Editorial: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants -- By: Stephen J. Wellum
SBJT 12:2 (Summer 2008) p. 2
Editorial: Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
*Stephen J. Wellum is Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Wellum received his Ph.D. degree in theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and has also taught theology at the Associated Canadian Theological Schools and Northwest Baptist Theological College and Seminary in Canada. He has contributed to several publications and a collection of essays on theology and worldview issues.
One of my most favorite portions of Scripture is Hebrews 11, the great chapter of faith. In order to encourage these early Christians to run the race that is set before them in light of a number of serious external and internal pressures (see for example, 10:32-39 and 5:11-6:12), the author of Hebrews not only presents the supremacy of Christ in all of his beauty and splendor, but he also challenges them to persevere as did the ancients of old. By naming many an Old Testament saint, who not only believed in the covenantal promises centered in Christ but also acted upon those promises even though our Lord Jesus Christ had not yet come, the author challenges these Christians—even in a greater way—to take God at his Word, to live in light of his promises that now have been fulfilled in Christ and thus to persevere to the end, no matter what may come, as people of faith looking unto Jesus. In this way, Hebrews 11, along with countless other biblical examples, presents us with the importance of role models as we live our Christian lives. Scripture constantly reminds us that none of us function as islands to ourselves; rather we stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us, seeking to learn from them, positively and negatively, both in terms of their way of life as well as their theological convictions and formulations.
In this way, even though all of our life and thought must be subservient to Scripture and ever being reformed in light of Scripture—sola Scriptura and semper reformanda respectively—“tradition” also serves an important, critical, and corrective role for us today as we seek to apply and live out the Scripture. As the old statements remind us—“there is nothing new under the sun” and “those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat its mistakes”—we neglect our theological forefathers to our detriment. In reality, tradition and the study of historical theology ought to be viewed as a kind of laboratory in which the strengths and weaknesses of past practices, ideas, and doctrines are tested under the pressures of real-life circumst...
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