Monday, April 11, 2011

"Another basic problem with Traditionists..."

At some point I became comfortable describing myself as an Evangelical within the broader orthodox community of belief. But the categories keep changing on me. I'm definitely not "post conservative" and doesn't Meliorist imply that Progess [with a capital "P"] will transcend orthodoxy? This description of "Evangelicals Divided" by Gerald McDermott includes a taxonomy proposed by "Meliorists" that would make me "paleo-orthodox" [whereas in politics I tend to be "neo" — it can all be very confusing] :
.... Evangelical theology has long been divided between those who emphasize human freedom to choose salvation (Arminians) and those who stress God’s sovereignty in the history of salvation (the Reformed). Now this old division has been overshadowed by a larger division between new opposing camps we may call the Meliorists and the Traditionists. The former think we must improve and sometimes change substantially the tradition of historic orthodoxy. The latter think that while we might sometimes need to adjust our approaches to the tradition, generally we ought to learn from it rather than change it. ....

...Meliorist theologians like Roger Olson and the late Stanley Grenz...argue that “conservative” theology is stuck in Enlightenment foundationalism....

Olson divides the conservatives—which we would call Traditionists—into two camps, “Biblicists” (a derogatory term suggesting simple-mindedness) and “Paleo-orthodox” (another derogatory term, implying a refusal to face modern realities). The Biblicists, who include Carl Henry, Kenneth Kantzer, J.I. Packer, Wayne Grudem, Norman Geisler, and D.A. Carson, see revelation as primarily propositional and doctrines as facts. But most importantly, Olson claims, they regard doctrine as the “essence” of Christian faith.

The Paleo-orthodox include Baptist D.H. Williams, the Reformed author-pastor John Armstrong, Anglicans such as the late Robert Webber and Christianity Today’s editor David Neff, and the Methodists William Abraham and Thomas Oden. For them, the ancient ecumenical consensus is the governing authority that serves as an interpretive lens through which Christians are to interpret Scripture. The critical and constructive task of theology is conducted in light of what the ecumenical Church has already decided about crucial doctrinal matters. ....

...[T]he post-conservative suggestion that both the so-called Biblicists and Paleo-orthodox are foundationalist is dubious. Few among the Biblicists just named—and none of the Paleo-orthodox—would affirm the possibility of intellectual certainty based on self-evident truths or sensory experience. Neither group would say doctrine alone is the essence of faith, but all would insist that experience should never be privileged over doctrine.

Meliorists such as Olson think that another basic problem with Traditionists is that they give too much weight to, well, tradition. .... [more]
First Things: Evangelicals Divided