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Axel Schoeber has just completed his Ph.D. (he has already completed a D.Min.) and it seemed to me as I listened to him about his research that he was an historical detective. He brought an aspect of history alive for me when he talked about his research. Here is something that he wrote for our blog.
Being a detective comes naturally to me. A friend and I solved a neighbourhood arson before the police got involved when I was 14. We were imitating the Hardy Boys! Detective work, asking lots of questions and observing closely, was helpful in pastoral work, too. Sherlock Holmes’ dictum, clarified a few puzzles: “When you discard the impossible, whatever is left, however improbable, must be true.” It also could get me into hot water!
Detective work is useful for historical research. I was reading extensively several years ago on what is called the French Reformation. (You can ask if you want to know why I don’t like the term.) I began to notice more evangelicals who did not want to separate from the “one church” than I had expected. Some historians missed this trend.
I especially noted a leading Catholic, Gerard Roussel—who was well known in his day. He was ignored or minimized by most researchers. Why? It turns out that Protestants like John Calvin thought he was unfaithful by accepting a bishopric, and traditionalist Catholics thought he was dangerous because of his “Protestant-sounding” teaching. Both dismissed him.
My recently completed PhD dissertation has demonstrated both that he was an important evangelical reformer and that he was an irenic who took seriously the call to love one’s neighbour. Faith with a strong and influential impact for peace is something that needs stressing nowadays. Being a detective has allowed me to make a beginning. A delightful task!