Reviews - What do customers think about The Historical-Critical Method?
Technical, yet enlightening and even inspiring Jun 27, 2009
For those interested in a sound, yet brief and scholarly introduction to the subject of Historical Critical reading of the Bible, this is a good book.
Author Krentz states he is writing to an audience of college or seminary level readers, so there is quite a bit of technical background needed to really benefit from this book. For example if theology and philosophical terms like Kerygma, ontology, imprecatory Psalms, docetism and positivism are foreign to you, you should probably get some more theological background reading before tackling this book. But if you are basically versed (no need to be advanced) with most of those ideas, then you can gain good insight into the Historical -Critical method that has been so controversial between the mainline and conservative Christian church for decades now.
On page 67, my favorite passage of the book occurs and I think it helps setup the overall point of the book: "Historical Criticism produces only probable results. It relativizes everything. But faith needs certainty. Uneasy Christians ask whether those who make the historical confession that Jesus died under Pontius Pilate and rose again the third day can be content with mere probability. Defenders of historical criticism point out that the probability factor is actually a virtue. It removes the idolatry that confuses the temporal and the eternal and points out the true nature of faith...It makes us hear the biblical proclamation as the first Christians did-without any security outside of the proclamation that confronts us with its demand for believing response-and this alone gives certainty to faith."
I take this to mean (along with the rest of the book) that Krentz is calling Christians to an unwavering evaluation of the Bible as a book of history - subject to exactly the same historical standards applied to any of the book of history - without any special pleading on its behalf. The method does not necessarily preclude the possibility of the supernatural, but it can affect many traditional teachings about the people/places of the Bible and its authorship. In the end, traditional structures and interpretations of the church may fall by the wayside, but they must anyway to move forward in history. And thus, today's Christians must stand on their faith in the same message as the early church (fideism is the term that comes to mind), letting the chips fall where they may as modern historical methods bring new light to the pages of the ancient text.
If any of this makes you uneasy, you may not enjoy the book, but if you like philosophical theology with a dose of historical methodology, and well meaning challenges to the traditional church view of the Bible then this is a fine little book.