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Growth in grace as a control belief for theological method

A paper by Rev Rod Benson for a meeting of the Commission on Christian Ethics, Baptist World Alliance Annual Gathering, Ocho Rios, Jamaica, 3 July 2013

 

This paper examines the need for ethical control beliefs for theological method, outlines options suggested by Stanley Grenz and Brian Harris, and commends “growth in grace” (2 Peter 3:18) as a potential control belief or “norming norm” for an ethically fortified theological method.

Since the theme for the Baptist World Alliance in 2013 is “In step with the Spirit: Liberation,” and I am about to commence work on a large project on theological method and Christian ethics, it seemed helpful to critically consider the suggestion of my Australian colleague, Rev Dr Brian Harris, that the liberating function of the good news of Jesus Christ might function as a control belief for theological method.

On 1 January this year, I made the mistake of posting some thoughts about theological method on my blog, and the Chair of the BWA Commission on Christian Ethics happened to read the piece and invited me to say some more.  And here we are.

Why we need theological method

With few exceptions, attending to theological method does not appear to be a key concern of professional theologians committed to upholding the four essential qualities of evangelical Christian communities articulated by David Bebbington, namely a particular view of Scripture, crucicentrism, conversionism and activism.[1]  Yet throughout church history, “the kinds of theology most faithful to Scripture have been those that variously combined and balanced the demands of the academy with those of the church.”[2]  This remains true today.  We need both rigorous intellectual discipline and vibrant spiritual expression if the church is to remain true to its mission in the world and be effective in accomplishing it.

Yet as a 1987 study by Lewis Mudge and James Polding observed,

if a typical congregation of Christian people is simply told to go and ‘do theology,’ what will come out will be a mishmash of favorite scripture verses quoted out of context, superstitions, fragments of civil religion, vague memories of poorly taught Sunday-school lessons of long ago, and the like.[3]

Some scholars dismiss theological method as dangerous or at best irrelevant.  Karl Barth, for example, reacting against the late nineteenth and early twentieth century liberal enthusiasm for theological method, argued that “the persuasiveness of theology is seen in the display of its content rather than its methodological prowess before the content is ever reached.”[4]  Similarly, and more recently, Dan R. Stiver likens theological method to “one of those cases where a foreign plant is imported to provide ground cover and ends up being a persistent weed that cannot be eradicated.”[5]

For Stiver, theological method is central to the assumptions of modernity.  He argues instead for “doing theology rather than talking about how to do it.”[6]  He then outlines a framework for doing theology based on a synthesis of postliberal (Yale School) theology and an appeal to the hermeneutical theories of Gadamer and Ricoeur.  In other words, he seems to embrace a particular theological method while arguing that such a method is unimportant for the task of theologizing.  However, Stiver acknowledges that he retains an interest in theological method as a “clarifying tool rather than a foundation or proof.”[7]

If theology is often considered to be an academic discipline, it is also arguably a wider activity encompassing various forms of discourse and the visual and performing arts.[8]  Theology (or “theologizing”) is also a process of practical moral discernment for which theological method provides structure and clarity.  In their book, The Art of Theological Reflection, Patricia O’Connell Killen and John de Beer suggest that

we miss much that the [Christian] tradition offers to enrich our lives and much of the revelatory power of our lived experience when we keep our theological reflection solely at the spontaneous level.  We are invited as Christians to a disciplined approach to bringing our religious heritage into our reflection on life experience.[9]

Now theological reflection is not synonymous with theological method.  I regard theological reflection as one aspect of the broader agenda of theological method.  Such reflection has three primary tasks:

(a)   induction and nurturing of members: informing the processes that enable the formation of Christian character;

(b)   building and sustaining corporate identity: assisting the growth and maintenance of the community of faith (including determining where the normative boundary of faithful practice might lie, and thus the distinctiveness of the collective identity of Christians;

(c)    communicating the faith to a wider culture: enabling the faith community to relate its communal identity to the surrounding culture, and communicating that faith to the wider world.[10]

