We who preach the gospel must not think of ourselves as public relations agents sent to establish good will between Christ and the world. We must not imagine ourselves commissioned to make Christ acceptable to big business, the press, the world of sports or modern education. We are not diplomats but prophets, and our message is not a compromise but an ultimatum. A.W. Tozer

Monday, January 14, 2013

Our Legacy


We live in a world where personality has more street value than character. ... We find ourselves in a world where pleasures are embraced without moral norms or a sense of social responsibility.... The quest for truth has been replaced by the preoccupation with pleasure and entertainment.  Thus, we live in a world of the therapeutic and the psychological, where people are engaged in an endless pursuit of self-fulfillment and entitlement  Sin has become little more than the infringement of personal rights and privileges; there is little thought of defining it by the standard of the holiness of God. ...

[T]he church has lost its soul.  The quest for contemporary relevance has led it down the path of increasing irrelevancy and marginalization.  The evangelical church is on the brink of becoming another of the many social, do-good agencies whose purpose has to do with helping people to more fully enjoy this life while neglecting the implications of eternity.  While our culture has shown a marked inclination to secularism, the church seems to have followed suit....

This citation is from the Introduction to John D. Hannah’s book, “Our Legacy: The History of Christian Doctrine.”  

I don’t remember where I read about this book, but I purchased it several months ago and just finished reading it a couple nights ago.  It is a fascinating study, as well as being easy to read.  Dr. John D. Hannah is the department chairman and distinguished professor of historical theology at Dallas Theological Seminary.  The research he must have done to write this book is incredible, but I guess not unusual for a scholar of his stature.

In his preface, Hannah gives seven reasons to read his book:
First: while most other books on the history of doctrine have been written for the scholarly community, the intended audience of this book is not scholars, but pastors, Christian workers, and an informed laity. ...

Second, this book is an attempt to assert the value of both history and theology in the life of the church today. ... A Christianity separated from historical credibility is not a biblical faith; a Christianity without theology is merely morality and not the faith “once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3).

Third, this book is rooted in the belief that theology has an important role to play in the life of the church. ...

Fourth, this book springs from the belief that the function of theology - and here I have in mind historical theology - is to preserve the church from fads and novelty.  A knowledge of the past keeps the church from confusing the merely contemporary with the enduringly relevant; it distinguishes the transient from the permanent.  In doing so, it spares the church from diversions that, while appearing promising at the moment, are in fact harmful. ...

Fifth, a knowledge of theology in its historical context and development will preserve the church from error; it provides both apologetic and polemic weapons against deception. ...

Sixth, a knowledge of history of doctrine will provide a bulwark against pride and arrogance borne of the thought that any one church or ecclesiastical tradition stands in the exclusive heritage of first-century orthodoxy. ...

Last, a knowledge of the history of doctrine supports the Bible’s witness to the triumph of the church. ...

Hannah’s chapters address Authority, the Trinity, the Person of Christ, the Work of Christ, Salvation, the Church, and the End Times.  We follow the history of why, as well as how, each of these doctrines were defined, as well as how various streams of theology applied such teachings throughout the centuries.

I highly recommend this book, and I leave you with a citation from Hannah’s concluding chapter:

The need of the hour is not for revival; it is for something even more fundamental.  It is time for a reformation in the church.  Revival has to do with the extension of the gospel; the greatest need in the contemporary church is to rediscover the gospel, its glory and its power.  It is time to return to the fundamentals of the faith and be refreshed in its truths, to gain anew a love and respect for the Holy Scriptures.  Revival without Reformation is religious enthusiasm at best; revival out of reformation is the only home of the church.

2 comments:

Steve Bricker said...

This looks like a good book. Wherever did you find a copy? My search is coming up empty.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Wow,
I don't remember. I ordered it through the mail. I thought it was through Amazon. I've had it longer than I thought; I just checked my records and I purchased it in March last year, but I didn't note from where.