Bumper Sticker Christianity

Here is a selection from the remarks of the Rev. Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, president of Asbury Theological Seminary, at the 2011 convocation. Though some in the United Methodist 'establishment' may still view this evangelical school with suspicion, I've long respected Asbury, and seriously considered attending school there, in large part because of its uncompromising commitment to being Wesleyan, no matter what others may think. No doubt this institution has been one major factor in the more general recovery of Wesleyan theology in United Methodism in recent years. Asbury trains more United Methodist clergy each year than any of our "official" United Methodist seminaries (and Duke would likely be the next largest clergy supplier).

In the video below Dr. Tennent, a Methodist elder (presbyter), calls fellow evangelicals to task for reducing the gospel to slogans. In some ways this might be what has made evangelicalism successful, it is after all much easier to communicate a simple "slogan" gospel than it is to communicate, say, a deeply nuanced covenantal and sacramental theology. So evangelicals have dumped much of the difficulties of deep theology, focusing on "the basics," and with wide effect. What the Bible gives us, however, is not always simple - it is as deep and complicated and nuanced as real life, and it calls forth deep and real Christians, as Sacred Scripture puts it:

"Therefore let us go on to perfection, leaving behind the basic teaching about Christ, and not laying again the foundation: repentance from dead works and faith toward God..." (Hebrews 6:1)

Dr. Tennant and Holy Scripture, call us to move beyond the "continuous partial attention" of our digital world, to really "attending upon the ordinances (and oracles) of God," and call others to do likewise. Certainly the Bible and also the Christian tradition, from the Fathers to Aquinas, from Luther to the Wesleys, from Newman to Lewis to Wright offer us a deeply thoughtful, and intellectually rich and fulfilling faith. One of the really counter-cultural calls of the contemporary Christian, especially if he would be "evangelical" in the broadest sense, is to call people to move beyond "partial attention" to deep reflection and hard thinking.

I like what John Wesley said, "But it is not part of my design, to save either learned or unlearned men from the trouble of thinking.... On the contrary, my intention is, to make them think, and assist them in thinking. This is the way to understand the things of God."
(From the Preface to Explanatory Notes upon the Old Testament.)

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