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Confessing History

Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian's Vocation

edited by John Fea, Jay Green, and Eric Miller

Publication Year: 2010

At the end of his landmark 1994 book, The Soul of the American University, historian George Marsden asserted that religious faith does indeed have a place in today’s academia. Marsden’s contention sparked a heated debate on the role of religious faith and intellectual scholarship in academic journals and in the mainstream media. The contributors to Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation expand the discussion about religion’s role in education and culture and examine what the relationship between faith and learning means for the academy today. The contributors to Confessing History ask how the vocation of historian affects those who are also followers of Christ. What implications do Christian faith and practice have for living out one’s calling as an historian? And to what extent does one’s calling as a Christian disciple speak to the nature, quality, or goals of one’s work as scholar, teacher, adviser, writer, community member, or social commentator? Written from several different theological and professional points of view, the essays collected in this volume explore the vocation of the historian and its place in both the personal and professional lives of Christian disciples.

Published by: University of Notre Dame Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xvi

One of the richest and most compelling theological concepts in the Christian tradition is that of calling. The Hebrew Scriptures and New Testament bear witness to the ways in which God calls his people into covenant relationship...

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Introduction: A Tradition Renewed? The Challenge of a Generation

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pp. 1-19

The commanding position of the academy in contemporary life is as brute a fact as future historians will ever unearth. At present, millions of people, young and old, are inching their way through curricular...

Part One: Identity

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pp. 21-80

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1. Faith Seeking Historical Understanding

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pp. 23-38

In what ways might Christian faith enliven, inform, and enrich historical understanding? If one regards the teaching and writing of history as a Christian vocation, what difference does that self-understanding...

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2. Not All Autobiography Is Scholarship: Thinking, as a Catholic, about History

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pp. 39-59

I do not remember when I first heard the expression, “All scholarship is autobiography.” I do remember that it made intuitive sense to me. What I took it to mean was that a scholar’s project, his or her life’s work and its distinguishing...

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3. Seeing Things: Knowledge and Love in History

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pp. 60-80

There is, Nichol as Boyle has argued, an intimacy between language, people, and moral meaning that postmodern theory has very nearly robbed from us.1 Although Boyle writes to defend Christian literary humanism...

Part Two: Theory and Method

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pp. 81-213

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4. Virtue Ethics and Historical Inquiry: The Case of Prudence

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pp. 83-100

It happened in 1824 in the unlikely place of a preface to a book entitled Histories of the Latin and Germanic Nations from 1494 to 1514. In this preface, the young Leopold von Ranke wrote, “History has been assigned...

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5. The “Objectivity Question” and the Historian’s Vocation

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pp. 101-127

More than most scholars, historians have experienced their disciplinary identity as one in crisis, or at least flux. Aspiring to the modern priesthood of science, they have felt the burden of being viewed as a peculiar form...

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6. Enlightenment History, Objectivity, and the Moral Imagination

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pp. 128-152

Well into Europe’s seventeenth century, the classical tradition of reading history was bent towards forming a masculine civic personality. Political, ecclesiastical, and military narratives, mostly, they offered moral models...

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7. On Assimilating the Moral Insights of the Secular Academy

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pp. 153-167

All of us as Christian historians are also in a sense secular historians. We have all trained in the secular academy, and we take a lot of the secular academy with us. We take methods, emphases of study, key books that shaped us in graduate school...

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8. After Monographs: A Critique of Christian Scholarship as Professional Practice

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pp. 168-186

It has now been more than ten years since George Marsden first proposed the “outrageous idea” that personal Christian faith not only could, but perhaps should, make a difference in the research and writing...

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9. The Problems of Preaching through History

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pp. 187-213

Those who have taught history for a while have experienced both the good and the bad regarding how the public views their discipline. Positively, many people state that they enjoy at least certain topics or fields...

Part Three: Communities

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pp. 215-315

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10. Coming to Terms with Lincoln: Christian Faith and Moral Reflection in the History Classroom

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pp. 217-232

In December 2003 I proctored the final exam for my Messiah College history course, “HIS 324: Civil War America.” Students were asked to process a considerable amount of historical information related to the war...

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11. For Teachers to Live, Professors Must Die: A Sermon on the Mount

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pp. 233-261

Krachmann’s syndrome appears in no medical dictionary. The truth is, I made it up. But the malady is real enough. I became aware of it on a Friday afternoon in my second year of teaching. After yet another “discussion” class...

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12. Public Reasoning by Historical Analogy: Some Christian Reflections

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pp. 262-279

The conversation between Christian conviction and historical study is today as lively and contested as ever. But I sometimes wonder if this good conversation too narrowly confines itself to questions of historical theory...

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13. Don’t Forget the Church: Reflections on the Forgotten Dimension of Our Dual Calling

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pp. 280-298

“What does it mean to serve God faithfully in the specific circumstances in which He has placed me?”1 Every Christian should ask this question regularly, and to their credit, in recent years a number of Christian...

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14. On the Vocation of Historians to the Priesthood of Believers: A Plea to Christians in the Academy

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pp. 299-315

During the past few decades, Christian history has been reborn as Christian scholars have labored diligently on the relationship of Christian faith and historical understanding.1 As recently as the 1960s, Christians languished...

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Afterword: The Christian Historian and the Idea of Progress

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pp. 316-344

One thing that Christian and non-Christian historians seem to share in the current dispensation is a profound unease with the very concept of progress. Of course, we are not prepared to give it up entirely. That would be nearly...


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pp. 345-348


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pp. 349-354

E-ISBN-13: 9780268079697
E-ISBN-10: 0268079692
Print-ISBN-13: 9780268029036
Print-ISBN-10: 0268029032

Page Count: 376
Illustrations: NA
Publication Year: 2010