Recovering Classic Evangelicalism

April 16, 2013 — 1 Comment

9781433530623

Usually, I work off of a loose queue line for my review oriented reading. Big volumes are an exception, but in general, I try to work in a loose order of arrival. However, I always try to give each book a good initial perusal when it first comes in the mail. This involves judging the cover (don’t judge me for judging books by the cover, I still read them) and then noting the blurbs (not necessarily reading them, just seeing who blurbed). Then, I’ll read the preface and introduction and see if it hooks me enough to bump it up the queue line. Greg Thornbury’s Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Applying the Vision and Wisdom of Carl F. H. Henry arrived on a Monday night and got the initial perusal. I read the first chapter with my coffee Tuesday morning and finished it by Friday.

Overview

Basically, this book if for anyone who likes theology. Specifically, it’s for people who live evangelical theology, and even more specifically for people who want to philosophically defend evangelical theological convictions. In other words, it’s for people like me, and that’s probably why I read it in less than a week. Thornbury articulates a sentiment I developed in seminary and why I majored in philsophy/systematic theology:

So that it won’t haunt us, Thornbury offers a chance to recover classic evangelicalism via the thought of Carl Henry. To that end, Thornbury is effective, as you can see from my Tuesday morning tweet after reading the first chapter:

GRA, if you’re not familiar, is Henry’s magisterial God, Revelation, and Authority, a 6 volume work that is not widely read. Thornbury points out that some of this is due to the dense nature of volume 1 and advises potential readers to just jump into volume 2. Since I’ve had it in my Logos library for years and ignored it, this summer will be the perfect time to dig in.

As far as Thornbury’s book, he begins with a chapter exploring the lost world of classic evangelicalism. Current evangelicalism, which Thornbury likens to a “suicide death cult,” (17) has come a long way from its roots, and if that moniker is accurate (and Thornbury makes a good case it is) then we have some recovering to do. In this case though, the way forward is to go back.

To that end, Thornbury embarks on a recovery journey using Henry’s writings. He starts, appropriately, with epistemology (“Epistemology Matters”), before moving on to theology (“Theology Matters”), Scripture (“Inerrancy Matters”) and finally cultural engagement (“Culture Matters”). He concludes with a chapter on why evangelicalism matters, and makes a solid case for recovery rather than abandonment.

Along the way, we are given a window into Carl Henry’s thought by someone who has done a close reading of his works and can show us the way further up and further in. Thornbury thus accomplishes two things: (1) he presents a compelling case for traditional evangelical convictions, and (2) introduces a new generation of readers to the writings of Carl Henry. As a sub-accomplishment of the first thing, Thornbury also rehabilitates epistemology as an evangelical concern and shows that it not just the stuff of esoteric ivory tower dwellers. Rather, epistemology affects everything, and is vitally important to take seriously from not just an evangelical perspctive but a Christian perspective in general. Thornbury provides a good entry point to that topic, and points readers to Henry’s writings where they can dig deeper.

Conclusion

Clearly if you can’t tell, I loved Recovering Classic Evangelicalism. Thornbury is an engaging writer who juggles different domains of knowledge well, has a penchant for “appreciating odd juxtapositions,” and does it all in clear, readable prose. While readers with a more philosophical background will move more comfortably through these chapters, it is not a prerequisite to take and read this book. Really, anyone who is interested in theology and theological method will find Thornbury’s work helpful, and I hope many in that category do just that. While I was probably an easy reader to convince, I hope many people read this book and dig into Henry’s writings in particular, but more importantly, the concerns that Henry had in general. If we took philosophical foundations more seriously, our theology would be stronger for it. Narrative and story are helpful, but they are no replacement for propositional revelation. Henry took to defending it, and decades later, Thornbury makes a good case that it is still worthy of defense.

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Nate

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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

One response to Recovering Classic Evangelicalism

  1. I look forward to reading this book. Right now I am reading Schaeffer’s 5 vol. of works and then I will pick up Henry’s GRA. Once done with that I plan to read a number of his other single volume works.

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