Soundings In The Doctrine Of Scripture In British Evangelicalism In The First Half Of The Twentieth Century -- By: David F. Wright

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 31:1 (NA 1980)
Article: Soundings In The Doctrine Of Scripture In British Evangelicalism In The First Half Of The Twentieth Century
Author: David F. Wright


Soundings In The Doctrine Of Scripture In British Evangelicalism In The First Half Of The Twentieth Century

David F. Wright

The Tyndale Historical Theology Lecture, 1978

The subject of this study1 may require an apologia. What self-respecting Dogmengeschichtliche would waste time and effort, let alone a Tyndale Lecture, on so jejune a theme as this? Is it not self-evident that British evangelicalism in the twentieth century has produced no doctrine of Scripture that future histories of Christian doctrine will even mention? Indeed, has any theological work been done in this segment of modern Christianity of which the historical theologians of the following century will take more than the slightest note?

Whatever truth there may be in these rhetorical questions - and no doubt there is some - they reflect an approach to historical theology that historians, if not theologians, have been progressively abandoning. No longer is it defensible to ignore the doctrinal convictions of popular Christianity, no longer may the history of doctrine be written solely in terms of the official or semi-official formulations of churches or councils of churches and the Opera Omnia of eminent theologians. To bring the matter nearer home, what subject can be more worthy of scholarly study than the

fundamental belief of a substantial minority of British Christians, which will have had an unparalleled formative effect on the rest of their Christian beliefs? It may be small fry compared with Institutes of the Christian Religion and Church Dogmatics, but it may prove, to have been more widely influential than such sophisticated productions.

There is another, more domestic, reason to be advanced in justification of this subject. Evangelical Christians must become more self-conscious about the fact of doctrinal development as an evangelical phenomenon. In the long-running battle for the Bible, evangelical apologists have regularly argued that their doctrine of Scripture is nothing more and nothing less than the doctrine maintained by most of the church catholic until relatively recent times. The argument is basically sound, although its apologetic value has been grossly overrated. Evangelical Christendom’s ability to believe about the Bible roughly what Christians believed about it in the seventeenth or seventh century, despite the massive revolution in biblical scholarship since those earlier eras, as much cries out for justification as it carries obvious apologetic weight. But in reality evangelical thinking about the Bible has not remained immune to change and (some would add) decay. Ou...

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