"Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity.
We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity. An Age of Religious Pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
"Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world." - Todd Littleton
"I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see." - Anon
"Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all." - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
"Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be." - Kurt Vonnegut
"Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals." - Jim Forest
"People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone." - Anon
"... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all." - R.E. Slater
"An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst." - R.E. Slater
"Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics." - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
"Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated." - Emil Brunner
"Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh" means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Emergent Spectrum of Evangelicalism


Below I have provided a copy of Baker's Book review of the book, The Spectrum of Evangelicalism. One of its authors, Dr. Roger Olson, whom we follow regularly on this site, was a contributor and had notated the absence of an important evangelical position missing in this book, that of paleo-orthodoxy, which he then further explains below in two subsequent articles here copied and wishes that it would have been included. For without it there is a serious gap in the completeness of understanding what evangelicalism is, a completeness that the book misses.

To that observation I would add a sixth, crucial, evangelical view that is also missing... that of Emergent Christianity, which may at first seem more akin to Dr. Olson's post-conservative moniker but is fast outgrowing the old wineskin's of Evangelicalism's theologic boundary markers and ideological sets of containment. Thus stretching it beyond its breaking point with the new wines of its promise from its earlier days of infancy and forwarned by Christ. Let me explain....

Where once the Emergent Church movement was evangelically birthed and considered the unwanted step-child of Evangelicalism (consider its missing chapter in this most recent book), it has now gained a more rapid series of expansion in the hearts and minds of its adherents seeking for a more serious, more rounded form of fellowship that is less restrictive, less dogmatic, less vocal in its evangelical assurances of the faith. To the point of breaking ranks with Evangelicalism altogether by pushing back beyond its defining Reformational theologies begun 500 years ago unto the Early Church era itself. Rebirthing itself as it goes into the studied awareness and conviction of expanding without limit God's Word to all of mankind who are now shunned by Evangelicalism's off-setting dogmas and traditions that go beyond "Jesus as Savior and Lord" beliefs. Causing the Emergent movement to become no longer known as an outgrowth from Evangelicalism but a different kind of movement altogether. Hopefully one more biblical in its diversity and less reliant on dogmatic Christian traditions.

And though at first it felt like a movement that was pushing itself between Protestantism, on the one hand, and Roman Catholicism on the other, declaring itself as an alternative-form of Protestantism more akin to Anabaptism. Now, in reflection, this observation seems to be both inaccurate and not far reaching enough.  Rather, it seems more true that Emergent Christianity is more than a simple outgrowth from modernistic Evangelicalism. More than a movement of believers wishing to delineate themselves from select Reformational Calvinisms and Reformed doctrines (where and when those dogmas remove the Church from careful biblical scholarship and observance). Wishing to reach even further back, reaching all the way beyond the Reformation 500 years ago, beyond pre-Reformational medieval scholarship of a 1000 years ago, beyond even the careful councils of the Early Church Fathers, to the very historic era of the early church itself 2000 years ago. To hear afresh the Word of God in its native constructs and propositions rather than adhering to a set of denominational (and cultural) distinctives and theologies far removed from the Bible's historical settings (cf. sidebar "Pauline Theology").

Statedly, all of biblical scholarship from all over the world - in its universities and seminaries, in its churches and fellowships - is seeking to hear the Bible in its original compositions through newer post-Enlightenment discoveries about ourselves, our epistemologies and philosophies, our form of symbolic communications and forensic language development, our reasoning and psychological makeup, our forms of societal constitutions and conventions. Bringing to bear all the tools of accumulated knowledge at our disposal, amassed over the past many hundreds of years, to create a more complete, a more accurate reflection upon who God is in his cosmogony, who we are in our societies, and what our future can look like when less divided by a multitude of restrictive customs and heritages.

So that Emergent Christianity is not so much a fifth (or even a sixth) view of Evangelicalism but a completely new outgrowth from the pedantic isolationisms of Evangelicalism in its Westernized form unto a new entity globally birthed unformed and pregnant with possibilities. Something which may set a new pace for the entire spectrum of Christianity - whether Protestant, Catholic, Eastern Orthodoxy, etc., - in its promise that all religious barriers may be removed in light of a rigorous desire to return to the Scriptures themselves (sola scriptura). Where the only barriers that could refuse it would be religious fear, uncertainty and pride; denominational money, media and fiefdom; and personal greed, avarice and deceit.

Where, in the process of collaboration and unity, individualism is retained, cultural identity applauded, diversity openly regarded. Where the Church may become strong within the fractals of its faith fellowships; within its very-necessary chaotic quantum environments; and, within its infinite colours and compositions. Swirling around as one living organism complete within its spectrums of regional diversities. The Church is not a call to conform, to blend in, to leaven our institutional and belief structures, but to communicate better with one another, to listen and share our faiths with one another in a richer tapestry of fellowship that only the human spirit can bear out. We are not seeking evangelic, denomination unity but a unity of spirit bent on preserving the varieties of biblical (not cultic) faith-expressions flowing from the Church's ancient Christological heritage unto the wider spectrum of global mankind. In short, diversity is God's gift to us and we should praise Him for it.

