Some of the greatest treasures of wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and inspiration are found in history. Studying history is like mining for gold. It is work and requires patience, but what makes something a treasure is that it is either rare or hard to get to. That which is common, or easy to find, has less value. This is just as true with the treasures of history—the harder the work and the more patience required makes what we find even more valuable.
One method of mining for gold is called “panning.” By this method, the sand in streams that contains flecks of gold is sifted through fine filters that separate the gold from the sand. In the same way we must sift through history to separate the treasure contained in it. Because history is written by people, and people tend to have prejudices based on political, religious, or other social influences, we must learn to discern these and sift through them to keep only the pure gold.
Any historian who claims to be completely objective should be the most suspected of prejudice. We all have mental filters that we perceive the world through. These filters are created by factors such as the country or culture we’re brought up in, our families, teachers, religious faith, etc. These are not necessarily bad, but they do color what we see. For this reason, as we study history it is important to understand the perspective of the historian.
It is well known that the accounts of most wars are written by the victors. That perspective will almost always be how right or righteous their cause was, and how wrong or evil the other side was. This might be true, or the opposite of the truth, as the most righteous causes do not always win. We should also keep in mind that there is usually some right and wrong on both sides of a conflict. Historians often have a political or other agenda they are trying to convey with their accounts of history, and it does not mean that their accounts do not have value, or even that they are not accurate, but at times they can be.
There is also likely much more to every story than any historical account can give. A second major factor in our quest for truth in history is what we are told in I Corinthians 13:9-12: we all “see in part” and “know in part.” No one has the complete picture. To have the complete picture we need the perspective of others. This can be a challenge, but a needed one. This keeps those who are in pursuit of truth seeking, learning, and open to others that may have a different perspective.
All of the factors stated above also apply to these Heritage Briefs. They are written with a primary agenda to obey the biblical commandment to honor our fathers and mothers. Because this is the only commandment with a promise attached—that it will go well with us and we would have longevity—these are written with the hope that they will contribute to it going well for our country and add to our longevity. This may be a good motive, but it is a motive, and it too can color these Briefs in a way that makes them too positive or overlook flaws and mistakes.
I am also provoked by the revisionist historians who have sought to make the good seem evil, and sometimes make the evil seem good, distorting our basic values as a nation. Though this might be “righteous indignation,” reactionary thinking can lead to overreaction, and thereby color the narrative. It is the truth that sets us free, and the degree to which we allow our agendas and prejudices to color our perspective can dilute the power of the truth. The purest gold is the most valuable gold, and for this reason we appreciate any feedback or challenges to these.
We want to be successful treasure hunters of the most valuable of all treasure—the grace and favor of God. As it has been said, “One moment of the favor of God is worth a lifetime of effort.” All of the earth’s treasure cannot be compared to the favor of God. It obviously brings His favor when we honor our fathers and mothers. The reverse is also true: if we do not do this it will not go well for us, and our time will be short.
Many of the roots of the present crises we’re facing in America began with the attack on our national history, and our fathers and mothers, by revisionist historians whose intent was to make the good, and the good things they did, out to be evil. This must be countered.
Truth also requires that we not call the evil in our history good. None of our ancestors were without flaws, and some made terrible mistakes. To honor the truth, we must also examine these candidly, but we want to do it in a respectful way. We must learn from them, but keep in mind that any pride we might have that would have us consider ourselves better than others, especially those of previous generations, can cause us to fall to the same traps they did, which still seems to happen with every generation.
Let us also not succumb to the common fallacy that to know the truth is the same as walking in it. It takes more than discerning the truth to live it. To walk in truth requires combining a love for the truth with courage, faithfulness, endurance, and above all, the grace of God. As Scripture repeatedly warns us, “God resists the proud, but gives His grace to the humble” (see James 4:6). So, as we examine the mistakes and flaws in our fathers and mothers, let us always be vigilant against the pride that would have us think we would have done better or are better than they were.
The most basic precepts of Christianity are love and redemption. This requires that those who follow The One who is The Truth must view everyone and everything with a redemptive purpose. One of the worst traps we can fall into is to become what Jude called “fault-finders,” which he declares the “deep darkness” to be reserved for. We can cross the line to becoming a fault-finder when we start looking for the flaws or mistakes in others without using this knowledge to build and edify rather than to tear down.
As the saying goes, “Any jackass can kick a barn down, but it takes a skillful carpenter to build one.” Our national fathers and mothers built one of the greatest nations in history, so we need to consider just what have their critics built that gives them the authority to be their judges?
It is easy to be a critic while sitting in the ivory tower of academia, as those who have not been builders are very unlikely to understand those who have. Many of the present critics of the Founders of our nation have never built anything, much less a nation. This does not mean that our Founders should not be evaluated, but the authority to judge comes from having been a part of the building, and we will be deceived if we only listen to those who are not builders, but only know how to tear down.
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