A week ago I attended the Wheaton Theology Conference. This year’s topic was the Holy Spirit. It was my third Wheaton conference and I always enjoy the food, the fun, and the friendships, oh, and also the lectures.
I always appreciate the subtle openness to other discourses that is generated by the invitation of speakers from across the theological spectrum. I have very much appreciated Michael Welker and, previously, Stanley Hauerwas. What might be good in this dynamic—but equally tricky—is to openly address the dynamic tension that exists between evangelical and non-evangelical perspectives. This could for instance be done in a panel discussion. Imagine Michael Welker together with Amos Young addressing Vanhoozer’s hermeneutics. Young would point out that the Spirit’s work in hermeneutics has been excluded from the start with Vanhoozer’s a priori of doctrinal correctness, while Welker would criticize the reductive restriction this would impose on the rich and multi-faceted work of the Spirit in today’s world.
Of course, these two points of critique against the evangelical Vanhoozer are brought to you tongue-in-cheek by someone who self-identifies as an evangelical. What I’m just trying to say is that a more effective exchange of ideas might take place when theologians across the spectrum publicly challenge each other. This might also lead to some controversy, but it’s worth it. In any case, it is my firm belief that evangelicalism needs to open up to theology at large and the Christian church world-wide, not as the know-it-all but as a listener. I firmly believe that evangelical ideas about the authority of Scripture are often detrimental to genuine listening and learning and end up creating a closedness to the world.
The Wheaton Theology Conferences always give me a sense of openness and willingness to listen and therefore make me very hopeful. What I would only want to suggest is that this openness is ferociously pursued. More can be done and has to be done by evangelicals to be conversant with the Church at large. May the Wheaton Theology Conference be an instrument toward that goal.