Faith & Scholarship: A Bibliography for Christian Historians
by Jonathan Boyd
This bibliography offers a focused list of readings (and an organization) for historians who are asking the question of what it means to be Christians in the university. We dont pretend that this is an exhaustive or definitive list. Nevertheless, we hope that you will find plenty of items here that will encourage you in your exploration of what it means to combine faith and scholarship in the academic field of history.
Harbison, E. Harris. "The 'Meaning of History' and the Writing of History. In Christianity and History: Essays. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964.
For the historiographically minded, Harbison has a pretty good overview of (mostly) mid-20th-century efforts in the faith/history dialogue. It's a bit old now, but still a good starting point for the literature. (See also his "Problem of the Christian Historian," and other essays, in the same book.)
Hart, D. G. "Faith and Learning in the Age of the University: The Academic Ministry of Daniel Coit Gilman." In The Secularization of the Academy, ed. George M. Marsden and Bradley J. Longfield, 107-45. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
This meaty essay argues that the pervasive Christianity of Gilman's university-building project (at Johns Hopkins and elsewhere) was frankly sincere, rooted in the American-college tradition, and not just a "soft sell" to donors and parents. Its notes also represent substantial bibliography.
Keillor, Steven J. This Rebellious House: American History & the Truth of Christianity. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1996.
Mark Noll describes this as a "swashbuckling, learned, sometimes infuriating, often surprising, opinionated, pious, devastating, and altogether useful book" and as "a very important work" ("American History through the Eyes of Faith," Christian Century 114, no. 17 (21-28 May 1997): 515-18). We could hardly agree more the only shame is that this book hasn't seemed to be getting a wider readership among professional historians. This is a "must-read" which, if nothing else, should open your imagination to the breadth of discursive possibilities Christian historians might be exploring.
Kuklick, Bruce, and D. G. Hart, eds. Religious Advocacy and American History. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997.
This outstanding collection of essays calls for open, disciplined conversation about the role of religious conviction in historical epistemology (especially Mark Noll's "Traditional Christianity and the Possibility of Historical Knowledge"); its role as an historical subject; and perhaps especially its personal role for historians of religion. Not only does it call for such conversation, it exemplifies it. This one should top your short list of "must reads" for historians.
McArthur, Benjamin. "Millennial Fevers." Reviews in American History 24, no. 3 (Sept 1996): 369-82.
McArthur specifically surveys the historiography of nineteenth-century American Millerism, but more broadly offers a reflection on the place of religion and evangelicalism in American historiography past and present. This piece is well written and bears reflecting on.
Moore, Scott H. "Christian History, Providence, and Michel Foucault." Fides et Historia 29, no. 1 (Winter/Spring 1997): 5-14.
The philosopher Moore offers an orientation to some strategies for historians' use of Foucault and postmodernism without swallowing them whole, arguing that taking Foucault seriously helps show that "for historians, 'providential speculation'...is warranted in the writing and the production of Christian history" (6).
Noll, Mark A. Between Faith and Criticism: Evangelicals, Scholarship, and the Bible in America. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1986.
This one, as you can tell from the title, applies most forcefully for biblical critics, not historians; it's about the mutually hostilities of secular criticism and evangelicalism (and especially how British evangelical critics have helped ease this tension for Americans). But it's a good model for how historians might ask (and answer) questions of particular interest from a Christian viewpoint. Plus, you might just find that Noll's story of tension and alienation helps you understand your own.
Noll, Mark A. "How We Remember Revivals: The Virtues and Vices of Tribal History." Review of Revival and Revivalism, by Iain H. Murray. Christianity Today 39, no. 5 (24 April 1995): 31, 35.
Here, Noll reviews not just Murray's book, but more importantly his concept of providentialist historiography, which he describes as "an explicit subdiscipline of theology" which basically ends up as simply "tribalism." Along the way he illuminates his own view of historiographical practice.
Raboteau, Albert J. "Praying the ABCs: Reflections on Faith in History." Cross Current (Fall 1992): 314-25.
Short, beautifully written, and thoughtful this is a fine essay. The perspective is different from many articles too because Raboteau is connected more to black experiences of faith than to white.
Sewell, Keith C. "The Concept of Technical History in the Thought of Herbert Butterfield." Fides et Historia 27, no. 3 (Fall 1995 [published June 1997]): 52-76.
Herbert Butterfield is well-known as an outstanding intellectual historian and also as a Christian historian. Sewell seeks to reconcile Butterfield's hyper-professional, objectivist vision of "technical history" with his idea of a distinctively Christian practice of historiography.
Stout, Harry S. "Biography as Battleground: The Competing Legacies of the Religious Historian." Books & Culture 2, no. 4 (July/Aug 1996): 9-10.
Sweet, Leonard. "Wise as Serpents, Innocent as Doves: The New Evangelical Historiography." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 56, no. 3 (Fall 1988): 397-416.
What a great opportunity for insight is here: Stout reflects on his own biography of George Whitefield, The Divine Dramatist, and in the process offers a very suggestive taxonomy of three levels of historiographical analysis, all of them valid in their proper sphere: temporal, providential, and divine. A great discussion-opener.
On the so-called Reformed Mafia (Marsden, Noll, Hatch, Wacker, et al.). In the words of one reader: "a helpful assessment and critique of the Mafia written by a friendly yet strongly critical bystander."
Sweetman, Robert. "Of Tall Tales and Small Subversive Stories: Postmodern 'Fragmatics' and the Christian Historian." Fides et Historia 28, no. 2 (Summer 1996): 50-68.
Turn here for a concise abstract of Jean-Francois Lyotard's influential book, The Postmodern Condition, and its implications for historians especially for Christian historians. A measured response specifically focused on historiography.
Christian historians should be aware of the Conference on Faith and History, which despite its name is not just a meeting but in fact a society. Membership is reasonably priced and carries a subscription to the journal Fides et Historia, which may be hard to obtain any other way.