I had the pleasure of meeting Roger E. Olson a few years ago at an Society for Pentecostal Studies meeting. We were both about to go into sessions where we were speaking/chairing and I did not have long to speak to him. I bailed him up about a comment in a paper he had written as I knew it could be interpreted two ways and I wanted to know which one he meant. It was the way I hoped it would be, phrased in such a way to keep everybody happy.

Roger’s new book Reformed and Always Reforming is a great read though I must admit it is slightly repetitive at points. The editors could have cleaned up some of the prose as the same thing is said a few times about the same people. It reads as if it was a series of addresses that have been compiled into a book and slightly more editing could have been useful.

The back cover of the book says “Can we be more evangelical by being less conservative?” That is the thesis of the book and the book succeeds in showing so. I also think I will write a paper, in response to the book, “Pentecostals as Pre-Cursors to Postconervatives: We Can be more Pentecostal by being more Evangelical”.

So what is the content?

The lengthy Introduction sets the context for the whole discussion. It defines terms, names names, and says who are postconservative theologians and who are opposed to postconservative theology.

Chapter 1 is a consideration of the style of postconservative evangelism. Here Olson shows that the centre of doing evangelical theology is being evangelical. Being evangelical for Olson is defined by 5 points which I understand as:

1) Centrality of Scripture
2) Conversion
3) Christ
4) Evangelism
5) Christian Orthodoxy with God’s word as the highest authority for all Christian faith and practice.

[Sorry I could not make point 4) start with a “C”]

The problem is, as Olson sees it, that Evangelicals add things in, such as tradition or a view of revelation, that divides evangelicals one from another.

Chapter 2 considers what is the essence of Christianity. This is not a new theme as it is reflected in my supervisors work The Identity of Christianity. What Olson decides is that postconservatives believe the issue is transformation and not information that is the centre of the faith.

Chapter 3 considers the need to re-vision theology. Chapter 4 becomes philosophical and looks at postconservative’s response to postmodernism which is a “soft” approach embracing “postfoundationalism” and “perspectivalism”. The support for this came from a surprising source. Where the concept of “worldview” is used there is a recognition of truth being embedded in a culture/interpretation/perspective which does not mean that there is no absolute truth but it is from a perspective.

Chapter 5 considers the place of Scripture by seeing postconservatives move to a postpropositionalist stance. The Bible is not seen as a series of propositions given once and for all but a narrative with propositions in it, This chapter thus explores a theology of revelation.

Chapter 6 moves to another of the options in the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, tradition, and how it is observed by postconservatives. Olson says:

Postconservative evangelical theology, then, is not antitraditional or postorthodox. It receives tradition critically with great love and respect and seeks to improve on the current understanding of orthodox belief. Scripture is its first source and norm; tradition is second. The first is absolute and the second is relative. (p. 207)

The final chapter (7) looks at the outworking of these areas in the light of the doctrine of God.

I have found this book helpful in reflecting on how I do theology, how I will teach my method of doing theology and how I consider some of the issues. I recommend this book to all lecturers of theology, and librarians, so you know what to keep and what to try and avoid in future.

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