This indicates the significant pastoral function and public dimension of theology couched as “a body of knowledge designed to articulate the nature of God in order that people might lead godly lives.”[11]  Moreover, as Ellen Charry observes,

Christian doctrines function pastorally when a theologian unearths the divine pedagogy in order to engage the reader or listener in considering that life with the triune God facilitates dignity and excellence.[12]

But that is not all.  In addition to defining or explaining doctrinal orthodoxy within a particular tradition, and serving that faith community in pastorally sensitive ways, theology also informs public life with a view to public issues and the common good.  As Brian D. Robinette notes, “Christian life … entails two movements at once: ongoing spiritual formation with others in community, and a commitment to fostering reconciliation and justice in a world that desperately needs it.”[13]  For such an enterprise to bear godly fruit in personal, faith-community and public contexts, I argue that awareness of issues relating to theological method is essential.

Which method?  Whose vision?

Several important books exploring questions of theological method have been published since the turn of the century.[14]  For the purposes of this paper, however, I will interact with a 2009 review article by Brian Harris, titled “Why method matters: Insights from the theological method of Stanley J. Grenz.”[15]

Harris claims that evangelical Christians often view theological method as “the death of spiritual passion, and at best, a dangerous enterprise.”[16]  Similarly, Stanley J. Grenz and John R. Franke assert that while

Theologians in mainline theological circles have been in need of a reminder that theology involves more than simply reflecting on method … Evangelical theologians have … given little attention to methodological concerns.[17]

Harris outlines how reflection on his personal situation as a young adult in South Africa led him to explore methodological issues and eventually led him to discover Grenz’s distinctive evangelical theological methodology.  He draws specifically on four of Grenz’s books,[18] and suggests that Grenz’s theological method has “the potential to genuinely revision evangelical theology.”  Most of Harris’s article summarises key elements of Grenz’s methodology, and suggests some minor “revisioning” to address perceived weaknesses.

Grenz and Franke knew they were making a bold claim that would be contested when in 2001 they published the book titled Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context, seeking as it did a secure place for theologizing beyond the demise of foundationalism.  They expressed optimism that their project would

nurture an open and flexible theology that is in keeping with the local and contextual character of the discipline, that remains thoroughly and distinctly Christian, and that fosters a renewed listening to the voice of the Spirit speaking to the churches through the scriptures … [a] further realization of what Hans Frei referred to as a ‘generous orthodoxy.[19]

 

Scripture as a source for theology

As an alternative to the Wesleyan Quadrilateral model, Grenz proposes a model whereby Scripture, tradition and culture function as “sources” for theology, with the Trinity, community and eschatology serving as “focal motifs.”  These sources are used in the same way in which Scripture, tradition, reason and experience are used in the so-called Wesleyan model to develop a cogent and coherent theology.  The focal motifs facilitate the application of this theology to the “postmodern situation.”[20]

As a Baptist and an evangelical, Grenz’s first methodological commitment was to Scripture.[21]  He views Scripture as theology’s “norming norm,”[22] but modifies the conventional evangelical commitment to the Reformation catch-cry sola scriptura by transferring ultimate authority from the text of Scripture to the culture of the believing community.

Thus, for Grenz, theology should be conceived as “reflection on the faith commitment of the believing community,” since the community of faith is “the source for the symbols, stories, teachings and doctrines that form the cognitive framework for the worldview of the believing community.”[23]

Grenz defends this apparent diminution of supreme biblical authority by suggesting that the Bible’s status as the foundational text of the faith community guarantees its place of importance in the theological enterprise.[24]  Harris notes that this seems a short step from relegating Scripture to the place of a non-authoritative source; and suggests that it is not self-evident that Scripture possesses enduring significance as a source for theology merely because it is viewed as “the repository of the original kerygma of the faith community.”[25]

An important aspect of Grenz’s revisioning of evangelical theology is his emphasis on the Holy Spirit as mediator of the meaning and impact of Scripture for the community of faith.  Grenz endorses the Pietist conviction that “talk about the truth claims of the Bible was less important than the fact that ‘truth claims’ – that the Scriptures lay hold of the life of the reader and call that life into divine service.”[26]

