Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Certainty, Charity, and the Bible

John Armstrong's latest weekly newsletter is going to raise some ire.

I'm not sure if I would agree 100% on everything he says, I think he hits close to the mark on one aspect - the difference between Scripture and systematic theology.

While Scripture does make propositional statements about who God is, who Christ is, and many other things, these statements are not organized in a systematic fashion, and all the interconnections are not spelled out for us. In some sense we "fill in the gaps" with logical and philosophical deductions, and these form the frameworks for our systematic theologies.

Where the more strident among us (be they "fighting Calvinists", "fundamentalists", or whatever your label du jour is) go wrong is in placing our deductions and constructs on the same level as the revelations of Scripture itself. Scripture is not primarily concerned with "filling in the gaps" in a systematic theological system - it is concerned with proclaiming God's works in history leading up to and culminating in Christ, and thus engendering and nurturing faith in Him. I would not make as sharp a dichotomy between God's Word and Scripture as Armstrong seems to do (and I think he's going to be in for some roasting over this), but his basic point is well taken.

And if we can acknowledge both the secondary nature of our theological systems, and our primary bond to Christ and our brethren in Him (who probably hold to other systems), we therefore should be gracious and accepting of other believers, and truly accept the adiophora as adiophopra. Augustine's maxim, "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity" is sadly more honored in the breach than the observance.

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