Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
TrinJ 6:1 (Spring 1985) p. 88
Reformation of Church and Dogma (1300–1700), by Jaroslav J. Pelikan. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.1i+424 pp. $27.50.
Jaroslav Pelikan opens the Preface to Reformation of Church and Dogma by writing that this volume “has taken me back to the period of the history of Christian doctrine with which my scholarly work began,” (p.vii). For many Protestants, any reconsideration of the Reformation Era is, in one sense, a return to where it all began. We have gone back many times before, but Pelikan’s account of Church doctrine in the fourteenth through the eighteenth centuries calls for thoughtful consideration. In its own right, it is a creative yet careful portrayal of the Reformation Era. Perhaps even more importantly, it constitutes the fourth volume of Pelikan’s The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine. Only one more volume is needed to complete what may well be the most significant history of doctrine penned by a single author since Harnack’s Lehrbuch der Dogmengeschichte appeared in 1886–89.
Pelikan begins (Chapters 1 & 2) and ends (Chapter 7) his description of reformation by drawing attention to the doctrinal pluralism which he views as bracketing the sixteenth century. The first chapter describes doctrinal pluralism in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Citing diversity within the church (and it is important to see this diversity as being within the church) concerning the eucharist, Mary, trinitarianism, original sin, the will of God and evil, eschatology and penance, Pelikan concludes that, “Underlying these and other variations were more fundamental divergences over the very definition of the nature and locus of authority,” (p. 11). This diversity is described as movement “beyond the Augustinian synthesis.” Summarizing a guiding theme of the third volume, the growth of medieval theology is here analyzed as a series of syntheses “in each of which one or another aspect of the world view associated with the name of Augustine had been dominant, in combination with particular ways of reading the Bible and the fathers of the Church,” (p.13). The movement “beyond” the syntheses which developed was, according to Pelikan, the result of the attempt to go “back” to Augustine himself (p.22). Every important doctrinal discussion of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries was impacted by the study of Augustine. Pelikan focuses on soteriology, Mariology and the eucharist, and “oneness” in faith and church. This last subject is expanded upon in the second chapter, where Pelikan discusses the significance of views of the church and its authority for other doctrinal developments.
Following the Reformation, diversity is expressed in the confessional dogma...
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