Wesley has been dubbed a 'reasonable enthusiast.' You have to know what 'reasonable' and 'enthusiast' are meant to mean in that context to know what is intended, unless of course you are so thoroughly postmodern that any plausible reading is fine since we cannot possibly know the original intention. In good Ronnie Corbett tradition, I digress.
I am now working my way through my little heap of books on historical method/historiography and beginning to see the vaguest glimmer of how I can work within practical theology under the suggested banner of 'congregational studies' when my focus is, intuitively, more aligned towards 'church history.' Actually, it is somewhere vaguely where (wait for it) ecclesiology, congregational studies, church history, historiography and hermeneutics (plus undoubtedly a but of doctrine and pastoral theology, if I could only work out what!) meet/overlap/collide. This all sounds rather vague and woolly (pace, Sean) but it is progress, honestly!
Anyway, Georg Iggers in his snappily titled book Historiography in the Twentieth Century offers the following observation (page 16)
The postmodern critique of tradtional science and traditional historiography has offered important correctives to historical thought and practice. It has not destroyed the historian's commitment to recapturing reality or his or her belief in a logic of enquiry, but it has demonstrated the complexity of both. Perhaps we can see in the history of historiography an ongoing dialogue that, while it never reaches finality, contributes to the broadening of perspective.
I'd say that, in their generally understood meanings, Iggers is reasonably enthusiastic about the benefits of postmodern thinking, but not blindly committed to them.
One of the interesting things he observes right from the outset is the importance of the academic community in all of this: modernists and postmodernists live and work within a community which has some shared values, aims and aspirations. The 'scientific' method of traceability, repeatability and referencing is essential whichever of these perpsectives one claims to aspire to - how else can the position adopted be defended? Unlike the more cynical, sceptical, scholars, Iggers (and others) hold fast to many 'traditional' values in the doing of history. They are keen to work within their discipline refining and reflecting on their methods and presuppositions as they go along.
To be a reasonable (one who uses reason) enthusiast (one who is given special, spiritual, insights) is a bold claim. To be modestly encouraged, a more contemporary interpretation of the same words, by something feels more appropriate for 21st century students. Intuitively, I feel Igger's comments could be readily transferred to thinking about theology (or maybe other fields of enquiry) recognising that it, too, is only ever partial and provisional.