Method and Historical Theology: Conclusions

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

Method and Historical TheologyThe perspective I have been outlining in this series does not to suggest that those who are not Christians cannot participate in historical truth, but rather the acknowledgement that wherever truth may be found is belongs to the Creator. Accordingly, all truly valuable work—be it academic scholarship, gardening, blacksmithing, or preaching—must stand in accordance with theological truth and be governed by it. The oft repeated dictum that theology involves “faith seeking understanding” is vital for this type of endeavor, for it reminds us that, although we make claims to the truth, the Truth is ultimately beyond our human capacities to fully understand. Conclusions, then, are necessarily tentative in the sense that the full Truth will only someday be revealed to us. Christians live in the tension of “already” and “not yet,” that Christ has come, but that He will come again in glory.

The argument of this series has been that historical theology requires the insights of critically informed history and faithful theology, that knowledge of the past is perspectival but possible. On the issues of historiographical metanarratives, I concluded that the type of metanarrative approach which offers the best route forward in the study of history involves a generally developmental perspective which remains open to instances of continuity, change, and contemporary insight. Further, I have argued 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. While truth is contextual, difficult to find, and contested, there are truths accessible to those who seek them. This is in tension with those who claim to have the totality of truth, who suggest that truth may only be discovered scientifically, or those who argue that universal truths do not exist. It is my hope that these reflections on the method proper for the study of historical theology have been offered in a way consistent with the method outlined: concerned with historical inquiry and nuance while simultaneously humbly seeking the way forward in matters of theology. These are the methodological musings of someone wrestling to ascertain the appropriate way of thinking historically and theologically—my pursuit of veritas.


Published by Jacob J. Prahlow

Husband of Hayley. Dad of Bree and Judah. Lead pastor at Arise Church. MATS from Saint Louis University, MA from Wake Forest University, BA from Valparaiso University. Theologian and writer here and at Conciliar Post. Find me on social at @pastorjakestl

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