I briefly mentioned in an earlier post that Ben Myers (Faith and Theology) had expressed some concerns about George Marsden’s historical methodology. Marsden subsequently responded and the discussion has been nicely summarized over at Theology Forum. The basic gist of the discussion, in which Myers and Marsden are actually in agreement, has been that we be careful not to try and separate the ‘kernel’ of theological truth expressed by a particular theologian from the cultural ‘husk’ in which we find it embedded. The discussion thus serves as a useful reminder that good historical theology needs to work first to understand a theologian in his/her cultural context and from his/her perspective. Too often we ‘mine’ historical theology for nuggets of truth that we can use for our own ideological purposes. Historical theology should be approached first as an opportunity to learn, be mentored, and be critiqued by the church-that-has-gone-before, and only then as a critical task in which we participate as partners and not judges.
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