The Betrayal of Fidelity

The final stretch!  Spring Break has ended, starting the fourth quad for this academic year.  Time for me to step things up multiple notches for increased productivity and increase my caffeine intake!

Last week, I finished reading The Fidelity of Betrayal.  When Peter Rollins signed my copy at Newton Centre, he told me that some critics have stated that this was his best work.  After having completed it myself, I can see why.  I mean, I’ve only read Insurrection so far.  And now I must write reviews for both books.

I also need to read through Uncle Karl’s new book, The Wonder of the Universe: Hints of God in Our Fine-Tuned World.  Just recently published, I read the first review on Amazon from George P. Wood.

I always find it useful to read reviews of a book to help calibrate the one I’ll write later (also so I don’t miss a major insight and look totally foolish), but then I must critically examine myself to make sure I don’t jump on the bandwagon of thought.

Anyway, at one point of Wood’s review, he mentions Dr. Giberson’s background:

From 1984 to 2011, Giberson was professor of physics at Eastern Nazarene College. In 2008, he became president of the BioLogos Foundation, ‘a community of evangelical Christians committed to exploring and celebrating the compatibility of evolutionary creation and biblical faith.’ He currently directs the Science & Religion Writing Workshop at Gordon College. (emphasis added)

That’s us!  I always feel a sense of privilege whenever I read that Uncle Karl directs Gordon’s writing workshop in some major publication or article.  I certainly can’t stop mentioning it on my own blog!

Speaking of Gordon, I started thinking about the piece I’ve started to flesh out, with the working title, “The Gospel for Academia.”  I want to contextualize it for The Tartan, the campus newsletter.  Does it seem too mundane to say that the euangelion of the New Testament should compel us to seek knowledge?  I hope not.

Today, I also read an essay by Derek Flood published in 2010 through Evangelical Quarterly, Substitutionary atonement and the Church Fathers: A reply to the authors of Pierced for Our Transgressions.  It resonated personally with my own experiences in my own wrestling with the Reformed view of penal substitution.

I perceive that many of those who still hold this traditional perspective of atonement have had no substantial method of supporting their interpretation outside of projecting their theological systems into not only Scripture, but as shown here, the Church Fathers.

As Flood states, while some Patristic teachings may hold concepts of penal substitution, that does not mean they thought it the way Calvin did.  In several examples, he argues that they did not see a God who dealt through retributive justice, but a restorative justice.  The Church Fathers did not think that Jesus died to appease the wrath of God.

I would go further as to say they did not espouse the Reformed doctrine of double imputation, either.  But I will save that for another post.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen too many Reformed critics, via print or Internet, as ultimately betraying their Reformed tradition whenever their initial instinct involves forensic rhetoric (i.e. defending a set of doctrines) instead of humbly considering alternative views on topics such as the atonement, justification, the inerrancy of Scripture, etc.  I don’t see as many individuals willing to critically examine the Church, but men like Calvin and Luther did just that.  They challenged the institutions of their day which became oppressive, and argued, “Let’s see if our tradition should change with another look at Scripture.”

In fact, one might sum up The Fidelity of Betrayal as this: Ecclesia semper reformanda est, with the principle taken to its radical and logical fulfillment.  Rollins just happens to get there a different way through a post-structuralist framework in the 21st century with snappy controversial phrases intended to make traditionalists uncomfortable like, “What would Judas do?”

For Rollins to suggest that we should be willing to betray our traditions in order to honor them comes closer to the heart of the Reformation than the caricature of “free-floating Biblical revisionism” (26), as some critics paint him and other post-evangelicals.  In light of what he calls “fidelity” in the betrayal of tradition, I would say that some of his critics have betrayed this fidelity.  Hence, why I’ve twisted the phrase for the sake of having an interesting blog title.

This does not just fall on those of the Reformed side today, but also the other side of post-evangelicals.  We must always remain open to change, otherwise the new traditions we set up will one day become as oppressive as the institutions we seek to reform today.

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