HERBERT BUTTERFIELD: Writings on Christianity and History by Herbert Butterfield

HERBERT BUTTERFIELD: Writings on Christianity and History

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Informal essays on religion--irenic in spirit, modest in scope, and agreeably written--by the eminent British historian. He and McIntire, a Canadian scholar, selected 17 of the papers, published and unpublished, that Butterfield has done on the subject since the appearance (in 1949) of his notable Christianity and History. McIntire also contributed a long and decidedly soporific biographical introduction. In casual, unassertive fashion Butterfield presents a Christian philosophy of history which could be loosely characterized as devotional, i.e., a series of pious reflections rather than a grand Germanic system. He concedes the complete independence of history as an empirical discipline, which neither can, nor should try to, discern the workings of the ""hand of God."" But the Christian historian, or reader of history, will, thanks to faith, have a sharp eye for the ways of Providence. He will see, for instance, the downfall of monsters like Hitler as acts of divine judgment. Unlike the Marxist, he will have an unshakable conviction of the freedom of the individual and the importance of moral responsibility, as well as a deep-rooted compassion for the follies and crimes of mankind. Even while granting the minority status of Christianity in modern culture--and rejoicing that the days of ecclesiastical hegemony, with the Inquisition and related outrages, are gone forever--he will remind nonbelievers of the role played by Christian dissenters in championing freedom of thought. And so on. All this is tame enough, and Butterfield knows it. But he's speaking to his fellow Christians, not as an academic, but as the shy, self-effacing Methodist lay preacher he once was. Impressive in its own way.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1978
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press