Tuesday, October 21, 2014

"A distinct, Catholic approach to history"

Kevin Jones of the Catholic News Agency interviewed the authors of a new book about writing narrative history from a Catholic perspective:

.- The study of history is an opportunity to unite faith and reason and to recover a distinctly Catholic perspective that sees God acting in the past, present and future, the authors of a new book say.

“From its earliest centuries, the Church understood itself as possessing not simply a faith with a history, but a historical faith,” Christendom College history professor Christopher Shannon told CNA Oct. 13.

“That is, Church Fathers such as Eusebius and Augustine understood God as speaking to his people through history, and not simply Church history proper. The rise and fall of nations were to be understood in terms of God calling his people to himself.”

Shannon is the co-author of “The Past as Pilgrimage: Narrative, Tradition, and the Renewal of Catholic History,” from Christendom Press. Through the book, he and Christopher Blum – a history and philosophy professor at the Augustine Institute in Denver – aim to cultivate the awareness of “a distinct, Catholic approach to history” among both professional historians and the general reading public.

“Catholic historians, like non-Catholic historians, use reason to discern facts and establish relations of causality in history, but they also draw on their faith to discern the meaning and significance of events,” Shannon said.

Blum explained that “The Past as Pilgrimage” aims to aid “the recovery of Christian memory” that Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis have called for.

The scholar said that Catholic approaches tend to avoid a “critical” history that debunks ideas or a “scientific” history that aims to be “encyclopedic or technical.”

Rather, Catholic forms of history should be “reverent” and seek to be “challenging and meditative.” Blum said the exemplars of this approach to history include Sts. Athanasius, Augustine and Gregory the Great, as well as Blessed John Henry Newman.

Read the rest of the interview there. About the book, from Christendom Press (AmP Publishers Group):

In The Past as Pilgrimage: Narrative, Tradition, and the Renewal of Catholic History, Catholic historians Shannon and Blum challenge the secular bias currently prevalent among professional historians, and argue for the compatibility of faith and reason in the study of the past. Inspired by the understanding of tradition developed in the work of philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre, the authors first critically examine both the internal contradictions and the enduring faith commitments of secular objectivity, then proceed to explore various traditions of Catholic historical thinking capable of synthesizing the technical advances of modern history with distinctly Catholic historical narratives. Their argument seeks to foster a conversation about the ways in which Catholic historians can integrate their faith traditions into their professional work while still remaining open to and engaged with the best of contemporary, non-Catholic thinking and writing about history.

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