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The Perils of Left and Right

Evangelical theology is much bigger and richer than our two-party labels.
1998This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who do not. In his new book, Postmodernizing the Faith: Evangelical Responses to the Challenge of Postmodernism (Baker, 160 pp.; $14.99, paper), Millard J. Erickson divides contemporary evangelical theologians into two kinds of people: those who resist postmodernism and those who are more positive toward it.

In a recent article in these pages (CT, Feb. 9, 1998, p. 40), Roger Olson writes that he is willing to risk "gross oversimplification" in order to undertake a similar task. He argues that there are two kinds of contemporary evangelical theologians: traditionalists and reformists. The former are those who "value traditional interpretations and formulations as binding and normative and [look] with suspicion upon doctrinal revisions and new proposals." The latter are those who value "the continuing process of constructive theology seeking new light breaking forth from God's Word."

Olson says he means nothing pejorative by these labels; his concern, he insists, is to make peace between these two types. Erickson also writes with an evident desire to analyze his colleagues fairly and give credit where it may be due all round. His new book does present a spectrum of opinion on postmodernism. Still, the spectrum is divided into two discrete halves, and it is hard to see such dividing as anything other than divisive.

Erickson's new book follows his slim volume The Evangelical Left: Encountering Postconservative Evangelical Theology (Baker). Here again he is in harmony with a Roger Olson article, this one appearing in the Christian Century (May 3, 1995) on so-called postconservatives. The term is virtually synonymous with Olson's ...

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