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Renewing the Center: Evangelical Theology in a Post-Theological Era

Stanley J. Grenz

Reviewed by: John R. Muether

Date posted: 06/24/2007

Renewing the Center: Evangelical Theology in a Post-Theological Era, by Stanley J. Grenz. Published by Baker, 2000. Hardback, 368 pages, list price $23.99. Reviewed by John R. Muether.

It's easy to understand why Orthodox Presbyterians would overlook this book. The author is a Baptist, and his analysis of evangelicalism - past, present, and future - puts Reformed theology in the background. He is too sanguine about postmodernity and the opportunities it presents for the Christian faith. If these and other reasons prompt disregard for this book, it is understandable. However, it would be regrettable, for in other respects it is a profitable and pleasant read.

The first half of Renewing the Center is a creative, three-generational study of American evangelical theology over the past half century. Grenz (from Regent College in Vancouver) identifies two key figures for each generation: Carl Henry and Bernard Ramm (at the postwar founding of neo-evangelicalism) begot Millard Erickson and Clark Pinnock, respectively, who begot Wayne Grudem and John Sanders, respectively.

This theological genealogy might suggest that the choice before contemporary evangelical theology is between classic and open theism. But Grenz goes on to reject such "bipolar" categories as anachronistic, and urges instead the cultivation of "generous orthodoxy" in our postmodern setting. In the end, however, Grenz struggles to define his theological center, a task made difficult for want of a clear confessional identity.

Still, Orthodox Presbyterians may stand to gain from Grenz's plea for a "strong ecclesiastical orientation" in the work of theology. Here and elsewhere (see particularly his Theology for the People of God), Grenz underscores the communitarian character of theological reflection. While we may not find his formulations fully adequate, as the OPC wrestles with such potentially divisive topics as the length of the days of creation, we would do well to "[rediscover] the sense of the church as community."

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