Where to Start in Studying Historical Theology?

In this video, Kyle Strobel talks about two distinguishing characteristics of historical theology, the importance of reading those who have been weighed and whose theology is integrated.


The following is a lightly edited transcript provided by a transcription service. Please check video before quoting.

When we start reading historical theology, I think there’s two things that we really need to keep in mind. First, we need to choose figures who’ve already been weighed by the church. And that doesn’t mean our church. That really does mean the church at large. One of the things that’s great about historical theology is we have figures who over hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of years have been weighed. There’s a reason they’re still read.

And so, when we consider, well, who should I kind of start with? Who should I read? The first question we need to ask is have they already been weighed by the church. But then there’s a secondary question and I think is just as important. Who can I read who is really integrated? You know, one of the great problems we have today is how in light of our education system our thought is so disparate.

You know, we do biblical studies over here. We do theology over here. We do practical pastoral things over here. We do the Christian life over here. And you have all these figures doing little, tiny things all over the place. But who are the figures that are really doing what we’re all called to do as Christians, particularly Christians who are in ministry? How do I pull all of this together?

When you look at the really great theologians in church history, those who have been weighed by the church, universally, they’re all these kinds of thinkers. When you think of Augustine or Calvin, when you think of someone like Bernard or Jonathan Edwards, when you think of someone like Aquinas or Bavink these thinkers are trying to pull all of it together and they refuse to think that certain areas are somehow kind of out of their discipline because they recognize they are thinkers for the church and not for the academy.

And so, as we sit with these thinkers we need to choose, have they been weighed? Are they integrated? And we find figures all over the place like this, like Augustine, like Calvin, like Edwards, again. And so, the question really shouldn’t be as much, well, is there a right place to start? It’s these are the figures that have been weighed that we need to start with. But now I actually have to read them well and I have to read them carefully, and for us, today, that is the most difficult is how can I actually sit with a thinker who’s totally outside of my context and allow them to push me in very difficult sorts of ways and have them help me to kind of see scripture and see church and see evangelism and see our spiritual lives all of these things in ways that are very unusual at times to us.

But also allow them to help us illuminate what is Scripture actually saying and calling us to. And so there isn’t kind of a silver bullet start here and everything will kind of become clear, we just need to devote time to really wrestling with these figures who have been weighed and who have integrated their thought as a whole.