learn something new and again when we classify it systematically into an ordered structure.
With respect to history, it is easy to see that classification (knowing some of the differences say between the Renaissance and the Enlightenment) provides a necessary scaffolding to keep learning and delighting in one’s deeper understanding of the world. We were designed by God to better understand the world we inhabit, so it is especially sad when Christians lose the curiosity to learn.
The first three to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) a comment about the importance of history will receive a free copy of Dave Moore’s book, Stuck in the Present: How History Frees and Forms Christians. Put Mere Orthodoxy in the subject line.
Make sure to include a mailing address where the book can be sent.
David George Moore is the author of several books. Most recently, he wrote Stuck in the Present: How History Frees and Forms Christians to offer a resource for more comprehensive spiritual formation and discipleship. Stuck in the Present: How History Frees and Forms Christians: https://www.amazon.com/Stuck-Present-History-Frees-Christians/dp/168426460X Dave’s new YouTube channel features his interviews and commentary. www.youtube.com/@MOOREENGAGING