And within this evolutionary birthing process, perhaps be more able to reach-out and bring-in those non-Christian, monotheistic religions of Judaism and Muslimism which stand alongside the fold of God's divine flock. For Jesus is both prophet and significant historical personage to both these Eastern religions. And through the promise of Emergent Christianity's broader scope and sense of God's salvation to all men, in all times and places, the barriers to reaching these belief systems seem more possible, more sure. For the focus is on Jesus, the Good Shepherd of man, the Holy Lamb of God, the Incarnate One who makes covenant and by His own covenant cuts it by His blood. Who would be King and Lord, Alpha and Omega, and not simply a historical personage some consider but mere prophet or revolutionary. In Him is the distillation of the Ten Commandments. In Him does Israel find its exilic summation, its exilic rebirth, its flesh-and-blood Messiah who bears the sins of the nation.

And not only Israel, but all nations, be that blood brothers, or half-brothers, or brothers at enmity with one another. Specifically, Islam. In Jesus is there found Peace. For He Himself is that Peace of the New Covenant made with all men; that removes enmity between men and God, between men with each other, and men with themselves, their families and their friends. Jesus is THE Peace Covenant and this is the message of Emergent Christianity and the promise of its message.

...At least that is the promise in light of Inauguration Eschatology's New Testament hope of seeing the Kingdom of God renewed and restored among men. It is a legitimate promise, until that Day when Christ shall come fully in his Parousia. For it is not a day that can come apart from Christ's return lest in its coming man may deceive himself and rise up and call himself g/od almighty to discover himself prophetically within the early days of Revelation so declared.

The Church is not called to remake another temple of Babel in its own image. But it does mean that we can begin to hear God in his Word and seek his holy Being until that Day when in a shout of triumph Christ Jesus shall descend over the kingdoms and fiefdoms of mankind, and bring all men to His final peace. To rule in the hearts and minds of all men everywhere committed to a renewed earth where sin and death have been cast into the fiery lake and His glory and presence rules forth forever more. Amen and Amen.

This then would be the true spectrum of Christianity: one without boundaries and barriers, stateless and universal, color-blind, gender-neutral, disavowing all human limitations to its mission and charter.

RE Slater
September 29, 2011

**********

“Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism”

Baker Book House
September 23, 2011

Yesterday we received our first copies of the latest multiple-views book from Zondervan. It is the Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism. The contributors and positions are:

Kevin T. Bauder – Fundamentalism

R. Albert Mohler – Confessional Evangelicalism

John G. Stackhouse – Generic Evangelical

Roger Olson – Postconservative Evangelical

It may appear there is quite a spectrum but Roger Olson has said on his blog that he feels the positions between Bauder and Mohler Stackhouse. With those observations aside he believes the “book is very good as it is.”

As I scanned through it quickly I was struck by Bauder’s comments on Roman Catholicism. He writes:
“Fundamentalists believe that Roman Catholicism also denies the gospel. Catholicism attacks the gospel in at least two ways. First, it undercuts biblical authority by subjecting the Scriptures to an authoritative tradition and magisterium, not to mention an infallible papacy. Second, by confounding justification with progressive sanctification, it attacks the root of a gracious gospel and denies that salvation can be applied through faith alone. The result is a system of religion that mixes faith with works in the application of salvation.

Granted, Roman Catholicism, unlike Arianism or Mormonism, affirms Trinitarian orthodoxy. The Roman gospel, however is false. Catholicism represents an apostate, rather than a Christian, system of religion. Christians cannot rightly extend Christian recognition or fellowship to those who endorse and proclaim the Roman Catholic gospel.” (31-32)
Readers of this blog know how much I have learned and enjoy reading Catholic scholars. This kind of fundamentalism is hard to understand yet I encountered it first hand this week. I had a customer remark that he was just about to buy a book on exegesis but then he noticed the author taught at a Catholic seminary. He said to me, “Catholics are wrong on so much what could they possibly teach us about exegesis? Clearly their exegesis is wrong.” He didn’t purchase the book. I offered a couple of thoughts which he simply brushed aside as mindless gibberish.

I look forward to reading this book. I was once very comfortable with calling myself an Evangelical. I’m wondering if I’ll still be as comfortable after finishing the book.

Four Views on The Spectrum of Evangelicalism is from Zondervan. It is a paperback with 224 pages and sells for $16.99.

