Theology

The "Uniform Pattern" and Theological Measurement

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When answering theological questions, one of the thorniest problems that we face is deciding what counts as evidence. To be sure, we affirm the absolute authority and sufficiency of the Scriptures and, in the case of questions about the church, the finality of the New Testament in all matters of faith and order. Simply believing in the Bible’s authority and sufficiency, however, does not tell us how the text ought to be brought to bear upon our questions.

One very common way of using the Bible is to look for examples of the kind of thing that we are asking about. These examples are then treated as permanently binding. Theological literature abounds with references to the examples or even the “uniform pattern” of Scripture.

The argument is a weak one. Scripture contains examples of all sorts of things, some good and some bad. The mere fact that someone did something is no indication that God wants that thing to be done by others at another time. Even when the example is viewed positively in the text, it may be an isolated instance. One would not appeal to Abraham’s treatment of Isaac in Genesis 22 as a universal pattern for relationships between fathers and sons.

An “is” never constitutes an “ought.” Sound theological method draws a sharp distinction between historical narrative and didactic requirement.

This distinction does not render the examples of Scripture irrelevant. When the Bible communicates a didactic principle, then we may legitimately observe the examples in the text to see how the principle looks in practice. By studying the examples we may also discover something about the rewards of obedience or the consequences of disobedience. By themselves, however, the examples of Scripture are not binding. Historical narrative always needs to be interpreted and applied by didactic discourse.

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Antidote: A Cure for a Common Problem of Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism

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The first thing Aaron Blumer (publisher, SharperIron) said to me when we talked about our next conference was “I’m pretty skeptical of the idea of convergence.” Convergence—the idea that fundamentalism and conservative evangelicalism are heading toward, or should be working toward, convergence into one movement—has certainly been what some have perceived Standpoint Conference to be about. We would argue that’s an oversimplification of what we’re about. As our last Standpoint Conference concluded, we made a conscious choice to leave previous issues behind and move on to more critical issues.

Specifically, we believe that fundamentalism and evangelicalism face similar crises. For different reasons, fundamentalism has lurking at its most conservative end some who are less concerned with doctrine than they should be. Evangelicalism has, in the mainstream, those who are also less concerned with doctrine than they should be. On the extreme right of fundamentalism, this expresses itself with a near-obsessive attention to stylistic details that distracts from doctrinal issues. On the left of evangelicalism, church growth, political activism and social influence provide similar distractions.

The alarming result is that both are disengaged from issues that have serious doctrinal consequences. Among those on the far right of fundamentalism, the disengagement results from a feeling that the larger problems of Christianity are irrelevant to them. (“All who are to the left of us are ‘liberals’ anyway.”) Among those on the left of evangelicalism, the disengagement results from a feeling that all must be well because their churches are growing numerically.

Meanwhile, battles are being waged over ideas that represent vast theological shifts. These shifts are happening not just in institutions of higher learning, but in the pews. Rob Bell preaches a form of universalism, and thousands don’t know how to respond—or feel the need to soft-pedal their rejection. N.T. Wright’s New Perspective on Paul is only dimly understood (if at all) by the vast majority of those reading this article. The gay theologians advance their theories and they are uniformly rejected—but few realize that they are using hermeneutical models that are only slightly more radical than the ones taught in our colleges and seminaries. Ground is given, or freedom granted, on the roles of women in leadership, hermeneutics, creation models, eschatological views, all without recognizing that all of the changes are attached to theological structures that mean something and that changes in one area are harbingers of other changes to come—or changes that have already been made in theological viewpoints.

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Archived: The Simplicity of Biblical Parenting

Christian parenting experts often seem unable to see the forest for the trees. Whether it’s “grace based,” “gospel centered,” “heart focused,” or some other phrase du jour, many seem to begin with a lofty concept about what the Bible ought to teach about parenting then go to Scripture and—surprise!—find it there.

As a result, we have constantly clashing emphases—to the everlasting frustration of parents, who just want to know what God expects of them and how to perform those tasks more effectively.

My aim here is (1) to argue that all parents really need is a biblical theology of parenting, (2) to describe how we should go about building such a theology and (3) to identify several principles that must be foundational to it.

The sufficient Word

Does the whole idea of having a “theology of parenting” sound novel? It shouldn’t. Those who firmly believe that the Scriptures are sufficient for faith and practice should also believe that a matter as important as Christian parenting is sufficiently addressed in the Bible. The essentials are all there. Though human wisdom—Christian and secular—may offer some useful advice on the nuts-and-bolts level, all the major principles and purposes are in the Book. And, in the area of principles and purposes, those who do not embrace a biblical view of God and human nature can have nothing of value to say.

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"While it may appear as though theological debate today is more polarized than ever, in fact it is perhaps as civil as it's ever been."

“What few of us realize is that when we press those ‘Publish,’ ‘Post,’ ‘Comment,’ and ‘Send’ buttons, we are making the shift away from merely ‘believing’ truth and stepping into the arena of publishing that belief. In doing so we are effectively assuming a position of leadership and teaching that prior to 2004 was not available to us.” Not Many of You Should Presume to be Bloggers

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An Evaluation of the "Open View" of God: A Response to Gregory A. Boyd's "God of the Possible" - Part 2

archive.jpgThis is the second half of an article by Dr. Myron Houghton which appeared at SharperIron (in four parts) in June of 2005. Part one ended with a look at the fifth of Gregory Boyd’s eight evidences that God changes His mind. Part two continues by addresessing the sixth.

e. God tests people to know their character.

Boyd states, “The fifth and strongest group of passages we’ve examined thus far that suggest the future is not exhaustively settled shows that God frequently tests his covenant partners to see if they will choose to follow him or not.”22

Response # 1: When evidence to the contrary from Scripture is presented against this point, Boyd’s response is less than satisfying. He explains:

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An Evaluation of the "Open View" of God: A Response to Gregory A. Boyd's "God of the Possible" - Part 1

archive.jpgThe error of Open Theism continues to be an important issue in our day. This article by Dr. Myron Houghton appeared at SharperIron (in four parts) in June of 2005 but didn’t make it back into the article database after the site crashed in 2006. Due to it’s length, we’ll be posting it two parts.

I. INTRODUCTION

The primary purpose of this paper is to present the major points of the open view of God as found in Dr. Gregory A. Boyd’s recent book, God of the Possible1 and to respond to those points with an exegesis of relevant biblical passages. While I am not impartial, I intend to be fair, both in the clarity with which the major points of the book are explained and in the manner in which I respond to its major ideas.

In order to introduce my response to Dr. Boyd’s book, both the traditional view and the open view of God will be briefly presented. This will be followed by a presentation of major ideas of the open view of God as found in Dr. Boyd’s book and my response to each of these ideas. Unless otherwise identified, all Scripture quotations will be from the New King James Version of the Bible.

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Review - We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ (Ancient Christian Doctrine)

We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ is the second volume in the Intervarsity Press series Ancient Christian Doctrine. The series of five volumes is a commentary on the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. The commentary in each volume is drawn from writings from the patristic period of church history: AD 95-750. In series volume 1, general editor Thomas Oden identifies nine purposes for the series. Most relevant of those for SI readers would be “demonstrating the authority of the Nicene Creed; furthering the new ecumenical movement; encouraging and expanding the readership of the fathers among ’ordinary believers’” (vii).
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