Some significant theological responses to modernity were coy about doctrine. Much recent systematic theology has, however, been involved in a retrieval of the doctrinal tradition and its truth-claiming functions. Yet this retrieval has been simultaneous with the growing influence of ideologies of pluralism in Western culture. This unit will explore how, in this context, doctrinal discourse makes public truth-claims and how such discourse functions within the church. Doctrine will be brought into conversation with analogy, metaphor, narrative and drama. In any given semester, the pastoral, apologetic and community-defining roles of two classical areas of doctrinal enquiry will be critically explored (e.g. any two of creation, atonement, resurrection, pneumatology, eschatology etc). Students will also study the way doctrine and specific doctrines function in a community of faith known to them.

Unit code: CT9020P (Approved)

Points: 24.0

Unit level: Postgraduate Elective

Unit discipline: Systematic Theology

Proposing College: Pilgrim Theological College

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Learning outcomes


Demonstrate a critical understanding of the nature and force of modernity’s critique of Christianity’s doctrinal tradition


Interpret contemporary debates about the nature and function of Christian doctrine


Identify the challenges posed to Christian doctrine by the ideologies of contemporary pluralist cultures


Articulate the relationship between doctrine, analogy, metaphor, narrative and drama and the difference between them


Identify and assess the various doctrines explicitly and implicitly shaping the life of a particular Christian community


Analyse and articulate the criticisms, development and the ecclesial function of one specific major area of Christian doctrine

Unit sequence

CT8000P or CT8009P


Lectures, Seminars, Tutorials

Indicative Bibliography

  • Charry, Ellen T. By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine New York and Oxford: OUP, 1997
  • Helmer, Christine. Theology and the End of Doctrine. Louisville: WJKP, 2014.
  • Hovey, Bearing True Witness: Truthfulness in Christian Practice Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011.
  • Lindbeck, George. The Nature of Doctrine: Religion and Theology in a Postliberal Age. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984.
  • McGrath, Alister E. The Genesis of Doctrine: A Study in the Foundation of Doctrinal Criticism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans / Vancouver: Regent, 1990.
  • Mitchener, Ronald T. Postliberal Theology: A Guide for the Perplexed. London: T&T Clark, 2013. (recommended for purchase)
  • Murphy, Nancey. Beyond Liberalism and Fundamentalism: How Modern and Postmodern Philosophy Set the Theological Agenda. Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1996.
  • Vanhoozer, Kevin J. The Drama of Doctrine: A Canonical Linguistic Approach to Christian Theology. Louisville: WJKP, 2005.
  • Volpe, Medi Ann. Rethinking Christian Identity: Doctrine and Discipleship. Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, 2013
  • Webster, John and Schner, George P. (eds). Theology After Liberalism: A Reader. Oxford: Blackwell, 2000.


Type Description Word count Weight (%)
Tutorial Paper/Seminar Paper

TUTORIAL JOURNAL: 1500 words of tutorial reflections

0 25.0

RESEARCH ESSAY: 3000 word essay on the content and function of designated Christian doctrine

0 50.0
Project Report or Project Journal

PROJECT: 1500 word study of the doctrines shaping the life of a particular Christian community.

0 25.0

Unit approved for the University of Divinity by John Capper on 19 Oct, 2017

Unit record last updated: 2019-04-26 15:51:11 +1000