contemporary historians

The Role of History in Recovering the Evangelical Mind: An Interview with Nathan Finn

I recently interviewed Nathan Finn for The Gospel Coalition. The article is partially reprinted and linked below.

By Jeff Robinson

For many, the very mention of studying or reading history conjures sleep-inducing lists of names, dates, places, and events. Why do relatively few people love to study or even think about the past? Could it be chronological snobbery, as C. S. Lewis suggested? No doubt that’s part of it. Perhaps it’s also because many teachers have approached history with the fervor of an iceberg. 

Nathan Finn believes engaging those who have gone before us is vital, and he teaches and writes about history withimages care and passion. After serving several years as professor of church history at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in North Carolina, Finn was recently elected dean of the School of Theology and Missions at Union University in Tennessee.

I corresponded with Finn to discuss the art of teaching history, the place of providence in the work of the historian, the role of the past in recovering the evangelical mind, and more.

Your new book, History: A Student’s Guide (Crossway, 2016), is part of a series on reclaiming the Christian intellectual tradition. What role does learning history play in recovering the evangelical mind? 

One of the besetting sins of evangelicalism is a mostly ahistorical approach to theology and praxis, often at the popular level, but also among many pastors, scholars, and other ministry leaders. As evangelicals, we appeal to the supreme authority of Scripture, and rightly so. But we don’t read our Bibles in a vacuum. Too often our reading of Scripture is informed more by pragmatic considerations, cultural sensibilities, and personal preferences than by the best of the Christian intellectual tradition. We will be a healthier evangelical movement to the degree we root our faith and practice in the best thinking of those who have gone before us.

Read the entire interview.