Item description for The Formation of Christian Doctrine by III Malcolm B. Yarnell...
Overview The Formation of Christian Doctrine is an advanced academic study of how Christian doctrine develops, distinguishing in particular between scholarly term "inventio" and less revelatory process of "invention."
The Formation of Christian Doctrine is a high-level academic study of the history of Christian doctrinal development. The book distinguishes at length between the scholarly term "inventio" (making explicit what is implicit in the biblical revelation) and the idea of "invention" (presenting a novelty as Christian teaching that conflicts with the biblical revelation).
Specifically, The Formation of Christian Doctrine identifies biblical inerrancy as an inventio but sees the "priesthood of believers" concept as a license to believe "whatever teaching seems right to me."
Sure to be of interest in academic circles, even to those who might disagree with the author, this book will appeal to three major groups: Evangelicals in relation to the twentieth-century development of a detailed doctrine of biblical inerrancy, Baptists in light of both biblical inerrancy and the seventeenth-century development of believer's baptism, and Roman Catholics because of their respect for tradition and interest in such a challenging conservative Protestant perspective as is found here.
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Studio: B&H Academic
Est. Packaging Dimensions: Length: 8.49" Width: 5.55" Height: 0.48" Weight: 0.62 lbs.
Release Date Nov 1, 2007
Publisher Broadman And Holman
ISBN 0805440461 ISBN13 9780805440461
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More About III Malcolm B. Yarnell
Malcolm B. Yarnell III is associate professor of Systematic Theology, assistant dean for the Theological Studies division, and director of the Center for Theological Research at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. He is a prolific contributor to academic scholarship in the areas of Systematic Theology, Historical Theology, Baptist Studies, and Political Theology. Yarnell and his wife have four children.
Reviews - What do customers think about The Formation of Christian Doctrine?
A Not Quite Even Handed Approach Aug 15, 2008
This book provides valuable research and insight into the growth and development of Christian doctrine and the Believers' Churches, a Baptist sect. It is about half general history and half position paper for the advance of the author's position. In fact, chapter one concludes with such a statement: ". . . you are offered a believers' church account of theological formation in this book" (32). Beginning in chapter two and continuing through the rest of the book, Yarnell offers the church-at-large position with fair treatment, even though this is a book intended to influence the reader toward his free-church theology. This brings up the one caveat concerning this text; that the author intends to advance the believers' church position as the one, consistent scriptural model of formation. For this reason alone the title is a little misleading. The reader who picks up this book would likely be expecting an impartial, academic review of the history of Christian doctrine but instead finds the book attempting to convince that the Baptist position is the truly biblical position. The sections which deal with the larger church are still valuable and interesting however, but keep in mind that they are a lead in to a "better" Baptist position. "The decision to interact with these alternative Christian traditions reflects not only a concern to learn from the critical thought of other Christians but also an attempt to interact with various tendencies evident among the free churches as exemplified within the Southern Baptist Convention" (33).
Yarnell does a thorough job exploring the historical aspect of doctrine. He uses representative theologians from several traditions to accomplish this task, which is about all one can do in a book this short. In little over 200 pages of small print, he moves from the beginning principle of what doctrine is founded upon to an exploration of how doctrine develops to the advancement of his free church perspective. Chapter two on the foundation of doctrine perspectives provides an example of his method. Yarnell expounds the Catholic position, a liberal protestant position (Anglican) and a more conservative one (Reformed), then draws some conclusions, positive and negative, on each position followed by an advance of his own tradition as the Scriptural one.
This book, despite its one-sided approach to the subject, and misleading title, does provide some valuable and interesting information to those interested in a survey of the beginnings of doctrine. Anyone looking for impartiality will not find it here, but the advancement of one position by the author does give cause for reflection on one's own position.
