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Embarking Blog

...on the journey towards restoration of all things

Filtering by Tag: The Other Journal

How Deconstruction Saved My Faith 2

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I was reading an interview with Brian McLaren on his book Everything Must Change from The Other Journal, and I read something in his narrative from the early 90's that is very similar to what I was going through during 1990-1999.  Here is what he says:

[Lost people's] questions re-opened for me something I had encountered a long time ago in graduate school, and that's postmodern philosophy, and this cultural shift from modern to a postmodern culture.  So in the early nineties I started grappling with that shift, and it was really tough... If you want to use a term that comes out of that postmodern world, the word would be deconstruction.  I was undergoing a deconstruction.  Not a deconstruction of my faith as a personal trust in God, but of my theological categories and of my theological methodology.  So that's not an easy thing to go through, but once you do a lot of deconstruction, then you have to start reconstructing or else you end up with nothing but a bunch of fragments.

The difference here for me from McLaren is that I actually discovered a more personal trust in God after the deconstruction of my theological categories and cultural history.  In about 1993, I began the reconstruction even as I continued the process of theological, cultural, and denominational deconstruction.  In fact, I think today I still go through a continual process of deconstructing.  I would prefer to call it reformata et semper reformanda - reformed and always reforming.  And here is the key to so many things right now for me (and for people like Roger Olson, John Franke, Stanley Grenz before he passed, Kevin VanHoozer, Nancey Murphey, LeRon Shults, John Stackhouse Jr., NT Wright, Rob Bell, Scot McKnight and many many more people).  I could probably write a book right now about how so many people in the evangelical world are misunderstanding some new theological and practical movements in the emerging church as heretical, when what these people are honestly trying to do is reform the church according to the Scriptures.  In fact, they're trying to re-read the Scriptures in a way that takes seriously the impact of cultural and theological history upon our reading in good ways and bad.  More on this in a couple follow-up posts to come.


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The Future of Evangelicalism 5

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Here are a couple of famous ways of trying to put define the center of evangelicalism with both clarity, and generosity.  What I mean by that is there is enough clarity as to actually have some definition and now just include everyone, and also some generosity so that it allows for many to call themselves evangelicals if they can at least affirm these central items.  This also doesn't mean that other issues don't matter.  Certainly - there are lost of theological, biblical, cultural, moral, spiritual, and pragmatic (if not more) issues to wrestle through.  But these are attempts to create a kind of definition around our diverse family.  First, David Bebbington (British historian) provides the following hallmarks of evangelicalism which are oft-quoted as a reference point for basic evangelicalism [David Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: a history from the 1730’s to the 1980’s, 1989, pp. 1-19].  To my remembrance, Mark Noll affirms these as well in one of his books (but I couldn't find it recently... so if someone can help there, that'd be great):  

  1. Conversionism, the belief that lives need to be changed
  2. Activism, the expression of the gospel in effort
  3. Biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible
  4. Crucicentrism, a stress on the sacrifice of Christ on the cross

I tend to agree with Allen Yeh when he says, “I think the Lausanne Covenant articulates more fully what David Bebbington was getting at. It holds to Bibliocentrism but defines it. Anyone can say they subscribe to the Bible, and then twist Scripture to suit their agenda. However, the Lausanne Covenant starts with the Bible and shows how social justice, evangelism, and doxology all spring from its pages. It is a holistic theology, it is right theology (orthodoxy) and I think that it is as good a definition of “evangelical” as we have today.”  [The Other Journal, “Toward a Fuller Definition of Evangelical,” November 3, 2006.]

John Stackhouse, Jr. offers these 5 characteristics [John G. Stackhouse, Jr., “Evangelical Theology Should be Evangelical” in Evangelical Futures, 2000, pp. 40-43]:

  1. Evangelicals believe and champion the gospel of God’s work of salvation and particularly as it is focused in the person of Jesus Christ. 
  2. Evangelicals believe and champion the Bible as the uniquely authoritative rendition of God’s word in words to us. 
  3. Evangelicals believe and champion conversion as the correct way to describe God’s work of salvation in each Christian and as a reality to be experienced, not merely affirmed. 
  4. Evangelicals believe and champion mission as the chief goal of Christian life on earth.
  5. Evangelicals believe and champion these four elements of the generic Christian tradition as primary, central, and nonnegotiable, leaving other convictions as secondary and non-essential. 

I would give the following names to Stackhouse's sentences:  Christological, Bible-based, Conversional, Missiological (I prefer missional), and Generously Orthodox.

Kenneth Collins gives the following as what he calls the Four Enduring Emphases of Evangelicalism:

  1. Normative value of Scripture in the Christian Life
  2. Necessity of conversion
  3. Cruciality of the atoning work of Christ as the sole mediator between God and humanity
  4. Imperative of Evangelism

Ok.  Note the similarities?  Especially note how these fit into the documents I noted earlier.  I think these help to approach a center for evangelicalism.


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