Monday, September 7, 2009

Presuppositions and Central Dogma

It has been a while since I last posted, so here's a little to try to get the ball rolling on this blog:

. Do one’s presuppositions dictate whether he or she will side with a complimentary or contradictory reading of Luke’s account of Paul’s ministry? Is necessary, or helpful, to determine the center of Paul’s theology? These are the questions I am wrestling with in this entry.
In seeking to understand the correlation between Paul’s letters and Luke’s account in the book of Acts, I observed from the lecture on Monday that one’s presuppositions play a great deal of importance on whether one will take a negative or a positive approach. On the one hand, the German higher critical school of thought or any theological liberals assume that the Bible is filled with errors and myths; therefore, a person who is trained under such thinking will also assume that Paul’s letters and Luke’s narrative are necessarily contradictory. On the other hand, there are those who are Orthodox theologically, they believe in the inerrancy of the Bible because it is divine revelation. It seems as though the validity of Acts (of course, in a subjective manner) would be determined by one’s theological assumption. Presuppositions are essentially the starting place in any theological discussions, we all have them, but we must put them to the test with exegesis, history, logic, etc. In doing so, we can be honest with ourselves as well as the people around us.
The quest for the center of Paul’s theology is an interesting proposition posed by “Rediscovering Paul” on pages 266-272. Finding the center of Paul’s theology is an eighteenth century concoction that has prevailed into our own day. Can there really be a principal that is “the starting point, the conceptual ‘place’ from which his theologizing emerges” and “that which explains, supports and holds together everything else?” (p. 267). The authors answer yes; they conclude that the center of Paul’s theology is what Richard Bauckham refers to as “christological monotheism,” which means that “Paul’s Christology expresses his commitment to the identity and uniqueness of Israel’s one God” (p. 271). Admittedly, I find their conclusion quite compelling, but on the whole unhelpful. As J.V. Fesko correctly points out, “In the attempt to identify the one central doctrine, one inevitably produces conflict with the rest of Paul’s doctrines” (Justification, p. 75). I prefer rather to look at aspects of systematic theology, or Paul’s theology in this case, as pertaining to the whole. Yes, there are indeed central themes that are stressed above others but they are all part of the same body.