Everything Old Is New Again: A Comparative Assessment Of The Postconservative Proposals Of John Franke And Roger Olson -- By: Michael D. White

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 71:2 (Fall 2009)
Article: Everything Old Is New Again: A Comparative Assessment Of The Postconservative Proposals Of John Franke And Roger Olson
Author: Michael D. White


Everything Old Is New Again:
A Comparative Assessment Of The Postconservative
Proposals Of John Franke And Roger Olson

Michael D. White

Michael D. White is a Ph.D. candidate in systematic theology at Wheaton College, Wheaton, Ill.

I. Introduction

A chorus from Peter Allen’s popular musical, The Boy From Oz, intones optimistically:

Don’t throw the past away,
You might need it some rainy day.
Dreams can come true again!
When ev’ry thing old is new again.1

By God’s common grace, wisdom sometimes appears in the most unlikely of places—even flamboyant Broadway musicals. If we evaluate recent theological trends by the light of this chorus,2 then we should reckon recent retrievals of the tradition for contemporary Christian theology as wisdom.3 Conversely, proposals sometimes arise which assure us our “Dreams can come true again,” with the qualification that we need only adopt certain new methodologies and habits of mind. The recent postconservative proposals of John Franke and Roger Olson constitute an example of the latter.

After reading a manuscript submitted for his review, Samuel Johnson reputedly quipped to a young author, “Your manuscript is both good and original. But the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.”4 Preliminarily, I suggest that the same can be said of Franke’s and Olson’s proposals. In my judgment, what can be counted as wisdom is not original to post-conservative theology as construed by Franke and Olson, but instead is already accounted for in the tradition. What is genuinely new is the verbiage and packaging of their proposals—which are generally unhelpful. Thus, everything old is new again, but with respect to the proposals of Franke and Olson, this adage

carries a slightly different thrust. In what follows, I will argue for this assessment by interacting with the recent monographs by Franke and Olson respectively, before concluding with summary remarks on their postconservative approach.

II. John Franke And The Character Of Theology

As his subtitle indicates, Franke’s monograph is an exercise in setting forth the nature, task, and purpose of theology.5 In broad terms, this is what Franke has in view when he speaks of the character of theology. Though Franke describes this monograph as ...

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