**********

Announcement of a new book on evangelicalism
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2011/09/announcement-of-a-new-book-on-evangelicalism/

by Roger Olson
September 4, 2011

It’s just out: Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism published by Zondervan. Edited by Andrew David Naselli and Collin Hansen in the series Counterpoints edited by Stanley Gundry. The authors of the four views are:

Kevin T. Bauder (Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Minneapolis)

R. Albert Mohler, Jr. (Southern Baptist Theological Seminary)

John G. Stackhouse, Jr. (Regents College)

Roger E. Olson (Baylor University)

Bauder writes on Fundamentalism; Mohler writes on Confessional Evangelicalism; Stackhouse writes on Generic Evangelicalism; Olson writes on Postconservative Evangelicalism. Each author responds to the others.

Fireworks.

After participating in this project for the past two years and now reading the entire book (including all the responses) I can only say that this book proves there is no one “evangelicalism.” The continental divide is between Bauder and Mohler, on the one hand, and Stackhouse and Olson, on the other hand.

Yes, of course, there are differences between Bauder (who represents separatistic fundamentalism) and Mohler (who does not push “biblical separationism” as strongly as Bauder). But overall and in general, Bauder and Mohler represent a narrow, exclusivistic brand of evangelicalism that highlights correct doctrine as the essence of what it means to be evangelical.

Stackhouse and I find it difficult to locate our differences. I’m sure we have them, but like Bauder and Mohler, it’s somewhat difficult to see how our visions of evangelicalism are very different. I’m sure John thinks of himself as more conservative than I, but I don’t really think so. I’m pretty conservative; I just don’t think you have to be as conservative as I am (e.g., premillennial) to be an evangelical. John’s evangelical “tent” is just as broad as mine, so far as I can tell.

My biggest complaint is that Mohler just doesn’t get it. And I can’t for the life of me figure out why. He continues to insist that evangelicalism has boundaries. Really? Who sets them? Oh, of course, he does! (Excuse the sarcasm.) He refuses to acknowledge the obvious fact that evangelicalism is a movement and movements CANNOT have boundaries. Yes, of course, we can talk about who’s “in” and who’s “out,” but not in terms of firm, recognizable boundaries. Without a magisterium there cannot be boundaries. All we can do is appeal to the historical center of common conviction and experience and ask whether a person is moving away from it or towards it. I fear if Mohler has his way evangelicalism will be narrowed down to people who believe in a literal six day creation (twenty-four hour days) about six thousand years ago. (Oh, and of course, people who don’t practice yoga in any form!)

This book demonstrates quite conclusively that there are now at least two evangelicalisms (in terms of theology). They are separated by:

1) whether or not biblical inerrancy is necessary for authentic evangelical faith (which even Carl Henry denied!),

2) whether a foundationalist epistemology is necessary for authentic evangelical theology (there would go Calvin!),

3) whether theology’s constructive task is ever ongoing until Christ returns (I might mention here an excellent article by Mohler’s associate dean Bruce Ware in JETS some years ago arguing for a revision of the traditional idea of God’s immutability [but apparently that kind of creative thinking isn't allowed others]) and,

4) whether doctrine or experience (conversional piety) is the sine qua non of authentic evangelical faith and life.

Buy the book. Read it. Decide which evangelicalism you belong to. I don’t think it’s possible to belong to both and I don’t see any middle ground between them.

NOTICE! I am not arguing that Bauder and Mohler and their ilk are not evangelicals! I’m arguing that, demonstrably, there are now two evangelicalisms (at least). Bauder and Mohler and those who agree with them are evangelicals–just of a different kind. John and I are evangelicals of a different order (I won’t even say “higher”). All of us (both types) can trace historical, theological and sociological roots back to the Reformation. But apparently we can’t get along. How sad.

**********

A final comment on Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2011/09/a-final-comment-on-four-views-on-the-spectrum-of-evangelicalism/

by Roger Olson
September 19, 2011

Quick review: Zondervan has just published an excellent new book entitled Four Views on the Spectrum of Evangelicalism edited by Andy Nasselli and Collin Hansen. The four authors are:

Kevin Bauder (fundamentalism)

Al Mohler (confessional evangelicalism)

John Stackhouse (generic evangelicalism)

Roger Olson (postconservative evangelicalism)

I hope you will purchase the book and read it; it reveals much about the current state of evangelicalism in America.

Long before the book was written, my editor at Zondervan contacted me about the idea. I gave her some advice and later gave the same advice to the editors. I think the final product is fine, but I think it could be better had they taken my advice.

My advice was to include a chapter by an evangelical proponent of paleo-orthodoxy. Here I use that term to describe theologians such as Thomas Oden (who, I think, coined the term), D. H. Williams and Christopher Hall–all men I highly respect even thought we have our differences of opinion about authority for theology.

