Thursday, March 15, 2007

The Defence Against the Dark Arts

Theology can never be carried out in the germ free pristine surroundings of an operating theatre. Strictly speaking we would be wrong to think of systematic theologies, those weighty tomes produced by professional theologians, as the product of ivory towered academia. Doubtless some are just that, but not the good ones. No, theology is for the people of God, for their worship, comfort, obedience and thankfulness.

It is also there to help the Church think clearly and rightly about the Triune God and his mighty words and works, that he might be rightly recognised and served, and that false representations of him might be exposed and rejected. But that is not always an easy matter, and it is not a leisurely pursuit. There was something deeply authentic and reassuring about B. B. Warfield being the professor of didactic and polemic theology at Princeton Seminary. Theology is a war time occupation.

Theology is about form as well as content. Or, to put it another way, we ought to pay attention not only to what is being said but to how it is being said.

One strategy for gaining entry with an argument is to "poison the well" against a position before presenting the alternative. This is done, for example, in the Watchtower booklet on the Trinity. Before we are given any passages of Scripture to consider we are told that the doctrine is against common sense, and unlike anything in our experience.

Another example would be to use, and sometimes to pile on, emotive words and phrases that prejudice the mind against an opposing position. So when God's absolute sovereignty is being opposed, the rejection is sometimes spun out by putting that sovereignty in a bad light. God's sovereignty is seen as controlling, aloof, micro managing, despotic. You get the picture.

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