Evangelical Historiography in the Colonial and Postcolonial Eras

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    To better understand how a particular community understands its story, we look at the philosophy, aesthetics, and historical–cultural contexts of those who have written its history. This article analyses an example of colonial era historiography entitled The Progress of Dogma written by Scottish evangelical theologian James Orr. It critically evaluates how Orr’s historiographical approach is at once an asset and a liability for evangelical Christians in the postcolonial era. Orr argued for the cohesiveness and continuity of historical orthodox doctrine, particularly as it stood over against the liberal, deconstructive approaches that were gaining traction in his day. In this sense, Orr’s work may be considered an asset to evangelical Christians today as they attempt to defend a foundationalist reading of history over against that of postfoundational philosophers such as Michel Foucault. There is a concern, however, with Orr’s adaptation of the historical methodology presented by GWF Hegel. This dialectical, linear approach has had a disastrous effect on the evangelical interpretation of doctrinal history. Rich traditions have been ignored or lost, Eurocentrism has prevailed, and many Christians whose home or origin is in the Global South continue to struggle with what they perceive as the residue of the colonial enterprise. This article argues that Evangelical historiography must be reconstructed. In the conclusion, new lines of enquiry are presented that may allow evangelicals to affirm the historical cohesiveness and continuity of their doctrine, while at the same time giving serious consideration to postcolonial sensibilities.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)428-444
    Number of pages17
    JournalOpen Theology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2022


    • postcolonialism
    • historiography
    • evangelicalism
    • metahistory
    • Hegel
    • James Orr
    • colonialism

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