Writing for Church History

Dr. Carl Trueman - Writing for Church History

The purpose of church history writing at Westminster is to present carefully an original analysis that explains how a given event, written work or important individual relates to surrounding historical forces. 

The church history paper is not merely a “report” of what happened but an attempt to explain why an event, written work, person, movement or doctrine took the particular shape it did. 

Your analysis of church history must therefore pay close attention to the various forces that drive history forward. These forces include:

  • economic
  • political
  • social
  • environmental
  • psychological
  • ideological (including, but not limited to, theological)
  • natural 

Although our God is ultimately Lord over these forces, his providential purposes are hidden from us, and so we, as historians, focus upon the study of secondary causes.

In pursuit of this goal, the church history paper should engage directly and deeply with primary sources. But this interaction should happen in dialogue with key secondary sources.

Not only will these sources help to frame the research question (i.e., what question are we trying to answer in our research?), but also marshal evidence from the primary sources to either confirm, refute or nuance the theses of secondary sources.

For more information on approaching church history writing, click on the links below.

In this section:

Sources for Historical Research

Building a Foundation for Church History Writing

Common Problems in Church History Writing

Sample Paper Passage


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