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Essentials of Evangelical Theology

 

Volume I, Chapter One

p1  Evangelicalism needs to recover its identity in the face of  “a new modernism [that] threatens to engulf mainline Christianity.”  An ‘older’ modernism engulfed it decades ago.  The mainline denominations in Canada , e.g., were “taken over”:

[a] erosion of the person and work of Jesus Christ

[b] erosion of the authority of scripture

[c] the tenets of liberalism became starker in the church.  (Liberalism: the world’s self-
understanding is made the self-understanding of the church.)

Then what is the ‘new’ modernism?  It is marked by

[a] little seriousness about intellectual matters

[b] loss of confidence in truth (postmodernism)

[c] little concern with history

[d] collapse of Transcendence of God into pantheism or panentheism

[e] rise of ‘counter-Spirit’ movements; e.g., Satanism, witchcraft, Wiccanism

[f] elevation of the perverse; e.g., ‘NAMBA’

 

p1  The threat: “syncretistic mysticism and latitudinarianism”

[i] there is a mysticism that is thoroughly biblical

[ii]    “              “       that disdains encounter with the Holy One of Israel.  It is

anti-incarnational (too narrow and non-intuitional)

anti-Trinitarian (because unconcerned about the life of God himself)

anti-atonement (too bloody, too primitive)

anti-obedience (too confining)

anti-justification (too set on the need for a ‘right-wising’ that we can’t give ourselves)

anti-theological (too complex in its understanding of the human condition).

In short, such non-biblical mysticism speaks of ‘union’ rather than ‘communion’ (with God).

 

[iii] latitudinarianism: doctrinal indifference.  But of course indifference to truth is ultimately indifference to Truth.

 

Bloesch correctly see the necessary relation of and balance between faith as the content of the Christian message (i.e., what we believe)  and faith as our act of believing.

If content is weighted one-sidedly>>sterile, cold orthodoxy.

If believing is “       “      >>religious sentimentality and rampant subjectivism.

 

Note Shepherd’s comment on Bl.p2 re: Wesley: “Wesley…sometimes minimized the importance of doctrinal fidelity in his emphasis on heart experience.”  (Shepherd disagrees.)  Wesley: theological indifference reflects the spirit of the anti-Christ.

 

p3  Bl’s criticisms of modern evangelicalism: the gospel has been reduced from world-transforming to world-resisting through a one-sided emphasis on individual salvation to the neglect of community responsibility.

Not so with ‘older’ (18th and 19th cent.) evangelicals.

 

p4  The formal principle of the Reformation: the authority of scripture.

The material “                     “              “ the gospel of reconciliation and redemption that faith alone enjoys.  Bl stresses that we must emphasize the latter: the former exists for this.

 

p5  Bl balances concern for truth (Luther and Calvin) with concern for holy living (Spener, Wesley, Puritans).

Shepherd: roughly speaking, 16th cent. Reformers forged doctrine;

17th cent. Puritans and Pietists articulated the necessity and nature of

rigorous discipleship, spiritual vigilance and spiritual growth.

Rev. V. Shepherd