My rating: 4 of 5 stars
George Eldon Ladd dedicated his life to the goal of a “rehabilitated evangelicalism, in both content and image.” (176) He wanted a place at the table, a place then (in post-WWII America) denied to evangelicals.
To his great and enduring credit, Ladd did do much to rehabilitate the quality of the content of evangelical theology. But improving its image to unregenerated liberal technical scholars was another matter. What do you expect when beauty is in the eye of beholders who are blind?
One of those beholders, Norman Perrin, wrote a famously scathing review of Ladd’s magnum opus, an event which devastated Ladd and precipitated his permanent fall into alcoholism. D’Elia was especially insightful in this section. Perrin had motivations of his own, motivations not unlike Ladd’s, for his negative review.
D’Elia has written a theologically probing biography which shows real mastery of the complex theological topics involved, a biography which holds many lessons—both positive and negative—for those who study and teach God’s word at an academic level.
I read this book because I wanted to learn those lessons, and I feel like the quote that opens this review crystallized both for me. Content is my proper purview as a writer who serves Christ’s body; image (beyond the appropriate weight Proverbs gives to one’s reputation) is not. Jesus had something to say about people who sought out places at tables, and I pray that I—and especially those more gifted than me, Christians who can really research and write—might always heed it.