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|Format: DRM Free ePub|
Publication Date: 2005
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"Here is an anomaly: Christians outside the West dying because they believe their faith is true and Christians inside the West doffing their hats to the idea and then looking the other way! This book explores what it should mean to say that Christians know the truth, doing so in ways that are searching, sure-footed, biblically convincing, and intellectually satisfying."
-David F. Wells, Andrew Mutch Distinguished Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary
"Truly a treatise for our times! Not only do we learn where contemporary discourse is truthless, we are given tools to reclaim true understanding to redeem our minds and our age. In the end this book points to God's Word of truth, the Scriptures, and God's incarnate truth, his Son. Read, and be renewed in hope and wisdom for the holy and fruitful pursuit of truth to which all who know Christ are called."
-Robert W. Yarbrough, Associate Professor of New Testament, New Testament Department Chair, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
"Four widely read evangelical scholars have crafted a superb exposé and antidote to the mind-set and cultural ills of postmodernism and those who accommodate it, while issuing a clarion call to remain vitally committed to the truth of God's revelation in Christ and the Bible. The original lectures, both stimulating and refreshing, were masterfully delivered to large audiences. Now, having them in hand allows even greater reflection and absorption of the truths they expound."
-James A. Borland, Professor of Biblical Studies & Theology, Liberty University, Secretary-Treasurer, Evangelical Theological Society
Overall, I found the book extremely satisfying, bringing together as it does four distinguished and staunch defenders of conservative evangelicalism. Kostenberger's essay "What is Truth? Pilate's Question in Its Johannine and Larger Biblical Context" is a scholarly and thoughtful exegesis of Jesus and Pilate's exchange, though his excessive footnotes were a distraction. J. P. Moreland's essay "Truth, Contemporary Philosophy, and the Postmodern Turn" is thoughtful and clear as usual, though there's certainly nothing new here. The essays by both Mohler and Vanhoozer, however, deserve further comment.
Mohler's essay "Truth and Contemporary Culture" was surprisingly nuanced and trenchantly argued. Before reading it, I had pegged him as something of an insular reactionary preaching primarily to the evangelical choir. Not so now. The first half of the essay clearly and pithily explains six challenges that the postmodern age presents for the church: (1) a deconstruction of truth; (2) the death of the meta-narrative; (3) the demise of the text; (4) the dominion of therapy; (5) the decline of authority; and (6) the displacement of morality. Mohler then charts an articulate traditional conservatism over and against post-liberals and post-conservative evangelical paths. The evangelical choir would certainly agree, but he's citing and reading thinkers that may make some in the congregation perk up. Judging from this essay, Mohler has readand understoodthe likes of Dawkins, Habermas, and Wittgenstein, as well as Hauerwas, MacIntyre, Lindbeck and Frei. For example, his case against post-conservative evangelical theology is not knee-jerk, but he instead shows their fallacious reading of evangelical history, in that evangelical theology has never been the step-child of modernity that post-conservatives say it is. While recognizing the genuine ecclesiological insights that post-conservative and emergent thinkers do bring to the table, Mohler warns that the church must be "understood to be the product of divine revelation, and not the producer of the divine revelation" is a necessary corrective (p. 70). It is a warning that I, for one, am beginning to heed.
While Mohler's essay was surprising, it was Vanhoozer's essay that was (unsurprisingly) most impressive. After reading his "Lost in Interpretation? Truth, Scripture, and Hermeneutics," one almost feels as if the essays by Mohler and Moreland are slightly misguided. While philosophical and cultural clashes fuel misunderstandings between traditionalist, post-liberal, and post-conservative evangelicals, Vanhoozer asksand answersthe more salient questions.
Instead of defending the correspondence theory of truth, for example, Vanhoozer asks to what end does truth serve? Vanhoozer sees "truth as correspondence for the sake of enriching the ministry of doctrine and reorienting our theology toward wisdom rather than mere information and knowledge." Put another way, Vanhoozer suggests that those who are wise allow biblical texts to "train our imaginations to see how things fit together theodramatically". For Vanhoozer, "theodramatic truth is a matter of eschatological correspondence" (p. 125-126).
On the doctrine of inerrancylong an area of dispute among evangelicalsVanhoozer is less anxious about later interpolations into the original autographs and instead finds himself asking how God's revealed Word should shape the worshipping community, the church. Here he notes that the Latin term for errancy (errare) is related to the term itinerary. Scripture, he writes, "reliably maps the way of Jesus Christ, not as a theological Euclida book of abstract propositionsbut as a book of theodramatic wisdom. The Bible is wholly trustworthy and true [inerrant] because its direction is wholly reliable [itinerary]." Again and again, Vanhoozer gives wise answers through the lens of a canonical-theological approach inflected through the interpretive lens of the Protestant tradition. Mohler (and Moreland, to a lesser extent) are right in their warning against the postmodern cultural mood and philosophical direction. Vanhoozer, however, suggests the proper direction ahead. Modernity and postmodernity, he suggests, are both mere cultural inflections: misguided streams that flow away from the "great Protestant tradition where Scripture is the supreme rule for life and thought" (p. 128). Our surest foundation is to steep ourselves in the stories of Scriptureto tell and retell God's story of redemption, to let it shape our imaginations, and to let it shape our communities of faith. As he concludes, he leaves us with a sobering reminder that all pastors and elders, indeed all Christians, should always remember:
"The Christian truth claim is not a matter of the will to power but of the will to weakness, a matter of enduring all sorts of critical testing, epistemic and existential, just as Jesus endured the cross. Christian interpreters must speak the truth in love, do the truth in love, and suffer the truth in love Our life together in the church is our most eloquent commentary on the gospel and, as such, ought itself to be exhibit number one of Christian truth" (p. 129). Dan Olson, Christian Book Previews.com
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