London Lyceum Article

This last summer I was invited to put together an article for the London Lyceum as part of their “Baptists and Slavery” Lyceum Disputation Symposium. That article was published today. You can find it here: Developing a Response to the Slavery Question.

The London Lyceum is a group of younger Baptist historians and theologians who have a number of great resources on a number of issues. I recommend you check them out.

Since my expertise was on the northern seminarians, I wrote on how northern views toward slavery slowly changed in the nineteenth century. My argument is summed up in this statement:

“Northern seminarians provide an example of how there was an evolution toward what became a clear, northern Baptist viewpoint. Like many others of their day, it took moments of agitation, time, and sometimes a new generation, before they spoke out clearly. Baptist answers to the slavery question developed through time and controversy.”

Review: Doctrine and Race by Mary Beth Swetnam Mathews

Doctrine and RaceMary Beth Swetnam Mathews, Doctrine and Race: African American Evangelicals and Fundamentalism Between the Wars (University of Alabama Press, 2017), 216 pages.

**Before we dive in, I should note that because I found the book so thought-provoking, I decided to engage a little deeper. This review is longer than normal and fairly academic in its engagement.**

There is a regular confusion over how African Americans tend to mix two seemingly contradictory ideals: generally conservative Protestant theology and generally progressive politics defined by racial identity. There are reasons for this, and Mary Beth Swetnam Mathews of the University of Mary Washington addresses some of the historical formulations of this phenomena. She delimits her study by looking at African-American Baptists and Methodists from about 1915 to the Second World War. The basic argument is that the conjoining of doctrinal fidelity and racial justice is older than normally thought. This goes back to the interwar years, at least. Theologically, the same hermeneutic that argued for conservative doctrine also argued for racial progress. This left African American evangelicals without a home in fundamentalism or modernism. As a result, “African Americans created their own traditionalist conservative evangelicalism” (2). The history is fascinating and the book well-written. Here is how Mathews tells the story:

She begins by considering the fundamentalist movement and their attitudes toward African Americans and racial discussions. Fundamentalism became a movement during an era when most whites took (at the least) a paternalistic view toward African Americans. Mathews argues that white fundamentalists did this for at least four reasons: (1) they did not want to challenge racial norms because (2) this would not have been strategically helpful to a fledgling movement, (3) as most white Americans they were largely unaware of the plight of black Americans, and (4) they had built in mechanisms that limited their social outreach. Many fundamentalist pastors were outspoken opponents of integration, they also regularly argued that black people in general were deficient in understanding and leadership, which then led many to compartmentalize and limit black contributions because whites did not trust black intellect. Fundamentalists were already marginalized in the 1920s and being counter-cultural was simply not on their mind. For these reasons, Mathews observes that fundamentalism was largely a white phenomena.

With the understanding of white fundamentalist views toward black Christians, Mathews then considers African American interactions toward white fundamentalists. African Americans kept a close eye on fundamentalist/modernist debates. They realized that modernism was also largely a white phenomena. Black leaders could often appreciate when white leaders spoke against modernism and racial injustice, but they would then point out inconsistencies in how these white leaders would support other racist groups and ideals. Because what happened in the world of white America had extensive practical import on the lives of black Americans, black leaders could not afford to ignore what white leaders were doing and saying. Conversely, white leaders could afford to ignore, stereotype, and racial demean black people and leaders as it had little to no existential ramifications. In trying to make sense of the lay of the land, many black leaders felt, on the one hand, that they could work with some semblance of modernism because it was not full-blown modernism (that was a white problem). On the other hand, some black leaders claimed fundamentalists abandoned the Baptist heritage of “using religion to ameliorate social problems and their tradition of freedom of conscience” (59). In sum, black evangelicals were highly interested in the fundamentalist/modernist battles for two reasons: race and religion. They saw the importance of the doctrinal battle and normally sided with fundamentalist doctrine, but they also had to know where they stood at every moment in the eyes of white people because racial oppression was a real problem.

The distance between white fundamentalism and black Christians resulted in black Christians working out the theology of their unique experiences on their own. Many black leaders saw no need to be theologically progressive. They believed that conservative Christianity contained what was needed to also affect social change. Black leaders could not accept all fundamentalist doctrines either, because some were fairly novel, and black leaders could not appear to be reading their Bibles incorrectly. As a result, they refused to choose a side. African American leaders would use terms and phrases of both fundamentalists and modernists but would often interpret them in their own way. They tended to be conservative theologically but also include notions of racial equality. The question was not: which side supports whatever particular issue. It was: does Scripture support it? They tried to hold the past while accommodating to the future, a task which had perils, and which was already a first step to modernism. Mathews makes the astute observation that African Americans saw not a bifurcation between fundamentalism and modernism, but a continuum.

