Monday, December 3, 2012

About Jim McClendon

McClendon embodied the ecumenical spirit. He was the first Protestant professor of theology at a Catholic university (University of San Francisco) and later spent time at Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA and Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, CA where he was the Distinguished Scholar in Residence. He was raised in a Southern Baptist church in Louisiana but became quite jaded over the only options available: liberal or fundamentalist. In the early 70s, both his reading of John Howard Yoder’s Politics of Jesus and his attendance--with wife Nancey Murphy--at a Manhattan conference entitled "The Church in a Postmodern Age" led him to forge ahead in his passion to find a third way for the some 100 denominations in the world of Anabaptism, or what he called "the baptist vision."

For the last two decades of his life, Jim McClendon poured himself into the project of his 1300 page Systematic Theology. He boldly began with Ethics in his first volume, embodying exactly what he teaches: the practice of Christian faithfulness comes before belief! The theological task, according to Mcclendon, is not a metaphorical building of right answers that forms an unchanging foundation of doctrine.

Instead, the theological task is a journey, a voyage of communities committed to performing the Great Story in Scripture, constantly adapting to the environment, changing course when new insights replace old ones. His writings display the work of a truly postmodern theologian, one who rejects the dualistic "modern" options of either liberal or fundamentalist.

McClendon represents a tremendously important shift in theological thinking in the early years of the 21st century. Most slow and careful readers of McClendon wonder if this "shift" won’t, in fact, turn out to be an all-out prison break, inspiring jaded "baptist" communities all over the world into newer and deeper Christian performances that leave the old, tired modern options in the dust!

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