In Quest of a Historical Angle – a review

The Lord be with you

I have read someplace that the study of history has declined in the academic world, that many universities have even eliminated their history departments. I know of at least one university where the history department was eliminated and the courses were absorbed into the humanities department. I also know that well written history books continue to sell well. In my last congregation we had a reading club. The members of the club voted on which books would be on the reading list each year. History books regularly made the list, along with novels and other forms of literature. So, while our universities may be losing interest in history, people in general continue to value it.


Robert Rosin

I personally feel that history is important. Therefore I read with eager anticipation the article “In Quest of a Historical Angle: Tree? Labyrinth? Rhizome? Landscape? Hinge and Promise!” by Robert Rosin in Concordia Journal (Winter 2016, volume 42 | number 1). (The words “tree,” labyrinth,” “rhizome,” “landscape,” “hinge and promise” refer to different paradigms that can (have been) used to understand history.) He does not disappoint.

The first part of the article looks at the important role history played in the Reformation. He then moves to a definition of history. How do we understand the past? This is not as easy a task as one might first think (as Rosin demonstrates). Rosin then moves to different models that have been used to understand the past. That is all the “tree,” “landscape” stuff in the article’s title. In the end he supports the “hinge and promise” model, at least when it comes to salvation history.

In spite of the fact that he has his preferred approach, Rosin says one of the big lessons of history is humility. There is always more to learn. Also, while obviously valuing history, he also warns against simply seeking to reproduce some golden age. Times past all have their own particular context, just as we do today. We cannot turn the clock back. God has designed time to work in one direction only. While doctrine remains constant, context changes. Institutions of the past, that worked well to advance the Kingdom of God, may be completely inadequate today because of a changed context.

History remains a powerful way to understand ourselves and our current world. Indeed, in my opinion, to not know history is to not know our current reality and to not know history is to not know what to do in reference to the future. Rosin doesn’t go that far. I think he would stop at simply saying history is a great aid in knowing our times and as well as helping us to move into the future.

I can certainly recommend this article. You can read it by following the link below. It begins on page 13.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert