Philosophic History and the Critique of Orthodoxy

I. Philosophic History
  • Stephen Paul Foster
Part of the International Archives of the History of Ideas / Archives Internationales D’histoire des Idées book series (ARCH, volume 154)


David Hume and Edward Gibbon were self-proclaimed philosophic historians. Philosophic history challenged Christianity’s authority to make the past theological, i.e., the study of God’s work in human history. The gospel proclaiming Christ’s participation in history as a man is indeed an affirmation of theological-historical truth. Thus, philosophic history in its confrontation with theological history was momentous in its rebellion against Christianity. “Any ecclesiastical historian who believes in Christianity is bound also to be a theologian,” observed Arnaldo Momigliano.1 Christian history was inherently theological in conception, requiring a persistent interweaving of fact with dogma and an insistence on the transcendental significance of that period of time in which Christ came and participated in human events. (Ibid., 138) Philosophic history was persistently skeptical about the transcendental causes at work in history and inevitably antagonistic toward Christian dogma.2 Hugh Trevor-Roper writes that: “[s]ince the Renaissance, European writers had sought to discover general causes in history to replace the theological determinism of the Middle Ages, and the theologians had invariably resisted these attempts.”3


Human Nature Original Italic Roman Civilization Roman Empire Supernatural Explanation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen Paul Foster
    • 1
  1. 1.Central Michigan UniversityMount PleasantUSA

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