The Pathology of Theology

September 29, 2011 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Pathology – The science of the causes and effects of diseases, especially the branch of medicine that deals with the laboratory examination of samples of body tissue for diagnostic or forensic purposes.

This is the definition I received when I ‘Googled’ Pathology. For our purposes in this brief article I use this term as the systematic examination of a Theological Premise that exhibits abnormality or departure from historic evangelical orthodoxy and will inevitably lead to heresy or worse. What people believe, especially in the realm of Theology, is subject to a pathological examination. This applies to all. We must be precise and accountable or we will find ourselves on the short side of Truth.

I am currently privileged to have two Pastoral Interns, both Seminarians. One of them recently said to me, ‘Pastor, you are so precise in your theological statements.’ I take that as a compliment and an accurate assessment of my penchant for precision. Our culture is post-modern and deconstructionist. Vigilance is a small price to pay for precision and accuracy as we give expression to the Word of God. We must say what God has said, nothing more but most certainly nothing less.

Ten years ago I was working with a pastor who was enamored with the ministry of Rob Bell. I cautioned that Pastor to listen carefully and thoughtfully to what Bell was saying. I was not able to identify with precision the abnormalities in Bell’s theology at that time, but his recent publication of Love Wins validated my appeal for caution.

The following quote serves as an example of this issue. T.D. Jakes has at best a questionable position on the Trinity. James McDonald’s statement that “God has existed eternally in three manifestations” is a classic example of failing to address the issue. Jakes has been characterized on this issue as a ‘modalist’ and I believe that characterization is accurate. This position is ipso facto a denial of the Trinity and simply sees God as manifesting Himself sometimes as Father, sometimes as Son etc. This is not in harmony with either the text of Scripture or historic evangelical orthodoxy. Equivocation is not precision.

Posted: 27 Sep 2011 05:25 PM PDT on the Reformation21 BLOG by Carl Trueman

There is an interesting statement about the Trinity by Gospel Coalition council member and regular contributor, James Macdonald, with reference to his invitation to T D Jakes to speak at a conference.  I quote the relevant section:

I affirm the doctrine of the Trinity as I find it in Scripture. I believe it is clearly presented but not detailed or nuanced. I believe God is very happy with His Word as given to us and does not wish to update or clarify anything that He has purposefully left opaque. Some things are stark and immensely clear, such as the deity of Jesus Christ; others are taught but shrouded in mystery, such as the Trinity. I do not trace my beliefs to creedal statements that seek clarity on things the Bible clouds with mystery. I do not require T.D. Jakes or anyone else to define the details of Trinitarianism the way that I might. His [Jakes’] website states clearly that he believes God has existed eternally in three manifestations.

When people such as myself question such ambiguity, we are labeled ‘hersey hunters’ (by Paul Coruch) or ‘haters’ (by Stephen Furtick). My appeal is and always has been exegesis. The defense of heresy is almost always Polemic not Exegetical. I have an article I wrote on this subject titled Speaking Truth in Love. I will be happy to send this to any of my readers who make that request (

Paul in Athens (Acts 17:21) spoke to those ‘telling or hearing something new’. The culture in which we serve is very similar. I appeal to my readers to be “Exegetical Pathologist”. Focus on issues and exegesis. We must identify personalities when they articulate ‘strange fire’ (Titus 1:9 – rebuke those who contradict sound doctrine) but we need not malign or denigrate people. Doing so diminishes our authority in speaking the Truth. Polemics are important. Accurate and compassionate Exegesis is essential and will always be the final arbiter of Truth. When my declarations harmonize accurately with Special Revelation it matters little or not at all what some proponent of a ‘new thing’ may call me. On my tomb stone will be the words “What Does The Text Say?” Sufficient!

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