Thus “Grenz shifts the subject-object locus, calling evangelicals to pay as much attention to the doctrine of illumination as they do to inspiration.”[27]  Critics argue that such an approach undermines the authority of Scripture by placing the locus of authority within the community of faith; D.A. Carson goes further, questioning whether Grenz’s approach to Scripture can even be called evangelical.[28]

Tradition as a source for theology

Tradition (or what I call the historic resources of the church) is at times either valued or eschewed by evangelicals, largely on pragmatic grounds.  Grenz outlines what I view as four persuasive reasons for regarding tradition as a useful source for theology:

(a) past doctrinal statements and theological methods are instructive for the present theological quest and help avoid the pitfalls of the past;

(b) traditions serve as a reference point for contemporary theological reflection and dialogue;

(c)  some doctrinal formulations have withstood the test of time; and

(d) as a second order task, theology is undertaken by theologians who are themselves usually members of a faith community which spans the centuries.[29]

Grenz appears to leave unresolved the important problem of identifying valid criteria for testing the authoritative status of a theological tradition.

Culture as a source for theology

Harris suggests that Grenz uses the term “culture” in three ways – in calls for a “culture-sensitive theology”; as a “re-source” for theology; and as one of three conversation partners sourcing theology.[30]  For Grenz, “the Spirit and community mediated interaction between culture and scripture enriches the understanding of scripture and unearths aspects of biblical truth that would otherwise be overlooked.”[31]

He uses the three focal motifs mentioned above (the Trinity, community, and eschatology) to structure, integrate and orient his theology (derived from the three sources of Scripture, tradition, and culture) in relation to postmodern culture.  This is evident in his systematic theology, Theology for the Community of God (1994), and in some of his later works.

The use of these three motifs presents a methodological problem: how does one prevent one of the three “conversation partners” from speaking too loudly?  Harris cites fellow theologian Thomas Oden who described the relative weight appropriate to sources in terms of a pyramid with Scripture at the base (occupying the largest – and, one might say, foundational – significance), followed by the patristics and others in chronological order, with modern theologians forming the apex (and therefore the smallest relative significance).[32]

Harris also suggests that a more nuanced approach to that of Grenz “would acknowledge that while three sources are conversing, they have significantly different amounts of influence.”[33]  Grenz does not appear to have discussed this problem.

Theological method and control beliefs

Harris observes that Grenz’s tradition and culture, as sources for theology, serve as what John Macquarrie called “formative factors.”  He also notes Nicholas Wolterstorff’s concept of “control beliefs” and views Grenz’s notion of Scripture as theology’s “norming norm” as such a belief.[34]

The notion of “control beliefs” was popularised by Nicholas Wolterstorff in his 1976 book, Reason Within the Bounds of Religion.  Control beliefs govern the requisite or necessary structure of a theory, or provide an understanding of the nature of reality to which a theory may commit us.  One of the examples Wolterstorff gives in his book is that of the conflict between the Catholic Church and Copernicus.  The church leaders who judged as heresy Copernicus’s theory that the earth revolved around the sun possessed two kinds of control belief: (a) they believed that the Bible had authority over all domains of human knowledge, including science; and (b) they held certain beliefs about the teaching of the Bible, as they interpreted it, regarding the relative motion of the sun and the earth.  Though mistaken, their adherence to the second kind of control belief rendered the new theory articulated by Copernicus incompatible with their worldview.

For Wolterstorff, integrity requires a person of faith “to use his [or her] religious beliefs as control within his devising and weighing of theories.”  But these control beliefs may not be known with “noninferential certainty,” and one’s authentic commitments are always open to revision.  In other words, we should never expect to come to come to the end of our learning in this life, or to have finally resolved all the major intellectual and spiritual challenges to our complete satisfaction.

