Historical Theology

Etymonline.com

Historical

early 15c., “of or pertaining to history, conveying information from the past,” with -al (1) + Latin historicus “of history, historical,” from Greek historikos “historical; of or for inquiry,” from historia (see history). For sense differentiation, see historic. Meaning “narrated or mentioned in history” (as opposed to what is fiction or legend) is from 1843. Related: Historically.

Theology

mid-14c., “the science of religion, study of God and his relationship to humanity,” from Old French theologie “philosophical study of Christian doctrine; Scripture” (14c.), from Latin theologia, from Greek theologia “an account of the gods,” from theologos “one discoursing on the gods,” from theos “god” (from PIE root *dhes-, forming words for religious concepts) + -logos “treating of” (see -logy). Meaning “a particular system of theology” is from 1660s.


Discussion/Explanation

Historical theology is one of the 4 main branches of theology that is often closely tied with studies of church history. Why?

The answer to this question – because the focus of historical theology is to study the development of doctrine historically. Those that followed directly beyond the apostles largely spent their time reiterating what was already written by the apostles. Some of the biggest developments of this time were in the form (or liturgy) of early worship gatherings and an emphasis on the deity of Christ (even more so than what is described in the NT).

Much of historical theology focuses on such developments in their historical context. Our current understanding of God’s Word has come to us because of the many events that have occurred from then to now.  Chief among these events were challenges to the faith that often came in the form of heresies. Through such heresies, it became clearer the difference between the fact and fiction, the truth and falsehoods surrounding the faith.

Besides chronological developments and doctrines, we also see territorial developments and denominational developments as we study historical theology. This grants us understanding as to how such groups and divisions have come to be and inform us on how to view them today.


There was nothing to give from Dictionary.com this time around.


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Theology – part 3

Theology can be said to have 4 broad categories or areas of focus within it. These would include:

  1. Exegetical Theology
  2. Historical Theology
  3. Systematic Theology
  4. Practical Theology

Exegetical Theology. It is looking at the Bible as such; it “…includes all that belongs to the explanation and interpretation of the Holy Scriptures (1).” This is the area of theology focused on things such as Greek text, Hebrew text, textual criticism, hermeneutics, exegesis, biblical theology, and more. This area always begins with looking at the text of Scripture itself and the interpretation of its content.

Historical Theology. This traces the history of Church doctrines and their development. This area of theology naturally traces doctrinal differences, the Church’s understanding of the Scriptures, and the Church’s response to heresy. As this area closely follows the Church through history, you also see the rise & fall of territorial and denominational differences.

Systematic Theology. This theology can be described as the “child” of the previous two. From dictionary.com, it is “…a form of theology in which the aim is to arrange religious truths in a self-consistent whole (2).” It includes apologetics, dogmatics, ethics, and polemics. This is where various studies of the faith come together into a greater, cohesive framework. Dispensationalism and Covenantalism are theologies of the systematic sort as they seek to tie various scriptures together, albeit, with different approaches (giving implications of differences in other areas of theology as well).

Practical Theology. If systematic theology is the “child”, practical theology is the “grandchild” of the first two areas. As the name implies, you get to see Scripture lived out. This includes areas of study within homiletics, liturgy, poimenics, catechetics, church order, and missions. All of these involve the methodologies employed as the gospel is shared in preaching, worship, outreach, and more.

With each of these broad areas, there are sub-areas as you have now seen. Some of these have already been addressed in previous posts as part of this series, and I have therefore linked them for your convenience. Expect to see some of these other terms in future posts for your reading convenience.


I'm part of Post A Week 2016

Sources:

  1. http://www.biblicalcyclopedia.com/E/exegetical-theology.html
  2. dictionary.com

Eschatology

The study of final things.

This area of study is more directly an area of study within theology unlike epistemology – which was more directly an area of study from philosophy.

It is concerned with studying and understanding what has been revealed about the end of times – the end of the world as we know it. This inherently involves what happens to us after we die as well as what happens after the world comes to its end.

Etymology (history of a word as found on etymonline):

“1834, from Latinized form of Greek eskhatos “last, furthest, uttermost, extreme, most remote” in time, space, degree (from PIE *eghs-ko-, suffixed form of *eghs “out;” see ex-) + -ology. In theology, the study of the four last things (death, judgment, heaven, hell). Related: Eschatological; eschatologically.”


Discussion/Explanation

This area of study involves a diversity of views and can also involve a diversity of responses – some aggressive and others not so much. The reason for such diversity in response often gets rooted in the individual’s associated angle of viewing theology (like in Covenantal Theology vs. Dispensational Theology). As you probably already know, people can get very passionate about their views. Nevertheless, such differences also make clear all the more that not everyone agrees on how the end times will play out – or have largely already played out if you’re a Preterist.

I do not intend to give an exhaustive introduction to all the different views; however, I do want to at least attempt to provide some clarity to some of the terms that get thrown around to define one’s position in this area of theology.

In this eschatology, there are what I would call four “general” overarching views within which more specifically named eschatological views can be found.

These include Historicist, Preterist, Futurist, and Spiritualist.

Historicist isn’t as common anymore but it still has its adherents. It largely ties various events in history to particular mentions in Scripture. In other words, it commonly looks to tie end times fulfillments to particular points in time and space. Preterist and Futurist have a tendency to do the same but much less. How? Well, the Preterist will read the end times fulfillment as being largely completed in the times shortly after Christ’s death leaving the rest to be fulfilled into the present time. Futurist, if you couldn’t guess by the name, places much of the end times fulfillment into the future. Those with a more Spiritual (or Spiritualist) view take many of the fulfillments less literally and lean toward a metaphorical interpretation that can be applied to all of the time since Christ to the present – what some have termed the “Present-age” view.

