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Posted for your reading pleasure by Jim West at his Zwinglius Redivivus blog.
Evangelicalism has been a problematic term for a long time. It seems to evade all attempts to define it, at least over the last few decades. Part of the problem is that there are, in fact, several different “evangelicalisms.” Scot McKnight highlights a few, bouncing ideas off of Kenneth J. Stewart’s In Search of Ancient Roots: The Christian Past and the Evangelical Identity Crisis. McKnight suggests there are at least four kinds of evangelical:
- Pragmatic. (He sees this as characteristic of megachurches.)
- Belligerent. (Also known as fundamentalist.)
- Politicized. (McKnight’s category, not Stewart’s. Obviously very prevalent in the US these days.)
- Historic. (Rooted to the Great Awakening[s], the Reformation, and even earlier expressions of Christianity.)
This reminds me of a spiel I did years ago when I taught church history and proposed a typology of “Conservative Resurgences.” (I specifically chose the term “conservative resurgence” for reasons that may be obvious to anybody who was a Southern Baptist in the 1980s and 1990s.) I may have to see if I still have those notes.
So, have you left evangelicalism? Have you left one or more of McKnight’s categories but held firm to another?
Doug Chaplin has the hosting honors this month. Go visit his blog and see what’s worth reading about in biblical studies!
Scot McKnight is working through Stephen Chester’s Reading Paul with the Reformers at his JesusCreed blog. (Here’s part 1; here’s part 2.) In today’s blog post, he interacts in some detail with a passage from Chester that takes issue with the New Perspective’s assertion that the Reformers missed Paul’s point about justification by faith. I’m not sure that all NP supporters would agree that the Reformers were wrong so much as they placed the emphasis in the wrong place, but others are certainly deeper into this debate than I am. McKnight summarizes Chester’s questions thusly:
Chester begins with Luther and Erasmus and more importantly uses them for the hermeneutical dichotomy they created: Should we do “theological interpretation” (Luther) or historical critical work (Erasmus), and is the Bible clear in all it says (Luther) but difficult at times (Erasmus), and does the ambiguity of Scripture create problems (Erasmus) or is it a false approach (Luther)?
Chester elaborates on several key points of disagreement between Luther and Erasmus on the proper interpretation of Scripture. This leads, ultimately, to a threefold criterion for discerning the best interpretations, namely:
The conflict of interpretations is thus best addressed by a mixed hermeneutic. The goal of hearing the Spirit speak through Paul in his texts is served by applying the triple criteria of
and contemporary theological fruitfulness.
McKnight suggests Chester is “doing the newer new perspective, one that appreciates too the Reformers’ reading of Paul.”
Over at JesusCreed, Mitch East is arguing that “Doubt Is Overrated.” He has a point, if you hear him out:
A student in seminary once told me, “In this department, it’s not if you have a faith crisis, but when you have a faith crisis.” At the time, I laughed. He was right plenty of students had faith crises during the program. But since then, his words have stuck with me – but not for good reasons. He sounded proud about it, as if it were a badge of honor. A friend of mine calls this trendy doubt. Someone with trendy doubt rolls his eyes and says, “How cool is that we don’t have silly faith like we used to?” This is the kind of trendy doubt that led me to avoid people’s legitimate questions.
Sometimes, doubt is the only faith posture one can assume. But sometimes—maybe more often than we’re comfortable contemplating—we need to hear Jesus’ gentle rebuke, “O ye of little faith.”
Pete Enns has delineated “5 Modern Insights about the Old Testament that Aren’t Going Anywhere.” They are as follows:
- The Old Testament is an ancient Near Eastern phenomenon
- “Myth” is an inescapable category for describing portions of the Old Testament
- Israelites did not write their history “objectively”
- The Old Testament does not contain one systematic and consistent body of “truth” but various, and even conflicting, perspectives.
- The Old Testament “evolved” over time until it came to its final expression.
Each point is elaborated in just a few paragraphs, which are well worth your time. He concludes, and I concur:
There is much more to the Old Testament than these 5 points, of course. And accepting the Old Testament as scripture doesn’t depend on fully working out these 5 points. In fact, whosoever wishes can safely ignore all of this and move on with their lives of faith. I mean that.
But when we want to dig into why the Bible “behaves” as it does, and especially if we are curious about engaging the Bible on a historical level, these 5 factors simply can’t be brushed aside.
Do read the whole thing.