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Reclaiming the Center: Confronting Evangelical Accommodation in Postmodern Times Paperback – November 9, 2004
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"When evangelicals confuse an improper passion for novelty with a proper pursuit of academic and pastoral relevance, the results can be distressing. I cannot express how grateful I am for the well-formed wisdom with which this book points to the abiding and decisive relevance for future route-finding of the old theological paths."
—J. I. Packer, Board of Governors' Professor of Theology, Regent College
"For those evangelicals who-like myself-are increasingly troubled by extravagant claims made by various evangelical scholars about the nature of the 'postmodern' challenge, as well as by earnest calls to develop new epistemological and theological perspectives in response to this challenge, the writers of these essays shed much light. This book is must-reading for everyone who wants to promote a clear-thinking evangelicalism for our contemporary context."
—Richard J. Mouw, President, Professor of Christian Philosophy, Fuller Theological Seminary
"Here is a collection of intelligent, provocative, gutsy essays that dare to fly into the eye of the scholarly storm over evangelical identity. Though different perspectives are present even here, the underlying thesis is clear and worth heeding: the eager, and sometimes uncritical, embrace of postmodernist paradigms may be as premature as it has proven to be unproductive for the well-being of the evangelical church. One of the most important books of the new century!"
—Timothy George, Founding Dean, Beeson Divinity School; General Editor, Reformation Commentary on Scripture
"Provocative, timely, and controversial!"
—Donald G. Bloesch, Professor of Theology Emeritus, Dubuque Theological Seminary
"Compromise and confusion stand at the center of evangelicalism's theological crisis, and a clear-headed and convictional analysis of the problem has been desperately needed. Thankfully, Reclaiming the Center has arrived just in time. . . . My fervent hope is that it will open evangelical eyes, humble evangelical hearts, and awaken this generation to the peril of accommodationism."
—R. Albert Mohler Jr., President and Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
"The authors of this well-designed volume provide a bold and well-argued response to what is sometimes called 'postconservative evangelicalism.' This important conversation regarding the essence, center, and boundaries of evangelicalism is here explored, interpreted, and assessed from a well-informed theological, philosophical, and historical perspective. . . . I heartily commend this volume and trust it will find a large readership."
—David S. Dockery, President, Trinity International University
About the Author
Millard J. Erickson (PhD, Northwestern University) is distinguished professor of theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. He is a leading evangelical spokesman and the author of numerous volumes, including the classic text Christian Theology.
Paul Kjoss Helseth (PhD, Marquette University) is professor of Christian thought at Northwestern College in St. Paul, Minnesota, and the author of numerous scholarly articles.
Justin Taylor (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is the executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher at Crossway. He has edited and contributed to several books including A God-Entranced Vision of All Things and Reclaiming the Center, and he blogs at Between Two Worlds—hosted by the Gospel Coalition.
D. A. Carson (PhD, Cambridge University) is research professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where he has taught since 1978. He is a cofounder of the Gospel Coalition and has written or edited nearly 120 books. He and his wife, Joy, have two children and live in the north suburbs of Chicago.
J. P. Moreland (PhD, University of Southern California) is distinguished professor of philosophy at Biola University. He is an author of, contributor to, or editor of over ninety books, including The Soul: How We Know It's Real and Why It Matters.
R. Scott Smith is Assistant Professor of Ethics and Christian Apologetics at Biola University in California. He is the author of Virtue Ethics and Moral Knowledge. Dr. Smith has lectured and presented numerous times on his specialty, postmodernism, and he is also the secretary-treasurer of the Evangelical Philosophical Society.
Stephen J. Wellum (PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is professor of Christian theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, and editor of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. Stephen lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with his wife, Karen, and their five children.
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Top Customer Reviews
Reclaiming the Center seeks to reclaim what is being lost through the influence of "postconservative evangelicals" like theologian Stanley Grenz and pastor Brian McLaren. This recovery is presented from a wide-range of viewpoints--from philosophy to theology to historiography to third-world perspectives.
