Preconditions for our faithful theology

(*I am starting a series that I hope will lead to the finalization of my paper on God, man and time. Those who know me that the study if God and time has been the dominant theological topic for me over the last few months, born out of the creation debate.)

It amazes me that so many are so sure, even when they are diagonally opposed. As the faithful, we rarely stop to consider that which our faith is based on, those things that make it possible for us to be faithful. In studying time, and how both God and man relate to time, it once again became clear that without the prior understanding of what is necessary for us to faithfully render God’s thoughts as revealed in Scripture, we start in thin air, and, we also end up there.

So I wanted to start off by looking at what the preconditions of our theology are. Please note, I do not say that these are the preconditions for us to have faith, (even though some of it may apply equally as well to our faith), since I believe that our faith is a miracle brought about by the grace of God, and should not be boxed into categories.

Preconditions make things possible. In fact, preconditions are necessary to make possible that which is based on it. In the case of Christian theology, these preconditions are necessary. However, one should note that these preconditions need not apply at all for God to exist. There are no preconditions for God’s existence.

For any philosophical study, regardless of whether it is theological or a-theological in nature, preconditions exist. Basic preconditions for science, for example, include the reliability of human senses, the uniformity of nature and the validity of the scientific methodology employed.

In theology, we have a similar approach. I am not going to go into great detail about each, but nonetheless want to briefly show what is necessary before we can study Scripture. Many people study Scripture faithfully without ever being aware of these preconditions. That, however, does not mean that they do not rely on them

  1. The Metaphysical Precondition – this is the assumption that there is an eternal, infinite, omnipotent, loving and morally perfect theistic God.
  2. The Supernatural Precondition – That God created the physical universe, including earth, and the spiritual world, and can interact with that creation at all levels, in both miraculous and natural ways.
  3. The Revelational Precondition – God communicated Himself in both general and special revelation.
  4. The Logical Precondition -The revelation, both general and special, are subject to the laws of logic, which God created and instituted.
  5. The Semantical Precondition -The revelation contains statements that are objectively meaningful.
  6. The Epistemological Precondition – The revelation contains statements that are objectively true.
  7. The Oppositional Precondition – The revelation contains statements that are exclusively true.
  8. The Linguistic Precondition – The revelation can be formulated and understood through the medium of language.
  9. The Hermeneutical Precondition – The language depicting the revelation can be objectively understood in terms of meaning, meaningfulness and truth.
  10. The Historical Precondition – The revelation includes historical events that are accurately reflected in Scripture.
  11. The Methodological Precondition – The revelation can be studied by means of a structured, systematical and comprehensive theological method. (*)

Of these preconditions, theism is of course the most important. Without God there is no study to be made, and the rest of the preconditions follow from that single one.

These preconditions, are developed from a set of beliefs and presuppositions that are inherently Christian, and more specifically, reformed Christian. Without God, there is nothing. We merely descend into radical skepticism based on human fallibility and endless regression. Autonomous human thought is not possible, since we are created in the image of God and retain the spiritual part of our dualistic human nature. Our spiritual nature is subject to either good, through the grace of God, or evil, our natural state.

Therefore, applying the methodology underwritten by these preconditions can result in that which is good, i.e. consistent with the revelation, or evil, that which is consistent with our natural state. Testing our conclusions against revelation, within exegetical context, and accepting Scriptural inerrancy, shows the truth or not of our conclusions.

I hope this clarifies from the outset that my wish is to remain faithful to Scripture, to the glory of God alone.

(*) Systematic Theology – Dr. Norman Geisler, Vol 1.

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