On Dogmatic Virtue

KHALED (Posted by) Level 3
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Much of the current scholarship on theological method concerns itself with prolegomena and/or with practical matters like steps, tasks, and tools. This is right and good – dogmatic inquiry requires right philosophical and theological foundations and right practice. And yet, there seems to me to be a vital aspect of theological method that is underappreciated and rarely discussed, namely the need for virtuous theologians.

Over the last few weeks I’ve reflected disparately on some of what I’ll call dogmatic virtues; here I want to tie those threads together and try to paint a picture of what a virtuous dogmatician might look like. I do not intend this list or the explication of individual components to be exhaustive, but preliminary. I want to begin to make the case here that dogmatic inquiry ought to exhibit (at least) the virtues of charity, justice, and wisdom.

Love - Things - Disagreements - Theologians - Clarity

Love bears all things, including disagreements with other theologians. Dogmatic clarity is important, but so is dogmatic charity (and her sister, dogmatic humility). I think we in American evangelicalism could do with a few reminders when we encounter beliefs with which we disagree.

We are finite. Each of us who is not God is a creature, and as such we are finite in our physical and mental capacities. To say it like Paul in 1 Cor. 13:12, we can only see now in a mirror dimly, and that limited sight includes limitations regarding our abilities to formulate and assess doctrine. To be sure, we are called to guard the good deposit and pass on sound doctrine, but we need to recognize that one of the reasons the Reformers acknowledged sola Scriptura and cried semper reformanda is because they knew that each person is a creature. We need the Word of God to continually teach us because we are creatures who...
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