HT501 Introduction to Historical Theology (Fall 2018)

Course Description and Objectives:

This course is designed to introduce graduate students to skills, practices and research trends in contemporary historical theology. Over the last fifty years the discipline of intellectual history, a subset of which is historical theology, has been at the center of debates over texts, contexts, cultural memory, hermeneutics, doctrine, periodization, the current state of the academy, and the very possibility of historical description. Historical theology as intellectual history is therefore the context in which a number of different disciplines converge, including hermeneutics, philosophy and theology (more specifically, church history, systematic theology, practical theology, and the history of exegesis). This course will familiarize students with some of the major historiographical perspectives in the field and draw connections to current debates in the study of the history of Christian faith and practice.


  1. Orientation to the HT Program at WSCAL, including the thesis project in which it culminates;
  2. (2) Acquisition of methods and skills requisite for success in the program;
  3. (3) Gain familiarity with major historiographical trends since the 1930s as well as the current state of the discipline.

Designed for MA (Historical Theology) students but open to those with similar needs, we will conclude this blended lecture/seminar course with a discussion of the historical profession and graduate school programs for those who anticipate further study in the field. The course will proceed according to the following outline:

  1. Introductions,
  2. Skills,
  3. Trends,
  4. Methods and
  5. Vocations.

Course Requirements:

    • Active and informed participation in class (30% of grade); the percentage of course grade indicates the importance of lively class discussion each week.
    • Complete all assigned readings (20% of grade); readings listed in the syllabus are of two kinds, their classification being self-explanatory. The required reading must be read before class begins. The suggested reading has been carefully chosen and is encouraged as time and interest permits.
    • Critical Reflection Essay (40% of grade); students will write a 1,500 word response to the AHR Forum essays by Finlay and Davis (i.e. reading # 14). Present Finlay’s critique and Davis’s response, identify other critical issues, and conclude with your own opinion on the matter. [Due at the Start of Class: Oct. 13]
    • Bibliography Assignment (10% of grade); students will prepare a full two-page bibliography of secondary literature on Natalie Zemon Davis and The Return of Martin Guerre. In order to compile an acceptable bibliography, it will be necessary to acquire some familiarity with the scholarly discussions of this text and its author (this assignment is in tandem with the critical reflection essay above). The bibliography must follow the formatting standards stipulated in “M.A. (HT) Thesis Format Guidelines.” Grades will be determined on the basis of the relevancy of the sources cited as well as adherence to the approved bibliographical format. [Due at the Start of Class: Oct. 16]


  • Required Texts:
    1. Course Reader (All PDF Documents will be uploaded to the course website on Populi).
    2. James E. Bradley and Richard A. Muller, Church History: An Introduction to Research, Reference Works, and Methods (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995). Available for Purchase in WSC BOOKSTORE
    3. Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren, How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, revised edition (New York: Touchstone, 1972). Available for Purchase in WSC BOOKSTORE
    4. Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1983). Available for Purchase in WSC BOOKSTORE


  • Course Schedule:

Week 1: Sept. 11 Introductions

Required Reading:

  1. Dorothy Sayers, “The Lost Tools of Learning” (1947). POPULI
  2. Bengt Hägglund, History of Theology, trans. Gene J. Lund (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1966). [Due by the end of the semester]
  3. Muller bibligraphy

Suggested Reading:

    • Os Guinness and Louise Cowan, Invitation to the Classics: A Guide to Books You’ve Always Wanted to Read (Baker Books, 2006).
    • Susan Wise Bauer, The Well Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had (W. W. Norton & Company, 2003).

Week 2: Sept. 18 What is intellectual history? What is church history? What is Historical theology?

Required Reading:

  • Richard Muller, “Introduction to Church History and Related Disciplines,” in Church History: An Introduction to Research, Reference Works, and Methods, James E. Bradley and Richard A. Muller (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), (chapter 1). BOOKSTORE

Suggested Reading:

  • Anthony Grafton, “The History of Ideas: Precepts and Practices, 1950-2000 and Beyond,” Journal of the History of Ideas 12 (January 2006), pp.1-32; also in Grafton, Worlds Made by Words: Scholarship and Community in the Modern West (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 2009), pp. 188-215. POPULI
  • Richard Rorty, “The Historiography of Philosophy: Four Genres,” in Rorty, Schneewind, and Skinner, eds., Philosophy in History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984), pp.49-76.
  • William Bouwsma, “From History of Ideas to History of Meaning,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 12 (1981), pp.279-91.
  • Arthur O. Lovejoy, “Reflections on the History of Ideas,” Journal of the History of Ideas 1:1 (1940), pp.3-23.


