The Scriptural Viewpoint of the Theologian

NATURE AND CONCEPT OF THEOLOGY. By John Theodore Mueller (Public Domain)

(De Natura et Constitutione Theologiae.) Introduction to Sacred Theology. (Prolegomena.)

1. THE SCRIPTURAL VIEWPOINT OF THE CHRISTIAN THEOLOGIAN.

Owing to the diverse views and tendencies prevailing among theologians today, it is necessary for the Christian theologian, before presenting to his readers his dogmatic treatise, to declare in clear and unmistakable terms from which viewpoint it has been written. The viewpoint of the present-day modernistic theologian is that truth must be determined by human reason in the light of scientific research. The theological Liberalist therefore does not recognize Holy Scripture as the source and norm of faith, but holds that this ancient standard of Christian doctrine has been superseded by the standards of reason and philosophy which he himself has established. Prom this viewpoint his dogmatic treatise is written, and since this viewpoint is anti-Scriptural and unchris- tian, it follows that his whole theology is rationalistic, naturalistic, and diametrically opposed to the Word of God. The viewpoint of the Roman Catholic theologian is that truth must be determined by both Holy Scripture and the “infallible” traditions of the Church as these are formally set forth in the papal decretals and decisions. Thus he accepts as a source and norm of faith, in addition to Holy Scripture, something that is foreign and even opposed to Holy Scripture and ascribes to it the same authority as to the Word of God. This erroneous viewpoint proves the antichristian character of papistical theology; for it, too, is in direct opposition to Holy Scripture.

The viewpoint of the modern rationalizing Protestant theologian is that, while Holy Scripture is indeed a “divine-human record of revealed truths/* which contains the doctrines that Chris- tians must believe for their salvation, these saving truths must be determined, not by any authoritative statement of the Scriptures, but rather by the Christian “faith-consciousness” or the “regenerate and sanctified mind” or the “Christian experience” of the theologian ( das christliche Olaubembewusstsein, das wiedergeborne Ich, das christliche Erlebnis). In his opinion not the objective statement of Holy Scripture, but rather the “sanctified self- consciousness of the dogmatizing subject” (das fromme SelbsU bewusstsein des dogmatisierenden Subjekts) is in the last analysis the norm which decides what is divine truth and what is not. Modern rationalistic theology is therefore a movement away from Holy Scripture (eine Los-von-der-Schrift-Bewegung) to a source and norm of faith established by man himself. This movement may differ in degree, but is always the same in kind. It is basically anti-Scriptural and has its source in the unbelief of the corrupt flesh. The viewpoint of the modern rationalistic theologian must therefore likewise be rejected as unchristian and opposed to Holy Scripture.

The viewpoint from which the present dogmatic treatise is written is that Holy Scripture is the only source and norm of Christian faith and life, for the simple reason that the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God, which is absolutely infallible and inerrant, both as a whole and in each individual passage. Hence, whenever it speaks on any point of doctrine or life, the matter is fully decided. Scriptura locuta, res dedsa est. This viewpoint identifies Holy Scripture with the Word of God; its claim is, not merely that the Bible contains the Word of God, but that it is, fully and absolutely, in all its parts, the Word of God. The fact that this viewpoint is the only correct one is proved by the statements and the attitude of both Christ and His inspired apostles. Our divine Savior accepted no other norm than Holy Scripture, and He invariably rejected the traditions of the Phari- sees and the “reasonings” of the Sadducees. When He declared His divine doctrines and refuted errors, He constantly based His teachings on the immovable foundation of the written Word of God. Thus at the beginning of His ministry He met the temp- tations of Satan with the emphatic assertion “It is written,” Matt. 4, 4, and He adhered to this principle throughout His ministry. Cp. John 5,39; Matt. 5, 17— 19 ; John 8,31.32; etc. Also the apostles regarded Holy Scripture, including their own inspired teachings, both oral and written, as the sole source and norm of faith. Cf. Gal. 1,8; 2 Tim. 3, 15— 17; Titus 1,9; 1 Cor. 14, 37; 2 Pet. 1, 19—21; etc.

When in the age of the reformation the Bible was restored to its rightful place as the sole authority of the Christian faith, Luther once more proclaimed it to be “the fountain of all wisdom.” (St. Louis Ed., I, 1289 ff.) The great Eeformer declared: “You must believe that God Him- self speaks in the Bible, and your attitude must be in accordance with that belief.” (Ill, 21.)

Those who, like the scholastic theologians, deviated from the Word of God and based their views and doctrines on the ground of reason or philosophy, were branded “monsters” (portenta) by Luther. The claim of modern rational- istic theologians that Luther’s attitude with regard to the authority of Holy Scripture was “rather free” (eine freiere Stellung) is dis- proved by his own clear and emphatic statements to the contrary. And like Luther all true Christian theologians have at all times maintained that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and there- fore the only source and norm of Christian faith, — a truth which they stoutly upheld against all gainsayers.

Modern rationalistic theologians declare that they cannot identify Holy Scripture with the Word of God or accept it as the sole norm of faith. They aver that their sense of actuality (WirJclichkeitssinri) does not permit them to do so, but instead demands another norm outside and beyond Holy Scripture, for example, their “Christian consciousness,” their “Christian experience,” and the like. In reality, however, this claim only goes to prove how gravely they are deceiving themselves ; for the knowledge of divine truth can be gained only from the Word of God, The Christian faith therefore can be based solely upon God’s Word. Our divine Lord states emphatically that we shall know the truth only if we continue in His Word as proclaimed by Himself and by His inspired prophets and apostles, John 8, 31. 32; 17,20; Eph. 2,20.

