Saturday, December 02, 2006

Evangelical Perspectives: Toward a Biblical Balance
by Ronald B. Mayers (1987)

Evangelical Perspectives fills something of a unique role in evangelical theological literature. It is not primarily a summary theological survey, though Ronald Mayers, professor of philosophy and religion at Cornerstone University, (formerly Grand Rapids Baptist College), does survey a number of basic theological issues. Nor obviously is such a relatively short volume intended to be a systematic theology such as Hodge, Strong, or Chafer have written, though Mayers' discussion of theological issues is much deeper then a cursory summary overview.

Mayers sets forth his purpose in writing Evangelical Perspectives in the first chapter titled "Necessity of Doctrinal Balance".

"It is the contention of this book that established doctrine, or orthodoxy, has usually been, and should always be, determined by the balance that the Bible indicates in the various doctrinal issues that the church must explain and elucidate to her members. This has not always been the case in American evangelicalism and fundamentalism..."

In the following three chapters, Mayers illustrates the concept of Biblical doctrinal balance by review of three fundamental issues the early church had to wrestle with in coming to grips with basic Biblical orthodox Christian belief.

The first issue was the definition of reality. Mayers lays out how the early church proclaimed a God who is reality, and in His reality totally independent. On the other hand, creation was also proclaimed as a reality, but a reality that is separate from, but totally dependent on God. This is in contrast to pantheistic thought that makes God and creation equal in a way that creation is also God, and as well refutes gnosticism which denied the reality of creation. The Christian view of reality is not either/or, but that both God and creation comprise reality.

The second issue the early church wrestled with is God as the one and the many; the trinitarian being of God as the one and the three. God as one and many defies our rational logical mind set. The early church arrived at the position where both concepts were to be held to, tensions not withstanding.

The same may be said for the issues of the deity and humanity of Christ. Is Christ fully man, or is He fully God? Biblical balance demands we affirm that He is both fully God and fully man, and that we live with the tensions that balance brings.

Having set forth the Biblical balance and tensions that mark these basic orthodox doctrines of Christian faith, Mayers takes the lessons learned and seeks to apply them to a number of theological and doctrinal issues that the Evangelical church at large has in the past wrestled and in our day continues to wrestle with. A survey of the chapter headings gives a good snapshot of those issues:

General Revelation: Both Within and Without
Special Revelation: Both Event and Word
Inspiration: Both Holy Spirit and Human Authors
Testaments: Both Continuity and Discontinuity
Salvation: Both Provision and Response
Holy Spirit: Both Holiness and Eternal Security
Church: Both Proclamation and Charity
Last Things: Both Already and Not Yet

There is much that could be said about the issues under discussion in each of these chapters that would take up way to much space and time in this review. I found Mayers' discussion on these topics to be challenging and mind stretching. Be ready to have some of your theological bubbles popped, and some of your dogmatic assumptions challenged. There is enough in these chapters to annoy and irritate those on both sides of the issues discussed, but that is precisely where the real value of this book is to be found, and that is why I recommend this book to Pastors, theology students, and others with an interest in Evangelical theology.

For some time I have had a suspicion that much of traditional Evangelical and Reformed systematic theology was influenced by rationalistic Enlightenment methodology much more then we perhaps want to admit. As a result, in some areas of Evangelicalism the mystery and tension has been stripped from the faith, leaving a sterile dogmatic "orthodoxy" that far to often claims to have "all the answers". Evangelical Perspectives presents an approach to theology that allows us to be rational, but in a way that preserves Biblical tension and mystery; an approach that also calls for the exercise of the Christian virtue of humility.

Soli Deo Gloria!

~ The Billy Goat ~