A Christian World View of History


Cotton Mather

A Christian Worldview of History is as defined a much by what it is not than by what it is. From that starting point we are have the above depiction of Cotton Mather, a noted early American Providentialist historian. His view that the discovery of the Americas and the colonization of it by Puritans and Pilgrims was the discernible will of God to create a country founded by divine principles is an example of Providential History. He was not an outlier in his historical approach. Eusebius , an early Christian church historian wrote his "Ecclesiastical History"[1] in the fourth century as a vindication of all the persecution that early Christians survived. He further posited that the early Christians faith in God's divine will is what delivered them from the persecution they suffered under Roman Emperor Diocletian and God was solely responsible for their rise to power as the dominant religion after the conversion Emperor of Constantine. Cotton Mather's " Magnalia Christi Americana in 1702 which details the development of the early New England colonies [2} only continued Eusebius's tying of historical events to the linear purpose of bringing the Kingdom of God here to earth. While there are many other examples of this approach the bead that strings these ideologies together is the conviction that it is not only possible to discern God's will in past events but also to trace that will over time. [3]


Leopold Van Ranke


The Christian belief in both general providence: the belief that God is sovereign over all the world and is intimately involved in what he created and special providence: God is intimately involved in our individual lives is a distinction that has confounded Christian historians of the modern era. Leopold Van Ranke, considered to be the father of the modern Historiography believed that God was at work in human history and that historians had the responsibility to find the purposes of God in the past [4]. Ranke's methods of using primary sources and a narrative approach to contextualizing those sources has been used by modern historians to blend the earlier purely theological approach of Eusebius and Cotton Mather with modern Rankean Historicism.

In blending modern Rankean Historicism with a Christian worldview the Christian historian and the secular historian have a similar desire to use the tools of intellect, curiosity, humility and honesty in their approaches to the study of History. Whether they believe those qualities are bestowed from a Christian God or a result of evolution and planetary progress the goals are the same.

Notes

1. Mather, Cotton. Magnalia Christi Americana: or, The Ecclesiastical History of New-England, from Its First Planting in the Year 1620, Unto the Year of Our Lord, 1698. In Seven Books. Hartford: Published by Silas Andrus; Roberts & Burr, printers, 1820.

2. Eusebius, and Paul L. Maier. The Church History. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2007.

3. John Fea, Why Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past, Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, Mich., 2013:; pg. 29

4. John Fea, Why Study History: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past, Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, Mich., 2013; pg 29

5. Sidewell, Mark. "Providentialism" and the Teaching of History, Bob Jones University Press. Greenville, SC., 1997



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