For Grenz and Franke, Scripture functions as both a source for theology and a control belief adjudicating between the truth claims of the various sources.  Harris argues that a more helpful way forward in response to the postmodern situation for theology would be to adopt a control belief which acts “as a lens through which the contribution of all sources of theological construction is filtered.”[35]  His solution, for evangelical theologians, is to adopt as a control belief the evangel (the “good news” that comes through Jesus Christ and to which the Christian Scriptures witness).  Grenz interprets this as “participation in what frees,” and Harris synthesizes Grenz’s notion with the phrase, “the gospel liberates.”[36]

Harris further notes that this solution may be viewed as merely another way of privileging foundationalism, but he argues that employing “the gospel liberates” as a control belief in this context should be seen as “a statement encapsulating an ethos and projecting a vision.”[37]  Further, as Harris crucially points out in his conclusion:

Evangelicalism’s track record in the social arena is reflective of an under developed theological method.  Whilst evangelicals usually cite biblical references to justify doctrinal and ethical stances, the lens that drives the selection of the supporting biblical material is rarely acknowledged or examined.  Acknowledging and privileging the control belief “the gospel liberates” as the lens through which all assertions are filtered would result in a transparent and consistent method.  A critiquing lens calls for accountability for the morality that inevitably flows from all theological construction.  While the control belief ultimately critiques what is proposed, the lens adopted shapes construction at all stages.[38]

Harris adds that “[p]rivileging a hermeneutic of liberation allows shifting volumes for each conversation partner, depending on the issue at stake … for example, in ethical reflection on homosexuality, … [a]lerted to the subtle innuendos unpacked by culture, the conversation is able to deepen as broader biblical themes interact with the insights of the social sciences.”[39]  I would argue that Grenz’s model and the Wesleyan Quadrilateral model already allow for this to occur.

For my part, as someone who highly values Grenz’s progressive approach to evangelical theology and methodological creativity, I view the methodological problem identified by Harris as significant, but I also regard his solution as ultimately unconvincing.  I would ask: Liberation from what?  To what end?  For whom?  Who decides, and who is excluded from deliberation and decision?  And there may be other important questions worth asking where his preferred control belief is applied to particular cases.

Harris’s articulation of “the gospel liberates” as a control belief appears to me too open to capture by special interest groups for partisan political or theological ends.  That may always be the case for control beliefs.  But there may be a more nuanced and fruitful way of stating the solution.  Perhaps James W. McClendon’s strong emphasis on ethics in his systematic theology (an emphasis arising from methodological reflection, and in part reflected in the structure of Grenz’s systematic theology) indicates a productive way forward.[40]

I am not arguing against the notion of liberation as a control belief (in the context in which Harris employs the term), but for a more persuasive expression of an ethically fortified control belief encompassing freedom and perhaps other essential qualities that resonate with the biblical witness and strengthen the mission of the church in the world.

Growth in grace as a control belief for theological method

We need a bigger ethical imagination.  The liberation perspective on theological method needs to be complemented by a more personal and character-based motif or principle if it is to be most effective.  One way of moving forward is to ask why we believe the gospel possesses the power to liberate people from bondage to factors which limit their capacity for flourishing, and for qualities and actions informed by the embrace of freedom in human experience.  I believe the key is the grace (that is, unmerited benevolence) of God, a gift freely available to every person and community.  Just as God reached out in grace to us, so we have the opportunity to reach out to others bearing the same grace.

In one sense, to the extent that we we reflect the reconciling perspective and will of God, we are co-creators and co-liberators with God, participating in God’s new creation through concrete actions and realizing the kingdom of God in the world through our disposition, words and actions.  To champion and model the unmerited benevolence of God is about as counter-cultural as one can get, especially in a radically individualist society and an advanced liberal democracy such as the country I call home.

But liberation must encompass more than self-determination if it is to be genuinely Christian in character.  It must embody love of the kind that comes from God and blesses those in need without partiality and with a view to God’s eschatological vision.  As Miroslav Volf has said, “Every act of reconciliation, incomplete as it mostly is in this world, stretches itself toward completion in [the perfect] world of love,”[41] the world to come.  Further, such divine love and grace extends through and beyond persons in community to embrace and reconcile the whole cosmos to Christ.

