In Defense of Doctrine

In Defense of Doctrine: Evangelicalism, Theology, and Scripture

Rhyne R. Putman
Copyright Date: 2015
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  • Book Info
    In Defense of Doctrine
    Book Description:

    Questions surrounding the relationship of Scripture and doctrine are legion within the Protestant tradition. How can doctrine develop over time and maintain fidelity to the sacred text, especially for communities who cling to the Reformation principle of sola scriptura? Does not an appeal to contemporary, constructive theology belie commonly held Protestant and Evangelical convictions about the sufficiency of Scripture? Does admission and acceptance of doctrinal development result in a kind of reality-denying theological relativism? And in what way can a growing, postcanonical tradition maintain a sense of continuity with the faith of the New Testament? This study is an apologetic for the ongoing, constructive theological task in Protestant and Evangelical traditions. It suggests that doctrinal development can be explained as a hermeneutical phenomenon and that insights from hermeneutical philosophy and the philosophy of language can aid theologians in constructing explanatory theses for particular theological problems associated with the facts of doctrinal development, namely, questions related to textual authority, reality depiction, and theological identity. Joining the recent call to theological interpretation of Scripture, Putman provides a constructive model that forwards a descriptive and normative pattern for reading Scripture and theological tradition together.

    eISBN: 978-1-4514-9670-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
    Rhyne Putman
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    “If we have the Bible, why do we need theology?” That is, if Christian believers truly possess the written word of God in the biblical canon, why do they needcritical, contemporary, andconstructive theologiesthat go beyond the explicit wording of written revelation in Scripture? What value are creeds or confessions of faith, and what use are appeals to our traditions and spiritual forebears? Doesn’t an authoritative appeal to postcanonical doctrine call into question commonly held Christian convictions about biblical inspiration, clarity, and sufficiency?

    For many in the broader ecumenical climate, these kinds of questions are bewildering, if not...

  5. 1 Reading Scripture and Developing Doctrine
    (pp. 25-58)

    For Christian believers, no one captivates the attention, moves the affections, or stirs the imagination like Jesus of Nazareth. He is the visible display—the perfect icon—of the inexhaustible love and power of an invisible God (Col. 1:15). What we know of this Jesus we have read in the writings of the New Testament. These first-century texts are the gateway to Christ, the “primary sources” on which we base our historical, theological, and practical beliefs about him. Through the theologically flavored biographies, ecclesial missives, and dreamlike visions contained within, we can get to know him and get a glimpse...

  6. 2 Historical Consciousness, Development, and Hermeneutics
    (pp. 59-122)

    Doctrinal development may be an inevitable, even essential element of the theological task as it has been practiced for nearly two millennia, but explicit theoretical reflection on the nature of this phenomenon is a relatively recent feature in Christian thought. The history of evangelical attention to the problem of development is much shorter, because, as we shall see, Roman Catholic theologians began addressing the issue much earlier than their Protestant and evangelical counterparts. The study of general hermeneutics or hermeneutical theory, a discipline concerned with understanding the relationship between interpreters and texts (i.e., written texts or any other complex aggregate...

  7. 3 Doctrinal Development in the Descriptive Theological Hermeneutics of Anthony Thiselton
    (pp. 123-172)

    The previous chapter highlighted some of the shared themes and influences between hermeneutical theory and the problem of doctrinal development throughout their respective histories. The present chapter begins to build a more constructive case, utilizing the insights of evangelical scholars engaged in conversation with contemporary hermeneutical theory for constructing a hermeneutical model of doctrinal development. Here, we will explore the theological hermeneutics of Anglican New Testament scholar and theologian Anthony C. Thiselton, whose descriptive approach to theological hermeneutics has remarkable explanatory power for the phenomenon of growing doctrinal traditions.

    Few figures loom larger in evangelical hermeneutics than Thiselton, who virtually...

  8. 4 Doctrinal Development in the Normative Theological Hermeneutics of Kevin J. Vanhoozer
    (pp. 173-208)

    Kevin J. Vanhoozer, one of the most creative and constructive evangelical theologians currently working, is best known for his work in theological prolegomena and the theological interpretation of Scripture.¹ Questions about the relationship between the Bible and systematic theology initially directed his work to hermeneutics, and interdisciplinary engagement with hermeneutical and literary theory has been a staple in his research ever since.² Much like Thiselton before him, Vanhoozer has endeavored to utilize the insights of non-theological resources like contemporary hermeneutical theory in biblical interpretation and Christian theology. However, in contrast to Thiselton’s descriptive approach, Vanhoozer’s approach to theological hermeneutics is...

  9. 5 Interpretive Authority and Doctrinal Development
    (pp. 209-256)

    By whose “authority” does the church develop doctrine? What guide can aid in differentiating between positive developments and doctrinal distortions? By whose rule can we draw the line between orthodoxy and heterodoxy? The construction of doctrine in the broader Christian tradition and in systematic theology is a complex operation that involves many people over a great span of time with many disciplinary specialties and pastoral concerns. Naturalist interpretations of religion chalk all of these processes up to socio-cultural or bio-cultural factors. These are undirected by external forces and products of a human culture, a building of gods in the images...

  10. 6 Religious Language, Reality, and Doctrinal Development
    (pp. 257-324)

    Evangelicals, eponymously named for their fervor forevangelor gospel, are concerned about truth, particularly the truth content of the good news of Jesus Christ. We are committed to the universal proclamation of the gospel because we operate with the conviction that God has entrusted Christian believers with the only “message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:19) and that it is our duty as “ambassadors for Christ” to implore every man, woman, and child to be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:20). We likewise operate with the deeply held conviction that the proclamation that “Christ died for our sins in accordance...

  11. 7 Development and Continuity Hermeneutical Approaches to the Problem
    (pp. 325-374)

    The most critical issue for any model of doctrinal development is the question of doctrinal continuity. Can doctrinesdevelop, grow, orprogresswithout compromising their fidelity to “the faith once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3)? Can there be maintained identity between New Testament teachings and later doctrinal formulations that utilize very different conceptual frameworks? Most importantly, if doctrines do in fact develop over time through expansion, contextualization, and critical correction, how can the faith communities that develop and reformulate doctrines claim to be part of the same broad Christian tradition?

    Since the nineteenth-century turn toward historical criticism, many liberal...

  12. 8 The Hermeneutics of Faithful and Fitting Doctrinal Development
    (pp. 375-400)

    While the Lord tarries, doctrine develops. The progress and growth of ideas is an inevitable historical reality, even in religious traditions purportedly rooted in divine revelation. In post-critical Christian theology, attitudes toward this phenomenon are undergoing considerable change. Once met with contempt and anxiety from Protestants and Roman Catholics alike, the idea of postcanonical doctrinal development nowadays meets with a far more favorable, even enthusiastic consent in both circles. Evangelicals, however, meet with the prospect of doctrinal development in the tension between two poles: an unwavering commitment to the supreme authority of God’s unchanging word (sola scriptura) and a need...

  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 401-458)
  14. Index
    (pp. 459-468)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 469-469)