Method and Historical Theology: Introduction

ed5c933f4486e1962ecf9a902280b8f4Long attentive to its past, Western civilization often fails to address questions concerning how to appropriately and accurately understand history. This is especially true in the realm of Church history and theology, where faith has often found itself cast as the reason for not engaging the inconvenient events of the past. Over the month or so, I will be running a series which reflects on important tenets of historical methodology and their value for the study of Christianity. These reflections arose not only at the end of a doctoral course devoted to reading and thinking about what historical methodology is, but also came about within the wider context of a mind which attempts to take seriously the truth claims of Christian orthodoxy, the Modern climate of historical inquiry, and the Postmodern critique of monolithic perspectives. The approach offered here, then, is one of historical theology, where history and theology[1] are read together.

The major questions shaping these reflections centers around this: How does a historical theologian approach the study of early Christianity? In order to address this question, I will first trace (in broad strokes) the rise of “historical consciousness” in Western scholarship, outlining the development of the rules of the game which have been set forth for historical inquiry. In the second part of this series, I reflect on the value of these perspectives for the study of Christianity. Working from the insights of those writing in the realms of history, theology, and historical theology since the 19th century, I attempt to lay out some guiding principles for historical theological work on the history of the faith. The argument of this series is that historical theology requires the insights of critically informed history and faithful theology, that knowledge of the past is perspectival but ultimately possible. As a corollary of this general argument, it is my contention that historical theology requires methodological awareness, epistemological clarity, an ordered approach, wide consideration of context, and an integration of history and theology in order to be successful and valuable for personal and academic study. As my own method of approaching the task of historical theology remains very much in its formative stages, any feedback or responses to these reflections would be greatly appreciated.


 

[1] Historical theology is that interdisciplinary project which concerns itself with the both the intellectual methods of studying the past and “faith seeking understanding.”

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