Chapter Ten – The Culture Clash………………..200
Chapter Eleven – Preaching to this Culture…….227
The Culture Clash
The God who made the world and everything in it is the
Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples made with
hands. And he is not served by human hands as if he needed
anything, because he himself gives men life and breath and
everything else… For in him we live and move and have our being.
As some of your own poets have said; ‘We are his offspring.
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar. Where is
the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the
wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the
world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased
through the foolishness of what was preached to save those
who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look
for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block
to the Jews and foolishness to the Greeks, but to those whom
God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of
God and the wisdom of God. (I Corinthians 1:20-24)
1. Strange world
2. Clash of cultures
3. Contemporary options
1. Its birth
2. Its nature
1. Its birth
2. Its nature
3. Our Response……………..224
1. Why is the Bible a strange world
to its readers?
2. How do we proclaim the Bible to
3. How deeply are you impacted by
4. What are the values of modernism?
5. List the dangers of modernism.
6. How deeply are you impacted by
7. Note the values of postmodernism
8. List the dangers of postmodernism.
THE STRANGE NEW WORLD WITHIN THE BIBLE
Proclamation of God’s Word is an impossible task for any creature, and especially when sinners attempt to repeat it to sinners. And what else is there? We stand before his Word of revelation, and it is such a strange and alien book that we find it difficult to read it whole. Its chapters are so far from our interests that we are quickly bored. So little of the Bible seems to give us what we want and what we feel that we need. It all seems so irrelevant.
When we preach it our hearers often detect our boredom and recognize that we would never spend this much time interpreting it were it not our job on Sunday morning and evening. They recognize it because of our lack of passion for the whole Bible. They detect it because they share our deepest fears—that this whole book is as alien to us as are the old nursery rhymes.
We end up with an intellectual excitement about the words and grammar and our insights. We thrill to our grasp of background that is unknown to our hearers. We select brief passages that excite our curiosity and interest, that “speak to us”. With so many others, we view the Bible as a collection of wise sayings. We select the ones appropriate to us and to our hearers. And we have missed the whole point of this massive worldview that stands crosswise of us and our cultures.
In the fall of 1916, in the middle of World War I, Karl Barth delivered an address to a congregation in northern Switzerland: The Strange New World Within the Bible. 1 He is a liberal pastor in the Swiss Reformed Church who happens to be reading the Bible. He wrote:
What lies between the strange statement, In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and the equally strange cry of longing, Even so, come, Lord Jesus!…
It is a dangerous question. We might do better not to come too near this burning bush. For we are sure to betray what is—behind us? The Bible gives to every man and to every era such answers to their questions as they deserve. We shall always find in it as much as we seek and no more: high and divine content if it is high and divine content that we seek; transitory and ‘historical’ content if it is transitory and ‘historical’ content that we seek—nothing whatever , if it is nothing whatever that we seek…. The question, What is within the Bible? has a mortifying way of converting itself into the opposing question, Well, what are you looking for, and who are you, pray, who made bold to look?
It is the Bible itself, it is the straight, inexorable logic of its on-march which drives us out beyond ourselves and invites us, without regard to our worthiness or unworthiness, to reach for the last highest answer, in which all is said that can be said, although we can hardly understand it and only stammeringly express it. And that answer is; A new world, the world of God…. The daring is faith; and we read the Bible rightly, not when we do so with false modesty, restraint and attempted sobriety, for these are passive qualities, but when we read it in faith. And the invitation to dare, and to reach toward the highest, even though we do not deserve it, is the expression of grace in the Bible: the Bible unfolds to us, as we are met, guided, drawn on, and made to grow by the grace of God.
The paramount question is… “Do we desire the presence of God? “ A new world projects itself into our old ordinary world…a new world, the world of God…. In it the chief consideration is not the doings of man, but the doings of God…. And it is certain that the Bible, if we read it carefully, makes straight for the point where one must decide to accept or reject the sovereignty of God. This is the new world within the Bible.2
The one who proclaims the Bible must be one who lives in this “Strange new world”. He/she must have a passion for this “world”, this Story, this Drama, this worldview, for this God who is the center of this radically different culture. The Bible must have conquered the one who will teach it. That is why suffering is a significant part of the education of the preacher of the Word (See Luther’s quotation near the end of this chapter).
But this is still not enough! Even if we speak with love and passion from this world of the Bible, we have no power to batter down the resistance of sinners who live in their own familiar cultures. Only God can do this! At Pentecost, the Father and the Son poured out the Holy Spirit to form a new and eschatological people of God. Their reason for being was the proclamation of the Bible in the making of disciples—the impossible task. But God himself came upon them and filled them so that his
divine power would accompany their witness. We are co-creators with God when we speak His Word and people are born again and discipled.
These volumes are my attempt to carry out a part of that divine commission to make disciples in all nations. I have attempted to live in this book with only partial success. I have a passion for proclaiming this truth, along with other less noble passions. My prayer is that God will accompany these words and accomplish some good things in the hearts of his people. All of the rest of this Systematic Theology is my proclamation of this strange new world within the Bible.
Good witness to God’s Word must be aware of the problem of multiple cultures, transformations and changes in every culture and in the great paradigm shifts that sometimes change our perception of everything. I believe that the metanarrative approach to Systematic Theology is the best way to cross these cultural differences. God revealed himself in a Story and in stories. His example is our command. I will discuss the cultural problems in the next section of this chapter with emphasis upon our present struggle between dying modernisms and postmodernisms that are struggling for birth and maturity. I will close this chapter with a look at the place of Systematic Theology in this proclamation of the Bible to contemporary cultures
THE CLASH OF CULTURES
God created Adam and Eve and made them co-creators with him of the rest of the human race. God gave the canonical Scriptures in all of their perfection and then made us co-preservers and co-proclaimers of that Word to the whole world and particularly to his own people. Having heard, interpreted, believed and lived the Word, we are now commissioned to translate it and to proclaim it in all of the languages and cultures of the world throughout all of the age until Jesus returns.
There are a few reasons why this translation and proclamation is so demanding. First, we need recognize that no age has ever grasped all of God’s Word nor any single part of it perfectly. Our creeds, confessions and catechisms are summaries of the great fundamentals of the faith and are of great value. But the Bible always stands above all of our past doctrinal statement, judging them. Our best statements fall far short of the message of the Bible.
Second, every statement needs continuing revision in order to communicate to our growing and changing culture. New heresies arise. Old heresies die. Words change their meaning. New challenges from our culture arise. Old challenges die.
Third, we need to proclaim the Gospel to new cultures. This demands careful listening and awareness of the best ways to express the biblical message in these other cultures. Such listening will not only make us aware of the best ways to teach the Bible in these other cultures, but it will make us aware of how culture-bound our own understanding of the biblical message has been.
Last, at times there are radical culture shifts, sometimes impacting a great many world cultures. Modernism was one of those “paradigm shifts” in Western culture which expanded to nearly every culture in the world. In the last third of the twentieth century and the early part of the twenty-first century, we are experiencing another paradigm shift from modernism to postmodernism. This demands that we understand
these shifts in order to communicate with our own younger generations without losing the biblical message.
If we do not make these adjustments in the proclamation of the message of the Bible, we will retreat into little religious ghettos and lose both our message and our commission. If we do not set the whole biblical worldview over against these various cultures and culture shifts, our message will be taken captive by the world and we will lose our message and commission. Fundamentalists keep the old statements and fail to obey God. Liberals let the contemporary cultures set the agenda and lose the Gospel totally.
We have a much more difficult job of living within the biblical worldview by reading it through with a listening heart several times each year and proclaiming its radical message to the real cultures that exist out there today. Our schools have the responsibility of grounding future leaders solidly in the whole Bible, in the ways God’s people have expressed the Word in the past, and in the methods for proclaiming the whole Bible to any culture or culture shift to which God calls them.
I discussed the contemporaneity of the Scriptures under the “Characteristics”
of Scripture and under the “third horizon” in the triple horizon of our interpretation of the Bible. We need to look at the same idea from a different perspective here. We each stand within some culture or mixture of cultures from which we read the Bible. We need to grow in the understanding of our own cultures in order to grow in the understanding to the unique worldview of the Bible.
In the modern age, Western culture has become the dominant culture in the world. It accomplished this through its conquest of nature, its machinery, its political power, and its communication through books, radio, television, computers, and the internet. We are now closer to one world culture than we have been since the tower of Babel, and western culture has been the instigator of most of it. Other cultures have become powerful only to the extent that they have bought into significant parts of this western way of life.
Western culture has been going though a deep and radical change in the last third of the twentieth century. The old modern optimism has been exchanged for a deep pessimism because the old certainties have proved false. It is as large a cultural change as has occurred in the history of the race. We are moving from one or another
of the various forms of modernism to one or another of the various developing forms of postmodernism.
Throughout history there have been a series of changes which have drastically transformed cultures, worldviews, assumptions, and the basic symbols of a civilization. We see these in the rise of the Greek city states and, fall of the Roman empire and the Renaissance/Reformation. We are presently living in one of those times of radical change — the move from modernism to postmodernism.
This change is happening at a greatly accelerated pace because of the rapidity of travel, television, computers, the Internet, and much else. It is also happening on a worldwide scale now, unlike any previous transformation. It is also occurring at a deeper level than other transformations because it is touching us at the deepest level of our lives before we have even heard about it. Other transformations filtered down from a few intellectuals and took centuries to change the basic symbols of a civilization. This one touches the world through television, advertising, new products, and that with a rapidity which has never been experienced before.
