I had the privilege tonight to speak in the Evangelical Vatican, Wheaton, Illinois. My friend Vince Bacote, the director of the Center for Applied Christian Ethics, invited me to deliver a lecture about the moral responsibility of the historian and how it relates to my book on Christian America. It was good to see some old friends and to make some new ones as well. I even met two readers of The Way of Improvement Leads Home.
Much of my lecture centered around the way the study of the past can inculcate virtues in our life. I fielded some great questions. One student wanted to know if it was possible to actually write “providential history.” Two other audience members were trying to come to grips with the difference between moral criticism and historical empathy. I am not sure I answered their questions adequately, but these are important issues that I hope to explore more fully in a forthcoming book tentatively entitled “The Power to Transform: A Christian Reflection on the Study of the Past.” (It should be out sometime in late 2012 with Baker Academic).
We also talked a bit about David Barton and Howard Zinn. (I tried to argue that neither of these writers were historians). After the lecture I had a great talk with a senior history major who is weighing some options about graduate school.
Thanks again to Vince, Joy Trielaff and the Center for Applied Christian Ethics for inviting me to do this lecture.
While I would agree with you on Barton, I couldn't make a convincing case as to why. Would you mind sharing the salient portions of your argument? What makes a “proper” historian?