The Language of Theology

August 23, 2016
Darrell L. Bock, Glenn R. Kreider, and Michael J. Svigel

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Topic Time Codes

00:48
Introduction
04:05
What is theological discernment?
06:55
What is heresy?
08:10
The difference between a centered set and a bounded set
15:55
How do the creeds help us understand heresy?
19:55
Can we recognize truth outside of the Church?
26:08
Engaging Culture with confidence instead of fear
31:50
How do we understand Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy?
37:04
How do we identify the absolute essentials of the faith?
43:15
Has the definition of heresy changed?

Transcript

Joe
Welcome to chapel today. Today is our cultural engagement chapel and in just a moment I'll be introducing Dr. Darrel Bock, but let's just bow for a word of prayer for now. Heavenly Father, thank you so much that we get to be here and that we get to be in this chapel, and I do pray that you would help us to engage with this chapel, and I pray, Lord, that you would bless our time together and everything that's said and done, Father we offer it up to You for Your glory. In Christ's name, amen. And this is Dr. Darrell Bock. Take it away.
Dr. Bock
All right. Thank you, Joe. Well, welcome to our cultural engagement chapel. Our topic today is going to be language that we use to describe the theological discussions that we have. Is this Biblical? Is this heretical? Is it un-Biblical, and how do we work with that? You can see my experts here emerge from the systematic theology department, Drs. Kreider and Svigel and whenever we wanna create trouble, that's who I invite to the table. Let me read you an email I received, oh, well actually early this month that kind of puts the topic on the table.

It says "The seminary and the table", and I have permission from the student, by the way to share this with you, so I thank that person whose gender will remain nameless. "The seminary and the table have really opened my eyes as far as the diversity of ideas across evangelicalism that I had never thought of before and that I think I've censored. My ideas and my upbringing protected me from thinking about these for myself. I've seen that there seems to be a rich plurality of ideas within the bounds of orthodoxy that I think my denomination would quickly deem heretical, which can mean anything from aposthesy to that idea or question makes me uncomfortable.

Many seem to be comfortable with labeling these ideas as orthodox and anything against it as punishable by burning at the stake. I also think it's important to point out the false teaching in what others have said, and protect the flock by removing their books from shelves or simply urging the weaker brothers among us to stay far away from any of their books or sermons because they're clearly anti-Christ, here to scrape away some of the elect, and accompany them in their journey back into the pit of hell." Part of the reason I like this email is because it was so subtle in how it went about raising the question.

"Hopefully I've made it clear that I'm a little confused and torn. Knowing all of this, is there a way or a starting point when we step into service or a conference or a class or a book to know what ideas to filter into our faith and what to try and keep an arm's length from? It seems to me that since everyone is fallible, it's probably not a good idea to filter something by teacher since I've heard some secular songs allude to some things I would consider true. Is there a podcast" – this is it, okay? "Is there a podcast that covers the bare basis of our faith and holds that while still reading something or listening to something with the discerning mind we're able to test things like Paul described while still looking at the distinctive that makes us Christian and answers people's questions, read their books or works with the respect that affirms their dignity while acknowledging that their beliefs are different be they Christian, Atheist, Muslim, etc."

