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The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine, Vol. 5: Christian Doctrine and Modern Culture (since 1700) (Volume 5) Paperback – October 4, 1991
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Pelikan begins his work with Goethe's lament, "I hear the message all right; it is only the Faith that I lack." Goethe was no mean theologian; if anything he was symptomatic of a widespread state of ecclesial exhaustion after several centuries of Reformation wrangling. At roughly the same time Goethe was rending his own soul , two young men attended Holy Thursday services at St. Peter's in Rome. Ralph Waldo Emerson and John Henry Newman left with distinctively different blueprints for the future of foundational theology. How such great minds in the churches embraced the dual factors of exhaustion and modern doubt frame the discussion of doctrinal development into the twentieth century.
Pelikan labors mightily to keep his study from undue influences of modernity [Descartes, Newton, Kant, etc.] but this is not always possible, particularly when the battle ground of dogmatics was shifting away from "shouting louder" to [presumably] more rationally certifiable grounds such as history, which enjoyed a remarkable resurgence under Gibbon and Von Harnack, among others.Read more ›
Pelikan can only paint broad brushstrokes in detailing how Christian theology developed in this time frame. He covers all the major Christian theologians of the time, taking pains to ensure a balanced treatment of Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox theologies. He (arbitrarily, but wisely) ends the volume with coverage of the Second Vatican Council, a major event in the history of the universal Church that occurred in the 1960's. As with the other volumes in this series, Pelikan is painstakingly objective; he is careful to simply relate the facts that lead to various theological developments - not give his opinion about them.
But one does get a sense of sadness when reading this volume. Whereas the first three volumes express the mostly unified vision of the Church (albeit already in two factions - East and West - after the first volume), the fourth volume and especially this fifth and final volume reflect the sad reality of the disunity of Christian theology that has occurred, especially since the 16th century. Pelikan ably attempts to show the commonality between the various confessions, but the fact is that the divisions that began almost 500 years ago have been going down more widely divergent paths over the centuries. Even a brilliant mind like Pelikan's cannot unify what is so splintered.Read more ›
The book has 6 chapters. Chapter one is an introduction to the crisis in doctrines in all three major Christian traditions: Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant. Chapter two addresses the intellectual challenges brought on by the Enlightenment. Chapter three describes the subjective turn of theology (i.e. the turn to make subjective experience the foundation of the Christian religion). Chapter four lays out the shifting understanding of the meaning of traditional doctrines as the various orthodox (or conservative) parties responds to credibility crisis of the Christian faith. Chapter five focuses on the question of the authority to interpret the faith and justification of orthodoxy at the beginning of the 20th century. Chapter six describes how the self-understanding of the churches emerging in the middle of the 20th century, seeing themselves more as witnesses and servants rather than powerful institutions.
Pelikan's erudition is simply stupendous. He studies many now obscure (but popular in their own times) theological handbooks, in Latin, German, Russian etc., that even most professional historians have neither the ability nor the patience to digest. The result is a moving narrative of the three major traditions in its struggle against the skepticism and rationalism of modern culture.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Just what I wanted and love it. Better than I expected and enjoyed it. Would recommend it to you anytime.Published on March 15, 2014 by Stan
I believe this is good selection for Historical Theology and to see the stages of the Reformation time to now.Published on July 3, 2013 by Carter Check
I used this book as a text book for a Masters Level Seminary Class. Pelikan does a nice job of highlighting main issues in the History of Christian Doctrine and placing them... Read morePublished on April 1, 2013 by E. Armstrong
If you are interested in the way church doctrine developed as I was, buy this series. It seems like a lot of material, but Pelikan is actually brief while thorough. Read morePublished on January 14, 2013 by Mark D. Hornbogen
Pelikan's goal was to surpass Adolph Von Harnack's multi-volume "History of Dogma" ("Dogmengeschichte"). I believe he succeeded. Read morePublished on October 26, 2010 by Quentin D. Stewart
Pelikan's "The Christian Tradition" is a remarkable series that describes the manner in which Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox christians have interpreted the... Read morePublished on August 30, 2000 by Alan Dow