PHC students who major in history learn to think Christianly about the past. This starts with mastery of the significant names, places, ideas, and events in history. Most college history programs pursue this goal, but we at PHC also pursue a higher one. Using biblical insights to analyze the past yields a better understanding of history, a better understanding of humans, and a better understanding of how our God deals with humans. Thinking Christianly about the past is a way to see history through the eyes of faith.
PHC history students report that thinking Christianly about history equips them to think Christianly about all sorts of things. It nurtures in them a healthy and vigorous Christian worldview. For example, Dr. Robert Spinney is fond of reminding his U.S. History students that politics and the economy are not so-called Jesus-Free Zones where biblical morality is inapplicable. There are no Jesus-Free Zones, whether it is the world of 1776 or the world of 2023.
Dr. Douglas Favelo likes to call this high telos history. Many people think that history is beneficial only because it alerts us to the mistakes and missteps that must be avoided today. These historical lessons, which we could call low telos history, are certainly valuable because no one wants to repeat the mistakes of the past. But Christian historians also find historical lessons about how to serve God effectively and live a noble and godly life. High telos history inspires God’s people to emulate the best of mankind in order to extend the Lord Jesus Christ’s kingdom.
PHC students majoring in history complete a yearlong History of Western Civilization course, a yearlong U.S. History, and two specialized courses: a philosophy of history course that explores how to think about history from a Christian perspective, and a research methods course that teaches students how to research in original historical documents. Students also choose history courses from a handful of possibilities like Modern Chinese History, the Intellectual History of the United States, the History of Classical Roman Civilization, the History of Islam, and the History of Modern Russia.
The history major’s highlight is the yearlong senior thesis project. Students select a subject they wish to investigate thoroughly. They then work one-on-one with a PHC history professor, research in original documents, and write an extended paper on their subject. The professor coaches, mentors, and assists as the student does the work of a historian. The final thesis is usually bound in hard cover, kept in the Patrick Henry College library, and made available to other researchers via online card catalogs.