Historical Theology

Historical Theology, by Gregg Allison ★★★
Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology text is deficient in 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 lose the entire nature of many controversies. For this reason, JND Kelly’s text for early church theological developments, or  Schaff’s History does 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.