Strange Evangelical Theology

I while ago I had to read Veli-Matti Karkkainen’s In Christology: A Global Introduction for a class. In this book Karkkainen presents brief summaries of various theologian’s Christologies. The theologians he chooses to present run the spectrum of Christian Theology. Karkkainen covers some important historical Christologies, some western Christologies (Rahner/Barth), and some contextual Christologies (Latino/Evangelical/Feminist). Among these contextual theologies Karkainen presents Stanley Grenz as the typical evangelical theologian. He begins by noting that evangelical is an ambiguous term; indeed it is, however there are certain aspects/motifs of that are central to evangelical theology. For instance one might think of the primacy of scripture as one of these aspects. A second aspect that we find in evanelical theology is the belief that there should be some sort of personal response to doctrinal truths. A third aspect of evangelical theology that is important is its emphasis on Soteriology. Because Soteriology is central to evangelical theology, theologians like Grenz often approach topics like “the person of Christ” especially in relation to soteriological issues.

Although evangelical theology follows a pretty “traditional” way of doing theology, it can also have some interesting deviations. For instance one might think of Jonathan Edwards as the model for American Evangelicalism, however there are aspects of his theology that would make some evangelicals cringe. For instance his idealism and his panentheism would probably get him fired from many evangelical seminaries today. This is only one example of a “conservative” evangelical theologian having some strange aspects of his theology. Other Evangelical theologians are committed to strange things like physicalism (think Joel Green). Finally, Grenz himself also makes some strange claims within his theology… so I recommend that you read him yourself, or else I might butcher his position.

All this just goes to show that:

“Evangelical Theology” is a lot more complicated that most of us think.

There are a wide variety of positions out there. And some of those positions are quite strange. So the point is that its actually pretty hard to say what a “Typical Evangelical Theology” looks like, that is unless you look to Grudem! (BLAH!!!!)


Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

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