Wednesday, November 28, 2012
In essence, Mohler's defense of confessional evangelicalism is indistinct from a more generic yet still orthodox version of evangelicalism. Mohler does an excellent job, as always, of defending evangelicalism against its foes on the left and right. What Mohler fails to do, though, is to offer a compelling apologia for the benefits found in confessional evangelicalism.After lengthy discussion, Strunk then concludes:
So who might have been better qualified to reach back a little further and offer the appropriate defense of confessional evangelicalism? Consider Michael Horton or Timothy Keller. These are just two of the well-known figures who would have been more natural fits to defend confessional evangelicalism than Mohler. Even so, it's not my particular brand of confessional evangelicalism that makes someone a confessional evangelical. I share the same evangelical heritage and convictions that characterized 20th-century evangelicals such as Carl Henry and John Stott and Billy Graham. Indeed, I share the evangelical convictions that inspired George Whitefield and John Wesley.
It's just that I go back even further than that—to the Reformation and, further still, to the creeds from the Patristic era. In other words, confessional evangelicals seek a little more continuity with the past than what a generic evangelical might.
In the final chapter of "The Rise of Evangelicalism," Mark Noll, having recounted the history of the First Great Awakening and its major figures, notes how evangelicalism has never flourished as an intellectual movement. Noll says that one of the major reasons for this has been evangelical insistence on innovation, and a shedding of church tradition and ecclesiology. Intellectualism comes from the past, Noll asserts. But since one of the marks of evangelicalism has been personal conversion and the new birth, evangelicals will attempt all manner of things to reach the lost. The ironic byproduct of a preoccupation with the perils of the present, though, has been a detachment of the things of the past. Discontinuity with the past seems to be traceable to the evangelical origins of the First Great Awakening.
What confessional evangelicals seek, then, is a mix of evangelical core doctrines rooted a little further in the past. As evangelicals, we share a fixed center on the person and Gospel of Jesus Christ. We agree with all those forebears who made the main things the main things. The simple reality is that we also want to recover some of the things that early evangelicals discarded. Because much of that past is still important too.Strunk is kind here in his consideration of all points of view. He is able to do so but framing his discussion in chronology and not in better or best. I understand why he does so, but I think it is problematic.
The question that faces a Christian is not "What is Christianity today?" rather it is "What is Christianity?" History must of necessity have a great deal to say about that. By definition God is immortal and He is good. If He is good, then I can find no compelling reason to think that He would ever change. If God, does not change, then there is no reason to discard what has been said and written about Him in the past. We may build upon it as new tools give us more means of discovery, but discard, never.
In the world of physics, we still tell Newtonian mechanics despite the fact that it has been supplanted theoretically by quantum mechanics. The reason is quite simple. For the majority of real problems one encounters on a daily basis, Newtonian mechanics work better and easier than quantum mechanics does. When it comes to matters of God, the same can be said. We may have new theories and thoughts, but practically speaking, what worked then works now. Chronology is not the issue.
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