A Concise History of Christian Doctrine

Gonzalez, Justo L.
Abingdon (2005)
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Justo L. Gonzalez is rightly known for his magisterial - if one who writes so clearly can be called "magisterial" - three volume History of Christian Thought and so it is a great pleasure to recommend a synthesis of that great work in this concise volume.

Gonzalez traces all the key issues in Christian doctrinal history in roughly the order in which they became salient, setting out the cultural and historical background, the issue, the different views and, where it was reached, the synthesis. His key tool is that of declaring limits within which various aspects of a doctrine (not always mutually consistent) can find a home, allowing him to say what can be said while preserving his central tenet that doctrine is mystery.

He is obviously most at home with the influence of Neo-Platonism and the controversies which led to the great Ecumenical Councils and his grasp of the Middle Ages is good. His most masterful touches are associated with the Reformation - I have never seen the position of Luther more simply, clearly and sympathetically set out - but he never gives enough space to it and his treatment of doctrinal controversy and development after the Reformation is cursory. It might be argued in his defence that the longer that Christian history goes on, the less there is to argue about but the reaction to the 'enlightenment' brought about significant developments.

Gonzalez is sensitive to multi-cultural issues which makes it even harder to explain why he does not deal with the topic of salvation and non Christians; but that is my only serious quibble.

Overall, a fine introductory survey which, I hope, will lead you to his other, more substantial, work.

See Study Sheet 154: A Concise History of Christian Doctrine