What is doctrine? How can a doctrinal statement made in the past have any authority in the modern period? How should doctrinal statements be evaluated and criticized? These questions are of central importance to Christian theology and have important consequences for the church. In the course of its extensive historical and theological analysis, this study presents a detailed investigation of the development of Christian doctrine and the nature of doctrine itself.
This groundbreaking study, based on the prestigious 1990 Bampton Lectures delivered at Oxford University, explores the reasons why doctrine is a necessary aspect of Christian existence and examines some of the factors that govern its development.
Alister E. McGrath begins with a critical engagement with the views of George Lindbeck on the nature of doctrine before moving on to present a fresh understanding of the nature and function of Christian doctrine within the church. Particular attention is paid to the way in which doctrine acts as a demarcator between communities of faith, allowing important insights to contemporary ecumenical debates.
McGrath also explores the critically important issue of the authority of the past in Christian theology, focusing especially on the manner in which doctrine serves as a means of maintaining continuity with the past heritage of the Christian tradition. The book represents an exploration of a “middle way” in relation to the significance of Christian doctrine, rejecting both those approaches that insist on the uncritical repetition of the doctrinal heritage of the past and those that reject the authority of past doctrinal formulations. McGrath concludes his work by considering whether doctrine has a future within the church, and he answers this question in the affirmative on the basis of a number of important theological and cultural considerations.
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Looking for more on historical theology? Checkout the The Dictionary of Historical Theology.
Alister McGrath’s careful study of the genesis of doctrine sets this complex issue in a balanced Christian context . . . The clarity with which McGrath introduces the differences between theology and doctrine and distinguishes academic theology and the theology of the church, are helpful and dispel a good deal of careless generalization. A helpful book for anyone who is trying to sharpen theological understanding and expression.
—The Living Church
Alister McGrath is professor of theology, ministry, and education, and head of the center for theology, religion, and culture at King’s College, London. He is a prolific author noted for his ability to explore and express complex ideas in simple terms. His three most recent books are Mere Apologetics, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, and (with Joanna Collicutt McGrath) the international bestseller, The Dawkins Delusion?.