Monday, September 28, 2009

Certainly Not: Part Three

If you're just tuning in, I've been talking about what I call, "Theological Fallibility". Basically, the idea is this - we know, due to our imperfect nature, that we must be wrong in some area of our theology (we just don't know which area). So, how do we respond to this troubling theological pickle?

I've already dealt with the response of Uncertainty, so what about the response of Humility? Humility recognizes it's insignificant place among a sea of theological perspectives. Simply among Baptists there can be a wide divergence of views, but when you broaden this out, the artist of Evangelicalism begins painting with even wider brush strokes. Adjust your telescope, and you can see the countless stars of denominations within the galaxy of Protestantism. As your perspective broadens even more, you see the tree of Christendom branching out into Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, and Protestantism. As if this wasn't divergent enough, you realize all the above are cheaply categorized as "Christian" and (to the western mind) it's them against Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism...the list goes on and on.

With so MANY different views, how could I possibly claim that I have somehow escaped error, and am a virtual color commentator of the acts of the almighty God (if there is one, says the Atheist). The theologian, pinned between the rock of human fallibility and the hard place of divergent opinion, is driven to his knees. We realize our tiny, insignificant place among such a significant majority.

Thus, humility isn't really a response, it's more of an attitude. It's an attitude taken by somebody who's been put in their place. However, as important as proper perspective, and an attitude of humility is in this task of building a theology - it still doesn't answer the question of how to proactively respond to our theological fallibility. Indeed, we must keep looking for a better way - a way forward.

Part Four of this series will continue our journey towards finding a proper response to our Theological Fallibility.


  1. Wow! Nice job communicating the reality of many divergent beliefs with your several illustrations! The following comments are all based upon my belief that the Bible we possess today is accurate and trustworthy and my belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the proven Son of God, with both beliefs reinforcing one another.

    I think the following words of Paul to Timothy definitely relate to this topic. My impression is that if Timothy had asked Paul how to navigate his way through the mixed messages going out around him, Paul's answer would have been "stay focused on the Scriptures." (esp. 2 Tim. 3:13-15)

    1 Timothy 1 (ESV)
    3. As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine,
    4. nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.
    5. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.
    6. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion,
    7. desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions.

    2 Timothy 3 (ESV)
    10. You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness,
    11. my persecutions and sufferings that happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and at Lystra—which persecutions I endured; yet from them all the Lord rescued me.
    12. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
    13. while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.
    14. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it
    15. and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
    16. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17. that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

    PS: I know this doesn't fit exactly with your point here, but isn't Jesus Christ of Nazareth the crucial issue when comparing world religions and trying to narrow down which system of belief is the one we ought to accept as true? Isn't He kind of like a screen that filters out what is obviously not true from what may be or is true? Unless we can prove that the New Testament Sriptures, especially the Gospels in this discussion, are not an accurate record of what Jesus was/is (pure and sinless), what He did (countless instantaneous miracles, unprecedented authoritative teaching, etc.), and what He claimed to be (Messiah, Savior, etc.), does He not remove much uncertainty when looking at a whirling world of messy messages?

  2. Jay,

    Certainly, theological diversity ought to drive us to the text. But, this is a slightly different question than the one I'm asking. There are people who approach Scripture with uncertainty, openness, humility, and conversation. The question is, which is the best response in trying to formulate a Theology.

    I think Jude 3 is also relevant,
    "3 Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."

    I like your comments about the centrality of Christ - and I think that holds very true for Apologetics. While I think Apologetics is related to the question I'm asking, it's still not the same thing. All I'm asking is this, "I know I'm wrong somewhere in my Theology, how should I respond?" I was using the illustration of the other world religions simply to highlight the sense of humility that comes with building a Theology.

    Thanks for your comments,