Six views of what it means to be “orthodox”

Have you ever been called a heretic? Have you ever had someone say that your faith is “unorthodox”? Have you ever wondered what it meant to be “orthodox”? No, I don’t mean Greek Orthodox or Eastern Orthodox. I am talking about orthodoxy which carries the meaning of “straight or right teaching and worship.”

The answer is not easy. For some people, ”orthodoxy” is a shallow word meaning that you agree with them. For others, it means you agree with their particular denomination or local church confession. For many, it is a meaningless heavy handed designation that should no longer be used.

What does it mean to be orthodox in your beliefs?

There are really six primary views that I find represented in the church today. I am going to try to explain these views using both established and original terminology.

1. aOrthodoxy. Belief that there is no such thing as orthodoxy as a set of “right beliefs” or, at the very least, Christianity should not be defined by our beliefs except in a very minimalistic way. This view of orthodoxy takes a very pessimistic view of the Church’s need and ability to define truth, believing that orthopraxy (“right practice”) is the only thing that should be in focus. This pessimistic approach is influenced by the belief that defining the “boundaries” of Christianity according to beliefs has brought nothing but shame and unnecessary divisiveness to Christianity. This is illustrated most in the bloodshed of the inquisition, Crusades, and wars among Christians. To be labeled “orthodox” or “unorthodox” to the aOrthodox is an arrogant power play that is oppressive to the cause of Christ. Orthodoxy, therefore, is a contextualized subjective “moving target” that cannot be defined.

Primary Adherents:

Progressive Protestants (formerly known as Emerging Christianity)


  • Sees the importance of orthopraxy.
  • Understands the difficulty of defining Christian orthodoxy.


  • Christianity loses any distinction.
  • Follows a self-defeating premise by establishing a new minimalistic orthodoxy of its own.
  • Unjustifiably follows a “guilt by association” premise. Just because others killed in the name of orthodoxy does not mean that those who seek to define orthodoxy will do the same. In fact, most have not.

2. Scriptural Orthodoxy. This is the belief that Scripture alone sets the bounds of orthodoxy without any aid from the historic body of Christ. This should not be mistaken for sola Scriptura—the belief that the Scripture is our final and only infallible authority in matters of faith and practice—but as a radical rejection of any other sources of authority such as the church, tradition, natural revelation, etc. It is often referred to as solo Scriptura or nuda Scriptura. Here, there would not be any authority derived from the body of Christ, historic or contemporary, as an interpretive community that either fallibly or infallibly has the ability to define orthodoxy. Adherents would often be found saying, “No creed but the Bible.”

Primary Adherents:

Fundamentalist Protestants


  • Understands that the Bible is the only infallible source.
  • Causes people to go back to the source (ad fontes).


  • Discounts the historic Church as a Spirit illuminated interpreter of the Scriptures that must be respected as a voice (albeit fallible) of God.
  • Creates their own orthodoxy based upon their subjective interpretation. This way there will be many orthodoxies.
  • Often results in cults who deny essential elements of Christian theology that have been held throughout church history.
  • Fails to see that we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us.

3. Paleo-Orthodoxy. This is the belief that the Christian faith can be found in the consensual beliefs of the church. This is a form of “consensual orthodoxy” (consensus fidelium). This search for consensus follows the dictum of Saint Vincent of L’rins: quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus, “that which was believed everywhere, always.” Normally, according to Thomas Oden, who coined the term “paleo-orthodoxy,” this consensual faith can be found in the first five centuries of the Christian church (Requiem: a Lament in Three Movements), before the “speculative scholasticism” of western Catholicism. The idea of theological progression is normally thought by strict adherents of Paleo-Orthodoxy as a post-enlightenment influenced methodology that should not be followed.

Primary Adherents:

Eastern Orthodoxy and some Evangelicals


  • Looks to the early historic body of Christ for orthodoxy.
  • Understands that God’s providential concern for the Church would have established the most important truths early.


  • Can elevate the authority of the early church above that of Scripture.
  • Hard to find justifiable reasons to believe that theology cannot develop or mature beyond the first five or six centuries.

4. Dynamic Orthodoxy. This view of orthodoxy would be highly influenced by a dialectical approach to theological development, believing that orthodoxy is not in any sense static, but dynamically changing as new discoveries are being made. Early views of orthodoxy might be completely overshadowed by new discoveries. This approach has characterized the more liberal theologians, especially in the early twentieth century. Theology, according to dynamic orthodoxy, can change radically in an antithetical way once new discoveries are made through the advancements of human knowledge.

Primary Adherents:

Liberal Christianity


  • Open to change and advancement.


  • Too open to change and advancement.
  • Christianity loses any roots.
  • Often values the credibility of human progress above the credibility of Scripture.

5. Developmental Orthodoxy. This view of orthodoxy is unique to Roman Catholicism, therefore, it must be understood according to the Catholic view of authority. Developmental Orthodoxy sees the fullness of Christian orthodoxy contained in the one deposit of faith given by Christ to the apostles. These Apostles handed this deposit over in two forms of tradition, written and spoken. The written tradition is found in the Scriptures, the spoken is primarily contained in the early church. This tradition is interpreted by the infallible magisterial authorities in the Roman Catholic church. Orthodoxy itself is defined progressively by this authority as situations develop throughout time. According to this theory, it is not as if orthodoxy develops ex nihilo, but only as the situations make necessary. Once orthodoxy has been defined, then Christians are responsible to believe it, even if it was previously obscure or non-existent (e.g. acceptance of the Apocrypha, assumption of Mary, rejection of birth control).

Primary Adherents:

Roman Catholics


  • Can be more definitive about a definition of orthodoxy.
  • Ability to contextualize orthodoxy.
  • Sees value in church history.


  • No regulation for abuse in the Magisterium.
  • No justification for an authoritative system of infallibility beyond pragmatism.
  • Elements of newly established orthodoxy that cannot be found in church history is hard to justify.
  • Does not take a consensual approach to orthodoxy which, in the end, positions most members of the Christian faith, living and dead, as unorthodox according to their current definition.

6. Progressive Orthodoxy. This is the belief that the ultimate authority for the Christian faith is found only in the Scriptures (sola Scriptura) and that orthodoxy is a progressive development of the Church’s understanding of the Scriptures. Like paleo-orthodoxy, progressive orthodoxy seeks the consensus of the Church throughout time for the core essential theological issues, finding most of these in the early church expressed in the ecumenical councils. But it also believes that our understanding of these issues can and may mature and reform both through articulation and added perspective. This “maturing” does not amount to any essential change, but only progressive development as theological issues are brought to the table of church history through controversy and exegetical discovery. In other words, once orthodoxy has been established, its antithetical opposite cannot be entertained. Orthodoxy can only be advanced.


Most Evangelicals, Protestant Reformers, some emergers.

Here is the chart that illustrates this view:



  • Often hard to define what is the difference is between maturity and change.
  • Who defines when a doctrine has “matured”?


