Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Reviews of "Why Study History?" Are Rolling In

Here are a few reviews of Why Study History?: Reflecting on the Importance of the Past that have appeared recently in the blogosphere and other online outlets:

Eastern Christian Books:

I've just finished this rather short book, and it has much to commend it. Fea writes with a commendable style that is cogent and accessible. He sets out what historians do and do not do, and why, reviewing also various historiographical schools (historicists, Whigs, Annales, etc.) and their approaches to some of the complicated tasks involved in writing good history. His first three chapters in particular are clear in setting out the discipline of history, and it is significant that that word (discipline) occurs repeatedly. Fea is not averse to drawing the connection more explicitly at the end of the book, having previously suggested that good history writing is akin to a spiritual discipline, to askesis, insofar as it involves a great deal of humility and self-effacement. The emphasis on humility is another common theme throughout, as Fea stresses the provisional nature of history writing, and the fact that while some may scorn the very idea of "revisionism," history cannot avoid it, and in itself there is nothing wrong with revising one's views as one grows, it is to be hoped, in deeper insight, stripped free of past biases and prejudices and able to see even a little less "through a glass darkly."

Rev. Robert Cornwall at Ponderings on a Faith Journey:

Why study history?  It has the power to transform lives.  That seems reason enough! 

As he did in his important response to the question of whether the United States was founded as a Christian nation (Was America Founded As a Christian Nation?: A Historical Introduction), John Fea offers us a thoughtful, readable, and challenging book.  Whether you are seeking entry into the historical profession or not, this book offers the general reader an apology for the importance of historical study.  He has provided a word to the church and to the broader community that healthy churches and healthy communities cannot exist in the context of historical amnesia.  This is, therefore, a book for our times, for we do live in the midst of a period of historical amnesia that threatens the future.  May we heed John Fea’s call to embrace the study of history – both professionally and as essential

Dr. Trent Nicholson of Desert Bible Institute:

Perhaps one of the most useful areas of this book for theologians comes early on when Fea gets to reader to think about the many ways people encounter the past today. It is amazing to think of all that has come before us, and how any subtle shift in those events could have radically changed our current situation. The book doesn’t get sci-fi or metaphysical at this point, but instead directs the readers’ attention to how every event in the past interacts with each other to form the world that we are currently living in. When we give ourselves time to think about this, the idea is awe-inspiring.