Today marks the official publication of Faith and History: A Devotional! Co-edited by our own Chris Gehrz, the book features biblical meditations by some forty Christian historians, including Prof. Amy Poppinga.
In their introduction, Chris and co-editor Beth Allison Barr (Baylor University) explain how they “find the prayers and stories of faithful believers from the past encouraging, sobering, meaningful, and instructive. They remind us how shared our human experience is.” But at the same time,
the past is a foreign country, where our sisters and brothers in Christ believed and worshipped differently than us as part of societies, cultures, economies, and political systems different from ours. Because they challenge us to see our faith from a different perspective, the stories of Christians from different times and places—as far from us and from each other as fifth century Ireland and nineteenth century Burma—are also instructive, meaningful, and encouraging.
In fact, Chris’ reflection on Luke 1:68-79 features a non-Christian visitor to our campus: a Holocaust survivor named Dora Eigen Zaidenweber. The priest Zechariah sang of a breaking dawn that would “give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,” but taking his World War II students to hear Dora’s account of life in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen reminded Chris that “those of us who follow Jesus study history… shouldn’t look too quickly for the light. When we turn to the past, we must seek truth among lengthening shadows.”
Chris also supplied a meditation on the creation accounts of Genesis 1-2, followed immediately by Amy’s piece on Genesis 16. The story of Hagar reminded her of teaching Modern Middle East. While that kind of study “can be be overwhelming for what it requires of us emotionally and spiritually… the classroom provides me with a space to create room to care for the stories of those who are suffering.” Just as Hagar found in the wilderness a God who truly saw her, Amy finds the history classroom “a place where the Other must be heard and seen and, beyond that, lifted up.”