At this point the story takes its important turn. Mathews tells of the African American concern to uphold their traditional theology but also think theologically about their social situation. African American Protestants often mirrored white fundamentalists in their concerns over how modernism was affecting society. African Americans were often in support of social conservatism while also being suspicious of the racial prejudices of many social conservatism advocates. African Americans have a long record of many social justice activities. However, they could also deviate from traditionalist religious beliefs and social norms if it was conducive to their racial aspirations. The 1928 presidential election saw many African Americans realize that a concentration on a social issue that they normally would support (Prohibition) might mean ignoring a host of dangers to the black person. Therefore, many began prioritizing racial realities. The pressing needs of black people overruled much else politically. This was the major turning point of African American evangelicals away from the Republican party. The need for civil rights became more important than the need for absolute adherence to certain behaviors and beliefs. And there was a theological reason for this: racism (and racial progress) was a theological subject and to hold to racism (in its many forms) was to fall from orthodoxy.

African American theology dealt with a daunting task. “As African American Protestants wrestled with their understandings of modern culture and changes in theology, they were unified on another matter—the true Christian church embraced equality for all races and that equality was not present in the United States” (126). There was a growing realization that Christianity called for equality and charity which was found occasionally on both sides of the theological and political aisles. Common ground for many was found on racial, as well as other theological, lines. Black ministers shared a common frustration that the universality of Christianity meant segregation was a gross evil, which many whites were willfully ignorant. Importantly, black Christians did not see the racism in white conservatism as inherent to the theology. Black Christianity grew. And they insisted it was not Christianity that was problematic, the problem was white racism. The situation was becoming clear for many African Americans: American Christianity was a paradox. There was the assertion of liberty, freedom, and democracy while at the same time there was segregation, racism, and lynchings.

The historical dualism that sees fundamentalism and modernism as stark and wholly separate entities simply cannot account for the African American experience that Mathews writes about. Because of the imperfections of both parties, especially in the area of race, African Americans had to be more nuanced in their search for a home. Rather than seeing a dualism, African Americans saw a continuum. African American leaders between the wars charted a course that accepted traditional religious beliefs while also using that same hermeneutic for racial progress. This left them outsiders to fundamentalists and modernists alike. Theologically, black leaders never accepted certain theological tendencies of fundamentalism (such as dispensationalism and the indifference to racial issues). But modernism was not appealing either, it was a white heresy (and could also be indifferent to racial issues). The path was a narrow one between two unsatisfying (though not equally so) options.

Thus, Mathews’ thesis: “African Americans created their own traditionalist conservative evangelicalism” (2). African American leaders showed you did not have to choose only one side, there were a myriad of ways to respond. Mathews argues that Historians must see the complexity and not force black evangelical history into a box.

There is little doubt that Mathews has proved her thesis. In the first half of the twentieth century, when American Protestantism was fracturing along fairly clear lines, African American Christians did not find a home in either major category because race and doctrine did not allow it. Perhaps the best contribution of Mathews’ study is her recognition of a continuum between modernism and fundamentalism. The categories were not neat. Many histories of fundamentalism recognize something similar in the presence of moderates and the distinction between fundamentalist “come-outers” and “stay-iners.” But what Mathews contributes is the bald historical fact that large groups of Christians could not identify with either side, precisely because of the issue of race. Mathews’ chronicling of subtle, and oftentimes blatant, racism of many fundamentalist leaders is both undeniable and damning. It is a dark stain on fundamentalism.

Mathews also makes the point that when the Northern Baptist Convention was splintering during the 1920s and 1930s, African American leaders made astute observations about their relationship to Baptist tradition. At least some argued that white Baptist leaders of the time ignored “the Baptists’ heritage of using religion to ameliorate social problems and their tradition of freedom of conscience” (59). The idea that fundamentalists (as well as modernists) were inconsistent with significant pillars of their Baptist heritage is thought-provoking. I can agree that there was a pretty significant dissonance between fundamentalist attitudes toward engagement of social issues and that of their forebears. But it is also true that resistance to the social gospel was a theological reason for it. Likewise, on freedom of conscience, Baptists have traditionally allowed such an idea, but they have also insisted on standards of orthodoxy. The balancing of the two and the definitions of both are heavily debated. Still, this observation by black Baptist leaders is astute and worth continued discussion.

