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The Rules of the Game: History and Historical Method in the Context of Faith: The Via Media of Methodological Naturalism

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This essay explores how it is possible for scholars who have a faith perspective to still participate in historical-Jesus research in a critical manner that is credible to the wider academic community. The focus is on the tensions created for the scholar when the primary sources use divine causation as an explanation for an event. The first part of the essay considers what the term 'history' means and how a historian goes about doing history (i.e., the 'rules of the game'). The second part considers three different approaches used in biblical studies to handle descriptions and explanations in the primary sources that use divine causation. The ontological-naturalistic approach rejects such explanations while the critical-theistic approach is open to such explanations. Distinguishing these two approaches from each other are different ontological worldviews. Based upon the understanding of history developed in the first part, the essay argues for a via media between these approaches that sets aside the ontological impasse. Methodological naturalism views history and historical method to be limited to human causation. This is an acknowledged methodological limitation, rather than an ontological one. Issues of divine causation are left to the distinct discipline of theology.


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