Boundaries, Inconsistencies and Theological Safe-guarding

If you’ve been reading some recent posts you’ll hopefully have picked up the following

1.       Human theological systems are imperfect – this means there is scope to challenge, reflect and speculate as we seek to improve our descriptions of God and his actions.

2.       We are all likely to make errors however, there are two protections in place against those errors leading to heresy. The first is an intentional thing -we seek to put boundaries around our thinking and discussions to ensure we don’t stray beyond them.

3.       We are also inconsistent. Meaning that we don’t pursue our errors to their logical conclusions

Examples of boundaries include

The Trinity

          No denial of Unity

          No denial of Distinction (of persons)

          No denial of equality

Gender roles in church and family

-Scriptures that emphasise that men and women were made equal in God’s image and are redeemed and equal in Christ

-Scriptures that define and describe different roles for men and women within marriage and the church

-Scriptures that limit how and when women are to speak/teach in relation to men

– Scriptures that clearly show and endorse the role of women in speaking/teaching and leadership

Now to give an example of a controversial topic, I believe that paedo-baptists are wrong in their decision to baptise babies, by sprinkling prior to confession of faith. However, I share fellowship and can work in the Gospel with Anglican and Presbyterian brothers and sisters. Why? Well because I believe that for the majority of them there are clear boundaries around the discussion on baptism. These include:

-A passionate belief in the vital importance of Gospel proclamation. We are called to go and make disciples. There is the need of a preacher for people to hear the word. This means it is a delight to partner in the Gospel with Anglican evangelists like Rico Tice.

-Similarly, the recognition that there needs to be saving faith on the part of the individual.

– The distinction between a visible church and an invisible church. This leads paedo-baptists to think in terms of children being in some way part of the visible covenant community and therefore recipients of some benefits to this. I would venture to suggest that Baptists will also recognise that there are people who participate to different extents in the life of the covenant community and experience some form of Common Grace blessing through this.

However, when it looks like those boundaries are being pushed hard against or even breached then that’s where we are concerned. This is why there was concern a few years back about the so called Federal Vision.  The concerns that many of us had were that:

          There, seemed to be a hard push against the third boundary, so that the “elect” were being equated with the visible church of baptised members.

          That the sign and the signified were being merged in together as Federal Visionists attempted to find language to say that baptism was actually doing something.

          That Bible verses were quoted about the good news being for you and for your children but chopped to exclude “and those far off”

The risk was a push to be consistent on the wrong thing and it was taken us at least up to the boundary, if not over it.  That’s okay if you’ve got people who are inconsistent in practice and still passionate about the Gospel, but what about a next generation who are less zealous and are given an excuse to focus on bringing up their own kids in the faith at the expense of evangelism?

Coming back to the recent conversation about the Doctrine of God. It is my belief that used properly, the following doctrines provide boundaries to ensure safe, biblically faithful thinking and discussion

          Divine Simplicity

          God’s Sovereignty

          God’s eternal nature

          God’s aseity

          God’s immutability