This is a Christian blog dealing with various issues. “Discernment is not simply a matter of telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather it is the difference between right and almost right.” -Charles Spurgeon. Scripture is my authority for all things regarding to life and godliness. 2 Cor. 10: 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Sunday, January 04, 2015
Doctrinal Triage: the myth of "essentials" vs. "non-essentials"
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
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.
Spurgeon says something similar in this sermon here.