If that description seems muddy…..well that’s because there’s variance within each. The short of it is that Historicist isn’t that common anymore and often gets ignored. Preterist has adherents (like R.C. Sproul) who view much of fulfillment as already passed. Futurist sees things as in the future, and Spiritual don’t tie themselves to a specific time frame except that the end times refer to the time frame from Christ to now.

These four overarching angles do not get as much time spoken about these days as the next 3 terms/positions. Those include Premillennial, Postmillennial, and Amillennial. I want to note that these 3 are not concerned with the end times as a whole as much as they are focused on a particular event – the millennial kingdom as mentioned in Revelation 20:2-7.

To make this very brief:

Premillennial – before the millennium – Christ’s return ushers in the millennial kingdom.

Postmillennial – after the millennium – a period of prosperity & Christ-likeness lead by Christians leading up to Christ’s return.

Amillennial – not a “real” millennium – there is no literal, physical millennial kingdom. The millennium refers instead to this present church age.

Each of these has varying potential to appear within each of the 4 before mentioned general overarching views of eschatology. As an example, most Futurists would also be described as Premillennial. However, there are also Historic Premillennialists which I believe John Piper would label himself as – though it be his own version (which you can find plenty “own versions” out there if you look at the various views held by church leaders over the years).

I would have to say that Premillennialism and Amillennialism are the most prevalent today with Pre being clearly the one with the most adherents as of this writing. Not that number of adherents is any proof of a view’s validity but it is good to be aware.

Those adhering to Dispensational Theology (ex. include First Baptist churches) are typically Premillennial whereas the Covenantal Theologians (ex. include Presbyterians & some Baptist) are more or less Amillennial.

As you can imagine just by the descriptions so far, there is much room for variance leading to a diversity of views on eschatology. Regardless of the view one ends up taking, I personally always advise people to remember to ground their view in Scripture. Sadly, there have been those who have taken an idea or another from a piece of Scripture, run with it, and have driven themselves to a point that they had to deny other parts of the Scriptures to continue holding to the view they established. This is the territory of heresy, and there is no need for it as there are much more biblically-based views already in existence and continue to stand because of their dependence on Scripture to justify the position. In short, when in doubt, always seek out the Scriptures first and read them in light of other parts of Scripture. Also, make use of your church leaders. They are an invaluable source of information, direction, and previous study.


Now, some may ask – what about Judaic eschatology or Islamic eschatology? Why didn’t you bring them up? My answer: while I recognize these other belief systems do have their own eschatology, they are not part of Christianity and this blog site is focused on Christianity. However, I could see the possibility of doing some kind of comparison with them down the road – stay tuned!

 


The header image was acquired from here.

Theology – part 2

There are many subcategories or areas of study within theology – each with their own names. You will be seeing these as we progress through this series.

For now, I want to zero in on an issue that some quibble over on the topic and that is in regards to division.

Theological differences have created splits throughout redemptive history. In fact, they have been going on since before Christ came and God’s followers began to be called Christians. The question at the heart here – was this division bad/wrong?

There are those today who see arguments made in regards to theology, see the divisions or lines in the sand drawn, and then proceed to over-react and label anyone standing staunchly on a particular theological position as effectively in the wrong or the downfall of the faith.

Their concern isn’t completely unfounded, sadly, as there are those who like to “major on the minors” as we say and will break fellowship with other believers over the tiniest differences of position. We do need to be aware of our limited-ness as created finite beings; however, this does not mean that God made us incapable of understanding any of His truth.

In fact, there are those from within the ranks of Christ and from without that have a false notion that theology is therefore bad because of their experiences with individuals who did as I’ve described. They are right to be concerned and to point out that there is a problem but their conclusion misses the mark.

Division is NOT the enemy here. Confused?

Christ said of Himself that “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one can come to the Father except through me”. Jesus isn’t mincing words here. He makes it quite clear that there is only one right path that it is through Him. There are NO other ways. As such, a natural division forms – those who come to the Father through Christ and those who do not. In other words, there are two groups of people – those in the Lord, His followers, and those who believe they have a different way commonly referred to as unbelievers.

This is a very simple theology that is quite plain in the Scriptures and it is clear that God is making a division. What’s more, many of the divisions that have occurred within Christendom were the result of heresies – refusals to submit to God’s revealed truth as found in Scripture.

So does theology divide? You bet!

Is it supposed to divide? Again, absolutely!

The people who start shunning theology, as a result, are making a theological stance to avoid anything potentially divisive and the truly sad thing is they commonly take it to the point of denying Scripture or saying they cannot definitively know. Not much of a faith at that point as they can no longer truly stand on anything. Granted there are those who will try but their logic is self-defeating. Either they’ll inevitably drop their claimed position under God or they will come to see their error and begin standing on God’s truth. …or worse they’ll try to insist on falsehoods and call it God’s truth – heresy.

So in summation & to finish:

  1. We shouldn’t make the minor topics of Scripture into major points of contention such that we break fellowship with one another. (I do recognize that this can be difficult as some will argue over what is minor & major)
  2. We engage in theology (the study of God) as we learn more about Him. You are either doing this or you are not; you are either learning truth or falsehood.
  3. Christ Himself divides the world – division is an intent here. Don’t take my word for it. Check out the following: John 14:6, Hebrews 4:12, Matthew 10:34, Revelation 1:16…
  4. We should be patient with one another as we grow in our understanding of God and the faith. We are all of us on a journey before God. When in error we need to be willing to lovingly direct the one in error.
  5. There should be division where people or individuals insist on standing with any view that disregards God’s revealed Word to us found in Scripture.

 

(Click here to see part 3)


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