You Are What You Think

September 20, 2016

by David Garner

Every society has a rulebook, but living in one’s birth culture creates a blind embrace of its practices, norms, and expectations. We believe certain things about speech, social cues, and even driving habits with little awareness of what we prize or why we prize it. Behavior witnessed outside the cultural rulebook tilts us off center, leading us to a myriad of responses including inexplicable indignation. Identifying underlying cultural assumptions often requires an international friend or a sociologist to hold up a mirror before our eyes. Even then we may resist its telling reflections.

The theological world is no different. There is much to celebrate in recent studies of ancient languages, Ancient Near East culture, Second Temple Judaism and biblical theology. Volumes of publication have informed the Church usefully. But for all the good, theology possesses its own contemporary rulebook, which has adopted a number of fallacies. I hold up a mirror here for us to reflect on three of the most common ones.

Fallacy 1: All theology is tentative

Like a riptide sweeping away even the Michael Phelpses of theology, a societal vortex has snatched every confident voice from theological discourse.  Theological statements, it is contended, never can be certain.

Such claims of theological uncertainty range from the mildly humorous—”Put 10 theologians in a room and get 17 opinions of a doctrine or a Scripture text”—to the sophisticated—as represented by the former Protestant turned Roman Catholic, sociologist Christian Smith, who sees in Protestant theology a “pervasive interpretive pluralism.” Smith’s fancy shorthand expresses a desperate determination: the incompatibility of theologies, such as Arminianism and Calvinism, mandate theological uncertainty. . .

. . . continue reading at Credo Magazine.

David Garner

Dr. Garner (PhD, Westminster) is associate professor of systematic theology and vice president for advancement at WTS.

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