PhD Proposal: The Exegetical Foundations for an Evangelical Calvinism
Summary of Topic. Evangelical Calvinism offers an alternative reading to Federal theology from within the Reformed perspective. Myk Habets and I have co-edited two edited multi-author volumes entitled Evangelical Calvinism: Volume 1: Essays Resourcing the Continuing Reformation of the Church (2012) and Evangelical Calvinism: Volume 2: Dogmatics & Devotion (2017) where we identify and develop what we are calling Evangelical Calvinism (per Thomas F. Torrance’s usage) as a mood that has been present in the historical and contemporary development of Reformed theology. As a consequence of this identification we have created fifteen theological theses articulating what we think constitutes the Evangelical Calvinist mood. These theses work constructively from the themes found in the theologies of Athanasius, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Richard Sibbes, Thomas F. Torrance, Karl Barth, and a group of Scottish theologians. As a consequence of our publications we have received critical response from such scholars as Kevin Vanhoozer, Roger Olson, Scott Swain, and Michael Allen. The response has largely revolved around an attempt by these readers to read the Evangelical Calvinist mood through their broadly classical theist, and mostly classical Calvinist lens (Olson’s reading being an exception as he works from an evangelical Arminian perspective). There are two points that are generated from these disparate approaches: 1) Non-Evangelical Calvinism (i.e. Federal theology) works from a scholastic methodology that begins with the divine decrees in a logico-deductive fashion and then reads texts theologically in that light; 2) Evangelical Calvinism works opposite to that. As a result I want to show the theological starting point for Evangelical Calvinism and then the theological interpretation of scripture commensurate with that, which in turn will show the bases for the theological exegetical foundations for an Evangelical Calvinism.
Proposal. This thesis will attempt to clearly articulate where the differences occur between the exegetical foundations for classical Calvinism and an Evangelical Calvinist approach. I will seek to define what the key theological commitments are that inform the classical Calvinist and Evangelical Calvinist reading and exegesis of Holy Scripture, and attempt to show where their relative points of convergence as well as departure are one from the other. This process will engage in a survey of the history of ecclesial ideas ranging from the patristic, medieval, Reformed, post-Reformed, and contemporary periods of theological interpretive development. The thesis’s primary objective will be to argue that Evangelical Calvinism’s theological exegetical approach has just as much, if not more grounding in the history of the church catholic as does the classical Calvinist reading of Scripture. More than providing an apologetic for Evangelical Calvinism’s reading of Scripture vis-à-vis classical Calvinism’s, this thesis will offer a positive description of the antecedent theological underpinnings that have given rise to Evangelical Calvinism’s reading of Scripture and the Dogmatic loci produced from that reading. The final objective of this thesis will be to provide a cogent iteration of the specific theological entailments and exegetical principles of Evangelical Calvinism’s theological interpretation of Scripture which clearly highlight the Reformed provenance of an Evangelical Calvinist method.