Can Seminary Students and History Get Along Together?
Gordon L. Heath, Doing Church History: A User-friendly Introduction to Researching the History of Christianity (Toronto, Ontario: Clements Publishing, 2008)
There are many reasons why professors read books in their field. Among these: to find textbooks for use with their students; to gain arguments, evidence, or illustrations for their lectures; even to enjoy a good book! I picked up Gordon L. Heath's Doing Church History with all three of these goals in mind.
Heath, assistant professor of Christian history at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, aims this slim (103-page) paperback at seminary students. His brief chapters deal with the commonsense questions that come naturally to seminary students who have often never darkened the door of an undergraduate history course. "Why Bother?" "What about God as a Cause?" "What about Objectivity?"
Along the way, Heath provides a primer of the historical field's ins, outs, and necessary disciplines.
Do I have to learn history?
There is only one boring course at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry: History of Magic. Do you see the cultural bias we seminary professors of history have to put up with? (Don't weep for us. Just send money.) Discerning this cultural resistance, Heath launches his introduction with the required apologia: No, church history is not as bad as death and taxes, though it is just as inevitable—at least, in most seminary curricula. No, it is not boring and (merely) technical. No, it is not remote from your ministry concerns. Yes, it brings depth and insight into your ministry in ways not available from any other source.
So far, Heath's got me in his cheering section. Then he adduces what is surely the best argument for doing history ...