Overall, this is a must-read for those interested in American religious history, the history of black evangelicalism, and the history of fundamentalism. My own understanding of the history of fundamentalism is greater than my understanding of the history of black evangelicalism, and this book is written with its focus on the history of black evangelicalism. From that perspective, this is a welcome book that helps explain several of the reasons why black evangelicals resisted, and continue to resist, the categories that (mostly) white evangelicalism uses. On the fundamentalist side of the story, there is no hiding what was said loud and clear from the pulpit and from published sources, no less in their actions. Fundamentalism, like nearly all of American Protestantism, has a tattered history of racial indifference and racial prejudice.

The theological questions this book raises are still pertinent: Is race and racism a theological issue? If it is, how important is it in one’s overall theology and one’s lived experience? In other words, is it a doctrine where deviation from scriptural teaching is seriously problematic and requires some form of practical censorship? As Mathews shows, these questions have been discussed for quite some time among African American evangelicals. I don’t believe the same can be said for their white brethren.

Navigating Theological Retrieval

Much has been written on theological retrieval in recent years. I have written a little on it before as well (here). This subject is really broad and includes many intertwined issues. Because I find it helpful to work through the various issues at play on any subject and unwind them, I am going to attempt to put in writing some of this unwinding I’ve done mentally over the years. This is longer than a normal blog post, but I’ve found this a helpful exercise and I hope you will too. If you haven’t explored this discussion, you might be surprised to find so many different issues at play and you might be surprised to see how large the theological retrieval umbrella is. To help make sense of the terrain, I will lay out some of the background, definitions, motivations, and major issues at play. This won’t be exhaustive, but it gives an entry point.

motivational quote

Background

Theological retrieval is a close relative to the general practice of church history — or better yet, historical theology — so it has been around a while. However, in recent years there has been a significant increase in the use of the language of retrieval. Enough so that it is clearly not equal to historical theology. Understanding the background helps show this.

At this point it might be helpful to list several instantiations of theological retrieval. You will notice that they come from a lot of different starting points and have a lot of different goals. But it is what they have in common that we want to notice. Here are a few: Roman Catholic ressourcement, la nouvelle théologie of Henri de Lubac and Maurice Blondel, the paleo-orthodoxy of Thomas Oden, the ancient-future Christianity of Robert Webber, the Radical Orthodoxy of John Milbank and Graham Ward, the many varieties of theological interpretation of Scripture, the Evangelical ressourcement of D. H. Williams, and even the post liberalism of Hans Frei and George Lindbeck. Again, this is just a representative list.

If you are familiar with these groups, or if you are just looking at their names, you might notice that these are spread over a good amount of time, reflect a wide range of theological viewpoints, and do not do retrieval the same way. This variety is important to note. If you come out and say you accept or reject theological retrieval you are not necessarily identifying with any or all of these theologians and theological projects.

As I see it, the core idea is a pushback against the way that many have done theology and historical theology, particularly in modernity, which might sound like an odd place to find agreement. It pushes against the epistemology of pride that argues that individuals are most successful when self-reliant (individualism). It also pushes against the chronological snobbery (to use C. S. Lewis’s term) that insists what is newer is inherently better than what is older. This shows itself in those theologies and histories that neglect or outright reject much of historical Christianity. Within a lot of contemporary Christian thinking, chronological snobbery would not normally snub its nose at the apostolic era, but it would at much of the patristics, medievals, and perhaps even the Reformers.

Recognizing the variety of retrieval and their shared foil helps construct an understanding of the idea as a whole and move toward a definition.

Definition

John Webster has written about some of the common resemblances and differences. He argues that they are all diverse enough over both chronological time and theological confession that they do not really constitute a school or even a movement. More to the point, Webster sees theologies of retrieval as a “mode of theology, an attitude of mind and a way of approaching theological tasks.” The attitude of mind that Webster talks about is what brings them together. They see a problem, a need, and a solution. The problem is the way things have been done in much of modern theology as I mentioned above. The need is to better equip modern theology to be better rooted and thus more robust. The solution is retrieval of the sources, methods, and content of classic Christianity.