  • It is anchored in the Bible while having a great respect for tradition.
  • Leaves the door open for the Holy Spirit to mature the church’s understanding.
  • Seeks first to define orthodoxy in a consensual way.
  • Leaves room to distinguish between essential elements of orthodoxy and non-essential.

Of the options given above, in my opinion the two that are the most credible are Paleo-Orthodoxy and Progressive Orthodoxy. Both are rooted in the ultimate authority of Scripture and both have a high view of God’s providential care throughout Church history. I appreciate the consensual approach which I think must be present to some degree if one is to have a proper defense of the history of the Church.

In the end, however, I do lean in the direction of the Progressive Orthodox view. I believe that all the essential doctrines of Christianity were established in the early Church, but that their maturation came throughout church history. Some, such as the doctrine of the Trinity, matured earlier than others. Because of this, we find that these enjoy a greater Christian consensus. I put a higher priority on these. Yet I also believe that we need to take seriously others which matured later, even if they do not enjoy the same consensus (i.e. sola fide, substitutionary atonement, imputed sin, etc.—which I believe existed in seed form in the early church, but did not develop more fully until later controversies.)

Where do you all stand?

(HT Parchment and Pen)

Q&A: What’s a “Strong” tower? – Prov. 18:10

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Questions & Answers

Have you ever sung the song that goes, “the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and they are saved?” Most of us have. Well, today I checked the updated NIV text, and it has been changed from “strong tower” to “fortified tower.”

This brings up an interesting issue. It is one thing to change people’s “favorite verse,” but to change a song’s text, now that’s serious.

I am only half joking. “The name of the Lord is a fortified tower” doesn’t quite fit the cadence.

The LXX has εκ μεγαλωσυνης ονομα κυριου, which word for word is, “out of majesty the name of Lord is strength.” “Tower” is from the Hebrew מִגְדָּל.

The real question is, “What’s a strong tower?” A tower that possess the quality of strength? What does that mean? A tower that is built with a strong door? Strong stone?

If we think about it, we can probably get the point of the proverb, but is there any value in forcing the reader to work this hard? (The NLT has “strong fortress,” and that locution works for me.)

So I understand why the NIV shifted to “fortified tower.” We can easily see a tower, perhaps up on a hill, that has thick walls and an enforced door. A tower that provides safety for its inhabitants.

Which is of course the point of proverb. God is a fortified tower to which his children run, knowing that he will keep them safe.

In Defense of Economics – Part 1

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series The Market and the Church

Church and the MarketGod and the Bible are teleological: things have purposes. It is not for man to define the purposes of marriage and sexuality, for instance, according to his arbitrary will; God punishes men who substitute their whims for the order and purpose he has built into his creation. Christians generally did not consider God’s will to be absolutely unfathomable or his moral laws ultimately arbitrary. Actions were not good simply because God had said so; God had said so because they were good. Thus from the physical world to the world of moral precept, God was nothing if not rational and orderly.

During the eighteenth century, thinkers impressed by the elegant regularity of phenomena and the beautiful order that Isaac Newton had described in the physical world looked in the social world for similar lawlike relationships. And indeed, as Ludwig von Mises explains, the founders of political economy perceived “regularity in the operation of the market. ” People came to realize “with astonishment that human actions were open to investigation from other points of view than that of moral judgment. They were compelled to recognize a regularity which they compared to that with which they were already familiar in the field of natural sciences.” The analogies to the natural sciences were readily drawn. As Josiah Tucker explained, “The Circulation of Commerce may be conceived to proceed from the Impulse of two distinct Principles of Action in Society, analogous to the Centrifugal and centripetal Powers in the Planetary System.” Adam Smith appealed to this very model, describing prices as “continually gravitating, if one may say so, toward the natural price.”

Although the rise of what might be called economic thought had long preceded the Enlightenment, the attempt to systematize observations of economic activity into a coherent discipline reflected the intellectual life of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries at its best. They found natural harmonies at work in the market order, and concluded that ill-considered efforts to improve the economic well-being of certain groups by means of government intervention were bound to have deleterious consequences, often exactly contrary to the stated wishes of their proponents. As Mises points out, many of these thinkers found the hand of divine providence in the beautiful order and harmony created by the free market and the division of labor – a supplement to the order in the physical realm that Paul and Christian theology as a whole had always pointed to as evidence of God’s existence and goodness. Eighteenth-century thinkers viewed the regularity of natural phenomena as “an emanation of the decrees of Providence,” and when these same thinkers discovered a like regularity in human action and the economic sphere, they “were prepared to interpret it likewise as evidence of the paternal care of the Creator of the universe.” “Observe the functioning of the market system,” some classical liberals put it, “and you will discover in it the finger of God.’

The nineteenth-century classical liberal economist and writer Frederic Bastiat described the consequences of this insight in his posthumously published Economic Harmonies:

For if there are general laws that act independently of written laws, and whose action needs merely to be regularized by the latter, we much study these general laws; they can be the object of scientific investigation, and therefore there is such a thing as the science of political economy. If, on the contrary, society is a human invention, if men are only inert matter to which a great genius, as Rousseau says, must impart feeling and will, movement and life, then there is no such science as political economy: there is only an indefinite number of possible and contingent arrangements, and the fate of nations depends on the founding father to whom chance has entrusted their destiny.

The methodology of Austrian economics aims to discover these laws and to put them on a sound theoretical footing. In claiming that such laws exist at all the Austrians found themselves, beginning in the late nineteenth century, in an intense philosophical clash with the German Historical School. The Historical School, which included Adolf Wagner, Karl Knies, Gustav Schmoller, and Werner Sombart, rejected the idea of universally valid economic law that admitted no exception across nations and epochs, and thereby effectively denied the possibility of economics as such. They rejected even such standard relationships as supply and demand. Thus the famous Methodenstreit, or debate over method, which has in one form or another continued to the present day, began in the late nineteenth century when Carl Menger argued, contrary to the claims of the Historical School, that economic law was something universal and accessible to reason.

In searching for and establishing these laws, Mises rejected the idea that economics should be modeled after physics and the hard sciences. For one thing, the very existence of human choice and free will precluded basing social analysis on such a model, since human beings are fundamentally unlike inanimate objects. One cannot study social interaction the same way he would the flight of a projectile, since the behavior of the latter, devoid of reason and will, occurs in a manner that can be exactly predicted by the natural scientist. The same is not true for the behavior of human beings. There are no constants in human action as there are in physics.

Not surprisingly, then, Mises argued that the predictive power of economics was comparative rather than absolute-that is, while economic theory can tell us that a ten percent increase in the supply of money will tend to raise prices higher than they otherwise would have been, it cannot tell us the precise extent of this increase in prices. It cannot say that prices will rise by ten percent, or five, or three, whenever the money supply is increased by ten percent. Human beings do not lend themselves to mathematical exactitude in this sense. Hence the mathematization of the profession that has proceeded rapidly over the course of the twentieth century, and which has rendered the professional journals all but unreadable, was not a trend that Mises could favor. As if to drive home the point, he included not a single equation, chart, or graph in all 900 pages of his outstanding economic treatise, Human Action.






