(Say the Jesus Creed morning and evening during Lent.)
Roger Olson, in his Reformed and Always Reforming, lists four features, yea five, that characterize evangelicalism and that are common between conservatives and postconservatives. In other words, he defines who is and who is not an evangelical. What do you think?
1. Biblicism: normative value of Scripture.
2. Conversionism: the necessity of personal conversion to faith in Christ.
3. Cruci-centrism: the centrality of the cross in the gospel.
4. Activism: in evangelism and social work.
To this Olson adds a fifth, and one that I think should be part of a defining evangelicalism:
5. Deference toward orthodox doctrine in the Great Tradition of the Church.
Olson also defines who is and who is not an evangelical theologian:
1. Evangelical theology is what is done by an evangelical theologian.
2. An evangelical theologian is one who says he or she is evangelical.
3. This person works within evangelical networks.
4. They adhere to the first four features above.
Olson thinks both Carson and Wells are too tight on who counts as evangelical. He finds more hope in Kenneth J. Collins (The Evangelical Moment). And it Collins who leads Olson to state the five features above. He thinks Carson and Wells have made “traditional doctrinal orthodoxy” “incorrigible” — incapable of correction — and “therefore equal with divine revelation” (43). I’m sure Olson is speaking here of a functional equivalency.
He calls this tendency traditionalism and here’s a fulsome quote:
This view “enshrines Prot orthodoxy as it was developed in the post-Reformation period by Prot scholastics and especially by the Old Princeton School theologians in the nineteenth century as an incorrigible intellectual content of authentic evangelical faith” (44). Postconservatives adhere to the above five points.
Olson argues that traditionalism shows itself incapable of reform. They admit to sola scriptura but rule out those who don’t agree with their “interpretation” of Scripture. Which means they have a traditionalism that defines Scripture. Olson believes in respect but not “slavish adherence” (45) to the traditions. [Slavish adherence is too strong of an expression.]
Next post: the two streams that gave rise to evangelicalism, both conservative and postconservative.