This essay considers the role of historiography in doctrinal criticism from a hermeneutical perspective and in light of postcolonial and postmodern criticisms. First, historiography is defined using a Gadamerian typology, providing the basis for an analysis of Kenneth Scott Latourette’s well-respected essay on Christian historiography. This reading of Latourette illuminates the dogmatic nature of the prejudices informing Christian historical scholarship. Finally, these insights are applied to doctrinal criticism, arguing that the relationship between doctrine and historiography is dialectical, rather than one element having dominance over the other. It concludes by suggesting a chastened, “two-tiered” approach to doctrinal criticism capable of responding to the charges mentioned and to current trends in global Christianity.
Cf. e.g. ThiseltonThe Hermeneutics of Doctrine3–109; James William McClendon Doctrine vol. 2 Systematic Theology (Nashville TN: Abingdon Press 1994) 21–63; Vanhoozer The Drama of Doctrine; Alister E. McGrath Understanding Doctrine: Its Relevance and Purpose for Today (Grand Rapids MI: Zondervan 1992); Alister E. McGrath The Genesis of Doctrine (Oxford Cambridge: Blackwell 1990).; Most recently see Rhyne R. Putman In Defense of Doctrine: Evangelicalism Theology and Scripture Emerging Scholars (Minneapolis MN: Fortress 2015).
Richard W. Pointer“Kenneth Scott Latourette,” in Historians of the Christian Tradition: Their Methodology and Influence on Western Thoughtby eds. Michael Bauman and Martin I. Klauber (Nashville TN: Broadman & Holman 1995) 419–420.
See D.T. Hart“History in Search of Meaning,” in History and the Christian Historianed. Ronald A. Wells (Grand Rapids MI: Eerdmans 1998) 78 f; cf. C.T. McIntire ed. God History and Historians: An Anthology of Modern Christian Views of History (New York: Oxford University Press 1977).
Lamin O. Sanneh“World Christianity and the New Historiography,” in Enlarging the Storyed. Wilbert R. Schenk (Eugene OR: Wipf & Stock 2002) 98–99. On historical Eurocentrism see Irvin “From One Story to Many”; Andrew F. Walls “Eusebius Tries Again: Reconceiving the Study of Christian History” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 24 no. 3 (July 1 2000): 105–111.