Tag Archives: evangelical

Stanley Grenz’s Theological Anthropology – Method (PT. 2)

This is part two of a short series in which I look at Stanley Grenz’s theological anthropology as it can be found in “The Social God and the Relational Self: A Trinitarian Theology of the Imago Dei.”


As I have already hinted in the previous post, Grenz’s project can best be understood as intentionally engaging post-modernism from an evangelical perspective. Grenz states that this project is a part of a larger attempt in attempting to “set forth a coherent Christian theological articulation that is cognizant of the intellectual challenges posed by central postmodern sensitivities.” In addition to his attunement to postmodern sensitivities, Grenz is attuned to the 20th century renaissance of Trinitarian theology and the implications of Trinitarianism for the rest of theology. Grenz explicitly states that truly Trinitarian theology does not simply involve engaging with the doctrine of the Trinity, it “entails viewing all aspects of Christian doctrine in a Trinitarian light.” These two features of his method, his post-modern sensibilities and Trinitarian commitments, emerge as the first key component of his method for doing theological anthropology: a commitment to doing theological anthropology simultaneously from above and from below, that is from the divine to the creaturely and from the creaturely to the divine. This commitment to simultaneously doing theology from above and from below is just one example of how his postmodern sensibilities affect his theological method. As an evangelical, he clearly wants to give appropriate authority to the typical “from above” type sources: Scripture, Creeds, Tradition. However, being sensitive to post-modernism, he realizes that all theology is done in a creaturely context, which in turn affect how we understand the “from-above” type sources. Thus Grenz allows these sources to mutually inform one another.

In addition to his commitment to doing theological anthropology simultaneously from above and from below Grenz is committed to doing what could be called Christological Anthropology. Briefly, this can be thought of as approach to theological anthropology “in which Christology warrants important claims about what it means to be human.” This is especially clear towards the final chapters of The Social God and the Relational Self. For instance in the chapter titled “From Humankind to the True Human” Grenz has a section titled “The Imago Dei and the True Human” in which he highlights the fact that the New Testament writers elevate Christ as the image of God, and by extension declare that “the believing Community shares in this new Christocentric anthropology.” Chapters five and six can be understood as the development of this Christological Anthropology. In chapter five he develops what Scripture means when it says that Christ is the image of God and in chapter six he develops the notion that humanity’s eschatological telos is participation in the image of Christ.

Another one of Grenz’s methodological commitments is his commitment to doing theology for the sake of the church. For Grenz this means that theology is communal and eschatological. Once again, this commitment is expressed in the final four chapters of his book where it becomes clear that he does not see participation in Christ’s image as an individualistic goal, rather he states that participation in Christ’s image is the eschatological destiny given to the new humanity. Further, Grenz adds that “the transformation is not directed toward individuals in isolation….Instead, it involves the transformation of all one’s relationships, and it entails the creation of a new community of those who share together in the transforming presence of the Spirit.” Grenz’s commitment to theology which is communal and eschatological can further be seen in his final constructive proposal in which he states the Christian identify is more than personal, it is a shared identity.  This shared identity is what Grenz calls the Ecclesial Self. The self, which finds its fulfillment in the eschaton, is constituted through the relationality of those who by the Spirit are “in Christ’.”

One final, methodological commitment, which might be easy to overlook is Grenz’s Pannenbergian understanding of the development of history and theology. Pannenberg, who was Grenz’s doktorvater, believed that the truth of Christian doctrine unfolds partly by means discussion and deliberation. This belief leads Pannenberg to include long sections of exposition detailing the historical development of doctrine in his multi-volume systematic theology. In providing long, detailed outlines behind the history of doctrines, he shows his belief that doctrine does not just materialize, rather doctrine has a history which develops and eventually matures. The structure of Grenz’s work displays his commitment to a method akin to Pannenberg’s. In part one Grenz sketches the development of Trinitarian thought from Hegel to LaCugna. He states that this ongoing development of Trinitarian theology entails “a more profound understanding of God as inherently relational and dynamic.” His belief that doctrine develops positively by means of theological debate is made even clearer when he says that “the retrieval of doctrine of the Trinity has paved the way for a fully theological anthropology,” (as if this was impossible prior to the 20th century). His commitment to a Pannenbergian understanding of the development of history and theology is further displayed in the fact that chapters two and three map the conditions that gave birth to the postmodern loss of self. Chapter two traces the rise of the concept of the centered self whereas chapter three traces the undoing of the concept of self. Much like Pannenberg who traces the historical development of concepts in depth, for the sake of showing that true doctrine develops and unfolds through history, Grenz seems to imply that a more accurate notion of the self has gradually developed thanks to these historical theological and philosophical movements. In other words, a truer anthropology has developed and is developing through the history of theology.

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How I Changed My Mind About Evolution

No, this is not a blog about how I changed my mind about evolution, however it is a blog about a book containing essays from many well known and well respected evangelicals about how they changed their mind about evolution.

This book, edited by Kathryn Applegate and J.B. Stump contains a numerous amount of essays from some significant names like:

  • James K.A. Smith
  • Scot McKnight
  • Ken Fong
  • Tremper Longman III
  • Francis Collins
  • Oliver Crisp
  • John Ortberg
  • N.T. Wright
  • Richard Mouw

Any book with a collection of new essays from authors like those – on any subject would already be incredibly fascinating, let alone on such a contentious subject among evangelicals, like evolution.

Most of the essays in this book are extremely personal, they recount the stories of the contributors’ journey toward accepting evolution as a viable Christian belief about creation. Many of the stories are quite typical, which some readers will find encouraging.how-i-changed-my-mind-about-evolution The story typically goes something like this: 1)I was taught evolution was a godless, anti-Christian theory. 2) I became very interested in “creation science” in order to defend Christianity. 3) I actually began to learn about science and evolution. 4) I was able to reconcile my faith and this belief. 5)Conclusion: evolution, contrary to what I was taught early on, is not a threat to the faith.

One essay in particular, that I found helpful (no surprise here) in understanding the logic behind most of these “evolutions” in belief about creation, was Oliver Crisp’s essay. In his essay he outlines three principles which have helped him reflect upon how faith connects to evolution. The first is that notion of faith seeking understanding. From a position of faith we are committed to understanding our faith. The second is that all truth is God’s truth. Because God is the creator, not truth will actually be a threat to who God is, so we shouldn’t be afraid to seek truth ruthlessly.  Also, this means that in principle our understanding of Scripture and since are compatible, even though we may not yet see how they are compatible. The third is that God is mysterious. Who can fathom God’s ways in providence and creation. He can create in any way he deems necessary.

So who should pick up this book? I think there are several people who need to read it. First, I think that people who don’t believe that evolution and Christianity can be compatible. I recommend this to them, not because they should read this and “believe.” Rather It would be helpful for them to see that genuine Jesus loving Christians can hold to evolutionary theory (whether or not they are correct). Second, those who feel tension in holding their belief in evolutionary theory and robust evangelical faith. Such people need exemplars who can show the way forward in how to hold both views together.  Finally, people who’s “last objection” to becoming a Christian is that they need to check their rational-scientific mind at the door when coming to faith in Christ. As Oliver Crisp’s essay so clearly articulates, all truth is God’s truth. If our faith is true, and evolutionary theory is true, then this poses no threat to God whatsoever.

Book Giveaway

Book Giveaway: I would love to give out a copy of this book to whoever believes it would be helpful to their faith. In order to be eligible to win a copy of this book you can do one of several things (each will constitute one entry).

  1. Tweet out this blog post and mention @cwoznicki
  2. Like this post.
  3. Comment below on how this book would benefit you and your faith.

I will choose one winner very soon. The winner must live within the US in order to be eligible to receive the book.

(Note: I received this book from IVP in exchange for an impartial review)

Theology and the Mirror of Scripture

What is an “evangelical?” Is there even such a thing? If one were to look at the vast spectrum of people who call themselves evangelicals, one might be tempted to say that there isn’t. Yet somehow, this moniker can’t simply be shaken off. People keep on calling themselves (and other) evangelicals. It’s a sociological-theological-historical term that I believe should not be abandoned. Even though its definition as a sociological reality is being stretched beyond recognition, there is such a thing as being a “mere” evangelical. And whatever it means to be a “mere” evangelical is defined by God’s word and God’s act.9780830840762

In their most recent book, Theology and the Mirror of Scripture: A Mere Evangelical Account, Kevin Vanhoozer and Treier (V&T) have attempted to give an account of what such a “mere evangelical” theology might be. By the looks of their endorsers on the back of the book it would seem as though they have given a satisfactory account.

According to V&T mere evangelical theology begins with theological ontology, specifically with the Trinitarian God of the gospel. It begins with the economic Trinity which mirrors the immanent Trinity. However this Trinitarian God who reveals himself in history is not know to us apart from Scripture. So V&T also argue that the biblical testimony yields knowledge of this Triune God because it mirrors who this God is. As V&T say, there is truth and authority in this mirror. Mere Evangelical theology is focused on the God of the Gospel and the Gospel of God. God himself is the light. Scripture is a mirror of that light. Tradition is a mirror who’s light is not from itself but is derivative from the light of God reflected through scripture.

The second part of this book relates V&T’s theological ontology and mirror metaphors to various theological practices – specifically the interpretation of scripture, the role of tradition, and the role of scholarship in the church.

What unites V&T’s proposal for mere evangelical theology is the metaphor of “mirror” which is scattered throughout the book. I believe this is a helpful metaphor which (at least for me) helped me make sense of the ontological priority of God in doing theology and the primacy of scripture. But where it made things most clear for me is in the role of tradition in doing theology. Calling tradition a mirror was a helpful move, for it emphasizes that it still reflects the true light, yet in some derivative way which is not foolproof from distortions.

V&T’s proposal for thinking of theology as a mirror of the God of the Gospel and the Gospel of God is a very useful metaphor, it even has implications for ecclesiology, for one might even say that the Church and local churches are also mirrors of the God of the Gospel/The Gospel of God.

Overall, I highly recommend this book by two able theologians who have devoted much work to theological prolegomena. It fits right alongside Swain and Allen’s Reformed Catholicity as a book which addresses how to be reformed and evangelical while doing theology within the context of “mere” Christianity.

(Note: I received this book from IVP in exchange for an impartial review.)

Vanhoozer on the 6 Marks of Evangelical Theology

Vanhoozer says that there are six marks of Evangelical theology. Personally I think there should be seven or maybe forty. Those are better numbers because they are “Biblical” but whatever, six works I guess….

All kidding aside what marks evangelical theology off as “evangelical.” Is it simply that it is done by people who call themselves evangelicals? Is there something distinctive about it that makes it “evangelical” i.e. subject matter, emphasis, the way its written, goals, Etc.? Is it that it fits

latc-treier

If you will be in L.A. in January make sure to come to LATC. Daniel Treier will be presenting a plenary titled “Scripture’s Textual Voices: A Dogmatic Account.

 

well within Bebbington’s quadrilateral (word, cross, activism, conversion)?

The answer to that question, “What marks theology off as evangelical?” is a complex question with a complex answer but Vanhoozer and Treier seek to answer it – or at least give some direction in how we might go about answering it – in their new book Theology and the Mirror of Scripture: A Mere Evangelical Account.

In a helpful section on “The Gospel of God and the God of the Gospel” Vanhoozer and Treir give us 6 characteristics (3 substantive and 3 stylistic) that mark theology as “evangelical.”

Mere evangelical theology, as an anchored set, can initially be characterized in terms of two principles, one material (substantive), one formal (stylistic), each with three entailments. As to substance, mere evangelical theology is (1) orthodox, conforming to the early creeds; (2) catholic, spanning all the times and places where there has been a local church; and (3) Protestant, affirming of the Reformation solas. As to style, it is (1) radical, first because it is anchored in the root (radix) of the gospel – the triune God – and second because this rootedness leads it to confront the world with the claims of the gospel; (2) irenic, acknowledging that we need many perspectives and people groups fully to appreciate the gospel’s wealth of meaning; and (3) joyful, first because it take it bearing from the best of all words that can be heard and, second, because it takes its energy from the Spirit, the minister of God’s word and the giver of God’s life. (52)

Do you find these six marks helpful? Would you change any? Add any?

There is no Judeo-Christian Ethic…

In Kingdom Conspiracy Scot Mcknight makes an argument that the church in American has bought into the temptation of Constantinianism. This is especially evident in the form of civil religion that has emerged as Roman Catholics, Jews, Mormons, and Evangelicals  have become more and more involved in furthering a particular political agenda.

Here is what he says about this civil religion which is based upon a “Judeo-Christian” Ethic.

There is no such thing as an ethic that is both “Judeo” and “Christian,” for one simple reason: the “Christian” part of the ethical question adds Jesus as Messiah, the cross as the paradigm, the resurrection as the power, the Holy Spirit as the transforming agent, the necessity of new birth, and the church as the place where God is at work. Hence, a “Judeo-Christian ethic” either strips the Christian elements or turns the “Judeo” part into a Christian ethic.

That is a pretty powerful claim. What do you make of it?

ETS Far West 2014 is Tomorrow!

So tomorrow is the gathering of the Evangelical Theological Society’s Far Western Region. I will be presenting a paper titled:

“The Son in the Hands of a Violent God?” Assesing Trinitarian Violence in Jonathan Edwards’s Covenant of Redemption.

As you can probably tell by the title of my paper, this year’s theme is Trinitarian theology. Fun stuff!

I am not the only one presenting a paper on Trinitarian theology though. Here are a few other papers that you can can look forward to hearing, if you attend, tomorrow. These are all papers by bloggers (they do other stuff too, like teach or work on their PhD) that I highly recommend.

  1. Fred Sanders, who blogs over at The Scriptorium Daily, is the keynote speaker. He will be presenting a paper titled: “The Trinity as a Biblical Doctrine: Developments in the Oldest Conversation.”
  2. Matthew Emerson, who blogs over at Secundum Scripturas, is presenting a paper titled: “Hermeneutics and the Eternal Generation of the Son.”
  3. Jason Sexton, who helps the Theological Engagement with California’s Culture Project, will be presenting a paper titled: “What’s Scripture Got to Do With It? Trinitarian Theology for the Future of Evangelicalism.”
  4. Gavin Ortlund, a former classmate of mine who blogs over at Soliloquium, will be presenting a paper titled: “Sonship and the Imago Dei in Genesis 5:3 and Luke 3:38.”

Those are just a few of the awesome papers you can look forward to hearing tomorrow at ETSFarWest2014. You can get the whole list of papers as well as the location and schedule here.

My Paper for ETS Southwest 2014

This year I have the privilege of presenting a paper at the 2014 Southwest ETS Regional meeting. This year’s meeting will be hosted by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary Fort Worth and will take place on March 7th-8th. The theme is “The Decline of Denominationalism, and the Future of Evangelical Christianity.”

I am so excited to be presenting at my second conference! Here is the abstract for paper I will be presenting:

Jonathan Edwards: America’s Theologian?

A Latino Evaluation of Jonathan Edwards’s Hamartiology

Christopher G. Woznicki

Associate Member

Eternity Bible College

 

Robert Jenson has famously dubbed Jonathan Edwards “America’s theologian.” Jenson has in mind an American Christianity that has the Enlightenment as its defining narrative. However there are other narratives that give meaning to the phrase “American Christianity,” for instance the Latino Evangelical narrative. With the rapid growth of the Latino Evangelical population, the Latino perspective will become increasingly important in Evangelical theological discussion. This paper examines the claim that Edwards is “America’s theologian” by evaluating his Hamartiology through a Latino Evangelical lens. If Edwards’s theology can be read fruitfully from a Latino perspective then perhaps we can indeed say that he is “America’s theologian.” I argue that the theology of Jonathan Edwards can be used as a constructive dialogue partner for Latino Evangelical theology.

This paper begins by examining Edwards’s metaphysics of sin in light of his Federalist and Augustinian realist tendencies, paying special attention to the role metaphysical antirealism and his doctrine of continuous creation play in his doctrine of original sin. It goes on to examine Justo Gonzalez’s “Fuenteovejuna Theology” which exemplifies a Latino emphasis on the community. By examining Edwards and Gonzalez it becomes apparent that Edwards’s theology and Latino theology have a communal rather than individualistic understanding of responsibility and action. Thus in this particular area Edwards can speak constructively into Latino theology and we can truly say that he is “America’s theologian.”

Book of 2012
An “interesting” portrait of Jonathan Edwards