I recently worked my way through The Birth of Freedom: How Biblical Foundations Changed History, the 7-session version hosted by Dave Stotts. (Publisher’s page here.) Each session is short (roughly ten to fifteen minutes), with a few follow-up questions and answers. It’s a good overview, debunking the baseless-and-rather-upside-down-but-widespread notion that Christianity somehow held back the progress of Western Civilization. At the same time, it doesn’t sugarcoat misdeeds done by all-too-imperfect Christians. (Call it “the good, the bad, and the ugly” school of history.) There are some graphic images (uhm, did I mention it doesn’t sugarcoat war or slavery, either?), so be sure to preview it before you show it to youngsters.
This is based on the Acton Media documentary, which I understand is pretty good. I bought this version both because I hoped it might be better for group study, and also – ahem – because it was on a special, introductory sale… What can I say? (It was still discounted at Christianbook.com as I went to post.)
Considering the state of affairs these days, the DVD is quite timely, and I wish I could get it into more hands before this next election. That, of course, isn’t likely to happen, but I think it’s well past time we got more people versed in history, and thinking about how and why civilizations either progress or decay, and what government is supposed to do, and what must be active in society for freedom – and thus men – to flourish.
It will help, I think, if we, for instance, have some idea of what was different between the American Revolution and the French Revolution that came right on its heels. One Revolution led to greater and greater freedom that spread and bore much good fruit – and the other led to The Terror and dictatorship. Why? That, as it happens, is one of the subjects touched on in this course.
It will also help, I think, if we look at the ancient Roman and Greek empires without rose-colored glasses on. For all their achievements, they were built on slave labor, and were rather brutish societies that held human life cheap. That, too, is touched on. They also suffered from a lack of recognition of a higher moral order, which meant that rulers went with what sounded good or played well or felt right or seemed useful at the moment. Sound familiar?
This course features some heavy hitters in the history field, and packs in a lot of info considering the brevity of the course. I was afraid, from clips from earlier work with Dave Stotts that I’d seen, that this course might be too laden with horsing around for my taste, but no. Stotts isn’t suit and tie by any means, but he stays on message, and stays in intro and wrap-up segments, letting the other historians carry most of the messages.