Methodology, Myth, And Misperception: A Response To William B. Evans -- By: J. V. Fesko

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 72:2 (Fall 2010)
Article: Methodology, Myth, And Misperception: A Response To William B. Evans
Author: J. V. Fesko

Methodology, Myth, And Misperception: A Response To William B. Evans

J. V. Fesko

J. V Fesko is Academic Dean and Associate Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary California. Escondido: California.

“It’s bad enough to be understood, let alone misunderstood,” is a statement that my systematic theology professor used to say as he lectured to his class. I never quite understood what he meant by the curious phrase until I began preaching, teaching, and writing. More often than not it seems as though one of the more challenging issues that face those engaged in debate is clearing away misperceptions and myths so that the real issues can be identified and discussed. William Evans’s recent essay is a case in point. His efforts to provide clarifications and a taxonomy of the parties involved in the present soteriology debates only further muddy the waters.1 This is not to say that Evans’s contribution offers nothing helpful to the discussion. However, Evans continues to traffic in a number of myths and misperceptions. In the interest of offering more light than heat, I offer a rejoinder. I focus my response around three key points: matters related to historical methodology, debunking myths, and clearing away some misperceptions. Perhaps this rejoinder can offer some clarification and move the debate forward. Readers should note, though, that I do not summarize Evans’s arguments; I direct readers to Evans’s piece for the context of my response.

I. Methodology

The first observation concerns Evans’s historical-theological methodology and the place that he accords to John Calvin. In his essay, Evans identifies Calvin as the key Reformed theologian, not merely for Geneva, not merely for Switzerland, not merely for the sixteenth century, but virtually for the entire Reformed tradition. Evans claims that Calvin set the agenda for subsequent Reformed thinking on the subject of the Pauline theme of union with Christ and argues that any effort to define Reformed identity that either implicitly or explicitly excludes Calvin is unacceptable.2 Evans’s interest in Calvin is no secret; he has argued elsewhere that Calvin’s doctrine of union with Christ is far superior to subsequent Reformed formulations. In fact, Evans goes as far as to say that subsequent

Reformed theologians vitiated and eclipsed Calvin’s formulations.3 Evans also argues that a decided break with seventeenth-century Reformed theology must occur; the tradition must return to Calvin’s superior soteriology

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