A Review Article -- By: John H. Armstrong

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 08:3 (Summer 1999)
Article: A Review Article
Author: John H. Armstrong


A Review Article

John H. Armstrong

The Remaking Of Evangelical Theology, Gary Dorrien. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press (1998). 262 pages, paper, $24.95.

Twentieth-century academic treatments of contemporary theology generally pass over evangelical theologians with little interest. Gary Dorrien, a self-described Anglican social-gospeler and dialectical theologian, views the subject he describes here “from outside, but not as a stranger” (11). In the Introduction Dorrien provides the reader with a general sense of the direction his thought will take by candidly writing:

With help from its Barthian and postmodern interlocutors, evangelical theology is casting off some of the more dubious vestiges of its scholastic and fundamentalist inheritance, reminding the church today, as John Robinson assured his Puritan followers, that God still has more light and truth to break forth from his Word (11).

Dorrien concludes, accurately, I believe, that fundamentalist evangelical leaders see “the rethinking of evangelical claims currently under way” as a “disaster.” He sees this present tension, among more conservative theologians,

rather as “the creative ferment” which demonstrates not an approaching death blow but rather “a sign of health and vitality in a postmodern situation” (11). You must decide if you agree, for sure, but do not miss Dorrien’s careful, critical and sympathetic survey, whether you agree with his presuppositions or not. This is, simply put, a well-written, well-conceived, readable interaction with the historical currents and contemporary state of evangelical thought, especially regarding the authority of Scripture.

In the space of only six pages Dorrien begins his story by setting a context. In this he shows how the revivalistic/evangelical style of D. L. Moody was altered toward the end of the last century into what eventually became a more combative and scholastic approach by the turn of the century. Dorrien then takes us back to the sixteenth-century continental Reformers and their view of infallibility, attempting to show differences between their approach to Scripture with that of more scholastic Reformed thinkers who arose in later centuries. This story is traced to Charles Hodge and the Princeton tradition. His argument is not new, and has been variously proposed and debated, but it is succinctly and elegantly told by a careful writer.

Dorrien then turns attention to dispensationalism, with its unique brand of hermeneutics. He concludes that its distinctive teaching was threefold. Dorrien’s conclusions regarding this system of theological interpretation (for th...

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