Evaluating theologians

Ben has opened a poll on the ‘world’s best living theologian’ here. His list of contenders itself will raise plenty of eyebrows (isn’t David Bentley Hart a bit, well, new on the block to be a contender? I’d say the same of Milbank, even, although he has at least written more than one significant book) and generate plenty of comments. Me? I vote for Augustine, on the basis of Lk 20:38… The interesting question it raised in my mind is how one assesses such a category. What is ‘good’ theology, and what makes a particular theologian ‘the best’? Some answers look attractive, but probably need to be dismissed because they are inoperable as criteria: the ‘best’ theologian is not the ‘most...

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Evangelical ecclesiology (2)

Andy and Michael have raised an interesting issue in comments on this post. Andy had claimed that ‘evangelicalism has a weak ecclesiology’; Michael countered with ‘evangelicalism has a low ecclesiology’. I actually disagree with both, as will become clear. Let me first make a distinction: a ‘low ecclesiology’ might mean a ‘low-church ecclesiology’, i.e., an eccelsiological position that tends to Presbyterian or Congregationalist polity, or it might mean a ‘low evaluation of ecclesiology’, i.e., an ecclesiological position that, whatever its account of ecclesiology, held the matter to be relatively unimportant in the scheme of theology. I take it from his post that Michael meant the latter, but the two...

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‘Unreal city’

This blog went live on the 16th of December, receiving four views, according to the WordPress stats counter. Today, that counter topped 5000. I imagine long-term theobloggers like Andy, Jason and particularly Ben will regard that as pretty paltry, and I am sure that WordPress set it up to maximise the numbers (their business depends on encouraging their bloggers, after all), but it seems a big enough number to make the blog feel worthwhile. Thanks to all who have stopped by or blogged about this blog, and particularly to all who have engaged in debate. Although (looking at the stats) if you were one or more of the 97 visits on Christmas day, you probably should have had something better to do… (Incidentally, if anyone is wondering, all the...

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Evangelical ecclesiology

Andy has asked in a comment on the previous post about a lack of ecclesiology in Evangelical theology. This bears some reflection. Historically, one of the decisive early decisions that made Evangelicalism a distinctive movement was a refusal to let ecclesiological differences divide it. For some (Whitefield, e.g.), this meant ecclesiology was totally unimportant; for others it remained really very important, but they would work across the boundaries nevertheless (John Wesley agonised over whether he could ordain preachers for the American mission, despite not being in episcopal orders; he eventually decided to take this step, horrifying his brother Charles–who left some manuscript verses about the decision, including the lines: ‘The pious Mantle o’er...

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Evangelicalism divided?

I have seen/heard several comments in the last few weeks about the divided state of contemporary British Evangelicalism. Rob Warner’s book, Reinventing English Evangelicalism, has attracted a fair amount of attention, not least because of his central role in some of the debates he reflects on in the book. Andy Goodliff has begun a review here, and Jim Gordon has posted two parts of his own review here and here. Both focus in part on Warner’s account of the growing divisions in English Evangelicalism through the 1980s to the present. In addition, this month’s Christianity magazine has a feature article by Andy Peck (an excerpt can be read here) entitled ‘Evangelicals United?’ which is in many ways a re-presentation and popularisation of...

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