More Than Dates and Dead People

I’m barreling my way through an amazing little book called, More Than Dates and Dead People: Recovering a Christian View of History. It is by Stephen Mansfield with a foreword by George Grant. I had the privilege of meeting Mr. Grant this week, and couldn’t help but hear his voice in my head as I read the foreword. It was a little eery but very effective.
This little book is about why history is – or should be – so vitally important to Christians and how humanists manage to make it seem so boring and meaningless. It’s quick, humorous and has the sort of logic that makes you want to smack your own forehead and say, “Of course. I knew that!” Yes, I get that feeling a lot when I read good books and listen to good sermons or lectures. Does everyone, or is it just me?
Here is an excerpt I couldn’t resist passing along. It’s a little long, but hey, I took the time to type it just for you so have a heart and read it. If you have followed the debate on education lately it will be well worth your time. Don’t worry: it has nothing to do with homeschooling, Christian schools, public schools, etc. It is about the definition and nature of religion and education, and I would love to hear what you all think. I think he is right on.

What is religion?
When we think of religion, we normally think of churches, synagogues, mosques, symbols, priests, rituals, or denominations. These are all aspects of what we might call “formal religion,” and this kind of religion does have a powerful impact upon human life.
But there is another, less formal kind of religion that really explains what men deem important – what they are willing to give their lives for or what occupies their thoughts, their checkbooks, or their calendars. Someone has suggested that this kind of religion is best described as “ultimate concern.” A man’s ultimate concern is what dominates his thoughts and passions, what he regards with unconditional seriousness, and what he is willing to suffer or die for. This is his religion, his god, his faith – regardless of what he says he believes…

What is education?
…When one generation teaches another, the older generation transmits to the next generation what it thinks is of ultimate importance for life. The older generation must have first answered the question, “What are the things our children need to know to live successfully?” Clearly, the answer to this question is a matter of faith, and that is why we can say that education is the transmission of religion to the next generation.
Consider this. A Christian will almost certainly say that for a school to really help its students to live a “successful life,” it must teach salvation in Jesus Christ, a right fear of the Lord, and the study of all of reality as a creation of God. A humanist will say that a successful life requires self-respect and self-actualization, a complete freedom from the oppression of religion, and the full achievement of human potential. Schools, the humanist will insist, should impart these values. A Marxist, however, will say that the state should be the focus of all education, and that schools exist to shape students into useful workers and loyal supporters of world socialism.
Now, each of the above – the Christian, the humanist, and the Marxist – expect schools to transmit their values to the next generation. And they are each right, in a sense, because education is the transmission of what those doing the teaching think is of ultimate importance. Put another way, education is the transmission of religion from one generation to the next – in other words, “religion transferred.”


  1. Kim, I love the logic of this book. It is right on and foundational. Our philosophy determines everything in our lives. whether we are consciously aware of it or not. Thanks.

    Bonnie in FL

  2. John from Grand Haven, MI says:

    it’s amazing the stuff you find when you just hit the “next blog” button in blogger….

  3. Stephanie says:


    Is this an actual history book, or is it a book ABOUT history (perspective on the subject, etc.)?

    I’m trying to think of a less confusing way to word that question, but hopefully you’ll read my (tired) mind.

  4. Danya Mae says:

    I agree. You did a good job. I homeschool and I think that what you’re saying is so true!

  5. Mrs Mecomber says:

    Sounds like a good book. If you like history with a philosophical bent to it, check out Francis Schaeffer’s books, too. I love “A Christian Manifesto” and “The Great Evangelical Disaster.” They are outstanding.

  6. Treasurekeeper says:

    I completely agree :)! Thank you for sharing that with us, it sounds like a great book!

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