Sunday, 3 April 2011

Doctrinal disagreement

The Bible claims to be revelation from God. It is thought by Christians to contain truth: that is, what it says on its pages reflects reality. Of course if one accepts this he is still left with the issue of interpreting the text.

Statements of faith can reflect this difference in interpretation. Thus we get people holding to a range of beliefs. It is possible for a Calvinist and an Arminian to be egalitarian; or for two paedobaptists to differ over ecclesiology. However holding one belief may increase the chance of holding another: beliefs are not mathematically independent. If 50% of Christians are paedobaptists and 10% are annihilationists, it may not hold that 5% are paedobaptist annihilationists.

Resolving differences requires assessing what the Bible teaches and weighting passages appropriately.

Now I think that some disagreements are genuinely over meaning. Which belief is most consistent with Scripture. I also think that significant disagreement comes about because of the influence of preference. People do want the Bible to confirm what they wish to be the case.

Conceding all this I think there are still a couple issues. Some differences may not be different when we understand the issue in adequate depth. Two opinions over a single issue may be resolved when it is realised that the issue is actually divisible: perhaps one opinion is correct when applied to one component of the issue and the other correct when applied to the second component. For example, I think Arminianism resolves the sovereignty issue that the Calvinists (perhaps unwittingly) seem to conflate.

However some differences are mutually exclusive. If the Bible is true, and there are contradictory interpretations, at least one perspective is incorrect. Christians who hold the correct interpretation will know the truth; they will know things as they really are, at least concerning that doctrine.

Such doctrines have a range of importance. Some beliefs are more central than others. Some beliefs are more foundational than others. And some beliefs are more clear than others.

By central I mean important to the Christian faith. These would include the deity of Christ, the literal death and resurrection of Jesus, the second coming of Jesus.

By foundational I mean beliefs which other doctrines build on. Such as the existence of God, the creation of the earth and universe by a transcendent God, the infiniteness of God, the omnipotence of God.

By clarity I mean how much the Bible reveals about the doctrine. Clear doctrines include the necessity of faith in Jesus for salvation, that God created the universe. Less clear doctrines would include the hierarchy of the angelic world, the nature of the Nephilim.

A specific doctrines can range from central to peripheral, foundational to minor, clear to opaque. While any doctrine could lie anywhere along these 3 axes, central doctrines tend to be clear doctrines.

The degree of disagreement does not necessarily imply a lack of perspicuity in the Bible, there are other considerations as mentioned above. But divergence of opinion may imply lack of biblical clarity. As such, I think it prudent that we hold opinions more lightly when we recognise that there is opacity surrounding a particular doctrine.

One such doctrinal area is eschatology. I think Christians have disagreement here, in part, because the Bible is not completely clear about last things.

1 comment:

  1. A really good post to come back to when caught in the middle of a debate to gain perspective and weigh up what it is that is a stake.

