7 Guidelines for Theological Speculation

One of the greatest Bible scholars the Church ever produced was Origen of Alexandria (d.254).  Considering the tools and resources he had at hand, he was ever to produce the multiple translations of the Bible as well as numerous commentaries and theological tomes.  His influence on future Biblical scholarship is incalculable.  But theological speculation proved to be a downfall of Origen.

Much of his speculative work later influenced many Christians and led them into open heresy.  While never departing from the Church, Origen speculated about much beyond the scope of revelation.  His tendency toward pitting matter against spirit or body against soul brought about an extreme form of asceticism, and some sources report he castrated himself to become a eunuch for the kingdom.

Tertullian (225) another important Churchman who gave us the term Trinity and upheld the moral purity of the faith, also allowed his strictness and theological speculation to drag him into the strange heresy of Montanism.

Even in modern times, theologians trying to reconcile freedom and sovereignty, the problem of evil, and other sticky issues have ended up making God less than omnipotent or sovereign or omniscient.

Good intentions in theology don't always produce good results.

In lieu of this fact, here is a handful of rules for theological speculation:

  1. Don't do it.
  2. If conclusions are wrong, strange, weird, abhorrent (God desires men to go to hell, Jesus is not God, there are two second comings, etc.), start over, miscalculation happened.  
  3. If you are the first person to come to those conclusions, stop, start over.
  4. Check your results against established councils and creeds.
  5. Run your ideas by one or more elder of the church.  Lone Ranger theology is especially dangerous.
  6. Beware of angels and visions with new revelations.
  7. When in doubt, see rule #1.

Theological creativity is a bad idea.  This area of inquiry is not like other academic pursuits where the application of reason and logic determine conclusions and discoveries.  Theology's source is ultimately revelation and from there it is a matter of expression and protection of what was given.  If creativity or novelty exists, it must be in the realm of communication and not creation.

Any other suggested rules?

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