This is taken from Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. It’s a prolegomena to apologetics.
- There are many possible ways to refer to the world by means of language.
Languages differ from one another not only by using different words to refer to the same thing, but also in the things the language is supposed to distinguish. No language is able to capture all the nuances of a said definiens. Furthermore, language uses symbols. Different languages use different symbols. However, different languages can describe the same reality.
- Is it always legitimate to demand a definition?
It is not always necessary to demand a definition. There is always a necessary vagueness to language. While at the outset it may seem to give greater precision, it alwasy assumes that the more precise and technical a term is, the more clarity it gains. However, it is quite the opposite. For instance, if one were to define Augustine’s view of time, most would not understand and the definition itself would be used in a non-ordinary way. Similarly, discussing “time” without defining it does allow for communication of the term.
- Is Scripture ever vague?
If language is vague–as I believe can be at times–and Scripture is communicated via language, then Scripture itself is not exempt from vagueness. Scripture is vague at times, and helpfully so, if its primary purpose from God is not always to communicate necessary precision, but to communicate truth as God intends it. This allows for imprecise quotations, rounded numbers, varied (though not contradictory) accounts without compromising its integrity. How so? This can be maintained if we allow Scripture to set its own standards of historiography and lexicography.
- Discuss the values, limitations, of the use of technical terms.
Technical terms, while not often biblical in origin, are useful and even necessary to the task of theology. If theology is the reflection upon and the application of God’s word to contemporary issues, then it must at times use non-biblical (but not un-biblical) language. The task of theology recognizes the at-times vagueness of Scripture and the necessity of technical terms to apply the vague areas of Scripture to concrete situations. However, technical terminology is not without its limits. A technical term by definition limits full biblical expression of the term (i.e.,regeneration). The danger then happens when the theologian uses one term as a b lanket statement for all of the scriptural usages. In other words, theologians are often faced with the danger of pulling terms out of the biblical context.
- Never use technical terms from non-Christian histories.
If this is the case, then we will not be able to use much terminology at all. Propositions are not to be judged faulty by the words they use, but on what are they are saying.
- Don’t confuse technical definitions with biblical usages. Describe the danger here.
Technical definitions are useful due the degree that they are precise in scope. Their greatest strength is their greatest weakness–precision. Technical terminology limits the use of a biblical expression or term and applies it, hopefully, within a proper context with a view towards application. The danger comes when assuming that because term x means y in this situation, it must always mean x.
- There is no one right set of technical definitions? Why? Evaluate.
Given that biblical terminology is often richer than technical terminology, it follows that no one theologian or theological school can exhaust a doctrine in one formulation. No theological system is free from the necessity of making qualifications.
- Some technical definitions can actually mislead us. For example, if one uses enlightenment, rationalistic terminology and applies it to the supernatural, then the Christian Theologian is immediately pressed to defend his faith using the opposition’s weapons. He is, in effect, fighting a losing battle from the start. Given the insights stated above, he must allow the Bible to be its own standard (this would require its own prolegomena) and define its own terms.
- Describe and discuss the liberal distortion of Scripture through an illegitimate development of technical terminology. Liberal theology takes biblical terminology out of its context and then imports
humanistic, romantic, or existentialist meaning upon the terms. Liberals take the concept of God’s love, strip it of its transcendence, and place it into metaphysical categories. Socialistic Christians (liberation theologians) take Christ’s concern for the poor and despised and draw the illogical conclusion that Christ primarily came for the socially outcast and was at war with those who were not themselves socially outcast. Barth saw divine transcendence as God’s own freedom divorced from the restraints God places upon himself.
- Discuss the danger of trying too hard to eliminate vagueness from theology.
Simply put, aiming for maximum precision at all times leads one to be more precise than God himself! Theologians must come to grips that God did not clearly outline many issues in His word: Supralapsarianism/infralapsarianism, traducianism, etc. An attempt to eliminate vagueness in theology leads