God, Revelation & Authority Vol. 1, Chapter 14, 4/5

Posted: February 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

Carl F.H. Henry’s thesis is as follows:

Divine revelation is the source of all truth, the truth of Christianity included; reason is the instrument for recognizing it; Scripture is its verifying principle; logical consistency is a negative test for truth and coherence a subordinate test. The task of Christian theology is to exhibit the content of biblical revelation as an orderly whole.

 Henry unpacks his thesis in six subsections.  We have covered the first four and now we hit number five,  “The proper task of theology is to exposit and elucidate the content of Scripture in an orderly way.”  Henry goes on to write, “Christian theology is the systematization of the truth-content explicit and implicit in the inspired writings. It consists essentially in the repetition, combination, and systematization of the truth of revelation in its propositionally given biblical form. The province of theology is to concentrate on the intelligible content and logical relationships of this scripturally given revelation, and to present its teaching as a comprehensive whole.

There is an obvious objection to Henry’s argument–the Bible itself is largely narrative, so why would God inspire an unsystematic text if He desired it to be systematized and proclaimed by imperfect beings?

Henry responds, “On first hearing, the term axiomatization might seem to imply a geometricizing of theology, or transmuting the truth of Christianity into something akin to Spinozistic rationalism. But axiomatization is simply the best means of demonstrating the logical consistency of a given system of thought, and showing that all logically dependent theorems flow from the basic axioms. If God is himself the Truth and the origin and substance of all truth is to be found in him, if revelation is its source and truth is a unity as Christianity contends, then such axiomatization would be the model way to overcome the notion that Christianity is deduced from first principles held in common with other religions or world views; it would also avoid an inconsistent adoption or unwitting espousal of alien beliefs.”

In other words, if the Bible presents truth, whether in narrative form or not, then said truth must lend itself to systematized propositions in order to compare it with competing truth claims.  All human beings have, whether pre-modern, modern or post-modern approached truth claims systematically. 

Henry admits that the faith has not been wholly systematized to the satisfaction of all yet but no discipline has reached such a lofty perch. The quest for a perfect system continues for, as Henry writes, “It is the duty of theology to criticize and to revise the church’s own statements about God and his will in the light of Scripture, and to promote faithful pulpit proclamation of the truth of revelation.”

Tomorrow, we will finish this important chapter.  

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