An Approach To A Theological Interpretation Of American History -- By: Charles Gregg Singer

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 20:1 (Nov 1957)
Article: An Approach To A Theological Interpretation Of American History
Author: Charles Gregg Singer

An Approach To A Theological Interpretation Of American History

Charles Gregg Singer

MATURE scholarship in the field of American history has been marked by a desire to find not only the truth concerning the facts of our history, but to interpret their meaning correctly as well. There have been many interpretations of our national past, some of which have been merely applications of general theories of historical interpretation to the American scene, while others have been more genuinely native in their origin and use. In addition to the Marxian approach to American history, there have been modifications of that point of view as some of its adherents have sought to adapt the philosophy of Marx to the facts of the American past. One of the most popular of these modifications, although it was not usually recognized as such, was that suggested by the late Frederick Jackson Turner who insisted that the key to the meaning of America was to be found in the determining influence of the American frontier on the intellectual, religious, social, economic and political development of the American people. Although the frontier thesis does not command the attention and devotion which it received some forty years ago, there are still many historians who rise to its defense.

Other historians have been much more impressed with the growth of democracy and the rise of the common man as the underlying factor which gives coherence and meaning to our history. They would insist that the thread of unity which runs throughout our national development since 1776 is the unfolding in our national life of the great dream of Jefferson as he expressed it in the majestic phrases of the Declaration of Independence. They, of course, would not rule out the importance of the frontier and other factors, but they would find the real meaning of our history in the democratization of American life. For many other historians, Charles Beard set the pattern of thought with his economic interpretation of the

adoption of the Constitution and of the rise of Hamiltonian political economy.

In varying degrees each one of the several schools of thought may rightfully lay claim to truth in its approach to the meaning of American history. The Marxians are guilty of serious distortions of the facts of the case and have interpreted them in the light of a philosophy which is militantly pagan, with the result that they have denied to themselves any possibility of ever arriving at a genuine understanding and appreciation for historical development. Nevertheless, we must take into account the fact that much of human activity is directed toward the satisfaction of economic needs and desires. Neither have those who hold to the economic interpretation of...

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