Possibly the most important book in Baptist theology in the past fifty years Jul 10, 2008
Theology is a funny but frank conversation. In "The Formation of Christian Doctrine", author and assistant dean for Theological Studies at Oxford University Malcolm B. Yarnell III demonstrates what is at stake, attempting to speak of truth and love to the broader Christian community. Possibly the most important book in Baptist theology in the past fifty years, "The Formation of Christian Doctrine" has the highest recommendation to college Christian study shelves and for anyone seeking a more in depth understanding of Christianity's doctrine.
Proper foundations May 8, 2008
Just a brief note of review - This is an unusual book, and I don't mean that pejoratively. Yarnell interacts with Catholic, liberal, and Reformed theologians before laying down his own foundation of doctrine, the "Believers' Church Proposal." He explains what the Anabaptist tradition has to offer contemporary theological discussion. Don't try to take in this book too quickly; the reward is in the slow chewing.
Endorsements Jan 3, 2008
"Learned in its analysis, theologically and spiritually astute, and deferential to the judgment of the gospel, this study of the foundation and development of Christian doctrine from the perspective of the believers' church will enrich its own tradition and provide much food for thought to others."
John Webster PhD DD FRSE Professor of Systematic Theology King's College, University of Aberdeen
"It is rare for a distinctively confessional voice to engage not only their own ecclesial tradition but those of the church catholic as well. With The Formation of Christian Doctrine Malcolm Yarnell demonstrates what is at stake in the Baptist witness that attempts to speak the truth in love to the broader Christian community. Irenic and yet uncompromising, one can only be grateful for the clarity of his free church perspective that mines the wealth of doctrine and discipleship in service of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Indeed the reproach that the free church lacks theological depth or an adequate ecclesiology will be silenced. Those who engage Yarnell will discover a formidable interlocutor and one worth wrestling with, yielding blessings rich in both understanding and piety. And as for ecumenical prospects, while surely eschewing a magisterial mantle, Yarnell presents his fellow Christians (and maybe not a few Baptists) with spiritual meat that is formative as it is instructive. One senses a profound loss in the manifold wisdom of Christ if such a witness was not borne, nor articulated. While Yarnell trusts the Lord for the former, his readers are in his debt for the latter."
Ralph Del Colle PhD Associate Professor of Systematic Theology Marquette University
"If you are a participant in the 'Baptist Experiment,' Malcolm Yarnell's The Formation of Christian Doctrine is the most important book in the past fifty years. More important, this volume is the most significant guide for navigating the confusing waters of the contemporary tempest. If you are not a Baptist but maintain the slightest curiosity about why Baptists have charted a dissenting and exclusive, to say nothing of lonely, path, here is the tome that will not only answer your questions, but also precipitate the thoughtful stroking of your academic beard. If I could prevail upon every pastor in Baptist life to read just one book, I would plead that it be this volume."
Paige Patterson PhD President Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
"The Formation of Christian Doctrine is a masterful introduction to the study of theology and theological method by one of Southern Baptist's most brilliant thinkers. Malcolm Yarnell provides a wide-ranging survey of the various theological traditions and models, enabling his readers to see the issues and challenges in each approach, while developing a thoroughgoing approach to theology consistent with the best of the believers' church tradition. Yarnell rightfully contends that theology must be in conversation with the academy, while calling for Baptist theology to be confessional, unapologetically biblical, and offered in service to the church. This book will not only help advance the work of theology in Baptist life, but will impact discussions regarding the self-identity and mission of Baptists in general, and Southern Baptists in particular. I heartily commend this volume."
David S. Dockery PhD President Union University
"While I would take a somewhat different path than Malcolm Yarnell proposes in this book, I regard it as a major contribution in the emerging scholarly discussion on Baptist identity and Christian theology. Malcolm is a well-trained theologian who digs deeply and reads widely and I especially appreciate his engagement here with several major non-Baptist theologians. This is the kind of theological scholarship that serves well the Church of Jesus Christ."