Personally, I think their perspective is better called “confessional evangelicalism” than Mohler’s. At least it is different and I think leaving their view of evangelicalism out of the book was a mistake. (However, I admit that it’s possible they asked one or more of these paleo-orthodox theologians to contribute and they declined. So I’m not criticizing the editors or publisher; I’m just saying the book lacks a perspective that I think is a very powerful one among evangelicals today.)

I think Bauder’s view and Mohler’s are too much alike to really represent fundamentally different approaches to defining evangelicalism. I think the same of Stackhouse’s and mine (with apologies to John if he disagrees!). IF you want to fill in the gap, read one of Dan (D. H.) Williams’ books on tradition. Then read my critique of his approach (and Oden’s) in "Reformed and Always Reforming (by Roger Olson)."

Williams, Oden, Hall and company wish to point evangelicals to the ancient Christian consensus as an authority for belief. (I could mention the late Robert Webber as a proponent of this approach as well.) These evangelical theologians think contemporary evangelicalism is doctrinally and liturgically shallow and needs enrichment from the church fathers. For them, this is more than a mere suggestion (as it would be from me). They treat the ancient Christian consensus as THE authoritative lens through which Scripture must be interpreted. For them, we have no right to read Scripture apart from that.

One thing these traditionalists (I use that term in a neutral or positive and not a negative sense) have in common with Mohler is appeal to tradition as authoritative. But the difference is that for Mohler the authoritative tradition is a received evangelical tradition stemming mainly from the Reformation.

The paleo-orthodox theologians reach further back to the church fathers and like to argue that the mainline Protestant (read “magisterial”) reformers did not fundamentally disagree with the church fathers and even relied heavily on them (especially Augustine).

Now, both Mohler and company and the paleo-orthodox theologians seem to me to agree that the constructive task of theology is finished. All that remains is to express the tradition in ways that make it relevant to contemporary culture without in any way accommodating it to contemporary culture. I argue that in matters of theological controversy among evangelicals tradition gets a vote but never a veto. I think they give it a veto.

However, there is a richness and depth to Oden’s, Williams’, Hall’s and Webber’s approach to evangelical theology that I find missing in Mohler’s. Mohler seems to me to be a simple biblicist who interprets the Bible through the lens of, say, Charles Hodge (and his student Boyce who founded SBTS and wrote its Abstract of Principles). The paleo-orthodox traditionalists, on the other hand, plumb the depths and riches of the ancient church fathers and bring those riches to us today. The only area where I disagree with them is the level of authority they invest in them.

One thing that bothers me about these paleo-orthodox evangelicals is a certain inconsistency that I think I recognize in them. For example, in my reading of Augustine’s theology (e.g., his doctrine of predestination), it departs radically from anything that went before. When did the constructive task of theology end? Some would say with the seventh or eighth ecumenical council. But why? That seems so arbitrary. The magisterial reformers seemed to end it with the Council of Chalcedon (the fourth ecumenical council).

I regard the church fathers as guides rather than guards (e.g., of a chain gang).

Anyway, the book is very good as it is, but I think it would be better with a chapter by one of these paleo-orthodox evangelicals. But then it would be “Five Views” and maybe that’s too many for most people; it might hurt sales of the book. If I were given the opportunity to change it, I would combine Bauder’s and Mohler’s chapters into one and add a chapter by Williams.

**********

September 28, 2011 at 11:00 am
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2011/09/a-final-comment-on-four-views-on-the-spectrum-of-evangelicalism/#comments

Russ says,

[Dr Olson,] I love your humor! Thanks for the insights. One question I have is over something I recently read… It relates to Sanders, Dunn, Wright’s discussions on the New Perspectives of Paul (NPP) vs. the Reformational Church’s apprehension of Augustine by Lutheran and Reformed theologians who saw Paul in legal justification terms. When comparing the two (one a biblical approach, the other a Church Fathers approach) it seemed to me that Augustine’s understanding of the New Covenant (NC) in Christ was hijacked by the Reformers. That is, his doctrines of grace and love were re-interpreted into doctrines of sin and depravity. That the NC was extrapolated into terms of man first, not God first… so that it bent all previous theistic interpretations (such as Augustine's) of the NC into terms of anthropology and harmatology. And thus words like election and foreordination are revised away from their covenantal understanding to a soteriological understanding. And it seemed that this all began for the Reformers from their revisionism of Augustine’s conceptions of God’s love to man.

As reference, see Scot McKnight’s review in vanguard under Section V (Augustinian Anthropology and Criticism of New Perspective) – http://www.vanguardchurch.com/mcknight_npp.pdf. If correct, I found this early example of paleo-Orthodox revisionism by the early Reformational Fathers quite formative in their impact on Church History over the last 500 years. Which gives subsequent need for theologians to examine the original biblical texts through early extant Jewish sources (and other tools) to re-right popular mis-understandings of the “Gospel of Paul” as presented by the evangelical church today, as is being done through the NPP. Thanks.




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