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The Power of the Past

For Mary Farag, history holds the key to an experience that can enrich and inform practice and faith today.
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It’s tempting to wonder what the future will be. But could understanding the past hold the key to understanding the future? For Mary Farag, assistant professor of Early Christian Studies, there’s no need to look to the future to stretch the mind. “Studying history stretches the mind in ways that traveling can’t even do, because we can dwell in a completely different space and time,” she says.

“People often long to know the future and the idea is that it will open our minds in some way,” says Farag. “But I think we can actually achieve something like that by studying history.” By looking back into history, we can see what happened to people, what their reactions were to the events that befell them, and how those efforts played out. “We see what happened next for these people who didn’t know what would come,” she says.

This experience of studying history is what Farag hopes students take away from her classes. Through courses on practices of mercy in the early church, the making of churches in late antiquity, the study of the first 1400 years of church history, and others, Farag challenges her students to experience a completely different perspective. The result? An experience that can enrich and inform their practice and faith today. “We are always trying to learn how to love God and through loving God, love one another -- that’s always the goal of our Christian life,” she says. “We can learn from these historical examples how to love in this way. There is something genuine we can learn from the voices of history, who have asked the same questions that we have today.”

Educating faithful Christian leaders.

Chaplain at the Hill School, Pottstown, Pennsylvania

Khristi Adams, Class of 2008

“At Princeton, we had precept groups—we’d engage text and debate. That gave me confidence to have those conversations anywhere.”