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A Profile in Christian Courage: JP Moreland at ETS

November 15th, 2007 | 2 min read

By Matthew Lee Anderson

JP Moreland isn't afraid to engage in controversy, or even to start one himself.

Two years ago, while addressing the plenary session of the Evangelical Theological Society on the topic of post-modernism, he offered this analysis:

In what follows, I shall weigh in on the topic, first, by sketching the correspondence theory [of truth] and the postmodern rejection of it, and, second, by identifying five confusions of which I believe postmodern revisionists are guilty.  I shall close by warning that not only are postmodern views of truth and knowledge confused, but postmodernism is an immoral and cowardly viewpoint that people who love truth and knowledge, especially disciples of the Lord Jesus, should do everything they can to heal.

To put it bluntly, 'them's fightin words.'

This year, Dr. Moreland has a broader target--presumably everyone at ETS, giving a paper with the inflammatory title, "How Evangelicals Became Over-Committed to the Bible and What Can Be Done About It.”  Ted Olsen was there to hear it:

In short, to accuse evangelicals of over-commitment to the Bible at ETS would be like accusing environmentalists of talking too much about climate change at a Sierra Club meeting. But Moreland, who has gained some prominence as a philosopher and apologist, wasn’t pulling any punches.

“In the actual practices of the Evangelical community in North America, there is an over-commitment to Scripture in a way that is false, irrational, and harmful to the cause of Christ,” he said. “And it has produced a mean-spiritedness among the over-committed that is a grotesque and often ignorant distortion of discipleship unto the Lord Jesus.”

Dr. Moreland is a hero of mine, and one that I've had the honor to meet in person.  One reason I admire him so much is because he refuses to swim with the prevailing ideological or theological currents, regardless of what they might be.  He is unrelenting in his pursuit of truth, and has shifted his positions over the years (such as on the role of the charismata in the church) accordingly.*

Dr. Moreland's willingness to take his message before those whom would most disagree with it exemplifies the charitable Christian courage that we should exhibit in all aspects of our lives, including our intellectual lives.
*I haven't read the paper yet, but I expect to agree with it.  I also expect lots of people to disagree with some of the more controversial aspects of it.

The annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society is currently underway.

Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is an Associate Professor of Ethics and Theology in Baylor University's Honors College. He has a D.Phil. in Christian Ethics from Oxford University, and is a Perpetual Member of Biola University's Torrey Honors College. In 2005, he founded Mere Orthodoxy.