Monday, July 10, 2017

Eric Powers Deals With Evangelical's Doctrinal Triage

Of Mohler's self defined doctrinal triage, he lists the authority of Scripture as in the first tier. The problem is that this is in contradiction to his entire system since the doctrinal triage (DT) is an ATTACK on Scripture.

Eric Powers of the Biblical Christ Research Institute has published his thesis dealing with the doctrinal triage. Here are some excerpts that are noteworthy:
The library at The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California allows access to more than 200,000 volumes. Among this vast array of works very few have been concentrated on an emerging topic in evangelicalism called the doctrinal triage (also known as theological triage – hereafter usually designated by “DT”), because, DT is a quite novel concept in evangelicalism.1 Accordingly, the inception of DT has been attributed to an article written on May 20, 2004 by Albert Mohler, President of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In his article, Mohler defined the theological triage as a three-level system of doctrinal importance when he wrote:
“Today’s Christian faces the daunting task of strategizing which Christian doctrines and theological issues are to be given highest priority in terms of our contemporary context. . . theological seriousness and maturity demand that we consider doctrinal issues in terms of their relative importance. First-level theological issues would include those doctrines most central and essential to the Christian faith. Included among these most crucial doctrines would be doctrines such as the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture. . . The set of second-order doctrines is distinguished from the first-order set by the fact that believing Christians may disagree on the second-order issues, though this disagreement will create significant boundaries between believers. When Christians organize themselves into congregations and denominational forms, these boundaries become evident. Second-order issues would include the meaning and mode of baptism. . . Third-order issues are doctrines over which Christians may disagree and remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations. I would put most of the debates over eschatology, for example, in this category.
In other words, the theological triage is the practice of prioritizing biblical doctrines to their individual degree of importance, labeling them as of primary importance, secondary importance, or tertiary importance. Mohler’s thesis was that doctrines from the Word of God differ in their level of importance, and that these levels of importance dictate the levels at which fellowship is possible with others among the Christian consensus....

Mohler’s isolation of doctrines in terms of their importance were categorized as “first-order” doctrines that are fundamental and essential to the Christian faith; “second-order” doctrines that are essential to church life and order in the local church; and “third-order” doctrines that do not threaten the fellowship of a local church congregation or denomination.8 The transition of doctrines from the pages of Scripture to the application of these doctrines in the life of the church go through this first-stage evaluation. Therefore, the danger of DT is when it becomes a “principle” in interpreting and applying God’s Word. Mohler argued that doctrines and theological issues are to be given highest priority in terms of our contemporary context. What is more, Mohler argued that theological seriousness and maturity demand that we consider doctrinal issues in terms of their relative importance. On the other hand, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics had a completely different take concerning the influence of the contemporary context on the relative importance of doctrine when the authors wrote, “WE DENY that the distinctions between the universal and particular mandates of Scripture can be determined by cultural and situational factors. We further deny that universal mandates may ever be treated as culturally or situationally relative.”
Hermeneutics is the discipline that deals with the principles of biblical interpretation.10 The goal of hermeneutics should be to determine the objective meaning from the Scripture. The only way to accomplish this is through the exegesis of the Scripture by using the literal grammatical-historical hermeneutic.11 The literal grammatical-historical hermeneutic is Scriptures’ self-attested rule for interpreting Scripture....
To summarize the origins of the history of the practice of triage, it began in military medical procedures only as early as the Napoleonic Wars and did not enter into secular emergency medicine or hospital emergency rooms until after World War II in the 1950’s….

