Monday, May 14, 2007

Rome Vs. Wheaton, Round Two: Tradition

"Evangelicals kid themselves," insists former Evangelical Theological Society president and recently re-converted Roman Catholic Francis Beckwith,

"when they believe that they can re-invent the wheel with every generation, that you have to produce another spate of systematic theology textbooks to teach people the stuff that has already been articulated for generations."
Instead, "The way that we read Scripture is through the ideas and concepts that have been passed down to us by a great tradition." The average believer, he concludes, would never simply sit down with the Bible and come up with the mature and well-developed Christology of the Nicene Creed (a Christology the reformers themselves took for granted).

This is certainly a valid criticism, especially for those, like me, who grew up thinking that after the apostle John died there was nothing but rampant apostasy until the Jesus Movement began in 1965 (it is so typical of moderns and post-moderns to insist that their generation is unique among all those that have lived on the earth).

As I pointed out in my last post, if evangelicalism can no longer claim to trumpet a doctrine of justification that differs significantly from that of Roman Catholicism, and if the former's latent distrust of the wisdom and tradition of its forefathers necessitates reinventing the theological wheel every twenty years or so, then its appeal is lost, it seems, amid all the confusion and hassle.

The issue here is not the Bible vs. tradition, but whether we read that Bible in conjunction with, or in isolation from, those who have gone before us. By adding to its confusion of law and gospel the burden of its generational snobbery, evangelicalism will continue to fail to make a compelling case for retaining the high-profile intellectuals it values so highly.