How truly Christ has spoken the history of the Christian Church amply shows; for all theologians who at any time have rejected Holy Scripture as the sole norm of faith have invariably denied the specific Christian doctrines, such as the vicarious atone- ment of Christ, justification by grace through faith, etc. (Cf. Dr. P. Pieper, Christliche Dogmatik, Vol.1, 4 ff. ) Thus Hoftnann, the father of modern subjective theology (Ichtheologie), denied Christ’s vicarious satisfaction and taught the pagan theology of salvation without the redemptive work of Christ. It is, moreover, proved by the confusion of doctrine (Lehrverwirrung) which has resulted whenever the principle that Holy Scripture is the sole authority in religion has been either ignored or surrendered. This confusion in doctrine prevails whenever norms different from Holy Scripture are accepted as the basis of Christian doctrine; for subjective theology can never supply the Christian Church with a true and certain basis of faith. Without Holy Scripture as the sole source and standard of faith the Church is without any foundation what- soever on which it can rest its faith ; it finds itself in a maelstrom of conflicting subjective views, all of which are fatal to the Christian faith.

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6 thoughts on “The Scriptural Viewpoint of the Theologian

  1. Nicholas

    This is an interesting post, and as a Protestant I’d like to agree with it, but I am not sure I can. There are parts that seem unfair on modern scholarship. Having a nuanced view of Scripture does not turn one into a liberal. I would recommend reading Dr Heiser’s work as a gateway into modern evangelical scholarship on a nuanced reading of Scripture.

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  2. Where in Scripture does it say that “the Bible Alone” is the whole of what Christianity consists? I cannot find it to save my life except in the writings of Protestant theologians (ideas of men and not explicit in the Scriptures).

    What Scripture does say, however, in uncertain terms is 1 Timothy 3:15 –
    “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”

    Seems the Church Is the pillar and ground of the truth . . . and being written in Scripture one should accept this without any doubt.

    We also see that men are to build on the foundation which is Christ: if they build things that last (traditions) then they will not be burned but if they build of wood and straw they will be burned. This leaves Scripture open to interpretation and development that is sound and which is lasting. Since this word comes to us directly from Scripture, how can we doubt it? 1 Corintians 3:10-15 –
    “According to the grace of God that is given to me, as a wise architect, I have laid the foundation; and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon.
    For other foundation no man can lay, but that which is laid; which is Christ Jesus.
    Now if any man build upon this foundation, gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble:
    Every man’s work shall be manifest; for the day of the Lord shall declare it, because it shall be revealed in fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work, of what sort it is.
    If any man’s work abide, which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.
    If any man’s work burn, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire.”

    And the Scriptures also tell us that Christ would send the Holy Spirit to the Church to help bring things to mind that were heretofore not known or understood. John 14:26 –
    “But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you.”

    And, lastly Christ promised not to leave the Church as orphans for we are guided by the Holy Spirit.

    If you want to say that this is spoken to every person who becomes a Christian, who then is right and wrong? It comes down to personal interpretation if not left to an arbiter; the Church (the pillar and ground of the truth). Otherwise chaos ensues and we have a large variety of Churches that disagree on many things . . . which, of course we do in our days.

    Traditions are essential for they are the works of the saints which have built upon the foundation, which is Christ and His Truth, and endure . . . it is not simply straw and therefore the whole Church is required to accept this as the working of the Holy Spirit which was given the Church by Christ since Pentecost. 2 Thessalonians 2:14 –
    “Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.”

    2 Thessalonians 3:6 –
    “And we charge you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother walking disorderly, and not according to the tradition which they have received of us.”

    As to the Apocrypha: it was decided by the Church (the pillar and ground of truth) to be part of scripture by the sending of the Holy Spirit to dwell within Her. How can I doubt the other without doubting Christ Himself? In fact as far as books not accepted in the Septuagint; it was Christ Himself who was certainly reading from the same Septuagint that had permeated all of the Middle East and the Holy Land during the reign of Our Lord.

    And Christ did not direct us to quit circumcision and the laws and many traditions of the Jews: but the Church did this. Baptism is now the Rite of Initiation into Christianity decided by the Church.

    +++

    So what we have read is a work of a man who is a theologian who has his own ideas which may agree with some and disagree with others as well. So that leaves Christians in the predicament of choosing for themselves as to which man or men and their teachings concerning Scripture are right or wrong or simply misunderstood. I don’t think Christ meant to leave us as orphans to decide for ourselves. He left us a Church to aid us in deciphering the Truth and preserving it for the next generation. When it comes to theologians my mind is taken back to the warning given in 2 Peter 3:14-17 – “. . . So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, speaking of this[c] as he does in all his letters. There are some things in them hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, beware lest you be carried away with the error of lawless men and lose your own stability.”

    Might that be an appropriate warning to any hard passage of scripture? After all we are not all schooled theologians but the faith was given to even the simple man and he must have an authority to believe or he is lost. As for me, I follow the guidance of the Church knowing that Christ is still its head and that the Holy Spirit was given to it to assure that the faith would not become adulterated . . . but would survive somewhere. Hebrews 13:8 –
    “Jesus Christ, yesterday, and today; and the same for ever.”

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    1. Hey there. Thank you for your comment. I thought it would be best to post my reply. Hope I was able to clear up any confusion about what I posted here. Email me if you still have questions. God’s blessings.

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