Before our mishap on the Connversaton blog (in which we accidentally deleted a couple months worth of posts and comments) some lively discussion took place concerning Kenton Sparks’ new book, God’s Words in Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship. When I sat down the other day to read the first hundred or so pages of Sparks’ book I ran across the following comment, which I thought would be interesting to post here and might lead us into some edifying discussion:
“In essence, the old-school evangelicals have been so sure that they are right that they no longer consider seriously the possibility that they are too conservative; ‘conservative,’ not in the sense of theological orthodoxy, but in the sense that they are unable to really think critically about whether their traditions are intellectually adequate and spiritually healthy.” (p12-13).
This comment struck me when I read it. I have long been concerned that in our zeal to fight off being too liberal, we forget that it is equally dangerous to be too conservative. This danger appears to remain essentially unrecognized amidst many of the struggles in our circles now. Such a tendency (being too conservative) has many unedifying outworkings. Sparks has hit on one of them here.
In the context of Sparks’ discussion this comment comes as he brings up how traditional American Evangelicals have been chiefly concerned with defending against views that might undermine the authority of Scripture. In this particular pursuit another danger fell from view: “…that their [traditional evangelical scholars] version of the Christian faith might harbor false ideas and beliefs that, because they are mistaken, serve as barriers to faith for those who see our evangelical errors.” In this zeal against “liberalism,” many conservative scholars missed the danger of being too conservative…(now, see the quote above). Sparks thus brings up a pastoral concern. What about the danger of setting up stumbling blocks other than legitimate Gospel stumbling blocks?
Sparks broaches here one outworking of a larger issue: the danger of being too far to the right, if you will. I generally focus on other aspects and outworkings of this danger and I hope to bring up some of these. But, for now, I put forth Sparks’ helpful comment. Any thoughts?