Wednesday, August 16, 2006

"Doctrines Need To Be Differentiated"

Dan Wallace, well-known Greek scholar, responded to a minor kerfuffle at Pyromaniacs over his view of inerrancy. His article explains that he holds to inerrancy largely because of his Christology. It's a thought-provoking piece worth reading, but I'm not going pretend I'm remotely equipped to interact with the deeper epistemological issues.

What caught my interest was his discussion of how we each need to wrestle with a hierarchy of doctrine. We've discussed that issue here in the past (among other places), but Wallace's approach seems innovative and helpful to me. He asks four questions:
  1. What doctrines are essential for the life of the church?
  2. What doctrines are important for the health of the church?
  3. What doctrines are distinctives that are necessary for the practice of the local church?
  4. What doctrines belong to the speculative realm or should never divide the church?
Here's Wallace's conclusion to this discussion:
One can easily see how this approach to one’s credo can be helpful when it comes to baptism, spiritual gifts, communion, gray areas in the Christian life, eschatological positions, etc. The list is endless. But at bottom, we should recognize that doctrines need to be differentiated. If one is so inclined to break fellowship with others, valid reasons need to be given. For my take on things, fellowship cannot occur unless the core doctrines are affirmed by both parties. For my money, I cannot have genuine fellowship with someone who denies the deity of Christ or his bodily resurrection, because I do not believe that such a person is a Christian. These are not the only issues, but they are absolutely category one beliefs.


Fundamentally Reformed said...


I recently read that article and noted the same thing about his stress over a "doctrinal taxonomy". He pointed out how few doctrinal statements take pains to specify such a taxonomy. In reading and thinking over his comments, I was reminded of the statement of beliefs that a friend of mine put on his blog. It is a good example of a doctrinal taxonomy in practice. You can view it here under the heading "Basic Descriptors of Our Theology" towards the bottom of that page.

Fundamentally Reformed said...

Oh, and I read your earlier post you linked to from here. It is very good. I think those considerations are vital to make. For instance, in circles I was once a part of, if someone believed women wearing pants was okay, they would be separated from. But proximity to the gospel, not to mention exegetical certainty are clearly low. On the opposite end of the spectrum, something like pretrib rapture or dispensationalism must be seen as a lower proximity to the gospel and as less exegetically certain than core fundamental doctrines.

Thanks for the helpful posts.