What is Religious History?

The history of ecclesiastical structures? The link between denominations and social change? The history of Christian doctrine? The study of formal beliefs? What people believed? Eight historians answer the question...

Christopher Brooke

A wider and a deeper interest in other faiths and in comparative religion is one of the happiest developments of modern scholarship, but my own studies have their centre in the Christian Church. A Christian who meditates deeply on his faith must be concerned with history in some sense and some degree; for Christianity is an historical religion, inescapably tied to the events of Jesus' life – not to particular interpretations of particular moments in it, nor to a particular theological interpretation of the Incarnation or the Atonement – but, as I once heard a schoolmaster put it to his class, when speaking of the events of Christmas, reverently, hut firmly, 'no baby, no Church'. This means that the Christian faith is a constant inspiration to an historian; but it does not mean that believing Christians have any necessary advantage in the study of religious history, nor of Christian origins. They are more likely perhaps to be interested; but it is fundamental to the modern study of religious history that it has been fruitfully pursued by folk of every faith and none.

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