As usual, his query has generated a learned response in the comments from a number of fellow bloggers (D.W. Congdon opens with an eloquent reference to Ebeling). I'm hoping to find time to add my own thoughts on this issue, especially as they involve references to subject areas I really know very little about (such as the regula fidei). In the meantime, I was delighted to read the following thoughts from a certain Tim F., author of the blog The Moving Image. This chimes in with a book I recently posted on (with an ethnographical afterthought here). Here are his thoughts (which prove, by the way, what a useful hunting ground Halden's blog is for other interesting blogs).
A question always lurking in the conversation regarding the role of historical criticism in theology is: does historical criticism, or modern historical methods in general, have ontological presuppositions? I think they do, especially regarding time and therefore its relationship to eternity. For example, historical criticism must see the past as gone and immutable; it divides past from present in order to give itself an object to study. However, we do not experience this break between past and present in our ordinary life. What are the implications of this? I’m still working on this in my personal research.
One more thing, it is often forgotten that the discipline of modern history arose to relativize the medieval church. At its origins, history was quite a political act; one that led to the rise of modern nation states and their so often touted “advance” of separation of church and state. Some would argue that to practice modern history as a political act requires one to affirm the liberal subject.
Finally, a difference between modern history and ancient forms of history must also be noted here. My disseration is on Bede who wrote biblical commentaries and history, and I’m trying to work through there relation to each other to help answer some of these questions. Sorry that I didn’t offer anything that solid; I think I just muddied the waters more.
One more thing, we need to be careful not to affirm that we are better readers of Scripture than our forbears who did not have historical criticism. Perhaps some want to make that case (and I’d like to hear it), but it should not simply be assumed as a general posture.