The Word Made Fresh: An Evangelical Statement from 2001

The Word Made Fresh: An Evangelical Statement from 2001 October 3, 2014

This November two events will honor the life and theology of Stanley J. Grenz who died unexpectedly at age 55 in 2005. Stan was like a brother to me and I still miss him. The two events will be symposia at the Evangelical Theological Society and at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion. I will be presenting a paper at the latter event which will be in San Diego. (Like all events at AAR annual meetings it is open only to persons registered for the annual meeting.) Stan and I, together with two other evangelical theologians, wrote the following statement, circulated it to over one hundred other evangelical theologians, and published it on line. This was presented in the context of the controversy over open theism, but it was not limited to that issue and signers did not necessarily agree about open theism (as to whether it is an evangelical option or not). What the over one hundred signers agreed about is stated in the statement itself. I think the statement is still relevant and I present it here in honor and memory of Stan who was, in many ways, our leader among postconservative, progressive, evangelicals.


The Word Made Fresh: A Call for a Renewal of the Evangelical Spirit


To be evangelical is to be committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ–the Word incarnate–in all areas of life and to the supreme authority of the canonical Scriptures–the written Word–in all matters of faith and practice. To be evangelical also entails being characterized by an irenic, Christlike spirit of love toward those with whom we disagree and a cautious openness to the reform of tradition as the Spirit leads us to fresh understandings of the Word that are even more faithful to the entirety of God’s revelation. We oppose unfettered theological experimentation and accommodation to culture that threatens the gospel of Jesus Christ. But we also deplore a present tendency among some evangelicals to define the boundaries of evangelical faith and life too narrowly. For this reason, we call evangelical leaders and thinkers to make room for reverent exploration of new ideas and reconsideration of old ones without assuming too quickly that we know what Scripture clearly does and does not teach.

Throughout history, evangelicals have courageously stood against attempts to compromise biblical faith. Unfortunately, passionate resistance to error has repeatedly also led to militant, separatistic habits of mind and heart from which evangelicals in the mid-twentieth century struggled to free the movement. We are concerned that some claimants to the evangelical heritage appear to be falling back into some of the more onerous attitudes of fundamentalism. Out of this concern, we call all evangelicals to acknowledge the value of the kind of genuine diversity and fresh reflection, grounded in the written Word and centered on the incarnate Word, that has always been the hallmark of the true evangelical spirit.

To this end, we call all evangelical leaders and thinkers not to reject out of hand constructive theological proposals that are reverently rooted in biblical reflection, even when they challenge aspects of what some consider to be the “received evangelical tradition.” Rather than a sign of decline, constructive theological endeavor and rigorous debate about theological issues are marks of evangelical theological vitality. Premature closure of dialogue and debate by means of condemnations and threats of exclusion, in contrast, disrupts community and often quenches the Spirit who brings new life and leads us toward ever more faithful readings of God’s Word. Therefore, we admonish all evangelicals to resist attempts to propagate rigid definitions of evangelicalism that result in unnecessary alienation and exclusion. And we call all evangelicals to affirm the genuine diversity and fresh reflection, rooted in the authority of the written Word and centered on the Word incarnate, that has always been the hallmark of the true evangelical spirit.

Let peace prevail among evangelicals. We pray not for peace at any price, but for peace and harmony among equally God-fearing, Bible-believing, Jesus-loving evangelical Christians who may find that they disagree about many secondary matters. We call all evangelicals to rediscover and honor the motto: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” May the irenic spirit of generous orthodoxy that has energized and unified the evangelical movement prevail in our evangelical theological discourse. And may all evangelicals seek to renew the broad, historic evangelicalism that honors the oneness of faith that unites all who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and submit to the authority of the Word.

