Fortress Press

In Defense of Doctrine: Evangelicalism, Theology, and Scripture

In Defense of Doctrine: Evangelicalism, Theology, and Scripture

In Defense of Doctrine: Evangelicalism, Theology, and Scripture

Questions surrounding the relationship of Scripture and doctrine are legion within the Protestant tradition. How can doctrine develop over time and maintain fidelity to the sacred text, especially for communities who cling to the Reformation principle of sola scriptura? Does not an appeal to contemporary, constructive theology belie commonly held Protestant and Evangelical convictions about the sufficiency of Scripture? Does admission and acceptance of doctrinal development result in a kind of reality-denying theological relativism? And in what way can a growing, postcanonical tradition maintain a sense of continuity with the faith of the New Testament?

This study is an apologetic for the ongoing, constructive theological task in Protestant and Evangelical traditions. It suggests that doctrinal development can be explained as a hermeneutical phenomenon and that insights from hermeneutical philosophy and the philosophy of language can aid theologians in constructing explanatory theses for particular theological problems associated with the facts of doctrinal development, namely, questions related to textual authority, reality depiction, and theological identity. Joining the recent call to theological interpretation of Scripture, Putman provides a constructive model that forwards a descriptive and normative pattern for reading Scripture and theological tradition together.

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“This is a much-needed examination of the process by which doctrine develops from the Bible and the criteria with which those who prioritize the proclamation of the gospel evaluate those developments. For those, like Evangelicals, who view Scripture rather than tradition (or Rome) as their magisterial authority, the challenge to understand the process of doctrinal development is especially pressing. Whose interpretation of the Bible counts, and why? The great merit of Putman’s work is that it approaches the question of doctrinal development primarily as a hermeneutical issue, and that he offers both descriptions of the process of coming to understand the biblical text and normative criteria for discerning right interpretations and doctrinal developments.”
—Kevin Vanhoozer
Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
“People like to say and do stuff because ‘The Bible tells me so,’ but they overlook the fact that the ‘telling’ spawns a big historical and cultural gap between the ‘Bible’ and ‘me’ and you cannot move from one to another naively. Here Rhyne Putman gives a splendid account of hermeneutics from within the evangelical tradition. He engages the subjects of historical distance, the nature of language, and theories of knowledge, All to show how it is indeed possible to move from the Bible to doctrine in a responsible and faithful way. A great book for anyone interested in how the Bible shaped doctrines that don’t appear to be explicit in the Bible but in fact emerged from a biblical trajectory!”
—Michael F. Bird
Ridley College
“A theologian who takes seriously the historical nature of doctrine and interacts in depth with European hermeneutical philosophy, yet who simultaneously remains a self-described evangelical biblicist is a rarity indeed. Rhyne Putman demonstrates in this judiciously erudite and eminently readable study that conservative Protestants need not remain in an academic ghetto when it comes to the various disciplines concerned with method in theology. Putman has given us a text that, read carefully, will be profitable not only to evangelicals, but to all who are interested in the critical disciplines of biblical hermeneutics, doctrinal development, and systematic theological method.”
—Malcolm B. Yarnell III
Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas

“Rhyne Putman is a rising star in evangelical systematic theology. In this work, he interacts with thinkers such as Anthony Thiselton, Alister McGrath, and Kevin Vanhoozer in surveying various options in theological method. Putman offers a substantive proposal about how biblical hermeneutics and language theory may be employed into constructive doctrinal development that addresses contemporary issues.”
—Steve Lemke
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary