Jan 18

Historical Theology, by Gregg Allison ★★★

Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology text is deficit of any historical context. This is a serious deficit to an otherwise excellent systematic theology textbook, and Allison attempts to provide in this text what Grudem left out. Each chapter is arranged topically following the chapters in Grudem. This creates a textbook of historical theology that has strengths but also serious weaknesses. Oftentimes, a theological discussion demands the environment of multiple topics, such as the Christological controversies of the 2-4th centuries which cannot be discussed void of the trinitarian controversies. This leaves  a text that is only half complete. Allison’s text would not be good for a neophyte in historical theology, as he would loose the entire nature of many controversies. For this reason, JND Kelly’s text for early church theological developments, or  Schaff’s History do a far better job of giving the reader a flavor as to the content of  the historical debates. Allison’s text would work better if designed as an advanced text, but this would mean a very large section for each of the topics covered, accompanied by a large amount of repetition. Many areas are woefully incomplete, such as a very poor discussion of subordinationism, the iconoclastic controversy, and the rise of covenant theology, just to name a few. The text has strengths in that it is easily readable, and could act as a jumping off point for further reading. As a primary historical theology text, others do better when they stick to a chronological discussion rather than a topical agenda.


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4 Responses to “Historical Theology”

  1. Uncle Dennis says:

    The basic problem with so much historical theology is that it draws from the history of the great counterfeit church, not the authentic church of apostolic pedigree that did not accept the authority of the papacy. The true church was driven into the wilderness by the papacy soon after it quit attending “Church Councils” dominated by Rome in the 300s AD. Hence much of the trinitarian and christological controversy takes place within the context of a paganized church whose theology included much Greek paganism, fitted with a plastic Jesus overlay.

    It is best to follow, from the time of Constantine onward, the history and theology of the true church, a church nearly forgotten by Protestants in our time. Too bad this author simply ran with the herd instead!

  2. Dennis;
    I appreciate your comments, but disagree entirely. It’s funny that the Mormons make the same claim as you. Our theology will always be interpreted in light of contextual circumstances, yet theological truths, including the trinitarian/christological controversies don’t seem to be bound by the Greek philosophical mindset, being accepted and explained well in all other philosophical and cultural contexts. Therefore, I wouldn’t explain the trinity to a Muslim in the same manner than I’d explain the doctrine to a 2nd century Greek, yet the truth would remain the same. This is why Calvin, Luther (better minds than you or me) didn’t feel the necessity of addressing the doctrines of God and Christ when formulating the doctrines of the Protestant church.

  3. Onkel Dennis says:

    “…theological truths, including the trinitarian/christological controversies don’t seem to be bound by the Greek philosophical mindset…”

    Truths, no, but the (well-known) historic controversies, very much so, or more to the point, by a pagan Latin-Babylonian mindset, which is generically Babylonian-Greek paganism. That is why the apostolic church quit attending papal church councils in the mid to late 300s AD. They refused to accept excessively rationalized theology speculating on the nature of the Trinity or the natures of Christ. It is not that they were anti-trinitarian; they simply refused to be drawn into what most of the mainstream church of today is hip-deep in. They thought more like Hebrews than Greeks.

    A serious reading of the neglected church history makes this clear. Too bad that Allison (apparently) did not bring out the viewpoint of the ancient apostolic churches. I wonder if he even mentions such major names as Vigilantius or Columba in his book, or anyone at all from the ancient British Culdee church, the bulwark of Christianity for the first few centuries in the West. The Church of the East, sometimes referred to as the Syrian church, was immense and dwarfed the papal church but is given scant attention nowadays. Whoever heard of or Lucius of Antioch?

    I am saying not uncertainly that there is much important missing history that exists, is not contested as genuine history, and is routinely ignored. It does not fit into the pigeonholes of mainstream theology. (This also applies as much to OT history.)

    It is not only right theological theory that is important but an entire outlook on Christian life that puts it in the proper perspective. This is found in the apostolic church, not the papal church from which most theology nowadays is taken. This is a serious, ongoing error. Outlook and motivations guide where theological interest goes, and the mainstream theology of our time reflects the interests and motivations of the papal tradition. This happens entirely within the box of widespread theological thinking and few venture to wonder of there is anything outside this box.

  4. Why do you think that a Hebrew mindset is more god-like than a Greek, Roman, Celtic/Druidish, Babylonian/Persian or other mindset? They are all fallen mindsets, and there is nothing about Hebrew thinking that intrinsically makes it more “correct”. Which is why God probably had his New Testament written in Greek rather than Hebrew, and why Paul was as much a Greek/Latin thinker as he was a Hebrew thinker. Neither is Daniel, written in Aramaic and with a strong “Babylonian” mindset offensive, or Moses, written from a strong Egyptian cultic mindset. Theological truths are always contextualized to the receiver, or, did you miss everything Francis Schaeffer had to say about evangelism?

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