The Scope and Purpose of Theology

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series We're All Theologians

We're All TheologiansTheology is a science. Many disagree vociferously and claim that there is a big gap between science and theology. Science, they say, is that which we learn through empirical inquiry and investigation, whereas theology springs from those inflamed by religious emotions. Historically, however, systematic theology has been understood to be a science.


The word science comes from the Latin word that means “knowledge.” Christians believe that through God’s divine revelation, we have real knowledge of God. Theology could not rightly be called a science if knowledge of God were impossible. The quest for knowledge is the essence of science. The science of biology is a quest to gain a knowledge of living things, the science of physics is an attempt to gain knowledge about physical things, and the science of theology is an attempt to gain a coherent, consistent knowledge of God.

All sciences use paradigms or models that change or shift over time. A paradigm shift is a significant change in the scientific theory of a given discipline. If you were to come across a high school physics textbook from the 1950s, you would see that some of the theories presented then have been demolished. No one takes them seriously because there have been significant shifts in the theories of physics in the years since then. The same thing happened when Newtonian physics replaced earlier theories of physics. Then Albert Einstein came along and created a new revolution, and we had to adjust our understanding of physics again. A paradigm shift occurs when a new theory replaces an old one.

That which usually provokes paradigm shifts in the natural sciences is the presence of anomalies. An anomaly is a detail or a minor point that does not fit into a particular theory; it is something for which the theory cannot account. If one attempts to fit ten thousand details into a coherent picture, much like working with a ten-thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle, and can make all the pieces fit except for one, most scientists consider that to be a good paradigm. The assembled structure that fits together in 9,999 ways will make sense of and account for almost every bit of data explored. However, if there are too many anomalies – if a significant amount of data cannot be tied into the structure – the theory falls apart.

When anomalies become too numerous or too weighty, the scientist is forced to go back to the drawing board, to challenge the assumptions of previous generations, and to construct a new model that will make sense of the new discoveries or pieces of information. That is one of the reasons why we see constant change and significant progress in the sciences.

When it comes to understanding the Bible, the approach is different. Theological scholars have been working with the same information for two thousand years, which is why a dramatic paradigm shift is unlikely. Of course, we do gain new nuggets of precise understanding, such as the nuance of a Greek or a Hebrew word that earlier generations of scholars did not have at their disposal. Yet most of the shifts in theology today are not driven by new discoveries from archaeology or from the study of ancient languages; they are most often driven by new philosophies that appear in the secular world and by attempts to achieve syntheses or integration between those modern philosophies and the ancient religion revealed in Scripture.

That is why I tend to be a conservative theologian. I doubt I will ever come up with an insight that has not already been worked over in great detail by greater minds than mine. In fact, when it comes to theology, I am not interested in novelty. If I were a physicist, I would try constantly to come up with new theories to satisfy nagging anomalies, but I consciously refrain from doing that when it comes to the science of theology.

Sadly, many are quite willing to pursue novelty. In academia, there is always pressure to come up with something new and creative. I recall a man who sought to prove that Jesus of Nazareth never existed, but was instead the mythological creation of members of a fertility cult while they were under the influence of psychoactive mushrooms. His thesis certainly was novel, but it was as absurd as it was new.

Of course, this fascination with novelty is not unique to our era. The Apostle Paul encountered it among the philosophers at Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17:16-34). We do want progress in our knowledge and growth in our understanding, but we have to be careful not to be lured into the temptation to come up with something new just to be novel.


The principal source for the systematic theologian is the Bible. In fact, the Bible is the primary source for all three theological disciplines: biblical theology, historical theology, and systematic theology. The task of biblical theology is to consider the data of Scripture as it unfolds over time, and this work serves as a source for the systematic theologian. A biblical scholar goes through the Scriptures and studies the progressive development of terms, concepts, and themes in both the Old and New Testament to see how they are used and understood over the course of the history of revelation.

A problem in seminaries today is a method of doing biblical theology called “atomism,” in which every “atom” of Scripture stands alone. One scholar might decide to limit himself to studying only Paul’s doctrine of salvation in Galatians, while another focuses exclusively on Paul’s teaching on salvation in Ephesians. The result is that each comes up with a different view of salvation – one from Galatians and another from Ephesians – but there is a failure to examine how the two views harmonize. The presupposition is that Paul was not inspired by God when he wrote Galatians and Ephesians, so there is no overarching unity, no coherence, to the Word of God. In recent years, it has been common to hear theologians claim that we find not only differences in theology between “early” Paul and “late” Paul, but also as many theologies in the Bible as there are authors. There is Peter’s theology, John’s theology, Paul’s theology, and Luke’s theology, and they do not fit together. That is a negative view of the coherence of Scripture, and it is the danger when one focuses only on a narrow piece of the Bible without at the same time considering the whole framework of the biblical revelation.

The second discipline, another source for systematic theology, is historical theology. Historical theologians look at how doctrine has developed in the life of the church historically, primarily at crisis points – when heresies emerged and the church responded. Theologians today become frustrated when so-called brand-new controversies arise in churches and seminaries, because the church has experienced each of these seemingly fresh theological disputes time and time again in the past. The church historically has met in councils to settle dis-putes, such as at the Council of Nicea (AD 325) and the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451). Studying those events is the function of historical theologians.

The third discipline is systematic theology. The systematician’s job is to look at the source of biblical data; the sources of the historical developments that come through controversies and church councils and their subsequent creeds and confessions; and the insights of the great minds with which the church has been blessed over the centuries. The New Testament tells us that God in his grace has given teachers to the church (Eph. 4:11-12). Not all teachers are as astute as Augustine, Martin Luther, John Calvin, or Jonathan Edwards. Such men do not have Apostolic authority, but the sheer magnitude of their research and the depth of their understanding profit the church in every age. Thomas Aquinas was called “the doctor angelicus,” or “the angelic doctor,” by the Roman Catholic Church. Roman Catholics do not believe that Aquinas was infallible, but no Roman Catholic historian or theologian ignores his contributions.

The systematician studies not only the Bible and the creeds and the confessions of the church, but also the insights of the master teachers that God has given throughout history. The systematician looks at all the data – biblical, historical, and systematic – and brings it together.


The real question concerns the value of all such study. Many people believe that theological study holds little value. They say, “I don’t need theology; I just need to know Jesus.” Yet theology is unavoidable for every Christian. It is our attempt to understand the truth that God has revealed to us – something every Christian does. So it is not a question of whether we are going to engage in theology; it is a question of whether our theology is sound or unsound. It is important to study and learn because God has taken great pains to reveal himself to his people. He gave us a book, one that is not meant to sit on a shelf pressing dried flowers, but to be read, searched, digested, studied, and chiefly to be understood.

An important text in the writings of the Apostle Paul is found in his second letter to Timothy: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). That text should put an end to claims that we do not need doctrine or that doctrine has no value. There is profit from a careful study of the Bible. Because the Bible is inspired by almighty God, it gives us a valuable and profitable asset, and that asset is doctrine.

The Bible is profitable also for reproof. The academic world devotes much energy to biblical criticism, sometimes called higher criticism, which is an analytical critique of Scripture. However the biblical criticism in which we ought to engage renders us the object rather than the subject of the criticism. In other words, the Bible criticizes us. When we come to the Word of God, the Word of God exposes our sin. The biblical doctrine of man includes us, as does the biblical doctrine of sin, and we are reproved for our sinfulness when we come to the text of Scripture. We may not listen to the criticism of our peers, but we are wise to heed the criticism of God as it comes to us in sacred Scripture.

Scripture is also profitable for correction from both false living and false belief. Not long ago, at the request of a friend, I read a New York Times best seller about how to become a medium and communicate with the dead. I got about halfway through the book and had to stop reading. There was so much spiritual filth in that book, so much falsehood, that those with even a simple understanding of the law of God in the Old Testament would have been able to detect the lies. Such is the profit of correction from false teaching and false living that we can gain from Scripture.

Finally, Scripture is profitable “for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” The purpose of theology is not to tickle our intellects but to instruct us in the ways of God, so that we can grow up into maturity and fullness of obedience to him. That is why we engage in theology.

Tchividjian corrects defective theology

The Rev. Tullian Tchividjian effectively skewers the popular “left behind” theology in this article in The Worldview ChurchUnfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different.

Matthew 24:37-41 is a key passage some Christians use to justify an escapist theology, approaching this world with a “Why shine the brass on a sinking ship?” attitude. In this passage Jesus likens “the coming of the Son of Man” to the time of Noah, when people “were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away.” Then Jesus gives two brief pictures of the effect of his coming: “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left.”

These verses have been employed to support the idea that God will one day evacuate, or “rapture,” all the righteous people, leaving behind an evil world destined for annihilation. Therefore, the thinking goes, Christians should focus exclusively on seeking to rescue lost souls rather than waste time trying to fix things that are broken in this doomed world. This perspective is evidenced in a comment I read not long ago from a well-known Bible teacher: “Evangelism is the only reason God’s people are still on earth.”

But a closer look at the context reveals that in those pictures Jesus gave of men in the field and women at the mill, those “left behind” are the righteous rather than the unrighteous. Like the people in Noah’s day who were “swept away,” leaving behind Noah and his family to rebuild the world, so the unrighteous are “taken,” while the righteous are left behind. Why? Because this world belongs to God, and he’s in the process of gaining it all back, not giving it all up.

This is taken from Tchividjian’s book, Unfashionable: Making a Difference in the World by Being Different. If this brief excerpt is any indication, the book as a whole should be worth reading.

Austrian Economics

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series The Market and the Church

Church and the MarketThe particular school of economic thought to which this series shall have recourse is known as the Austrian School of economics. The distinctive features of the school will unfold over the course of the series so a brief overview will suffice for now. For Austrians, economics is the science of individual choice. The act of choice involves a great many fundamental economic concepts, including valuation, utility, cost, and profit (to be understood not in an exclusively monetary sense). It is upon the implications of choice, and indeed of human action itself, that Austrian economics is built. The standard Austrian treatises present their subject through verbal reasoning and without recourse to the vast mathematical apparatus that has overtaken the rest of the profession. The Austrians offer unique contributions to many aspects of economics, including money, business cycles, so-called public goods and “externalities,” and monopoly theory.

The founder of the school was Carl Menger (1840-1921), a professor of economics at the University of Vienna, whose Principles of Economics (1871) had considerable influence. He contributed mightily to what became known as the “marginal revolution” in economics, and made important contributions to the methodology of economics and the theory of the origin of money. Another important member of the school, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk (1851-1914), is perhaps best remembered for his critique of Marxism as well as for his work on interest rate determination.

Böhm-Bawerk’s great student, in tum, was Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973), whose contributions to the discipline were legion, ranging from epistemology to monetary theory, from business cycle theory to the socialist calculation problem. After arriving in New York in 1940, Mises picked up the practice he had developed in Austria of holding a private seminar for interested students. A number of the most important and accomplished developers of the Austrian school would come out of that seminar, including Murray N. Rothbard (1926-1995), George Reisman, and Israel Kirzner. The school has enjoyed something of a renaissance since 1974, when Austrian economist F. A. Hayek (1899-1992), a colleague of Mises, won the Nobel Prize in economics for his work on business cycle theory.

That Christianity and much of Austrian economics are eminently compatible I shall attempt to demonstrate throughout this series. For now, consider the following testimony regarding the scholastic origins of Austrian economics, drawn from the introduction to a common history of the school:

The story of the Austrian School begins in the fifteenth century, when the followers of St. Thomas Aquinas, writing and teaching at the University of Salamanca in Spain, sought to explain the full range of human action and social organization. These Late Scholastics observed the existence of economic law, inexorable forces of cause and effect that operate very much as other natural laws. Over the course of several generations, they discovered and explained the laws of supply and demand, the cause of inflation, the operation of foreign exchange rates, and the subjective nature of economic value – all reasons Joseph Schumpeter celebrated them as the first real economists.

What is Theology?

This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series We're All Theologians

We're All TheologiansA couple of years ago, I had the good fortune of speaking to some Bible college students who were interested in attending seminary. Upon my arrival , I was given a tour of the campus. During the tour, I noticed this inscription on a set of office doors: “Department of Religion.” When it came time to address the students that evening, I mentioned the inscription I had seen, and I asked whether the department had always been called by that name. An older faculty member replied that years ago the department had been called the “‘Department of Theology.” No one could tell me why the department name had been changed.

“Religion” or “theology ” – what difference does it make? In the academic world, the study of religion has traditionally come under the broader context of either sociology or anthropology, because religion has to do with the worship practices of human beings in particular environments. Theology, by contrast, is the study of God. There is a big difference between studying human apprehensions of religion and studying the nature and character of God himself. The first is purely natural in its orientation. The second is supernatural, dealing with what lies above and beyond the things of this world.

After explaining this in my speech to the students, I added that a true Christian college or university is committed to the premise that the ultimate truth is the truth of God, and that he is the foundation and source of all other truth. Everything we learn – economics, philosophy, biology, mathematics – has to be understood in light of the overarching reality of the character of God. That is why, in the Middle Ages theology was called “the queen of the sciences” and philosophy “her handmaiden.” Today the queen has been deposed from her throne and, in many cases, driven into exile, and a supplanter now reigns. We have replaced theology with religion.