As is well known, grace is a prominent biblical theme.  In the New Testament, grace is intimately linked to the character, words and actions of God, including the goodness that God expresses toward the whole creation (Pss 33:5; 119:64; 145), God’s compassion for those who are deprived and hurting (Pss 25:6; 103:8; Lk 1:72; 2 Cor 1:3), God’s forbearance in the face of human sin and rebellion (Ex 34:6; Ps 145:8; Rom 2:4; 9:22), and God’s redemptive mercy and reconciliation demonstrated and offered through the saving work of Christ (Jn 3:16-17; Rom 5:1; 1 Cor 15:10; 2 Cor 6:1; 8:1; 2 Tim 2:1; Tit 2:11).[42]

One of the most profound yet overlooked references to grace in the New Testament is in 2 Peter 3:18, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever.  Amen.”  Here is a call for followers of Jesus to be imitators of him.  Both 1 and 2 Peter call Christians to imitate Christ, both in their moral disposition and in the mission of God in the world.  Each of these general letters indicates the vital importance to the leaders of the early Christian community of the practice of imitating Christ through maintaining moral purity and godliness in personal character and the inner life, and from that basis cultivating the fruit of the kingdom of God in individual lives, communities and social structures (1 Pet 1:13-16, 22; 2:21-25; 4:1, 13; 2 Pet 1:1-4; 3:11-12, 14, 18).

One of the chief purposes of 1 and 2 Peter is to stimulate the readers to wholesome and virtuous thinking resulting in faithful Christian living.  This is also arguably one of the chief purposes of theology, as I indicated above.  The key to this way of thinking and acting is the subjective experience of the grace and peace of God, and continual growth in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ, empowered by the indwelling Spirit of Christ in the life of those who follow Jesus, evidenced in the greeting and benediction in 2 Peter (2 Pet 1:2; 3:18).

When I looked for scholarly wisdom to better understand the final exhortation and doxology in 2 Peter, I was not at first convinced of its relevance to theological method.  The biblical commentaries were not much help; 2 Peter is never one of the first published titles in a commentary series, nor does this general epistle feature prominently in the preaching and teaching in our churches.

That is understandable due to its scope and the fact that the Gospels and the Pauline epistles especially occupy such prominence in the Christian canon and in the theology and ecclesiology of the church.  The Smyth and Helwys commentary has this to say on 2 Peter 3:18: “The benediction is encouraging and hopeful.  It needs no commentary.”[43]  The four other commentaries I consulted on this passage offer little more help than to point out obvious connections with other passages in 1 and 2 Peter and the rest of the New Testament.

However, in the latter section of his book, The Unformed Conscience of Evangelicalism: Recovering the Church’s Moral Vision, J. Daryl Charles devotes three chapters to exposition of what he calls biblical resources for ethics, under the headings “the Pauline model” (Acts 17), “the disciples’ model” (the Sermon on the Mount), and “the Petrine model” (2 Peter).  Charles observes that

One of the great, though little appreciated, contributions that the General Epistles have made to New Testament study and preaching is their representation of the heart of the New Testament ethical tradition.  The documents emphasize the ethics of Christian faith – that is, right living.  While it is true that Paul’s letters typically end with ethical admonitions, the bulk of his writing is devoted to a definition of Christian belief, hence its theological trajectory … The church’s lack of attention to these writings, correlatively, robs us of irreplaceable resources that we need for life and service.[44]

The text of 2 Peter addresses the problem of a lapse of ethical behaviour by encouraging a growing awareness and deployment of the spiritual resources available through Christ, characterised by grace, which yield self-mastery of ungodly appetites and a corrective to unethical social values and relationships.  As Charles notes, “grace operative in our lives will curb the human passions arising from within as well as enable us to withstand the forces of surrounding culture from without.”[45]

Charles also observes that the ethical language of 2 Peter preserves the tension between divine sovereignty and human moral agency (for example, 2 Pet 1:5-7; 3:17).  Thus while grace has its origin in the mind and heart of God, and is a gift from God, those who follow Christ must actively apply its resources in order to obtain its benefits and share it with others.

