The Link: Christian History Today
C.S. Lewis wrote, "History is a story written by the finger of God." But can we spot God's fingerprints?
Christian historians who answer "yes" fit broadly under the heading "providentialist." Those who aren't so sure frequently wear the label "ordinary." This is far from the only issue being debated in Christian historical circles, but it is a flashpoint. Christian History wanted to see what light the sparks from this debate might shed on the church's historical tradition—from Eusebius to the present.
First, we spoke with George Marsden, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. He works primarily as an ordinary historian, playing by the rules prescribed by the mainstream academy.
Next, we spoke with John Woodbridge, research professor of church history and the history of Christian thought at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, and a corresponding editor of Christianity Today. A providentialist, he believes that Christian historians should question scholarly conventions and at least try to identify God's work in history. Welcome to the discussion.
Christian History: How does a Christian scholar approach history differently than a non-Christian? Will a Christian historian's convictions be apparent to the reader?
George Marsden: You can be either explicit or implicit about it. The topics you choose, the questions you ask about them, interpretive theories that you adopt, your evaluative standards, and so forth may all be shaped by your Christianity, but you might or might not say that in any explicit way.
When Herbert Butterfield wrote about the scientific revolution, to my knowledge he didn't say, "I'm doing this as a Christian historian." The kinds of questions ...