This interview is being serialized over several days. So far I have published part one. Today we continue with a discussion about the role of a theologian, his book Systematic Theology, and begin to move on to his most recent book. Towards the end of today’s portion of the interview, Grudem introduces us to his charge that feminism inevitably leads to liberalism. The interview is summarized in my post Dr Wayne Grudem Interview – Highlights and Reflections.
Perhaps I should let my readers know how I first heard of you. It was a number of years ago at a charismatic Bible week in the UK.
I am not at all sure that you knew it would happen, but at that event Terry Virgo
strongly en-dorsed and recommended your then brand-new Systematic Theology (which I have pre-viously reviewed
). I was one of hundreds of UK charismatics who bought the book that week, and I read it avidly from cover-to-cover. I believe that the publisher sent someone down that week to the newfrontiers
Stoneleigh Bible Week to figure out why so many of us wacky charismatics were buying your book! How soon did you get to hear of newfrontiers
and how keen we all were on your Systematic Theology
, and did it surprise you?
I can’t honestly remember how I heard of newfrontiers, but I did eventually hear about this mass purchase of books, and I was thankful to God. As you probably know, on two occasions now, Terry Virgo has invited me to address his leaders’ conferences in Brighton (including July of 2006), and Margaret and I have loved the fellowship and worship times during those weeks. We are so thankful to God for the ministry of newfrontiers, and particularly of Terry Virgo, whom I think of as a godly, wise man who faithfully teaches and follows God’s Word. This year we also got to meet Stuart Townend, whose music I have appreciated so much.
Were you surprised at just how successful that book was generally? For some reason I got the impression that early-on most people thought it would just sell to theological students.
I am surprised, and thankful to God for the way the book seems to continue to be a blessing to people – and not just to pastors and seminary students, but lots of other Christians from all walks of life. As you know, I believe that God intended His Word to be understood, not just by specialists, but also by ordinary Christians. The “blessed man” in Psalm 1 is held up as an example for all of us: “His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)
Well, I want to thank you for saving me from having to read some of the other more turgid volumes of systematic theology my older Christian friends tell me about. Should I feel guilty for not having wrestled with one of them? Is there a single Systematic Theology, old or new, other than yours, that you would most recommend us to read?
There are several excellent ones. I think first on my list would be John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion
(the two-volume Battles translation is best, and I strongly recommend that people read it in the unabridged form, not a condensation, which seems to me to rob the “life” from Calvin). The volumes by Louis Berkhof and by Charles Hodge (three volumes) are also outstanding Reformed treatments of systematic theology, and there are many others as well. (I list and cross-reference many of them in the back of each chapter of Systematic Theology
One of the things I most liked about your Systematic Theology
was the way it brought together two strands – the Reformed and the Charismatic. I get the feeling that this combination is rare in the USA. It seems, though, that biblically humble people from both reformed and charismatic camps find your Systematic Theology
attractive – was that part of your purpose in writing the book – to bring the church together?
I honestly can’t remember if that had any part in my decision to write the book. My primary purpose was just to teach what the Bible teaches about many theological topics, and to do it clearly and faithfully, as best I could understand the teaching of the whole Bible about these different topics. I’m thankful, of course, that people from several different kinds of backgrounds have found the book helpful.
Although your Systematic Theology
was seen as a great unifying force, your recent works on complement-arianism have created quite a stir! I am sure that this new book – Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberal-ism?
– will add even more fuel to this fire. Do you think this twin task of being a unifying figure and at times being one who brings a clarity that actually leads to a division on certain issues is part and parcel of being a good systematic theologian?
I suppose it is. Again, I just want to teach faithfully what the Bible teaches about men and women, and that includes both that we are equal in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) and that God has given us different roles in marriage (Ephesians 5:22-33) and in the church (1 Timothy 2:11-15).
That being so, how do you decide which issues you are going to be more strident about and which you are going to build consensus around?
Well, I don’t think of myself as being “strident” about anything. I hold some convictions firmly and I write to persuade others about them, giving evidence and reasons to explain why I hold a certain viewpoint, and attempting to give evidence and reasons showing why I disagree with others. In all this, I’m actually trying to build consensus in the church on these matters, rather than the confusion and misunderstanding that is found many places.
What has led you to the conclusion that evangelical feminism is so dangerous to biblical Christianity? What precisely is it about the whole issue that is so important to the church today? I suppose that your latest book is all about answering that question – how would you summarise the message of that book for my readers?
This new book, Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism? (Crossway, 2006) documents at least 25 different arguments that are widely used by evangelical feminists today, and that deny or undermine the authority of Scripture. My point is not that every evangelical feminist follows the underlying logic of these arguments today (some don’t), but rather that the younger generation of leaders takes the logic of those arguments further and it leads directly to undermining the authority of the Word of God, and therefore to liberalism.