William J. Abraham.
Albert Cook Outler Professor of Wesley Studies
Perkins School of Theology
Southern Methodist University

Dan Allender
Dean, Mars Hill Graduate School

Mark D. Baker
Assistant Professor of Mission and Theology
Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary

Craig Blomberg
Professor of New Testament
Denver Seminary

Barry Callen
University Professor of Christian Studies
Anderson University

M. Daniel Carroll R.
Professor of Old Testament
Denver Seminary

Craig Carter
Vice President, Academic Dean and Professor of Religious Studies
Tyndale College

Rodney Clapp
Editorial Director
Brazos Press

David Clark
Professor of Theology and Ethics
Bethel Theological Seminary

Charles J. Conniry
Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology
Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program
George Fox Evangelical Seminary
George Fox University

Stephen T. Davis
Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies
Claremont McKenna College

William A. Dyrness
Professor of Theology and Culture
Fuller Theological Seminary

C. Stephen Evans
University Professor of Philosophy and Humanities
Baylor University

Gordon D. Fee
Professor of New Testament Studies

Regent College

Doug Frank
Adjunct Professor of History
The Oregon Extension of Houghton College

John R. Franke
Associate Professor of Theology
Biblical Theological Seminary

Al Glenn
Professor of Theology and Apologetics
Fuller Theological Seminary

Joel B. Green
Dean of the School of Theology
Professor of New Testament Interpretation
Asbury Theological Seminary

Stanley J. Grenz
Pioneer McDonald Professor of Baptist Heritage, Theology and Ethics
Carey Theological College
Professor of Theology and Ethics
Regent College

Vernon Grounds
Denver Seminary

Douglas Harink
Professor of Theology
King’s University College

Christopher Hall
Professor of Theology
Eastern College

Fisher Humphreys
Professor of Divinity
Beeson Divinity School
Samford University

Douglas Jacobsen
Distinguished Professor of Church History and Theology
Messiah College

Alan F. Johnson
Professor of Theology
Wheaton College and Graduate School

Robert K. Johnston
Professor of Theology and Culture
Fuller Theological Seminary

Henry H. Knight
Associate Professor of Evangelism
Saint Paul School of Theology

D. Brent Laytham
Assistant Professor of Theology

North Park Theological Seminary

Randy L. Maddox
Paul T. Walls Professor of Wesleyan Theology
Seattle Pacific University

Gerald R. McDermott
Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy
Roanoke College

Scot McKnight
Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies
North Park University

Nancey Murphy
Professor of Christian Philosophy
Fuller Theological Seminary

James Nelson
Professor of Theology
North Park University

Eric H. Ohlmann
Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Dennis Okholm
Professor of Theology
Wheaton College

Roger E. Olson
Professor of Theology
George W. Truett Theological Seminary
Baylor University

Alan G. Padgett
Professor of Systematic Theology
Luther Seminary

Tim S. Perry
Associate Professor of Theology
Providence College

Ronald W. Pierce
Professor of Biblical Studies and Theology
Talbot School of Theology
Biola University

Christine D. Pohl
Professor of Social Ethics
Asbury Theological Seminary

Daniel G. Reid
Senior Editor, Academic and Reference Books
InterVarsity Press

Kurt Anders Richardson
Boston University

Douglas R. Sharp
Professor of Christian Theology
Northern Baptist Theological Seminary

Lewis Smedes
Professor Emeritus
Fuller Theological Seminary

Klyne Snodgrass
Paul W. Brandel Professor of New Testament Studies
North Park Theological Seminary

Russell Spittler
Professor of New Testament
Fuller Theological Seminary

John Stackhouse
Sangwoo Youtong Chee Professor of Theology and Culture
Regent College

Glen Stassen
Professor of Ethics
Fuller Theological Seminary

Bryan Stone
E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism
Boston University School of Theology

Don Thorsen
Professor of Theology
C. P. Haggard School of Theology
Azusa Pacific University

Terrance Tiessen
Professor of Theology and Ethics
Providence Theological Seminary

Leanne Van Dyke
Professor of Reformed Theology
Western Theological Seminary

Miroslav Volf
Henry B. Wright Professor of Systematic Theology
Yale Divinity School
Yale University

Jerry Walls
Professor of Philosophy and Religion
Asbury Theological Seminary

Robert Webber
William R. and Geraldyne B. Myers Chair of Ministry
Northern Baptist Theological Seminary

Timothy Weber
Dean and Professor of Church History
Northern Baptist Theological Seminary

Jonathan Wilson
Professor of Religious Studies
Westmont College

Ben Witherington
Professor of New Testament
Asbury Theological Seminary



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