What the Emergent Church Believes About the Gospel: Part Four - Dan Steiger

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Dan Steiger in an article entitled "A Progressively Better Gospel" commented upon "the gospel's progressive or cascading impact upon responding audiences" as supposedly reflected inPaul and Barnabas' first missionary journey in Acts 13 and 14. He posted his article at Open Source Theology, and so I can only presume it is connected in some degree as an effort toward helping the ECM.

"...over time a fuller proclamation of the basic kerygma seemed to regularly involve supplementation with essential doctrine. Without this additional secondary material, the original gospel could conceivably not root in someone’s life. This subsequent teaching, probably equivalent to Paul’s “good deposit” (II Timothy I:14), helped foster an environment in the heart conducive to growth in the gospel. It’s not that the gospel was in any way deficient; it’s just that the assimilation of it seemed to involve ongoing reminding, processing and wrestling with further complementary teaching (including core gospel material)...What I’m getting at is this: we cannot rightly talk about the “gospel” in isolation from the necessary follow-up ministry of under-girding that gospel. It trails behind but is still part and parcel to the kerygma seating itself in people’s hearts and lives. As Paul noted to Timothy, sound doctrine is in accord with or “conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God” (I Timothy 1:11). This suggests that the good news is ideally shared in a multi-layered fashion over time, with an outer prominent kerygma, but also with accompanying layers of deeper material. These layers complement and further enrich it as good news. "

My thoughts? Be sure to read the entire article to get a full understanding of Steiger's arguments. Be sure to note the influence of C. H. Dodd on Steiger's theory, as well as the fact that this 'complimentary material' provides the grounds, in this theory, for viewing certain categories such as the role of women and slaves "as cultural elements which over the centuries have been superceded." This would be a theory explored in William Webb's book Slavery, Women, and Homosexuality: Exploring the Hermeneutics of Cultural Analysis. The conclusions seem to point toward a belief that as culture progress so does the gospel, and therefore, so should the gospel's applications to culture. I'm afraid, however, that this seeks to bend hermeneutics away from authorial intent toward cultural intent, that is, away from what the original author intended to say (and therefore, what God, the co-author also has to say to us through that text) and toward what culture has to say.

This latter portion of Steiger's theory, though I disagree with this reasoning, does not discount his theory altogether however, for there is much in it that is worthy of consideration and application (especially his concept of a body of doctrine surrounding the gospel that is intentionally put there and taught in order to protect the gospel). That said, I recommend this article for 'mature audiences only'! One needs to have a more intermediate to advanced understanding of theology and taxonomy before working through it or working it over. But doing so will yield a much greater understanding of how many in the ECM understand the gospel.

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