Methodology (μέθοδος and λόγος) is the scientific plan of investigating any department of knowledge. In the science of theology, it is the practical application of encyclopedia. The one leads to the other. A clear insight into the nature and connections of any science will lead to a right mode of treating it; and as the complete knowledge of a science is essential to a good method, so, on the other hand, a good method is the best test and verification of knowledge. The aims of methodology are to furnish a plan of theological study, showing the order in which the topics should be taken up, and indicating the best methods of study, and necessary books and helps of all kinds. Some writers hold that methodology should be treated and studied entirely apart from encyclopedia. In a strictly scientific sense, this view is correct; but, for practical purposes, these two branches are generally blended into one connected whole. The whole treatment taken together is therefore called by the double name of theological encyclopedia and methodology. Of these, encyclopedia is the objective side, the outline of the science itself; methodology is the subjective side, having reference to the work of. the student of the science.
The science of theological encyclopedia and methodology is a comparatively recent study., The history of the science has been so fully treated in the article on ENCYCLOPEDIA SEE ENCYCLOPEDIA (q.v.), and the methods pf the chief writers on the subject so amply set forth, that we simply refer to it. Since the publication of that article, however, an important work, Lectures by the late John McClintock, DD., LLD., on Theological Encyclopedia and Methodology (NY. 1873, 12mo),has appeared, which contains so many new thoughts that we here insert Dr. McClintock's division of the subject. He divides theological science into the following four departments:
1. Exegetical Theology, which is concerned with the records if revelation.
2. Historical Theology, which is concerned with the development of revelation in the life and thought of the Church. This definition gives a twofold division of Historical Theology:
a. The Life of the Church; that is, Church History.
b. The Thought of the Church; that is, Doctrinal History.
3. Systematic Theology, which is concerned with the matter of revelation- with the scientific treatment of its contents; making a fourfold subdivision':
a. Apologetics, or the defence of Christianity from attacks from without.
b. Dogmatics, or the scientific statement of doctrines as admitted by the Church.
c. Ethics, or a scientific statement of duty in which man stands to God
d. Polemics, or the vindication of doctrine from he retical attacks from within the Church.
4. Practical Theology, which is concerned with the preservation of revelation and its propagation in and through the Church, as the outward and visible form of the kingdom of Christ among men. Here we have two general divisions:
a. The Functions of the Church; and
b. The Organization and Government of the Church.
This treatment, which has largely prevailed since the 16th century, rests upon the theory that Christianity is a system founded upon divine revelation, and that theology is really the product of the application of the human intellect, to the conceits of revelation.
See Crooks and Hurst, Theol. Encycl. and Methodology (N. Y. 1884); also Jahrb. Deutsch. Theol. Oct. 1871.