Friday, 8 June 2007

What is historical theology?

A little thought-experiment: here are four proposed theoretical points for understanding “historical theology.”

1. What is the history of theology?
The history of Christian theology is a history of conflicts and negotiations over the identity of God.

2. What is historical theology?
Historical theology is a disciplined analysis of the conditions of these conflicts and negotiations, resulting in the construction of narratives about the dispute over the identity of God.

3. What is the relationship between historical theology and dogmatic theology?
By constructing histories of theology, the discipline of historical theology makes available the conditions of theological dispute for contemporary reflection, and in that way it participates in contemporary disputes over the identity of God.

4. Does historical theology have a history?
Very little work has yet been done on the history of historical theology – but such work would aim to analyse the specific conditions under which the historicising of theology becomes possible, and the manner in which such historicising participates in theological conflicts over the identity of God. It would thus demonstrate the way in which the discipline of historical theology participates in dogmatic theology, and, conversely, the way in which dogmatic theology passes over into histories of theology.

Update: This post has also been translated into Chinese.

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