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The Religious Meaning of the Past

Shirley Jackson Case
The Journal of Religion
Vol. 4, No. 6 (Nov., 1924), pp. 576-591
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1195347
Page Count: 16
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The Religious Meaning of the Past
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Abstract

In the past the history of Christianity has usually been studied for the sake of its supposed normative worth. But the method of modern science applied to the study of history has shown it to be an ever moving evolutionary process no part of which can properly be regarded as a final authority for all future time. Abandonment of the normative hypothesis does not alter the fact that Christianity is still substantially grounded in the past and that Christian leaders of the present and future may find much value in history. While no longer normative, the past still is instructive. History shows the importance of the church in society, it reveals the functional significance of certain inheritances from the past, and it also shows that certain elements in the Christian heritage have lost significance through changing social conditions. Further, as it exhibits Christianity always in the making, it places a new burden of responsibility upon modern Christian leaders to see to it that the religion of today shall represent a suitably new stage in the evolution of Christianity.

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