Prolegomena Matters: Engaging with Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology

prolegomenaYesterday, I posted my review of the first section in Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology: A Biblical and Systematic IntroductionAs with most theology textbooks, Bird opens with a discussion of how to do theology. In theological circles this is called the prolegomena and it portends to how the rest of the book will be developed.

As I mentioned in that review, I am encouraged by his focus on the gospel but concerned about how he is actually going to do his theology. In my review I mentioned in passing four general concerns. Today, I want to substantiate those concerns. Continue reading

Postfoundationalism as Spiritual Adultery

This last semester, I spent a good deal of time reading about, thinking through, and writing on the subject of “postfoundationalism,” the postmodern, postconservative, postevangelical theology of the late Stanley Grenz, John Franke, Roger Olson, and a handful of others.  In my readings, one recurring feature was the denial of Scripture’s sufficiency.  For instance in Beyond Foundationalism, Grenz and Franke propose a method of correlation that adopts an epistemic method “based upon” scripture and Tradition and culture, so that their theological method upholds its beliefs with an integrative mosaic web.

Reading Raymond Ortlund Jr.’s book on spiritual adultery this week, God’s Unfaithful Wife, has made me think back on postfoundationalism’s proposal and to reflect that this aberrant mode of interpreting Scripture is nothing more than spiritual adultery, akin to the ancient Israelites dissatisfaction with God’s Torah and their subsequent pursuit of pagan deities, foreign allegiances, and extra-biblical–to use a word anachronistically– revelation.

Consider some of Ortlund’s words.

Commenting on Leviticus 20:6, he says, “Consulting mediums and spiritists also amounts to whoredom, because, like idolatry, resorting to their ministrations denies Yahweh’s all-sufficiency.  Just as the counsels of a perfectly wise husband should be satisfying to a fair-minded wife, so Yahweh’s revelation in law, Urim and Thummim, prophetic word, and so on, should satisfy the questions and perplexities of his people.  To seek revelation beyond his provision insinuates failure in him, exposes a prying restlessness in the covenant people and subjects them to compromising guidance from degraded sources” (38).

Writing about God’s leadership and revelation in Judges, Ortlund goes on, “The period of the judges was infamous for its widespread moral confusion.  ‘Every man did what was right in his own eyes’ (21:25), and not even Gideon escaped the spirit of the times.  Rather than respect the unique prerogatives of the Levites at the tabernacle in Shiloh, Gideon made his own personal ephod in Ophrah.  As a device for enquiring of God” (43).  Adopting cultural practices of receiving communications from the divine, rather than humbling submitting to God’s prescribed means of revelation, Gideon “inadvertantly [led] the people of God into whoredom” (44).  “[Israel] trusted in it [the ephod] rather than in Yahweh and neglected his formally established means of grace” (44).

Continuing on this theme, Ortlund writes again concerning Israel’s metericious tendencies during the time of Jeremiah, “In real terms, Jeremiah sees the people of God as faddish and insecure, nervously searching the latest offerings from neomania, for they do not grasp the true meaning and abiding claim of covenant (87).

All in all, Ortlund’s biblical-theological treatment of spiritual adultery is a shocking exhortation that all types of revisionist theologies that dismiss the Reformation principle of Sola Scriptura are not just poor, they are prostitution.  Paul says of the church’s tendency towards unholy unions:

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers.  For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?  Or what fellowship has light with darkness?  What accord has Christ with Belial?  Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?  What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God…Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing, then I will welcome you (2 Cor. 6:14-16a, 17).

If marriage is to be protected from physical prostitution, so the doing of theology must be guarded against the perverting effects of worldly accomodation.  Theological methods that purport any kind of admixture, combining the biblical authority with tradition, culture, sociological reasoning, psychological sensitivity, or philosophical reasoning ultimately conjoin the unilateral revelation of God’s word with the fleshly calculations of fallen men.  The union is not binding and cannot be consider acceptable in God’s sight.  Grenz, Franke, and Olson call this revisionist theology postfoundationalism, but Scripture seems to call it something else–prostitution. 

May we be warned and wise to heed the singular message of God’s Word and to conform our lives to its gospel and its truth, so that we may not be deceived and “led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ,” to whom we are singularly betrothed (2 Cor. 11:3).

Sola Deo Gloria, dss