Periodical Reviews -- By: Jefferson P. Webster

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 169:676 (Oct 2012)
Article: Periodical Reviews
Author: Jefferson P. Webster

Periodical Reviews

By The Faculty and Library Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary

Jefferson P. Webster


“An Accommodating and Shunning Culture: Evaluating the Cultural Context of the Evangelical Theological Society in the United States,” C. Jason White, Scottish Journal of Theology 65 (2012): 192-211.

White’s thesis is that “the values the ETS [Evangelical Theological Society] structures itself around demonstrate that the culture the ETS accommodates to is modernism. But, by embracing modernity, it shuns two important cultures. The first is the pre-modern Christian culture, whose confessional nature was the core value and foundation which motivated Christian faith and practice until the sixteenth century. The second is the non-Christian culture comprised of those who currently live in our contemporary, postmodern world. This second culture suffers the most at the hands of modern conservative evangelicalism, as it is excluded from hearing the good news of the Gospel in ways which make sense to it” (pp. 193-94). After defending this claim the author then proposes a new direction for the society grounded in an expansion of its doctrinal basis.

Beginning with René Descartes, the author traces the rise of modernism (the Enlightenment) out of the context of the Protestant Reformation. He asserts that the American evangelical response to modernism was assimilation, particularly in the “Old Princeton School,” through the view of theology as science and the development of biblical inerrancy. Based heavily on the work of Gary Dorrien, The Remaking of Evangelical Theology (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1998), White argues that evangelicals adopted a modernistic view of language and rejected a traditional view of biblical authority in favor of the doctrine of “plenary, verbal inerrancy” (p. 206). He says the claim by evangelicals that inerrancy is the traditional view of the church is “dubious at best for two reasons. First, the historical data seems to indicate that this doctrine is relatively young . . . [and] second, neither Luther nor Calvin, who not only predate the modern period but are also two of the most influential theologians in Christian orthodoxy, ever supported the Old Princeton School doctrine of inerrancy” (ibid.). Rather than inerrancy, White insists, Luther and Calvin believed “that confessional faith in the power of the Holy Spirit is what makes scripture authoritative and infallible” (pp. 206-7).

White concludes that “the modernism of the ETS is a failure for three main reasons. First, it has not prevented the marginalization of the church from continuing in the US, but has isolated conservative evangelical...

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