That's the question on the table, and so gentlemen, how do we think about the process of theological discernment, and how do we talk about that in ways that people can engage the ideas that are present on the one hand and yet think their way in a healthy way through all the options that are out there?
Dr. Svigal
Let me start with step one and that is to not use the word "heresy" unless it is actually heresy. This is obviously gonna feed into what is heresy and what is orthodoxy, but this term, and I've experienced this, we've all experienced it, the term "heresy" is thrown around sometimes jokingly, sometimes very flippantly, or sometimes very seriously and the definition is this is a view that my church or I don't agree with, or that my clear reading of Scripture seems to indicate is wrong. So we generally try not to use the word "heresy" unless it is an actual prolonged, stubborn, willful departure, knowing departure from the core of orthodoxy. I know this is your practice as well.
Dr. Kreider
Yeah. I might say something very similar about the language of Biblical. The real question is how are you reading the Bible? Is your reading of the Bible orthodox or unorthodox? Every heretic has read the Bible. It's Biblical support for their view. So that term "Biblical" we have to be careful not to use it as a _____ either.
Dr. Svigal
That's right, and doctrines can be Biblical but not orthodox. If you've ever had a debate with a Jehovah's Witness or someone who is taking passages, they are reading the more or less the same Bible as us, translating it differently, but there are also doctrines that are orthodox but not Biblical. So we've seen people misread a text but kind of land in something that's true, you just can't get there from that passage, the right doctrine from the wrong text. So we have to be careful about both of these terms, "heresy" as well as "Biblical."
Dr. Bock
It seems to be that we use "Biblical" in a variety of ways. One of them is to simply say "Well I'm having a discussion about the Bible." That's kind of a very loose way of using it. In these kinds of discussions when "Biblical" is used, the word is "It's from the Bible and I'm right" is coming with it, "It's obvious", etc., which obscures all the interpretive elements and processes that are actually going on in the conversation, and the conversation is probably worth having not by a label, Biblical or not, but by actually getting down into the nitty gritty of what's being talked about.
Dr. Kreider
So when two people claim, each of them claim that my view is Biblical, that ought to lead to a conversation about reading the Bible. If we use that as an opportunity to open the Bible and to look at it together, then we can actually have a conversation.
Dr. Bock
Now I'm gonna speak about my favorite whipping boy right now, which is social media, because I think in particular when you see these exchanges on social media, I did a Google search before the chapel and the word "heresy" came up 5,453,222 times, and the word "Biblical" came up 12,452,335 times.
Dr. Kreider
Because of the live tweeters in the audience, it now is higher.
Dr. Bock
That's exactly right. What I find happens with these terms, which I think this email is getting at is that we actually use these terms as a shield to have the discussions that we probably ought to be having. Is that a fair read in your mind in terms of how we can use and abuse these terms when we engage in theological discussion?
Dr. Kreider
I think generally they become an ender to a conversation. They're a weapon. They're a club. We don't actually burn people at the stake anymore, we just use these instead.
Dr. Svigal
Or un-friend them.
Dr. Bock
That is burning at the stake. That's burning at the digital stake. That's right. So how do we think about the kind of question that's being asked here, which is the development of a discerning mind about theology? I know you all wanna distinguish between kind of the range of theological ideas that are out there, and I think a way to think about this is think about the difference between what's called a centered set and a bounded set. A centered set is where something is at the center, at the core of something, and you say that's the core stuff.

That's the really important stuff, and then stuff that goes around it. A bounded set is worried about where the edges are and making sure everything is defined, and then the tendency of a bounded set is to treat everything within the circle a kind of equal level, whereas the idea of a centered set is now these are more central to what's going on and core and then the stuff as you move out from the center is kind of more open and discussable. Is this a good way to think about this kind of a topic?
Dr. Svigal
Yeah I think it's a way, and it's a good way. These are not mutually exclusive. You can have boundaries in a confession. Some may hold to a Westminster confession as the boundaries for their community or the DTS doctrinal statement, but all of us acknowledge our very own doctrinal statement acknowledges that there are core doctrines in there that are the center of that ocean of articles. So you have the bounded set and the faculty signs the doctrinal statement every year, our agreement to that, and if you don't this is not the place for you, right? But at the same time we acknowledge there's a center to that and it centers on – the way I describe the center of the Christian faith is the Trinitarian creation/redemption narrative that centers on the person and work of Christ and His first and second coming.

To the degree that something contributes or is informed by that or is essential to that center, that increases its centrality and we might say importance or its cruciality to the faith or what I sometimes describe as these are identity forging doctrines of the faith without which this is not Christianity. But we wouldn't, or most of us wouldn't say our view of the angels or our view of the timing of the Rapture is part of that central core. So keeping that in mind, there is such a thing as a boundary and there is such a thing as outside of the bounds of orthodoxy, but also within orthodox we have to realize there are some things that are central and some things that are more peripheral in a Pluto kind of orbit in many cases.
Dr. Kreider
They're both absolutely necessary. Mike talks about the core and these outer – and we might talk in terms of several concentric circles, but there has to also be a discussion of when we move from this circle into this circle and the boundaries are not always as clear and precise, but sometimes there's this cloud and this fog between here and here. But you know when you're no longer in the circle anymore, and there are all kinds of ways to talk about that. My students read Gransen Olson who talks about the difference between dogma, which is the central core, I might say the seven core doctrines that we hold here, dogma, then to doctrine, and I think they use confession.

Let's find another d, maybe call that things about which we make decisions. We have dogma, doctrine, and then decisions, or we might talk about what the creeds crystalize for us, and then there are confessions, Westminster, DTS, Baptist, and then there are things about which we hold convictions. So for example, baptism is a core Christian doctrine. There is one faith, one baptism, but different traditions practice baptism differently. Some pour, some immerse, some sprinkle.

There are different practices, and then we could talk about convictions. It might be something like the temperature of the water. Although if you're being baptized as I was when I was re-baptized into baptistery where the heater didn't work, that third might be –
Dr. Bock
The most important thing.
Dr. Svigal
Suddenly becomes pour, doesn't it?
Dr. Bock
I have a way of describing this and it's an illustration that works with seminary students and not anybody else 'cause it's built off the apparati of the Greek Testament. When you have the Greek Testament and you've got these variants, the UBS text writes them A, B, C, and D to communicate the certainty with which the textual decision is being made. A, we're virtually certain about this, D, it's really a tough call. That's the spectrum that you're dealing with, and I like to say I view my doctrines and my view of doctrines similarly.

A is I'm so sure about this that I might argue with God about it like Peter did. B is I know we disagree, but I'm pretty sure I think I have this right, and then C is if we get to heaven and I find out you're right I won't be surprised, and D is let's be honest and flip a coin. Neither of us knows. And so there's this spectrum and you attach to some degree both depending on the doctrine where it's located in the sphere that we're talking about and the nature of the decisions that go into deciding between the options tells you how hard or how loosely to hold on to what it is that you're talking about. I think that's another way to think about this.
Dr. Svigal
There are a lot of good models and you'll encounter a lot of good models. No model is perfect and in fact you probably need several to be able to understand. There's the primary, secondary, tertiary kind of model. Sometimes they use that to dismiss whole areas of theology. So Trinitarianism is primary and Soteriology is primary, but Eschatology is tertiary. Well, the reality is if you have a centered model there's some elements of Eschatology that are crucial to the faith. Christ is coming back as judge and king and He's gonna raise the dead and this world is gonna be made the way it was meant to be. So we would say that's in a crucial part of the narrative. But the identity of the two witnesses in Revelation 11 isn't.
Dr. Kreider
I'm not so sure.
Dr. Bock
Depends on who those two guys are.
Dr. Svigal
So you get the idea. You don't wanna dismiss whole areas of theology because you're putting them on a different shelf.
Dr. Kreider
And some of those questions are both determined by the community in which we find ourselves and determine the communities in which we find ourselves.
Dr. Bock
Yeah, and of course one of the tricky things that this question begins to get at, the email does, is of course when you're here you're in a certain community and there's certain commitments that are shared, but once you graduate and go out, anything goes in terms of what you're dealing with and encountering and having to make judgments about. By the way, let me remind you we've got microphones set up, so if you have a question for the panel do feel free to step forward and ask it because I do think this is an important kind of topic to be dealing with. So let's talk a little bit about the core. I'm gonna raise a question here that might deal with both orthodoxy and orthopraxy, and it goes something like this.

It's an observation I like to make about the older creeds and what I think is not there that's important. That is the older creeds were obviously formed – now I'm thinking about creeds like the Nicene Creed – were formed because of specific controversies that triggered why they were core confessions. Very, very valuable, essential. I'm in a church where we recite the Nicene Creed virtually every week, but I read those creeds and I go, there's not a word about orthopraxy or how you respond to this core content, etc, which raise a whole other question of the relationship between what we believe, the ideas we believe, the theology that we have, and the way in which we live, and that sometimes gets lost in these conversations as well because we end up being focused on what is belief.

