Theology that is both Christian and evangelical arises out of the wonder and terror of having been confronted with the living God. It issues in confession, thanksgiving, and praise. As Martin Luther declared: "It is not by reading, writing, or speculation that one becomes a theologian. Nay, rather, it is living, dying, and being damned that makes one a theologian."
What I find most missing in Roger Olson's analysis of evangelical theology is this note of passion. He depicts the contemporary landscape as a kind of range war between the settlers and the explorers. As in the old Zane Grey novels, of course, there is a little drama: fences to mend, turf to protect, a gunslinger on the loose, and maybe a shootout at the OK Corral. But for what? Where is the sense that anything of ultimate importance is at stake in these squabbles? Who is willing to die for a postmodern paradigm?
When Harvey Cox was a student minister in Berlin in 1962, one year after the erection of the Wall, he was able to travel back and forth between East and West because he held an American passport. He thus became a courier for pastors and Christian laypeople on both sides of that divide and was sometimes able to smuggle theological books into the East. What the people wanted most were copies of Barth's Church Dogmatics. "To carry in something by Bultmann would have been a wasted risk," Cox said. "Let the bourgeois preachers in West Germany agonize about the disappearance of the three-decker universe and existentialism. We had weightier matters to confront." This is a parable for us today. A theology more enamored with novelty than fidelity is not worth smuggling, for it will not nourish the mission of the church nor build up the people of God.
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