THE CONTEMPORARY OPTIONS
There are many great difficulties in understanding modernism and postmodernism. We who are older have grown up in modernism. We have grown to understand its strengths and weaknesses. We have lived in it so deeply that we are often as much modernists as we are biblical in our thinking and choosing. The younger generation has grown up in the clash of cultures where parents and teachers have been modernists and they are postmodernists. The normal “generation gap” has been greatly enlarging the generation gap by this cultural clash.
Modernism and postmodernism are not single movements. Instead, we have a number of distinct modernisms and a greater number of postmodernisms. The various postmodernisms are especially problematic because they have not had time to develop consistent patterns. This is not the place to develop these distinctions. For our present purpose, it is better to point out the general characteristics of modernism and of the various postmodernisms. We will have to wait for their development to see which of the postmodernisms will prevail.
It would be easier to describe modernism and postmodernism if one day in the sixties, someone announced that today we will bury modernism once for all and we will rejoice in the birth of postmodernism—something like New Year’s Day. But much of modernism persists and will persist into the twenty-first century. And postmodernism which was conceived in the nineteenth century, birthed in the 1960s, lived out its teen years in the last quarter of the twentieth century, is now approaching some kind of maturity in the early decades of the twenty-first century.
We are then living in a time when modernism and postmodernism are clashing over their respective worldviews. Impacted by both and committed to neither, we have a great problem of identity. As believers, we need to learn to live in the only alternative worldview, that of the Bible while we communicate this biblical worldview to both cultures in ways they understand, while we refuse to let the message of the Bible be distorted by either of them.
The term “modernism” describes the western worldview born in the Enlightenment of the eighteenth century, maturing in the nineteenth and the first half of the twentieth centuries and falling apart in the second half of the twentieth century. Its influence goes far beyond Europe and North America for it has been exported to the whole world through the industry and technology of the Western World.
It sounds strange to speak of the end of “Modernism”. It would seem that modernism ought to slide along with the decades and centuries, always describing the most recent time and the “state of the arts” of our technology. But the term was made so central for one kind of culture that could not imagine itself outdated, that when that particular style of life fell apart, the term took on the meaning of the old worldview and had to be replaced by something more recent than “modernism”.
We are moving away from a modernism which has dominated western culture from the end of the seventeenth century through the first sixty years of the present century. This was an impressive period which had its roots in the Renaissance and the Reformation, moved into an age of reason, the Enlightenment, and the age of the sciences. The culture of the modern age virtually conquered the world and imposed its worldview upon the rest of the world. In the twentieth century the United States was the primary purveyor of technology and power and the English language became the world language.
Modernism was conceived in the Renaissance and Reformation. It was born in the Enlightenment and the American and French revolutions. It ruled, in its various forms, from the eighteenth century until the sixties of the twentieth century. Its foundation was laid by men like Descartes, Locke, Newton and Rousseau.
Descates taught the world about the value of “radical doubt” and that our certainly of our own existence is the foundation of all knowledge. He got rid of a lot of intellectual rubbish, but he also got rid of the biblical God and revelation. Everything begins and ends with us. We are our own God. We do not need the Scriptures because we can know all that is worth knowing by our reason alone. God and the Bible must stand before the bar of our reason if they are to have a place in our lives.
Locke taught us that we are formed by our environment. He got rid of a lot of destructive traditions, but he also destroyed the doctrine of original sin and total depravity, and gave us people
and societies which are infinitely perfectible. We are, again, the arbiters of truth and goodness. The Bible must be proved by our reason.
Newton taught us that we lived in a universe governed by laws. He destroyed a lot of cosmic foolishness, but he was understood as moving God out of the universe. All that the cosmos needed were the laws of nature. The cosmos became impersonal. Though he did not intend to remove God from the cosmos and our lives, his readers quickly moved in that direction.
Rousseau applied this to education in his Emile. Kant told us that the human race had come of age:
Enlightenment is man’s emergence from his self-incurred immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s own understanding without the guidance of another…. The motto of the Enlightenment is therefore; ‘Sapere aude?’ Have courage to use your own understanding.3
On this foundation, men like Kant, Hegel, Darwin and others built a radical new world view. Hegel developed a concept of history in which God and all that exists shared a reality and a movement upwards as the essence of that reality. Marx applied this to a dynamic philosophy of history and social structures which completely removed God from history.
Darwin went on to demonstrate that this upward growth applied not only to man, but to all life. Everything has evolved from something more simple in a struggle for survival which has ensured the progress of all life toward some future perfection.
On this foundation, science and technology became the “gods” of the modern world in its western form of culture. Words and phrases like progress, scientific method, the conquest of nature, technology, innovation, state of the arts, etc. became the catchwords and symbols of this new culture called Modernism or modernity. Other words were scorned: medieval, superstition, tradition, authority, etc. Griffin summarizes the modern age as a commitment to “modernity, anthropocentrism, patriarchy, mechanization, economism, consumerism, nationalism, and
When I was in high school (1945-1948) modernism ruled. One did not question the goodness of progress or the ultimate value of all science. One accepted only what was based on careful experimentation and was reasonable. This meant that the newest and the latest was best. Every generation was smarter and better off than their parents. Anything that did not fit this mold was outdated and without value. The greatest foolishness was to hold on to the old ways and to reject progress. The cosmos and people were viewed as machines. Both were “fixable” and perfectible. The best people and the best days of the world were still ahead.
But there were those in the 19th and early 20th centuries who saw the weaknesses of Modernism and recognized its destructiveness and hopelessness. Yeats’ poem summarized many of these cries:
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
the falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
the ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack of all conviction, while the worst
are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
surely the second coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Scarcely are those words out
when a vast image out of Spiritual Mundi
troubles my sight; somewhere in the sands of the desert
a shape with a lion body and the head of a man
a gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
its slow moving thighs, while all about it
reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again, but now I know
that twenty centuries of stony sleep
were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
slouches toward Bethlehem to be born.5
We have been aware that things were falling apart and that something worse is coming, but, at the same time, we have bought into much of modernism, more than we normally recognize. We who are older have read our Bibles, done our evangelism, lived our lives, and operated our churches often with nearly as much of a commitment to modernism as we gave to the Bible.
We used the ‘scientific method’ in our Bible study. Our pastors became ‘Chief executive officers of our churches. They were evaluated by buildings, numbers, and budgets. Our evangelism followed the high-pressure salesmanship of the modern world. We preached verses instead of the whole Bible. We converted people and entertained them instead of discipling them. And we did not even realize how culture bound we had become. Only as we move into other cultures or into the postmodern world do we begin to see how deep has been our commitment to modernism.
The United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japanese cities in 1945. At first, it was a relief that the war was over and that so many lives were saved, both American and Japanese. But that soon changed to a sense of horror at this new way of killing whole cities. The optimism of Modernism began to turn into the pessimism of a world doomed to die.
The “spiritual” leaders of the modern world had been the scientists. They were the ones who were forming the new and perfect world to come. Now, they turned into demons —- the destroyers of the world. They would never again gain the stature that they had before “the bomb.” Modernism began to fall apart at that moment.
Francis Schaeffer recognized this radical shift in the sixties. His personal teaching at his retreat in Switzerland and through his books made a tremendous impact. He seemed to be the only one who realized that a new world culture was being born. He wrote:
The line of despair indicates a titanic shift at the present time within the unity of rationalism. Above the line, men were rationalistic optimists. They believed they could begin with themselves, and draw a circle which would include all thought of life without having to depart from the logic of antithesis. They thought that, on their own, rationalistically, finite man could find a unity in the diversity…. But at a certain point this attempt to spin out a unified, optimistic humanism ceased…. In the end the philosophers came to the realization that they could not find this unified circle, and so… They shifted the concept of truth and modern man was born. In this way, modern man moved under the line of despair…. Do Christians understand this shift in the contemporary world? If we do not understand it then we are largely talking to ourselves.6
Schaeffer was watching the birth of postmodernism, developing a strategy for ministering to it, and reporting his findings to the Christian world. He did not use the term, but he did describe the reality.
It is difficult to define or to describe postmodernism because it is not a single thing. First, postmodernism is a deconstruction of modernism. It is a radical skepticism, of the kind that normally follows the breakup of any great worldview. Second, it is a series of attempts to build a positive worldview which will replace the old modernism.
Jean Lyotard, in an often quoted remark, described one of the foundation characteristics of destructive postmodernism:
Simplifying to the extreme, I define postmodern as incredulity toward metanarratives…. The narrative function is losing its functors, its great hero, its great dangers, its great voyages, its great goal. It is being dispersed in clouds of narrative language elements…. Where, after the metanarratives, can legitimacy reside? The operativity criterion is technological: it has no relevance for judging what is true or just. Is legitimacy to be found in consensus obtained through discussion?7
Detweiler gives a fuller description of postmodernism in the context of modernism in the following article:
Postmodernism designates the era of western culture following modernism…. Modernism is said to describe an initial reliance on the power of reason, objective thinking, the empirical-scientific method, and a faith in progress, followed by a disenchantment with these and a replacement of them by a sense of cultural fragmentation, alienation, and disintegration of the self…. Such negativity was generated by two shattering world wars, the threat of destruction from nuclear power, and the persisting memories of Holocaust horrors. Postmodernism, beginning in the early 1960s, recognizes the traumatic, estranged, and atomized nature of human existence, but attempts to render it bearable and even affirmative by adopting attitudes and strategies such as irony, parody, anti-foundationalism, and play.8
The generation that came to early adulthood in the sixties lived a life of fear and despair, pictured in a flight from society by the “hippies.” Drugs were at the very center of this worldview They became the great help in escaping a shattered reality and a plunge into some kind of “virtual reality”.