We don't think about how we say it. We don't think about what the implications are for life coming out of it, that kind of thing oftentimes, and as a result there's even a gap in how we talk about orthodoxy a lot of times.
Dr. Svigal
Sure. Let me come at this from a historical perspective. The Nicene Creed itself and the Constantinopolitan version, both of these were drawing on an earlier Baptismal confession, which were widespread by the second century. Various churches were baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that actually meant something. They were agreeing to this Trinitarian narrative, God is the father who created all things, the Son who died and rose again, the Spirit who lives among us who inspired the prophets, etc.

So in baptism they are being baptized into the story, but we also know the centrality of baptism it was also a repentance and a commitment to live a certain lifestyle, and with that came not just Trinitarian instruction and the orthodoxy but also instruction, and it usually took the form of the two ways instruction. This is not how we live the way of death or darkness. That's not how we live, but this – I don't know. But this is the way we live, the way of life, the way of light. So in baptism, baptism brought together both orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

So even though it's not explicit there in the creed, you're right, these are addressing specific issues of orthodoxy, but orthopraxy too was reinforced prior to, during, and after baptism and people were called according to live to their baptismal pledge. So they're there and it is wrong for us to not acknowledge the function of baptism as both a confession of faith and a commitment to a certain lifestyle that is Christian and that is part of the faith just as much as the Trinitarian theology.
Dr. Kreider
Because we are living in a different world and post-Enlightenment where we often separate orthodoxy from orthopraxy, which nobody would've done prior to recently, it becomes really important that we bring those two back together and talk about both. It's not enough to speak the truth. We have to speak the truth in love. It's not enough to be full of truth, we have to be full of grace and truth and you're exactly right to call us back to that particularly in traditions where the default position is as long as you believe the right things, as long as you confess the right things, as long as you say the right things, then you're right with God.
Dr. Bock
Yeah. There's a halo over your head and you're in great shape.
Dr. Kreider
Which is I think here.
Dr. Bock
Let me go at this from a slightly different angle, 'cause there's another element of this email that I think we might miss if we just talk kind of in-house about Christians and how they view and discuss things among themselves, 'cause there also is the question raised about things that are said outside the circle of Christians that might also be reflective of truths to reflect on, and there are really two ways into this conversation it seems to me.

One is to say that oftentimes when Christians engage with culture, particularly in the kind of time that we've come at more recently in which there's a lot of combat going on, it can tend to be that we always engage culture negatively as if there aren't echoes and whispers and voices out of the culture that don't aspire to things that are Biblical in the best sense of that term. So how do we help people appreciate that dimension and think through how to talk about culture in those places where those aspirations are being expressed and almost being searched for.
Dr. Kreider
Many times they are much more than echoes and hints and shadows, that the truth is being screamed at us. There is a deep longing in every human heart for hope and meaning and significance that there is in God's world. It's impossible for imagers to fail to image God and to be drawn to Him.

So my simple answer is, and this will sound ironic, my simple answer is that we ought to listen a great deal more than we talk and we ought to ask questions to understand instead of assuming just because this person isn't using the language we use, just because this person isn't quoting a Bible verse or this person doesn't actually express the truth that's found in the Scriptures, and we who know the Scriptures, we who know the Trinitarian narrative, we who know that the content of our hope, the basis of our hope is the risen and returning Christ can actually connect that story to the longing of the heart that this person really doesn't know what he or she is longing for.
Dr. Bock
I think – go ahead. I thought you were looking at me to respond.
Dr. Svigal
You may.
Dr. Bock
Oh, okay. I actually do think that this is one of the ways we miss talking about culture in our churches a lot. The aspirations, the hopes, the longings, in some cases as you've said the truth that is – let me give you an example. The concern for justice that sometimes gets expressed in our culture, sometimes that's distorted, but sometimes there's a very legitimate justice concern that's being expressed that we need to hear and that we can turn a blind eye to if we're not careful.

