Considering the Needs of the Church: A Response to Craig Blomberg -- By: Donald J. Verseput
BBR 11:2 (2001) p. 173
Considering the Needs of the Church: A Response to Craig Blomberg
Bethel Theological Seminary, St. Paul, Minnesota
It is necessary for the academy to listen carefully to the church, to appreciate more fully its new orientation and its changing needs. Three topics are especially pressing: (1) We must acquaint our students with the cultural experiences of early Christianity, in order to learn again how to make biblical theology relevant to our society. (2) The distinctives of biblical and Christian ethics need to be carefully probed. (3) The relevance of biblical theology for spirituality needs to be investigated afresh.
Key Words: culture, contextualization, hermeneutics, ethics, spirituality
Craig Blomberg has provided an admirably competent overview of some of the most pivotal areas for NT research as we enter the first decade of the new millennium. I would like to express my appreciation both for his labors in the production of this prospectus as well as his own contributions to many of the questions he has so thoughtfully placed before us. Nonetheless, in what follows, I would like to take a somewhat different approach. With an evangelical eye upon the church, Blomberg himself remarks that our scholarly efforts must “self-consciously serve the most crucial needs of the church of Jesus Christ at home and abroad.” But if this is indeed the case, would it not be profitable to pause for a moment to ask what questions the church might have for us? Rather than focusing exclusively upon issues arising out of dialogues within biblical scholarship, let us spend a few moments reflecting on those trends within the Christian community that might evoke a helpful response from the side of academic societies such as the IBR.
There is a change afoot in American Christianity. The current occupants of the Saturday evening or Sunday morning pew are primarily interested in a completely different set of questions than were the John and Mary churchgoers of a generation ago. For the most
BBR 11:2 (2001) p. 174
part, the endless doctrinal debates that previously impressed inquisitive crowds and established denominational boundaries now beg an audience. The decision whether to attend this church or that is no longer made by a rational choice of belief systems; it is, rather an expression of attitude or feeling, of preference for worship style or program convenience. For some, this thoroughgoing shift represents a lamentable decline in religious vigor. In an orgy of hand-wringing, these critics lay the blame on the self-centeredness and practical anarchism of a particular generation. But such a conclusion, elevated to an axiom by repetition without contradiction, i...
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