Many of the postmoderns of the sixties reluctantly moved back into society, convinced that their alternative society was even more hopeless than all that they had despised. The second generation of postmoderns is described by Joe Staines:
We can no longer make sense of the world because there is no cohesive world to make sense of. Instead, we occupy a state of ‘hyper-reality,’ an unreal world of dreams and fantasy, of ‘simulcra’ — the world of TV, of the shopping mall, of video games, of Disneyland. Politics has ended, people have been reduced to mindless consumers, and the dominant language is the language of packaging and advertising.9
Calvin Miller described the terrible time between the death of Jesus Christ and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. His description can also be applied to postmodernism. During the modern age, people thought they could remove God from the cosmos and have a fuller and more autonomous life. The postmodern age is coming to grips with the fact that when we lose God, we lose ourselves. When we do not listen to Him, we can say nothing of importance to ourselves or to each other. Miller wrote:
“When words are rare as gems,
then sentences are mined at
great expense. In such a time
the tiny planet Terra swung
in mindless orbits, in constant
hunger for a word that would
not come. Silence stalked the
universe, and Earthmaker would
not speak. There was little
that his love could say to
a vicious world so fond of
tearing holes in his Beloved.
Earthmaker had set
his face away from the place of
execution, and was staring outward
toward glittering and unspoiled
star-fields. For Terra was a field
of tombs — a universal junk yard where
his creatures quarreled for refuse
and waged great wars over who
should own the wreckage of their times.
Messiahs were abundant, but all
of them were egotists who hawked
joy-plated creeds through their
The men of Terra made a dull
discovery in the tepid days
that closed upon the Singer’s
disappearance: When Earthmaker
will not speak to men, they have
nothing of importance to say to
These powerful words prepare us for the basic problem of all postmodernism: Postmoderns have nothing to say to each other, at least nothing that anyone could or would want to understand. Two kinds of Postmodernism have developed out of this problem. The first, deconstructive (or destructive) postmodernism, has given up on the possibility of knowing reality or of reading books, and glories in it. The second kind of postmodernism or constructive postmodernism, has also given up, but is deeply disappointed in that loss. Its followers have often retreated into one or another of the various forms of virtual reality.
In 1966 Jacques Derrida presented a paper at Johns Hopkins University entitled: Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences. It caused an uproar because it denied all structure and demanded that we can be nothing else than post-structuralists. He continued his “deconstruction” throughout the rest of his literary production. Language is a game we play that has no certain foundation in any objective reality.
Derrida is an iconoclast, breaking down the idols of all of the privileged disciplines. Philosophy, scientists, theologians and everyone else is dethroned from all privilege and power. Philosophy’s logic and its systems are no more than an imposition upon society of our ideas and desires under the guise of inexorable logic. Theology’s dogmas are only power plays designed to subjugate others. The scientific method and the failures of science in all of the important areas (“We can send a man to the moon, but we cannot solve the problems of our cities.”) demonstrates its lack of grounding in reality.
Derrida maintains that words are subjectively powerful, but have no way of bridging the gap between the reader and reality or the reader and the author. We never get to reality by reading the primary sources. We can never get to an author’s intentions by reading his/her books. We do play games with those words and their relationships with each other. When we are done, all that we know is our own response, which will be different from the responses of all other readers. Modernists interpreted poetry this way but expected that prose connected them with objective reality, the author and with other readers.
This is a natural and necessary outcome of the “Death of God” of the sixties. Only God could guarantee some connection between words and reality. Only God could ensure that we could grasp the intention of an author or The Author of The Book. When God is dead, so is the book, and ultimately we communicate only with ourselves in a meaningless mumble.
Derrida seemed to be unanswerable. His detractors (almost everyone) hissed and booed, criticized and attacked. But those who did not have the Living and triune God as the foundation of their worldview had no real answer. When God was dead so was the word. Deconstruction moved from literary deconstruction to all of the disciplines in the following decades..
Deconstruction is another in a whole line of radical responses of skepticism that follow the decline and death of great and influential worldviews. These worldviews always have a short shelf-life because no one can live as skeptics. But they do serve an important purpose in their final slaying of the old worldview and in providing a deep hunger for a new and positive worldview for the future. Our responsibility is to learn how to use deconstruction in this twofold way.
Exegetes, literary experts and theologians have been slow to respond to Derrida and his deconstruction. They have either ignored him and his ideas or they have run from them as the
ultimate paganism of no positive value at all. Kevin Vanhoozer has given us a powerful model for both critiquing and using deconstruction.11
Deconstruction teaches us the dangers we face when we try to give special privilege to our own disciplines. We can always find ‘disciples’ if we can convince them that our discipline is foundational and gives them a position of power and authority. Philosophers, theologians, and exegetes have always done this. A proper use of deconstruction points out the posturing and the foolishness of these little dictators who view all of reality from their own disciplines. We are humbled before the text and work with all of the other disciplines, not to become admired and powerful, but to become disciples of God through His Book. Vanhoozer teaches this powerfully.
But deconstruction has gone so far that it has destroyed itself, as all skeptical positions always do. Vanhoozer shows us how to find “A meaning in this text” while refusing to leave the proper discipleship for some kind of autonomy. At the beginning of chapter one he tells us of three parables by Kierkegaard on the nature of reading and reflection that set the tone for the entire volume
We begin with Kierkegaard’s reading of James 1:22-27…. One benefits from looking at the Word only if one moves beyond inspecting the mirror to see oneself…. Is there something in the text that reflects a reality independent of the reader’s interpretive activity, or does the text only reflect the reality of the reader?
Kierkegaard’s second parable, ‘the lover’s letter,’ is about a man who receives a letter from his beloved written in a strange language. Desperate to read the letter, he takes a dictionary and begins to translate one word at a time. An acquaintance enters, interrupts his translating and says, ‘Aha, you’re reading a letter from your beloved.’ The lover replies, ‘No, my friend, I sit here toiling and moiling with a dictionary. If you call that reading, you mock me.’ Kierkegaard’s point is that linguistic and historical scholarship is not yet genuine reading. It is like examining and working on the mirror itself, looking at the mirror and not in it.
The moral of Kierkegaard’s parables is that readers have ceased to take the privilege and responsibility of interpretation seriously. The purpose of interpretation is no longer to recover and relate to a message from one who is other than ourselves, but precisely to evade such a confrontation…. What is the purpose of such interpretation? Kierkegaard’s answer is cynical yet insightful; ‘Look more closely and you will see that it is to defend itself against God’s Word.’‘ 12
Vanhoozer’s closing chapter is a model of perceptive use of deconstruction coming to the aid of a exegesis and theology which always tempts us to becoming gods who are at work in privileged disciplines which deserve disciples. God, on the other hand calls us to become disciples and makers of disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jane Wagner’s “Bag Lady” is an example of Deconstructive Postmodernism. She has grasped the problems addressed by Derrida and others. She says:
I refuse to be intimidated by
After all, what is reality anyway? Nothin’ but a
collective hunch. My space chums think reality was once a
primitive method of
crowd control that got out of hand.
In my view it’s absurdity dressed up
in a three piece suit.
I made some studies, and
reality is the leading cause of stress among those in
touch with it. I can take it in small doses, but as a lifestyle
I find it too confining.13
Mark Taylor described this radical and deconstructive postmodernism in its theological expression, comparing it to biblical theism.
According to the tenets of classical theism, God, who is One, is the supreme Creator, who through the mediation of his living Logos, brings the world into being and providentially directs its course. This Primal Origin… is also the Ultimate End… of the world. Utterly transcendent and throughly eternal, God is represented as totally present to himself. He is… in fact, the omnipresent font, source, ground, and uncaused Cause of presence itself. The self is made in the image of God and consequently is also one, i.e. a centered individual. Mirroring its Creator, the single subject is both self-conscious and freely active. Taken together, self-consciousness and freedom entail individual responsibility. History is the domain where divine guidance and human initiative meet. The temporal course of events is not regarded as a random sequence. It is believed to be plotted along a single line stretching from a definite beginning (creation) through an identifiable middle (incarnation) to an expected end (kingdom or redemption). Viewed in such ordered terms, history forms a purposeful process whose meaning can be coherently represented…. Since the logic of this narrative reflects the Logos of history, Scripture, in effect, rewrites the Word of God.
God, self, history, and book are thus bound in an intricate relationship in which each mirrors the other. No single concept can be changed without altering all of the others. As a result of this thorough interdependence, the news of the death of God can be heard in the disappearance of the self, the end of history, and the closure of the book.14
The loss of the book was taught by Ferdinand de Saussure,15 James Derrida,16 and others.17 Philosophers such as Ludwig Wittgenstein,18 Martin Heidegger,19 and Richard Rorty20 have developed a similar hermeneutic. Theologians who have taken this position are: Lundin,21 Winquist,22 and others. These men are the skeptics that follow the breakdown of every culture and worldview. They have given up on reality and knowledge and delight in destroying all hope for others.
This loss of the book as anything more than an arena where the reader may play games is a highly significant part of deconstructive postmodernism.
Constructive postmodernism is often called “hyper-modernism” (or some similar term). The proponents of this view have refused to become complete skeptics. Everything is not hopeless. We can exist in this world even without a worldview or metanarrative. This is a modification of the radical skepticism of deconstructive postmodernism. We cannot solve the ultimate problems, but we can know enough for a satisfactory life. This is a moderate or pragmatic skepticism. David Ray Griffin describes this in the following words:
Constructive postmodern thought provides support for the ecology, peace, feminist and other emancipatory movements of our time, while stressing the inclusive emancipation must be from modernity itself. The term postmodern, however, by contrast with premodern, emphasizes that the modern world has produced unparalleled advances that must not be lost in a general revulsion against its negative features.23
Within this moderate skepticism there are a number of convictions that are reactions to modernism: (1) a commitment to story as a way of self-understanding, (2) a conviction of the presence of evil in the human heart, (3) a conviction of the reality of the spirit world, (4) the prominence of intuition and feeling, mysticism and spirituality, (5) escape from reality through television, computers and drugs, (6) toleration for everyone and a liberation of all of the oppressed, (7) a strong emphasis upon ecology, and (8) a retention of cosmic evolution as its hidden Metanarrative.
A COMMITMENT TO STORY
Modernists did not value “story” highly. Stories were viewed as fiction and therefore of entertainment value only. Postmodernists valued stories highly. They are of value because they believed that people are “story-shaped.” The best way to know oneself, another person or another group is to listen carefully to their story. It may well have grown out of Freud’s psychoanalysis. Certainly, psychologists were concerned to listen to people’s stories and to give them alternate
stories that would help them to live with themselves. Narrative has become an important kind of counseling technique.24 Therapists tell their own stories.25
A group of theologians developed various kinds of narrative theologies in the 1970s. Few of them were concerned with metanarrative because they were convinced that metanarrative was impossible. But they did emphasize the centrality of narrative in understanding the Bible, people and communities. Literary experts added their contributions. Biblical scholars noticed that the Scriptures were largely narrative and wrote narrative commentaries on various books of the Bible. I will develop this aspect of postmodernism in the following chapter.
This move toward “story” is evident in a comparison between two television programs featuring Perry Mason and Ben Matlock. Perry Mason emphasized facts (like Sergeant Friday’s “Just give us the facts, Mam”). Ben Matlock tells stories. He is constantly being challenged by the prosecutor and the judge to stick to the facts, but he prefers to challenge the story of the witnesses by telling the story in a different way — a way that also fits the facts in evidence and perhaps fits them better. His stories convince juries and they declare the defendants “not guilty.”
CONVICTION OF THE REALITY OF EVIL IN THE HUMAN HEART
Modernists were convinced that the human heart was either good or at the least morally neutral. All of the ugliness was a leftover from the evolutionary past. The leaders of the Enlightenment were sure that all of the evil lay in traditions, civilization and cities. They spoke of the “noble savage” in the American wilderness as the ideal toward which they were working. Rousseau, in his Emile, tried to picture the kind of education which would bring out this essential goodness. Others wrote of their ideals or tried to build “Utopias” in the wilderness.
Postmodernists have decided that evil is not merely external, but is deeply rooted in the human heart. The first world war was a whole new kind of war — a war of peoples against peoples. All of the previous wars in the history books had continued in the second world war, the Korean war and reached an ugly culmination in Vietnam. That combined with the Nazi Holocaust and the larger destruction of Russian peoples by Joseph Stalin drove home the inadequacy of the modernist optimism concerning the human heart. Griffin writes:
Advocates of this movement do not hold the naively utopian belief that the success of this movement would bring about a global society of universal and lasting peace, harmony and happiness, in which all spiritual problems, social conflicts, ecological destruction, and hard choices would vanish. There is, after all, surely a deep truth in the testimony of the world’s religions to the presence of a transcultural proclivity to evil deep within the human heart, which no new paradigm, combined with a new economic order, new child-rearing practices, or any other social arrangements will suddenly eliminate. Furthermore, it has correctly been said that ‘life is robbery’; a strong element of competition is inherent within finite existence, which no social-political-economic-ecological order can overcome.”26
This more pessimistic appraisal of human nature has made a large impact on the move from optimism to pessimism in the postmodern world.
CONVICTION OF THE REALITY OF THE SPIRIT WORLD
The modern world had a word for a spirit world or the paranormal — superstition. Anyone who believed in witches and warlocks, angels and demons, magic and enchantment was not taken seriously. Postmodernists are committed to the reality of this spirit world. Areas that used to be considered pure superstition are now the subjects of courses in major universities. Television has increasingly produced programs which feature enchantment, beginning with genies and good witches and continuing with documentaries on the mysterious and programs like the new “Kung Fu” and “Touched by an Angel.”
The offerings of the “Science-Fiction Book Club” are an example of this change in thinking. Early offerings tried to keep on the leading edge of the sciences or even to predict the future findings of the hard sciences. In the last couple of decades, a great amount of the selections have been more interested in magic and enchantment than in science.
INTUITION AND FEELING
The commitment to reason and research has been replaced by intuition and feeling. This develops in two directions. The first is expressed in the accepted wisdom “you gotta go with what feels right to you.” This would have hardly been understood a half century ago, and certainly would not have been accepted. Now, “what feels right” is the right direction, no matter whether we can give a reasoned statement for that decision. The Star Wars series capitalize on “The Force” and feelings in contrast to God and reason.
Second, postmodernists have recognized intuition is the beginning of scientific progress, and seeing things whole is necessary for understanding anything or anyone. Albert Einstein is said to have stated that no one ever discovered new truth by the scientific method. Now, it is recognized that the quest for new truth begins with an intuition and a theory. Only then does investigation take place. Intuition precedes and sets the agenda for research. This research is not complete until we have understood the object under consideration in all of its connections and relationships. Both the intuition of the theory and the recognition of the total environment of the subject is quite different from the scientific method. A frog in a pond catching insects is much different from its dead carcass pinned to a board in a biology class. Jurgen Moltmann wrote:
Modern thinking has developed by way of an objectifying, analytical, particularizing and reductionalistic approach. The aim is to reduce an object or fact to its smallest possible, no-longer-divisible component, and from that point to reconstruct it. This is a trend in all modern disciplines which are designed to be what are called ‘exact’ sciences, on the model of physics. It is, therefore, fair to say that we know more and more about less and less; and its not without reason that people explore the domination of the specialists.
Yet modern sciences, especially nuclear physics and biology, have now proved that these forms and methods of thinking do not do full justice to reality, and hardly bring any further advances in knowledge. On the contrary, objects can be known and understood very much better if they are seen in their relationships and co-ordinations with their particular environments and surroundings (which include the human observer) — that is to say, they are integrated, not isolated; perceived in their totality, not split up. This perception of things-as-a-whole is inevitably less sharply defined than the segmenting knowledge which aims to dominate, but it is richer in connections and relationships….
When this happens, of course, the concern that motivates cognition changes. We no longer desire to know in order to dominate, or analyze and reduce in order to reconstruct. Our purpose is now to perceive in order to participate, and to enter into the mutual relationships of living things.27
Mysticism and a mystical spirituality modeled after Carl Jung’s psychology, Tillich’s theology and various eastern religions have replaced the more rational concepts of the nature of reality and of the relationships between God and the creation.
ESCAPE FROM REALITY
Postmoderns have declared the death of God. They did not immediately recognize the consequences of this declaration. When God is dead, the human person is fractured and dependent, books cannot communicate wisdom from the past, and external reality disappears as well. If anything is there, it is harsh and unfriendly.
Escape is the only hope for many, especially escape into a world where we have control. We can control our television from a comfortable chair. We can control the reality on our computer screen with a keyboard and a mouse. We can control reality in our video games. We can experience the terrors and adventures of life in a theme park. We can be heroes in computer games. Not only can we escape into virtual reality; we can create it and control it. We no longer live in God’s world, but in a world we ourselves create.
Drugs are an accepted and important part of this escape. That is why drugs are accepted among the wealthy and the professionals. They fit into developing world-view.
TOLERATION AND LIBERATION
Modernism was convinced of its superiority to all other cultures, past and present. It was convinced that its mission was to replace all other cultures with its own superior way of life.
Postmodernists reacted against this conceit, not because of any real humility, but because of a radical loss of confidence in their own culture. Because there are no metanarratives, there are no ultimate cultures. Each must be respected if it gives some order and satisfaction to its own. There is toleration for every culture except those who claim universality.
Because of this equal respect for all people and cultures, oppression of any and every kind is evil. Every person and every culture must be free. The various liberation theologies have stressed this facet of postmodernism. All political, racial and sexual oppression is wrong. All submission to oppression is wrong. The oppressed must rebel and liberate themselves.
This demands political correctness in acts and words. No one is free to speak negatively of any person or community. The political correctness police are constantly looking for any who speak ill of any minority or any of the oppressed.
It has become obvious that the commitment to industry and progress of modernism is destroying the earth. We cut down the forests, cover the soil with highways and parking lots, we pollute the air and destroy the habitat and the existence of many fellow species. David Griffin writes:
The fourth and probably the most decisive difference [between modernism and postmodernism] is that the present movement is based on the awareness that the continuation of modernity threatens the very survival of life on our planet.”
This is important. It does not take any special gift of perception to recognize that this world is our home, that the land, rivers, lakes, forests, and their inhabitants are in serious trouble.
But postmodern ecology is more than this. It has become a religion for many. Nature has become a person, a god. Getting back to nature and eating only natural foods has become a way of recognizing the earth spirit. This has developed into worship. The old religions of the American Indians have become popular with many.
Though postmodernism strongly rejects the possibility of metanarratives, many constructive postmodernists have a hidden commitment to a metanarratives in cosmic evolution.
James Redfied published, The Celestine Prophecy: An Adventure in 1993, and it made the top ten fiction books for over one hundred and twenty weeks. He published the sequel in 1996: The Tenth Insight: Holding the Vision: Further Adventures of the Celestine Prophecy. This latter book was joined with the first on the best seller list. Postmodern people loved this story about a new religion which was mystical, ecological and had a powerful metanarratives. Those who love Reified’s vision may subscribe to The Celestine Journal “which chronicles his present experiences and reflections on the spiritual renaissance occurring on our planet.”
In Redfield’s novels, a whole civilization walked out of their physical life into a new and exciting spiritual life of joy and fulfillment. They left behind a manuscript with ten “insights” which would help others to make the same journey. These two novels which describe the discovery — one by one — of those insights. The blurb on the back cover of The Celestine Prophecy states:
THE CELESTINE PROPHECY contains secrets that are currently changing our world. Drawing on the ancient wisdom found in a Peruvian manuscript, it tells you how to make connections between the events happening in your own life right now… and lets you see what is going to happen to you in the years to come.
A book that has been passed from hand to hand, from friend to friend…. THE CELESTINE PROPHECY is a work that has come to light at a time when the world deeply needs to read its words. The story is a gripping one of adventure and discovery, but it is also a guidebook that has the power to crystallize your perceptions of why you are where you are in life… and to direct your steps with a new energy and optimism as you head into tomorrow.28
Throughout both volumes there are a number of times when the hero has powerful visions of a strange mixture of cosmic evolution and biblical eschatology. There is a passage near the end of the second book which summarizes this. The hero is with friends and is experiencing the first part of the movement out of physical history when they share the following vision:
This is it, I said, ‘We’re reaching the next step; we’re seeing a more complete vision of human history.
Before us, in a huge hologram, appeared an image of history that seemed to stretch out from the very beginning to what appeared to be the distant end….
We watched as the first matter exploded into being and gravitated into stars that lived and died and spewed forth the great diversity of elements that ultimately formed the Earth. These elements, in turn, combined in the early terrestrial environment into ever-more-complex substances until they finally leaped into organic life — life that then also moved forward, into greater organization and awareness, as if guided by an overall plan….
As we watched, a clear picture of the Afterlife dimension opened up in front of us, and I understood that an aspect of each of the souls there — in fact, a part of all humanity — had lived through this long, slow process of evolution. We had swum as fishes, boldly crawled upon the land as amphibians, and struggled to survive as reptiles, birds and mammals, fighting every step of the way to finally move into human form — all with intention.
We knew that through wave after wave of successive generations we would be born into the physical plane, and no matter how long it took, we would strive to wake up, and unify, and evolve, and eventually implement on Earth the same spiritual culture that exists in the Afterlife…. Gradually, our security would come from inside us, as we progressed from an expression of the divine in terms of nature gods to the divine as one father God outside ourselves to a final expression as the Holy Spirit within….
And once we developed a web of economic relationships around the globe, we would begin to further awaken, and to remember our full spiritual nature. The Insights would gradually permeate human consciousness and we would evolve our economy into a form compatible with the Earth, and finally, begin to move beyond the last fearful polarization of forces toward a new spiritual Worldview on the planet….
Suddenly, the hologram focused on the polarization in great detail. All humans were migrating into two conflicting positions; one pushing toward a vague but ever-clearer image of transformation, and the other resisting…. The prophecies envisioned an eventual end to the human story on earth, but an end that, for believers, would be quite different from the one experienced for unbelievers.
Those in the latter group were seen to experience an end of history that would begin with great catastrophes and environmental disasters and collapsing economies. Then, at the height of the fear and chaos, a strong leader would emerge, the Antichrist, who would offer to restore order, but only if individuals would agree to give up their liberties and carry the mark of the beast upon their bodies….
For believers, on the other hand, the scriptural prophets predicted a much more pleasant end to history. Remaining true to the spirit, these believers would be given spiritual bodies and be raptured into another dimension called the New Jerusalem, but would be able to go back and forth into the physical…. God would fully return to restore the earth, and implement a thousand years of peace.29
If these books had not sold millions of copies in the middle of this decade, we might laugh off this vision. But it is a powerful example of a combination of elements of postmodernism with a metanarratives. And without a metanarratives, postmodernism will never live beyond the writings of a few intellectuals.
HOW DO CHRISTIANS RESPOND TO POSTMODERNISM?
We have lost our way. We are not sure of our metanarratives and are not convinced of the falsity of the evolutionary metanarratives. When we look at the beginning we either submit to all or parts of evolution or we fight evolution to establish a young earth and immediate creation. What we fail to do is to recognize the great place God’s work of creation has in all of our thinking, valuing and choosing.
When we look at the future, we are concerned about peace and prosperity now, our retirement and what will happen to us after death. When we argue eschatological positions, it is often to establish a time-line rather than to rejoice in God’s coming victory and exaltation. When we look at the middle of the story, we see ourselves rather than Jesus Christ.
Because we have lost the story, we tell our own stories to ourselves and to our counselors. We look for people who will teach us a better way to tell our story so that we will feel good about ourselves and our future. We join groups of people with problems similar to our own and tell each other about our abuse until we can blame others for our inadequacies. We attend churches where we get a blessing and leave “feeling good.”
We can learn from the various postmodernisms that we fundamentalists and evangelicals have bought into modernism to a frightening extent. We can use the works of the postmodernists to help us to see and root out these modernist assumptions and ideas. We can learn the significance of “story” for building our own Worldview and constructing each part of theology and ethic.
We need to react against every part of postmodernism; its rejection of metanarratives, its over-emphasis on the spirit worlds, its rejection of reason and glorification of “feelings,” its preference for “virtual reality,” the fascism of much of its “political correctness,” the nature worship of much of its ecology, and the paganism of its hidden evolutionary metanarratives.
We welcome people to the worship of God as if we were the hosts and they were honored guests. We forget that we are representing God and all who come are receiving a great honor to have the privilege of listening to God and worshiping Him. We entertain rather than confess our sins. Our services are geared to be sensitive to those who are seeking something better in their lives.
We do not preach much about the ugliness and inexcusableness of sin. We have forgotten about the final judgment and eternal hell.
Churches have moved from thinking to feeling, and from doctrine to experience. They have followed the times by focusing upon angels and demons, on the spirit world and signs and wonders.
We can learn to be concerned about the world of the demonic and the help of angels, we can use story in our theologies and other proclamations of the gospel, and we can be more sensitive to peoples’ felt needs more than we have been in the past.
We need to recognize that God gives the perfect remedy for every human need in the Scriptures and that our felt needs usually conceal those real needs. We listen to people’s complaints about their symptoms, but then we need to go behind those felt symptoms to the real problems. We
preach the real and only fully successful therapy for all of human needs when we preach the whole Scriptures properly.
We also will refuse to get caught up in all of the popular competitors to the biblical therapy: the “twelve step” programs, the little groups of abused people who get together to find their help in looking inside of themselves and back to their abuse and out to the help of others, while rejecting the Bible as inadequate to these great contemporary needs. These programs have been of real help to some people, and I do not mean to demean them. It is just that they do not go far enough. Even when they speak of God and of faith, they use them as tools to help accomplish healing. Our needs are far greater than that and God’s provision is far more complex than that.
In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry (II Timothy 4:1-5).
I will sing of Yahweh’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. I will declare that your love stands firm forever, that you established your faithfulness in the heavens. (Psalm 18:1-2)
A. Systematic Theology………….228
3. Luther on the theologian
4. Calvin on theology
B. Life in the Church……………….235
C. Our Response…………………..241
1. What is the reason for treating
2. How does Systematic Theology
relate to the other disciplines?
3. Evaluate Luther’s advice to young
4. What is the value of Calvin on the
“Analogy of theology”?
5. How does our Systematic Theology
impact our preaching?
6. How does our Systematic Theology
impact our worship?
I mentioned some of the themes of theological prolegomena in the Introduction to this volume. They needed brief attention there in order to orient the reader to the metanarrative approach of this book. These preliminary statements need some expansion here at the end of the doctrine of the Scriptures.
I have decided to treat prolegomena here in order to remind myself and my readers that the method of theology, as well as its content, flows out of the Bible. We dare not approach this discipline with either an agenda or a methodology. It would destroy our ability to listen fully to God’s revelation in the Bible were we to borrow an agenda or a method from some philosophy or from the sciences. Having then listened to the Bible through these last ten chapters, we are ready to let God set both the agenda and the methodology for our study of the contents of his Word.
Having established that, it is important also to remember that we must listen to the cultures for whom we are doing theology. We must do theology for the twenty first century, for postmodern people. We must remember that the older people in our congregations are children of modernism and are frustrated by the immensity of the generation gap between themselves and the postmodern, younger generation.
We must be aware, as theologians and proclaimers of the Word, of the great variety of world cultures. We dare not proclaim the Word in exactly the same way in Maine as we would in southern California. We must recognize the adjustments that need to be made in communicating the gospel in Brazil, the Central African Republic or China. It is deadly to proclaim the Bible from within our own culture as if it were the only good culture and all other people must conform to our theology.
METANARRATIVE – STORY – DRAMA – STORIES
God wrote the Bible in such a way that it communicates to all cultures of all times. We cannot be as successful in this as God has been, but that must be our goal. God did this with stories and a larger Story combined with sufficient interpretation to guide us in our interpretation of the whole. Our job is to learn how to listen to his Story and stories in order to learn how to communicate the whole of his Word through stories and their interpretations to contemporary cultures in the doing of theology, in the preaching of the Bible and in our worship.
Doing metanarrative theology is not an easy task. It certainly is something more than and different from telling the stories of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Telling the biblical stories has to often degenerated into stories about biblical heroes and heroines as examples for our lives. So, we tell the story simply, add a “moral” and, by this, turn theology into some kind of a legalistic religion in which people are featured and God is a shadowy figure in the background.
We fail in our story telling because, as moderns, we have lost the whole art of telling and listening to stories. We fail to get involved. We ask the wrong questions. We fail to ask the right questions. It would be a good idea to go back and read the chapter on biblical narratives and the metanarrative. We are in such a hurry to find the moral of the story or a sentence that will summarize its meaning that we lose the story and interpret is wrongly.
The entire biblical metanarrative and all of the individual narratives are about God. The Bible does not give us stories about great people. It tells us the Story and the stories about little people who have a great God. But this is not always obvious on a surface reading. It is obvious only when we read these narratives as God intended that we should read them.
Auerbach in his Mimesis teaches us how to read various kinds of stories. His book is important reading for modernists and postmodernists who do not know how to read stories. But God has not made his people wait for Auerbach in order to read his Word correctly. Throughout the Scriptures, he has given us hints and examples of reading the biblical Story and stories. The prophets, the priests, the psalmists, the wise men, Jesus and the apostles all demonstrate the way to read the biblical story. We learn when we listen carefully to their way of reading and listening.
All of the rest of this Systematic Theology will be an attempt to read and interpret God’s Story and stories on the foundation of the biblical examples. This is no easy task for an old man who has worked from “proof texts’ for a long teaching life. This is a first attempt. I expect those who listen and read will go on to do this work in a superior and more biblical way.
The content of the Bible is primarily story and secondarily interpretation of the Bible. The best Systematic Theology is the Bible. Every other statement of truth falls far short of the Bible in structure and content. Systematic Theology for the twenty-first century will work from the Story and the stories, but will give more attention to interpretation.
Some doctrines will be primarily a tracing of the biblical narrative on that subject. The most obvious doctrines where this will be necessary are the doctrine of the Living God and the doctrine of the redemptive acts of the Lord Jesus Christ (both Christology and Eschatology). Other chapters will focus more on interpretation because their nature and our understanding demand the more interpretive approach.
Again, this is a preliminary attempt to apply this methodology to theology. Readers should be able to make significant improvements in the description of he method and its application in the doing of theology. All of this is integrally related to our preaching and our worship. Theology is never merely academic. It is for the life of the church.
Theologians have always struggled for a name for this discipline. “Doctrine”; “Theology”, “Christian Theology”, “Dogmatics”, “Church Dogmatics”, “Systematic Theology”, and many other names have been suggested. None are without problems. I choose to use the term “Systematic Theology” because of its traditional acceptance in North America. It speaks of a generally accepted content even if it does raise eyebrows in its implications as to method.
The noun (Theology) is a nice summary of the teaching of the Bible that reminds us that the entire Bible is about God. All other themes are subordinate to this one. First, we study the Revelation of God, then the works and nature of God. We follow this by studying people as the image of God who have rebelled against him. We finish with God’s triune provision of salvation, his application of that salvation and the consummation of all things according to his plan and for his glory.
The adjective (Systematic) is a reminder that I do more than tell the biblical metanarrative. I have followed the tradition of the past few centuries by discussing several major doctrines in order. We are not able to hold the whole message of the Bible in our minds at the same time. We lose the center. The edges become fuzzy. We need to look at smaller parts of God’s message. So I treat individual doctrines as distinct from one another. This is a system that I impose upon the message of the Bible. It is not ideal. God’s way is better. My way merely presents a temporary perspective from which to view the greater beauty of the Scriptures.
The adjective also reminds us that we must relate each of these doctrines to the whole and to each other. None of them can stand alone. All are dependent upon the others. How can we understand revelation if we ignore the great new revelation of the future coming of our Lord Jesus Christ? Not only will the content be greatly increased, but it will be more direct and personal in our face-to-face encounter with our Lord. How can we understand the doctrine of our God apart from his great self-revelation in the first and second comings of Jesus Christ? How can we understand the doctrine of our individual salvation apart from creation and the eschaton?
The adjective must not be used as an excuse to solve all problems and to turn God’s great self-revelation into clear propositions that everyone can understand. God has left many mysteries in his revelation. Some are intrinsic to the very nature of our relationship with Him. He is both Author/Director of the Drama and an Actor at the same time. We cannot understand that. We are both creatures and persons, and that is beyond our comprehension. The Scripture are authored by both men and God. Jesus Christ is both God and man. None of these mysteries can be understood. They all must be accepted by faith. The adjective, then, points to a very limited logical organization that rests in faith where we cannot understand, that believes in order that it may understand.
My goal in this metanarrative theology is not to ignore our systematic needs, nor the great theological and creedal contributions of the past. I will rather approach each traditional doctrine in its most significant and influential statements. I will then try to breathe life into these abstract statements by founding them and testing them by that part of the metanarrative or individual narratives out of which they flow. Only after that will I give my own theological summaries. I do not want to give my statements and follow with proof texts. I want my theological statement to flow as obviously as possible out of the whole Bible, out of the narratives where God taught it. This is new and difficult. I am just learning how to do it, and have a long way to go.
THE THEOLOGICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA
The foundation of our proclamation of the message of the Bible lies in our Systematic Theology. We have to have a vision of the whole before we can understand any of the parts. We need the whole story so that we will know where the various characters fit into the plot of the story.
On the other hand, the foundation of our proclamation of the message of the Bible is the careful listening to the biblical narratives and the rigorous exegesis of the individual pericopes of Scripture.
Neither Systematic Theology nor exegesis are privileged disciplines. Neither of these disciplines teaches the other without at the same time learning from them. Systematic Theology not only listens to the whole Bible regularly. It also listens to the exegetes of both Testaments. It listens to the historical theologians. It listens to the experts in ministry. It listens to its contemporary culture. It listens to other contemporary cultures.
And while it listens to the other disciplines, Systematic Theology, in turn, teaches them to see their own work in the light of the revealed worldview of the Bible. It reminds them that we dare not read the Bible from the perspective of any other culture or worldview than its own.
Since Thomas Aquinas theologians have often made some preliminary remarks about the nature and place of Systematic Theology in the context of the university or seminary curriculum.
We cannot decide ahead of time how we will do theology nor can we predict any of its content. We have no foundation in ourselves, our experience, our reason, nor in general revelation for any decisions about the form or content of God’s message to us. We just read the Bible, along with the church of all ages, and accept that new and unpredictable message from God.
Karl Barth reacted against this practice of making theology or dogmatics a part of anything else, even if it were described as the “Queen of the sciences.” Barth went to an extreme on this point, disconnecting special revelation from any possible natural revelation. Brunner was right in his rejection of this position of Barth in their famous debate that broke all fellowship between the two. But Barth was also right in rejecting the Thomistic subordination of Theology to General/Natural revelation. We have already considered the inadequacies and brokenness of natural revelation in chapter one of this section.
The relationship between God’s revelation in the Scriptures and all other knowledge is far more complex than either Barth or Brunner taught. It is as totally separate as Barth taught. It is deeply related to all other knowledge as Brunner demanded. The Scriptures present a radical new and different worldview from within the cultures of its human authors. They are subversive of all other worldviews, giving people the worldview of Eden, heaven, the Messianic Kingdom and the new earth.
The Systematic Theologian has the responsibility to translate this radically new and subversive worldview into contemporary cultures without letting the cultures subvert that biblical message. No theologian has ever accomplished this perfectly. Every attempt is marked by a partial grasp of the Scriptures and too great an impact of his culture upon the content of the message. Recognizing the problem does not remove it. This theology will be marked by the same problems. It is just a temporary pointer to the Bible awaiting a better statement. Hopefully, it will impact some to become intelligent residents within this strange new world of the Bible.
CALVIN ON THE FOUNDATIONAL MYSTERY OF THEOLOGY
At the very center of theology stands the mystery of fellowship between the Living God and creatures in him image and likeness. Whenever God meets us or we respond to his initiative, they is a mystery beyond human understanding. We have no analogy for this interaction in which he is fully sovereign and yet we have real choices. We do not lose the integrity of our personhood or the reality of our choices in his sovereignty. Rather that sovereignty is the very foundation of any possible human freedom. Paul writes:
Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to do according to his good purpose (Philippians 2:12-13).
Paul does not see any contradiction between God’s sovereignty in our willing and doing. He grounds our responsibility to act in the certainty that God is sovereign in every choice and activity. This corresponds to the normal response of doxology throughout the Scriptures whenever God’s sovereignty and election is mentioned (except for the trouble maker in Romans 9:19 who also had problems with the grace of God at other points, such as 3:7 and other passages).
Calvin stated this principle in several different ways. The first is found in his Prefatory Address to King Francis:
When Paul wished all prophecy to be made in accord with the ‘analogy of faith’ (Romans 12:6) he set forth a very clear rule to test all interpretation of Scripture. Now if our interpretation be measured by this rule of faith, victory is in our hands. For what is more consonant with faith than to recognize that we are naked of all virtue, in order to be clothed by God, That we are empty of all good, to be filled by him? That we are slaves to sin, to be freed by him? Blind, to be illumined by him? Weak to be sustained by him? To take away all occasion for glorying, that he alone may stand forth gloriously and we glory in him…. But as we ought to presume nothing of ourselves, so ought we to presume all things of God; nor are we stripped of all vainglory for any other reason than to learn to glory in the Lord (II Cor. 10:17, I Cor. 1:31; Jer. 9:23-24).30
Calvin shows how this analogy should be worked out throughout his Institutes. The first two chapters of book one are a good example of this.
Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But while joined together by many bonds, which one precedes and brings forth the other is not easy to discern. In the first place, no one can look upon himself without immediately turning his thoughts to the contemplation of God, in whom he lives and moves…. Indeed, our very poverty better discloses the infinitude of the benefits reposing in God. The miserable ruin, into which the rebellion of the first man cast us, compels us to look upward…. Thus, from the feeling of our own ignorance, vanity, poverty, infirmity and — what is more — depravity and corruption, we recognize that the true light of wisdom, sound virtue, full abundance of every good and purity of righteousness rests in the Lord alone.31
We always seem to slip back into some view that God’s sovereignty and grace are competitors with each other, that he limits our freedom and destroys the integrity of our personhood. But God is our Creator and we cannot be free unless he is God in all of his sustaining and sovereign grace. We are creatures and must always be absolutely dependent, even in the semi-independence of our personhood.
LUTHER’S PROGRAM FOR MAKING A THEOLOGIAN
Theology ought never to be merely academic, something to be understood and memorized. It is rather a struggle to understand God’s truth which is so drastically different from appearances. It is a struggle against Satan’s kingdom of darkness, his lies and his perversions. It is a struggle against our own sin and rebellion against God and truth. It is a struggle to develop deep convictions by faith against what the world believes.
Luther gives us a powerful picture of the making of a theologian. He never did theology as merely an academic exercise. He always did it as one battling against Satan, the world and his flesh in order to build the church. He wrote:
I would have been quite content to see my books, one and all, remain in obscurity…. Among other reasons, I shudder to think of the example I am giving, for I am well aware how little the church has been profited since they have begun to collect many books…in addition to and besides the Holy Scriptures…. Through this practice, not only is precious time lost which could be used for studying the Scriptures, but in the end the pure knowledge of the divine Word is lost…. Therefore, it behooves us to let the prophets and apostles stand in the professor’s lectern, while we…listen.
Morever, I want to point out to you a correct way of studying theology, for I have had practice in that…. This is the way taught by holy king David in the 119th Psalm. There you will find three rules amply presented throughout the whole Psalm. They are Oratio, Meditatio, and Tentatio.
Oratio — Firstly, you should know that the Holy Scriptures constitute a book which turns the wisdom of all other books into foolishness. Therefore, you should straightway despair of your own reason and understanding. Kneel down in your little room and pray to God with real humility and earnestness that he, through his dear Son, may give you his Holy Spirit who will enlighten you and give you understanding.
Meditatio — Secondly, you should meditate, that is, not only in your heart, but also externally, by actually repeating and comparing oral speech and literal words of the book, reading and rereading them with diligent attention and reflection, so that you may see what the Holy Spirit means….
Tentatio — Thirdly, there is tentatio, anfechtung. This is the touchstone which teaches you not only to understand, but also to experience how right, how true, how sweet, how lovely, how mighty, how comforting God’s Word is, wisdom beyond all wisdom…. For as soon as God’s Word takes root and grows in you, the devil will harry you to seek and make a real doctor of you, and by his assaults will teach you to seek and love God’s Word. I myself (if you will permit me, mere mouse-dirt to be mingled with pepper) am deeply indebted to my papists that through the devil’s raging they have beaten, oppressed, and distressed me so much. That is to say, they have made a fairly good theologian out of me, which I would not have become otherwise.
There now, you have David’s rules. If you study hard in accord with this example, you will also sing and boast with him…. When you have reached this point, then to not be afraid to hope that you have begun to become a real theologian who can teach not only the young and imperfect Christians, but also the maturing and perfect ones…. If you perhaps look for praise, and would sulk or quite what you are doing if you did not get it — if you are of that stripe, dear friend, then take yourself by the ears, and if you do this in the right way, you will find a beautiful pair of big, long, shaggy donkey ears. Then do not spare the expense. Decorate them with golden bells, so that people will be able to hear you wherever you go, point their fingers at you and say, ‘See, there goes that clever beast who can write such exquisite books.32
Luther and Calvin have a wonderful way of putting us in our place because they are fully committed to putting God in his place. There are a lot of donkeys who do not follow the analogy of the faith.
LIFE IN THE CHURCH
Paul was able to tell the Ephesian elders: “I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God” (Acts 20:27). The KJV’s “Whole counsel of God” may be clearer to many. He preached the whole word of God. We must do that. Over a period of years we need to teach our people all of the doctrines and all of the Bible. That does not mean that we preach doctrine books or that we have to preach through every one of the sixty-six book every pastorate or every five years. It does mean that we do not ride hobbies, or preach individual books out of the context of the whole Bible. One can preach the whole counsel of God through a series of sermons on Matthew, Acts or Romans if they are preached from the context of the whole Bible and if the preacher grows into the whole message of these books.
To all of the requirements of a good theologian the preacher must add a good knowledge of all of his people and a measure of personal contact with them so that they know him personally. He must reach their deepest needs with all of the power of the entire Word of God.
The most powerful teacher of theology is the Sunday worship service. The place of the Scriptures, the place and content of prayer, how we give, and the hymns that we sing (both words and music) count more than the sermons in teaching the worshiper the doctrines of the faith. The solemnity and the repetition brand this theology on the minds and hearts of God’s people.
Theologians are largely to blame for the kind of theology that is being taught by the various aspects of our worship services. We should be taking the leadership in showing future leaders how to teach a whole and rounded theology in a carefully prepared worship service. We should be teaching all of the individual parts of theology with a view to worship. All of our teaching should be in the context of worship. Systematic Theology that does not spur worship in both professor and students has lost its vision.
Theology should teach us to pray, how to pray, and what to pray for. Its whole subject is the relationships between God and people in which God is totally sovereign and we are totally dependent. Prayer is a recognition of this sovereignty and dependence. I ask God for everything and thank him for everything. Every doctrine is intimately related to this sovereign/dependent relationship. All of Systematic Theology must flow out of prayer and teach us that we must pray, how we ought to pray, and the things for which we should pray.
Systematic Theology also teaches us how to praise God and thank Him for everything that He gives to us. It is a constant reminder that we are all unworthy beggars before the Living God. We have no claim before Him except His freely given promises in Jesus Christ. Therefore, we always pray (whether we use those words or not) in Jesus’ name.
Everybody prays at one time or another. Many pray to the wrong gods. They ask for the wrong things. Because of their selfishness, they pray for health, money and safety for themselves and their family and friends. The whole of Systematic Theology teaches us that we pray for God’s name and purposes, and for all other people (the Lord’s Prayer), and that selfishness is the very opposite of biblical prayer.
This does not mean that Systematic Theology will be merely devotional, but rather that it will also be devotional. We must do the hard work of understanding the entire Scriptures. We must understand the struggle for orthodoxy against all of the persistent heresies through the whole history of the church. We must develop a good grasp of our postmodern cultures. We must do all of this work with a high level of competence. Only then is the “devotional” fully responsive to the Bible. Only then will we be biblical in our worship and prayer.
We live in an age obsessed with physical, psychological, and spiritual healing. The world is filled with healers. But the best of them can only postpone the inevitable for a short time by treating the symptoms. In my chiropractor’s office there are a couple of disclaimers: “We treat symptoms. We do not heal.” That sign should be put up by physicians, psychologist, psychiatrists, counselors, etc.
God is the only healer. He alone can eradicate the sin problem and bring full and complete healing by the Spirit’s application of all of the redemptive works of our Lord Jesus Christ to our lives. The healing that He gives will result in our glorification and eternal life in the perfect environment of the new earth in fellowship with the Living God forever.
The Church has forfeited her work of healing. She has been preoccupied with the periphery rather than the center. Buildings, numbers, and programs have taken the place of “the whole good will of God.”33 She attempts to meet the felt needs of people when the Scriptures pont to the real needs and God’s full healing of those needs. She has majored on evangelism rather than discipleship. These distractions have made the church incompetent to heal. Therefore, others have picked up the work that only the church can do well. This is not to say that the work of physicians, psychologist, counselors, and the other helping professions are invalid. It does say that this healing work can not be accomplished apart from the work of the triune God ministered through the whole Bible in the context of the local church.
The systematic theologian must prepare men and women to be healers of whole people. We need to know the whole Bible so thoroughly that we can know the real problems and spiritual diseases of people. We need to recognize that we are not the
center, nor is our story the focus of God’s attention. Rather, his story is central and we are fulfilled, healed, and whole only when we “hitch” our lives to His story.34
In his Introduction to Paradise Lost, C. S. Lewis noted the great contrast between the speeches put into the mouths of Satan and Adam by John Milton. Adam is only a day or two old, but speaks of the galaxies, earth and heaven. Satan speaks about himself. His speeches are a “perpetual autobiography.” We tend to follow Satan and thus destroy ourselves: “A man all wrapped up in himself makes a mighty small package.” God created us for much more than ourselves. “You stir up man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.”35
GREGORY ON THE HEALING OF SOULS
In 590 A.D., the church of Rome chose Gregory for their pastor. He fled, was caught, brought back, and ordained. In response to the criticism of his flight, he wrote
a book, Pastoral Care36 in which he described the work of the pastor as a healer from a theological perspective. He wrote at the beginning of the first book:
I am explaining, by writing this book, how onerous I regard them [the burdens of pastoral care], so that he who is free from them may not imprudently seek to have them, and he who has been so imprudent as to seek them may feel apprehension in having them.
The nature of the case requires that one should carefully consider the way in which the position of supreme rule ought to be approached, and when it is duly reached, how life should be spent in it; how, in a life of rectitude, one should teach others, and with what vigilance one should realize each day one’s weakness. All this must be ensued lest humility be wanting when office is assumed, the way of life be at variance with the office accepted….
