Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Importance of Accurate Theology

After the Lord had spoken these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My anger is stirred up against you and your two friends, because you have not spoken about me what is right, as my servant Job has." (Job 42:7, NET)

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

First, why do you accept the word "right" as the best translation? There's an extensive bibliography on this topic that I suggest you familiarize yourself with. Clines has an exceptionally brief comment in his tome.

Second, you realize that you sound much like Eliphaz on this blog to non-fundamentalists. I hear the theology of Dtr baptized in unyielding judgmental answers.

Third, your assumption of accurate theology is part of what Job deconstructs. In other words, what type of thinking does Eliphaz represent?

To mainline evangelicals such as myself, I read this text and I think that fundamentalists act in much the same way as Eliphaz: defensive, cookie-cutter answers, arrogant, insecure, etc... Please prove me wrong; I don't often enjoy disliking fundamentalists.

Daniel said...

Fourth, why do people who write comments Anonymously read WAY too much into blog posts? And then accuse of fideistic fundamentalism.

The point of this post is that one should strive for orthodoxy and seeking God's truth. How is that not blatantly clear?

Sorry if I stepped in for you Sarah. :)

Kevin Winters said...

I think it's a legitimate concern and this sounds more like proof texting (a methodology greatly condemned by Douglas Groothuis, PhD) than a genuine argument for the importance of "accurate theology." I take Sarah to mean by the latter "accurate [systematic] theology," which is strangely absent from the Biblical text, by which I mean that we have no record of any Biblical author sitting down and writing out a systematic theology, nor a single Biblical author who says that we should do so. Such a concept of amassing correct propositions (and condemning those who do not accept them and only them) seems a foreign project, Biblically speaking, and required a very different Logos than that spoken of by John. Not saying, of course, that there was no concern for correct propositions, but that systematically pulling them together just doesn't happen.

Sarah Scott said...

Daniel,

You are always more than welcome to step in; its is absolutely fine by me!

Anonymous,

I "assume" the word "right" is an accurate translation because it is by far the most widely accepted by mainstream OT scholars. While I am far (far!) from an OT scholar, those translators of the NET Bible (whom I have great respect for) have explained the translation thusly in the translation footnotes:

"Here it [the original untranslated word for "right"] means "the right thing", or "truth". The Akkadian word _kenu_ (from _kun_) connotates justice and truth." also translated as RIGHT.

Kevin,

Consider what proof-texting is: removing a portion of Scripture from its context in order to promote a docrtine which is inconsistent with systematic theology. It is not quoting a text well within its correct context to highlight a theme prevalent throughout the entire Bible.

What I mean by accurate theology is just that-- accurate theology. This is the concept that there is, in fact, a correct view of God, and if you follow Him, His holiness, righteousness and perfection demand the pursiuit of such accuracy.

Kevin Winters said...

Sarah,

Please notice: I did not say that propositional truth is wrong or shouldn't be pursued, but rather that such does not receive even half the emphasis needed to justify systematic theology (and its use in Evangelical circles). So, the very fact that you include "inconsistent with systematic theology" in your definition of proof texting shows its removal from the Biblical text that you quote.

Sarah Scott said...

This is the last thing I will say on this matter, because I know it will see no end: systematic theology is a method, not a doctrine, and therefore will not come verbatim out of Scripture. Rather, it is a highly consistent and time-tested way of interpereting the Bible that is highly accurate. The Bible doesn't explicitly name the laws of logic, either, but they are no less true. And with that, I say "adios" to this conversation.

Kevin Winters said...

All that I am saying, which I think is also "highly consistent," is that the Biblical text itself not even implicitly sanctions, let alone demands systematic theology as something important or divinely called, whether as a doctrine (whatever that means) or as a method. The intense (dare I say anal retentive) focus on systematic theology as found in modern Evangelical circles (among others) is un-Biblical in nature, which should be a matter of concern for those who seek a "Biblical Christianity."

As for the claim that systematic theology is "highly consistent," so much has changed in the content and focus of doctrine in the last two millennia (let alone the last two centuries) of its existence that such is highly contestable: what metaphysic do we follow? What exactly does homoousious mean? What is the nature of grace? What theory of atonement do we adhere to? Is God within or outside of time? This, then, also casts doubt on whether it is "highly accurate." In the least, it is an un-Biblical methodology and does not echo the spirit and essence of the Biblical writers' devotion to God, which, again, is my primary point.

Let me end by saying that you have not argued against this, but merely presented dogmatic opinions as to systematic theology's veracity and worth. Given that you have been sucked into a philosophy that sees the proposition as central (rather than, as in many of the so-called postmodern primary thinkers [whom I continue to assume you have not read in any degree of depth, like your mentor, Douglas Groothuis, PhD], as only one part of a greater whole), I'm not surprised. When all of truthful life is reduced to a conglomeration of propositions, what else could you possibly demand of the Christian than a set of supposedly coherent and systematic propositions that are believed and affirmed? In such a philosophy, the task of creating such a systematic 'worldview' would indeed be central...so thank goodness the Biblical authors did not adhere to such a (in my mind one-dimensional) 'worldview.'