I find one more definitional aspect important. W. David Buschart and Kent Eilers highlight the fact that retrieval is not a simple turn to the past so that one can read a little here, put in a footnote of an old source there, or appreciate a quote on social media. Retrieval is an intensification of one’s attitude toward the past. This means that one will read the past responsibly, which means understanding context and spending time learning by letting them explain what they mean. Intensification points to the responsibility to receive the deposit of the past and transmit it on the future. It’s avoiding shallowness and intentionally drawing deep from the old wells. This is nothing new, and that is part of the point, but it is something that has been missing from much modern historical theology.

So for an attempt at a definition: Retrieval is an intensified attitude of mind toward the past with the hope of benefitting the present. Theological retrieval is applying this to the study of theology past and present. It points to a certain disposition of mind toward the past. The problems theological retrieval are combatting are not completely foreign to traditional Christianity. I would argue that much of our contemporary Christian culture could be described by individualism, relativism, and a thin understanding of history at best. Retrieval wants to help remedy this. Thus, I find this posture quite helpful and necessary.

Motivations

Lest you think this is much ado about nothing. Let’s not forget why this is important.

We’ve talked about this some, so let me sum up where we’ve been and add some more meat to the bones: despite the varieties of retrieval, three broad ideas are held in common. First, one must be careful to understand the history of the church on its own terms rather than through any preconceived notion of what someone ought to be saying (which is a real danger, succumbed to quite often). Second, this understanding of historiography is normally pursued based on certain biblical and theological convictions, particularly (1) the inadequacy of modern options, (2) the assumption of the reality and epistemic priority of a God who has revealed himself, (3) confidence and appreciation for classical conceptions of theology, their sources, and their language, as well as (4) the conviction that doctrine is meant for the church and is to be embodied there. Which naturally leads to the third commonality: retrieval must be done in order to bolster exegesis, theology, and practice today (for more on these commonalities, see the works by Webster and Buschart and Eilers).

Retrieval is worried about historical shallowness, distortion, and artificiality. It seeks to bolster self-awareness and rootedness for the sake of our current situation. Gavin Ortlund helpfully suggests that retrieval can function as schoolmaster, foreign guide, and outside eyes.

In an essay I wrote elsewhere (here) I mentioned another important motivation.

Not overlooking these qualifications, proponents of retrieval generally maintain that this use of history better handles our own limitations (sinfulness and finitude) and our responsibilities to the communion of saints. Further, as Fred Sanders contends in his book, The Deep Things of God, much that is “latent” in our own Protestant, evangelical, and conservative theology (Sanders looks specifically at Trinitarianism) received initial and extensive explanation in the earlier eras of the church. To retrieve these explanations is not just to be reminded of what we have forgotten or overlooked, but to enrich what we have tacitly accepted (such as Chalcedonian Christology or the classic explanations of the divine attributes). Oliver Crisp is correct that we have “a far poorer grasp” of the glorious realities that we already accept in our theologies than do our “dead friends.” Indeed, the rewards for having a more robust understanding of Trinitarianism, atonement theology, and worship (to name a few more loci) are great and ultimately lead to more and better doxology.

The history of the church is an embarrassment of riches that we neglect at our own peril. The Apostle’s Creed names the communion of saints and the holy catholic church as essential things we believe in.  I hope you see the historiographical posture of retrieval as a good thing. God has revealed himself in his Word. Our sin and finitude limit our ability and leave us in need of help. Yet God has continued to work in his church, despite its blemishes.

At this point, I’ve tried to shine a little light on what theological retrieval is trying to do. The point of spending this time is to then throw the door open to address the many issues that exist in this discussion.

Major Issues at Play

Retrieval operates in the areas of hermeneutics, metaphysics, individual doctrines, and various practices, plus it provides a general self-awareness of how we think and do theology and practice (epistemology and method).

One major issue is how we understand history itself and how we should practice history. This is called historiography. How one understands historiography will determine both if and how someone will participate in theological retrieval. Historically speaking, how do we balance the notions of change and continuity? Do we accept a doctrine of the preservation of the church or do we at least counter the charges of novelty? What does it mean to study church history on its own terms? Likewise, how we diagnose the contemporary situation has an effect on the shape of our retrieval.

It’s not hard to see that our ecclesiology, particularly how we understand the universal church and God’s preservation of it through time is important in this discussion. Our relationship to tradition, traditions, and the Great Tradition and the question of where the locus of theological authority lies is likewise an essential discussion. And, a person’s theological confession affects their historical retrieval.

