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Historians are as interested in the ideas and ideologies of the founders as political theorists like [author]. What is different about the two disciplines is their purpose. Historians attempt to recover a past world as accurately as possible and try to show how that different world developed into our own. Political theorists who work with the ideas of the past have a different agenda. They are primarily interested in the present or future conditions of political life and see past ideas merely as the sources or seeds for present or future political thinking. [T]hey usually see the past simply as an anticipation of our present, and thus they tend to hold people in the past responsible for a future that was, in fact, inconceivable to them.
There is nothing wrong with this sort of ransacking of the past by political theorists; lawyers and jurists do it all the time. But we should never confuse these manipulations of the past for present purposes with doing history... Jefferson's idea of equality, for example, has been used time and again throughout our history, by Lincoln as well as Martin Luther King, Jr. Historians contend that such usages violate the original historical meaning of the ideas and cannot be regarded as historically accurate, but they don't deny the rationality and legitimacy of such violations.
History is one of the last humanistic disciplines to be affected by deconstruction and postmodernist theories. These theories are not the same as ordinary historical relativism, which, as historian Gertrude Himmelfarb describes it, "locates the meaning of ideas and events so firmly in their historical context that history, rather than philosophy and nature, becomes the arbiter of truth." Most historians these days, including Himmelfarb, have become comfortable with this kind of contextual relativism, which accepts the reality of the past and our ability to say something true, however partial, about that past. [But] postmodernism threatens all that...If those excerpts seemed interesting, the entire chapter demands your attention. Better yet, once again, I say go buy the whole book! (This chapter originally published as part of a book review in The New Yorker, November 1994.)
All may be contingent; all may be relative. But [citation] this prevalence of contingency and relativism does not mean the end of objectivity and the possibility of arriving at practical workable truths in history writing. It is true that historians, like all humans, are subjective: they have passions, desires, political and personal agendas. But so did Newton and Darwin, and they were still capable of discovering objective scientific truths. We can never return to the absolutist world of nineteenth-century positivism, but the alternative to that world is not the postmodernist world of total subjectivity...
[A new theory of objectivity, called "practical realism"] recognizes that there cannot be an exact correspondence between words and what is out there; still, it continues to aim for as much accuracy and completeness as possible in the historical reconstruction of the past. Our interpretation of the past may be imperfect, but practical realism knows that "some words and conventions, however socially constructed, reach out to the world and give a reasonably true description of its contents."
Narrative event sequence doesn’t automatically imply chronological event sequence, but embedded causalities within narrated events often do provide grounds for extracting historical sequence from narrative. In the four Gospels, the most obviously chronological sequence includes Jesus’ birth, baptism, ministry, arrest, execution and resurrection; none of those gets narrated 'out of order'. Another example is John’s ministry, arrest, struggle, martyrdom and legacy; again, that particular chain of events fits sequentially into each Gospel narrative. Similarly causal relationships also appear between less significant events – for instance, Matthew had to be called before he could be named an apostle, and so on. By connecting multiple chains of causation, one historical sequence of events might be critically extracted from each of the four Gospels. From there, those sequences could be analyzed for contrasts as to how much could be reasonably combined into one historical sequence of events in Christ's life. The historicity of this final sequence would obviously depend upon multiple factors, but the final project would never once have assumed chronological order merely from narrative sequence.--------------------------
The best way to correct an unbalanced view of God is not by introducing an opposing unbalanced view of God. / Yet at the same time, we need to be sensitive to the ways in which God is working in the lives of those who have profited by reading Young’s book. I spoke with a man at my church whose view of God was positively corrected by reading The Shack. Prior to reading the book, the man had viewed God as a stern and uncompromising task-master—a God impossible to please, a God who told you he loved you with a scowl on his face. For this man, Young’s over-compensated portrayal of God’s imminence brought a necessary corrective, allowing him to believe in a God who cared about the needs of his children, and whose love was genuine.Now, that's a God centered grace! (The critique was pretty good, too.)
