Confessing History

Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation

Edited by John Fea, Jay Green, and Eric Miller

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.

John Fea is associate professor of American history at Messiah College. Jay Green is associate professor of history at Covenant College. Eric Miller is associate professor of history at Geneva College.

Contributors: John Fea, Jay Green, Eric Miller, Mark R. Schwehn, Una M. Cadegan, Beth Barton Schweiger, Thomas Albert Howard, William Katerberg, Michael Kugler, Bradley J. Gundlach, Christopher Shannon, James B. LaGrand, Lendol Calder, Robert Tracy McKenzie, Douglas A. Sweeney, Wilfred M. McClay.

“This collection of essays represents serious, sustained, multivalent, and cogent reflection on challenges for Christian historians as experienced by a mostly younger set of scholars. The volume acknowledges foundational work on such subjects carried out by a collection of older evangelical and Reformed scholars—including Ronald Wells, Darryl Hart, and George Marsden—but also moves well beyond these earlier voices, sometimes critiquing what they have written, but also sometimes venturing off into new directions.” —Mark Noll, University of Notre Dame

“_Confessing History_ fills a large gap in the literature on Christian and especially evangelical historiography. I know of no other book or anthology of scholarly articles that so carefully analyzes how believing historians should work within the intellectual expectations of the guild. And it does so with pristine prose, impressive erudition, and charity of spirit. After reading Confessing History, I find myself compelled to take the prescriptions and proscriptions of the secular academy less seriously and my identity as a Christian historian more seriously.” —Grant Wacker, Duke University

“How to reconcile religious commitment with the practices of the guild is one of the really big questions for believing historians. Confessing History is essential reading not only for them, but also for any wishing to understand the important issues at stake. In its pages we witness the concerns, questions, and yearnings of a new generation of believing historians—and perhaps even the contours of a new approach to Christian historical scholarship.” —Donald Yerxa, Director, The Historical Society


“The editors dedicate this excellent collection to ‘John D. Woodbridge, a Christian scholar and teacher who has inspired us to think about our careers as historians in terms of the Christian understanding of “calling.” ’ How that might play out is the burden of these essays, and—as befits a highly contested subject—the answers range widely. The contributors speak from a variety of denominational and confessional traditions; they differ in their politics and their affiliations among the academic tribes. But they are united by their conviction that the ‘Christian mind’ matters.” — Christianity Today

“This book will resonate with any scholar of faith. Quite simply, the questions posed and the challenges addressed are relevant, indeed, thought provoking; the authors challenge readers to consider how they might take their callings as Christian historians more seriously than the training they received to become secular historians. Therefore, they encourage readers to think differently than graduate school trained them to think, while also acknowledging how difficult it is to make this transition. For those who study Latter-day Saint history and other related topics, this book may ring particularly familiar and should become a springboard into similar conversations of their own.” — BYU Studies

“The topics addressed and the tone taken range from homiletic to the nicely delimited, but all speak to the vocation of the Christian historian . . . . There is much that is useful in the essays.” — Catholic Historical Review

“Confessing History suggests that there is a Christian version of Ambrose’s Law, which the editors would probably call Marsden’s Law. Their objects of concern are historians such as George Marsden and Mark Noll, who have won the respect of their profession. The worry is that by seeking success with that audience, Christian historians have failed to be sufficiently Christian.” — Books and Culture

“How . . . might one live, teach and write, in the contemporary academic world as a Christian historian but not be simply of that ever more secular academic world? That is the basic question that concerns this collection of fifteen essays, three-quarters of them written by historians who teach at smaller, self-consciously Protestant colleges in the United States. . . . The current volume testifies, in its excellent and even provocative essays, but also witnesses to what might be described as an identity crisis of sorts.” — Catholic Southwest

“Green and his fellow editors are to be commended for building upon the work of the older generation of Reformed and evangelical scholars, who since the 1960s have been asking hard questions about the Christian historian’s vocation in the present age.” — Anglican and Episcopal History