The longings for significance, the longings for affirmation that come, the longings for being appreciated for who human beings are, that kind of thing. Those aspirations we see in writings, sometimes we see expressed in some of the more effective art that comes out of the culture, some of the lyrics in music can express those aspirations. I think finding those touch points in our engagement can help us in beginning to think about building bridges to why a Christian perspective on those hopes can help fill them out.
Dr. Kreider
I had one more thing there. Sometimes they're expressed clearly in a way in which we learn and sometimes the bridge that's built is already being built, and sometimes we don't have to be the people who lay the foundation and lay the bridge across. It's already there.
Dr. Bock
It's coming towards us.
Dr. Kreider
It's coming towards us. God actually is doing things in His world that we're often unaware of unless we listen and pay attention.
Dr. Svigal
Some of the sentiment of the email there is being exposed to various ideas especially here at seminary, right? We have students that come here from very narrow backgrounds and perspectives thinking that this is the only way. This it the only way to get to Wal-Mart and then you get here and you realize that, well, there are several other ways to get there that Mommy and Daddy didn't show me, or that there are just different opinions that maybe they're wrong, but they made me think about things differently. So that would be within the community discussions where we realize, look, we all share the same basic core doctrines of the faith, but we have differences on more peripheral matters.

That generates great discussion and growth opportunities even in understanding that core better and highlighting that core, but the question does end with what about those completely outside the faith, antagonistic to the faith, atheists are even mentioned, and the reality is though we assert that everything that the Bible affirms is true, not everything that's true is necessarily in the Bible. I tend to use the idea of dentistry. There are a lot of things that my dentist knows that are not in the Bible, but I'm not going to say "I need a Christian dentist because I want someone who practices Biblical dentistry" where they looked up all of the passages.
Dr. Bock
Proverbs 3-23 dentistry.
Dr. Svigal
Passages that have to do with mouth and teeth and tongue and they added them all up and came up with the principles of dentistry. I'm gonna run from that kind of person, right? But when it deals with dentistry I'm gonna go to that person. So there are realms of science, there are realms of history, of people who are completely outside the faith that do contribute to our understanding of things in general and then we come to Scripture and we can see that with new eyes and just look at life differently. So you can learn from various sources because truth comes to us from a variety of directions.
Dr. Bock
And that's why these conversations are important when we're going back to kind of where we started, which is when you talk about the use of the word "Biblical" and you're sitting there saying there actually is a conversation underneath that word that needs to take place. I actually think this is something that a lot of people in the church don't understand about seminaries and how they operate. How can you possibly be reading this person kind of is the question, or what's that book doing on the reading list for someone who we've sent to you, that kind of thing. Of course part of what you're dealing with is a world of ideas in which there are a variety of angles to think about and things to learn from, whether they're stated positively or even negatively in terms of how to interact with that.

I think sometimes there's an underlying fear element that's expressed in what's being raised in the email that I think we have to deal with. There's a very interesting passage in 1 Peter 3 in the very passage where it says "Be prepared to give a defense for the hope that is within you" and another part of it says "But do so with neatness and respect" as you're engaging. The larger frame around that passage is even more fascinating in some ways because the way into that passage is that the way we're supposed to react to a world that challenges us, and sometimes even treats us wrongly, is to not do so out of fear but to do so out of confidence, a confidence that our position and status in the Lord gives us the security that we need even to walk into a world that's hostile.

I think I look at the church today and the way it engages and I see a lot of engagement coming out of a fear, out of a sense of a loss of control, to which my reminder is you probably never had control of this to begin with, and I think that's an important factor in all of this as well. How do you engage faithfully and fearlessly if I can say it that way?
Dr. Kreider
Or maybe sometimes the line between fear and faith is a really fine one. So for example, reading recently Moses describes his leaving Egypt after committing murder as he was afraid. Hebrew says that he left in faith. So maybe the faith and fear are not mutually exclusive and maybe the goal is not that we would engage fearlessly but that we would engage faithfully, recognizing our fears but responding in spite of instead of out of fear.
Dr. Bock
Well there's a healthy fear if I can say it this way. There's a healthy fear and then there's a fear that can be debilitating. I think that what you're wrestling with here is a case in which – one line in that same passage, that 1 Peter 3 passage, it begins by saying "And if you do right, you have nothing to fear." And then the very next line says "But if you get punished for doing right", which means, well wait a minute, didn't you just say if I did what's right?