It also results in some pressing questions. Will this posture toward church history lead one inevitably to the “deep springs” of Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy? In other words, can we remain Protestant and evangelical and be deep in history? I believe we can. And, along with the Reformers, I would argue that proper retrieval becomes an apologetic for our very existence as Protestants and evangelicals. Kenneth Stewart is correct that efforts to find historical roots will need to think through a variety of theological issues (none of which are necessary new) and find guiding principles to help evangelical Protestants. Which is part of yet another pressing question, how do we be small “c” catholic in terms of the “holy, catholic church”?

The historical retrieving of theology is a good thing, in my opinion. Though, it comes with a host of important questions and issues to address. How you answer these questions can place you all over the spectrum of Christendom.  In future posts, I’d like to work through many of the major issues in this discussion that I’ve only been able to briefly mention here.

On the Limits of Theological Knowledge

book shelves in a room close up photographyOne of the more important aspects of theology, in my opinion, is a healthy understanding of the limits of theological knowledge. There is a tendency for many to approach theology as something that can be mastered. This would be the feeling that once you get all your theological ducks in a row you will be set, or that you can approach theological controversy with an expectation that one side has all the answers. I find this problematic for at least two reasons: it is arrogant and it misses the entire point of theology.

I just finished reading an incredible book by Steven Duby, God in Himself: Scripture, Metaphysics, and the Task of Christian Theology. I’m not going to review Duby’s book. I’ll leave that to someone else. But, his chapter on the knowledge of God helpfully situates our knowledge within a greater superstructure.

From a human perspective, we understand that our understanding was marred by the fall (the noetic effects of sin). But it can be helped to understand the things of God by the Spirit through regeneration, illumination, and ultimately glorification. Also from this human perspective, we normally use the “crutch” of tradition (church history and the communion of saints) to help.

While it is helpful to think about human understanding within the large timeline of creation, fall, redemption, and glorification, this is not the only perspective from which to view human understanding. This is where Duby is helpful. His first chapter discusses knowledge of God within an even larger theological superstructure. These are the layers he provides, each of which builds on the previous:

  1. Theological knowledge has the divine purpose of communion with God. The divine purpose of theological knowledge is communion with God, which recognizes that God is complete in himself but yet wills that created beings can know something of him, which is primarily made known in Scripture;
  2. God is known in self-revelation through wisdom. The object of theological knowledge is God himself and is dependent on God’s initiative in revelation. Importantly, this revelation is not just to give bare information but to bring glory to God and restored fellowship between God and his creation. The way this looks in the life of the Christian is wisdom.
  3. The limitations of finitude. The limitations and incompleteness of theological knowledge are important to realize. Where one sits on the timeline of the history of revelation will affect theological knowledge (we sit between what the OT saints knew and what the blessed in heaven know). Likewise, where one sits in regard to redemption will affect theological knowledge (unregenerate, regenerate, or glorified).
  4. Not hidden but a pilgrim understanding. Despite limitations in knowledge, God is not a hidden and unknowable God (Deus absconditus). Rather, a recognition of the pilgrim nature of our understanding can lead to a healthy understanding of the knowledge of God.

In other words, Duby’s work locates theological reasoning within a divine framework, not just the human perspective (which is encompassed in Duby’s third point). The greater superstructure Duby points to is God’s being (the divine ontology). Duby is not the first to do this, others such as John Webster, Kevin Vanhoozer, Matthew Barrett, and Scott Swain have done similar work recently. And this really points to the much older “basic theological principles” of principium essendi (principle of being), principium cognoscendi externum (the external principle of knowing), and principium cognoscendi internum (the internal principle of knowing).

In a blog post I can only drop this bit of theology. To comment and explicate how these all fit together would take a seminary-level theology course. But I hope you can see at least the skeleton of what is being said: The Triune God in himself gives the base meaning to all reality, which is ultimately found in God alone. Thus, God has a purpose within himself for humans knowing him. To accomplish this purpose God has revealed himself through various means, and scripture is our primary access point at this time. It is at this juncture that the limitations of human understanding enter. Yet, we are not left alone because the Spirit works through regeneration, illumination, and the communion of saints to help us have theological understanding. All of which, of course, is so we can have a relationship with the Triune God.

When we understand theological knowledge within this greater framework, at least a few observations can be made.

