Reformed and Always Reforming

The Postconservative Approach to Evangelical Theology

series: Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology

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"Olson does an excellent job of outlining the postconservative vision and style of thinking. The book is written in accessible language, and students, pastors, and laity will all find it to be an extremely useful guide."--David S. Nah, Religious Studies Review
 
As Roger Olson notes in his Introduction, this volume has a simple but controversial thesis: "It is possible to be more evangelical by being less conservative." Just as some have made a similar case with regard to social ethics, Olson intends to do the same for theology.

He suggests that postconservative evangelicalism is less a defined movement than a "mood" or "style of doing theology"--characterized chiefly by a certain openness of mind that allows for the reconsideration of received tradition (without allowing that tradition to predetermine doctrinal correctness). Among the theologians who illustrate that approach are John R. Franke, Stanley Grenz, Nancey Murphy, Clark H. Pinnock, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, and Miroslav Volf.

Olson suggests that postconservative evangelicals emphasize the transformative nature of an encounter with God rather than the idea of propositional revelation. In successive chapters, he develops related themes such as the importance of narrative theology, the encounter with postmodernism, and the task of revisioning theology.

Scholars and clergy alike will find here an original study that provides an insightful account of contemporary postconservative evangelical theology, its creative and influential adherents, and their multifaceted approaches to theological reflection.

About the series: The Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology series, sponsored by Acadia Divinity College, offers critical assessments of the major issues that the church faces in the twenty-first century. Authored by leading authorities in the field, these studies provide readers with requisite orientation and fresh understanding to enable them to take part meaningfully in discussion and debate. 


Endorsements

"Roger Olson has become a major interpreter of American evangelical theology and an advocate of a postconservative approach. What we have lacked is a clear guide to this perspective within evangelicalism. In his new book, Olson sets forth a genuinely evangelical theology that rejects modernity and fundamentalism. His focus on a personal relationship with Christ over propositions and the need to continually revise theology in light of the Word of God are important corrections to conservative evangelical tendencies. Anyone interested in a truly gospel-oriented theology will benefit from engaging with his arguments."--Alan G. Padgett, professor of systematic theology, Luther Seminary, editor of the Journal for Christian Theological Research (www.jctr.org)

"'Evangelicalism' has been described as a set of corrective theological emphases. Roger Olson, in this book, describes how among postconservative evangelicals such an impulse for reform has continued right up to the present. Privileging a style that is open and generous, these theologians have valued transformation over information and have put narrative before proposition. One can only applaud."--Robert K. Johnston, Fuller Seminary, coeditor of The Variety of American Evangelicalism

"Roger Olson's newest book provides an excellent overview of the recent (and ongoing) methodological and material debates among 'evangelical' theologians. I place this adjective in scare quotes because, as Olson demonstrates, it has so often been used by 'conservative' theologians as a label to be reserved for those whose speech and writing conform to a particular early modern way of formulating Christian doctrine. Olson not only explains the historical and political issues that contributed to the current situation in evangelical theology, he also offers resources for a 'postconservative' approach to theology that always maintains its commitment to the ongoing reformation of the church and its proclamation of the gospel."--F. LeRon Shults, professor of systematic theology, Agder University (Norway), coauthor of Transforming Spirituality

"'Postconservative theology' sees itself as holding on to evangelicalism's theological heart but shedding its modern baggage and reactionary tendencies. Roger Olson's 'apologia' sketches the lines of influence and distinction between conservative and postconservative evangelical theology and pleads for his side's ways of reflecting on the Christian faith. Whether or not you agree with the movement or even the label, the thinkers he cites in these pages are a serious force worthy of respectful engagement."--Telford Work, associate professor of theology, Westmont College

"No one has done more to make the term 'postconservative theology' part of the evangelical lexicon than Roger Olson. In this book he provides a description and critical assessment of the developments related to this postconservative style of thinking along with a robust defense of its principles and intuitions in response to its more conservative critics. Anyone looking for a clear and authoritative overview of the current trajectories and future possibilities of this approach to evangelical theology would be well advised to start here."--John R. Franke, professor of theology, Biblical Seminary, author of The Character of Theology


The Author

  1. Roger E. Olson

    Roger E. Olson

    Roger E. Olson (PhD, Rice University) is Foy Valentine Professor of Christian Theology and Ethics at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, Baylor University, in Waco, Texas. He is a prolific author whose volumes include Reformed and Always Reforming,...

    Continue reading about Roger E. Olson

Reviews

"Sometimes it is necessary to describe and classify and map in order to understand both who we are and what we think and who others are and what they believe. This is what Roger Olson does in his new and very important book. . . . [A] fine new study."--Scot McKnight, jesuscreed.org

"The book does effectively touch on the true significance of the postconservative rift between evangelicals. Olson's tone is fair for the most part, his assessments of the pertinent thinkers and their critics are congenial, and he provides a helpful synthesis of many trajectories that the movement is taking. Furthermore, his discussion brings to the surface the real tension that exists for professional theologians and biblical scholars regarding the struggle to balance confessional accountability, academic freedom, and doctrinal development. . . . The book can . . . help readers better understand the basic dynamics involved in this movement."--C. Everett Berry, Criswell Theological Review

"This book is dynamite and must be handled with care. It has the capacity to blow away preconceptions but also the potential to undermine some cherished tenets of the faith. Roger Olson is a veteran theologian who raises some novel questions which are both important and uncomfortable. . . . The questions Olson raises need to be faced fairly and squarely. . . . The book is bound to stimulate thinking, lively discussions, and hopefully a renewed emphasis on a truly biblical theology."--Krish Kandiah, Christianity

"Olson has done it again! . . . The author has provided a breath-taking overview of the landscape concerning the issue he is investigating. . . . The significance of this study may be the potentiality of Olson's perception of the relationship between postconservative evangelicalism and conservative evangelicalism. . . . On the landscape of conservative and postconservative debate on evangelicalism, more awaits to be seen. But certainly, Olson's Reformed and Always Reforming is worth reading as one looks forward!"--Timothy Lim, Reviews in Religion and Theology

"Olson does an excellent job of outlining the postconservative vision and style of thinking. The book is written in accessible language, and students, pastors, and laity will all find it to be an extremely useful guide."--David S. Nah, Religious Studies Review

"For giving this new voice in evangelicalism [postconservativism] a proper hearing, I believe that Olson has done Christian theology an important service worthy of a careful read."--David C. Cramer, Ethics & Medicine