Sunday, January 04, 2015

Doctrinal Triage: the myth of "essentials" vs. "non-essentials"

By Eric Powers

May 21,2014

The following post concerns the “doctrinal triage.” The “doctrinal triage” is supposedly an explicit principle in the endeavor of studying theology for the systematician, lay person, or those in pastoral ministry. Today there are many leading theological voices that postulate the doctrinal triage as an explicit principle of the interpretational process for understanding Scripture. However, in the bible the “doctrinal triage” is not even an implicit principle. What does this writer mean by “doctrinal triage?” The “doctrinal triage” is the practice of prioritizing biblical doctrines to their degree of importance labeling them as primary, secondary or tertiary doctrines. This writer cannot find any scriptural support for this practice.

On the other hand, there is biblical support that teaches all doctrines are essential. For example, 1 Peter 1:20 reads, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation,” (emphasis on “But know this first of all”). This verse refers to a corpus (quantity of content) and teaches the objectivity of Scripture which comes from God and is not subject to man’s mere opinion. What is more, 2 Timothy 3:16 reads, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” Here the Apostle Paul prioritizes “All Scripture.” He does not give a hierarchy of doctrines in a sequential order but rather appeals to a corpus (quantity of content), namely the Special Revelation of God - the word of God - breathed out by God. And every part of the word of God is profitable for teaching, reproof, correction and training in righteousness. As a final point, in 1 Corinthians 15:3 which reads, “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures…” Paul appeals to an entire context in which he discusses the doctrines of the atonement, the resurrection of Christ, faith, original sin, eschatology (i.e. study of last things; the end times), the resurrection of the body, etc. (read the whole chapter).

Truth be told, Truth is a full corpus (quantity of content). For example, Jesus prayed to the Father in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” The word of God is a full corpus of Truth. There is no rank or novelty as if man stood in judgment of the word of God. We must not try to suppress any part of the Truth in anyway as if to say “You can only come this far and cannot come any further.” Whether it be Christology, Pneumatology, Cosmology, Eschatology, Ecclesiology, Hamartiology, Anthropology, Baptism, the LORD’s Supper, Biblical Counseling it is all essential and equally important. True unity is based on Truth, namely doctrinal purity. In health care, triages work well with mass casualty units or in a busy emergency room at an inner city Hospital. However, that sort of triage is not analogous when one is engaged in contending “earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 1:3 emphasis added on “once for all”). God has spoken and His word will accomplish everything that it has been predetermined to accomplish (Isaiah 55:11).

In conclusion, the doctrinal triage is more of an emotional appeal to unity without explicit biblical support (If one finds a verse or passage that supports it please make it known to this writer’s attention!). What this writer is getting at is this, the doctrinal triage compartmentalizes the truth in a way that the bible does not. What we need today is not ecumenical unity, in which the doctrinal triage allows for, but rather sound doctrinal unity. We need sound doctrinal unity not doctrinal novelty. True unity is based on Truth.

End quote.

Spurgeon says something similar in this sermon here.


katter said...

This was excellent! Thank you for posting it.


Denise said...

Thank you Kris for stopping by. I am so glad it encouraged your heart!

Darrel said...

There are so many people that preach the nonsense of the "doctrinal triage" it's scary. This is the first blog post I've seen that exposes it for what it is: a fraud. I would challenge those who think it sound Biblical doctrine to come up with their own list of "essential" and "non-essential" doctrines and present that list to the Holy Spirit and tell Him how wrong He has been for all eternity to teach the rest of the redeemed that such a thing is not Biblical. The "doctrinal triage" has become a very effective tool in the hands of the wicked one to excuse sin, to change the Word of God to the whims of sinful man, to introduce more false doctrine into the church, and to venerate the wickedness of those that are in open rebellion against His Word. I have yet to talk to one those 'dt' proponents that did not wreak of arrogance.

Denise said...

I agree Darrel. It's sitting in judgement of the Word and that is blatant arrogance.

There is no fear of God before most "Christians'" eyes today (Romans 3)--the road to eternal life is narrow and hard and few that find it---I think we're seeing just how few that is. 1Cor. 13 says true agape love rejoices in the Truth---not argue against it (James 1:19). Thank you for stopping by. May the Lord be glorified and may He continue to encourage our hearts as the days grow darker.