Liberal theologians at least know the difficulties and can help us map the terrain.

Evangelicals face an intellectual challenge: How is it possible to be faithful to the Bible without being irrelevant to modern hearers? How do they explain a traditional understanding of the gospel that originated in the premodern situation to people who think in modern ways?

Evangelical theology almost by definition identifies with the doctrinal substance of classical and Reformational Christianity. It places enormous stress Upon the objective, infallible authority of God’s written Word and reiterates belief in the scriptural teachings of Protestant confessions of faith.

Evangelical theology thus was formulated essentially in the period that preceded a set of assumptions about reality that came in with the Enlightenment in Europe. We are even proud to declare it: evangelical theology is rooted in the Bible and in the history of Christian thought that was before Kant, Darwin, Strauss, Marx, and Freud—before those ideas that now present such a challenge to it became prominent. But besides being proud, we need to be sober and realistic about the task we have implicitly set ourselves: By choosing to be evangelical we are in effect claiming to be able to make a case for these antique beliefs in the modern setting.

It is insufficient just to offer an account of why evangelical theology is popular today. We might say the classical faith is proving its richness and power and people prefer it to the bare bones of liberal, fictive religion. We might claim it offers the strong meaning and straightforward beliefs they are seeking. But this says nothing about its being true. Of course it meets people’s needs—but so do some strange myths and cults. We must ...

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