filename PAPER added July 13, 1988 Christian Information Exchange 714-531-3834 Fountain Va

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filename : PAPER added : July 13, 1988 Christian Information Exchange 714-531-3834 Fountain Valley, CA Sysop : Mike Wallace "P" = PAUSE, SPACEBAR = EXIT HISTORY IN THE MAKING by Randall Hillebrand The first question that needs to be answered here is what is history? There are many definitions for the word history. One of the simplist definitions probably is that "History is just one darn thing after another." Another definition might be "things in the past." Swanstrom's definition though takes more into account. First of all he says that the definition of history needs to state that history is the record of significant events. Otherwise everything would be considered history such as the different times that Pope Gregory the VII sneezed. A second thing that Swanstrom takes into account in his definition of history is that historical events are not things that happen on a regular basis such as daily or weekly, etc. (i.e. a holiday). So this aspect of a historical event would then be stated as something that is generally unrepeated. There is one other part of the definition of history and that is the fact that history itself cannot be studied. To actually study history, a person would need to be able to travel back to the time of the event. Since this is not possible in this life, then all we can do to uncover as close as we can what actually happened is to study the records from that time in history. Then what is the definition of history? History is a study of past records of significant and generally unrepeated events. The next question that needs to be answered is what is the job of a historian? The job of a historian is many. They must first define what period of history they are going to study. When this is decided, they must next search outprimary and secondary information (either documents, artifacts and/or people) from that period of time. Once they have found the information covering that period in time, their next step would be of assimilating that information and then formulating it into as complete, accurate and unbiased form that they can. A couple of questions may arise from my last statement when I use the words complete and unbiased. The first question may be, "How will I know if the the historian was complete in his study or not?" The answer to this would be that you would not know unless you took the time and effort to study the subject yourself. Either doing the same type of research that the historian did or by checking his work against a number of other historians who have studied the same events. When the historian does his research, he needs to decide what is and is not important. Being human, as all historians are, they could make a mistake and leave something of importance out. On the other hand, they could purposely leave something out to make the time in history they are writing on look differently than it actually was. The second question that you may have is, "Can a historian truly be unbiased?" No they cannot. A historian cannot be totally unbiased, even if he decides to report strictly the cold hard facts. This is because he must determine what the cold hard facts are which in itself is a biased process. But this brings up another controversy in what the work of a historian should be. Some feel that a historian should report the cold hard facts so that his readers can make up their own minds. But others think, as does Swanstrom, that the historian should comment on the significance of the events in study. Swanstrom feels that the historian, a person who probably knows more about the event than anyone else living, should give his reader the benefit of his knowledge on the subject by giving them his conclusions that he has reached after the long years of his study. Swanstrom also said, "Furthermore, bare facts about the past, without any comments concerning their significance - without any admiration or blame, without passion - tend to be lifeless and dull, sometimes even meaningless." How Christianity affects the work of the historian will be dealt with next. The Christian historian Swanstrom says will look at history through Christian glasses. What he is saying here is that Christian historians will look at history from a Christian perspective. When they look at the past they will see the hand of God working throughout the history of mankind. This also gives the Christian historian a definite advantage over the secular historian in that when the Christian historian comes to a period of time that deals with Christianity (much of the last 2000 years), he will better be able to understand what they were thinking, feeling, hoping for, etc. Or when he studies a man like Adolf Hitler, he can walk away knowing how and why a man could do what he did. He can know that it is more than just wanting to raise up a superior race and to illuminate a perceived inferior people, but that the total depravity of man and the work of Satan against God's chosen people was also involved. Secularists say that the Christian perspective makes our glasses very tinted and that we only see things from one perspective, which of course is wrong if it differs from the way in which they see things. But of course Christians can make the same claim about the secularist historian in that they see history through a secularly tinted set of glasses in which they do not see the work of God in man's history. Other ways in which Christianity affects the work of the historian are as follows. The Christian historian should belabor the area of absolute truthfulness when presenting a piece of research. He needs to be sure that he does not present history in such a way that history says what he wants it to. Also, the Christian historian should never distort the truth of history in an attempt to further the cause of Christ. This would be lying and opposed to the teaching of scripture. Another way in which Christianity should affect the work of the Christian historian is through his value judgment of history. Especially in this day and age, people judge things by their personal standards. The Christian, as well as the Christian historian, needs to make value judgments based solely on the word of God and nothing else. My personal reaction to the book was a positive one. Not ever having studied history with much interest (or many other academic subjects) until becoming a Christian, I was not aware of the many things that need to be considered in the area of historical research or in the study of history itself until having read this book. I was very surprised to see the evangelical stand taken by Swanstrom in this book. From my limited exposure and understanding of the majority of historians that claim the title Christian, they are usually liberals. So to see this strong stand for the Word of God made the book that much more credible to me. Again being limited in my understanding of the area of history and the writing of history, this book seemed to me to be very thorough in its coverage of the subject though not very indepth in each topic discussed. But I felt that the book communicated well the subject matter in the pages it was given and would highly recommend it. This would have been a good book for me to have read before taking American Church History and Evangelism. I suppose that is one reason why Church History is a prerequisite to the former mentioned.


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