MHT: Historiography and Christian History

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting on the appropriate approach to and method for historical theology.

SLUAt this juncture, I must reiterate that the application of categories such as pre-Modern, Modern, Postmodern, and developmental are neither strictly chronological nor are they entirely encompassing. There are contemporary examples of historiographical perspective representing each of these viewpoints, just as there are works which embody different insights from each of these movements. While the “history of history” has broadly developed along the lines summarized above,[32] a sometimes more useful way to delineate perspectives on the use of history are the metanarrative perspectives outlined by Kenneth Parker. In “Re-Visioning the Past and Re-Sourcing the Future: The Unresolved Historiographical Struggle in Roman Catholic Scholarship and Authoritative Teaching,” Parker outlines four ways in which the history of Christianity has been understood, terming these views Successionism, Supercessionism, Developmentalism, and Appercessionism.

Successionism posits that Christian truth was received by the apostles and has been preserved unadulterated by time and circumstance. Supercessionism argues that ancient Christianity was normative, became corrupted over time, but may be rediscovered and restored by returning to the faith and practice of the primitive Church. Developmentalism finds that early Christianity contained nascent expressions of teaching which have organically grown into deeper understandings of truth over the centuries. Appercessionism does not privilege ancient Christianity, but uses heightened consciousnesses of the present age to critique previous Christian teaching and practice. Parker notes that historians often employ multiple metanarratives in their work, often relying upon different perspectives in different circumstances. These metanarratives—though they do not precisely align with pre-Modern, Modern, and Postmodern worldviews—nonetheless offer an extremely effective set of tools for understanding conceptions of and appeals to history. These metanarratives also provide the starting point for my reflections on historical theological methodology.


 

[32] With an exception, of course, for the developmental view that arose prior to postmodern thought.

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