I am attending the tenth annual Lincoln Forum Symposium in Gettysburg this week. The event brings together both professional historians and ordinary readers who just love to talk about Lincoln. I am in the second category.
The theme this week is the assassination of President Lincoln, which took place 140 years ago. Theories regarding his assassination, as you probably know, vary considerably. Who was involved, what did they know, and when did they know it? One thing stood out today—equally good historians do not agree on a number of important facts, even though they have the same evidence.
This discussion reminds me of James McPherson’s famous quote that "You don’t judge history through the wrong end of a telescope." The McPherson’s quote should be applied to Christian historians as well. It should be applied even more so to ministers and lay people who misuse Reformation history in the same way. Wanting to make a specific point, in favor of a previously adopted viewpoint, they selectively use sources, fail to get the big picture in focus, and then make their polemical points without solid historigraphy. I have found over the years that anyone can prove about anything with history if they have a mind to do it. You should never feel that you are at the mercy of a simple historical argument. You are wise to be open to more information and further reflection. And always be sure you get the right end of the telescope first.
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I can relate to the selective use of church history to prove one’s point. Seen it done much to often, especially in relation to the Puritans…
~ The Billy Goat ~