The acronym “F.E.E.T.” looks like something out of James Bond, but it has nothing to do with espionage—unless you consider the theological climate in Europe to have become so radical that evangelicals by definition constitute an infiltration movement. F.E.E.T. stands for the Fellowship of European Evangelical Theologians, a group “founded to promote evangelical theology in Europe in a spirit of loyalty to the Bible.” Full membership is open to “those engaged in theological research or who are teaching at a [European] university or college” and to “pastors and laity who have given evidence of serious theological concerns by their literary production”; associate membership is “open to non-European theologians working temporarily in Europe.” All members must subscribe to the doctrinal basis of the Fellowship, which, much like the Apostles’ Creed, represents what C.S. Lewis termed “mere Christianity”: the trinitarian work of God in creation, redemption, and sanctification. As to biblical authority, the fellowship is committed to “the divine inspiration of holy scripture and its consequent entire trustworthiness and supreme authority in all matters of faith and conduct.”

During the week of August 21–25, the second European Conference of F.E.E.T. took place at the beautiful, wooded “New Life Center” (Neues Leben Zentrum), established five years ago by dynamic German evangelist Anton Schulte at Altenkirchen, between Cologne and Frankfurt am Main. Present were close to sixty leading European evangelical theologians from denominational backgrounds as diverse as Lutheran and Pentecostal and from countries as widely separated geographically and ideologically as Norway, Yugoslavia, and East Germany. The official languages of the conference were English, French, and German, and through the simultaneous translations of such crack linguists as Frederick Burklin from German Bible Institute of Greater Europe Mission (Seeheim) each participant could hear all papers and discussions in these three tongues. For organizing such aspects of the conference with strategic care, credit was due especially to Neil Britton, formerly of Aiglon College, Switzerland, who served as conference coordinator.

Of the four plenary papers, two were of a fairly limited exegetical scope, and two ranged into wider theological and philosophical territory. The more strictly focused essays were both delivered by theologians from Scotland—thus reinforcing the (attractive) stereotype of meticulous, textual Scottish theological scholarship. Howard Marshall of Aberdeen analyzed “Dialogue With the Non-Christian World in the New Testament,” concluding—over against the “dialog” school of contemporary liberal churchmen—that in the New Testament “the traditional picture of a church communicating and proclaiming the faith once-for-all delivered to the saints is a well-founded one. There is not the slightest suggestion that the church and the world conversed as equal partners in the search for truth.” David F. Wright of Edinburgh performed a similar analysis of patristic writers, with special attention to Justin Martyr, and arrived at much the same conclusion: “Justin was no apologetic trimmer, no partner in a dialogue of give-and-take.… For Christianity’s contemporary dialogue with other creeds and ideologies, Justin’s guidelines point the way to an evaluation of their beliefs which may be neither wholly negative (for the Logos has ever sown truth among all races) nor uncritically positive (for man’s grasp of the teaching of the Logos is at best fragmentary and distorted). Above all, Justin shows us how to retain the Christological focus in such dialogue.”

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Jan Veenhof of Amsterdam and Klaus Haacker of the Kirchliche Hochschule at Wuppertal-Barmen endeavored to analyze the concept of truth in systematics and biblical theology respectively; their approaches and results were much the same, and elicited parallel reactions from a good number of the conference participants. Both essayists made much of the fact that the Hebrew words for “truth” and “faith” have a common root. For Veenhof this offered the opportunity to criticize the “orthodox Protestant theology of post-Reformation times,” which allegedly hyperobjectified truth along Greek lines, instead of recognizing that “when an Israelite qualifies a person or thing as true, this qualification does not refer to conformity to the actual idea but to the realization of the expectation that one can cultivate on the basis of the respective relationship.” Although appreciating Veenhof’s related criticism of Tillich’s correlation principle, many participants saw his discomfort with truth-as-correspondence as potentially harmful to biblical authority and his picture of classical Protestant orthodoxy as an imprecise straw man (contrast the writings of Robert Preus).

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Haacker, in his more nuanced paper, admitted that the “Greek” or “formal” concept of truth appears in the Bible, especially in forensic or courtroom imagery, but argued that this is a minor theme. After all, Rahab the harlot served Israel by lying and was rewarded for it; God sends a lying spirit into King Ahab’s court prophets; and so forth. Much of this had uncomfortable parallels with James Pike’s existential and situational position in Doing the Truth. To be sure, Haacker’s basic argument was that “whereas in our philosophical tradition the question of truth is related to the valuation of statements or knowledge, and thus only affects a limited area of human existence, the biblical terms that we translate with the word ‘truth’ are comprehensive norms for the whole of human behavior and being, right into the deepest levels of the personality.” But could not this excellent point have been made without invidious comparisons of formal truth with personal truth? Why must both-and be turned into either-or?

Among the workshop essays were a superlative plea, by Yugoslavia’s foremost young evangelical theologian Peter Kuzmic, for a mature and informed evangelical dialogue—without compromise—with Marxism; a keen argument by Hans Kvalbein of Oslo that primitive Christianity did not assimilate a hellenistic culture but provided that society with an eschatological witness to revelation; an epistemologically ambiguous but nonetheless stimulating “dialogue in and with philosophy” by L’Abri staff member Udo Middelmann; and valuable insights into dialogue with Eastern religions (by Bruce Nicholls of New Delhi) and the dialogual task facing the theology of missions (by Jacques Blocher of the Institut Biblique at Nogent-sur-Marne, France). A common subject of dinner table conversation was the supposed brain-drain resulting from the recent immigration of European evangelical scholars to the western hemisphere (James Packer, Klaus Bockmühl, both to Regent College, Vancouver, for example). But the F.E.E.T. Conference was itself the best evidence that European evangelical theology need not fear the future.

John Warwick Montgomery is professor at large, Melodyland Christian Center, Anaheim, California.

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