Week 3: Sept. 25 Skills # 1: Analytical Reading

Required Reading:

  • Mortimer J. Adler and Charles van Doren, How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading, rev. ed. (New York: Touchstone, 1972), Chs. 1-2 (3-20), Part Two (59-190). BOOK

Suggested Reading:

  • William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White, The Elements of Style, 4th ed. (Allyn & Bacon, 2000).
  • William Kelleher Storey, Writing History: A Guide for Students, 3rd ed. (Oxford University Press, 2008).
  • Stanley Fish, How to Write a Sentence and How to Read One
    (New York: Harper, 2011).

Week 4: Oct. 2 Skills # 2 & 3: Research & Writing

Required Reading:

Suggested Reading:

  • Bradley/Muller, pp.167–212 (Bibliographies).
  • W.H. McDowell, Historical Research: A Guide for Writer’s of Dissertations, Theses, Articles and Books (Longman, 2002).
  • Kate L. Turabian et al, A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, 7th ed. (2007)
  • Chicago Manual of Style 17th edition (University of Chicago Press, 2017).
  • John Lewis Gaddis, The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past (Oxford University Press, 2004).
  • Dominick LaCapra, “Rethinking Intellectual History and Reading Texts,” in Modern European Intellectual History: Reappraisals & New Perspectives, ed. Dominick LaCapra and Steven L. Kaplan (Ithica: Cornell University Press, 1982), pp.47–85.


Week 5: Oct. 9 The Historical Study of Christianity, from Ancient to Modern Times

Required Reading:

  • Green and Troup, Houses of History (SELECTIONS–Populi)

Suggested Reading:

  • Anthony Grafton, What Was History? The Art of History in Early Modern Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

Week 6: Oct. 16 Changing Historiographical Currents Pt. 1: The New Social History

Required Reading:

  • Lucien Febvre, “A New Kind of History,” in Lucien Febvre: A New Kind of History, ed. Peter Burke (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973), pp.27-43. POPULI

Suggested Reading:

  • Fernand Braudel, On History, trans. Sarah Matthews (University of Chicago Press, 1980).
  • André Burguière, The Annales School: An Intellectual History, trans. Jane Marie Todd (Cornell University Press, 2009).

Week 7: Oct. 23 Changing Historiographical Currents Pt. 2: The Cultural Turn: “Micro” History and Cultural Dynamics (Power & Sex)


Required Reading:

  • Natalie Zemon Davis, The Return of Martin Guerre (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1983). BOOK
  • AHR Forum: Robert Finlay, “The Refashioning of Martin Guerre,” American Historical Review 93:3 (1988), pp.553-571; Natalie Zemon Davis, “On the Lame,” American Historical Review 93:3 (1988), pp.572-603. POPULI

Suggested Reading: Cultural and Micro History

  • Carlo Ginzburg, The Cheese and the Worms: The Cosmos of a Sixteenth-Century Miller (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992).
  • Peter Burke, What is Cultural History?, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Polity, 2008).

Suggested Reading: Gender, Sex and Family in History

  • Sherrin Marshall, ed., Women in Reformation and Counter-Reformation Europe: Public and Private Worlds (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1989).
  • Steven Ozment, When Fathers Ruled: Family Life in Reformation Europe (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1983).William Naphy,
  • “Illegal Sex [in Geneva],” in Sex Crimes: From Renaissance to Enlightenment (Charleston: Tempus, 2002), pp.15-86.
  • Robert M. Kingdon, Adultery and Divorce in Calvin’s Geneva (Harvard University Press, 1995).Oct. 20 Pt. 3: “History of the Book”

Week 8: Oct. 30  Changing Historiographical Currents Pt 3: History of the Book

Required Reading

  • Robert Darnton, “What is the History of Books?” in The Kiss of Lamourette, pp.107-35. POPULI

Suggested Reading: The History of the Book

  • Andrew Pettegree, “Books and Printing,” in David M. Whitford, ed., Reformation and Early Modern Europe: A Guide to Research (Truman State University, 2007), pp.428-452.
  • Ann Blair, Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age (Yale, 2010).
  • Robert Darnton, “The Great Cat Massacre and Other Episodes” in French Cultural History (New York: Vintage Books, 1985), “Introduction,” “A Bourgeois Puts His World in Order: The City as a Text,” “Philosophers Trim the Tree of Knowledge: The Epistemological Strategy of the Encyclopédie.”


