Purpose-Directed Theology: Getting Our Priorities Right in Evangelical Controversies
Darrell L. Bock
InterVarsity, 114 pages, $14

The Evangelical movement is in a moment of identity crisis. Not that the movement ever had a single clear identity, any more than I have a single identity. What I am depends on my purpose and context: I am father, husband-lover, son, editor, boss, employee, neighbor, music minister, small-group member, playmate (to my dog), and more.

Likewise, the Evangelical movement has had multiple overlapping identities, depending on which of its historic purposes is dominant in a given time and context. As reformers of the 16th-century European church, the evangelicals were polemical theologians devoted to the authority of the Scriptures and the pure gift of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. As renewers of Protestant orthodoxy, they were passionate lovers of Jesus who wrote great hymns and formed circles of the committed to foster warm-hearted faith. As reformers of British and American society, they applied revivalistic fervor to the eradication of slavery, of the exploitation of women, and of the evils symbolized by Demon Rum. As foes of modernism, they built institutions in exile.

Each of these historic moments created an evangelicalism with a purpose, and therefore a clear sense of identity. But how do the contemporary heirs of these multiple evangelicalisms define themselves?

Darrell Bock's slender volume, Purpose-Directed Theology, addresses the issue of evangelical identity for the benefit of its theological and biblical scholars. The book is an expansion of the presidential address he gave to the Evangelical Theological Society in November 2001.

The history of the ETS can be viewed as a series ...

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Editor's Bookshelf
David Neff
David Neff was editor in chief of Christianity Today, where he worked from 1985 until his retirement in 2013. He is also the former editor in chief of Christian History magazine, and continues to explore the intersection of history and current events in his bimonthly column, "Past Imperfect." His earlier column, "Editor's Bookshelf," ran from 2002 to 2004 and paired Neff's reviews of thought-provoking books and interviews with the authors.
Previous Editor's Bookshelf Columns:
November
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Christianity Today
Fighting Within and Fears Without
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