I love the format of the “Views” books in that they allow the reader to wrestle with and think about crucial issues that oftentimes divide Christians. Instead of having the bias of one author – you get to see an offensive and defensive articulation of each view and weigh the evidence based on the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence given by each author. This new offering in the “Views” series particularly addresses important aspects that unite and divide “evangelicals.” An evangelical is someone who holds to the “good news” as declared from the Scriptures. However, what is the good news? What are the uniting factors of the good news? And what are the boundaries required in disseminating the message, and uniting around the good news in order to penetrate society with the gospel?
The reason this book and the issues are so important is that what is at stake in all of this discussion is the heart of the gospel, and if there is no agreement on the gospel than unity is ultimately a vain pursuit, and the power of the gospel is squelched in isolated enclaves, rather than in a unified front.
In this book the panel of experts specifically focus on three areas in evaluating the spectrum of evangelicalism:
1) They evaluate their views on Christian cooperation with respect to Evangelicals and Catholics in evaluating the Evangelicals and Catholics Together movement led by Charles Colson and the late John Neuhaus, which began in the 1990’s. Also, they address the more recent Manhattan Declaration in order to bring more clarity to cooperation among social and theological concerns.
2) They evaluate doctrinal boundaries – what are the “essentials” that make one a doctrinally sound evangelical – specifically with reference to the recent debates over “open” theism (does God know the future).
3) They explain their specific views on key issues related to the atonement with specific reference what it means that Christ took on God’s wrath meant for sinners.
The Four Distinct Views Presented Are:
View #1: Fundamentalism – Kevin T. Bauder (Research Professor at Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minneapolis)
View #2: Confessional Evangelicalism – R. Albert Mohler Jr. (President and Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville)
View #3: Generic Evangelicalism – John G. Stackhouse Jr. (Professor of Theology and Culture at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada)
View #4: Postconservative Evangelicalism – Roger E. Olson (Professor of Theology at George W. Truett Theological Seminary of Baylor University)
After each writer presents his view there is a response from each of the others with insightful commentary on the others’ views. I found this book to be historically enriching, doctrinally thought provoking, and challenging in its ecclesiological and sociological implications. I hope this book will summon a wide reading and will help balance the thinking, behavior, and unity of all who care about being an evangelical – and more importantly getting the gospel right so that we may speak it and live it boldly in a world that desperately needs to know Jesus and what it means to be a part of His body on earth.