A Theological Mad Lib (sort of)

October 6, 2010 — Leave a comment

I’ll post some more thoughts on this book in the coming days, but as I was finishing John Frame’s Doctrine of the Knowledge of God today, he offered a schema for an inappropriate defense of Christian doctrine.

It’s in the section covering logic as a tool of theology and is dealing with the informal fallacies often employed in theological reasoning. In this instance, it is an example of a comparative ad hominem argument, which is the positive counterpart to the typically negative version (“that guy’s an idiot, you can’t believe anything he says”).

Anyway, substitute the doctrine of your choice for “x” and enjoy:

We should believe doctrine X. Though X was taught by Jesus and Paul, later New Testament writers, influenced by legalism, de-emphasized it, as did the Apostolic Fathers. Glimmerings of this truth are found in Ignatius, Irenaeus, and Tertullian but not in Clement or Origen. Augustine rediscovered X, but taught it inconsistently, whereupon it was neglected during the dark ages. Luther and Calvin made X the center of their thought, but it was ignored by their seventeenth century successors (except for glimmerings in the Westminster Confession and in writings of some of the Puritans). There X languished until rediscovered by Professor ______ in 19xx. – DKG pg 283 (I changed some of the “it”s to “x” for clarity)

Hopefully you can see the humor in trying to establish the truthfulness of a certain doctrine this way. It has all the right names in its favor, and all the correct omissions (people like Origen didn’t teach it!). While this can be a helpful way to present the trajectory a doctrine has taken, it doesn’t demonstrate it’s truthfulness (as appeals to history never do Frame cautions), just merely who agreed with it and to what extent.

The real question we need to continually ask ourselves in regards to doctrine though is “does Scripture teach it?” And if so, “where?” In this example above, Jesus and Paul may well have taught it, but that is what must be demonstrated to determine truthfulness, not whether or not Luther or Calvin made it the centerpiece of their thought.


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I'm an avid reader, musician, and high school Bible teacher living in central Florida. I have many paperback books and our house smells of rich glade air freshners. If you want to know more, then let's connect!

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