Excerpts from Categories of truth vs. categories of exegetical certainty by A. Philip Brown
"Dr. David Innes of Hamilton Square Baptist Church, San Francisco, CA, has done more than anyone I know to provide a practical framework for determining legitimate applications of the doctrine of separation...The two primary strengths in Dr. Innes' chart I see are, first, he clearly recognizes that not all doctrine is equally important or grounds for separation...Second, Dr. Innes recognizes the importance of integrating doctrinal distinctions into his application of the doctrine of separation...The first problem I see with this chart is that it confuses or mixes categories of truth with categories of interpretive certainty (cols. 1-3) and personal preference (col. 4). There is no category of truth that is "not important" (col. 3) or "absolutely immaterial" (col. 4)
"A Revised Chart: Categories of Interpretive Certainty
"I have attempted to address some of the weaknesses of Dr. Innes's chart in Appendix B. Rather than distinguishing categories of truth, I believe we need to distinguish categories of exegetical certainty regarding our understanding or interpretation of biblically revealed truth.
"Category 1: The Fundamentals of Faith and Practice
"Operating within that sort of a hermeneutical framework, we still need some criterion for distinguishing categories of interpretive certainty. Historically that criterion has been consensus. With regard to Category 1, these are matters which historical investigation demonstrates have been the consensual interpretive conclusions of the Christian Church. By "consensual" conclusions I am not appealing directly to the Vincentian formula--what has everywhere, always, and by all been believed (quod ubique, quod semper, quod ab omnibus creditum est)--since it seems, without careful definition, to lead to a reductionistic rather than a truly catholic faith. Instead, I am thinking of the implications of the church being the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).
"Categories 2-4: The Adiaphora that Divide
"To Category 2 belong those doctrines which are the stuff of systematic theology and the practices that derived from our conclusions regarding lifestyle issues. I would place much of the debate over how the Old and New Covenants relate (classic dispensationalism, progressive dispensationalism, covenantal approaches, theonomic approaches) in Category 2 Principles. Many of the life-related conclusions that flow from the previously entioned systems belong to Category 2 Practices. For example, though I am a strongly committed sabbatarian (Lord's Day transition included), I regard this as a Category 2 issue.
"Admittedly many interpretations are inferential in nature; therefore, the distinction between Categories 2 and 3 is not as clear as between Categories 1 and 2-4. However, practically we all know that theological consensus does not equal affiliational consensus. There are as many stripes of Arminians as there are stripes of Calvinists or Lutherans.
"I can't escape the irony that despite our united allegiance to the fundamentals, the non-fundamentals often loom larger in our considerations of Christian fellowship and unity than do the essentials. Frankly, I rejoice in the spiritual edification and theological cross-pollination that gatherings such as this provide. No, I don't long for a nondenominational ecumenicity even based on the fundamentals. But I do long, especially along the boundaries that divide our respective theological and affiliational communities, for greater willingness to listen to one another and learn from each others strengths."
The entire article made be read at Sharper Iron here and here.