Most people on the planet simply are not interested in history. I’d say that’s true of most American high school and college students. History classes can be dreadfully boring, especially with the wrong teacher — and it is very hard to be a good teacher of history. In high school, I had almost no interest in my history classes. Names, dates, things that happened that had no relevance to anything I was interested in or what I felt like doing day to day. Ugh.
But a good history teacher is a marvel to behold. There is so much about the past that is fascinating, and, of course relevant. And so, as it turns out, I’ve turned into a professional historian. Go figure.
I’ve been thinking about this because of that debate I had on Monday with Peter Williams, a very bright evangelical Christian and a fine scholar of ancient Semitic languages who firmly believes that the Bible conveys God’s Truth, in every way, so that there are no mistakes of any kind in it. Peter is also the author of Can We Trust the Gospels? and C S Lewis vs the New Atheists.
I don’t see this as a historical approach to the Bible but a religious/theological one. Christians who take this view are not interested in studying the Bible the way other ancient books would be studied. For them it is given by God, and so it’s different, and a “historical” approach is in fact inimical to a “true” understanding of it.
Peter – at least as I was hearing him – seemed to me to affirm that view whole heartedly. The “discussion” we had (the moderator didn’t want to call it a debate) will be posted online sometime in the fall, not sure when, and so you can see for yourself if my assessment is right. But it did seem to me that Peter thought/thinks that “history” is a four-letter word.
He contrasted his approach to the Bible with how historians in “university history departments” (the term he used with a bit of disdain) approach their texts. In making the differentiation he actually did make an extremely good point. He indicated that…
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