Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fads and Historical Theology

I just purchased a new book from Gregg Allison entitled Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine. Designed to be a companion to Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Allison’s book traces the historic development of selected doctrines.

Allison’s words in the introduction regarding the benefits of historical theology are helpful. I specifically found his comments regarding the protection historical theology provides against the “novel” insightful:

"Similarly, historical theology can guard Christians and churches from the penchant for the novel, the yearning for relevancy, and the tendency to follow strong leaders who are biblically and theologically shallow. Lamenting evangelicalism’s radical proneness to destabilization, Alister McGrath urged this solution: 'Rediscovering the corporate and historic nature of the Christian faith reduces the danger of entire communities of faith being misled by charismatic individuals and affirms the ongoing importance of the Christian past as a stabilizing influence in potentially turbulent times.'”
In other words, it is far too easy for Christians to be carried away by strong individuals who claim to have new and fresh insights. Allison continues:

Coining bizarre new doctrines (such as the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel), tampering with traditional doctrines (such as minimizing the need for repentance from sin as part of the response to the gospel), and following dynamic leaders who boastfully minimize the importance of sound doctrines, are exposed as dangerous developments by a consideration of what the church has historically believed—or not believed
Historical theology is a tool that the believer can use to spot the vapidity that permeates much of Evangelical thought. May we be granted protection from the tumultuous fads of contemporary Christian life and cling to the Eternal Rock, Christ Jesus our Lord.


Aaron said...

I was about to purchase The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition & Reform by Roger Olsen...until I saw this blog. Now I have to make a choice!!

Roger Olsen goes through history telling it as one big story which helps to get the historical picture engrained in your head.

How is the book recommended in this blog laid out? Is it just by Theological topic or does it flow as a historical story?

Daniel J. Bennett said...


Good questions. It is laid out broadly thematically, then chronologically within each chapter.

His design is to allow a person to read it along with Grudem's Sys Theo.

I enjoyed Olson's Story of Christian Theology, even though he's Arminian. It's very accesible and clearly explains complex ideas.

I think I'm more excited about Allison's Historical Theology, but I haven't read it yet.