Theological method is ultimately far more crucial than differences or agreements on particular beliefs not only because it affects every belief, but also because it determines how false beliefs can be corrected. My deepest concern for theology, therefore, is that it should be evangelical, conservative, and contemporary, in its method.

Preliminary Definitions

The term evangelical today is imprecise. Since the Reformation in the sixteenth century, it has denoted the Protestant as distinct from the Catholic effort to be faithful to the Gospel. It has been used since then for less numerous groups within the Protestant coalition to indicate their efforts at a return to the authentic and original revelation. Although people differ on what they are pleased to call evangelical—for example, I am not altogether pleased to concede Schleiermacher’s claim that his theology is evangelical—nevertheless, it is a noble term indicating faithfulness to the Gospel.

In speaking of conservative I have in mind an essential fidelity to the doctrinal structure of the biblical and Christian tradition. I doubt that a theology lacking a conservative side would deserve the name Christian or evangelical. However much someone may feel compelled to reword or revise the earlier understandings of the faith there must surely be the intention to represent this structure of belief and not some other. By conservative I mean to indicate that there are limits to adaptation that we ought not to transgress because they represent essential elements of the apostolic proclamation. We are expected to be faithful to the stewardship of the Gospel attested authoritatively in the Holy Scriptures, and to bring our own theology and preaching under the judgment ...

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