According to many in the historical profession today, any sort of grand narrative of the past is frowned upon. Even as hard-nosed a historian as Richard D. Brown, who has written several substantial synthetic studies of early America, has succumbed to the postmodern skepticism of the present climate to the point where he doubts the possibility any longer of historians' writing large-scale synthetic accounts of the past. In his presidential address to the Society of the Early Republic, published in 2003, Brown stated that historians' claims to be telling the truth now stand on shaky ground. 'Syntheses cannot make the strongest truth claims because they are based on such selectively chosen facts.' He suggested that historians should escape from this dilemma by writing microhistories, small studies of particular localities, persons, or events. 'By exploring a finite subject exhaustively (though not definitively), the microhistorian commands the evidence on that subject beyond challenge; so within that topic readers learn to accept his or her authority.'" Certainly microhistory has flourished since the mid-1990's... But...Wood goes on to cite specific authors and texts discussed elsewhere in the chapter. He cites one microhistorian who went on to write a "grand narrative of political history" in 2005, which won a Bancroft Prize. Wood calls this "a welcome sign of change."
The Bible’s aim is not to tell a historical tale; its aim is to tell a theological tale. For that reason its authors, minimalists all, recognized that their work and aim and calling was something other than to use traditions and tales for historical reconstruction. “What, when, and how” were of no interest to them at all; but “why and who” mattered supremely.In 29 months of biblioblogging, I've gathered that Pastor West has a big heart for believers, and he wants to save believers from having to struggle against skeptical claims. So he embraces some tenets of skepticism, and builds a wall to retreat behind. Meanwhile, he maintains relationships with skeptics and occasionally ministers to them. His goal is sincere. His strategy, I believe, is ill conceived.
[I]t seems important to ask if, as an ancient historian, [Luke] had a more mixed category of history and theology that makes his work, to his mind, thoroughly both–even while it undermines the modern concerns with historiography as a discipline.Point #2: Compared to Jim, Daniel has grown up into a world that's becoming much more open minded than Jim's world ever was, and his nuance reflects that. But Daniel's world is still largely owned and operated by the world of Jim's academic forefathers, and his flurry of qualifications [on where he does or doesn't agree] reflects that.
In general, though, I’d say that the way Jim describes what we should be doing with the Bible is correct: we read it to understand the theological narrative being communicated. History can help us understand that narrative better, but witnessing to an uninterpreted, “objective,” or de-divinized history behind the text, is not the purpose for which these texts were written.
Biopic fans will be shocked – shocked! – to learn that Hollywood takes liberties with the real-life narratives and characters that often come to stand in for history in the popular imagination.I love it! Rudy's still a great movie, of course. It's obviously hyped beyond recognition. But how can you not love that ending? "Who's the wild man now?"
Historical scholarship should not be set in opposition to imagination. History writing is creative, and it surely requires imagination, but it is an imagination of a particular sort, sensitive to the differentness of the past and constricted by the documentary record. ...This chapter was previously published as Dead Certainties (Unwarranted Speculations), a book review in the New York Review of Books, June 1991.
One can accept the view that the historical record is fragmentary and incomplete, that recovery of the past is partial and difficult, and that historians will never finally agree in their interpretations, and yet can still believe intelligibly and not naively in an objective truth about the past that can be observed and empirically verified. Historians may never see and represent that truth wholly and finally, but some of them will come closer than others, be more nearly complete, more objective, more honest, in their written history, and we will know it, and have known it, when we see it. That knowledge is the best antidote to the destructive skepticism that is troubling us today.
The new historicism wants to deconstruct the past in order to show us that all the values, all the institutions, all the cannons, all the truths, and all the texts by which we live our lives are simply imprisoning fictions that were created by some people in the past (usually white males) for self-serving purposes. These fictions are, therefore, readily susceptible to being destroyed by us in the present, in preparation for the emergence of a new, more just, more democratic order.This chapter was previously published in the New York Review of Books, November 1990.
Such a Rousseauian view, which assumes that knowledge of the fictional character of custom will itself free us, severely underestimates the power of the past and the power of culture. All the beliefs, values, and institutions of the culture may indeed be artificial fictions; but the historical fact of the matter is that they are fictions created by a process so complicated, involving so many participants with so many conflicting purposes over such long periods of time, that no amount of deconstruction, no degree of unmasking, can ever undo them. The culture, of course, can be - indeed, it will be - changed, but in ways that no one, including the radical post-Marxists and the deconstructionist literary critics, ever intended or wanted. Understanding this fact about the process of historical change is true historicism.
it is NOT evidence for Adam's historicity to point out that both Jesus and Paul spoke about Adam as if he were real. This is unfortunate, from one way of thinking. However, the pattern of Jesus and Paul IS an example of how we might speak and write about Adam. Thus, we might do as well as Jesus and Paul did if we continue speaking AS IF Adam were, in fact, a historical figure.And that's why I said it. That, plus it goes with the early posts in my super-long series on The Movement of God, which will eventually build all the way up to the NT.