Interpreting Christian History: The Challenge of the Churches Past

"This book is an excellent summary of Christian history from theapostolic period to the current day and is written in an engagingway. It will be profitably used by.
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Interpreting Christian History: The Challenge of the Churches' Past - Euan Cameron - Google Книги

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Cameron also draws out the incongruous co-existence of this increasingly critical approach to sources with the continued attribution of influence to divine or Satanic agency, and the reading of church history through the prism of the Apocalypse. As his narrative proceeds into the modern period, Cameron rightly identifies the crucial nineteenth-century withdrawal of professional historians from explicit theological reflection on the implications of their work; a task that was picked up almost at the same point by theologians, and latterly by sociologists of religion.

In chapter 4, the work reaches its theological core, and as such is the point at which many, if not most, historians of religion may choose to stop reading. To do so, however, would be a shame. Cameron samples some of the attempts of historically-informed theologians to solve the central epistemological problem outlined in the Introduction: Whether or not the reader accepts the validity of, or sees any point to, such an undertaking, there is much suggestive material for historians of ideas along the way.

Fascinating conjunctures are presented between Hegelian thought and the currents within German liberal Protestant theology of the nineteenth century. The reaction of Karl Barth, in the context of the turmoil of world war, against the profound optimism concerning human nature of many of his predecessors also suggests many fruitful avenues of new research. What is perhaps of the greatest general interest in this section is the picture it gives of a sister discipline to history grappling with many of the same issues relating to language and epistemology, globalization and social change that have exploded to the surface in recent years.

Interpreting Christian History: The Challenge of the Churches' Past

In summary, Cameron has produced a work that, whilst unlikely to surprise period specialists in matters of detail, may profitably be read as an examination of a crucially important part of church history, and as a peculiarly fascinating meditation on Christian history, theology and the relationship between them. I am most grateful to Dr Webster for his careful, thoughtful, and sympathetic review. His perception of the purpose behind the book is acute, his analysis is thorough, and his judgments are extremely fair. However, given the valuable opportunity afforded by the format of Reviews in History , it seems a shame entirely to forego the occasion to continue the discussion a little.

Interpreting Christian History stands intentionally somewhat outside the genre of most historical writing on church history, including the rest of my own work. Many modern church historians conceal their belief stances so thoroughly in their writing that readers find it difficult to discern what the author believes, if anything. Even those historians who do express an overt partisanship say, the Cambridge school of pro-Catholic church historians of early-modern England express a historical sympathy for a particular point of view, which may, but need not, reflect allegiance to a corresponding modern church.

In contrast to the typical approach, then, Interpreting Christian History is avowedly a confessional work.


I wrote it as a historian whose career had been largely focused on difference, disagreement, and, sometimes violent, discord within western Christianity. The target audience for the book was, therefore, those who, like myself, attempt to sustain a holistic approach to faith, work, life, and intellectual curiosity, acknowledging no impermeable boundaries between these domains.

I therefore wonder if Dr Webster is quite right when he conjectures that the concerns of the book are closest to those of students in denominational theological colleges. The questions may be; the answers certainly will not. My worry about some denominational theological education, at least in the United States, is that it is not nearly enough troubled by the historical predicament. Within the vast spaces of North America it was all too easy to construct a world in which one could live as though Thomas Aquinas, Luther, or Calvin were still alive.

The book is also written from a theological position, which resembles, but also differs from, that of the liberal Protestantism of a century or so ago. The classic liberal theologians of pre Germany acknowledged the human and evolving nature of religions including their own Christianity. However, many were also optimists.

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  • Interpreting Christian History: The Challenges of the Churches' Past | Reviews in History.
  • Amon Three.
  • A Better Understanding (Vol. 1): Volume I.