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Christianity and History Paperback – May 1, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 156 pages
  • Publisher: ACLS Humanities E-Book (May 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1597403407
  • ISBN-13: 978-1597403405
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,914,822 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Stephen Cooper on November 6, 2011
Format: Paperback
This is a slim volume, but it contains much wisdom. I wish I had read it when I was a young man. Back then, Marxist historians like Christopher Hill and controversialists like E.H.Carr ruled the roost. In their view, history had a purpose. H.A.L. Fisher had lamented that he could see `only one emergency following upon another, as wave follows upon wave'; but for Hill and Carr, there was indeed `a plot, a rhythm, a predetermined pattern'. History (and historiography) must be more than just `one damned thing after another'.

Sir Herbert Butterfield (1900 - 1979) was Master of Peterhouse in Cambridge (1955 - 1968) and then Regius Professor of Modern History there (1963 - 1968). He thought that individuals were more important than systems of government or impersonal economic forces. History was a matter of chance and accident and therefore unpredictable. Any grand theory of history was a fiction, which reflected more on the historian's prejudices and predilections than on the age he was writing about. Although Butterfield was a Christian, he did not believe that historians could `uncover the hand of God in history'. Providence was indeed at work, but it did not do so in any simplistic way. The true struggle between good and evil was a struggle within the soul of Man, not between rival political systems. The main driver in human history was Man's ineradicable cupidity and self-righteousness.

A few quotations will demonstrate the quality of `Christianity and History', which was written in 1949, when many thought that some kind of Communism would eventually prevail throughout the world, and that we had better get used to it, even if we didn't like it much.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Steven H Propp TOP 50 REVIEWER on February 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Herbert Butterfield (1900-1979) was a British historian and philosopher of history, who also wrote The Whig Interpretation of History and The Origins of History. He explained, "The Introduction and the seven chapters of this book are an amplified version of the six broadcast lectures delivered ... [in] 1949... These were based in turn upon a series of seven lectures originally delivered at the... University of Cambridge in ... 1948." (Pg. vii)

He observes, "Christianity is an historical religion in a particularly technical sense that the term possesses---it presents us with religious doctrines which are at the same time historical events or historical interpretations." (Pg. 3) Later, he adds, "And if God works upon our lives in detail or touches men in the things which are most intimate, then He is affecting history in any case..." (Pg. 59) He states, "it is only by catacalysm that man can make his escape from the net which he has taken so much trouble to weave around himself; and that is why the judgments of God so often appear to be remedial to the future historian." (Pg. 61) He ultimate concludes, "certain historical events... are considered to have a spiritual content and to represent the divine breaking in upon history." (Pg. 119)

He suggests, "If there is a meaning in history, therefore, it lies not in the systems and organizations that are built over long periods, but in something more essentially human, something in each personality considered for mundane purposes as an end in himself." (Pg.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Oxford on October 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
Butterfield's amendatory poignant insight questions common perception toward the understanding of history. He argues that historical knowledge is skewed when it's done non-theologically, i.e., outside Christian worldview. History is, according to Butterfield, a fulfilling prophecy of God's sovereignty; Christianity is therefore an historical religion (3). Furthermore, Butterfield enumerates several misconceptions about study of history. For example, new evidence makes history seem evolving yet historical events remain true (14f); history is always biased so that only unbiased truth, i.e., Christianity, can reveal real event (17ff); even though history is a science sometimes it cannot be reconstructed scientifically, because God's authority lies beyond human logic so history must be understood holistically rather than through mere science (22f).

Butterfield construes history as a "[dealing] with the drama of human life as the affair of individual personalities, possessing self-consciousness, intellect, and freedom (26). He warns to watch man's own self-deception considering himself as born civilized (31), and self-righteous (40ff). Thus Butterfield asserts throughout the book that where everything seems equivocal still two unchanging historical truth should be realized with certainty: sinfulness of mankind, everlasting love of God.

Consequently, lofty ideas and dispositions have achieved far little than mankind ever self-credited. Illustrating his points through many well-known historical events he proves that the predicament of human condition never changes. But he refuses to call history cyclical, because the sovereignty of God makes it impossible to predict future.
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