    ReplyDelete

Labels

abortion (8) absurdity (1) abuse (1) accountability (2) accusation (1) adultery (1) advice (1) afterlife (6) aid (3) alcohol (1) alphabet (1) analogy (5) analysis (1) anatomy (1) angels (1) animals (10) apologetics (41) apostasy (4) archaeology (22) architecture (1) Ark (1) Assyriology (11) astronomy (5) atheism (14) audio (1) authority (4) authorship (10) aviation (1) Babel (1) beauty (1) behaviour (4) bias (6) Bible (38) biography (4) biology (5) bitterness (1) blasphemy (2) blogging (12) blood (2) books (2) brain (1) browser (1) bureaucracy (3) business (5) calendar (5) cannibalism (2) capitalism (3) carnivory (2) cartography (1) censorship (1) census (2) character (2) charities (1) children (14) Christmas (4) Christology (8) chronology (46) church (4) civility (2) clarity (5) Classics (2) climate change (39) coercion (1) community (2) conscience (1) contentment (1) context (2) conversion (3) copyright (5) covenant (1) coveting (1) creation (1) creationism (36) criminals (8) critique (2) crucifixion (12) Crusades (1) culture (4) currency (1) death (5) debate (2) deception (2) definition (15) deluge (9) demons (3) depravity (6) design (9) determinism (24) discernment (4) disciple (1) discipline (2) discrepancies (2) divinity (1) divorce (1) doctrine (4) duty (3) Easter (7) ecology (3) economics (28) education (10) efficiency (2) Egyptology (9) elect (2) emotion (2) enemy (1) energy (6) environment (4) epistles (2) eschatology (6) ethics (36) ethnicity (5) Eucharist (1) eulogy (1) evangelism (2) evil (8) evolution (13) examination (1) exegesis (21) Exodus (1) faith (22) faithfulness (1) fame (1) family (4) fatherhood (2) feminism (1) food (3) foreknowledge (4) forgiveness (4) formatting (2) fraud (1) freewill (29) fruitfulness (1) gematria (4) gender (5) genealogy (10) genetics (5) geography (3) geology (2) globalism (2) glory (6) goodness (3) gospel (3) government (18) grace (9) gratitude (2) Greek (4) happiness (2) healing (1) health (7) heaven (1) Hebrew (4) hell (2) hermeneutics (4) history (21) hoax (5) holiday (5) holiness (4) Holy Spirit (3) honour (1) housing (1) humour (34) hypocrisy (1) ice-age (2) idolatry (4) ignorance (1) image (1) inbox (2) inerrancy (16) information (10) infrastructure (2) insight (2) inspiration (1) integrity (1) intelligence (3) interests (1) internet (3) interpretation (74) interview (1) Islam (4) judgment (19) justice (23) karma (1) kingdom of God (12) knowledge (15) language (3) lapsology (6) law (17) leadership (2) libertarianism (12) life (2) linguistics (13) literacy (2) literature (17) logic (27) love (3) lyrics (9) manuscripts (11) marriage (17) martyrdom (2) mathematics (10) matter (4) measurement (1) media (2) medicine (10) memes (1) mercy (3) Messiah (5) miracles (4) mission (1) monotheism (2) moon (1) murder (5) nativity (7) natural disaster (1) naval (1) numeracy (1) oceanography (1) offence (1) orthodoxy (3) orthopraxy (4) paganism (2) palaeontology (4) paleography (1) parable (1) parenting (2) Passover (1) patience (1) peer review (1) peeves (1) perfectionism (2) persecution (2) perseverance (1) pharaohs (5) philanthropy (1) philosophy (32) photography (2) physics (18) physiology (1) plants (3) poetry (2) poison (1) policing (1) politics (30) poverty (9) prayer (2) pride (2) priest (3) priesthood (2) prison (2) privacy (1) productivity (2) progress (1) property (1) prophecy (6) proverb (1) providence (1) quiz (8) quotes (420) rebellion (1) redemption (1) reformation (1) religion (2) repentance (1) requests (1) research (1) resentment (1) resurrection (4) revelation (1) review (4) revival (1) revolution (1) rewards (2) rhetoric (2) sacrifice (4) salt (1) salvation (26) science (43) sermon (1) sexuality (16) sin (15) sincerity (1) slander (1) slavery (5) socialism (4) sodomy (1) software (4) solar (1) song (2) sovereignty (15) space (1) sport (1) standards (6) statistics (13) stewardship (5) sublime (1) submission (5) subsistence (1) suffering (5) sun (1) survey (1) symbolism (1) tax (3) technology (12) temple (1) testimony (5) theft (2) trade (3) traffic (1) tragedy (1) translation (15) transport (1) Trinity (2) truth (25) typing (1) typography (1) vegetarianism (2) vice (1) video (10) warfare (7) water (2) wealth (9) weird (6) willpower (4) wisdom (4) work (10) worldview (3)