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Reformed & Always Reforming 2

April 30, 2008

Continuing to read through this book by Roger Olsen. In Chapter 1 he discusses the Postconservative Style of Evangelical Theology. It is the notion of ‘style’, or stance towards theology, is interesting. He summarises the postconservative style thus:

“every evangelical theologian worth his or her salt is deferential towards orthodox doctrine as spelled out in the Great Tradition of Christian belief, the ancient ecumenical doctrinal consensus plus the consensus of the sixteenth-century Reformers. But it is not a closed book or a set of commandments written in stone; orthodoxy is not revelation in itself. Orthodox revelation is the product of human reflection on God’s revelation and therefore open to reconsideration in light of faithful and fresh readings of God’s word.”
pg. 43

He goes on to add a fifth element to Bebbington’s famous four-fold marks of evangelicalism in the form of deference to traditional, basic Christian orthodoxy within a higher commitment to the authority of God’s Word as the norming norm of all faith and practice. He charges that conservative evangelicals like Wells and Carson are both right and wrong at this point. They are right in holding that a strong commitment to correct doctrine matters, but,

they are wrong insofar as they elevate traditional doctrinal orthodoxy to incorrigible status where it is functionally infallible and therefore equal with divine revelation.
pg. 43

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4 Comments
  1. Mitch K permalink

    Great quote, I need to get this book. I’ve been trying to sort some of this out for myself, sounds like he’s doing a much better job! One example of this is the doctrine of scriptural inspiration itself (and maybe he talks about this): it is constructed based on particular readings of particular texts. This is to say, some authoritative body has determined it, not unlike the Catholic Church on transubstantiation. As such, the doctrine of inspiration, at least it seems to me, is ironically the product of “tradition”—the very thing the reformers and many contemporary evangelicals eschew! And somewhat related, if you think about it, aren’t most evangelical doctrines of biblical inspiration a form of supernaturalizing (“God’s Word”) the natural (a book), again, not unlike the transfiguration of the elements in a Catholic Eucharist? Not that there’s anything wrong with it(!) And Catholics actually have a stronger more direct biblical warrant: Jesus himself saying “this is my body”! . . . (And that’s not to say that there aren’t other broader meanings of “God’s Word” that one might affirm, e.g., a neo-orthodox understanding). . . . ok, enough rambling and enough of avoiding the pile of grading. Back to work for me.

  2. Big man! Like the blog…will add it to mine someday!

    Just wanted to wish you all the best for tonight…I want you boys in the final!

    sd

  3. pistolpete permalink

    Sounds like a great read. Thanks for highlighting it.

  4. Interesting post. There are positions that I hold on to and they are theological “hills that I will die on” based on a solid biblical foundation… others, not so much.

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