The Nature Of Truth: Postmodern Or Propositional? -- By: Robert L. Thomas

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 18:1 (Spring 2007)
Article: The Nature Of Truth: Postmodern Or Propositional?
Author: Robert L. Thomas


The Nature Of Truth: Postmodern Or Propositional?

Robert L. Thomas

Professor of New Testament

Ernest R. Sandeen laid a foundation for a contemporary concept of truth that was unique among evangelicals with a high view of Scripture. He proposed that the concept of inerrancy based on a literal method of interpretation was late in coming during the Christian era, having its beginning among the Princeton theologians of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. He ruled out their doctrines related to inspiration because they were based on rational thinking which he taught was absent from earlier Christian thought. Subsequent evaluations of Sandeen’s work have disproved his assumption that those doctrines were absent from Christianity prior to the Princeton era. Yet well-known Christian writers have since built on Sandeen’s foundation that excludes rationality and precision from an interpretation of Scripture. The Sandeenists criticize the Princetonians for overreacting in their response to modernism, for their use of literal principles of interpretation, for defining propositional truth derived from the Bible, and for excluding the Holy Spirit’s help in interpretation. All such criticisms have proven to be without foundation. The Princetonians were not without fault, but their utilization of common sense in biblical interpretation was their strong virtue. Unfortunately, even the Journal of the inerrantist Evangelical Theological Society has promoted some of the same errors as Sandeen. The divine element in inspiration is a guarantee of the rationality and precision of Scripture, because God, the ultimate author of Scripture, is quite rational and precise, as proven by Scripture itself.

* * * * *

Several words related to an evangelical quest for truth have gained a negative connotation. Among them are the two words “rationality” and “precision.”

Since I used both words in a positive way in a recent article,1 I was compelled to search for the source of this negativity. My probing took me into the clash between a group I will call the Sandeenists on one side and the defenders of the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Princeton theologians on the other. In the former case, truth is ill-defined, in step with the postmodern tempo of today; in the latter, the truth is propositional and stable.

Foundation for a Contemporary Concept Laid by by Ernest R. Sandeen

Ernest R. Sandeen Himself

The campaign endorsed by a number of evangelicals bears a remarkable similarity to one initiated by E. R. Sandeen three or four decades ago. Why such a battle continues t...

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