Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
SBJT 15:4 (Winter 2011) p. 74
Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine. A Companion to Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. By Gregg R. Allison. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011, 780 pp., $44.99 cloth.
The publication of a comprehensive history of Christian doctrine by a Baptist author is in itself a noteworthy event, for Reformed, Lutheran, Roman Catholic, and Methodist authors have tended to dominate this discipline. Roger E. Olson, a Baptist, produced The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform in 1999.
This work by Allison, professor of Christian theology in Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, originated in a request by Wayne Grudem that Allison produce a treatise on historical theology that would be based on and complement Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Hence in his twelve-year project Allison has treated thirty-three doctrines, having combined some of forty-three chapters by Grudem out of a total of fifty-seven. He has written, says Allison, for an evangelical readership of students and other eager Christians, not for scholars, and has done so to differentiate orthodoxy from heresy and to provide an alternative to today’s “rampant individualism.”
In addition to the dependence on Grudem, the book has five methodological characteristics. First, Allison follows necessarily a “diachronic” (doctrine by doctrine) method rather than a “synchronic” (men, movements, councils, and creeds) method. Allison takes note of John D. Hannah’s Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine (2001) as an example of the diachronic method but not of the better known History of Christian Doctrine (1937) by Louis Berkhof, written to correspond with Berkhof s own Systematic Theology. Second, the scope of Allison’s study excludes Eastern Orthodox theology after John of Damascus—a decision for which Allison offers no rationale—and broadly includes materials from evangelicalism in the modern period (since 1750). Third, Allison quotes frequently and extensively from primary sources as the basis for his general conclusions. This adds significantly to the usefulness
SBJT 15:4 (Winter 2011) p. 75
and reliability of the book. Fourth, Allison virtually ignores all the secondary authorities in the field (such as K. R. Hagenbach, W. G. T. Shedd, H. C. Sheldon, George P. Fisher, Adolf Harnack, J. Tixeront, Bernard J. Otten, Reinhold Seeberg, A. C. McGiffert, J. L. Neve and O. W. Heick, Paul Tillich, Justo Gonzalez, and Tony Lane), though he once alludes to Jaroslav Pelikan. This omission keeps the author from acknowledging that the diachronic method has been the minority method and from verifying his own reading of the primary sources. Fifth, All...
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