I am just finishing off the book Evangelicals and Tradition: The Formative Influences of the Early Church(2005) by Baptist theologian D.H. Williams. Really good book and highly recommended for those wishing to revisit the early church and explore the relationship between the Scriptures and tradition. Williams argues that, according to the early fathers of the church, the Bible is not a one-dimensional book that gives way easily to detached scientific hermeneutical method, but rather is a multi-layered revelation. He warns against the dangers of a Sola Scriptura divorced from the foundational tradition of the church (Nuda Scriptura) and suggests a more mystical nature of Scripture that gives itself to the pure in heart in the context of worship and community. This reminded me of the late missiologist Paul Hiebert’s doxological or “tropological” theology that I have discussed here under Icons and the Possibility of a Tropological Theology.
Buy the Book?
Maybe. Maybe not. If you haven’t read any Williams, then his earlier book, Retrieving the Tradition and Renewing Evangelicalism: A Primer for Suspicious Protestants is probably a better book. It is more edgy, prophetically cutting, and a more appropriate place for Protestants to start. ‘Evangelicals and Tradition’ brings out a few issues readers had with the earlier book but spends more time dealing with the relationship between Scripture and tradition and explores a hermeneutic that integrates mystery and allegory as well as the literal meanings on the surface. It feels more like a Seminary textbook that his earlier book.
The other book to buy as a companion to Retrieving the Tradition and one that links William’s ressourcement challenge with the current emerging church movement is Remembering Our Future: Explorations in Deep Church, edited by Andrew Walker and Luke Bretherton. This book, like Williams’ Evangelicals and Tradition, are part of the same series called Deep Church, a term coined by C.S. Lewis in the 1950’s.
After you have devoured those two books, Evangelicals and Tradition will make a tidy Trinity on your bookshelf . . . ah . . I mean trilogy.