Monday, 9 May 2011

G. E. Ladd and Evangelical scholarship

We see further when we stand on the shoulders of giants.

21st century Evangelicalism has benefited immensely from the labours of mid-20th century evangelical scholars. They were people who, convinced that if the God of the Bible was the creator of all things - as the Bible claims he is - then he is also the creator of the rational mind, with its desire for clear explanation of phenomena. And, if the same God who caused the Bible to be written about himself also created the whole world, then this whole world should fit together the way the Bible says it would. Therefore, they committed themselves to evangelical scholarship - to studying the Bible and the world, not as "objective scholars" - a so-called objectivity which assumes away the supernatural without argument, and is therefore both radically subjective and a cipher for atheistic materialism - but as self-concious believers in the Lordship of the crucified and risen Jesus.

We've had our luminaries here in Australia - D. Broughton Knox of Moore College, and Leon Morris of Ridley College, Melbourne, spring to mind. Graeme Goldsworthy is an unsung (under-sung...?) Aussie theological hero - his three-fold "people, place, rule" outline of the Old Testament has influenced countless church leaders, myself included.

George Eldon Ladd was one of the key shapers of American evangelicalism - and let's face it, America was the global trend-setter for evangelicalism in the 20th century. His Theology of the New Testament remains, to this day, a classic statement of evangelical convictions. I remember devouring slabs of it myself, as a student at Moore College, in preparation for an eschatology essay. He clarified all my bad vibes about currently fashionable eschatology - especially that of Jurgen Moltmann.

John D’Elia has brought out a biography of G. E. Ladd: A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America. Scot McKnight has a good review of it. D'Alia doesn't write a hero tale - he honestly tells of Ladd's struggles with alcohol, his poor family life, and the psychological damage he sustained as he tried to engage with non-evangelical scholarship. Looks like a worthwhile read to get to know the giants upon whose shoulders we stand.

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