A Brief Outline of Christian Orthodoxy

“An important function of theology is to keep religion tied to reason and reason to religion. Both roles are of essential importance for humanity.”
Pope Benedict XVI

This post is a old ambitious project of mine. The effort is to outline a streamlined set of tenets for Christian orthodoxy. While most of my work on this blog and elsewhere is geared towards “defense” (apologetics/case-making), this article is instead an exercise in dogmatic theology. I’m not here defending these tenets, I’m merely stating them. This effort is ambitious because it toes the line between Arminian and Calvinist theology, old earth and young earth creationism, and probably a few other controversies. While these points are intended to be ecumenical, it lacks Catholic, Anglican, and Eastern Orthodox distinctives, quite likely reflecting my own protestant heritage more than I intend too. Nevertheless, I put this short list forward for your consideration and invite your feedback in the comments below. Whether you agree or disagree, please keep your comments civil and constructive, as all discussion on this post is reviewed for suitability. I do not ask you to agree with me, but only that you think.

A. Prolegomena
(The Prior Matters for Doing Theology)

  1. The first-principles of logic including the laws of identity (A=A), excluded middle (A or non-A), non-contradiction (A is not non-A), and inference (A implies A) are true and serve in discovering truth.
  2. Truth is correspondence to reality.
  3. There exists a knowable extra-mental reality, which at minimum, includes the physical world, the cosmos, and other people.
  4. There exists a knowable mental reality, including immaterial capacities, activities, states, and abstractions.
  5. Objective knowledge is possible.
  6. Objective, meaningful, interpersonal language is possible.
  7. Objective, meaningful, interpersonal communication is possible.
  8. The notion of “God” can be truthfully and knowingly apprehended
  9. Theological claims (i.e., talk about God) can be meaningful, truthful, and understandable.
  10. Miracles are possible.
  11. It is possible for God to reveal Himself to men whether through special or natural revelation.
  12. Rational theological inferences are possible.
  13. A historical literary-grammatical interpretation is possible and recommended—though not required—for discerning objective meaning in written texts.

B. Theology Proper
(Theology of God)

  1. God exists.
  2. God is that which none-greater can be conceived. He is a monotheistic trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each having distinct personhood, yet together and individually the one God.
  3. God the Father is the first person of the Trinity.
  4. God is omnipotent (able to do all that is logically possible), omniscient (able to know all reality, past present and future), omnipresent (present to all of reality past, present and future), omnibenevolent (wholly good in being, act, and intention), omnisapient (all-wise), immutable (changeless), impassible (without human emotion/suffering), perfect (complete and having no lack), infinite (without limit), timelessly eternal, both immanent and transcendent, sovereign, holy, righteous, independent, just yet gracious and merciful, jealous yet loving.
  5. All things work together for the Glory of God who is the ultimate creator, sustainer, director, and Lord of all, Sola Deo Gloria.

C. Christology
(Theology of Christ)

  1. Jesus Christ is the son of God, fully God and fully man, coexistent and coeternal with the Father, who lived and died a substitutionary atoning death for man’s sin and rose on the third day having a glorified immortal body thus reassuring the future hope for those who believe, and He reigns forever, still embodied, at the right hand of the father, as the sole priest and intermediary between God and man
  2. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity.
  3. Jesus was virgin born.
  4. He has both a divine nature and will as well as a human nature and will, yet he is one person.
  5. In His earthly ministry he was a prophet, teacher and miracle worker who fulfilled the prophecies for the Messiah.

D. Pneumatology
(Theology of the Holy Spirit)

  1. The Holy Spirit is fully divine, personal, operating in the Old Testament era, the New Testament era, and through to modern times.
  2. The Holy spirit is the third person of the Trinity
  3. The Holy Spirit “fills” and “gifts” individuals for Christian service, meaning, they are empowered as servants, indirectly or directly, of the Gospel (i,e., the Holy Spirit can inspire basketweaving to God’s glory just as much as He can inspire evangelizing third-world countries).
  4. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate teacher on earth, guiding us in truth, and testifying to the life and teachings of Christ.

