Understanding the Story, Part II

A “faith seeking understanding” in the field of history means that the discipline is not an all-powerful explanation of everything, but rather much more limited in its scope.  History properly conceived is meant to be read as story, powerful and descriptive.  It invites discovery more about the world around us, leading towards understanding of our existence in light of the existence of God.  Humble yet engaged, we must maintain an awareness of faith that considers it to be the base of all history.  Even so, there must be an openness to honest discovery and growth in the midst of these and related investigations.

With regard to my scholarship in both practical theology and Church history, I feel that taking the perspective of the storyteller fits well with my own “faith seeking understanding.”  Historiographically I feel it is my goal to help others develop an understanding of the past even while being aware that full comprehension is something beyond our grasp.  The writing and retelling of history is often a very personal endeavor as I seek to understand and broaden the narrative in which I find myself.  This personal relevance for me (and, I suspect, all historians) takes the form of those issues which I feel are important: not only religious history understood broadly, but the narrower field of Pentecostal and Charismatic history in which I completed my doctoral research.

Similar desires carry over into my work in the practical theology of youth ministry, where working within and amidst students’ stories is imperative.  As ministers of the gospel we have been charged with announcing a Story that envelops all of Creation–and invites us to join our stories to it.  This alternative to the divergent paths we often trod at once redirects our wanderings even as it values important elements of the paths with which we have been gifted.  Theological reflection on youth ministry for me means working within the biblical worldview and our Pentecostal tradition to think about how students can both gain and maintain a faith seeking understanding, be it at the moment of salvation, during the long process of discipleship, or in the midst of desiring the part of our story that helps define the rest: a teenager’s divinely authored vocation.

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