In this part of the series, we are concerned with theology, specifically with systematic theology, which is an orderly, coherent study of the principal doctrines of the Christian faith. In this part, I will give a brief introduction to the science of systematic theology and some basic definitions.

The word theology shares a suffix, -ology, with the names of many disciplines and sciences, such as biology, physiology, and anthropology. The suffix comes from the Greek word logos, which we find in the opening of John’s gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). The Greek word logos means “word” or “idea,” or, as one philosopher translated it, “logic” (it is also the term from which we get the English word logic). So when we study biology, we are looking at the word or logic of life. Anthropology is the word or logic about humans, anthropos being the Greek word for man. The primary part of the word theology comes from the Greek theos, which means “god,” so theology is the word or logic of God himself.

Theology is a very broad term. It refers not only to God but to all that God has revealed to us in sacred Scripture. Included in the discipline of theology is the study of Christ, which we call “Christology.” It also includes the study of the Holy Spirit, which we call “pneumatology,” the study of sin, which is called “hamartiology,” and the study of future things, which we call “eschatology.” These are subdivisions of theology. Theologians also speak of “theology proper,” which has specific reference to the study of God himself.

Many are comfortable with the word theology but cringe when they hear the qualifying term systematic. This is because we live in a time of widespread aversion to certain kinds of systems. We respect inanimate systems – computer systems, fire alarm systems, and electrical circuitry systems – because we understand their importance for society. However, when it comes to systems of thought or to understanding life and the world in a coherent manner, people are uncomfortable. Part of the reason for that has to do with one of the most influential philosophies to emerge in Western history – existentialism.


Existentialism is a philosophy of existence. It presupposes that there is no such thing as essential truth; rather, there is distinctive existence – not essence, but existence. By definition, existentialism abhors a generic system of reality. It is an anti-system that holds to truths but not to truth and to purposes but not to purpose. Existentialists do not believe that reality can be understood in an orderly fashion because they see the world as ultimately chaotic and without meaning or purpose. One simply confronts life as it happens; there is no overarching viewpoint to make sense of it all, because ultimately life does not make sense.

Existentialism has had a tremendous impact in Western culture along with its offspring, relativism and pluralism. The relativist says, “There is no absolute truth except the absolute truth that there is absolutely no absolute truth. All truth is relative. What is true for one may be false for another.” There is no effort to bring opposing views into harmony (something a system would seek to do) because, according to relativists, there is no possibility of a systematic understanding of truth.

Such philosophy has also had a strong impact on theology, even in the seminaries. Systematic theology is rapidly becoming a forgotten discipline, not only because of the impact of existential thought and of relativism and pluralism, but also because some people misunderstand systematic theology as an attempt to force the Bible into a philosophical system. Some have attempted to force the Bible into a philosophical system, as was the case with Rene Descartes and his rationalism and with John Locke and his empiricism. Those who make such attempts do not hear the Word of God or seek to understand it on its own terms; rather, they seek to bring a preconceived system to bear on the Scriptures.

In Greek mythology, a bandit named Procrustes attacked people and cut off their legs to fit them into the dimensions of an iron bed rather than simply enlarging the bed. Attempts to force Scripture into a preconceived system of thought are similarly misguided, and the result has been an aversion to systematic theology. However, systematic theology does not attempt to force Scripture into a philosophy or system, but instead it seeks to draw out the teachings of Scripture and understand them in an orderly, topical way.


Systematic theology is based on certain assumptions. The first assumption is that God has revealed himself not only in nature but also through the writings of the prophets and the Apostles, and that the Bible is the Word of God. It is theology par excellence. It is the full logos of the theos.

The second assumption is that when God reveals himself, he does so according to his own character and nature. Scripture tells us that God created an orderly cosmos. He is not the author of confusion because he is never confused. He thinks clearly and speaks in an intelligible way that is meant to be understood.

A third assumption is that God’s revelation in Scripture manifests those qualities. There is a unity to the Word of God despite the diversity of its authors. The Word of God was written over many centuries by many authors, and it covers a variety of topics, but within that diversity is unity. All the information found in Scripture – future things, the atonement, the incarnation, the judgment of God, the mercy of God, the wrath of God – have their unity in God himself, so that when God speaks and reveals himself, there is a unity in that content, a coherence.

God’s revelation is also consistent. It has been said that consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, but if that were true, we would have to say that God has a small mind, because in his being and character, he is utterly consistent. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).

These assumptions guide the systematic theologian as he goes about his task of considering the whole scope of Scripture and inquiring how it all fits together. At many seminaries, the systematic theology department is separate from the New Testament department and the Old Testament department. This is because the systematic theologian has a different focus than the Old Testament professor and the New Testament professor. Biblical scholars focus on how God has revealed himself at various points over time, while the systematician takes that information, puts it all together, and shows how it fits into a meaningful whole. This is a daunting task, to be sure, and I am convinced that no one has ever done it perfectly.

As I engage in systematic theology, I never cease to be amazed by the specific, intricate coherence of the scope of divine revelation. Systematic theologians understand that each point in theology addresses every other point. When God speaks, every detail he utters has an impact on every other detail. That is why our ongoing task is to see how all the pieces fit together into an organic, meaningful, and consistent whole. That is what we will be doing in this series.


Refuting three common Muslim misconceptions about Christianity

I want to make the readers aware of three common and rather typical Muslim claims purposely promulgated to subvert and undermine the credibility of Christian faith and character.

It amazes me how these deceivers manage to distort a book and text, which they hardly know or understand:

Did the Apostles believe Jesus to be insane?

The first relates to the personality of Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 3, verse 21:

‘When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind”‘

Some Muslim apologists have mistakenly been swayed toward the opinion that Mark depicts Jesus as a mad personality.

However, noticing that Mark is simply pointing to a sentence uttered by Jesus’ own family this claim hardly supports the claim that this constitutes an apostolic perception.

Mark is neither confirming nor stating that Jesus was insane. The passage makes even more sense when perceived within its context. There was indeed a reason why his family uttered the sentence: ‘He is out of his mind’.

Verse 20 clarifies this:

‘Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat’

Hence the ‘He is out of his mind’ utterance was not a specific reaction to Jesus as a person, but rather it records a blaze reference, to an occasion in which he set aside his physical need to minister to the people.

Did Jesus portray Christianity as a violent religion?

A second claim relates to the judgement of the nations; when Jesus, in his second coming, brings judgement upon his enemies.

But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them—bring them here and kill them in front of me (Luke 19: 27).

Muslim apologists have ignorantly purported the passage to portray a violent Christianity. However, the passage ascends the Christian religion.

Firstly, the passage belongs to the parable of the ‘Ten Minas’, and does not reveal direct description of an event.

Furthermore, despite the fact that the parable includes Christians, e.g. the ‘three servants’, those executing the judgement appear to be a group distinguished from these and are referred to as ‘those standing by’.

