Press On to the Mark: Constructive Theology for the Twenty-First Century -- By: Kurt Anders Richardson

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 11:2 (Spring 1994)
Article: Press On to the Mark: Constructive Theology for the Twenty-First Century
Author: Kurt Anders Richardson

Press On to the Mark:
Constructive Theology for the Twenty-First Century

Kurt Anders Richardson

Assistant Professor of Christian Theology
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, NC 27587

All Christian ministry, whether evangelistic, pastoral, doctrinal, or otherwise participates in an ongoing constructive task under the authority and commission of the Lord Jesus Christ. Ministry must never be a matter of merely coping with change but exercising itself as the kind of change agent which we see embodied by the New Testament church and so ever after until the return of the Lord. The constructive task in ministry is always an arduous one living with a number of tensions, especially the one between tradition and innovation. We often hear expressions like “unchanging truth of Scripture” and “changing methodology of ministry.” In the history of the church, tradition has been easier to live with than innovation; indeed, in the area of doctrine innovation is considered tantamount to heresy. More pointedly, “tradition” can even serve as an indirect reference to the Scripture or to sound doctrine. This is the living Christian tradition in the face of all “detraditionalization.”1

The constructive task of theology, or “constructive theology,”2 is part of the Christian duty of every age until Christ returns: to train the next generation in the wisdom and knowledge of Christian truth. This is accomplished primarily through local churches and schools, especially colleges and seminaries. As Baptists, we find ourselves at the end of a long series of developments which is not untypical of Protestants in general. The constructive labors of one generation lose their edge of effectiveness in a later generation. Monuments to former evangelistic advance and educational force-in many cases still well attended and cared for-are redemptive and transformative no longer. But the Christian mission and way of life is an ongoing project with universal dimensions: “taking every thought captive unto Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5). This means, in our time, the planting and maturing of churches and institutions which will embody a new vision for 2lst-century Christianity. In the following points, I outline three foundational areas for a constructive approach: the Scriptural Norm, the Faithful Form, and the Cultural Imperative.

The Scriptural Norm

The Bible alone is the norm for any constructive theology.3 Whatever is passed on or recovered from the wealth of Christian history and the church, the

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