Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Myth of the Theological 'Alone'

It happened in the context of an argument. It often does for me, so I'm used to it. A group of people who all disagree when I bring forward an alternative view that I'd been brewing, and yet I didn't think they needed to. My alternative view didn't rule out anything they said, though they treated it that way. I was merely emphasizing something that I thought had been neglected. So I've been pondering how things like that happen. It came to me that Martin Luther might have started it. Since his 'Justification by Faith Alone' it's possible that the use of the word 'Alone' has been an expected feature of all theological debate. It speaks of entrenchment. It speaks of either-or, it rules out both-and.

Look at Luther's cockeyed down-rating of the book of James -- a mere straw epistle he called it. James, that wonderfully practical view of the Faith, mere straw? And why? because Luther could not reconcile James' emphasis with his own now entrenched position. Yes, I know he got to this position through divine revelation. I don't even doubt it. But it seems to me that revelational experience is a double edged sword in theological pursuits. We need fresh ideas and paradigms and that's one edge, but defending your private revelation is apt to entrench you in your own ideas and not allow for balancing views. 

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