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October 1977 · Vol. 6 No. 4 · pp. 31–32 

Book Review

Confessions of a Conservative Evangelical

Jack Rogers. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster, 1977. 144 pages.

Reviewed by A. J. Klassen

This book fits well into the new mode of “theology as biography” that reflects on one’s past in attempting to understand the present and the future. In a manner that is reminiscent of the “How I Am Making Up My Mind” series featured in a leading periodical, the author traces his own academic and spiritual pilgrimage from a “narrow, culturally confined conservative Fundamentalism” to a more evangelical biblical approach which seeks “to learn from the past, to bear witness to an ever new and deepening faith in Christ in the present, and to be open to the future God has for us.” In his opening pages the author is frank to admit that his book is not for everyone. His stated purpose is to encourage other conservative Christians toward a broader and more genuinely open faith.

The “Confessions” come in brief, chapter length autobiographical essays that were inspired by significant events in his life. A work camp in Egypt helped him to understand the poetic Near Eastern thought forms that shaped the writing of the Bible. A cooperative living experiment during seminary days initiated his gradual movement from an “authoritarian style that inhibits community and individual growth” to one more open to the best in the tradition of faith and the new truth that may break forth from the Word. Graduate work under G. C. Berkouwer of the Free University of Amsterdam became a liberating experience in this pilgrim’s progress. The author was surprised to hear Berkouwer citing Barth and Bultmann “with great approval” at one time while “vigorously disagreeing” with them on another. He was greatly encouraged to learn that conservative evangelical scholarship need not fall into the trap of doing theology as “a game of cops and robbers.” Preaching in an American congregation in Holland expanded his vision of the people of God—the church universal. His theological travels culminated in a doctoral dissertation in scriptural authority in the Westminster Confession. Historical research on the purpose of the formulations clarified his understanding of biblical inerrancy. For them, and now for him, the living reality of Christ far outweighs the rational evidences for scriptural authority. Through the agency of the Holy Spirit the biblical message is able to meet the basic human “need to be saved and to become a new and increasingly growing person.”

The personal engaging style together with the author’s honesty and integrity engage the reader in a constructive dialogue. Whether he speaks on “Authority and Community,” “Scripture and Confessions” or “Evangelical Social Concern” the author makes a vital contribution to theological reflection from a thoroughly evangelical perspective. {32} Those who read this book with an open mind will be helped in the process of developing a carefully thought out evangelical position.

A. J. Klassen
Professor of Theology
Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary

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