I came across an interesting ‘scholar profile’ in Epworth Review (2000) of James D G Dunn (written by friend Graham Stanton). One of the things Stanton briefly discussed is Dunn’s relationship with evangelicals. He asked Dunn if he is an evangelical. Dunn neither denied being one nor claimed the title. Dunn, as the article made clear, abhors labels like ‘evangelical’. That does not mean he does not have any common interests. He ended up phrasing his response in terms of how ‘welcome’ he would be among evangelicals. He said that the evangelicals on the most conservative side are quite hostile towards him. But, he said that he would probably feel welcome among the faculty at a place like Fuller.
I have much respect and admiration for Prof. Dunn and my few conversations with him have been pleasant. When I told him I was interested in cultic metaphors in Paul, we ended up talking very practically about what this means for the life of the church and the view of ordination and priesthood (Dunn is very concerned with the modern clergy/laity divide in many denominations). I am disappointed with conservative evangelicals who treat Dunn like a heretic. Many of these people, I fear, are doing damage to the church by attacking a man who takes the Bible very seriously and orders his life according to the gospel in the best way he knows how. If the evangelical academic community is so heavily critical of Dunn, why do they keep training up seminary students who go and study at Durham (like me 🙂 )!
So, is Jimmy Dunn an evangelical (according to American standards)? Probably not (or if so, at the very outskirts). But I think he should be treated as a great model of the scholar who wants to see the church conform to the gospel. He should be treated, I think, by evangelicals as a kindred churchman.