Saturday, March 14, 2009

Barber on theological triage

In the past I have blogged on Theological triage -- good or bad idea? and Categories of truth (see links below). The entire post below the links are comments by Bart Barber, which gives some of his interesting thoughts on the subject.

Theological triage -- good or bad idea?
Categories of truth

You cannot perform theological triage on the lordship of Jesus Christ without severing His will into pieces and picking and choosing what you want to do. You will find out what he says and you will do it all because you know your life is totally dependent on Him.

New Testament Christianity has no secondary doctrines when it comes to the lordship of Jesus Christ. That's why I say Baptism is not secondary nor is it tertiary. It is essential.
Founder's Blog

I acknowledge the value of "theological triage" in (a) as an imperfect metaphor, (b) to be used in an external sense, (c) regarding the relative severity of the effects of disobedience in any particular area of what Christ has commanded.

The metaphor is humanly devised and therefore imperfect. The strength of the metaphor, I think, is that "triage" as a medical procedure is employed only in a crisis situation when one cannot possibly treat everything. The desire of the medical staff, however, is to treat every injury and remedy every illness.

Should one, however, take triage to mean some strange state of denial in which one dismisses certain legitimate injuries as non-injurious and unworthy of available treatment, then we've moved from triage to something far less reasonable.

It is plainly obvious that everyone on the Baptist Identity side is not only willing to do something akin to "theological triage" but is constantly engaged in the actual practice. Here's the proof: They all regard Mormons as heretics and Presbyterians as genuine Christians in unrepentant sin and error. You may disagree with the classifications, but you cannot say that they are the same thing, nor can you deny that we make the distinction.

Your statement, then, that BI people have rejected theological triage is therefore an empty one.

You can easily demonstrate that some folks in the Baptist movement have objected to the way that some people have tried to APPLY a concept of theological triage. For example, Wade Burleson's and Morris Chapman's (see his speech in San Antonio) application of the concept has been to deny the appropriateness of separating over "secondary" or tier-two doctrines. This is not Mohler's schema, and he explicitly said so in San Antonio. So, for those who use "theological triage" to eliminate tier two and have only the first and third tiers, yes, the Baptist movement rejects that approach.

Also, because the concept of "theological triage" is human and not divine in origin, somebody needs to counter-balance the idea of triage by reminding us that Jesus expects us to obey all of His commandments.

To employ another imperfect analogy, consider the task of parenting. I expect my children to obey everything that I command them to do. If, by practicing "triage," they should be referring to a process by which they will determine when to obey me and when not to bother, then it is disobedience even to embark upon such an enterprise.

However, this does not mean that I regard all of my commands as equally important. "Clean up your room" and "Don't play in the street" are two commands with vastly different levels of importance to me. Part of their maturing as human beings, and therefore part of my goal as their parent, is for them to learn that the consequences of playing in the street can be far more severe than the consequences of failing to keep their room clean.

And in this second sense, we can see that there is no "internal" validity to playing "triage" but there is some "external" validity to it. Internally, my children are to do no triage at all; they are to do what I tell them to do -- everything that I tell them to do. Externally, if my son sees his sister playing in the street and I'm not around, he has permission to grab her, push her, pull her by her hair, hit her, kick her, punch her, do almost anything to get her out of the street when a car is coming. If, on the other hand, he punches her in the face for her failure to pick up her toys, then he's going to be in trouble. On the other hand, he has my blessing to tell Sarah that she's sinning by refusing to clean up her room and to do whatever he might to persuade her (rather than force her) to be obedient.

I think that this analogy applies quite well to explain my attitude toward "theological triage."
-- By Bart Barber, First Baptist Church, Farmersville, TX

No comments: