Friday, August 24, 2007

Reading the Signs

Theology for the church edited by Daniel Akin

This week I did a spot read of A Theology for the Church with plans to do a deep read in December. "Hopeful reservations" is the words best to describes my mood in regards to this book. I believe this book is significant in many respects. For one it is a systematic theology written by Southern Baptist theologians. The first to be exclusively from the "conservative resurgence". This means it will be theologically conservative. And that is great! My first read thought made me smile, when I saw the alliteration and accessible nature of the work. Yet I still have those darn reservations.

The soon to be dominate theology textbook in Baptist seminaries is a conglomeration of various works of scollorship. From Hammett on Human Nature to Timothy George on the nature of God, it looks to be a great read of solid theology. After reading, Carl Henry's systematic work, I feared that Southern Baptist theology died with his passing. Yet, the various writers of this work seem to be on the road to recovering that legacy. Don’t misunderstand I have always believed, there have been good theologians and biblical scholars in SBC life. Yet in the last 100 years temporal things have eclipsed the theological light by which we see all things. Some of those things, like enculturation, pragmatism and neo-orthodox theology dulled the light. Because of this many saw by the twilight and called it noonday! Others pushed theology to the periphery of Southern Baptist discourse. Politicians and king makers from both the right and the left seemed to be the most prominent and influential men in the denomination. Leadership ethics amounted to Machiavelli ethics (see his work the Prince).

A few quotes by Niccolò Machiavelli

It is not titles that honor men, but men that honor titles.

A prince being thus obliged to know well how to act as a beast must imitate the fox and the lion, for the lion cannot protect himself from traps, and the fox cannot defend himself from wolves. One must therefore be a fox to recognize traps, and a lion to frighten wolves.

The Romans never allowed a trouble spot to remain simply to avoid going to war over it, because they knew that wars don't just go away, they are only postponed to someone else's advantage.

You don't avoid such a war, you merely postpone it, to your own disadvantage.

It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.

Hence it comes that all armed prophets have been victorious, and all unarmed prophets have been destroyed.

I conclude, then, that so long as Fortune varies and men stand still, they will prosper while they suit the times, and fail when they do not. But I do feel this: that it is better to be rash than timid, for Fortune is a woman, and the man who wants to hold her down must beat and bully her. We see that she yields more often to men of this stripe than to those who come coldly toward her.

The necessity of control
Men never do good unless necessity drives them to it; but when they are free to choose and can do just as they please, confusion and disorder become rampant.

The people resemble a wild beast, which, naturally fierce and accustomed to live in the woods, has been brought up, as it were, in a prison and in servitude, and having by accident got its liberty, not being accustomed to search for its food, and not knowing where toconceal itself, easily becomes the prey of the first who seeks to incarcerate it again.

whenever men are not obliged to fight from necessity, they fight from ambition; which is so powerful in human breasts, that it never leaves them no matter to what rank they rise. The reason is that nature has so created men that they are able to desire everything but are not able to attain everything: so that the desire being always greater than the acquisition, there results discontent with the possession and little satisfaction to themselves from it.

The use of persona
The first opinion which one forms of a prince, and of his understanding, is by observing the men he has around him; and when they are capable and faithful he may always be considered wise, because he has known how to recognize the capable and to keep them faithful. But when they are otherwise one cannot form a good opinion of him, for the prime error which he made was in choosing them.

It is on that note that i make my reservations for this book. It fully centers on the section on pneumaology (given the resent stink with the IMB and SWBTS issuing new resolutions). It is best to bullet them for time sake.

1. The intent - There are at time sections particularly in the pneumaology that an agenda is clearly evident. It seems to seek to change peoples disposition and attitude as much as inform theological truth seekers.
2. The Tone - there are times when rhetoric and tone show a clearly evident slant, (As if it was known this would be used in SBC seminaries). Tone teaches! It can bios a reader to or away from a position.
2. The use of week scholarship - on occasion it is evident that the use of assertive statement with no footnoting or footnoting from a publications from the same camp as the writer are used to under pin the argument.
3. The use of the straw man logic fallacy - building another position in such a way just to push it down.
4. the implied defining of what is Baptist including the doctrines that are not primary to the definition of what is a church (gospel preached, sacraments given )
5. At times weak history of some movements and just generalizations that show a education and reading from within its own tradition.

All and all at time is seems like your not reading a seeker of truth using reason, tradition, experience and most importantly scripture to smell out truth but agenda driven writing. A Theology for the church is a good work of theology but it does have some flaws. But in the end I do believe in the student. We see more than people think and we are not nearly as gullible. I think it is fare to say that works like Gruddem and Erickson will be used less and less and as more of our "home grown" theologians will do writings from within the tradition. That is also long as those writers keep it “Baptist”.
Non creedal people are often subject to the leadership's definitions of what is theological correct for a tradition thus refining the soical identity. If leaders know this, then they understand Control what is defined as theological knowledge, control how the people define themselves. I would like to see with regard to this 1.Understanding that disagreement on minor doctrains do not involve ones salvation. 2.Dialogue and brotherly love like in the case of the Armenian and Calvinistic debates (a Salvific doctrain i might add) that are truly being handled in a civil 3. A willingness to work through this together to come to an understanding. I want to believe truth will win out but when such soical minipulation finds root then is uncovered people often react in four ways, Adoption, new persona, rebellion, relocation.

Honestly my generation will go in I believe four directions.
1. Old School (SBC)- they will be those see what is taught blindly
2. New school (SBC)- those that stay in but modify things a little mostly cosmetic changes. new song, little lighting change, and a video clip hear and there.
3. Emergent - those that fall into the postmodern worldview as a reaction
4. The marginalized - people like me that works like "theology for the church", imply are not real Baptists find the exit sign and move on to other groups like sovereign grace.

It is sad but true my people's leaders think I am a danger to my people. And this work is evidence that for all its Good -- the sign reads "exit ahead"..

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