Book Review: Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals

M56526Gavin Ortlund’s new book, Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals, seeks to give us instruction on why we need to look to church history for answers in today’s age of advancement and millennial thinking.

Ortland argues that Evangelicals have lost touch with the history of the Christian Church. Much of this is for fear of becoming too close to Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. And, as he explains, those are valid fears. But the fears should not keep us from exploring the rich heritage of Christianity and to explore the scenarios and events that have helped shaped the theology of the church between the first century and the church today. After all, was there nothing good that came out of the church in its first 1500 years of existence?

Ortland points out an alarming trend of people leaving Protestantism for Eastern Orthodoxy or Roman Catholicism. He highlights a prominent Christian Celebrity, Hank Hanegraaff, the Bible Answer Man, to illustrate this point explaining that Hanegraaff left Protestantism for Eastern Orthodoxy a couple of years ago. He demonstrates that this has been happening at an alarming rate. And why is this happening?

So what is causing this trend? Obviously, every person’s story is unique, and we must leave room for a wide array of different kinds of factors in each case. However, one of these recurring themes among these denominational migrations is related to how Dreher interpreted Hanegraff’s conversion: the desire for historical depth.

Gary Ortland – Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals Chapter 2

Historical depth is the problem according to Ortland as well as others. So the solution, according to Ortland, is Theological Retrieval.

Theological Retrieval is the process of studying church history. But not just the history of the church, the writings of the early church. Ortland shows a process of rediscovering the early writings of the Early Church Father’s and filtering how we ended up with the doctrines that we hold so dear today.

The second half of the book shows practical methods for engaging in theological retrieval. He explores topics such as God (Theology Proper), the atonement, and art.

In each of these cases, he takes the theological concept, puts the current thinking on the topic in light, then looks to see what the church has written about the topic historically. He admits that to be a good systematic theologian, you must respect historical theology as a discipline. In this book, he meshes those two disciplines together.

Theological Retrieval for Evangelicals is not an easy read. There were times when reading that I had to force myself to get into the text or just put it down and come back later. However, the truth contained within and the methods examined and displayed are valuable and to be encouraged.

Because of this, I give Theological Retrieval for Evangelical three out of five stars. However, I do recommend it as a read for those who are seeking to know the history of their faith and how their Evangelical Protestantism fits into the elaborate history of the Christian Church.

I was given a copy of this book free from the publisher in exchange for a fair and honest review.

The (Sad) State of Christianity

I have been witness to things over the years that makes my skin crawl. The state of the church universal, but particularly in the United States and Europe, is appalling. 500 years ago, Martin Luther sparked a Reformation that would forever change the course of church and human history. His courage and steadfastness in his search for truth is inspiring and served the church well. God did, and continues to use Luther in a mighty way.

However, today we are in need of reformation again. The church is falling back into darkness. We see a renewal to have bonds with the Roman Catholic Church that continues in its heresy. We see the rise of LGBT sympathizers in the church defying God and His created order. We see prosperity gospel being preached through the lands. We see the gifts of tongues being abused and falsified.

While all of this is happening we see the church losing the culture. Christianity is no longer an acceptable position in the eyes of the culture. This is nobody’s fault but the church. We have lost our way. We are more worried about appeasing the lost rather than telling the truth to the lost. We cater our church services to the lost which leaves us with shallow theology in the service leading to theological illiteracy in the pew.

Scripture has also lost its place as the source of truth that we are to live by. Science, which changes frequently, has replaced the Bible. Evolution is the mantra of the day despite the fact it goes directly against logic and what the Creator has told us happened. Are we really that wise? No.

Paul tells us in Romans that because we defy God we are left to our own ways. Professing ourselves, the human race, to be wise, we are becoming fools.

Where is the church? Where are the godly leaders? Where is Scripture? Why are we not fighting back? Are we afraid? Or do we just not care?

Church it is time for a new reformation. We must bring back biblical standards and authority. We must bring back rich theology. We must rediscover that the church is to feed the believers so that we can go out and preach to the lost. Stand up church!

Does Inerrancy Matter?

This is a question that comes up over and over again. The simple answer is, yes, inerrancy matters. But why? This post will not go into the intricate details of inerrancy. This is not the proper format for such an undertaking. The purpose here is to look at some logic regarding the truth of Scripture and the issue of inerrancy.

The Bible is to be the guiding light for Christians. The Bible gives us the truth on every facet of life that you can imagine. Now, it doesn’t give us guidance on whether or not we should wear a purple shirt or a green shirt today, that is not what we mean when we say every facet of life. But what we mean is that every situation you encounter has principles in Scripture that will help you work out a right attitude and response to that situation. And this is where inerrancy comes into play.

First, we need to define inerrancy as it relates to Scripture. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy defines inerrancy as follows:

Scripture is without error or fault in all its teaching…

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy 1980

Scripture is without any error in everything that it teaches. That means it is without fault in its historical statements, theological statements, scientific statements, and any other statement the Bible makes. This, of course, refers to the original manuscripts and not any specific translation of Scripture.

So what? Why does this matter? Let’s think about it this way, if you can take any part of the Bible, let’s say Genesis, and says that it contains error, then you call the rest of Scripture into question. Scripture builds on itself. Yes, it is a collection of 66 different works but those works (books) give one unifying message and they stand on each other.

If you can call into question the account in Genesis, you can call into question the accounts of Jesus Christ. At that point, you call into question the exclusivity of Salvation for Christians and Christians alone. After that, you can throw out any part of the Bible that does not agree with modern thought.

It is a dangerous slope. You either take all of Scripture or you throw it all out. Inerrancy is one of the most fundamental beliefs that impact the Gospel today.

The Danger of False Teachers (And what to do about them)

False teachers abound in the church today. From “Prosperity Doctrine,” to the denial of Christ’s Deity, you do not have to search long or hard for these glaring errors. So how should we handle false teacher? Does Scripture give us any indication as to how we should proceed? The answer is an overwhelming YES! In fact, false teachers were a major problem in the New Testament as well and there is plenty of instruction on what we should do. Continue reading

Do We Make Confessions Idols?

Throughout the course of Church History creeds and confessions have been utilized to express what we believe in the faith and to clarify our understanding of written Scripture. But with creeds and confessions come a real danger of moving from preaching good doctrine to setting up an idol that is counter to everything we are instructed in Scripture.

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