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Monday, October 23, 2006

F&WOG--Genuine Unity

Typically, I do a book review after I have read an entire book. However, I do not seem able to restrain myself until after I complete this book. So, rather than the typical review (which may still happen), I've decided to provide excerpts from the book. The book is Fundamentalism and the Word of God by JI Packer.
We agree that no single human formulation of God's truth can be final or exhaustive; we agree that it will take the combined insight of the whole Church to grasp the whole truth of God, and that all groups within Christendom have much to learn from each other; we know that weare all prone to misunderstand the views of others, and to do so in an unfavorable sense; we recognize that there is at least a grain of truth in every heresy, and that views which are partly wrong are also partly right. It is indeed important in theological discussion to bear these things in mind. But it is even more important to remember that the essential step in sound theologizing is to bring all views--one's own as well as those of others--to the touchstone of Scripture. This is a step which much ecumenical theology seems to overlook. It tells us that older theology was woefully one-sided in its habit of treating opposing views simplyy as forms of error; but it is itself no less one-sided in its own habit of treating them simply as aspects of truth. Indeed, the last state is worse than the first; for the older theology, whatever its faults, was at least vividly conscious of the difference between truth and error, whereas the modern dtermination of judge the doctrinal disputes of Christendom as the Dodo judged the caucus-race ('Everybody has won, and all must have prizes') seems to show a degree of theological agnosticism and indifference to truth which is, to say the least, disturbing. The truth is that it is not enough to labour at assimilating various views to each other. Such labour may serve to promote better mutual understanding; but we are not entitled to infer from the fact that a group of people are drawing nearer to each other that any of them is drawing nearer to truth. Our first task must be to test all the words of men by the authoritative Word of God, to receive only what Scripture endorses, and to reject all that is contrary to it.The essence of right thological method is thus reformation rather than conglomeration. For we may not assume in advance that all views are simply aspects of truth. Some of our fancied insights and charished taditions may prove to be radical perversions of truth when tested by Scripture. We must take seriously what the Bible says about the reality of error in the Church (Matt 7:15; 1 Tim 4:1; 1 John 4:1). So, when the Evangelical is assured by his critics that they do in fact approve of most of what he says and does, and is asked on that account to come and join them in further ecumencial enterprise, he declines. He thinks that the differences are being minimized and that the unity to which he is invited would prove a hollow pretense. Instead, the Evangelical asks his critics to come and join him in submitting the methods and condlusionsof their respective theologies to the judgment of the written Word of God.
It is hard to believe that such a quote was written in response to the culture of 1958. What was true of Packer's observations then is certainly much more true today. A man should not be counted as divisive when he strives to know whether a person really deems the Word of God as authoritative, for it is the man that does not see it as authoritative who has drifted, not the first.

To acheive unity, we must be united around the Word of God. Anything else is just silly lipservice.


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