No one ventures to teach any art unless he has learned it after deep thought. With that rashness, then, would the pastoral office be undertaken by the unfit, seeing that the government of souls is the art of arts.37
In Part III, he reminds his readers of the complexity of the healing ministry:
One and the same exhortation is not suited to all, because they are not compassed by the same quality of character. Often, for instance, what is profitable to some, harms others…. Wherefore, the discourse of a teacher should be adapted to the character of his hearers, so as to be suited to the individual in his respective needs, and yet never deviate from the art of general edification…. Hence, every teacher, in order to edify all in the one virtue of charity, must touch the hearts of his hearers by using one and the same doctrine, but not by giving to all one and the same exhortation.
In giving admonition we must distinguish between men and women, the young and the old, the poor and the rich, the joyful and the sad, subjects and superiors, slaves and masters, the wise and the dull, the impudent and the
timid, the insolent and the fainthearted, the impatient and the patient, the kind and the envious, the sincere and the insincere.38
Gregory was concerned about the healing of all of the different kinds of people in the church. The pastor and the local church are the primary place of the healing of souls. It is a demanding work. The healer of souls has a far more difficult job than the medical doctor to the extent that our hearts are greatly more complex than are our bodies. Our responsibility is also much greater, because all that we do, good or bad, lasts for eternity. while the work of the medical doctor either hastens or delays death by only a few years.
Paul knew how to preach the Word of God to the needs of all people in the context of their situation. I quoted Acts 17:22-28 and I Corinthians 1:20-24 at the beginning of this chapter to demonstrate how Paul proclaimed the Gospel to different hearers. He understood their culture. Without changing the truth, he did present it to each of them in a way that met them where they were and brought some of them to where they should be.
Paul continues in I Corinthians to show the Christ-centeredness that precludes all self-centeredness of all good preaching:
But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not— to nullify the things that are, so that on one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom form God— that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.
When I came to you brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might no rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (I Corinthians 1:26-2:5)
THE DOCTRINE OF REVELATION AND THE SCRIPTURES
Avis, Paul, editor. Divine Revelation. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997.
Bloesch, Donald G. Holy Scripture. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1994.
Carson, Donald and John Woodbridge, editors. Scripture and Truth. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983.
____________________________________. Hermeneutics, Authority & Canon. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989.
Conn, Harvie. Inerrancy and Hermeneutic. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1989.
Dockery, David S. Christian Scripture. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1995.
Fackre, Gabriel. The Doctrine of Revelation: A Narrative Interpretation. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997.
Geisler, Norman, editor. Inerrancy. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1979.
Geisler, Norman, editor. Biblical Inerrancy: An Analysis of its Philosophical Roots. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.
Goldingay, John. Models for Scripture. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994.
__________________________. Models for the Interpretation of Scripture. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.
Henry, Carl F. H. God, Revelation, and Authority, six volumes. Waco, TX: Word Books, 1976-1983. (See volumes one through four)
Lewis, Gordon and Bruce Demarest, editors. Challenges to Inerrancy: A Theological Response. Chicago: Moody Press, 1984.
Warfield, B. B. The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company, 1948.
Weeks, Noel. The Sufficiency of Scripture. Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1988.
CREED, CONFESSIONS, AND CATECHISMS
Leith, John, Creeds of the Churches. 3rd edition. Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1982.
Lumpkin, William. Baptist Confessions of Faith. Philadelphia: Judson Press, 1959.
Nettles, Tom. Baptist Catechisms. Fort Worth: Tom Nettles, 1982.
Schaff, Philip. The Creeds of Christendom. 3 volumes. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983.
Aquinas, Thomas. Summa Theologica. 5 volumes. Westminster, MD: Christian Classics, 1274, 1911, 1981.
Barth, Karl. Church Dogmatics. 4 volumes, 14 part volumes. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, English translation, 1954ff.
Bloesch, Donald. Christian Foundations. 7 volumes. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1992ff.
Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. 2 volumes. Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1559, 1960.
Erickson, Millard. Christian Theology, revised edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1998.
Fackre, Gabriel. The Christian Story: A Narrative Interpretation of Basic Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1984, 1994
Grenz, Stanley J. Theology for the Community of God. Nashville, Broadman and Holman, 1994.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.
Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology. 3 volumes. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1878 and 1946.
Moltmann, Jurgen. [Systematic Theology] I. The Trinity and the Kingdom, II. God in Creation,
III. The Way of Jesus Christ, IV. The Spirit of Life, and V. The Coming of God.
Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1991-1996.
Oden, Thomas C. Systematic Theology. San Francisco: Harper, 1868, 1989, and 1992.
Pannenberg, Wofhart. Systematic Theology, three volumes. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991ff.
Peiper, Francis. Christian Dogmatics, four volumes. St. Louis: Concordia, 1950.
Turretin, Francis. Institutes of Enlenctic Theology, three volumes. Phillipsburg, NJ: P. & R. Publishing Company, 1992, 1994, 1997.
Williams, J. Rodman. Renewal Theology, three volumes, now in one volume. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988, 1990, 1992.
INTRODUCTIONS TO SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY
Dyrness, William A. Learning About Theology from the Third World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1990.
______________________________. Invitation to Cross-Cultural Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992.
______________________________. Emerging Voices in Global Christian Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.
Erickson, Millard. Where is Theology Going? Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1994.
Frame, John. The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1987.
__________. The Evangelical Left. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996.
Grenz, Stanley J. Revisioning Evangelical Theology: A Fresh Agenda for the 21st Century. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1993.
Grenz, Stanley and Roger E. Olson. Who Needs Theology: An Invitation to the Study of God.
Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.
Kantzer, Kenneth S. and Stanley N. Gundry, editors. Perspectives on Evangelical Theology.
Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979.
Lecerf, Auguste. An Introduction to Reformed Dogmatics. Translated by Andre Schlemmer. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1949, 1981.
Lints, Richard. The Fabric of Theology: A Prolegomenon to Evangelical Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993.
Muller, Richard A. The Study of Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991.
Watson, Francis. Text, Church and World. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994.
__________. Text and Truth: Redefining Biblical Theology. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1998.
Wells, David F. No Place for Truth. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993.
__________. God in the Wasteland. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994.
__________. Losing our Virtue. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1998.
Woodbridge, John D. and Thomas Edward McComiskey, editors. Doing Theology in Today’s World: Essays in Honor of Kenneth S. Kantzer. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991.
BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR POSTMODERNISM
This is a brief list of books that will serve as a starting point for understanding the various kinds of postmodernism. This is a constantly changing field of thought and every bibliography is obsolete in a year or two. The bibliographies of the following books will guide to further study.
Appignanesi, Richard and Chris Garratt. Introducing Postmodernism. New York: Totem Books, 1995. An irreverent, comic book approach.
Carson, D.A. The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996. An evangelical and rather wordy treatment.
Cahoone, Lawrence E. From Modernism to Postmodernism: An Anthology. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1996. An excellent selection of primary documents in 731 pages.
Coward, Harold and Toby Forshay, editors. Derrida and Negative Theology: with a conclusion by Jacques Derrida. Albany: SUN, 1992.
Docker, David S., editor. The Challenge of Postmodernism: An Evangelical Engagement. Wheaton: Victor Books, 1995. Nice summaries by several evangelical scholars.
Erickson, Mallard J. The Evangelical Left: Encountering Postconservative Evangelical Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998. A centrist Evangelical evaluation.
Grenz, Stanley J. A Primer on Postmodernism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996. A left-wing Evangelical interpretation of the postmodern movements.
Griffin, David Ray, William A. Beardslee, and Joe Holland. Varieties of Postmodern Theology. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989. Some excellent chapters from the left wing of theology.
Johnson, William Stacy. The Mystery of God: Karl Barth and the Postmodern Foundations of Theology. Louisville: Westminster/John Knox, 1997.
Knight, Henry H. III. A Future for Truth: Evangelical Theology in a Postmodern World. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1997.
Lakeland, Paul. Postmodernity: Christian Identity in a Fragmented Age. Minneapolis: Fortress, 1997. A “liberal” evaluation.
Lundin, Roger. The Culture of Interpretation: Christian Faith and the Postmodern World. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993. A critique of deconstruction.
Middleton, J. Richard & Brian J. Walsh. Truth is Stranger than it Used to Be: Biblical Faith in a Postmodern Age. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1995.
Novick, Peter. That Noble Dream: The “Objectivity Question” and the American Historical Profession. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1988.
Phillips, Timothy R. & Dennis L. Okholm, editors. Christian Apologetics in the Postmodern World. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1995.
Scalise, Charles J. From Scripture to Theology: A Canonical Journey into Hermeneutics. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996.
Schaeffer, Francis A. The God Who is There. Chicago: InterVarsity Press, 1968. A deep insight into the origins of postmodernism during its beginnings.
Taylor, Mark C. Erring: A Postmodern A/theology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984. A radical look at theology from a deconstructionist perspective.
Thiselton, Anthony C. Interpreting God and the Postmodern Self: On Meaning, Manipulation, and Promise. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995. See also his: The Two Horizons (Eerdmans, 1980) and New Horizons in Hermeneutics. Zondervan, 1992.
Tracy, David. The Analogical Imagination: Christian Theology and the Culture of Pluralism. New York: Crossroad, 1986.
Van Huyssteen, J. Wentzel. Essays in Postfoundationalist Theology. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997. Rather heavy philosophical approach to balance the more popular approaches in this bibliography.
Ward, Graham, editor. The Postmodern God: A Theological Reader. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 1997. An excellent introduction and important selections.
Winquist, Charles E. Desiring Theology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995. A