Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Review of a Review

I have always said "What I like about N.T. Wright, I can find in Reformed theology" this is especially true when it comes to the emphasis on Biblical theology, historia salutis and the need to read the NT in light of redemptive history. This was strongly emphasized in my Westminster Theological Seminary education and the required reading.

So I was delighted to read Michael Horton's review of Scot McKnight's new book.

I have yet to purchase and read McKnight's book--and I am interested in reading it. However I find the review by Michael Horton to be quite commendable. 

Sadly I think too many on the Reformed side dismiss N.T. Wright and McKnight where we can share common concerns and emphasis about historia salutis. This is not to deny valid and important differences. For example, N.T. Wright's view on justification by faith and imputation of righteousness. Even if you argue he gets to something similar via union with Christ, this is still not Reformed theology (even with RT's strong impact of union with Christ). Important difference--yet this is not to deny some important areas of similarity where the arguments can overlap--for example the role of Adam and Israel's story for redemptive history. Horton's review, I think, brings some of these overlaps and commonalities to the forefront. While the 'two sides' disagree, we can and should be intellectually honest and charitable about areas of similarities. 

Perhaps in some there is a fear if we find too much agreement and commendation we won't strongly disagree on areas of genuine disagreement. To put it bluntly if we agree too much for some we've compromised genuine disagreements over justification by faith and its relationship within 'the gospel'. No small disagreement but not one that necessarily polarizes us on every other issue. We don't have to have absolute polarizations like a Democrat and a Republican disagreeing in principle just because the other said it. Again for example, Reformed theology has a strong first Adam/Second Adam emphasis--and even the role of Israel in vice regency.

On the non-Reformed side however, I also think too many who view Wright & McKnight favorably miss that many of their strengths have long found a home in the Reformed movement prior to their work. Reacting against the popular evangelicalism of one's youth is not the same as reacting against the rich history of Reformed theology. Sadly too many assume that one is the other. While McKnight & Wright don't have to major on the Reformational heritage (as Horton's review points out), their consistent caricatures are shaming, particularly in light of the Biblical Theology/ historia salutis emphasis the Reformed have maintained via Vos, Ridderbos & Gaffin. Reformed theology often shares a common critique w/ McKnight & Wright against popular evangelicalism.

I guess for me, Horton's review puts pen to paper on a number of ways I have viewed the differences and commonalities between Reformed Theology with its Biblical Theology and the Biblical Theology and cultural critiques of scholars like McKnight and Wright. It my own reading and thinking I have tried to learn from both streams of academia even if I have clear leanings and favorings towards one.

Despite important differences and needed clarifications there is far too much talking past each other. Horton's review, to me, demonstrates a saner approach. His 4 volumes on systematic theology shows he can address current issues and allow Reformed theology to speak to them without parroting the past. I have appreciate Horton's work and how he consistently labor to engage those with whom he has strong disagreements. It seems to me a model of how Reformed theologians can operate in big tent Christianity without losing their distinctive.

Horton's review makes me "bump up" McKnight's book on my reading wishlist.
Read Horton's lengthy review.

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