First, we should lay aside the prideful notion that we can build an impregnable theology. This is not to say that we cannot be firm in our convictions, but we must realize that there are serious limitations to our theology. Which is nothing less than what many wise theologians will say. The three most comforting words in a theologian’s arsenal that they can give in response to tough theological questions are: “I don’t know.” And that is a good thing because we worship a God who is altogether different than we are. Yet he has made himself known, and for a reason.

Second, God makes himself known for us. As Duby pointed out, the purpose of theological knowledge is communion with God. The point is not merely to get your theological ducks in a row. The point is to grow in communion with the object of theology, which is God himself. Theology is no less than head knowledge, but it is so much more.

Third, from our human perspective, an understanding of historical theology helps here, both to give a robust theology and to guard from painful wandering. The categories put in place by those who came before us are not simply dry, scholastic bones. They are careful reflections on the way we can understand God. We do not have to constantly reinvent the wheel. And we neglect these carefully constructed safeguards at our own peril. The character of historical theology as memory is essential.

Fourth, the theological disciplines should all be done within this framework. Systematic and historical theology along with biblical studies are all encompassed by this overarching reality. That has often given me much food for thought, especially as I consider what a theology of historical theology looks like.

All that to say: Duby’s book really got me thinking. That is what the best books do. And these are only a few meditations on one chapter. Yet hardly anything is more important in theological reflection than remembering our own limitations and that the point of these reflections is to bring us to closer communion with God.

Review: A Little Book for New Historians by Tracy McKenzie

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Robert Tracy McKenzie, A Little Book for New Historians: Why and How to Study History (IVP Academic, 2019), 115 pages.

In this little book, Tracy McKenzie contributes to IVP’s “Little Book” series by giving a helpful introduction to the study of history from a Christian perspective. On the one hand, this short work can be read as a classroom textbook in the sense that its readers will be challenged to do history and do it well. In part one, McKenzie walks the reader through a basic definition and understanding of history before discussing the need and the benefits of historical training. In part two, McKenzie walks through the best practices that accompany history done well.

On the other hand, this book can be read as an invitation for transformation. In a sense this is the well-discussed difference between getting training and getting an education. I’ve completed a lot of school and one thing that has helped is my test-taking ability. True and false questions, multiple-choice, short answer, and fill in the blank can all “be beaten” in my thinking (which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use them). I learned at an early age that being good at taking tests will translate quickly into getting good grades. But that doesn’t always mean that I’ve learned as much as my grade shows. It’s also why essay assignments were more difficult, they force you to think and show that you are thinking. In history class, it is easier to discuss dates and names than it is to discuss what we think went on, how we can defend our understanding of the past, and what wisdom can be gleaned from our endeavor.

This difference between training and education is the key to good history. McKenzie calls this historical consciousness. “Historical consciousness isn’t information we possess or a skill that we practice, It’s a mindset that changes how we see both ourselves and the world” (39). If we do history well we better ourselves by learning to loose ourselves from the tyranny of the present and listen well to the wisdom of the past. The personal takeaway is that the skills learned in this sort of education easily transfers to nearly every other endeavor we can imagine. “The academic study of history is less a gateway to a particular occupation than a stepping stone to lifelong learning” (35).

This leads me to think about of how this impacts Christians, which McKenzie discusses in a couple chapters. Studying church history means that we will learn dates and names from the Christian past, but it is more important that we learn to think better and learn to learn from the deceased among the communion of saints. They will seem odd and hard to understand because of our distance from them. We need to learn patience, humility, and the need to suspend judgment until we can weigh the various pieces of data within the suggested interpretive scheme. One simply cannot do history well without the famous “five C’s of historical thinking” of change over time, context, causality, contingency, and complexity (88). These critical thinking skills prove helpful in many arenas. They make one a better and more conscious thinker in general. It is no surprise that history majors in college go on to a great variety of successful careers. And for the Christian-would-be-historian, McKenzie says the one who employs these skills well “should expect to increase in historical knowledge, thinking skill, and consciousness, but you should also hope to grow in humility, charity, and wisdom” (105-106).

Sound thinking about the past means that “hot takes” or the “gotcha” quote tweet are not what we are after. Patient thinking, humble wrestling with people and ideas very different than our own, and cautious conclusions are just a few of the traits we are after. For someone interested in learning what history is all about, this book is as good a place to start as any. Its wit, brevity, and smooth prose make it easy to read through. And for the more experienced historian, the same qualities make this truly a refreshing refresher course. I will return to this book again for sure.