On this day in 2000 James McClendon died. He was one of a few Baptists to offer us a systematic theology and in my opinion it is the most important we Baptists have so far.
Here lies some of the opening lines from each of his 3 Volumes.
Theology means struggle. It may begin as Bonhoeffer said in silence, but when the silence is broken, a battle begins. This seems regrettable; in matters of great moment, the human heart yearns ceaselessly for secure truth, and it is easy for us to believe that unchallenged beliefs are self-evident truths. A little reflection, however, will show that this is not so; in fact we very often have believed without doubt or contradiction what turn out to be mere falsehoods ... Thus when we set out upon Christian theology or ethics we must be reconciled to the fact that here as elsewhere hard truth is not available without hards struggles.
In shaping its teaching, the church seeks simply to be the church, so that Christians may be a people who find in Christ their centre, in the Spirit their communion, in God's reign their rule of life.
Consider the following image: We Christians, in the short time, we have existed, as measured by humankind's longer history have all crossed into a unknown realm, in Jesus' phrase "a kingdom"; we have explored its boundaries, discovered its laws, encountered its majesty, found our true selves buy finding it. Now, like so many Marco Polos, we return to find our homeland a strange country. Unaware of our journey, it speaks a language we have not heard when abroad. Its ways, seen now through our refocused eyes, are at once familiar and questionable. We wish to tell of our exotic journey and to divide our booty with those at home, but how can our offer be understood? The image is in several ways defective, yet it has its point; Christians must take their place anew the old setting. To find the new standpoint in our earthly homeland calls for a Christian critique of its culture; thus we will see where and how the church must stand to be the church.