Thursday, April 9, 2009

Are you a Post-Conservative Evangelical?

Do you believe that Scripture's primary purpose is to ignite transformation over and above providing information? Do you believe the Bible is more about performing speech-acts (to be performed over and over again) than communicating truth-sets (to be defended against heresy)? Would you still accept someone into the Christian family based primarily on his/her Spirit-inspired relationship with God (as opposed to his/her adherence to selected creeds)? 

Do you find something wrong with equating the essence of Christianity in timeless doctrines and propositions? Would you agree that orthodoxy (right thinking) is important without becoming a litmus test of true faith and not as important as orthopraxy (right living) and orthopathy (right experience)?

Do you believe that the traditional creeds deserve a vote, but not a veto in theology? Would you be willing to accept corrections to the creeds if these corrections can be shown to be Scriptural? Do you feel there's something not very right if the creeds are treated as immutable, unchangeable, all-authoritative and almost on a par with Scripture itself?

Do you believe the task of theological reconstruction is an never-ending process and that it ought never to be complete once and for all? Do you generally favour and welcome theological innovation/creativity, as long as it's done with Scripture as the 'norming norm'? Does theology as 'pilgrimage' and 'faithful dramatic performance' resonate with you? Do you work well with ambiguity and believe it represents an opportunity to learn and construct more?

Do you believe that evangelicalism is a centered-set movement, as opposed to a boundary-set organisation? Do you believe that being an 'evangelical' is more like being an 'Asian' (with fuzz boundaries) than like being a 'Malaysian' (where a national ID card will suffice as a definition)? Do you believe that a pre-occupation with who's "In" or "Out" is unhealthy?

Are you open to and appreciative of the works of Clark Pinnock, Stanley Grenz, Kevin Vanhoozer, LeRon Shultz, Gregory Boyd, Brian McLaren, etc. trusting that they have important value to add to the theological task?

If you can answer Yes to even a third of the questions here, then you'll probably like Olson's book because you'll fit well into the category of post-conservative evangelical theology and theologians he's promoting.

But if you've been shaking your head (and clicking your tongue) throughout this post, you'll find Olson's book distasteful, not least because it implies that you (and those who inspire your way of thinking, e.g. D.A. Carson, John Piper, D.H. Williams, Millard Erickson, etc.) have missed the point about the Christian faith and story and have, in fact, done some harm by continually attacking anyone and everyone who doesn't agree that evangelicalism (let alone Christianity) should be characterised by an absolute fixed set of doctrinal propositions.

For those who feel that theological thinking is synonymous with heresy-hunting and restating traditional propositions, this book would be prepped for the trash heap, because to appreciate this book requires you to enter the mindset of theological innovators and narrative-thinkers who sees greater value in construction as opposed to criticism.

This is surely too heavy a price to be always reforming. Remaining Reformed would, in this case, be a no-brainer.


Alex Tang said...

This sounds like an interesting book to read.

Why will "[r]emaining Reformed would, in this case, be a no-brainer"? Please clarify :)

Alwyn said...

it means: if the price is too heavy, then easier to remain Reformed i.e. it's a no-brainer decision?

Alex Tang said...

Hmm. I see what you mean. However, a true Reformed stand is never static (reformed and always reforming). If it is static, then it is no longer the Reformed stand. Thus many people who claimed to belong to the Reformed tradition are actually never in it.

I have been thinking about the title of the book. Maybe it should be better entitled "Are you a Post-conservative Post-evangelical Evangelical?"

alwyn said...

That sounds exactly like the point(s) Olson makes: That many conservative theologians cannot accept rethinking, theological construction or anything at all new.

I'm not sure, though, that he'd be cool about the title change, as he still believes the movement he's speaking about remains 100% 'evangelical' (and in fact semi-chides the author of that book, "The Post-Evangelicals" for moving away from evangelicalism).

Of course, this is yet one of critical battle-grounds: the very defn of being an evangelical.