Week 9: Nov. 6 HT Models and the Objectivity Question in Historical Research

Required Reading:

  • Muller/Bradley on HT Models (pp. 26–32)
  •  Quentin Skinner, “Meaning and Understanding in the History of Ideas,” History and Theory 8 (1969), pp.1-53. POPULI
  • Richard J. Evans, In Defense of History (pp. 65-87) populi

Suggested General Reading:

  • Peter E. Gordon, “Contextualism and Criticism in the History of Ideas,” in Rethinking Modern European Intellectual History, eds. Darrin M. McMahon and Samuel Moyn (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014), pp.32ff.
  • Carl R. Trueman, Histories and Fallacies: Problems Faced in the Writing of History (Chicago: Crossway Books, 2010).

Suggested Reading on the Objectivity Question

  • William Katerberg, “The ‘Objectivity Question’ and the Historian’s Vocation,” in John Fea, Jay Green, and Eric Miller, eds., Confessing History: Explorations in Christian Faith and the Historian’s Vocation (University of Notre Dame, 2010), pp.101–27.
  • Peter Novick, That Noble Dream: The “Objectivity Question” and the American Historical Profession (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), Chs. 15 and 16. Thomas L. Haskell, Objectivity is Not Neutrality: Explanatory Schemes in History (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000).
  • James T. Kloppenberg, “Objectivity and Historicism: A Century of American Historical Writing,” The American Historical Review 94 (October 1989), pp.1011–30.
  • Martin Jay, “The Textual Approach to Intellectual History,” in Jay, Force Fields: Between Intellectual History and Cultural Critique (New York: Routledge, 1993), pp.158–66.
  • David Hollinger, “Historians and the Discourse of Intellectuals,” in John Higham and Paul K. Conkin, eds., New Directions in American Intellectual History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), pp.42–63. (interacts with Foucault and traditional intellectual history)

Suggested Reading on Historians as Critical Theorists:

  • Martin Jay, “Name-Dropping or Dropping Names? Modes of Legitimation in the Humanities,” in Force Fields, pp.167–79.
  • Dominick LaCapra, “Marxism and Intellectual History,” in LaCapra, Rethinking Intellectual History: Texts, Contexts, Language (Ithica: Cornell University Press, 1983), pp.325–46.
  • David Hollinger, “Historians and the Discourse of Intellectuals,” in John Higham and Paul K. Conkin, eds., New Directions in American Intellectual History (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979), pp.42–63. (interacts with Foucault and traditional intellectual history)

Week 10: Nov. 13. Providence and the Idea of “Christian” History

Required Reading:

Tim Stafford, “Whatever Happened to Christian History?” in Christianity Today 45:5 (April 2001), pp.42–49. POPULI

The Frame-Wells-Muller Debate:

  • John M. Frame, “In Defense of Something Close to Biblicism: Reflections on Sola Scriptura and History in Theological Method,” Westminster Theological Journal 59 (1997): 269–91. POPULI
  • David F. Wells, “On Being Framed,” WTJ 59 (1997): 293–300. POPULI
  • Richard A. Muller, “Historiography in the Service of Theology and Worship: Toward Dialogue with John Frame,” WTJ 59 (1997): 301–10. POPULI

Suggested Reading:

  • D. G. Hart, “The Divine and Human in the Seminary Curriculum,” Westminster Theological Journal 65:1 (Spring 2003), pp.27–44.
  • Vern Poythress, “A Biblical View of Mathematics,” in Foundations of Christian Scholarship (Philadelphia: P&R Press, 1975.


Week 12: Nov. 20 Present: The MA (HT) Thesis Project

Required Reading:

MA (Historical Theology) Thesis Proposal and Format Guidelines. POPULI

Nov. 24–25 Thanksgiving Break

Week 13: Nov. 27 Future: The Historical Profession; Graduate School

Required Reading: The Historical Profession

  • Douglas A. Sweeney, “On the Vocation of Historians to the Priesthood of Believers: A Plea to Christians in the Academy,” in Confessing History, pp.299-315. POPULI
  • Armstrong review of Holtrop (populi)

Suggested Reading: The Historical Profession

  • David D. Hall, “Backwards to the Future: The Cultural Turn and the Wisdom of Intellectual History,” Modern Intellectual History 9:1 (April 2012), p.171–84. POPULI

Suggested Reading: Trouble in the Academy

  • Victor Hanson, “Too Much Ego in Your Cosmos,” Arion 6 (1998), pp.37–68.
  • Joan W. Scott, “History in Crisis: The Other Side of the Story,” American Historical Review 94 (1989), pp.680–92.

Suggested Reading: Graduate School

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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