I want to highlight a recent book surveying five major views on theological method, edited by Stanley E. Porter and Steven M. Studebaker, Evangelical Theological Method: Five Views (Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove. IL: InterVarsity, 2018). The overall purpose of the book is to note that methodology is extremely crucial to the task of theology (as well as biblical studies, of course), and as a result the book identifies the five major methods in theology. The editors ask: “What is the task of theology? Why does one do theology—is theology our attempt to understand God and his revelation, our response to God, or maybe both? How does one do theology?” (p. 1). They continue, “Most proposals in theology focus on the ‘what’ and ‘why’ of theology but give less attention to the ‘how’ of theology. In other words, they often do not address questions of theological method” (pp. 1-2).
In their introductory essay, Porter and Studebaker identify (1) the meaning of evangelicalism, (2) the problem of theological method, (3) the history of theological method in evangelicalism, (4) the current state of theological method, and (5) the sources of theology. The rest of the book contains the major essays on each viewpoint, and then responses from each of the contributors to each essay.
The contents of the book are:
Method in Systematic Theology: An Introduction – Stanley E. Porter and Steven M. Studebaker
Part 1: Five Views of Evangelical Theological Method
- Bible Doctrines/Conservative Theology: Codifying God’s Word – Sung Wook Chung
- Missional Theology: Living God’s Love – John R. Franke
- Interdisciplinary Theology: Framers and Painters – Telford C. Work
- Contextual Theology: God in Human Context – Victor Ifeanyi Ezigbo
- Trinitarian Dogmatic Theology: Confessing the Faith – Paul Louis Metzger
Part 2: Responses
- Chung’s Response
- Franke’s Response
- Work’s Response
- Ezigbo’s Response
- Metzger’s Response
What We Have Learned Regarding Theological Method, and Where Do We Go from Here? Tentative Conclusions – Stanley E. Porter and Steven M. Studebaker
Even though this book addresses the question of method in theology, having a defined method and using it are at least as important in biblical studies. The editors note in their introductory essay that the book arose out of recognition that many students—and professors as well—are not aware of the variety of methods available to them, and hence do not draw upon them as they should. Students of the Bible need to be aware of the range of methods available within biblical studies as well, not just for the sake of being informed but so that they can use them as appropriate to provide strong and appropriate foundations for informed study of the text of Scripture. In fact, Stan will be presenting a paper at a conference in a few months on the variety of linguistic schools of thought available to those studying the Greek New Testament.
This book on theological method provides a great overview and representation of theological method, especially within evangelical scholarship, and theology students would benefit from it.
— David I. Yoon