Retrieving History: Memory and Identity Formation in the Early Church (Evangelical Ressourcement)

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9780801096433: Retrieving History: Memory and Identity Formation in the Early Church (Evangelical Ressourcement)

This volume introduces the early Christian ideas of history and history writing and shows their value for developing Christian communities of the patristic era. It examines the ways early Christians related and transmitted their history: apologetics, martyrdom accounts, sacred biography, and the genre of church history proper. The book shows that exploring the lives and writings of both men and women of the ancient church helps readers understand how Christian identity is rooted in the faithful work of preceding generations. It also offers a corrective to the individualistic and ahistorical tendencies within contemporary Christianity.

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"At the core of history are the stories we tell of ourselves and of our communities. The stories we choose to tell or the stories we choose to ignore are equally as important as the way we tell them, for they form us into the people we are. From the very beginning, Jews and Christians have been admonished to remember and to recount the stories of God through God's people. Retrieving History calls us to listen again to the witness of the past and recognize that what lies before us is a clear choice between what Justo González calls 'innocent history,' which is a form of selective forgetfulness, and 'responsible remembrance,' which leads to responsible action. This volume is an important reminder that forgetfulness is the easy way out."
--George Kalantzis, Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies, Wheaton College

"With impressive scholarly expertise and lively writing, Laing examines how early Christian memories were gathered, shaped, and marshaled as polemical arguments or world-shaping narratives. All the right topics are covered: apologetics, martyrdom, hagiography, and Eusebian-style history. For those who think the past matters, this book is important reading--for the collective remembrance of the faithful is one of the greatest shapers of the Christian mind today."
--Bryan Litfin, Moody Bible Institute

"Laing helps readers find value in early Christian history without cherry-picking those isolated texts with which modern readers might agree. There are many introductions to early Christian thought, but few reclaim ways of doing theology while remaining faithful to the writers whose texts are the subject of inquiry."
--Steve McKinion, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

"A work of significant value to twenty-first-century evangelicals who long for a meaningful collective Christian identity but suffer from the effects of modernity's radical individualism. This is a serious work of painstakingly researched and well-sourced scholarship. It is recommended for anyone interested in patristics, historiography, or the church."
--Miles S. Mullin II, Hannibal-LaGrange University

"Laing serves up a delightful feast of historiographical insight, garnished with a dash of contemporary application. Her engaging study is prepared with precision and presented with style. Laing does more than merely inform her readers, who will find their perspectives challenged and changed by her critical reflections."
--Paul A. Hartog, Faith Baptist Theological Seminary

About the Author:

Stefana Dan Laing (PhD, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is assistant librarian at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Houston, Texas. She has taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Houston Graduate School of Theology, Houston Baptist University, and Beeson Divinity School, and has contributed to numerous books.

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