I've Moved!!!

See my new site at http://tomtesblog.tumblr.com!!!

Beyond Born Again

| 23.7.02
Beyond Born Again: Towards Evangelical Maturity, by Robert M. Price

In Beyond Born Again Robert Price --former evangelical active in Apologetics turned Jesus Seminar member-- uses those sharply honed skills to critique the glaring lack of intellectual rigorism found among the leading and most widely read evangelical apologists. Although a sometimes cumbersome read because of the sheer number of quotes brought in, Price has produced an excellent description of evangelicalism that avoids the pitfalls of over-generalization and straw-man arguments while exposing inconsistencies within evangelicalism, its tendency towards totalism, and blindness to anything beyond its own categories.

Published in 1993 by Hypatia Press, the book is also available on-line in its entirety at Essene.com. It's a rare treat to be able to review something this contemporary and relevant, yet also available to the public for free --only a mouse-click away.

In the first of three main sections, Price divides evangelicalism into two main groups --the "hard line evangelical" and the "soft line evangelical." Hardliners are those evangelicals for whom "all answers to life's puzzles are strictly religious or spiritual in nature and are directly derivable from personal commitment to Christ and accompanying devotional disciplines. Furthermore, all necessary information for this is in the Bible. The result is a purely religious view of the world and the self which does full justice to neither." Authors indicative of the evangelical hard line include Bill Gothard, Merlin Carothers, Peter Gilquist, and Tim LaHaye. Softliners, on the other hand, are a less extreme form of the hard line faith --but still derived from it. "Here, religious commitment is still given fundamental importance in life, but it is also recognized that even the Born Again Christian is subject to problems and solutions that are not especially spiritual in origin or nature. Accordingly, the Bible is not seen to have the answer to everything. One may also look to and trust other sources. The consequent worldview attributes both significant value and independent reality to the world and the self in their own right." Some notable soft line evangelicals include Bruce Larson, Keither Miller, and Ruth Carter Stapleton. Price considers the soft line attitude a lot more psychologically healthy than the hard line attitude, but ironically pans the soft-line as being inconsistent because it pays lip service to the hard-line idea of a unique and sufficient Bible while at the same time finding many of life's answers elsewhere.

In part two, Price examines the arguments and arguing styles of Josh McDowell's Evidence That Demands a Verdict and C.S. Lewis' famous "trilemma" argument (among others), accusing both of assuming their conclusions and not looking deeply enough at other possibilities and contrary evidence. Cutting to the heart of the apologists' arguments, Price claims that they all serve as "cognitive dissonance reduction" strategies, aimed at preserving the credibility of a unique inerrant Bible and the hard relgious line. Interestingly, Price makes the distinction that he is not arguing against the possibility of an inerrant Bible, but arguing that the arguments of the evangelical apologists fall apart under scrutiny and additional evidence, which he lays out side-by-side with the apologists' shallow treatments.

Part three discusses the future of evangelicalism as a mature faith. For Price, an evangelicalism that is mature is a post-modern evangelicalism that has dispensed with fundamentalist assumptions as its baseline expression while still remaining in recognizable continuity with its past. Quoting the stylistic definition of evangelicalism put forth by Richard Mouw of Fuller Theological Seminary, Price suggests that the distinctive features of evangelicalism are "a message... that must be verbally articulated to those who do not profess Jesus Christ as Lord; an emphasis on the need for a 'personal relationship' with Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of one's life; a set of basic attitudes towards the Holy Scriptures, which are typified by certain devotional patterns and regularly references in Christian discussion to what 'the Bible says.' Price argues that within these distinctives any theological content can be successfully inserted, giving evangelicalism a broader base from which to successfully dialogue with other traditions, and more flexibility to change its theological model as the need arises.

Interestingly, since 1993 some movement has been seen in this direction. Price's former mentor, Clark Pinnock, has advocated "Open Theism," an evangelical version of Process Theology in which it is proposed that God's knowledge of the future is self-limited in order to make room for human choice and action. Although in 2001 the Evangelical Theological Society voted to censure Open Theism as a non-evangelical option, its proposal may be an indication that evangelicalism is willing to start looking beyond fundamentalism for its definitive paradigm.

Beyond Born Again at Essene.com
Beyond Born Again at Infidels.org

PUBLISHER: Hypatia Press; ISBN: 0940841983; (1993)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Terrific, that' s exactly what I was seeking for! You just spared me alot of work

I've Moved!!!

See my new site at http://tomtesblog.tumblr.com!!!