Wednesday, August 24, 2011

More Thoughts on the Relationship Between Theology and History

In my last post I asked what the relationship between history and theology should look like. I have two brief points to further that discussion, and neither of them novel (sorry). First, our theology needs to be informed by historical exegesis as NT Wright among others has reminded us. In particular, the church has repeatedly fallen through the trap door of de-Judaizing the Bible. The story of the Bible is a thoroughly Jewish story (and even that's imprecise as it's several Jewish stories from across centuries) and is only understandable as a Jewish story. It also is the story of Israel. If we don't wrestle with those realities then our theology will be (at best) tangential to, rather than reflective upon the revelation of the speaking God we find in the Scriptures.

At the same time, I feel as if historians want to put everybody in a straight jacket. Theology (as Dale Allison points out) has to deal with far more than history or even historical exegesis. History plays a role in illuminating the original intentions of the writers of the New Testament. The role of theology is then to construct from that basis and to use many other tools at its disposal. Theology must be allowed to go beyond the text. It must use Scripture creatively and demonstrate faithful improvisation. Our gaping distance from the world of the Bible doesn't make it irrelevant, it simply reinforces that history and original meaning ain't even close to enough.

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