Timothy George PhD Dean, Beeson Divinity School Samford University
"Books about doctrine are, unfortunately, not very popular with most Christians. However, nothing is more important than developing solid Christian theology in our colleges and seminaries to produce powerful preachers, who can refute theological error. We need the same profound teaching in our churches to produce growing Christians, who will make disciples among unbelievers. And we need the same doctrines on the mission field to produce healthy converts, who will defend the gospel against sects and cults. Recognizing these needs, Malcolm Yarnell addresses the foundation and development of Christian teaching from the perspective of the evangelical free churches. He shows that the confession of the sufficiency of the inerrant Holy Scriptures, the correcting guidance of the Holy Spirit, and dependence upon other illuminated believers are the best prerequisites for engaging in theology and formulating Christian proclamation. This book is both a challenge for theologians and an encouragement for believers who love the Scriptures and the church and know that true Christian doctrines are fundamental for reaching our multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society with the gospel of Jesus Christ."
Friedhelm Jung, Dr. theol. Gründungsrektor des Masterprogramms, und
Dozent für Deutsch, Griechisch und Systematische Theologie
Bibelseminar Bonn e.V., Bornheim, Germany
"Malcolm Yarnell is one of the brightest lights of contemporary Baptist theology. This book, an exploration of theological method and the development of doctrine, demonstrates why our churches are grateful to Christ for the gift of Yarnell's mind and heart. Yarnell in this volume seeks to apply the Free Church commitments of the right wing of the Anabaptist movement to today's theological discussions. Even (and perhaps especially) those of us who start in a more Reformed or revivalist direction will do well to follow the example of Yarnell's rigorously thoughtful, pastorally applied method to our own patterns of thinking about our triune God and his revelation to us through Jesus."
Russell D. Moore PhD Dean, School of Theology, and Senior Vice President for Academic Administration The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
"Vibrant, urgent, learned, repentant--and above all resolutely loyal to scripture--this is living theology for a living church. Firmly rooted in the believers' church tradition, this remarkable essay makes a genuinely original contribution to the recent literature on the development of doctrine. By turns quietly persuasive and deliberately provocative, it is a welcome reminder that the first and last word in Christian theology belongs to the Lord: 'follow me.'"
Donald Wood DPhil Lecturer in Systematic Theology King's College, University of Aberdeen
"An essay in Fundamental Theology by an erudite and convinced Baptist historian and theologian cannot but be intriguing. Written in a spirit of love for Christ and with clarity of conviction, The Formation of Christian Theology is enlightening, stimulating and stirring, an honest and forthright contribution to ecumenical discussion committed to the lordship of Christ."
John Yocum DPhil Associate Professor of Theology Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University
An Important Book Dec 13, 2007
Malcolm Yarnell, D.Phil. Oxford and associate professor of systematic theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, has embarked on a "Star-Trekian" theme to "boldly go where no man has gone before." Yarnell's book is a proposal for a free-church theological method, making it a prototype in prolegomena. His primary intent for the book is to offer a theological method that primarily looks to Scripture for doctrinal foundation and development; Scripture that is read in the congregation and illumined by the Spirit. Yarnell offers three reasons as to the uniqueness of his book. First, it is the first book of its kind that seeks to offer a theological method from a purely free church perspective. Second, its conclusions are considerate of church history. Third, it is rooted in personal faith in and commitment to Jesus Christ. Yarnell begins with a summary of the theological method to be proposed in the remainder of the book. That method is introduced as strongly trinitarian in its approach; based wholly in