Reformed and Always Reforming

Scot McKnight has begun a new series of reflections on Roger Olson’s new book, Reformed and Always Reforming. He summarises Olson’s list of 10 common tendencies among conservative evangelicals:

1. Tendency to treat correct doctrine as the essence of authentic Christianity.
2. Tendency to treat revelation as primarily propositional.
3. Tendency to elevate some tradition to the status of a magisterium. This closes off fresh study and theology.
4. Tendency to be suspicious of constructive theology and to be defensive and to patrol evangelical borders.
5. Tendency to see evangelicalism as a bounded set instead of a centered set.
6. Tendency to see the “evangelical tent” as a “small” tent. (Here he brings up inerrancy as one defining line.)
7. Tendency to be suspicious of modernity and postmodernity, even if many postconservatives think they are caught up in modernity too much. Doctrinal pluralism is a threat and here he uses Carson as an example in his The Gagging of God.
8. Tendency to think their theology is uninfluenced by history and culture. They look for the transcultural and see it as permanent.
9. Tendency to remain close to the fundamentalist roots. Many, Olson argues, are moving toward fundamentalism. He says, “I admit this is a matter of opinion.”
10. Tendency to do theology in the grip of the fear of liberal theology.

This is a helpful list. What else could we add?

1. Its rampant individualism.

2. (In Britain at least), its preferencing of penal substitutionary accounts of the atonement at the practical expense of all other truths about God’s atoning work. (I have posted on this here).

3. Consider Bloesch’s critique: ‘I believe that modern evangelicalism is hampered by being pre-critical, pre-Kantian and pre-Barthian. Helmut Thielicke refers to a Cartesian way of doing theology, in which the credibility of theology is made to rest on rational consistency and clarity of ideas rather than fidelity to biblical revelation’. – Donald Bloesch, “Donald Bloesch Responds,” in Evangelical Theology in Transition: Theologians in Dialogue with Donald Bloesch (Downers Grove: IVP, 1999), 189.

But it’s also quite a negative list. Is there nothing positive that can and ought be said about conservative evangelicals?

What else could we add?

One comment

  1. Blimey – QUITE a negative list? It is a completely negative list! Of course there is much positive to be said about conservative evangelicals! For a start, the assumption from Olsen is that these tendencies are all problematic. Is this really the case? well, the way he puts them, it is hard to see how not. And yet, I would argue that not cravenly capitulating to fads in cultural and sociological studies is not such a bad thing!

    It seems to me that this kind of protest has reached the level of a pathology in some quarters. If the dogs aren’t howlin’, we aren’t throwning the stones in the right places, as they say.


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