Roger Olson’s next chp in Reformed and Always Reforming takes on yet another crucial theme: tradition and orthodoxy in postconservative evangelical theology.
We begin with what Olson calls the “myth”: the objective, solitary individual examining a text without prejudice on the basis of evidence.
Evangelicalism is rediscovering tradition. But, postconservatism believes modern conservative evangelicalism is trapped in tradition and increasingly appealing to tradition instead of to Scripture. A recent book, whose impulse I value but whose impact could lead to sterility, is by Tom Oden and JI Packer, called One Faith. I remember the day when such a book would have been verboten, and I also wonder what kind of evangelical world brings such a book into existence. Anyway, this post is about Olson’s book.
Postconservatism “relativizes tradition without discarding it; it distinguishes between the status quo and real tradition … and Scripture as God’s inspired Word” (190). So, postcons aim for a “critical orthodoxy”:
1. It is critical: always under scrutiny. Respect but not obedience to.
2. It is generous: tradition is not a cudgel; it is a beacon to guide sojourners. (He mentions here a CT article in 1999 by conservatives that had both a statement, which Olson thinks was fair enough, and an appended set of denials that he thinks was “garrulous, speculative, and divisive” and “read like a document from an evangelical inquisition.”)
3. It is progressive: vision changes as new light is discovered through God’s Spirit.
4. It is dispositional: “as much a matter of the affections as of the intellect” (202).
The last chp is about open theism and I don’t want to get into that topic on this blog for right now.