Scripture as illumined by the Holy Spirit, and is directed toward the disciple in his congregation. Yarnell writes, "The theological method of the believer's church is characterized by degrees of Christocentrism, biblicism, pneumatic hermeneutics, and congregationalism" (5). The remainder of the book is divided into two overriding sections. The first is the foundation for doctrine, and the second is the development of doctrine. Under the opening chapter concentrating on the foundation for doctrine, Yarnell examines three varying approaches to theological method that are unacceptable to serve as a method for the believer's church. The first is the Roman Catholic approach, represented in Yarnell's assessment by Joseph Ratzinger. Ratzinger's approach centers ultimately on the universal visible church as the authoritative source serving as the foundation for doctrine. Yarnell identifies the offending aspect of this perspective for the believer's church is that it places Scripture in subject to the church. The second considered approach is the liberal method represented by Maurice Wiles. Wiles holds that reason is the superior foundation for the formation of doctrine. His concern is to be wholly reasonable in modern cultural terms in assessing and forming doctrine. Again, it is the subjection of Scripture to reason that makes this approach unacceptable for a theological method serving the believer's church. The third approach is the Reformed approach represented by Herman Bavinck. Bavinck's primary approach employs a philosophical foundation to theology. Although Bavinck would argue for a primary position for Scripture in his method, Yarnell argues that he nonetheless places his philosophical interpretation ultimately ahead of Scripture. Another aspect of Bavinck's method that does not allow its acceptance as a suitable method for the believer's church is its de-emphasis on personal faith. Yarnell then moves to a consideration of the principles central to proposing a foundation for the formation of theology from the believer's church perspective. First is that Scripture is wholly sufficient as the foundation of doctrine. The second principle is that Scripture requires illumination by the Spirit. Scripture is God's Word, yet due to human insufficiency the Spirit must provide illumination. Third is that the illumination by the Spirit is delivered to the congregation of regenerate disciples. Yarnell writes, "Free-church academics . . . should never be allowed to set the agenda for the free church's theology. That should be reserved for Scripture as illumined by the Spirit, who works in the community of Christ's disciples" (65). The discussion then moves to a proposal for a foundation for doctrine that is acceptable to the free church tradition. Pilgram Marpeck's theology forms the framework for Yarnell's presentation in this chapter. Yarnell first points to Marpeck's theology as a theology of discipleship. This principle of discipleship provides an essential aspect of Marpeck's basis and is also an essential aspect in Yarnell's proposal. He then enumerates four foundational principles in Marpeck's theology. The four axioms for Marpeck are: (1) Christocentrism, (2) a conjunction of Word and Spirit, (3) a biblical order, and (4) the community of disciples. Yarnell summarily assesses Marpeck's theology in reference to the free church foundation of theology as, "The free churches begin their theology of discipleship with a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, seek to understand His ordinances through His Word illumined by the Spirit, and institute those ordinances within the church, according to the biblical order" (79). After the chapter proposing Marpeck's approach as the proper believer's church perspective on the foundation of doctrine, Yarnell then moves to the second major section: the formation of doctrine. He begins with an assessment of some historical approaches to the development of doctrine. The first discussion centers on the "classical thesis," which is that doctrine does not develop; rather, it remains in its original infallible form. Thus, any doctrine must be subjected to "[t]he three tests of universality, antiquity, and consent" (107). This is the traditional Roman Catholic perspective and is represented by Vincent of Lérins. The problem with this perspective is that it proves to be historically untenable.
