I first posted on this around five years ago and just saw another example.
The Theological Cohort I’m in has begun tackling theories of the atonement and the New Perspective on Paul. Toward that end we’ve begun reading Leon Morris‘ The Atonement: Its Meaning and Significance. (Morris’ 1983 book is based on lectures he gave covering his earlier more technical and widely-known The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross, a critical book to digest in any thorough study of the atonement. But not everyone in my group knows greek so we are using his later more accessible book. There is some new material in The Atonement as well, however, that makes it worthy of separate attention.)
I’ve said many times that my own thoroughly evangelical theological education was one in which I felt that all the theological i’s were dotted and all the doctrinal t’s were crossed. In contrast, one result of my participation in the emerging church conversation has been, as I’ve written elsewhere, that my theology has segued from encyclopedia to outline.
Continuing to adhere to basic Christian orthodoxy, I have nevertheless increasingly embraced God’s mystery as it pertains to theology. I do believe theological creativity is a legitimate expression of worship within the boundaries and between the lines of what God has clearly revealed to us. (i.e. there is such a thing as unwarranted theological creativity as well).
But from time to time I come across passages from evangelical writers of the past that remind me that we err when we two-dimensionalize any individual thinker from the past down to mere stereotype.
This happened to me a few days ago when reading Morris. Reflecting on the meaning of words and images of the atonement that he’s about to explore, Morris writes:
“We will see something of what it cost Jesus to bring about our salvation and something of the meaning of the atonement. I do not claim that at the end we will know exactly how atonement works. Through more than nineteen centuries the church has been working at that problem and it still has not come up with an agreed solution” (p. 13).
Clearly, Dr. Morris also saw the need for ongoing theological spade work.