John Huffman '62 is a pastor.
It was my privilege to be a history major at Wheaton College, graduating with my B.A. in 1962.
At the time I wanted the best liberal arts education I could receive. My plan upon graduation was to do graduate work in the area of history, politics, international relations, and ministry with the thought that I would serve Jesus Christ in secular politics, the Foreign Service or journalism. Therefore I took every course that I could in history, politics, psychology, literature, journalism, and speech.
Upon graduation I entered a joint program studying for a Master of Divinity degree at Princeton Theological Seminary and special studies in international relations and politics at the Woodrow Wilson School of Princeton University.
During my first year out of Wheaton, God's call to full-time Christian ministry as a Presbyterian minister became clear. I concentrated in doctrinal theology, graduating in 1965 with that three-year degree. During my first few years after ordination, while pastoring in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I earned a 1969 Master of Arts degree in American History and Literature at the University of Tulsa. Then I embarked on a ten-year broad-based Doctorate of Ministry degree from Princeton Theological Seminary while pastoring churches in: Key Biscayne, Florida; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; and Newport Beach, California. I received that degree in 1983. Since then I have continued to read widely in American history and literature, doing a three-month sabbatical at Harvard University in 1987 and a three-month sabbatical at Princeton University as a visiting scholar, and doing special doctoral-level seminars in American intellectual and social history. I took an additional three-month intense international travel sabbatical in 1995, supplementing what I had learned through the years.
As you can see, my Wheaton major in history well equipped me for both my ministerial education and my additional studies in history. I see a great integration between the two fields of academic endeavor, as they enrich each other. Any Christian who is endeavoring to serve the Lord in the public arena needs to be a student of the theological disciplines, the culture in which one serves, and the culture of the larger world community.
The study of history provides a magnificent opportunity to do this with a high degree of objectivity. This objectivity provides the necessary intellectual freedom for a theologically evangelical student doing graduate work in more liberal institutions. One is free to master the material studied with a capacity to step back and make one's own theological and philosophical conclusions, as long as one can convince the professor that the objective material and varied philosophical viewpoints have been mastered. I applied this method even to my doctrinal theology major, approaching it from the standpoint of historical theology.
I personally have a bias against seeing college as a vocational school – as training a person for a financially viable career. I see it as an opportunity for broad training in various disciplines involving all of life, with graduate school to be the place of professional specialization. I know many people in various vocations, and even professions, who unfortunately are not truly educated persons. Instead they are vocational or professional technicians in particular career areas with a limited perspective on the rest of life. Those same persons could live richer, fuller, and more contributive lives by having majored in and pursued a lifelong education in liberal arts fields such as history, literature, psychology, sociology and philosophy. In my case, I am so pleased to have found history as my academic lens on life as early as high school, and to maintain the that study throughout my fifty years of ordained pastoral ministry and now even into my retirement years. All of my life has been enriched by this undergraduate major. I have been enabled to not only find my ministerial functions deepened by this but have also been more readily equipped for my additional involvement in local, national and international NGO boards and varied servant ministries.
I can enthusiastically endorse a major in history as a superb preparation for all of one's future life!