Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Difficult Theology

Often, when there's a difficult problem in theology, people seem to come at it by assuming the truth of one philosophical / theological system or other, and then end up fighting for some passages against other ones. I don't think that's the ideal evangelical way to do it.

It's much better to be clear first on everything that we can affirm or deny explicitly from Scripture, make sure those are in place, then seeing what we can fit around them. I guess I see it more as bottom-up theology than top-down - not assuming the overall shape of the doctrine until later, and even then leaving room for vagueness.

So, for example, with predestination:

  • Only those whom God the Father has called come to the Son
  • God predestines those who follow him from at least as far back as the creation of the world
  • We are responsible for our own actions and for whether or not we follow Jesus
  • Christians should tell people who aren't Christians about Jesus and put a lot of effort into trying to persuade them to become Christians.

Now, if we hold all of those together, we avoid a lot of the common errors, and it becomes apparent that the problems a lot of people have are actually because of dodgy logic (assuming all of those statements are true, and that that's possible).

There does appear to be a logical difficulty there (and it's a slightly different logical difficulty depending on whether or not we have free will), but theres a way out in each case:

  • If we do have free will (in some sense), then it means that our freedom can't rule out God having predetermined what we freely decide. And that might be possible if God's outside time.
  • If we don't have free will, then it means that moral responsibility can still exist without freedom of will. And that also seems possible, because God can ascribe whatever responsibilities he wants

I don't know if free will exists or not. The Bible doesn't say, and I don't think you can derive an answer either way from the Bible. Modern physics suggests not, but modern physics might be wrong on that.

I think it is wrong to be dogmatic on specific theological theories which we use to connect data from the Bible, but right to be dogmatic on those data.

Post a Comment