This is the burden of the final exhortation in 2 Peter 3:18.  The letter closes as it began, with a prayer that the readers would grow in their knowledge of God through the personal and practical experience of grace.  The message of the letter is summarized in 2 Pet 3:17-18.  In 3:11-16, destructive libertine behaviour was seen to result from a denial of Christian eschatological convictions, while godly behaviour was the result of an apprehension of divinely revealed eschatological expectation.  The writer of the letter is concerned with a clash between false teaching and truth, vice and virtue, moral darkness and light.

The Christian’s responsibility is to learn more of Jesus (cf 2 Pet 1:5-10).  Those who profess to follow Jesus are called to progress in the Christian life, to “increase in spiritual understanding by growing deeper in our knowledge of the person of Jesus Christ and conforming to his mind and life” – in outlook, aim, attitude and lifestyle.[46]  The writer assumes that, if diligently followed, this exhortation will result in a continually increasing understanding of the meaning of Jesus Christ in our lives until the Parousia delivers a full and final revelation of him (cf 1 Cor 13:8-9, 12).[47]  This is not a response to incipient Gnosticism but a call to faithful discipleship leading to Christian maturity and fruitfulness in thought and action.

Conclusion

The desire for liberation as a control belief for theological method is admirable, but needs to be emphatically grounded in, and shaped by, Christian ethics if it is to function effectively as a lens through which to define and clarify methodological issues as they relate to Christian theology.  And Christian ethics must take seriously the two imperatives of being good and doing right (character formation and the pursuit of duty or obligation), as well as the communitarian dimension of ethical claims, if it is to be true to the fullness of the Christian vision of the good life and the common good as attested by Scripture and expounded by public theology.

Can the notion of “growth in grace” be applied as a control belief for theological method, encapsulating an ethos and projecting a vision of the purpose of the sources of theology, adjudicating between their various truth claims?  Or is Grenz’s reliance on Scripture as interpreted by the community of faith sufficient as a control belief for theological method?  Or is Harris’s suggestion of “the gospel liberates” to be preferred?  It may be claimed that the term “grace” is not sufficiently defined to be deployed consistently as a control belief for theological method.  However, this is a practical advantage as long as the link to the biblical witness to the teaching and example of Jesus remains clear, and as long as there remains freedom to interpret the biblical witness and apply the fruits of such interpretation to particular social and cultural contexts.

Why, in practice, do Baptists hold the ethical views and project the ethical stances they do?  Why do Baptists typically vacate the ethical playing field on certain problems and issues?  Why is it that we support or oppose this or that moral sentiment or ethical behaviour or doctrinal belief or public policy or political theory?  Perhaps a re-examination and reassignment of control beliefs for theological method would go some way toward answering these questions.  Perhaps the biblical notion of “growth in grace” could prove helpful.

None of us has arrived at our destination.  We all need more of God’s grace in our lives.  We all need a fuller understanding and experience of Jesus Christ, mediated by the Holy Spirit who indwells and guides and empowers the people of God.  It is my contention that theological method is also in need of this grace.

Rev Rod Benson is Ethicist and Public Theologian at the Tinsley Institute, Morling College, Sydney Australia.  Find him on Twitter @ozbap or email him at rodb@morling.edu.au

 


[1] David W. Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 5-17.

[2] David F. Ford & Rachel Muers (eds), Modern Theologians: An Introduction to Christian Theology Since 1918 (third edn; Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2005), p. 236.

[3] “Editors’ introduction,” in Lewis Mudge & James Polding (eds), Formation and Reflection: The Promise of Practical Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1987), p. xvi.

[4] Dan R. Stiver, “Theological method,” in Kevin J. Vanhoozer (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Postmodernism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), p. 170.

[5] Ibid., p. 170.

[6] Ibid., p. 171.

[7] Ibid., p. 175.

[8] Stephen B. Bevans, Models of Contextual Theology (2nd edn; Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2002), p. 17.

[9] Patricia O’Connell Killen & John de Beer, The Art of Theological Reflection (New York: Crossroad, 2004), p. 52.

[10] Elaine Graham, Heather Walton & Frances Ward, Theological Reflection: Methods (London: SCM Press, 2005), p. 10.

[11] Ellen T. Charry quoted in ibid., p. 9.

