Saturday, April 12, 2008

More On Concept Categories

John Piper didn't go into this in his article, but I had a couple of additional thoughts about concept categories after I had written on this last night.

First, some Christians don't have a grasp on all the concept categories. It's a refining process and more in line with sanctification than justification as our minds are ever more subject to Christ.

Second, there are concept categories that are either useless or downright false. False categories abound. Name a false dichotomy such as "science versus faith" and you have a clear example of one that needs dispelled.

But useless concept categories intrigue me, because understanding them leads to useful concept categories. I'll give two examples: relativism and theological tension.

One would think that relativism is a false concept category, but the core of the relativistic worldview is a misunderstanding of the nature of truth rather than an overt departure from it. That's why relativists can be so blind to their own lack of logic in thinking that absolutists are wrong. The fundamental premise is to confuse truth with preferential opinion. In other words, relativists believe that something is true because they prefer it to be true. They have no thought as to whether something is true regardless of their opinion such that it can be asked, if a truth grows in the woods and no one thinks about it, is it really true? Relativism, therefore, is existential in nature. However, few relativists and absolutists have that concept. Therefore, it doesn't play a part of their presuppositional construction. In other words, even most absolutists are absolutists because they prefer to believe that truth is absolute, not because they truly understand the full implications. Therefore, relativism is a useless concept category.

Theological tension is not a category in and of itself, but are a class of categories that are theologically paradoxical or dubious. These categories actually are useful, but only in the sense that if you are an absolutist, you will notice the tension and try to rectify it by discovering the concept category that truly reveals God. I'll use worship as an example because it's been on my brain lately:

While we may observe that the common debate over worship is merely about style rather than substance, the historical debate over worship is between the Regulative (RP) and the Normative (NP) principles. I've written on this before, but I'll reiterate: the RP holds that we should only worship according to what is explicitly prescribed in the Bible. The NP holds that we may worship in any way not prohibited n the Bible. The problem with framing the debate according to this concept category is that it misses the real focus of worship. Ostensibly, it's about God, but only insomuch as it seeks to prescribe form and method. However, it's only a partial answer to say that worship is all about God. What does worship say about God? Both the RP and the NP focus on our behavior in worshipping God. If our purpose is to exult God, then our worship must focus on what God does for us. We can bring only our brokenness. That is the concept category we must teach.

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