So you're actually diving into that passage in the midst of a tension of living in a fallen world and what a fallen world does. A fallen world isn't always just. Things don't always work out right. Sometimes the just are punished, and so how do you function well out of that? It seems to me your faith has to be regarded in God. You have to fear the right things to fear, the things that are destructive in your life, that can bring destruction to your life, but you also do so I think with an element of confidence that your security and identity are wrapped up in your faith and not in the circumstances in which you find yourself.
Dr. Svigal
Yeah and I would say fear too, you mentioned the paralyzing fear, which I would say is a fear that is not based on faith, but there's also the fear of the cornered animal that is the striking out in anger really mindlessly kind of attacks, and unfortunately you see both of these things in the ways Christians attempt to engage in culture. Both of them I would argue are faithless kind of fear, and so we have to have this clear confidence in the core, understand that some things are worth talking about, some things are worth fighting over. This is true, but if we are doing our work of discipleship and explaining to people what the central core identifying doctrines are of the faith and they have conviction of those things, I think that faith is gonna drive out that fear.
Dr. Kreider
And as a person who is dominated by fear, if I wait until I have no fear to do anything I accomplish nothing.
Dr. Bock
You're paralyzed.
Dr. Kreider
I'm paralyzed. Sitting here with lights and cameras, this absolutely terrifies me.
Dr. Bock
You love this.
Dr. Kreider
Yeah. This absolutely terrifies me, so if I wait until my fear is gone, we're never having this conversation.
Dr. Bock
Right. Btu the point is, there is a way of reacting out of fear that is completely destructive and I think some of what we see in the engagement of the church in our culture is coming out of this very uncomfortable fear place. It's trying to seize control because even though they say God is in control, they may not really believe it. Okay, we've got someone at the microphone here. We have a brave soul, so go for it.
Audience Member
I have a question. What are some practical ways that we can kind of define some of these terms with people? For example, I'm in a church that we recite a lot of confessions and creeds and we sing from a hymnal, and I just look at people next to me and I know they have no idea what we're really saying and what we're really talking about and there's a lot of great truth in this and there's so much context from church history, but I know especially when I sit next to maybe an international student there's so much great teaching here, but I know they don't understand the terms.

In my opinion if there's a big gap between orthodoxy and orthopraxy then we probably don't understand orthodoxy because it seems like that would be a natural overflow. So even when I talk to someone about sin or grace or something like that in our context, I don't think those terms are really well understood. So what are some ways that we can kind of bridge that gap and that misunderstanding?
Dr. Svigal
Let me say something here. It's not a surprise to many of my students that I really think we can begin to address some of these problems by restoring baptism to its original functioning place in the church, not just as an opportunity for sentimentalism but an actual profession of faith, which implies some sort of baptismal instruction so they know what Father, Son, and Holy Spirit really means. That implies some instruction, some discipleship beforehand, preparation before that, but also a pivotal moment in their Christian life where they are committing to a certain lifestyle. So you have orthodoxy and orthopraxy built into each other.

So anybody who would be a baptized believer would be coming at this with a basic fundamental understanding of the language, the confession, the narrative, where they fit in this, and what's expected of them. So I think really in reducing baptism merely to an opportunity to confess my faith in Jesus rather than embracing everything that it originally was meant to do has put us in that situation where we have people who believe in Jesus, but they don't really even know what that means. So restoring this to its place I think would at least give us an opportunity in our ecclesiology to address some of those problems.
Dr. Kreider
To say that another way, we have to teach. We have to instruct. We have to catechize. Whether that catechism is prior to baptism, it really is not the end then either, and I know you don't disagree. We need to actually teach, but I also think – I learned this from Rich Mullins – I also think sometimes merely the confession of the words actually has an effect upon us. So I'm in a church that we do the Apostle's Creed almost every week. I teach at Dallas Seminary and I read through the doctrinal statement regularly and I see stuff that I hadn't seen before that somehow the language as it continues to transform me, it continues to have its way, we actually do come to a better understanding that none of us ever do understand this perfectly and completely.

