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It's an American pastime to speculate about the future around the New Year. And it's an evangelical pastime to take stabs at defining the movement. A recent Touchstone magazine symposium of evangelical leaders offers a little of both.

Touchstone pulled together an eclectic group of contributors: Russell Moore, Denny Burk, John Franke, D. G. Hart, Michael Horton, and David Lyle Jeffrey. Horton offers the most provocative observation about the movement's theological character. "Ironically, [evangelicalism] is a largely anti-creedal, anti-theological movement that has nevertheless defended the Fundamentals enshrined in historic Christianity more faithfully than many creedal and confessional denominations."

It's hardly fair to call a movement shaped by Carl Henry "anti-theological," but Horton's point finds support on a popular level. Otherwise Henry and Mark Noll and many others would not have needed to issue calls for academic engagement. Franke, an unusual choice for this conservative group in a conservative magazine, says evangelical theology has matured. Looking toward the future, he foresees a breakthrough. Perhaps those calls have been heeded.

"In the middle of the last century, very few evangelicals were highly respected in the broader world of biblical studies, F. F. Bruce being a notable exception," Franke says. "Today evangelical biblical scholars are among the best in the world. They are prominent in the Society of Biblical Literature and produce high-quality academic books and journal articles that demand attention in the guild. I think a similar development has started to take place in the discipline of theology more recently, and I expect that, in time, evangelical theologians will enjoy the same widespread reputation ...

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January 2008

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