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Christian Historiography: Five Rival Versions
Jay D. Green
Baylor University Press, 2015
252 pp., $34.95
5 Ways to Write History as a Christian
There is no such thing as the Christian approach to history—a definitive, universally applicable method for historians to practice their craft "Christianly." And according to Jay Green—himself a Christian and a historian—that is not necessarily a bad thing. Green's taxonomy of five approaches—developed over a decade of teaching historiography to undergraduate history majors—seeks to capture the various ways in which self-consciously Christian historians have interpreted the past in light of their faith. Green devotes a chapter to each model, introducing key principles and practitioners (both at the professional and popular level), and then identifying the faithful insights of each approach while also critiquing limitations and blind spots.
The first model is more of a mindset than a discrete historiography: historical study that takes religion seriously. Most historians of religion today are Christians. While this does not necessarily give them special insights, it can produce a strong bond of identification that implicitly bears witness to the faith. Historians who exercise faith in their personal lives are more inclined to treat belief and experience as something genuine, knowing that historical reductionism does not account for all of reality.
In the second model, historical study involves application of background faith commitments. Green highlights here the work of Mark Noll and George Marsden: "If there has been an 'evangelical school' of historiography since the 1970s, these two clearly sit at its wellspring." Noll's contribution to the historiography debate has been more theological and occasional, while Marsden's has been more philosophical and systematic. Both view history through the lens of their Christian faith, acknowledging that background faith commitments influence their scholarship while continuing to play by the rules of the academy, marshaling publicly accessible evidence that can ...