Yarnell then discusses an alternate proposal set forth by John Henry Newman. Newman's system of doctrinal development is that doctrine develops in a progressive manner in response to progressive revelation, thus the church is always infallible holding to doctrines that line up with contemporaneous revelation. Yarnell offers three critiques of this proposal. First, it is based on a faulty metaphor; second, it confuses progressive revelation and doctrinal development; and third, it presents an infallible authoritative church. Yarnell then offers a look at evangelical responses. He notes that the other theories are unacceptable to contemporary evangelicals. He responds, "The most important reason they are considered objectionable, for all of their other advantages, is their explicit or implicit denial of the sufficiency of Scripture" (125). He mentions two evangelical responses. One from Peter Toon and the other from Alister McGrath. Neither of these eliminates the need for Scripture, but they depend on "rational tests [to] discern true developments from corruption and/or that tradition necessarily supplements Scripture" (126). Yarnell's critique is that both "allow for both Christ and Scripture in their models, but both are weak with regard to pneumatology and ecclesiology" (127). He then posits an acceptable response. "The Christian disciple submits to the will of Jesus Christ revealed in the Scripture illumined by the Holy Spirit as it is read with the entire church. Although revelation is affixed to the Bible, its illumination by the Spirit is dynamic in that it is not limited to previous perceptions" (138). He then examines the proper response to tradition in doctrinal development. The only infallible tradition is biblical tradition; therefore, subsequent development of doctrine must be critically examined. Yarnell's words are, "Recognizing that the Bible must remain the final authority, we nevertheless realize that our understanding of it develops and is sometimes corrupt" (149). His proposal then for a believer's church approach to the development of doctrine is that "it begins with a trinitarian belief in the Word and the Spirit as the Father's way to reveal Himself to humanity," and that it is characterized by "the biblical analogy of illumination, which bonds the Spirit with the Word" (150). The early free-church's development of doctrine was Christocentric and directed by the Spirit. In moving toward his goal, Yarnell then turns his attention to a theology of history. The believer's church theology of history emphasizes the providence of God in history and the supreme lordship of Christ over all of humanity and history. His final analysis is to define a free-church history of theology. That history emphatically highlights a "trinitarian revelation", a "personal salvation", and a covenanted community. That history is developed in the Great Commission given to the churches. Yarnell concludes, "Those churches that seek to fulfill the final commandment of Christ have thus been led by the Spirit to deal with trinitarian revelation, personal salvation in Christ, and covenantal freedom" (187). Yarnell's central theme has at least three basic elements. The first is his emphasis on a scriptural basis which has three important aspects. (1) The notion of trinitarian revelation. This aspect is at the foundation of the Scriptural emphasis. The trinitarian approach outlines the entirety of Yarnell's argument. The central principle is that God has revealed Himself, thus that revelation demands to be at the central foundation of doctrine. (2) In adherence with the trinitarian outline is the notion that the revelation is Christocentric. God's revelation focuses on Christ and the personal relationship with Him to which people are called. (3) In completing that trinitarian outline, the revelation in Scripture requires illumination by the Spirit. Human abilities are wholly insufficient and inefficient as tools for interpreting and applying the biblical revelation. The second element of emphasis is that of personal discipleship. Yarnell's plain statement is, "Theology should never be carried out without being grounded in a disciple's faith in Jesus Christ" (69). The only legitimate and possible receptacle for the Spirit's illumination of Scripture is the committed disciple. True theology cannot be formed apart from a relationship with Christ forged in personal faith. Theology has no other application than in the life of the disciple and the community of disciples. The third emphatic element is that of the covenanted community. There are three essential aspects here. (1) The community must be a church of believers. His proposal is only feasible in a believer's church, because only believers are able to correctly hear the Word of God directed by the Spirit. Yarnell categorically rejects, as do his Baptist predecessors, any notion of an ecclesiology that incorporates unbelievers into the body of Christ. (2) Related to the first is the notion that the visible local church is the true church. The emphasis concerning the church is on the visible church as opposed to the invisible church. The universal church is a reality, but only an eschatological reality and the present view is upon the local church. (3) The community is necessary in the formation of doctrine in its role as the proper context for the consideration of Scripture leading to doctrine. Yarnell writes: [F]ree churches are willing to be corrected but only by the Word of God illumined by the Holy Spirit. A true free churchman believes that the Word of God is perfect but that his or her understanding of Christ and the Bible must