Theological Issues of 21st-Century Ministry -- By: Leith Anderson

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 151:602 (Apr 1994)
Article: Theological Issues of 21st-Century Ministry
Author: Leith Anderson

Theological Issues of 21st-Century Ministry

Leith Anderson

[Leith Anderson is Senior Pastor, Wooddale Church, Eden Prairie, Minnesota.]

[This is article two in the four-part series “Christian Ministry in the 21st Century,” delivered by the author as the W. H. Griffith Thomas Lectures at Dallas Theological Seminary, February 2–5, 1993.]

Theological issues have always been part of church life. At the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15) the issue centered on the terms by which Gentiles could be accepted into the church. While this may not seem like a significant matter today, it was extremely important then. The young church faced the possibility of splitting over the relationship between law and grace.

In the second, third, and fourth centuries the emphasis switched to canonicity and Christology. Hot debate forged the orthodox positions on the Bible, the Trinity, and the hypostatic union of Christ. The New Testament pseudepigrapha and apocrypha were excluded from the canon, and modalism and Arianism were declared heresies. In the 11th century the church divided between the East and the West over the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the Father and to the Son.

Soteriology was a primary theological issue in the 16th century as Reformers gave up their efforts to change the Roman Catholic Church and established Protestantism. Belief in the authority of Scripture and salvation by faith was carefully formulated into Protestant doctrines. In the 19th and 20th centuries multiple theological issues have emerged in eschatology, pneumatology, bibliology, and the relationship of Christian faith and social responsibility.

All of these have been important, though it is difficult for evangelicals today to get excited about the doctrine of strangled meat in Acts 15:20, or about the addition of filioque to the Nicene Creed at the Council of Toledo in A.D. 589. Succeeding generations

have built on and developed Christian theology from a combination of exegesis, systematics, and practice of ministry. One of the greatest values of theological education is learning from the past as a preventive against becoming heterodox in the future.

This is not to say that new theological issues create new doctrines. The first-century church had to deal with the same doctrines studied today. The Galatians encountered questions on the basis of salvation long before Martin Luther’s day. The Corinthians struggled over spiritual gifts 19 centuries ago. Instead, the issue is that of fine-tuning beliefs, writing down doctrines, and popula...

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