Doug Groothuis said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug Groothuis said...

I never reduce life to a system of propositions, Kevin. But propositional truth is essential to a truthful life: a life lived (mind and heart, body and soul, alone and with others) according to true beliefs in the living God in whom we should trust.

If the Bible is true in all it affirms, then no part of the Bible will contradict another part. This is the teaching of the Bible itself, which you, as a Mormon, deny.

Douglas Groothuis, Ph.D. (as you like to write)

Kevin Winters said...

First, interesting that you would ban me from your blog and then decide to make contact here. Second, truth is the correspondence between proposition and reality, according to Truth Decay, and the "truthful life" is merely affirming and following (as if by rules?) truthful propositions. There is no room here for any notion of truth that is not reducible to propositions, so you do indeed reduce truth (and probably life; that was your addition, not mine) to a series of propositions.

As for inerrancy, that similarly is not affirmed by the Biblical text. There is nothing even remotely similar to a claim that "no pat of the Bible will contradict another part." Yes, there are claims that it is inspired (or "God-breathed") by God, that it is God's word, that it will not pass away, but none of these are equivalent to inerrancy. This is just as convoluted a claim as the supposed divine decree to pursue systematic theology. Nothing is perfect but God and to try to force such an attribute on anything else is idolotry.

Kevin Winters said...

I guess, since I have your attention, I should correct your ban comment: I did not say that half of the footnotes in Truth Decay are from secondary sources; that is a very poor reading. Rather, my explicit claim (that I thought I made rather clear) was that half of the sources you give for the primary so-called postmodern thinkers are from secondary sources and I have a typed up list (including page numbers for each reference) to prove it. I would appreciate a correction in that post, as to your misrepresenting my claim (since so many will simply take your word for it that such was my claim, just like they will that Derrida is a relativist), but I'm not holding my breath.

I'll be interested, as I continue to look at the sources used by the other Evangelical works on this issue, if there is much overlap not only on the specific quotes used but also the secondary sources they are quoted, referenced, or cited (and if there is any duplication between the sources on this matter, providing further evidence to my claim that the big-name Evangelical authors simply haven't read the primary texts and primarily rely on each other for their understanding).

Daniel said...

Kevin,

Regardless of what the craftsmen of postmodernism have said back then, postmodernism today indeed defaults to relativism.

Primary sources are important to understand the roots of the movement but it has surely blossomed beyond what they had anticipated (or maybe even wanted).

And it is contemporary postmodernism where the orthodox Christian has concerns.

Kevin Winters said...

I beg to differ: if postmodernism is defined as those who follow these primary figures, as it often is in the literature, then there are plenty of so-called postmodernists who are not relativists: Hubert Dreyfus, Charles Taylor, (the late) Robert Solomon, Mark Wrathall, Taylor Carman, and more. Our so-called postmodernism 'experts' are focusing on one very small contingent of the 'postmodern' world and seems to ignore the greater whole.

Even more, I have not had a single indication in the works I have read so far that these 'experts' have even read "the roots of the movement" with any degree of rigor (imagine that, analytic philosophers lacking in rigor? About as peposterous as a postmodernist using arguments). I have yet to find a single author who will provide any distinction between these primary thinkers' ideas and modern relativists; at most one will find a vague statement about the various views that can be found in 'postmodernism' (followed by then reducing postmodernism to relativism). If these authors did have a good grasp of these foundations, I would argue that they would have another line of attack: critiquing the more cultural postmodernism by helping them understand their own misunderstandings. Imagine the impact of a critique of so-called postmodernism using Derrida, Heidegger, Foucault, or even Nietzsche as the primary foundations? Wouldn't that be more cogent than continually repeating the law of excluded middle, to find that the revered names in their supposed tradition disagreed with their views?

But instead we have the continual perpetuation of poor research because, let's face it, they are J.P. Moreland, a revered Evangelical philosopher, William Lane Craig, one of the greatest Evangelical apologists of our day, or, my personal favorite ( ;o) ), Douglas Groothuis, PhD. What reason would they have to doubt these figures who are literally superstars!? I can't tell you the number of times that I've brought up this issue with their readers only to be told, "Well, I'll trust Dr. [insert name here] over some guy I just met online." So far my attempts to get published on this issue have not worked, but I continue to refine my arguments and will eventually do so. Till then (and it might be some time as I have my own primary research to work on and can work on this only occasionally), I will continue to bring this issue up in the hopes that someone will listen and will actually do the research needed to see the truth behind the legendary names.

On a related note, I doubt that I will ever get an admission from any of these figures that they actually haven't spent much time with these primary sources. But perhaps when I get through all the 'best' literature on this issue, do a thorough analysis of the references used, perhaps see strong connections between the representative quotes, references, and seconary literature (i.e. that they are all using the same references, page numbers, and quotes), and thereby demonstrate this hypothesis, then I might be able to get such an admission...but I won't hold my breath.

Anonymous said...
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Sarah Scott said...

"Anonymous" - Comment deleted for personal attacks.