Sunday, October 28, 2012

Online Book Proposal Questions for Fortress Press

The following is my initial response to the three questions Fortress Press asks to submit an online book proposal.  I'll be attaching a chapter-by-chapter summary.  My expectation is to get the proposal out by next weekend.  The following and what I'll be posting here is in draft form. I'm open to constructive feedback on any aspect of text refinement.  Clearly this is a long shot.  The good news is that Fortress Press is actively seeking theologically-based manuscripts at this time (GD).

In Quest of Protestant Faithfulness in
Postmodern America:  A Boomer’s Engagement with the Faith of Our Elders—Packer, Bloesch, Fackre, Brueggemann, Moltmann
Online Publishing Information 

Who are you? Tell us a little about yourself, your setting and the focus of your work. 

An overview of my book is provided below and more in-depth in the attached file which includes a chapter-by-chapter synopsis.  Andover-Newton Professor Emeritus Gabriel Fackre has provided assistance and encouragement throughout the writing of this book and is supportive of the project.  In addition to Professor Fackre, other members of the Confessing Christ Discussion listserv (, a prime audience for my book, have reviewed one or more chapters of the manuscript and have shared helpful commentary.  I have highlighted sections of the book in various draft development stage on my blog, Onward Christian Sojourner (  I am a theologically informed lay person and published author and practitioner in the field of adult basic education where I have been professionally focused since 1983.  Information about my book, Conflicting Paradigms in Adult Literacy Instruction: In Quest of a U.S. Democratic Politics of Literacy can be accessed here: (  I have also published a number of articles and book chapters in my field, many of which can be accessed here ( 

My introduction to Christianity began in 1972 with a conversion experience that summer, which has galvanized my life and thinking in ways that I could never have fathomed previous to that momentous event  (  I have studied, written, and lived out much of my life from the perceptions of reality opened up by my embrace of Christianity, amidst many changes of theological understanding.  I have audited courses at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut, and Bethel Seminary in San Diego.  I did PhD level study in U.S. history at the University of Connecticut with a strong concentration on American religious history, particularly on the Second Great Awakening and the role of religious culture in the antebellum period preceding the American Civil War.  I also worked briefly as a campus ministry associate with the Protestant and Catholic ministers while attending graduate school at Central Connecticut State College in the 1970s and wrote my master’s thesis on the evangelist, Charles G. Finney.  I detail my faith narrative in the following document  (, which is a presentation I gave at my church in 2006 or 2007 .  Additional religious reflections mostly of a theological and autobiographical nature which I wrote between 1995-2007 can be accessed at the United Church of Christ, Connecticut Conference website, theotalk (  

Throughout the course of the 40 years since my conversion experience, I have studied many academic and more lay-oriented texts on a wide array of themes through which I have sought to work out my own faith stance.  Much of this has been played out at the critical intersection between a sharply-attuned critical evangelical and a more diffusive mainline Protestant identity in which theological probing and biblical discernment have played a pivotal role in personal faith formation. This book might be viewed as an imaginative resolution of sorts, noting that the journey of faith continues within the broader narrative of contemporary Protestant cultural identity in the working out of faith issues within the context of an essentially middle class U.S. religious culture in the first decade of the 21st century. 

Throughout this odyssey I have been primarily connected to United Church of Christ, United Methodist Church, and American Baptist congregations. For the few years immediately following my born again experience I was engaged in the Pentecostal movement through participation in an Assembly of God congregation. In the years since 1972 I have read much, thought much and have worked through many issues in grappling with my faith in which this book is one significant distillation.  

On a professional level I worked as a program manager at Literacy Volunteers of Greater Hartford for 17 years and have taught in a variety of other adult education settings.  I am an adjunct online instructor in adult education at the Virginia Commonwealth University and am currently employed as an adult education instructor at the Saint Vincent de Paul Career & Education Center, which is a partner agency of Father Joe’s Village in San Diego, CA ( which provides long term supportive services to homeless adults and family members.  Additional professional information is available on my Linkedin profile ( 

What's your project? Provide a brief précis of your project and an expected completion date. 

In Quest of Protestant Faithfulness in Postmodern America:  A Boomer’s Engagement with the Faith of Our Elders—Packer, Bloesch, Fackre, Brueggemann, Moltmann, probes into the relationship between Scripture and culture in 20th century U.S. theology and biblical studies and points to the necessity of turning to what Karl Barth has epigraphically referred to as “the strange new world within the Bible” for any revitalization of mainline Protestantism on its own foundational premises in critical dialogue with serious evangelical theology.  This project is undertaken through a brief historical overview underlying this pivotal challenge in Chapter One and through an in-depth exploration of five representative theologians/biblical scholars spanning the gamut from conservative evangelical (J.I. Packer) to postliberal (Walter Brueggemann and Jurgen Moltmann).  A concluding chapter assesses the viability of drawing upon the neo-orthodox legacy as a potentially bridging resource between evangelical and postliberal theology.  For the contemporary significance of the neo-orthodox impetus, I have drawn on J. Douglas Hall and Gary Dorrien as well as the original theologians of that movement. 

