Series - Affinity

Rules of Affinity, Part 5: Clarifying the Purpose

BiblePosted courtesy of Dr Reluctant. Catch up on the series so far.

In my so-called “Rules of Affinity” I am seeking to accomplish one main task. That task is to uncover the degree of affinity between any statement of a doctrine or part doctrine, and the biblical references which are brought in to support it or defend it. All of us know that Christians with different theological outlooks claim that their views are biblical. But in reality just saying “I believe such-and-such because it’s biblical” does not mean that it actually is biblical. It may be. But, for example, if someone says, “Calvinism is biblical” and someone else says “Arminianism is biblical” it stands to reason that behind both statements is the opinion (either informed or uninformed) of the one making the claim. No one ought to assume that any statement is proven by assertion.

As I was reading my own theology and thinking through the question of why I differed from this or that theologian, I concluded, naturally enough, that the main reason for my disagreements was because I believed my position was more in line with the Bible. That didn’t mean it was, but that was why I demurred. The words “God has spoken” seem to me to be the most momentous three words in the English language. I therefore wanted to know if what I believed and taught actually closely reflected what “God has spoken,” and how compatible were my theological propositions with the texts I appealed to. I did this by assuming a suspicious attitude towards my Theology. Hence, the negative application of the method was uppermost in my mind when it was first roughly devised. The negative use also became apparent when I began asking myself why I couldn’t accept certain formulations of doctrine by some of the great men I read. Almost immediately it dawned on me that the chiefest doctrines of the Christian Faith: the doctrines all Christians would say must be believed at a minimum to be a Christian, involved very straightforward appeals to biblical passages (hence, the Positive Application of the rules).

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Rules of Affinity, Part 4: Negative Application Continued

Posted courtesy of Dr Reluctant. Catch up on the series so far.

1. In this piece I shall match up more theological beliefs with these “Rules of Affinity” in order to show the negative use of those rules. I have tried to find respected sources to interact with so as not to be accused of soft-targeting. This is from G. K. Beale, A New Testament Biblical Theology, 32:

Adam was to be God’s obedient servant in maintaining both the physical and spiritual welfare of the garden abode, which included dutifully keeping evil influences from invading the arboreal sanctuary…(my emphasis)

Beale gives Adam a responsibility to guard the original creation from “evil influences.” But there is nothing in Genesis 2 or 3 which encourages this (the verb shamar in 2:15 can mean “guard” or “protect” and could have the serpent in mind, but nothing is said about “influences” plural). Certainly, God allowed the serpent into the Garden, but the only warning given to the man is the prohibition in Gen. 2:16-17. The serpent tempts Eve and Eve tempts Adam. It is Adam’s capitulation to his wife which is given as the reason he disobeyed God’s command (see Gen. 3:17. cf. 1 Tim. 2:14). Could Adam have ejected Satan out of Eden? Where is that indicated? And what of this talk of a plurality of “evil influences”? One will look in vain for such things in the texts Beale employs. We thus give the statement above a C4 rating.

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Rules of Affinity, Part 3: The Negative Application

Posted courtesy of Dr Reluctant. The series so far.

These guidelines (the “rules of affinity”) test the distance between a given theological proposal and the actual textual references alleged to lend them authority. As already mentioned in previous posts, all the major non-negotiable doctrines of the Christian Faith have a strong affinity with the wording of the biblical text. Under the Grid of Category Formulations of these Rules of Affinity, all these first level doctrines are C1 and C2 (category 1 and category 2) doctrines. Doctrinal propositions which are arrived at by the consent of several converging biblical texts to bring about an “inference to the best explanation” are C3′s. C3′s are open to revision if better scriptural conclusions from clear texts are forthcoming.

The two other categories in the Grid, which reveal little or no affinity between the words of Scripture and the doctrines supposed to be borne out of it, are C4′s or C5′s. These categories are heavy on inference and light on affinity. They are chock full of human reason and empty of clear, definable connection to the verses which are being unfairly summoned to support them.

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Rules of Affinity, Part 2: The Positive Application

Posted courtesy of Dr Reluctant.

(Editor’s note: Part 2 assumes you have read Part 1: Rules of Affinity—Classifying Relationships between Doctrines and Their Supporting Texts)

These “rules” are only rules to the degree that one allows them be rules or ground-rules. One’s hermeneutics will tend to determine how friendly he will be toward these ideas. All the doctrines listed below can be established via C1 (category one) or C2 (category two) formulations, with some C3’s supporting. Even if, due to a blind spot, I may be inferring more than is there in the text, I can be corrected with these same rules. None of the major biblical doctrines are established with C4’s or C5’s!

Well-known Christian doctrines

The propositions below are examples of what might be predicated of each doctrine in an evangelical statement of faith.

The inspiration of Scripture—Proposition: The Scriptures come from the God who breathed them out and caused them to be inscripturated through men who were ‘borne along’ by the Spirit. That is what makes them Scripture.—2 Tim. 3:16; 2 Pet. 1:20-21; Matt. 4:4; Jn. 17:17; Psa. 119:89-91

Inerrancy—Proposition: The inspired Scriptures are the Word of God before they are the words of men. They must be up to the job of transmitting truth from He who is True. This truth will be as reliable in one area of knowledge as in any other, even if exact precision is not necessary.—2 Tim. 3:16; Psa. 12:6; Jn. 17:17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21

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Rules of Affinity - Classifying Relationships between Doctrines and Their Supporting Texts

Posted courtesy of Dr Reluctant.

What I call “The Rules of Affinity” are a relatively straightforward device whereby a theological proposition (e.g. that a sinner is justified by faith) is compared with the texts of Scripture by which it is supported to disclose how closely those passages agree with the proposition in question.

Thus, a theological proposition may be adduced which has either direct “one-on-one” relation to a text of the Bible (e.g. justification by faith, or that God created the world), or strong reasons for deriving the doctrine from certain texts of the Bible (e.g. the doctrine of the Trinity); or it may have little or nothing to do with any scriptural passage brought forth to substantiate it, especially once the passage is viewed within its context (e.g. propositions such as the covenant of grace or infant baptism).

It is understood, of course, that the wrong texts may be mistakenly employed in support of a sound doctrine. These “rules” will help ferret out such misapplications by highlighting the weak link between text and proposition. This does not mean the proposition must be discarded automatically. It may be that other texts of Scripture can be brought forth to fully support the doctrinal proposition. In which case, ones scriptural case for a certain theological belief will only be bolstered. On the other hand, if after successive attempts to align the Bible with a given doctrine fail to produce any clear relationship between them, the proposition must be held to suspect or even spurious.

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