Historical theology

Historical theology is the study of the history of Christian doctrine. Grenz, Guretzki and Nordling describe it as, "The division of the theological discipline that seeks to understand and delineate how the church interpreted Scripture and developed doctrine throughout its history, from the time of the apostles to the present day. The twofold function of historical theology is to show the origin and development of beliefs held in the present day and to help contemporary theologians identify theological errors of the past that should be avoided in the present."[1]


According to Friedrich Schleiermacher, historical theology is a historical discipline, one that approaches areas of theology using methods that are employed in the study of any other historical phenomena.[2] This is based on the notion that theology has a historical rather than a speculative starting point.[3] For instance, the Bible and the writings of ecumenical councils are considered as historical sources and their contents are treated as witness accounts.[4] It covers the bulk of what Schleiermacher termed as the true body of theology and could include exegetical theology, dogmatics, and church history.[2]

As a branch of theology it investigates the socio-historical and cultural mechanisms that give rise to theological ideas, statements, and systems. The field focuses on the relationship between theology and its contexts, as well as on the major theological or philosophical influences upon the figures and topics studied. Its methodological foundation and aims are similar to those used by intellectual historians researching historical epistemology, particularly those such as Matthew Daniel Eddy, who investigate the cultural connections between theology and other disciplines that existed in the past.[5][page range too broad]

An evangelical position maintains that historical theology must be aligned with the word of God or that it must always reference the Scripture.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Grenz, Guretzki, and Nordling (1999). Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press. p. 59.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ a b Chapman, Mark D. (2014-10-30). Theology and Society in Three Cities: Berlin, Oxford and Chicago, 1800-1914. Cambridge: James Clarke & Co. p. 33. ISBN 9780227902462.
  3. ^ Schwarz, Hans (2005). Theology in a Global Context: The Last Two Hundred Years. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. pp. 11. ISBN 9780802829863.
  4. ^ McBrien, Richard (2013). Catholicism: New Study Edition--Completely Revised and Updated. New York: Harper Collins Publishers. pp. 52. ISBN 978-0060654047.
  5. ^ Eddy, Matthew Daniel (2016). "The Cognitive Unity of Calvinist Pedagogy in Enlightenment Scotland". In Kovács, Ábrahám (ed.). Reformed Churches Working Unity in Diversity: Global Historical, Theological and Ethical Perspectives. Budapest: L'Harmattan. pp. 46–60.
  6. ^ Grudem, Wayne A.; Allison, Gregg (2015-10-27). Systematic Theology/Historical Theology Bundle. Zondervan Academic. ISBN 9780310530008.

Further readingEdit

  • Finlayson, R. A. (1969). The Story of Theology (2nd ed.). London: Tyndale Press. ISBN 978-0-85111-029-5.
  • Richardson, Alan (1979) [1935]. Creeds in the Making: A Short Introduction to the History of Christian Doctrine. London: SCM Press. ISBN 978-0-334-00264-2.
  • Noble, T. A. “Historical Theology.” Edited by Martin Davie, Tim Grass, Stephen R. Holmes, John McDowell, and T. A. Noble. New Dictionary of Theology: Historical and Systematic. London; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press; InterVarsity Press, 2016.

External linksEdit