So bringing catechism and bringing orthopraxy and orthodoxy together teaching with – and teaching consistently, and by teaching I don't simply mean standing up and giving people information – that actually the creeds function in confessions as a teaching tool, as a way to help, and they also do, back to the earlier conversation, they remind us of the core and they also establish some of the boundaries. This is the way we talk about who we are in this community. These people in that community, they talk about it differently. We believe some of these things in common, but we express it in practice differently. So the really short answer, which is what I could've just said, the really short answer is we teach them.
Dr. Bock
I actually think where we start with the Gospel takes us a long or short way in terms of getting started, 'cause I think we tend to present the Gospel in a way that almost has the feeling of "I get saved by checking a box and I end up being delivered from a very warm place for a very long time." In fact what the Gospel is about is an entry into a new life. You do not get into the Kingdom of God unless you are born again, born anew, however you wanna think about that, and that newness of life is a completely new path and vista that you're now on, which then opens up all the content that we're talking about and if you set people off on that kind of a journey from the start by the way the Gospel is presented, it seems to me you put yourself in a better position to follow through on the other end. You're at the microphone, so go for it.
Audience Member
I guess my passion coming into DTS is we wanna know that we trust that it's a solid school, solid teaching, great on the core, but among our peers I know from years of ministry there seems to be individuals have, some have a smaller core and some have a larger core and that kind of bleeds over. And my question is, in a culture that's changing so much, my fear is that we become – and I don't wanna discredit the sovereignty of God. I understand that and not having a lack of faith, but the reality of what becomes that defining line because the fear of seeing something that's been so solid over the years become less and less solid on issues. Does that make sense? There's that defining line that I fear could go away if we continue in a way that just becomes open to all things in certain areas.

For an example, there may be the reality where one would say "Well we believe we could lose our salvation" and one would say "Well we're secure in our salvation for eternal security" etc. Where is that defining line that says well, if that person truly doesn't understand the Gospel and does not accept Jesus Christ by faith, then where do we draw that line? Because it is difficult when we deal with one another because we wanna love our brothers and sisters, but there is a passion and a desire to make sure that we do not fall on our convictions of these essentials that are being attacked by the outside so dramatically.
Dr. Bock
This is why I gave the illustration of the text critical problem, which obviously made such an impact that I've got to talk about it again, and part of the point of that illustration is to say there are certain things with which I hold with tenacity. They're at the core and they are Biblically clear, okay? Even though they're debated in some circles, they're clear. There are other things in which I recognize if I read this passage and made a different decision here, I would have a different understanding about how I put that together and I understand that's a part of this conversation. And when that is in play it seems to me, that helps you in that disagreement.

The people who say you can lose your salvation versus the people who say you're eternally secure have actually two sets of different concerns that they're pursuing when they answer that question that way in many ways. The person who is secure is probably resting in understanding of God's sovereignty and involvement in the discussion that takes you in one direction. The person who says you can lose your salvation may well have gone through or be sensitive to experiences of people who on the surface look very much like they were in but completely turned away at one point or another and they're trying to explain that theologically, that kind of thing.

