The Historian’s Craft And Theology In The Thought Of John Warwick Montgomery -- By: Damian Liviu
The Historian’s Craft And Theology In The Thought Of John Warwick Montgomery
Lecturer, Department of History,
University of Bucharest, Romania
Abstract: This present study explores John Warwick Montgomery’s epistemological model (historical empiricism) on the reasonable objectivity of the theological in relationship with historiography. Montgomery is of the opinion that objective, historical evidence for Christian truth has a great merit of openness to public inquiry; it cannot be easily ignored as the product of inner wish fulfillment. Objective facts are difficult to refute with ad hominem arguments—by the subtle or not-so-subtle redirection of the argument from the issue of the truth of the Faith to the psychology, needs, and personal hang-ups of the apologist.1 Accordingly, this model suggests that by using reasoning proper to what is at the core of the historical inquiry, namely, facts and their interpretations, the investigator is forced by the logic of the historical enterprise to ask the right questions of the documents in order to arrive at a probable historical truth and also to diminish unnecessary historical criticism and skeptical creative verbiage of intellectualism concerning theology.
John Warwick Montgomery has written scholarly works on a wide variety of topics. In this study we offer a painfully brief summary of a particular aspect of his thought. It is almost impossible to approach this subject in a few pages. However, our attention will be on historical theology2 and Montgomery’s position as to how historians can have access to past. For that task a few pages will suffice.
Why do we need a methodological approach to the past called historical empiricism?3 Because claims to truth, in the study of strong religious and non-religious philosophical identities (such as Marxism or Marquis de Sade—whatever the objections be made), come from traditions that are claiming some kind of historicity (as Marquis de Sade wants back the “pagan gods”). Montgomery observes that
sects and cults proliferate; philosophies of life, explicit and implicit, vie for our attention; and older previously dormant religions, such as Buddhism and Islam, are engaged in vigorous proselytizing. All about us ultimate concerns spring up, each claiming to be more ultimate, more worthy of our total commitment, than the other. In the university world the pluralistic cacophony is louder than perhaps anywhere else: materialism, idealism, pragmatism, communism, hedonism, mysticism, existentialism, and a hundred other options present themselves to the college student...
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