Finally, the parable does not refer to a Christian event, but a futurist, imminent and divine judgement; the closest analogy is Luke 9:26:

‘If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels’.

Both Mark and Matthew relate to this event as a time of future judgement:

The Son of Man will send out His angels and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of sins (Matthew 13: 41-42)

As in Luke 19 these angels executing the judgement are distinguished from the actual servants (Jesus followers), about which Matthew records Jesus saying the following:

‘Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear’ (Matthew 13: 43)

Here, these Muslim apologists seem to confuse Christianity on earth, in the Christian era with future and divine judgement, executed by divine coming and angelic intervention.

Did Paul the Apostle encourage deception?

A third misconception is rooted in the Muslim failure to understand a Pauline saying in Philippians 1:17-18:

‘The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing they can stir up trouble for me, while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.’

Some Muslim apologists reiterate that Paul is encouraging Christians to utilize deceptive tactics and lies in their propagation of the Christian message. However, this is not what Paul is indicating.

Paul refers to certain individuals who preach the Gospel from a wrong motive; he is not describing deception or lies; but rejoices that at least the Christian message spreads among the people; after all, it’s the Christian message, the response of the listener and God who saves and transforms the sinner which matter, much more than the actual messenger.

(HT Answering Muslims)

Same-sex “marriage”: Challenges and responses

America is entangled in the most heated battle of the culture wars to date. Many consider it a Waterloo. State supreme courts and city governments, senators and congressmen, community leaders, celebrities, and even clergy all have mounted a powerful offensive in support of gay “marriage.” What follows is a point-by-point reply to those who are demanding this revision of civilization.

Same-Sex Marriage and Civil Rights

“We’re being denied the same rights as heterosexuals. This is unconstitutional discrimination.”

There are two complaints here. First, homosexuals don’t have the same legal liberties heterosexuals have. Second, homosexual couples don’t have the same legal benefits as married couples.

The first charge is simply false. Any homosexual can marry in any state of the Union and receive every one of the privileges and benefits of state-sanctioned matrimony. He just cannot marry someone of the same sex. These are rights and restrictions all citizens share equally.

I realize that for homosexuals this is a profoundly unsatisfying response, but it is a legitimate one, nonetheless.

Let me illustrate. Smith and Jones both qualify to vote in America where they are citizens. Neither is allowed to vote in France. Jones, however, has no interest in U. S. politics; he’s partial to European concerns. Would Jones have a case if he complained, “Smith gets to vote [in California], but I don’t get to vote [in France]. That’s unequal protection under the law. He has a right I don’t have.” No, both have the same rights and the same restrictions. There is no legal inequality, only an inequality of desire, but that is not the state’s concern.

The marriage licensing law applies to each citizen in the same way; everyone is treated exactly alike. Homosexuals want the right to do something no one, straight or gay, has the right to do: wed someone of the same sex. Denying them that right is not a violation of the equal protection clause.

The second complaint is more substantial. It’s true that homosexual couples do not have the same legal benefits as married heterosexuals regarding taxation, family leave, health care, hospital visitation, inheritance, etc. However, no other non-marital relationships between individuals – non-gay brothers, a pair of spinsters, college roommates, fraternity brothers – share those benefits, either. Why should they?

If homosexual couples face “unequal protection” in this area, so does every other pair of unmarried citizens who have deep, loving commitments to each other. Why should gays get preferential treatment just because they are sexually involved?

The government gives special benefits to marriages and not to others for good reason. It’s not because they involve long-term, loving, committed relationships. Many others qualify there. It’s because they involve children. Inheritance rights flow naturally to progeny. Tax relief for families eases the financial burden children make on paychecks. Insurance policies reflect the unique relationship between a wage earner and his or her dependents (if Mom stays home to care for kids, she – and they – are still covered).

These circumstances, inherent to families, simply are not intrinsic to other relationships, as a rule, including homosexual ones. There is no obligation for government to give every human coupling the same entitlements simply to “stabilize” the relationship. The unique benefits of marriage fit its unique purpose. Marriage is not meant to be a shortcut to group insurance rates or tax relief. It’s meant to build families.

Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council sums the issue up nicely:

“Gay citizens” already have the same right to marry as anyone else – subject to the same restrictions. No one may marry a close blood relative, a child, a person who is already married, or a person of the same sex. However much those restrictions may disappoint the incestuous, pedophiles, polygamists, and homosexuals, the issue is not discrimination. It is the nature of marriage itself.

“They said the same thing about interracial marriage.”

This challenge has great rhetorical force, but it is a silly objection.

Consider two men, one rich and one poor, seeking to withdraw money from their bank. The rich man is denied because his account is empty. However, on closer inspection, a clerk discovers an error, corrects it, and releases the cash. Next in line, the poor man is denied for the same reason: insufficient funds. “That’s the same thing you said about the last guy,” he snaps. “Yes,” the clerk replies. “We made a mistake with his account, but not with yours. You’re broke.”

In the same way, it simply is not relevant that the same objection has been used to deny both interracial and homosexual marriage. It’s only relevant if the circumstances are the same, regardless of the objection. They are not.

Same-sex marriage and interracial marriage have nothing in common. There is no difference between a black and a white human being because skin color is morally trivial. There is an enormous difference, however, between a man and a woman. Ethnicity has no bearing on marriage. Sex is fundamental to marriage.

This approach won’t work to justify polygamous or incestuous unions (”In the past people wouldn’t allow interracial marriages, either.”). It is equally ineffectual here. The objection may be the same, but the circumstances are entirely different.

“We shouldn’t be denied the freedom to love who we want.”

Columnist Ellen Goodman writes, “The state is on shaky ground when it tries to criminalize sexual relations of the consensual living arrangements of adults.” In San Francisco, a giddy newly “married” lesbian celebrates, “Now we’re not second-class citizens; now we can have a loving relationship like every other married couple we know.” Another opines, “Anybody who is in love and wants to spend the rest of their life together should be able to do it.”

These remarks reflect a common misconception: Same-sex marriage will secure new liberties for homosexuals that have eluded them thus far. This will not happen because no personal liberty is being denied them. Gay couples can already do everything married people do – express love, set up housekeeping, share home ownership, have sex, raise children, commingle property, receive inheritance, and spend the rest of their lives together. It’s not criminal to do any of these things.

Homosexuals can even have a wedding. Yes, it’s done all the time. Entire cottage industries have sprung up from Hollywood to the Big Apple serving the needs – from wedding cakes to honeymoons – of same-sex lovers looking to tie the knot.

Gay marriage grants no new freedom, and denying marriage licenses to homosexuals does not restrict any liberty. Nothing stops anyone – of any age, race, gender, class, or sexual preference – from making lifelong loving commitments to each other, pledging their troth until death do them part. They may lack certain entitlements, but not freedoms.

Denying marriage doesn’t restrict anyone. It merely withholds social approval from a lifestyle and set of behaviors that homosexuals have complete freedom to pursue without it. A marriage license doesn’t give liberty; it gives respect.

