I rarely (perhaps never so far) post a reader’s comment as one of my own posts, but this one expresses my sentiments about the present state of evangelicalism so well I just have to share it. I know not everyone can read every comment I approve, so I am “elevating” this one to the status of one of my own posts. See below:
I continue to follow you carefully on your blog. I really appreciate your insight, your articulation of the current trends in evangelicalism, and your ability to find yourself in the midst of it all.
This post, along with several others, has identified to me a deep problem in much—to use your terminology—neo-fundamentalism. This problem, as I see it, is really a dividing up of the theological task.
Eugene Peterson articulated it best for me first in a lecture I heard him give. From John 14.6, Peterson says, “The Jesus Truth, only when it is wedded to the Jesus Way, produces the Jesus Life.” I find that many in the neo-fundamentalist fold have separated Jesus Truth from the Jesus Way. There is a strong emphasis on truth, protecting the truth, insisting on the centrality of the truth. We bicker and argue about differences of truth and belief. The Jesus Truth, as I see it, is what we put in the dogma, doctrine, opinion categories you and Stan Grenz identified: these are beliefs. These are things we can and will disagree about. We will even disagree about how many things should go into which categories.
The Jesus Truth is important, even vitally important. But it isn’t everything.
The Jesus Way is something that often gets left out of our theological discussions and disagreements. In omitting it from our conversation about God, we miss a current that runs right through the biblical narrative: the way of God and the way of Jesus as opposed to the ways of the world (e.g. the ways of “the other nations” in the OT, the way of the Pharisees in the NT). The difference between the church and the world is not merely in what we believe; it is also in how we live, how we orient ourselves to that belief. The Jesus Truth, only when it is wedded to the Jesus Way, produces the Jesus Life.
The major problem with neo-fundamentalists to me—and this is what I hear you saying—is that there is a deep divide between the Jesus Truth and the Jesus Way. They insist on certain beliefs, but they do so in a way that is incongruous with the way of Jesus. They behave badly: they ignore the Jesus Way.
I think our theological discussions should be subject not just to an evaluation of the Jesus Truth, but also to the way that Jesus walked: the way of the cross. Is it possible for our theological conversations to be cruciform? I think if we don’t embody the way of Jesus, the way of the cross in our theological discourse, then we will never see the Life that Jesus promises.