Redeeming Our Thinking about History: A God-Centered Approach

By Vern S. Poythress

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Redeeming Our Thinking about History: A God-Centered Approach

By Vern S. Poythress

... Show All

Why Is It Critical for Christians to Study the Past?

How does knowledge of the past shape Christians’ views of God, Christ’s redemption, and humanity as a whole? In his new book, Vern S. Poythress teaches Christians how to study and write about the past by emphasizing God’s own command to remember his works and share them with the next generation. Readers will explore concepts such as providentialism, Christian historiography, divine purpose, and the 4 basic phases of biblical history: creation, fall, redemption, and consummation. By learning how to appropriately study history, believers will begin to recognize God’s lordship over all events and how even minor incidents fit into his overarching plan.

  • Excellent Resource for Seminary Students, Pastors, and Historians: Poythress explains how to write about history, understand God’s divine purposes, explore history in the Bible, and more 
  • Applicable: Teaches readers how to glorify God by recognizing his deeds throughout history
  • Biblical and Informative: Outlines 4 phases of history and connects them to Christ’s redemption


Vern S. Poythress

Vern S. Poythress (PhD, Harvard University; ThD, University of Stellenbosch) is Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Biblical Interpretation, and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where he has taught for four decades. In addition to earning six academic degrees, he is the author of numerous books and articles on biblical interpretation, language, and science.

Product Details

Category: Theology
History & Biography
Format: Paperback
Page Count: 256
Size: 5.5 in x 8.5 in
Weight: 11.06 ounces
ISBN-10: 1-4335-7144-7
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-7144-2
ISBN-UPC: 9781433571442
Case Quantity: 48
Published: March 15, 2022

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: The Importance of History
Part 1: What We Need in Order to Analyze History: Essential Resources That God Supplies
Chapter 2: Experiencing History
Chapter 3: Foundations for Historical Analysis        Chapter 4: Spiritual Antithesis: Darkness and Light 
Chapter 5: Reductionistic Historical Analysis
Chapter 6: Understanding People     
Chapter 7: Understanding Historical Causes
Chapter 8: Miracles   
Part 2: History in the Bible: How the Bible Goes about Writing History
Chapter 9: Unity in Biblical History    
Chapter 10: Diversity in Biblical History        
Chapter 11: The Uniqueness of the Bible     
Part 3: Understanding God's Purposes in History: Divine Purposes—and Our Limitations—in the Study of History  
Chapter 12: God in Biblical History   
Chapter 13: Cautions in Understanding Divine Purposes    
Chapter 14: The Value of Recognizing Divine Purposes     
Chapter 15: Biblical Principles Guiding Historical Understanding    
Chapter 16: Academic Historical Analysis    
Chapter 17: Pressure toward Religious Neutrality
Chapter 18: Applying Principles from the Book of Revelation     
Part 4: What Does History Writing Look Like? Examples of Challenges in Writing about Particular Periods
Chapter 19: Christianity in the Roman Empire
Chapter 20: Interpreting the Reformation and Beyond
Chapter 21: Histories of Other Civilizations  
Part 5: Alternative Versions of How to Think about History: Competing Ways of Doing History among Christians
Chapter 22: Five Versions of Historiography
Chapter 23: Evaluating Providentialism        
Chapter 24: Other Versions of Christian Historiography      
Chapter 25: Perspectives on Historiography
Chapter 26: Further Reflection on Providentialism 

Appendix: Providence according to Mark Noll
General Index
Scripture Index


“Vern Poythress has written carefully about how a proper Christian doctrine of providence should (and should not) shape a believer’s understanding of human history. His book is particularly welcome in showing that ‘history’ includes a wide range of possibilities and that most of them can contribute (though in different ways) to Christian study of the past.”
Mark Noll, Research Professor of History, Regent College; author, America’s Book: The Rise and Decline of a Bible Civilization, 1794–1911

“Can we think Christianly about history in its two senses of the events of the past and the written account of those events? Vern Poythress affirms that we can. He seeks guidance from the Bible about how the past should be understood by believers and about how Christian historians should undertake their vocation. He places God at the center of both.”
David Bebbington, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Stirling

Redeeming Our Thinking about History continues Vern Poythress’s penetrating analysis of various fields of human intellectual endeavor. In continuity with his previous volumes, Poythress writes on why history is important and how best to read history—whether biblical or secular—in a God-honoring fashion. While capable of stratospheric thinking and communication, the author in this delightful volume simply takes the reader by the hand and leads him or her to the innumerable problems and issues of historical analysis, then resolves those vast and complicated topics. This approach taps into Poythress’s decades of examining and interpreting the Bible and presents very clear paths for readers to follow. Those insights are combined with practical principles to help us understand events in our own lives. Highly recommended.”
Richard C. Gamble, Professor of Systematic Theology, Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary

“With a lucid brevity that Calvin might envy, Poythress covers a broad array of relevant topics in his treatment of redeeming our thinking about history. He strikes just the right balance between common grace and the antithesis as it applies to meanings, events, and people, arguing against all reductionistic approaches (such as Marxism or logical positivism) and covering matters as widespread as the unity, diversity, and uniqueness of the Bible; providence; and the limits of our understanding. He demonstrates the inescapability of a religious stance in writing history and urges that it be done from a truly biblical perspective, arguing for a multiperspectival approach that will yield the richest and most textured historical account—one that acknowledges God’s providence while remembering our creaturely limits in discerning the meaning of his superintendence of history.”
Alan D. Strange, Professor of Church History, Mid-America Reformed Seminary; author, The Doctrine of the Spirituality of the Church in the Ecclesiology of Charles Hodge