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13128Re: [XTalk] When Historians do Theology

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  • Zeba Crook
    Apr 6 4:23 PM
      Davis, Robert C. wrote:

      >First, we should perhaps remember that the particular venues within which we each and all do our work has their own limitations on what is considered properly "academic" and what is not. Those of you who are predominately associated with public and state colleges and universities will no doubt find that theological reflection is both an unnecessary and unwelcome intrusion into the sphere of academic historical study, even when that study is about something that many call religious. But there are others of us--myself included--who work with a different sort of venue, one in which a religious connection is part and parcel of both the identity and the mission of the academic institution itself. I teach at a church-related private college, and Prof. Allison teaches at a Presbyterian seminary. Thus, for us--and for some others on this list--the requirement for an absolute divide between history and theology is not just anachronistic, but usually considered to be nearly impossible, both to construct and then to maintain. What is also true, however, is all all such venues remain academic ones, worthy of all of our respect. The fact that there are different kinds of academic institutions must surely mean, among other things, that there is no one set of absolute rules that define academic inquiry.
      Thank you Robert. My problem with your very thoughtful response is
      this: perhaps you and Dale also have at your institutions professors of
      English, among other subjects, and perhaps they are members of
      Renaissance or other period list-servs. Do you think these people are
      able to talk about their work and the issues, etc. etc. without personal
      theological reflection, despite the fact that they are at church
      affiliated institutions? I certainly hope they can. Is it possible to
      talk about Renaissance writers and their beliefs in and about God
      without personal theological reflection being relevant. Of course it
      is. Or, imagine if this were a list devoted to the study of Satanic
      Cults? In what way would it be pertinent to discuss one's personal
      beliefs (in a certain cult or other religion altogether) or to offer
      theological relfection in that setting?

      The academic and the theological (in terms of approaches or motivations
      to one's work) only appear inseparable I suspect because of the field
      you (and others of course) work in. There is no reason why the study of
      religion cannot operate as does the study of English literature, which
      means that the two are inseparable for you only because you want them to
      be united, not because there is any inherent need based on the subject
      matter or on your institutional/church affiliation. It is also quite
      possible for scholars to wear different hats, as it were -- confessional
      and academic in the appropriate settings. I think it is quite
      inappropriate for a pastor with academic training to lecture someone in
      need of consoling. Which (inadvertently) brings up another point: if
      it is possible to remove the academic from the theological [eg: when
      someone wishes to be consoled by the words of Paul, one should not
      correct them that the Pastorals are not Pauline]), how is it not
      possible to remove the theological from the academic? My complaint
      implied that just as it is possible in other fields, so is it here to
      take a purely academic approach, and that this is what this list in
      intended to offer.

      And one more point of clarification: in the preceding, I use contrast
      theological and academic not in the sense that the theological is
      witless or unacademic, but rather, as my example (Eng. Lit.) I hope made
      clear: academic being work that carried out with no theological or
      pastoral or church or faith etc. grounding or motivation or interest . . .



      Zeba Antonin Crook (Ph.D. Cand)

      University of St. Michael's College

      Faculty of Theology

      81 St. Mary Street

      Toronto, Ontario, Canada

      M5S 1J4

      (416) 964-8629


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