The struggle to make the case for the centrality of a broad-based canonical interpretation of the Bible without getting bogged down over fundamentalist “battles over the Bible” is a critical challenge of major proportions amidst a good deal of theology and cultural experience to the contrary within mainline religious culture.  So is the corresponding Barthian turn to the text as a whole rather than that of any specific Barthian interpretation of Christocentrism or how the Word is revealed through “actualism” of the Holy Spirit (Husinger, How to Read Karl Barth).  

A major stumbling block to a more discriminating discussion of the critical issues that keeps evangelical and mainline sensibilities sharply separated is the persistence of the modernist/fundamentalist divide on the interpretation of the Bible.  This tension came to a symbolic climax with the Scopes Trial of 1925 in which various literal and more figurative interpretations of the Bible became exceedingly polarized.  In some key ways, evangelical and mainline theology have moved well beyond the intense polarization unleashed on both sides of this crucial divide during the defining period of the 1920s.  Moreover, there have been various moves toward greater convergence in both camps in which, for example, the current dialogue between postliberal and an increasingly irenic evangelical theology is particularly promising as depicted, for example, in T.R. Philips & D.L. Okholm (Eds): The Nature of Confession:  Essays by George Lindbeck, Alister McGrath, George Hunsinger, Gabriel Fackre and others. (InterVarsity Press, 1993).   

My book builds on this dialogue and provides an additional dimension by incorporating the neo-orthodox perspective toward the construction of a centrist theological project built on the triple pillars of canonical scriptural integrity, scholarly theological acuity, and ecumenical ecclesial comprehensiveness.  My book is written in the spirit of Gabriel Fackre’s two short books Ecumenical Faith in Evangelical Perspective (Eerdmanns, 1993 and Restoring the Center:  Essays Evangelical and Ecumenical (IVP, 1998) and is resonant in content with his more extensive theological work as discussed in Chapter Four. 

The book addresses two consequential issues facing contemporary U.S. Protestantism:  the role of the Bible in its canonical integration and the viability establishing a durable centrist position between moderate evangelical and mainline theological perspectives. These issues are explored through historical analysis, biographical profiles of the five major authors, addressed in separate chapters, and the author’s own theological and spiritual odyssey across the landscape of Protestant theology and religious culture over a forty year period which is interspersed where relevant particularly in Chapter One and Chapter Five.  The persisting modernist/ fundamentalist split within contemporary Protestant culture as stumbling block of major proportions toward establishing a vital theological center is an underlying theme running through the book.  This book is designed to contribute toward an imaginative resolution of this dilemma.  It does so initially by raising the issue in explicit terms (Chapter One). It then evaluates its continuing impact, and ultimately identifying the importance of its resolution in part through the theological comprehensiveness offered throughout this book. It is only through such a resolution; an “imaginative exorcism,” as I describe it in the book, that establishing a vital Protestant center becomes reasonably plausible in coming to terms with this period of increasing Christian diaspora, a topic discussed in some depth in Hall’s Thinking the Faith as addressed in Chapter Seven of my book. 

In Quest of Protestant Faithfulness in Postmodern America consists of seven chapters and is about 125,000 words or approximately 300 pages in published book format.  It is designed for advanced seminary students, theologians, biblical scholars, theologically informed pastors and laity, and others who have a strong interest in contemporary theology, biblical studies, and 20th century U.S. Protestant religious culture, such as those who participate on the Confessing Christ listserv.   

How does you project advance the field in which you work? In what way will the field be different after its publication? 

The book addresses an important theme, posits a provocative proposal, and provides an in-depth overview of some key contemporary Protestant theologians and biblical scholars who are broadly ecumenical within the context of their respective spheres of influence.  With the exception of Moltmann, little in- depth has been written on the other four theologians and biblical scholars detailed in Chapters Two-to-Six.  Given their respective influence across the theological landscape of contemporary Protestant culture, the profiles in themselves help fill an important gap in the field.  Placing these five on a continuum from conservative evangelical to postliberal provides a way of drawing out and imaginatively working through both the prospects and the problematics of establishing a vital centrist ground in contemporary Protestant theology and religious culture.  So does the broad dialogue between evangelical, postliberal and neo-orthodox perspectives that is teased out within the biographical chapters and more formally articulated in the first and last chapter of the book.  In spanning the gamut from Packer to Moltmann and from evangelical to neo-orthodox theology, In Quest of Protestant Faithfulness in Postmodern America will serve as a resource in facilitating critical dialogue among divergent schools of thought both in seminary circles as well as among the discerning reading public among Protestant clergy and theologically informed laity.


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