Monday, December 2, 2013

Mark Noll on the Future of Evangelicalism and Ecumenism

Last night I started reading Richard Lints's edited collection Renewing the Evangelical Mission. Lints has brought together an impressive group of evangelical thinkers to celebrate the life and career of Gordon-Conwell Seminary theologian David Wells.  Authors include Miroslav Volf, Os Guiness, J.I. Packer, and Kevin Vanhoozer.  I have not finished reading it yet, but so far I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in current trends within evangelicalism.

I was particularly struck by Mark Noll's essay "Ecumenical Realities and Evangelical Theology."  It provides an informative perspective on evangelical relations with Catholicism since Vatican II.  While most of the piece focuses on David Wells's 1972 book Revolution in Rome, Noll does offer a few thoughts about what he believes will be the pressing ecumenical issues for evangelicals in the next few decades.  Here they are:

1. Less discussion on reconciling Eastern and Western, or Catholic and Protestant, varieties of historical Christianity, and more effort at drawing into conversation newer forms of belief and older formulations--in other words, less on debating the differences among Augsburg, Trent, Heidelberg, Westminster, and more in debating the relevance of any Western formula for the majority of world Christians.

2.  Less on the interpretation of Paul's letters and more on the interpretation of the Book of Acts

3.  Less on debates about whether the Holy Spirit continues to speak directly in this age and more on how best to understand the Spirit's ongoing work.

4.  Less on trying to understand the relationship of the Testaments to each other and more on how both Testaments relate to the present.

5.  Less on defining proper Christian stewardship of affluence and more on establishing Christian responses to poverty

6.  Less on divine healing understood in spiritual terms and more on healing as a physical as well as spiritual reality

7.  Less on traditional debates over how the original Semitic and koine expressions of Christianity were translated into Hellenistic, Roman, Romance, and Germanic forms, and more on how they translate into Mandarin, Swahili, and Hindi.

Man, I am glad we have Mark Noll!