Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
TrinJ 10:1 (Spring 1989) p. 115
Robert K. Johnston, ed., The Use of the Bible in Theology: Evangelical Options (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1985).
This is a book of reflective essays by some of the leading Evangelical theologians regarding their thoughts on theological methodology, and especially their use of Scripture. There is a commendable breadth displayed in the selection of the ten essayists. While they all have in common an Evangelical commitment, their denominational affiliations vary widely. There are representatives from the Baptist, Anglican, Pentecostal, Reformed, Mennonite, Wesleyan, Congregational, and Free Church traditions. This wide selection raises the issue, is there a common Evangelical method for theology? Are there at least some common themes or commitments?
Another issue is raised by the title of the book. Those familiar with theological literature will recognize the similarity of the title with David Kelsey’s book, The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975). Is this just a coincidence? It appears not to be so. The editor raises this point at the beginning of his introduction (pp. 1–2). Kelsey’s functional view of Scripture and its authority, says Johnston, “flies in the face of evangelicalism’s commitment to the intrinsic authority of the Bible” (p. 2). While the book’s main purpose seems to be to encourage Evangelicals to be more reflective and precise in regard to matters of theological methodology, the problems raised by Kelsey are significant ones, and it is worthwhile to see how the theologians in this book have responded to this challenge.
Clark Pinnock is one who is very cognizant of the problems pointed out by Kelsey, and challenges the Evangelical community to respond. “It is quite obvious to me,” he writes, “that unless conservative theologians pay more attention to explaining their methodological choice [of approaching the text as God’s written word] they will not be successful in gaining leadership in the higher levels of theological work whether their group is numerous or not” (p. 21). He regretfully feels that the “fundamentalist-mod-ernist” debate on this point is still with us, but he cannot see how we can move past it. He does make an interesting suggestion of seeing dogmas as “conceptual gestalts built up retroductively through imaginative attempts to render the biblical phenomena intelligible” (p. 25). That is, rather than having an extra-textual imaginative construal dominate our interpretation, as Kelsey would suggest, this view argues that imaginative construals are formed by interaction with the text, and judged by the text. John Yoder also is aware of Kelsefs challenge, and so argues that it is inappropriate most
TrinJ 10:1 (Spri...
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