And respect is precisely what homosexual activists long for, as one newly licensed lesbian spouse makes clear: “It was a moving experience after a truly lifelong commitment, to have a government entity say, ‘Your relationship is valid and important in the eyes of the law.’” Another admits, “This is about other people recognizing what we have already recognized with each other for a long time.” And another: “I didn’t start out feeling this way, but that piece of paper, it’s just so important I can’t even put it into words. It’s so important to have society support you…It’s about society saying you’re recognized as a couple.”

Ironically, heterosexuals have been living together for years enjoying every liberty of matrimony without the “piece of paper.” Suddenly that meaningless piece of paper means everything to homosexuals. Why? Not because it confers liberty, but because it confers legitimacy. Note this telling passage from Time magazine’s “Will Gay Marriage be Legal?”

Ultimately, of course, the battle for gay marriage has always been about more than winning the second-driver discount at the Avis counter. In fact, the individual who has done most to push same-sex marriage – a brilliant 43-year-old lawyer-activist named Evan Wolfson – doesn’t even have a boyfriend. He and the others who brought the marriage lawsuits of the past decade want nothing less than full social equality, total validation – not just the right to inherit a mother-in-law’s Cadillac. As Andrew Sullivan, the (also persistently single) intellectual force behind gay marriage, has written, “Including homosexuals within marriage would be a means of conferring the highest form of social approval imaginable.”

Same-sex marriage is not about civil rights. It’s about validation and social respect. It is a radical attempt at civil engineering using government muscle to strong-arm the people into accommodating a lifestyle many find deeply offensive, contrary to nature, socially destructive, and morally repugnant. Columnist Jeff Jacoby summed it up this way in The Boston Globe:

The marriage radicals…have not been deprived of the right to marry – only of the right to insist that a single-sex union is a “marriage.” They cloak their demands in the language of civil rights because it sounds so much better than the truth: They don’t want to accept or reject marriage on the same terms that it is available to everyone else. They want it on entirely new terms. They want it to be given a meaning it has never before had, and they prefer that it be done undemocratically – by judicial fiat, for example, or by mayors flouting the law. Whatever else that may be, it isn’t civil rights.

The Meaning of Marriage

The controversy about same-sex marriage churns principally around the definition of marriage. Activists deny the traditional view, that marriage is about children. Instead, marriage is an ever changing, socially-constructed institution constantly being redefined by society. There is no essential connection with children. Rather, at the core of the enterprise are two people in love.

“Marriage is about love.”

Understandably, love is a predominant theme in discussions about marriage. “As long as people love each other,” one person asserted, “it shouldn’t matter whether they are the same sex. What’s important in marriage is love.”

Initially, this seems hard to deny. In our culture, love is often the immediate motivation for marriage. On reflection, though, it’s clear that love and marriage don’t always go together. In fact, they seldom do.

If marriage were about love, then billions of people in the history of the world who thought they were married were not. Most marriages have been arranged. Love may percolate later, but only as a result of marriage, not the reason for it.

Further, if love were the sine qua non of marriage, no “for better or for worse” promises would be needed at the altar. Vows aren’t meant to sustain love; they are meant to sustain the union when love wanes. A pledge keeps a family intact not for love, but for the sake of children.

The state doesn’t care if the bride and groom love each other. There are no questions about a couple’s affections when granting a license. No proof of passion is required. Why? Because marriage isn’t about love.

Yes, love may be the reason some people get married, but it isn’t the reason for marriage. It may be a constituent of marriage, but it isn’t the purpose of marriage. Something else is.

“Marriage is constantly being redefined.”

The definition of marriage has not been in flux in the way people suggest. In fact, marriage itself has not been redefined at all. Because there have been variations on the theme does not mean there has been no theme. From the dawn of civilization marriage has always been between men and women.

There have been changes. Historically some have been denied marriage (e. g. , the young, the genetically aberrant, and interracial couples). Others were allowed to marry more than once, either consecutively (divorce and remarriage), or concurrently (polygamy). Spousal rights have altered and traditions have evolved. But marriage has still been marriage. And spouses have always been male and female.

To say something has changed is to say some core thing has remained the same. When an old curtain is changed into a work smock, or an irresponsible bachelor becomes a conscientious dad, something stays the same, the cloth and the man, in these two cases.

In the midst of these obvious changes in marriage, what feature remains the same? What is the essential core that makes marriage distinct from any other relationship? In spite of the variations, spouses have always been male and female. Why? What is unique about this human pairing?

“Not all marriages have children.”

Initially it is easy to resist any suggestion that “marriage” and “family” are essentially connected with “offspring.” Clearly, not all families have children. Some marriages are barren, by choice or by design.

This proves nothing, though. Books are written by authors to be read, even if large ones are used as doorstops or discarded ones help ignite campfires. The fact that many lie unread and covered with dust, or piled atop coffee tables for decorative effect doesn’t mean they were not destined for higher purpose.

In the same way, the natural tie of marriage to procreation is not nullified because in some individual cases children are not intended or even possible. Marriage still is what it is even if its essential purpose is never actualized. The exceptions prove the rule, they don’t nullify it. Marriage is intrinsically about and for children.

Ironically, heterosexuals and homosexuals alike confirmed this while lining up to wed at city halls on Valentines day. “After seven years and the birth of a baby,” the L.A. Times reported, “Robert Manzo and Anna Parker decided to make their union official for 9-month-old Kyle, who they believe should have the legal protection that a marriage gives to a family.”

More than 300 miles away, Kathy Palmer-Lohan stood in line in San Francisco with her partner, Laura, who was seven months pregnant. “We’re having kids,” Palmer-Lohan said, “and [marriage] gives some formality to the relationship and the family structure.

“Marriage is a social construction we can redefine as we please.”

What is marriage? There are only two possible kinds of answers to this question: Either marriage and family have a fixed, natural purpose (a natural “teleology”) or they do not. If not, marriage is some kind of social construction, an invention of culture like knickers or bow ties, fashions that change with the times. Marriages defined by convention can be anything culture defines them to be. No particular detail is essential.

It is not possible, however, that marriage is a social construction. Here’s why:

Columnist Dennis Prager has observed, “Every higher civilization has defined marriage as an institution joining members of the opposite sex.” I agree with Prager’s position on marriage, though I take exception with one of his words.

I don’t think marriage has been defined by cultures. Rather, I think it has been described by them. The difference in terms is significant. If marriage is defined by culture, then it is merely a construction that culture is free to change when it desires. The definition may have been stable for millennia, yet it is still a convention and therefore subject to alteration. This is, in fact, the argument of those in favor of gay marriage.

The truth is, it is not culture that constructs marriages or the families that marriages begin. Rather, it is the other way around: Marriage and family construct culture. As the building blocks of civilization, families are logically prior to society as the parts are prior to the whole. Bricks aren’t the result of the building because the building is made up of bricks. You must have the first before you can get the second.

