The Quotable Kaesemann #3: Tradition and Fresh Perspectives

Having gone to a conservative conference recently for the first time, I was thinking about doctrine and Scripture a lot this past week. I am “evangelical” without hesitation or qualification, but sometimes I fear the wrath of a traditionalist scorned, so to speak. I was impressed, then, when I stumbled upon this quote from Kaesemann…

If our parents rightly described the church of Christ as semper reformanda, as always in need of renewal, we must see to it that the world and members of our community are not fed with dogmatic formulas become unintelligible or useless. In any event, the confessions of the fathers are our guideposts, not live wires to keep the cows in the pasture or block the curious from entering the holy place. Since earliest Christianity, stupidity, ecclesiastical tyranny, and party strife have misused the confessions, as if they could replace the living voice of the gospel, the voice of the God who speaks to us today. In that case, the past of the religious world is made the sphere for a faith that no longer journeys into God’s unknown future and there awaits the open heavens above. (p. 162).

NB: From On Being a Disciple of the Crucified Nazarene (Eerdmans).

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2 thoughts on “The Quotable Kaesemann #3: Tradition and Fresh Perspectives

  1. Nijay,

    I follow your blog with an almost “evangelical fervency” because I love it, because you know the field, and because I find it so helpful. I’ve read everything in your blog (many things twice); thanks for your contributions to the scholarly blogging world! While reading it, I’ve noticed that you have referred to yourself as an “evangelical” a few times (as you do in this post). Yet, I rarely read anything in your blog that overtly reflects a faith/confessional commitment to scripture and/or that reflects a personal faith commitment to Christ/God that usually accompanies such evangelical commitment. I am not suggesting that this is necessarily negative, but I am interested in what role your evangelical faith plays in your own biblical interpretation and scholarship and in what role you think it should play in biblical interpretation and scholarship in general.

    • Dear Commenter,
      Thanks for this question. I am not exactly sure if I am answering your question, but I will make a few remarks. First, I subscribe to a doctrinal statement that fits something like the statement in the National Association of Evangelicals. When it comes to how I interpret Scripture, my “evangelicalism” comes out in two ways: (1) A hermeneutic of trust/faith, and (2) interpreting not just for information, but also formation (Spiritual with a capital “S”).

      I guess this does not come “out” in my blog in overt ways, but I presume it does in other ways such as which books I choose to read and review. If you were at my ETS paper, you might have a better impression of my “evangelicalism,” because I “preached it”! But mostly on my blog I do book reviews, news notices, and “how-to” information where you are less likely to see my theological commitments emerge.

      In terms of the interaction between faith and scholarship, I think it is a dialectic relationship – one cannot simply “guide” the other, but you must continue to let each one inform the other. When the formula is lopsided, I think there is a tendency to slip into dogmatism or secularism/skepticism.

      Finally, perhaps the genre of my blog makes it less likely that I will talk about my personal faith. For an interesting read, check out Gordon Fee’s commentary on Galatians where he talks about being Pentecostal and writing an academic commentary and how the two work together. I think it is insightful.

      Blessings and thanks for reading

      Nijay

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