Category Archives: Theological method

“Conservative” and “progressive”: Are these our best terms to describe the alternatives?

Recently, I was listening to an Eerdmans interview with Megan DeFranza in which she spoke of the different Christian perspectives on the issue of “transgender.” She distinguished between them as a “conservative” perspective and a “progressive” perspective. Those are common labels in matters like this, and I have probably used them myself, but I have begun to doubt that it is helpful terminology. I think that “conservative” is a good term for the positions people … Continue reading

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The “open” and “closed system” approaches to theology

I have begun to read Michael J. McClymond and Gerald R. McDermott’s  masterpiece, The Theology of Jonathan Edwards, and I’m finding it wonderfully stimulating to my own theological thinking. Early in the book, I enjoyed the discussion of “the ethos and method of Edwards’ theology,” particularly as I reflected on my own method in relation to that of Edwards. An open system approach As I reflect on almost 50 years of personal theological reflection, I … Continue reading

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Some stimulating insights from Oliver O’Donovan

I found many profound and stimulating statements in this brief interview with Oliver Donovan, one of the greatest minds and hearts at work in Christian ethics in our time. I particularly enjoyed some comments on his use of other scholars. Here are a few to ponder:   I often feel that biblical studies get too close to the text actually to read it. But we need them, and owe an incalculable debt to them for their most important … Continue reading

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Christianity and Confucianism: a rising issue in contextualization

What God is doing amongst Muslims these days is quite remarkable, but this has generated difficult questions for Christian churches in predominantly Muslim nations, as they work through issues of contextualization. What should Christian churches look like in those contexts? The debate over the “Insider Movement” is quite intense these days, with both missionaries and former Muslim believers lined up on both the pro and con side. Now Christianity Today alerts us to another challenge … Continue reading

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The potential of global English to enrich the Christian church’s production of contextualized theologies

My wife has taught many hundreds of people to teach English as a second language and her students are now scattered around the globe doing this. I have learned interesting things from her about the international nature of English as a language now. This is particularly important in the church, because most of the theological resources available to the global church are in English but most of the Christians in the world do not speak … Continue reading

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Choose your theological mystery or conundrum

If we hear most loudly in Scripture the description of a world in which God has given moral creatures significant control of how things turn out, why would we thank and glorify God when good things occur? But if we hear most loudly in Scripture the description of a world in which God has maintained meticulous control, why would we feel responsible when evil occurs rather than holding God accountable? The synergist conundrum “I would … Continue reading

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How should we arrive at a conclusion in regard to hotly contested theological alternatives?

Throughout the history of the Christian church, Bible believing Christians have been divided on important theological issues. This can be very frustrating to people who feel the need to decide which position is correct but who find the dispute very difficult to adjudicate. The situation creates a good market for multiple view books, a genre I particularly enjoy reading, and I find them very useful when teaching seminars. But in my experience, the reading of … Continue reading

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Poythress on biblical inerrancy

In my last post, I shared some analyses of why biblical inerrancy is back on the table for discussion among evangelicals, and I summarized John Walton’s proposal that the language of speech-act theory is a help as we approach the issue. Since then, I have come upon Vern Poythress’s contribution to a panel at the ETS annual meeting in Baltimore, on “Pedagogical Best Practices for the Doctrine of Inerrancy.” His response to the two questions I introduced … Continue reading

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Why is biblical inerrancy back on the evangelical table, and might there be new ways to approach an old controversy?

Renewed interest in the nature of biblical authority Inerrancy is back on the table in evangelical discussions. It is the theme of the annual meetings of ETS in Baltimore, which are underway as I write, though I am not able to attend. It is also the focus of a few recent books. I have wondered just what triggered this new interest, and so my attention was caught by comments made by J. Merrick and Stephen … Continue reading

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“Monergism” and “Determinism:” Are they useful terms?

I had brief correspondence recently with an evangelical theologian whom I am going to call “Peter,” so that I can cite some of our private conversation without putting him on public record. For my purposes here, what he said is the important thing, not who he is. Our brief interchange prompted me to ruminate about the terminology we use to describe a Calvinist understanding of God’s role and ours, in salvation and in history more … Continue reading

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