Consensus Theology Taints Biblical Theology -- By: Stephen R. Lewis

Journal: Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Volume: JOTGES 23:45 (Autumn 2010)
Article: Consensus Theology Taints Biblical Theology
Author: Stephen R. Lewis


Consensus Theology Taints Biblical Theology

Stephen R. Lewis

President: Rocky Mountain Bible College and Seminary, Denver, CO

I. Introduction

It is rare to find a student of the Bible who is willing to stick to the text and allow the Scriptures to speak for themselves without allowing the murky waters of tradition or consensus to cloud the true meaning of the passage in question.

II. The Consensus Model Shapes Theology And Exegesis

Many today would listen to the text of Scripture through the history of exegesis and track its interpretation first back through the consensus of the magisterial Reformation tradition, then compare that to the Fathers and then finally back to text in the NT itself, letting its relevance for today speak for itself. Virgil Vaduva (adapting a statement from Michael Crichton’s 2003 lecture at California Institute of Technology) sounds a strong warning concerning the consensus approach:

I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus theology. I regard consensus theology as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way

to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear that the consensus of theologians agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

Let’s be clear: the work of theology has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Theology, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In theology consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest theologians in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus theology. If it’s consensus, it isn’t theology. If it’s theology, it isn’t consensus. Period.1

“Consensus theology…ought to be stopped cold in its tracks.” “The work of theology has nothing to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics.” Those words run counter to Evangelical thought today. Vaduva’s suggestion that “Theology…requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable” is so far outside mainstream thought as to be immediately rejected by most theologians. Most believe that if a view is corre...

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