In the wake of the revitalization of this blog (something I am very happy has happened), I’d like to quote Harvie Conn and reflect on the implications of his quote which seem to have something to say to the current tensions not only within the Reformed world, but also some of the tensions that hit us Westminster students closer to home.
In the Preface to Inerrancy and Hermeneutic, Conn lays out the goal for the book. He writes:
Our primary interest is in helping the pastor understand what has been going on in the last couple decades and how these developments can be analyzed and, to a degree, appropriated by someone with a continuing commitment to the inerrancy of the Bible. Our goals, then, are not only defensive but also creative and affirming (9-10).
I see in that quote an attitude that encapsulates the best of what the Reformed faith can offer. It does offer a framework within which one can defend oneself, and one’s church, from heresies and serious theological errors. But the Reformed faith has always, since its inception, been a progressive faith that is constantly reforming itself. The Reformed faith also provides a base for creative and affirming scholarship that may reform and revise certain aspects of its heritage, but never causes one to abandon that heritage.
I’m not sure the term “Reformed” really helps the issue. The term is in the past tense, bringing with it the sense that all the work has already been done. Perhaps it would have been better to use “Reforming.”
But let’s not get hung up with semantics. The point is that Conn was carrying on the heritage that he inherited. Not in a stagnate way, but in a way that I think the Reformers would have wanted it to be carried on. I don’t think the Reformers, or anyone with an ounce of humility, would have believed that their word was the last. When approached with new evidence the appropriate response is not to hide behind a document written from a viewpoint that is alien to more than half the world. Rather, the response should be to learn from our heritage then engage with the evidence and, finally, measure both by Scripture.
I’ll end with a quote from a professor who encapsulates the best of what the Reformed world has to offer, both in his love for his tradition and for his creative and reforming scholarship:
Our tradition certainly has a well-documented legacy of serious, historically oriented biblical studies, open to seeing new ways where the Spirit and evidence lead, open to seeing how God is leading his people to greater understanding of his Word. And there is much work waiting to be done with respect to furthering this legacy concretely by engaging new discoveries and theories, as well as perhaps reinvestigating older discussions. (Peter Enns, “Bible In Context: The Continuing Vitality of Reformed Biblical Scholarship”)
It is a sad day in the Reformed world when some would rather hide behind their history than responsibly approach the present.