Final thoughts on the conference that just ended at Princeton Seminary:
* Suzanne McDonald, a new professor at Calvin College, gave a presentation on Election and Eschatology following Bruce McCormack’s lecture that has made me change my mind on the intellectual rigor of evangelical theologians. Her critique of Barth’s understanding of the work of the Holy Spirit in relation to election was incisive. And her modesty and teachability made her points all the more appreciated.
* That universalism as a live option went unopposed and was even embraced by evangelicals like McDonald at this conference signaled a momentous shift in evangelical theology. I foresee it potentially negatively affecting missions (a characteristic strength of evangelicals), and subsequently, spurring greater interest in and scrutiny of Barth’s rationale for missions.
* One major impression I got was that evangelicals have much to learn from Barthians, but Barthians have nothing to learn from evangelicals (i.e., no evangelical critiques of Barth are valid or credible). Though the emergent buzz word “conversation” was widely used throughout the conference, in the end, it was a lecture: by Barthians, to evangelicals.
* Barthians want the evangelical church’s growing numbers; evangelicals want the Barthian’s theological scholarship.
6/26 – While it’s only midway through the Karl Barth Conference titled, “Karl Barth and American Evangelicals: friends or foes?”, one thing has already become very clear: evangelicals – in terms of scholarship and at least in the realm of theology – lack the intellectual rigor of so-called Barthians. To analogize, charismatics and emergents teach on the level of elementary school; evangelicals teach on the level of h.s.; and Barthian profs teach on the graduate level.
Relatedly, another thing has also become clear: Barthians are arrogant, and at least in public demeanor, do not suffer fools gladly. Considering the number of times I’ve witnessed the same treatment by evangelicals toward charismatics, there is a certain amount of justice in all this. One more thing is worth mentioning. The name and writings of “Bruce McCormack” has been spoken on the lips of prominent evangelical theologians like Michael Horton and John Franke and the laity so many times – much more than even “Karl Barth” – that it would be understandable if someone thought this was a conference on Bruce McCormack. I can understand why. Evangelicals recognize – a tribute to their humility – that they are not in the same intellectual league as McCormack. So they live vicariously through him, whom they see as one of their own, but who triumphs in the elitist theological circles.