Review Article: Catholic Retrieval And Theological Transformation: An Assessment Of Michael Allen And Scott R. Swain’s “Christian Dogmatics: Reformed Theology For The Church Catholic” -- By: Ryan M. McGraw

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 79:1 (Spring 2017)
Article: Review Article: Catholic Retrieval And Theological Transformation: An Assessment Of Michael Allen And Scott R. Swain’s “Christian Dogmatics: Reformed Theology For The Church Catholic”
Author: Ryan M. McGraw


Review Article:
Catholic Retrieval And Theological Transformation: An Assessment Of Michael Allen And Scott R. Swain’s “Christian Dogmatics: Reformed Theology For The Church Catholic”

Ryan M. McGraw

Ryan M. McGraw is Professor of Systematic Theology at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary in Greenville, SC. He reviews Michael Allen and Scott R. Swain, eds., Christian Dogmatics: Reformed Theology for the Church Catholic (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016).

One of the advantages of studying historic Reformed orthodoxy (1560–1800) is the model it furnishes the church for developing a biblical and catholic theology. While the early Reformers incorporated the Bible as foundational, the church fathers as useful, and the medieval doctors inadvertently,1 the Reformed orthodox self-consciously adapted the best of the entire catholic tradition of the church into a theology that was both biblical in content and catholic in breadth. Christian Dogmatics represents an attempt to bring this model for doing theology into the present through interaction with the Christian tradition in subjection to Scripture. The opinion of this review article is that Christian Dogmatics contributes greatly to contemporary dogmatics, particularly in relation to its Trinitarian theology, but that some difficulties arise with regard to historical contextualization and in a few areas of substance.

The positive and negative assessments presented in this article roughly reflect the components of the title of this book. “Christian Dogmatics” highlights usefully the positive catholic elements of the work, particularly in relation to the authors involved, the sources cited, and the authors’ thorough engagement with Scripture. “Reformed Theology for the Church Catholic” points to some difficulties with the book. While the authors fall under the umbrella of the

Reformed tradition, several of the essays cross a fine line, at points, between the transmission and adaptation of Reformed theology and the transformation and alteration of Reformed theology. In light of the authors’ shared goal of theological retrieval, the term “Reformed” leads this writer to assess this material both in light of Scripture and of classic Reformed orthodox theology. This examination leads to the conclusion that while Christian Dogmatics takes the church a step forward in developing a catholic Reformed theology, it takes us a step too far in some respects. This criticism should not detract from the overall excellence of this volume. Readers should interpret the larger space devoted to disagreement as a constructive dialogue with its...

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