In response to my last post, OSC asked me to identify my theological pigeon-hole, so here goes:

My theology is sort of a hybrid thing. My dad grew up in the Plymouth Brethren church, but as we moved around the country following his military career, we didn’t attend Brethren assemblies, but mostly non-denominational “Bible” churches. When I was 15, we came to Nashville and began to participate in Community Bible Church, where I’ve been ever since. Our pastor for most of my time at CBC graduated from
Dallas Seminary in the 1950s, the era of John Walvoord and Charles Ryrie.

The hallmark of this tradition is Bible exposition, which remains the central feature of worship at CBC. The theory is that when we preach expositionally through a text, we’re doing better at giving “the full counsel of the word.” (I recognize that this approach has it’s own set of problems, one of which is that it overestimates its own “objectivity”). The thing a Lutheran would notice about it is the complete absence of liturgy. My brother’s wife grew up in the LCMS (they were married in a Lutheran Church), and from time to time, this resulted in my visiting a Lutheran service. I always felt a bit lost, not knowing how to follow the order (that’s not a criticism, just an observation).

Theologically, the distinctive feature of Dallas Seminary is dispensationalism. This was the result of a combination of the 19th century Presbyterian penchant for systematizing theology and a biblical literalist reaction to German liberalism. Mix in a little American entrepreneurialism and the result is a new church tradition of anti-traditionalism. My own church came to be in the late 1950s when a group of people, mostly baptists and methodists, got fed up with the creeping liberalism of their mainline denominational Churches.

So that’s where I’m from: American conservative independent evangelical. My own studies at DTS led me to conclude that our tradition is a little too modernistic in the way it emphasizes individualistic rationalism, especially in hermeneutics. It also carries a big thread of Finneyan revivalism and a strong tendency toward pragmatism in ministry. In this way, OSC, we are largely responsible for the woes you bemoan so well. Sorry. It seems to me that lamenting the shallow theology of glory of our day is the thing that you and I have in common.

As it happens, my seminary curriculum “accidentally” included a fair dose of Lutheran theology, which I find both interesting and helpful. I took senior level seminars in both historical and systematic theology. These are courses in which the specific subject matter varies from one semester to the next. My historical theology seminar focussed on the writings and context of Luther himself, and my systematics course was a focussed discussion of Robert Jenson’s (leading contemporary Lutheran theologian, for those who don’t know the name) Systematic Theology.

Of course, I’m obviously not a Lutheran, and there are many specific elements of the Lutheran Confession that I would disagree with (but not want to argue about). When it comes to the sacraments, for example, I’m pretty much a Calvinistic baptist. As I’ve come to appreciate the necessity of tradition and community in all human understanding, I’m led to remain in the tradition I’m part of, in part to have some opportunity to shape it, but more so as to be fully engaged in the life of the Church and the promotion of the gospel.

There’s a lot more to the answer to this question, but maybe that’s a good start. By the way, OSC, you’ve intrigued me by mentioning your DTS grad friend who recently joined the LCMS. I wonder if I know him. There were a number of Lutherans in my Jenson seminar. There’s an e-mail link on the Subsidiary Awareness page; maybe you could drop me a line.

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