Therefore, the purpose of triage in emergency medical pragmatism is sorting and prioritizing patients to treat them based on the allocation of resources. The microallocation and macroallocation is contingent on the resources that are available. Specifically, it is dependent on which geographical area treatment is provided because resources can be scarce. But the Christian has the entire corpus of God’s Word. Therefore, the Christian does not have a shortage of doctrinal resources for the purpose of practicing microallocation and macroallocation. Triage has a place in emergency medical pragmatism. But does DT have a place in the church? Although emergency medical departments rely on tax payer’s money to dispense emergency care – there is no lack of resources with God. God is infinite and He has unlimited resources. What is more, the triage as a concept concerning ethical thought did not invade the overall western culture and implement itself into mainstream secular philosophies of education until the 1970’s....
In his article “A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity,” written on May 20, 2004 Mohler explained how he came up with the idea for theological triage. He explained in his article that he borrowed the concept of triage from a trip to a local hospital emergency room. He invoked the memory this way when he wrote, A trip to the local hospital Emergency Room some years ago alerted me to an intellectual tool that is most helpful in fulfilling our theological responsibility. In recent years, emergency medical personnel have practiced a discipline known as triage–a process that allows trained personnel to make a quick evaluation of relative medical urgency. Given the chaos of an Emergency Room reception area, someone must be armed with the medical expertise to make an immediate determination of medical priority. Which patients should be rushed into surgery? Which patients can wait for a less urgent examination? Medical personnel cannot flinch from asking these questions, and from taking responsibility to give the patients with the most critical needs top priority in terms of treatment. . . Thus, the triage officer in the medical context is the front-line agent for deciding which patients need the most urgent treatment. Without such a process, the scraped knee would receive the same urgency of consideration as a gunshot wound to the chest. The same discipline that brings order to the hectic arena of the Emergency Room can also offer great assistance to Christians defending truth in the present age....

Mohler’s theological triage has gained commendation in the blogosphere and popular online video teaching programs. For instance, one blog writer identified Mohler’s original article on DT as seminal and praised the work as the solution to determine not only the relative importance of particular doctrines in the church but also the solution for triaging the distinctions between what he categorized as bad doctrine vs. heresy. 26 On October 20, 2016, a popular and influential online teaching program dedicated an entire hour when a guest speaker and pastor argued that Mohler’s Theological Triage is the solution for maintaining the unity of the faith across the dividing line. 27 What is more, not only has DT made an impression on blogosphere and popular online video teaching programs, it has also influenced academic institutions beyond Mohler’s Alma Mater. For instance, a Master of Divinity thesis was written in 2007 by David Gundersen which was strongly influenced by Mohler’s original article. Consequently, Gundersen entitled his thesis “Biblical Principles for Determining the Relative Importance of Particular Doctrines.”28 Accordingly, Gundersen’s thesis purposed to develop biblical principles to examine a doctrine in order to distinguish its approximate scriptural weight.29 Nevertheless, the author confessed that Scripture does not teach DT as a biblical principle and demonstrated his frustration to create DT as such when he wrote, “Scripture does not provide a diagram or a list of all primary, secondary, and tertiary doctrines. . . It is impossible to create a flawless machine that can mass-produce doctrinal importance levels.”30


26 Mike Riccardi, “Bad Doctrine vs. Heresy: An Exercise in Theological Triage,”, 15 November 2015, (accessed 27 November 2016).

27 Alpha & Omega Ministries, “Theological Triage – Maintaining the Unity of the Faith” (video of lecture, Pastor John Samson guest host on today’s Dividing Line, Streamed live on October 20, 2016) accessed November 27, 2016,

28 David A. Gundersen, “Biblical Principles for Determining the Relative Importance of Particular Doctrines” (M.Div. Thesis, The Master’s Theological Seminary, 2007).

29 Ibid., iii.
30 Ibid. 

End quote. (emphasis, mine)

Please go here for the entire thesis which goes into greater detail.
On the history of triage from which Al Mohler borrows to use as a hermeneutic to interpret and prioritize (and determine who's in and who's out of Christianity) and this is KEY (and you should ask yourself, who is the spiritual equivalent of "trained personnel" and "medical personnel" who rate the priorities of incoming injured people to the ER? Who gets to determine what doctrines are higher or lower of importance? How do they determine that? By what standard? You should be asking these questions and then search the Scriptures to see what God says in His Word.


Darrel said...

I never knew that Mohler was the originator of this nonsense/heresy. Correct me if I'm wrong but to date no one has created such a listing of doctrines. The admission of Gungersen is telling, but does not go nearly far enough to dismantle Mohler's nonsense. The arrogance to come with such an idea is staggering, therefore it's not surprising that Mohler started this junk theology. It's so nice to know that the people who mostly run the "church" now think they are qualified to instruct the Holy Spirit.

Denise said...

Well the paper explains the history of the notion. Page 21 has a chart that shows how Mohler triages which doctrines. Historically, the adage of Meldenius, “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity" tries to triage doctrine as well, but on p. 14-15 Powers notes that "Even in Meldenius’ famous quote, the chart above shows that his ‘non-essentials’ were not biblical doctrines but matters of practice. However, today the three prepositional phrases, “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity” has become one of the most popular ‘sayings’ in evangelicalism to prioritize biblical doctrines."