Societies are large groups of families. Since families are constituent of culture, cultures cannot define them. They merely observe their parts, as it were, and acknowledge what they have discovered. Society then enacts laws not to create marriage and families according to arbitrary convention, but to protect that which already exists, being essential to the whole.

Why has civilization always characterized families as a union of men and women? Because men and women are the natural source of the children that allow civilized culture to persist. This is the only understanding that makes sense of the definition, structure, legitimacy, identity, and government entitlements of marriage. This alone answers our question, “What is marriage?”

Marriage begins a family. Families are the building blocks of cultures. Families – and therefore marriages – are logically prior to culture.

If the definition of marriage is established by nature, then we have no liberty to redefine it. In fact, marriage itself wouldn’t change at all even if we did. Philosopher Francis Beckwith has wryly observed, “Just because you can eat an ashtray doesn’t make it food.” Linguistic tricks can’t change what nature has already determined something to be. Neither ashtrays nor same-sex marriage provide the nourishment intended by food or families, respectively.

The fact that same-sex couples can legally adopt changes nothing. This, too, subverts the purpose of marriage by robbing families (and children) of a vital ingredient: mothers and fathers. By licensing same-sex marriage, society declares by law that two men or two women are equally suited to raise a child, that mothers and fathers contribute nothing unique to healthy child-rearing. This is self-evidently false. Moms and dads are not interchangeable.

Marriage begins a family. The purpose of family is to produce the next generation. Therefore, family is designed by nature for children. This description alone is consistent with our deepest intuitions, which is why every culture since the birth of time has recognized this. No other characterization fits what societies have been doing for millennia.

Families may fail to produce children, either by choice or by accident, but they are about children, nonetheless. That’s why marriages have always been between men and women; they are the only ones, in the natural state, who have kids.

Government has no interest in affirming any other kind of relationship. It privileges and sustains marriage in order to protect the future of civilization.

Same-sex marriage is radically revisionist. It severs family from its roots, eviscerates marriage of any normative content, and robs children of a mother and a father. This must not happen.

Homosexuality is broadly tolerated in this country. Gays are allowed to pursue their “lifestyles” without reprisal, even to the point of forming committed, monogamous unions. They may not be universally respected or admired, but they have the liberty to live as they choose. This is all they have the right to demand.

The rise of the intellectual Charismatics

In times past, most serious theologians and biblical scholars could look to the modern Charismatic movement merely as the latest movement among folk Christianity that doesn’t take intellectual studies seriously. The sensationalistic tendencies of the movement could be easily written off knowing that soon this fad would end with disillusionment and an “I told you so” that followed.

Such is not the case any longer.

The answer to the question of whether one is a cessationist or a continuationist doesn’t separate the sheep and the goats like it once did. A cessationist is one who believes that the supernatural sign gifts of the Bible such as healing, tongues, and prophecy ceased at the end of the first century with the death of the last apostle. A continuationist (Charismatic) is one who believes that these gifts have continued throughout history and should be sought today by the church.

Cessationistism claimed most if not all respected scholarship for a time. With this claim came the ad populum comfort that their view was indeed correct. Since the nineties, however, there has been a rise in respected evangelical scholarship that no longer follows the traditional party-line of cessationism. Scholars such as Craig Keener, Sam Storms, John Piper, Jack Deere, and C.J. Mahaney, just to name a few, are continuationists. But the two that stand out more than any others in my opinion are Wayne Grudem and J.P. Moreland.

Wayne Grudem is a theology professor out of Phoenix Seminary. Grudem holds a BA from Harvard University, a Master of Divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary, and a PhD from the University of Cambridge. He also served as president of the Evangelical Theological Society in 1999. His Systematic Theology is one of the best selling and most respected Systematic Theologies available. Even cessationists agree that Grudem’s theology is orthodox on just about everything he touches. He is a balanced scholar who knows the issues well and who’s beliefs would never provide the easy target that cessationists are traditionally so used to. More than this, Grudem is Reformed in his theology! He is a charismatic Calvinist! Grudem believes that the miraculous sign gifts are still available and prevalent in the church today.

J.P. Moreland is a distinguished philosophy professor at Talbot School of Theology at Biola. He holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy from the University of Southern California. He is a first-rate philosopher, theologian, and apologist. Moreland has written on many subject in his field and is respected by most leading philosophers today—Christian and secular. His intellectual abilities do not fit the bill of a Benny Hinn or a Pat Robertson to say the least. In fact, he has written one of the most compelling works of our generation concerning the need for Christians to re-engage in the intellectual arena, criticizing the church for its inability to defend the faith reasonably. The book is called Love Your God with All Your Mind. If you were ever in a debate with an atheist or a philosophical naturalist, Moreland is the guy you want on your side. He, like Grudem, does not look like the stereotypical Charismatic. He is a recent convert to the Vineyard Movement, who believes that there are prophets who speak supernaturally on behalf of God today and that the gift of healing is not only available, but should be sought out.

With so many flies in the ointment what is a cessationist such as myself supposed to do? Continuationists are simply not supposed to be intellectuals! Yet they are, and they can defend their positions.

I believe the landscape is changing. There are now fewer hard cessationists who believe with absolute conviction that the supernatural sign gifts have ceased. You know that the battle lines are fading when C.J. Mahaney and John MacArthur can share the same pulpit! Because of the stature of these respected scholars, many cessationists are beginning to scratch their heads wondering if they might be wrong. Some are one experience away from fully embracing a continuationist theology.

While I find many of the biblical and theological arguments of cessationism compelling, I would be the first to admit that the primary reason I remain a cessationist is because I have never experienced any miracles, signs, or wonders and I have never seen or heard of a legitimate prophet. If someone were to ask me if I believe that God is still speaking through prophets and giving the gift of healing, I would confess my tentative cessationist beliefs. I have never seen nor heard of a prophet or divine healer, but this does not mean that God is not or cannot work in such a way today.

While the Bible does not ever say that the supernatural sign gifts ceased or were going to cease (in fact, it may imply the opposite), history does seem to suggest it, and my experience, to the degree that it can be trusted, verifies it.

One thing that we need to keep in mind is that if God has not tied His own hands, our nice clean theological system cannot tie them for Him. If He moves in such a way, we better recognize this. At the same time, if He is not moving in such a way, we discredit Him by claiming He is doing something He is not. This can cause great damage to His character and disillusionment to those who seek such interventions. Both sides need to be very careful about this issue.

I would, however, call upon fellow cessationists, especially hard cessationists, to consider continuationism from the “best of” and not create straw men by referring to the common abuses that are televised for all to see. Seek out the wisdom and scholarship of Grudem, Moreland, and the like before you dogmatize your beliefs. They represent the best of their belief and form what I believe to be the intellectual rise Charismatics.

With all this in mind, this blog could have just as well been titled “The Demise of Hard Cessationism.”