So the point of the complexity of the answer is that part of being a master of theology if I can put it in degree terms is actually appreciating not just what you believe but the nature of the conversation that you have as you believe it. That's what an education is about, and so to me that's not a watering down, that's actually a creating of a depth that allows you to negotiate the space of these differences without moving into a place where you just get emotional and react. You actually have some substance to work with.
Dr. Kreider
And that specific example fits into what we've been talking about that our doctrinal statement takes a position on eternal security, but eternal security is not one of the seven core doctrines so that represented in our student body are those who take it one way and others take it another way. We have the opportunity here to actually talk to one another and wrestle together with the Scriptures on those very questions, but that's in the second circle. I'm not sure about that.
Dr. Svigal
Yeah I mean it's a great example because if a person told me that, well, they believe they can lose their salvation, I might be concerned because there's a spectrum of reasons why they think they can lose their salvation. If they think they can lose their salvation because really they have this free will and this ability and this un-fallen nature that allows them to choose or not to choose and it's all up to them, well I would say they have a very poor understanding of sin and its effects and the price that Christ paid and all of that.
Dr. Bock
And a little problem in theology proper as well.
Dr. Svigal
In other words, right, it's connecting with things in the core that are far more fundamental and that's an effect, or if they believe they can lose their salvation because they're classic Armenians and believe in prevenient grace and God has restored some free will and there's relative security in that but not complete security, I would be a little less concerned. That's clearly not my view, but – so we have to understand again going back to the centered sect.
Dr. Bock
That's our A, B, C, D thing.
Dr. Svigal
Yes, this idea that there are positions within a position and nuances within a theology.
Dr. Bock
Okay, I think we've got time for one more question. We've got two people at the mics. Okay, go for it.
Audience Member
Because my understanding is historically to be a heretic you had to not just believe heresy but also persist in it after formal correction. Because it's difficult to talk confessionally about the one Christian Church anymore, does the term "heretic" have any contemporary application or is it a term we have to kind of put to the wayside because of the state of the church?
Dr. Svigal
That is a great question and I define – I should remember this, but willingly, knowingly, and stubbornly holding to doctrines contrary to the classic orthodox faith, this core the faith wants for all delivered to the saints, the Trinitarian Christological Gospel narrative. So if a person comes to me and says they deny the deity of Christ, they believe He's just a man, and calls himself a Christian, "Yeah I go to church, I believe in Jesus, but I don't think he's God" I have no problem saying that's heresy. Now I might – hear how I said that, "That's heresy." Now if I correct that person and say "Yeah, but the Bible says this and don't you believe that?" And eventually they kind of turn from that. Then I would say that's not a heretic.

So I tend to have some hope for people and maybe a bad instruction, but if they persist on it and fight with me over Bible versus I have no problem saying that person is a heretic. If he doesn't claim to be a Christian, remember you can only be a heretic if you claim to be a Christian. Otherwise this is an infidel or an unbeliever or something like that. That's a different category. Yeah I don't have a problem doing that, but I reserve that word for a very, very specific kind of case.
Dr. Kreider
And I think one of the reasons why the term ceases to have the kind of impact it had in the past is because we use it flippantly and we use it as a joke. It's just simply not funny to use that term to call a brother or sister in Christ, to basically say to that person, "Go to hell."
Dr. Svigal
That's how we understand. Heresy is damnable doctrine and someone who embraces it is we would say damned. That's how that word originally is meant to be used.
Dr. Kreider
So let's fight for the proper use of that term and to save it for – I mean again -
Dr. Svigal
If everybody is a heretic, nobody is a heretic.
Dr. Kreider
And to reiterate his point, there's a difference between heresy and a heretic. We've got to be really careful about applying the designation to a person. The view is fine.
Dr. Bock
Well, how was that for starters? I'm hopeful that you found the conversation worth reflecting on 'cause I think the way we use our language, the way we talk in theological controversy is actually very important. In some cases it's as important as the content discussion that we're having, and sometimes we don't give it enough attention and we aren't sensitive enough about how we actually engage these topics in the way we interact and disagree with one another.

Let me close this in a word of prayer. Father, we do thank You for just the opportunity we have to be in a place where we can gather together as believers and reflect on what it is that You have done for us, not just the teaching of Your Word, but the presence of Your spirit, the immersion that we have in Your grace, the presence that we have in Your creation. You surround us with goodness and we rejoice in that. May we take what we have reflected on today and use it in a way so that when we teach or preach or live that we do so in ways that are honoring to You and that represent in a helpful way the Gospel to a world that certainly needs to hear good news. We ask these things in Jesus name. Amen.

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