Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Biography of George Eldon Ladd (OUP, 2008)

I just received an email from Oxford University Press announcing to release of a critical biography of George Eldon Ladd. I've enjoyed and have benefited much from some of Ladd's works and I'm very interested in acquiring a copy of this new work.

A Brief Introduction to Ladd and His Writings...
I was introduced to George Eldon Ladd while taking a seminary level class on Eschatology. We were given a list of titles representing the various positions on the rapture, and Ladd's The Blessed Hope (Eerdmans, 1956; reprinted 1980) [also available at the WTS bookstore] and The Last Things (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978; reprinted, Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2004) were recommended for a post-tribulational view. I, to my surprise, found these to be among the best treatments of the subject. Ladd handled the Biblical texts more carefully than any of the others I read. I found this to be so, because he did not approach the texts with a preconceived framework (at least not with one that was so strong and inflexible). His presentation was the most fair and evenhanded when dealing with stronger dispensational and/or covenantal perspectives.

Well, since that introduction to Ladd about 10 years ago I've collected a handful of his works. His A Theology of the New Testament (1974; revised by Donald A. Hagner, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993) [WTS Bookstore] remains to be a preferred text in evangelical seminaries. Other key works by Ladd are as follows:
  • Gospel of the Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959) [Amazon | CBD]
  • Jesus and the Kingdom (New York: Harper & Row, 1964; London: SPCK, 1966) [Amazon]
    • Now Published as - The Presence of the Future (New York: Harper & Row, 1964; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974; reprinted in 2000) [Amazon | CBD]
  • A Commentary on the Revelation of John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1972; reprinted 1993) [Amazon | CBD]
  • The Meaning of the Millennium (Downers Grove: IVP, 1977) [Amazon | CBD]
  • The New Testament and Criticism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1966) [Amazon]
You also may be interested in Robert Bradshaw's full Bibliography of the works of George Eldon Ladd (1911-1982).

Short biographical sketches:
Details on the Biography...
D'Elia, John A. A Place at the Table: George Eldon Ladd and the Rehabilitation of Evangelical Scholarship in America. Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2008). Hardback, 304 pages. $45.00 USD (list price).
ISBN13: 978-0-19-534167-6 ISBN10: 0-19-534167-8
Purchase: OUP | Amazon

Description (the following information is from the OUP website)

George Eldon Ladd was a pivotal figure in the resurgence of evangelical scholarship in America during the years after the Second World War. Ladd's career as a biblical scholar can be seen as a quest to rehabilitate evangelical thought both in content and image, a task he pursued at great personal cost. Best known for his work on the doctrine of the Kingdom of God, Ladd moved from critiquing his own movement to engaging many of the important theological and exegetical issues of his day.

Ladd was a strong critic of dispensationalism, the dominant theological system in conservative evangelicalism and fundamentalism, challenging what he perceived to be its anti-intellectualism and uncritical approach to the Bible. In his impressive career at Fuller Theological Seminary, Ladd participated in scholarly debates on the relationship between faith and historical understanding, arguing that modern critical methodologies need not preclude orthodox Christian belief. Ladd also engaged the thought of Rudolf Bultmann, the dominant theological figure of his day. Ladd's main focus, however, was to create a work of scholarship from an evangelical perspective that the broader academic world would accept. When he was unsuccessful in this effort, he descended into depression, bitterness, and alcoholism. But Ladd played an important part in opening doors for later generations of evangelical scholars, both by validating and using critical methods in his own scholarly work, and also by entering into dialogue with theologians and theologies outside the evangelical world.

It is a central theme of this book that Ladd's achievement, at least in part, can be measured in the number of evangelical scholars who are today active participants in academic life across a broad range of disciplines.


"George Ladd was arguably the leading 'new evangelical' biblical scholar in the mid-decades of the twentieth century. He was also a person whose life and work were filled with intriguing tensions and contrasts. John D'Elia tells this poignant and fascinating story well." --George M. Marsden, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame, and author of Fundamentalism and American Culture

"In this poignant and gracefully written account, John D'Elia unflinchingly but sympathetically recounts the personal and professional torments of George Eldon Ladd. Making extensive use of Ladd's own files, D'Elia sketches the twin paradoxes of Ladd's life: although eager to find 'a place at the table' of the larger scholarly community, Ladd deemed his own efforts towards that end a failure, and although he wrote extensively of the presence of the kingdom, he struggled to taste its fruits in his own life. Ironically, Ladd never truly understood his greatest legacy -- his crucial role in the development of evangelical biblical scholarship. D'Elia offers a welcome tribute to Ladd's legacy." --Marianne Meye Thompson, George Eldon Ladd Professor of New Testament, Fuller Theological Seminary

"D'Elia's biography of George Eldon Ladd is powerful and perceptive. He introduces us to a person who is spiritual and ambitious, intelligent and insecure, bold and troubled all at the same time. This is compelling reading for anyone interested in either the intellectual history of Evangelicalism or the movement's continuing struggle to secure and maintain 'a place at the table' of the mainstream scholarship." --Douglas Jacobsen, Distinguished Professor of Church History and Theology at Messiah College, and author of Thinking in the Spirit: Theologies of the Early Pentecostal Movement

About the Author

John A. D'Elia is the Senior Minister of the American Church in London. He is a graduate of UCLA, Fuller Theological Seminary, and the University of Stirling in Scotland. He is from Burbank, California.

Final Thoughts...
This promotional summary with reviews has piqued my interest for a number of reasons (his critique of dispensationalism, his interaction with critical scholarship, and his personal battles [Marianne Meye Thompson's statement that "although he wrote extensively of the presence of the kingdom, he struggled to taste its fruits in his own life" is haunting.]). I must note that I have not read anything on his life, but I have wondered about him (I'm always interested in learning as much biographical information as is available on the authors of the books I read; this kind of information is very important!). Here is a view into the life and theology of one of the leading "new evangelicals" of this past century. This, along with Garth Rosell's forthcoming book The Surprising Work of God (Baker, 2008) (see this earlier post) which deals with two other prominent figures in "new evangelicalism" should provide a very helpful introduction to the "movement".