America in God’s Providence is a high school course for American history that is written from a Christian worldview based on Reformed-Protestant beliefs. The course consists of a 1,011 page, heavily illustrated, full-color textbook and a 333-page Teacher Guide (that has within it the student workbook). The textbook is available as either a hardcover book or a PDF, and the Teacher Guide is available as either a softcover book or a PDF.
The Teacher Guide presents schedules for using the course over either one or two years, and for either one or two course credits. Given the size of the textbook, the amount of content, and the weighty ideas presented, I definitely recommend taking two years to complete the course.
The textbook combines material from what were previously three separate textbooks (written by Gary DeMar and other authors) with an equal amount of new material written by Kevin Swanson. The material adapted from the original three textbooks now makes up the first three of seven units in America in God’s Providence, covering the period up to the year 1800. Swanson’s material continues to follow the historical timeline up to 2018 and is presented in the last four units.
The content of the textbook is excellent. Rather than a dry recitation of names and dates, it delves into motivational issues related to beliefs and values that drive men to either noble or despicable deeds. A fundamental assumption of the course is that the discovery and founding of America happened through the providence of God, even though all of those who were key to those events did not believe in or honor God.
On page 18 of the textbook it says, “The study of history is the study of how nations have answered the following questions of allegiance: Who is ultimately in charge? and Whose law should be obeyed?” With those questions in mind, the authors frequently analyze the faith of key historical figures. The early-Christian writer Tertullian is praised as having “stressed that the biblical worldview must serve as the standard in evaluating all competing worldviews” (p. 26). Since the primary focus of the course is U.S. history, it often discusses the conversion of men such as Sam Houston (p. 592) and Nathan Bedord Forrest (p. 688) who had led scandalous or wicked lives prior to their conversion. At the same time, it sometimes describes some American leaders who have long been thought of us Christians as having abandoned a Reformed Protestant orthodoxy or essential beliefs of Christianity. One example of this is the sidebar titled “Abraham Lincoln’s Lapse of Faith” on page 636.
The text also advances the idea of limited government, although it can’t be labeled as supportive of political conservativism. Approaching the concept from a religious perspective, the authors are critical of both major political parties on this issue. Chapter 48, “A New Nation Forms in 1865,” points to a fundamental shift from perceiving the U.S. as a collection of individual states (each like a country) to one country controlled much more heavily by the federal government. Further, it says, “The Federal Government would eventually turn into a socialist welfare state….by the end of the 20th century…” (p. 667).
The textbook is heavily illustrated for a high-school-level book. The images add visual appeal and information while also cutting down the amount of text for students to read. This is important in such a large book. Sidebars on most pages add essential and fascinating detail; do not skip these! In addition, timelines at the bottom of most pages help students keep events in mind in relation to one another.
There are some distinct differences in style between the first three units (based on material from three previous books) and the rest of the book. The first three units use more of a storytelling approach than do the rest of the units. In addition, many of the titles for the sidebars and the subsections of the textbook are puns in the first three units. For instance, “Are You My Mother?” is the title of a sidebar about pagan worship. “Jamestown’s ‘Lucky Strike’” is the heading for a section about the cultivation of tobacco as a profitable crop in the Jamestown colony—playing off the name of a brand of cigarettes. And “Going Dutch” heads the section about the Separatists deciding to move to Holland in search of religious liberty. The puns disappear in the last four units.
This textbook, dedicates the entire first unit to historical background information and the explorations that were crucial to our country’s foundations. The idea of worldviews in conflict is introduced at the beginning of Chapter 1 and remains a central theme throughout the textbook. The second unit continues with the settlement and development of the colonies, but always with an eye to religious development and influence. The third unit broadens out to provide excellent coverage of the period leading up to the American Revolution and continues to the end of the 18th century. The fourth unit is about the growth of the country, the advance of secular humanism, westward expansion, the plight of Native Americans and the problem of foreign entanglements. Unit V, titled “A Severe Judgment Visits the Nation,” covers the period leading up to and through the Civil War. The sixth unit, “The Zenith of the Empire,” talks about the growth and successes of America along with the simultaneous loss of faith. It covers both world wars as well as the growth of socialism in America. Unit VII, “Proud Nation Before a Fall,” paints a bleak picture of modern history, reflected in chapters with titles such as “The Foundations Destroyed: An Explosion of Immorality” and “A Nation Humbled.”
The Teacher Guide for this course combines course planning and course administration information, student workbook pages, tests, and answer keys. The pages in the printed Teacher Guide are perforated and three-hole punched to enable students and teachers to easily remove pages and separate parts of the book as needed. The PDF version also makes it easy to give students only what they need.
A few pages at the beginning of the book briefly explain how the course works and how to grade assignments. This is followed by almost 40 pages of charts showing different possible schedules. For each day, the charts might show a reading assignment, questions to be answered, an optional project, or an exam. The charts include columns for recording due dates, checking off completion, and entering grades. Following the student workbook pages are answer keys for the discussion questions, tests, and exams.
Student Workbook Pages
The textbook for this course has lists of key terms and people for each chapter, but explanations and descriptions for each term are found together only in the student workbook pages.
These are followed by a set of questions for the chapter that are labeled Discussion Questions. While students might discuss the questions, there is space following each question, indicating that students might be writing out their answers. The space is not large enough for some of the answers, so you might have students type them into a computer or write them in a separate notebook.
After the questions are two or three Optional Enrichment Projects. These generally include essay writing and further research and report writing. Many of them require a significant amount of time to complete. These are very worthwhile, but you can save time most easily by using fewer of these.
Tests and Exams
Periodic tests cover groups of chapters. The tests present identification information for the terms and descriptions that students should have learned for each chapter. For instance, Test 25 includes this test item: “The war in which the US sent troops into Kuwait to engage with Iraq.” The student needs to answer, “First Gulf War.” The test items don’t use wording identical to that presented when students first learned the terms and descriptions, and students do not have a word bank from which to choose. So these tests are challenging since students need to come up with the proper term or person’s name from their memory. Each test also includes one essay question.
All seven units have a final exam. Final exams have only the descriptions to identify, and there are 47 to 100 of these per exam.
America in God’s Providence is an excellent choice for those who want to teach history from a Reformed Protestant worldview. While the Teacher Guide presents an option for teaching it as a slightly abbreviated course in one year for one credit, I think it really needs to be used by those with the time to spread out the study of U.S. history over two years or concentrate two years’ worth of study into one.