A Pastor’s Guide to Historical Research

Pulpit-largeIn a world in which ministers are encouraged to run for office and bombarded with claims about religion and the nation’s founding, Beth Allison Barr of Baylor University has written a very useful post titled “A Pastor’s Guide to Reliable Historical Research.”

Barr challenges members of the clergy to critically evaluate websites, check their sources, and check their own bias.  Maybe she will turn her post into a book!

In the meantime, here is a taste of her post at The Anxious Bench:

A friend of mine was preparing his sermon. We happened to be at the same social function, and so he casually asked me what I knew about medieval illuminations (i.e. fireworks). To be honest, I didn’t know much. From my years of teaching world history I knew that gunpowder and fireworks had originated in Asia and spread rather slowly (along trade routes and through military ventures) to Europe. Hence European fireworks are really an early modern/modern phenomenon.

My friend’s question, however, was fairly specific: when was the earliest use of fireworks for a royal event in England? This was beyond my general knowledge.

I wasn’t worried. I knew I could quickly find the answer. So I did, and told my friend what he needed the next day (late fifteenth century, for those of you interested).

I am a professional historian. But the methods I employed to help my friend are not monopolized by my profession. Most of the tools pastors need for basic yet reliable historical research are readily available in our digital age. 

Read the rest here.