The ‘thing’ Is Historical Theology

You know the ‘thing’ in my last post, it is going to be a let down for you, I am sure! But it isn’t for me. The ‘thing’ that changed my life (other than Jesus, of course!), that I am referring to is Historical Theology. Until I entered seminary I had never really engaged with historical theology, except for working through some Church History (which is different). My exposure level, before seminary, from my Bible College undergrad experience was to augustine1Systematic Theology, which came from Millard Erickson; so my experience was rooted in Analytical-Evangelical-Systematic-Theology. But I had never really dealt with the history of ideas, or even much of the history of interpretation, when it comes to biblical exegesis. Seminary, and Dr. Ron Frost were the turning points for me. It was this exposure that opened me up to the wonderful reality that there is actually a development behind the Calvinist/Arminian debate; it was an exhilarating thing to understand that there was a richness to the Christian faith and heritage that before this exposure I never knew really existed. And so it was this turn in my life that literally changed everything for me (and this is no overstatement). I became open to the teachings of Thomas Torrance (and his Trinitarian theology, in particular) and Karl Barth because I first became a student of Historical Theology. I would never ever have been able to appreciate Torrance and/or Barth without first having the exposure that I did to the development and history of ideas that I did, through the discipline known as Historical Theology.

Some books that kicked all of this adventure into historical theology off for me were:

Steven Ozment’s : The Age of Reform, 1250-1550: An Intellectual and Religious History of Late Medieval and Reformation Europe (We used this book for the main text of my Reformation Theology class).

J. N. D. Kelly’s: Early Christian Doctrines (We used this for my Patristic Theology class).

Geoffrey Bromiley’sHistorical Theology: An Introduction 

And these were just some starters into this wonderful world! I hope, if you haven’t, that you will expose yourself to the cultivation of doing Historical Theology in your own life. I have somewhat neglected it over the last couple of years (because I have been reading Torrance and Barth etc. so much, and other things were going on), but I fully intend on remedying this in the days to come. And so my blog ought to start to reflect this. To be sure I will still be reading and quoting TFT, and Uncle Barth (as Jason Goroncy refers to him); but I want to get back into the discipline of Historical Theology in a much more intentional way. To kick this off I am rereading Ron Frost’s doctoral dissertation on Richard Sibbes and English Puritanism (which deals with Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Bernard, et al.), and I also plan on publishing (here at the blog) a proposal that I mentioned on Facebook last night that involves bringing some of the themes that Frost has identified with those articulated by Torrance and Barth. So a bringing together of the Scottish Theology that Torrance has noted (and developed in his own theological project), with some of the shared impulses that were similarly being engaged from within English Puritanism (and from one side of that reality). It will be interesting, because what this is really going to be doing is placing Augustine and Athanasius into conversation with each other, and through some of their primary interpreters and readers. Stay tuned.

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3 comments

  1. The dangerous thing with historical theology is letting the past dictate authoritatively. It’s a deadly temptation to say what was is what ought to have been. Anyway, you’re right on to say this is such an important field!

    I look forward to seeing some Augustine dialog!

    Cal

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