The book originated in six papers delivered at the annual Theology Conference at Regent College, Vancouver in October 1999. And the Regent College Bookstore are to be very highly commended for producing the book for us in this format and delivering it to me three days after publication with one phone call. I hope this will become an annual event.
I was relieved to find that John Stackhouse included me as an evangelical by his five point definition (41-42). This should be required reading in every seminary and Bible College, and if such a thing were possible in university departments of religion.
By far the most stimulating presentation was by Kevin J.Vanhoozer (Research Professor of Systematic Theology at Trinity International University, Illinois). The title is daunting: "The Voice and the Actor: A Dramatic Proposal about the Ministry and Minstrelsy of Theology." It begins with an important discussion of Bernard Ramm (whose book The Pattern of Authority, 1957, helped me through some tough questions). Vanhoozer then encourages us to "recover the role of the (dramatic) imagination in the doing of theology" (94). "Dramatic theology projects a world in which various subjects (e.g. God and human beings) interact through dialogue and communicative action" (99). "Evangelical theology serves the church by assisting it to become a holy and vital theatre once again" (103). Just in case the idea of theatre puts you off, you could read 1 Corinthians 4:9-10, and read this article (it alone is worth $16.97 Can).
I enjoyed reading Stanley J.Grenz' very important "Theological Method after the Demise of Foundationalism." He highlights the work of Pannenberg, Lindbeck's use of Wittgenstein, and the place of the believing community in the work of Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolsterstorff. Among other insights Grenz says "There is no generic religious experience, only experiences endemic to specific religious traditions, that is, experiences that are facilitated by an interpretive framework specific to that religious tradition" (122).
Each of the three respondents to the six previous presentations are well worth reading. In six vintage pages (The Marks of Christian theology and Theological Method) Jim Packer says "The fact that all who know and trust the Christ of Scripture are brothers and sisters in one family, and that the trinitarian model of personal identity is one of total openness, makes separatist isolation from other sorts of Christians indefensible" (188).
By way of critical review Roger Olson articulated the serious weakness of the first presentation in the book. "If McGrath really wishes to recognize evangelical diversity, he should include in a more positive light the heroes of non-Reformed evangelicals, such as Menno Simons and Balthasar Hubmaier, Jacob Arminius and John Wesley, Philip Spener and August Hermann Francke. And Clark Pinnock" (206).
Olson is right. Clark Pinnock is only mentioned very indirectly in three
footnotes throughout the whole book. As a result there is no discussion
of theological method (the sub-title) in dealing with the supremely important
questions that Pinnock's work has tackled. How do we discuss totally different
models among evangelicals relating to the Openness of God , other religions,
the lostness of the heathen, the Arminian-Calvinistic divide, the work
of the Holy Spirit? The word charismatic does not appear in the index.
Nor is there a single mention of Pentecostals who now represent a huge
section of the evangelical constituency world-wide.