This theological pilgrimage begins with a concise and informative introduction to the issues (written by Justin Taylor), as well as an overview of how the book is organized and what each chapter is about (which I have in turn summarized in the next few paragraphs). Next is a chapter by D.A. Carson "summarizing and critiquing the broad outlines of Grenz's vision for evangelicalism" (p. 26).
After the introduction, a philosophical framework is begun. The three chapters in this section take a philosophical approach to answering postconservative accusations by discussing the correspondence theory of truth (Goothius, Ch. 3), foundationalism, reliabilism, inerrancy (Moreland and DeWeese, Ch. 4), and finally with epistemic/linguistic access to the real world (Smith, Ch. 5).
After setting up the philosophical framework (for every theology needs a foundation), the book moves on to theological assessment. Two of the chapters have to do with postconservative's view of Scripture. The postconservative cultural-linguistic model of Scripture is shown to be unreliable and the canonical-linguistic is put forth as a biblical alternative (Caneday, Ch. 6), and then Steve Wellum (Ch. 7) shows how "their doctrine of Scripture is incompatible with the Bible's own claims for itself and weakens the possibility of doing theology in a normative fashion" (p. 28). The final chapter in the section evaluates postconservative theology from a Third World perspective (Ch. 8, Donkor).
After the philosophical framework has been set and theological assessment made, the book moves on to historiography. Paul Helseth leads this section by showing that postconservatives have become a new brand of fundamentalism that they sought to remove themselves from (Ch. 9). Bill Travis then shows how orthodox doctrine has been a central concern throughout the centuries--even by those who have influenced postconservative ideas, contrary to the postconservative claim that commitment to orthodoxy is a relatively new "neo-evangelical" idea (Ch. 10). Finally Chad Brand wraps this section up by defining evangelicalism and showing what has been its historic doctrinal beliefs (Ch. 11).
The final section deals with the future of postmodernity. Jim Parker predicts a transmodern period, one that embraces the strengths of modernism and postmodernism but avoids both extremes (Ch. 12). Millard Erickson concludes with a prophetic vision for the future of evangelical theology that will help us navigate through the current "theological fog." It is a global, objective, practical and accessible, postcommunial, metanarratival, dialogical, and futuristic vision (Ch. 13). Such a vision is extensive and time will only tell if such a theology will result.
There are many strengths in this book. It is edited by three highly skilled theologians who promise to give you a fair and balanced look at the issues. The diverse nature of the chapters give the reader a taste for the many implications that such a shift in "evangelicalism" has.
This could also not be released at a better time. More people than ever are hearing about the "emerging church". Relevant magazine continues to grow in popularity. The interest of laymen continues to peak--especially with the younger Christians (whose culture has been "lobotomized by television" and the ever-present image), who realize some of their mumbo jumbo postmodern theology has a name.
All this brings me to two criticisms, both minor. The first is its highly academic nature. This is, of course, their intention because "as goes the academy, so goes the church" (p. 31), however, it would be helpful if it were a little more in reach of the average laymen who does not have extensive theological or philosophical training. I do believe most of the chapters are accessible to the majority of Christians, but for some of the more philosophically oriented chapters (especially 3-5) I recommend having something like the Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy or the Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion handy.
My second criticism is the book does not deal with the practical church and dialog issues as much as I would have liked. How are we to interact with postconservative evangelicals in church settings? What is the best way to combat these tendencies from taking over our churches? In what way should we use medium--such as the Internet, one of postconservative's major strengths--to our advantage? Questions like these might take a sequel to answer. However, we may have to look to the upcoming Becoming Conversant with Emergent by D. A. Carson (expected April 2005) to address these questions.
While Reclaiming the Center is a thoroughly academic work, there is no reason for the book to be read only by those in academia. But don't just take my word for it. This book has endorsements by famous scholars such as J.I. Packer, Albert Mohler, Timothy George, Richard Mouw, and David Dockery. And, with them, I conclude that anyone who is interested in the emergent church movement will find this helpful and enlightening, and I highly encourage you to examine it and consider the devastating effects of postconservative theology in our calling to "test all things" and "hold fast what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21).