Book review: History and Christian Faith

by Edward W. H. Vick


From the back cover: “A basic Christian claim is that God is active in human history to accomplish his purpose, which he will do in the end. This book considers some of the implications of this far-reaching claim.”

Readers looking for a quick and decisive argument either for or against God’s participation in history will be disappointed. The book raises more questions than answers by introducing multiple issues and complexities. Christians, Vick points out, value honesty and should therefore welcome the means by which truth is to be arrived at. It is drilled into Christians at an early age that it is sinful to doubt, and this unquestioned reliability on the Bible’s authority, coupled with a refusal to compromise the truths of Christianity, led to what came to be called fundamentalism.

Vick discusses the problem of historical analysis, pointing out that history is intrinsically secular. To establish an event historically is not the same as saying God acted in or through the event. Yet Christianity is a “historical religion,” making absolute claims that God has acted directly in certain events of history.

Readers of the Bible may have found little tension in these claims until recent centuries. The development and acceptance of the scientific method distances us from those who lived before. For us to understand Bible writers, an effort at historical sympathy is necessary, but this, too, introduces conflict. And as if the scientific revolution weren’t enough, the nineteenth century introduced a way of thinking about historical studies which we call the historical method, which, if followed rigorously, simply cannot address supernatural claims. God is left out in the cold.

Nevertheless, Vick gives us license to act as historians, encourages us to embrace today’s scientific age, and helps us step out on a journey of discovery to verify our faith.

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