Friday, December 21, 2007

Renewing the Center

I just finished reading Stanley Grenz' Renewing the Center this past week. Grenz traces the roots of Evangelicalism and then shows the trajectory of (neo)evangelicalism since then in two streams. In my own words I would call these theologians in the two different lines:

1. Protectors (of what they believe to be apparent orthodoxy, typically spending time trying to establish boundaries)
1st Generation - Carl F.H. Henry
2nd Generation - Millard Erickson
3rd Generation - Wayne Grudem

2. Pioneers (those who wish to explore the countryside inside the boundaries in following the example of the reformers)
1st Generation - Bernard Ramm
2nd Generation - Clark Pinnock
3rd Generation - John Sanders

I love the fact that Grenz does not polarize or belittle either of the two streams within evangelicalism. He is able to critique and examine both streams thoughtfully engaging with their primary works and shows how all of these men had/have a passion for engaging the times in which they live. Grenz ends with a call for (using Hans Frei's phrase) a generous orthodoxy (which Mclaren picked up and ran with) within evangelicalism instead of constantly trying to define evangelical orthodoxy in fundamentalist terms. Evangelicalism is a broad and diverse group of thinkers and theologians where there is room to think, to change, and to challenge traditional understandings. The boundaries are large and there is plenty of room for diversity theologically. That is why even Clark Pinnock who is an open theist, annihilationist, and an inclusivist can still be a part of the Evangelical Theological Society! I disagree with all three of those things, but he is still a brother in Christ. This was a good reminder that Clark's theology is not what saves him, nor even is his understanding of the atonement what saves him, but it is Jesus Christ who saves him.

I also love the fact that Grenz has such a strong ecclesiology. Theology serves the church.

"...the goal of doctrinal formulation is to facilitate both conversion and the pursuit of the convertive life. In short theology is a second-order conversation that seeks to serve the mission of the church, which is understood as a people who proclaim and live out the biblical narrative of God's saving action in Christ through the Spirit."

Going even further Grenz states, "The goal of reading the text, therefore, is to hear the Spirit's voice and to be formed into that community. Consequently, reading the text is a community event." Then he quotes Walter Klaasen, "The text can be properly understood only when disciples are gathered together to discover what the Word has to say to their needs and concerns."

Quoting James McClendon, "Theology is always theology of the community, not just of the individual Christian."

Do you agree with McClendon's statement?


Rick said...

so you disagree with Pinnock on all 3? I did not know you were so orthodox (or, are you worried someone from seminary may read?).


Rick said...

do you respond?

Dustin said...

sorry, yes, I respond. I doubt anyone at the Seminary reads this! that's funny though.

I definitely disagree with open theism. After reading Sanders and Pinnock I feel like they have to stretch SOOOOO far to get where they are at biblically.

As far as the other two I am open to the possibility. I really want to be an inclusivist (as I hope we all do) but I'm having a hard time finding a justification for that belief biblically but would like to continue reading about it.

After reading the "Four Views on Hell" book, that one is up for grabs. I go back and forth depending on my mood :)

Rick said...

I am in agreement in many ways with you on this. I am not an open theist. Although I think it is an honest attempt to think about a subject which the normal reformed (or calvinist) theological answers are lacking.

I find myself in disagreement on both sides of this issue (at least the ones with loud voices).

On hell, I find the traditional understanding on tenuous ground biblically, especially once we understand the historical context of the word and image.

I find annihilationism at least as Biblical as the traditional view, while both leave me cold. A friend of mine (and good theologian) believes that the important thing is that we have a belief in the possibility of a negative eternity. If we believe in that, we have an orthodox understanding.

Guess what. I am in between on the exclusivism/ inclusivism argument also. i am not interested in boxing in God by saying it must be this way. He can do whatever he wants. I feel my view is of a bigger God than the traditional exclusivist stance (is that not arrogant of me?).

Of course, I am trying to describe some very nuanced positions I have in a very short comment, which is also dangerous (personally that is why I think people like McLaren get themselves into trouble). Luckily noone cares what I bbelieve.