On E.A. Litton’s Introduction to Dogmatic Theology

E.A. Litton opens his preface to Introduction to Dogmatic Theology by noting that it was written after an Anglican bishop complained, in 1867, that there was as of yet no account of dogmatic theology “from an English pen.” It’s quite startling to imagine that 150 years ago nothing like this little book existed in English, especially when one takes a look at the great number of systematic theologies published since then, with more being added every year.

But Litton’s work is interesting in its own right as a work of theology, not merely as an artifact.

It was written at a critical moment in the history of the Church of England, and by extension the English speaking churches more broadly. John Henry Newman, a towering figure in the English church and the most articulate and prominent champion of the Oxford movement (which advocated high church, Anglo-Catholic worship and doctrine), had left the Church of England and become a Roman Catholic—a cardinal no less!

Litton’s Introduction to Dogmatic Theology was written very much in light of this, and he is writing self-consciously as a Reformational Anglican. He sees the English church as a child of the Reformation, as his Dogmatics shows throughout. It is written, as he says, “on the basis of the Thirty-nine Articles.” Even though it is written along a typical systematic structure, the whole book reflects these standards.

Litton draws on luminaries of the Anglican tradition such as John Jewel and Richard Hooker, but also frequently engages the Church Fathers, medieval theologians, and contemporaries from Europe. Especially interesting are his interactions with the Reformed scholastic tradition, with which he was masterfully acquainted.

Despite being almost 150 years old, Litton’s work is written with such clarity and concision (and occasional wit) that it still reads very well today. Readers will find themselves turning back to Litton for clear accounts of key doctrines. In fact, it was because we kept returning to our worn, old copy in the office that Lexham Press decided to bring it back to print.

I hope you’ll find it as helpful as we have.

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Explore Anglican theology with E.A. Litton’s classic work, Introduction to Dogmatic Theology, newly reprinted by Lexham Press.

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