09 October 2013

Thinking Ecumenical Thoughts

If you're a close reader of this blog you would have noticed that I'm a self-identified confessional Protestant. I prefer confessional Protestant to Evangelical because it more clear, i.e., I can point to a set of concise statements of what I believe, statements that have been around for hundreds of years and thus do not suffer the effects of contemporary chronological snobbery. It's also the case that I can stop being a confessional Protestant by renouncing my belief in one of the elements of doctrine contained in the confessions to which I subscribed. It's not clear that one can cease to be an Evangelical by simple renunciation. In other words, I can deny all sorts of teachings considered part of Christian orthodoxy and who's to gainsay I'm not an Evangelical? "Evangelical" is descriptive, not prescriptive; and the description of "Evangelical" is squishy to say the least.

None of which is to say that the standards I've professed contain all truth on any topic. I'm thus willing to learn from and in fact have learned a great deal of truth from persons who do not share my confessional subscription. Dale Coulter, Associate Professor of Theology in Regent's School of Divinity is a good example. Dale and I differ on many non-trivial doctrines including the nature of the atonement and the order of salvation (i.e., election, predestination, and the like). Yet I've learned from Dale and he from me.  Read his post here if you have any doubts. For example, although I continue to hold to penal satisfaction as an element of the doctrine of the atonement, Dale's reservations have caused me to parse more carefully the New Testament texts and in particular to distinguish more clearly between honor and debt as well as between forgiveness and reconciliation.

Regent Divinity Dean Amos Yong is another example. Dean Yong's post here directed me to his book, In the Days of Caesar, which has opened the door to a distinctively Pentecostal approach to political theology, a topic of interest to anyone like me who works in the field of law.

Time would run out long before I added the names of persons who do not share my confessional standards yet whose books have influenced me. The point is thus to make clear that holding to a distinct set of doctrines maintained by an ecclesial body does not close the door to further inquiry. The richness of Christian teaching on a host of topics remains open to a lifetime of exploration.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the comments Scott, and for the continual dialogue.