always depend on the Spirit. And for the Spirit's illumination, the believer's churches will pray, humbly recognizing that theology is best done in covenantal conversation with other Christians (203). Yarnell's central proposal for a believer's church theological method is accurate and effective. Theology, being the task of understanding an omnipotent transcendent God, requires divine revelation in order that the inadequacies of human understanding might come to a more complete knowledge of the Creator. That being the case, the only acceptable beginning place must be disciples personally committed to Jesus Christ reading that revelation in the context of the covenanted community illumined by the Spirit of God. There are perhaps two minor suggestions to make for the book. First is that Yarnell might have added elements of a more critical reading of Pilgram Marpeck. For example, important to Marpeck's theology is his rejection of a continued covenant found in Reformed theology. Yarnell notes the importance of this aspect in Marpeck's theology and even comments in reference to it, "It was impossible for the Old Testament saints to have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit, for the human nature of Christ, which worked the atonement, was not yet joined to the divine nature" (81). This is a correct assessment of Marpeck's position; however, Marpeck goes further. He writes in his "Confession of 1532," "Before Christ, no sin was forgiven." Certain Scriptures, such as God's response to David's confession, might highlight a problem with Marpeck's view at this point. Marpeck's doctrine also includes a descent into Hell to preach to those Old Testament Patriarchs in order that they might be saved, which might be consistent with the Apostle's Creed, but might be questioned exegetically. Yarnell also mentions later a rejection of the Reformed perspective of a continued covenant. Yarnell's assessment is accurate; however, holding to a demarcation of the covenants between the Old and New Testaments does not necessitate an adherence to Marpeck's position about the forgiveness of sins and the descent to Hell, thus a more critical reading of Marpeck at this point might aid readers familiar with Marpeck's position in understanding Yarnell's position. A second suggestion comes in reference to Yarnell's multiple assessments of the Reformed tradition. He might have added some clarity by distinguishing between an adherence to a doctrine of election and the entirety of the Reformed tradition. There are many contemporary Southern Baptists, this author not excepted, who find a biblical basis for a doctrine of election, yet who reject wholesale other primary tenants of Reformed theology and ecclesiology, who are fiercely committed to the believer's church, and who would agree with Yarnell's proposal of a theological method. These suggestions are ultimately minor ones and are not aimed at issues that detract from Yarnell's well articulated proposal. One issue that his proposal does raise, however, is an important question. The question is not a fault with the proposal nor one that Yarnell would have been compelled to address in the book, but is a serious consideration that theologians who find this argument compelling are forced to grapple with. The question involves the centrality of a regenerate church membership to Yarnell's proposal. The overriding issue in implementing such a theological method that begins with Scripture interpreted in the context of the congregation under the leadership of the Spirit is that only a regenerate church membership can be the recipient of such illumination. Yarnell makes this point himself in commenting on an important 1 Corinthians passage. "The wisdom of God is not available to those who abide in this age. Rather, the wisdom of God in Christ is made available by the internal work of the Holy Spirit to those who abide in Christ (1 Cor 2:11-13)" (135). The problem here is the current state of Baptist churches. For decades Baptist congregations have ignored the means by which a regenerate church membership is formed and maintained, namely the proper emphasis on believer's baptism, the Lord's Supper, and church discipline. Indeed it might be said that even the most New Testament churches of today are lacking in following the biblical pattern of discipline. Thus, decisions in churches have been reduced to a purely self-willed democracy, often times giving little credence to God's will in the matter. Yarnell's proposal is essential to sound theology and a believer's church is essential to his proposal. Theologians, pastors, and laymen must be compelled to find a way back to the committed formation and maintenance of a regenerate membership in their churches. That being said, this book will prove to be extremely useful to the believer's church. The proposal is essential in the formation and teaching of sound doctrine. This book represents an approach toward theology aimed directly at the church. The primary application of these principles will ultimately find its greatest fruition in the local church. One of the strongest aspects in Yarnell's presentation is its pastoral nature. Indeed, this present author found himself thinking that he would have been a better pastor had this book been available to him during his pastoral ministry. The blueprint is here for the future assessment and development of sound doctrine, and the book is also compelling in the reclamation of New Testament discipleship and ecclesiology. This is an important work and one that ought to be read by every theologian and pastor concerned with the New Testament pattern for the church.