[12] Ellen T. Charry, By the Renewing of Your Minds: The Pastoral Function of Christian Doctrine (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 18.

[13] Brian D. Robinette, “Discerning the mystery of God,” in J.J. Mueller (ed.), Theological Foundations: Concepts and Methods for Understanding Christian Faith (2nd edn; Winona, MN: Anselm Academic, 2011), p. 44.

[14] For example, see Stanley J. Grenz & John R. Franke, Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001); David K. Clark, To Know and Love God: Method for Theology (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2003); and Norman R. Gulley, Systematic Theology: Prolegomena (Berrien Springs: Andrews University Press, 2003).

[15] Brian Harris, “Why method matters: Insights from the theological method of Stanley J. Grenz,” Crucible 2 (1), Nov 2009.  Available at http://www.ea.org.au/site/DefaultSite/filesystem/documents/Crucible/Harris%20-%20Why%20Method%20Matters%20-%20Crucible%202-1%20November%202009.pdf

[16] Ibid.

[17] Stanley J. Grenz & John R. Franke, Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001), p. 13.

[18] Stanley J. Grenz, Revisioning Evangelical Theology: A Fresh Agenda for the Twenty First Century (Downers Grove: IVP, 1993); Stanley J. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994); Stanley J. Grenz, Renewing the Center: Evangelical Theology in a Post-Theological Era (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000); and Stanley J. Grenz & John R. Franke, Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping Theology in a Postmodern Context (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001).

[19] Grenz & Franke, Beyond Foundationalism, p. 27.

[20] Harris, “Why method matters,” p. 9.

[21] Grenz died suddenly in his sleep on 12 March 2005.  See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_Grenz

[22] Grenz & Franke, Beyond Foundationalism, pp. 57ff.

[23] Grenz, Revisioning Evangelical Theology, pp. 87-88.

[24] Harris, “Why method matters,” p. 5.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Grenz, Revisioning Evangelical Theology, p. 112.

[27] Harris, “Why method matters,” p. 6.

[28] D.A. Carson, The Gagging of God: Christianity Confronts Pluralism (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), p. 481.

[29] Harris, “Why method matters,” p. 8, summarizing Grenz, Revisioning Evangelical Theology, pp. 95-97.

[30] Harris, “Why method matters,” p. 9.

[31] Ibid., p. 9.

[32] Thomas C. Oden, The Word of Life (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1992), pp. xv-xx.

[33] Harris, “Why method matters,” p. 10.

[34] Nicholas Wolterstorff, Reason Within the Bounds of Religion (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1976).

[35] Harris, “Why method matters,” p. 12.

[36] Stanley J. Grenz, “Participating in what frees: The concept of truth in the postmodern context,” Review & Expositor 100 (4), Fall 2003, p.

[37] Harris, “Why method matters,” p. 12.

[38] Harris, “Why method matters,” p. 13.

[39] Harris, “Why method matters,” p. 14.

[40] James W. McClendon, Jr, Ethics: Systematic Theology (vol. 1 of 3; revised edn; Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2002).

[41] Miroslav Volf, The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans, 2006), pp. 149f.

[42] Mark A. Bowald, “Grace,” in Kevin Vanhoozer et al (ed.), Dictionary for Theological Interpretation of the Bible (London: SPCK/Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005), p. 269.

[43] Richard B. Vinson, Richard F. Wilson & Watson E. Mills, 1 & 2 Peter, Jude (Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2010).

[44] J. Daryl Charles, The Unformed Conscience of Evangelicalism: Recovering the Church’s Moral Vision (Downers Grove: IVP, 2002), pp. 158f.

[45] Ibid., p. 170.

[46] Robert Harvey & Philip H. Towner, 2 Peter & Jude (Downers Grove: IVP, 2009), p. 137.

[47] Richard J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1983), p. 338.

Categories: articles

Rod Benson

Theologian, researcher, teacher, writer, foodie, husband, dad. Works at Moore Theological College.

1 reply

  1. You have given me much food for thought, Rod. Thank you for sharing your insights. Clearly more reading is required of me! Keep up the great work.
    Cheers,
    Rosemary

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