We're still in Chapter 3, on the first model (revelation as doctrine). Remember Dulles's criteria of evaluation (see post #3):
1. Faithfulness to the Bible and Christian tradition
2. Internal coherence
4. Adequacy to experience
5. Practical fruitfulness – namely, “sustains moral effort, reinforces Christian commitment, and enhances the corporate life and mission of the Church” (p. 17)
6. Theoretical fruitfulness – humanly satisfying in the quest for religious understanding, and thus be of assistance for theology more broadly
7. Value for dialogue
Starting on p. 46, Dulles offers his evaluation of this model. First, its strengths: "The propositional model stands up well in terms of its faithfulness to tradition, its internal coherence, and its practical advantages..."
Faithfulness to Tradition: If revelation is in the form of doctrinal propositions, then these doctrinal propositions can be received immediately into Tradition, and preserved and passed on without having constantly to reinterpret and rephrase things. A good example of this would be Trinitarian and Christological formulae. Having been hashed out in finest detail once, and all the pieces and foundations of these formulae having been located in revealed Scripture, we don't need to redo any of that fight.
Internal Coherence: "Once the premises are granted, the whole theory follows with a certain inevitability. This, in turn, makes for a measure of theoretical fruitfulness. The propositional model provides firm doctrinal standards, so that the orthodoxy and heterodoxy of theological opinions can be measured..." (p. 46).
Practical advantages: A simple and useable theological method derives directly from this model. "Theology, then, has the task of systematizing the data of revelation, defending them against adversaries, and spelling out their logical implications." (p. 47). Even if one claims that theology may also do other things, these tasks are necessary as part of our response to revelation.
Moreover, "Among the more striking advantages of this model are its practical fruitfulness for the unity and growth of the Church." (p. 47). This would include loyalty to Scripture and Tradition, and clarity of and solidarity in identity and mission.
He then lists these weaknesses of this model:
"The Bible, in this approach, is viewed principally as a collection of propositions, each of which can be taken by itself as a divine assertion." (p. 48). And, "...every declarative sentence in the Bible, unless the contrary can be shown from the context, is to be taken as expressing a revealed truth." (p. 48-9). Both of these are true in a sense, but not absolutely. Some doctrines are revealed propositionally and immediately in Scripture (e.g., the sanctity of human life, in the Ten Commandments); some are revealed symbolically and must therefore be derived exegetically, which this model, as a pure type, does less well. Again, the quality of revealed truth in each sentence in Scripture must exist, unless we think that God can lie to us; but the nature of that truth is not identical from sentence to sentence. (This is sometimes referred to as the "four levels" of truth in Scripture.) These nuances are not contradicted by this model, but something must be added to the model to understand this in the way the Church asks us to.
Another weakness is adduced in the historicism of the day. If conciliar and magisterial statements of dogma are merely historical and not universal truths, then their foundation in Scripture may not be universal either. (You won't be surprised to know that I reject this sort of hyper-historicism root and branch, for very good epistemological reasons that are probably too complicated to deal with here.)
Another weakness is its "inadequacy to experience" (p. 50-1). It demands assent to explicit propositions and to past definitions, "irrespective of whether they actually illuminate the believer's own situation." (p. 51). To this it must be noted that this model, and its fruits, have certainly illuminated believers' situations, both in the past and in the present; and that the possibility of universal truth, as claimed, is not precluded by examples of weak or failed faith. To be fair, the other possibility needs to be considered objectively, also.
"Finally, it must be mentioned that the doctrinal understanding of revelation has not shown itself favorable to dialogue with other churches and religions." (p. 51). Again, this is true in one sense: if such doctrines are true, then their opposites cannot be, and those who adhere to the opposites are objectively in error. But, if one accepts that something in revelation is true, one can then pursue it in dialogue; while if one accepts that nothing is universally true in revelation, no dialogue is even possible.
Summary: On criteria # 1, 2, 5, and 6, this model is strong or very strong. On criteria # 4, this model is weak. On criteria # 3 and 7, this model gets mixed review, depending on other presuppositions. Dulles concludes with this final caveat: "In this chapter we have taken as a target a rather rigid form [what I called above a "pure type"] of the propositional model. In showing the shortcomings of this style of theology we should not be taken as implying that God's revelation is devoid of cognitive value or that the clear teachings of Scripture and the creeds are without grounds in revelation." (p. 52). To be revelation to us, at least some part of it must be graspable and expressible by our human intellects, in human language.