A Primer on How to Think About History

The way I am defining “primer” in this review:  an introductory but comprehensive overview . A primer may be thought of as a first textbook. From the perspective of a Christian, here is review about a Christian primer dealing with producing different types of histories. A primer is not necessarily intended young people, but it may be used by them. Primarily, “Christian” has the idea of being redeemed. Therefore, a Christian Primer on history seeks to guide redeemed individuals to see a subject through the lens of God’s salvation.

Vern Poythress has chosen his title well in how a Christian should think about, or write different histories: Redeeming Our Thinking of History: A God-Centered Approach. This is the Kindle Edition I am reviewing: https://www.amazon.com/Redeeming-Our-Thinking-about-History-ebook/dp/B097YWGV7P/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=redeeming+our+thinking+of+history&qid=1647290573&sr=8-1

The first impression of the book struck me as written in simple, but, deliberate and profound phrasing. It somewhat reminded me of the Gospel of John. John’s Gospel is composed in very simple language but is profound in its concepts. “John” also is straight forward and very deliberate. The author gives the impression of knowing what he is talking about and speaks in straight forward manner to his readers.

Poythress’ book is also a comprehensive treatment, from a Christian perspective, of the various facets and types of history. It could also be said that the book is more than a primer and may be used as a reference to revisit the topic for refreshment, if you will. Also, it is, from the point of a conservative Christian, an uncontroversial book. Poythress work will be a reinforcement for many Christians; but not a mere restatement of long-held beliefs. There are critical analyses which will be new to most all Christians.

As Christian, Poythress is Trinitarian, and, sees the Trinity relating to the created world and, the writing of history. The Trinity has persons, and, a division of labor, if you will, but, they are interlocked in unity. In similarity, there are interlocked aspects of history: events, people, and meanings. Poythress identifies, and uses, John Frame’s perspectives as a tool to analyze different approaches to producing history: the existential, ethical, and situational perspectives. I thought bringing in Frame’s perspectives was helpful in ordering the different approaches to historiography. The different versions of history are perspectives, and, not necessarily in tension or rivals with each other, but complimentary.

Poythress recognizes that motivations come into play when writing history. In the deepest sense motivation is tied to a religious commitment. Everyone serves God or a substitute-god, which fact will affect how one produces a work of history. Poythress sees the need to, in some manner, reflect the providential aspect of God’s control of history when writing a historical account. The Christian historian also should have a sense of calling vocationally, which is an interpretation of personal providence. Of course abuses and corruptions can distort providentialism, but, a good type providentualism is true, and, ultimately unavoidable.

Here is a condensed article by the author giving a good synopsis of the book: https://frame-poythress.org/how-should-christians-think-about-history/

4 thoughts on “A Primer on How to Think About History

    1. Great. I always get something valuable from Vern Poythress’ writings. This book is especially profitable for those making career choices in H.S. and college. Others will benefit in reading history, I believe.
      For myself, presuppositionalism is standing for the faith. God has declared He has revealed Himself to everyone at least initially (Rom. 1). Sinful humans repress this revelation by their choosing a sinful life. I also believe, of course, that the hearts of all lie open before the Lord, and that everyone knows this fact. This is the reason “all mouths will be stopped” at the judgement; or, at least one of the reasons. Presup. inspires us to only please God and be faithful to Him in giving out His word. We can rely on the Spirit in both us and our listeners for God’s work to be completed.

      Liked by 1 person

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