OK, so I've been a post-a-holic today, but I have written a few thousand words of my draft essay on historical methods and the place of historical resources in theological reflection. Apologies to those who will have to read it, my 2-3k words now looks more like 7-8k, but it does do a bit more than simply describe various approaches.
Two things went 'ping' in my brain today - that's pretty impressive for a Saturday.
1) Where does/should the 'God element fit in the histories that churches/denominations (or even faiths) write? Seemingly, in ordinary history, this went out with Elizabeth I or thereabouts; it feels as if in Christian history it went out with the Gospel writers. That is probably unfair, the sacred/secular divide is also probably an Enlightenment thing (but I haven't read about that (yet)). Either way, the Baptist history I read never mentions God, and I find myself asking 'why not'? Is this good or bad? If so, why? Or why not? (See, I'm learning to do this thing called 'problematising', either that or I've reached the 'why' phase forty years too late!)
2) Assuming historical resources are a valid input to theological reflection - which I assert they are - what is their status? If we assert the primacy of scripture (or Jesus Christ if you're a proper Baptist, but then he's 'as revealed in Scripture' so in practical terms it's roughly the same thing) over tradition, where do historical resources fit in the hierarchy? I raise this question in my essay thus... higher or lower than creeds and doctrinal statements? Above or below the Anti-Nicene Fathers, Calvin and Charles Haddon Spurgeon? OK, so I'm being a bit flippant, my speciality, but I think it's a fair question. We all have some kind of unwritten hierarchy of authority, but who decides and how is it judged? Methodism, so I understand, has a threefold set of Scripture-Tradition-Reason, presumably in that order; any form of theological reflection necessarily fits experience in somewhere. But do we ever try to expand on what we mean by these things? Is it a given that Tertullian must carry more weight than Doddridge, say? Is Spurgeon more 'authoritative,' at least for Baptists, than Wesley or Clifford or Temple? And who decides and how?
Well, I don't have any answers, but I've had a fun day typing and pondering. I have not a clue if what I've written is up to the required standard (and the format needs loads of work I'm sure, not least as I have't yet worked how to tell the software to do what I want it to) but I am enjoying myself and that, surely, is the key.