E. Protology
(Theology of Origins)

  1. God who in his timeless self-sufficiency is without beginning, miraculously created the cosmos from literally nothing, ex nihilo.
  2. This creation occurred in six literal time periods as described in Genesis 1 culminating on the sixth day (“yom”) when man is directly formed by God from the ground and made alive by a miraculous divine act.
  3. Angels, fallen and unfallen, are likewise created beings yet neither gods nor men.
  4. Everything but God is created by God, sustained by God, designed to broadly flourish and to ultimately glorify God.

F. Bibliology
(Theology of Scripture)

  1. The Bible is God’s word, manifesting both verbal and plenary inspiration, infallible in all that it teaches and implies, without error in whole or in part, in its original autographs, and is the foremost authority for all faith and practice.
  2. God has revealed himself in the book of Scripture and in the Book of nature.
  3. The Bible is the 66 book canon, Genesis through Revelation, excluding Apocrypha.

G. Anthropology & Hamartiology
(Theology of Man and of Sin)

  1. Humanity, both male and female, is made in the image of God (imago dei) with intellectual, moral, and physical capacities whereby he/she is a delegate authority of God to rule and care for the earth, interrelate with fellow humanity, and return worship and glory to God.
  2. Adam and Eve were literal people who literally sinned and brought literal cursing on humanity (ie: The Fall) whereby the felt consequences of sin, including mortal death, earthly strife and suffering, and eternal death, were introduced to all humanity thereafter.
  3. Man is born with a sin nature such that man is inclined to sin, cursed with the consequences of sin (ie: the fallenness of the world) and, given time and opportunity, every human but Jesus will eventually sin of their own will and intent.
  4. Man has sufficient will power to be morally responsible for his sin.
  5. Man is body (material part) and soul (immaterial part), and is morally responsible for both aspects.
  6. God created both the male and female gender with gender-specific privileges and responsibilities as expressed in Scripture, which are pertinent to family, church, and society.
  7. God created traditional marriage, as one man and one woman for life, as a special institution for the establishment of family, the fruition of the church, advancement of society, and the flourishing of humanity.
  8. Family is a divinely ordained institution, blessed by God, whereby traditional marriage is normative, children are a blessing, and church and societal involvement are critically important for three-way mutual benefit (ie: to the benefit of family, church, and society).

H. Soteriology
(Theology of Salvation)

  1. Salvation is by God’s grace alone, Sola Gracia, through faith alone, Sola Fide, in Jesus Christ alone, Sola Christus, for the ultimate glory of God alone, Sola Deo Gloria.
  2. Faith in Christ is at once a personal willful trust in Jesus Christ as savior and an intentional belief that Jesus is Lord, that is, belief that He is the God-man who died on the cross to pay for sin, so that all who believe in him can, do, and will share in his victory over death and escape from the damnation sin deserves.
  3. Faith is a gift of God, is not a work, and is a condition of salvation.
  4. This faith naturally and normally produces the evidence of good works and public confession.
  5. This salvation is effective by way of Christ’s substitutionary atonement on the cross, whereby He who is perfect paid the punishment for sin that all humanity deserve (at least from the “age of accountability” onward).
  6. Full immersion baptism is the biblically normal ordinance for the public expression of one’s saving faith, though the act itself is unnecessary for salvation. It represents in three ways, 1) the cleansing of sin, 2) the spiritual resurrection of each new believer, and 3) the eventual literal and bodily resurrection of each believer in the last day, the last of these as exemplified first in the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus.

I. Ecclesiology
(Theology of the Church)

  1. The church is divinely ordained as God’s instrument of fellowship, worship, discipleship, evangelism, and ministry on earth at least until Christ’s return.
  2. The visible church is the manifest collection of believers in local congregations with some non-believers typically accompanying them. The invisible or universal church is all believers worldwide.
  3. All Christians are priests serving under the lone high priest, Christ Jesus, the direct mediator between God and man who thus allows every believer, in prayer and worship, direct access to God in Christ and to Father God through Christ.

J. Eschatology
(Theology of End Times)

  1. Humans have only one mortal life to live then the judgment.
  2. All people everywhere, over all time, will be literally bodily resurrected unto a full and final judgment
  3. Heaven is a literal place of eternal conscious bliss in fellowship with God.
  4. Hell is a literal place of eternal conscious torment in permanent disfellowship from God, originally intended for Satan and the demons.
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