One of the objections to “providential history” that some of you picked up from the assigned sources is that if Christians claim special insight on the basis of religious revelation, they will no longer be able to participate in academic conversations about the past. Andrew Nieuwsma argued that “using providential history… can discredit what one has to say and take them out of the larger discussion with other historians or turn away a larger audience.” Both Nelson and John noted Prof. Kooistra’s comments about working in fields where Christian scholars are the minority and invoking biblical texts would leave her work discounted.
Similarly, in the video conversation I alluded to the argument of historian George Marsden, who believes that Christian historians ought to “play by the rules” of the secular academy (except where they explicitly contradict Christian belief) in order to participate in scholarly conversations. He found “quite congenial” William James’ metaphor of a pluralistic society being
like a corridor in a hotel. Innumerable chambers open out of it. In one you may find a man writing an atheistic volume; in the next someone on his knees praying for faith and strength; in the third a chemist investigating the body’s properties. In a fourth a system of idealistic metaphysics is being excogitated; in a fifth the impossibility of metaphysics is being shown. But they all own the corridor, and all must pass through it if they want a practicable way of getting into or out of their respective rooms.
Or if you’re a Social Studies Education major, think about this in terms of access to public schools: In order to serve those religiously diverse students, don’t you need to accept limitations on how you present and interpret, say, U.S. or world history?
Do you think this is a strong argument against what Fea defines as “providential history”? How important is it that Christian historians like Dr. Kooistra and myself be taken seriously by fellow scholars? (Or that Christian teachers be able to work in public schools?)