The 5 Quadrants that Should Determine Biblical Theology
Proverbs 9.10 says: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” In the tradition of Abraham Kuyper and Cornelius Van Til, I believe that our starting point in terms of our epistemology (theory of knowledge) should always be the Bible. This is because one’s starting point is the lens one sees through which determines one’s hermeneutic (biblical interpretation). Because all argumentation is really a battle of worldviews, whatever is used as the arbiter of truth is really the ultimate authority. There is no such thing as neutrality; everyone operates from a bias. The word of God teaches that our foundation for knowledge should be the fear of the Lord–not human reason, culture, science, or anything else.
If the Bible is true it should be consistent, coherent, and comprehensive in terms of its relationship to creation. Therefore, the word of God does not violate the law of non-contradiction (the law of logic which states that two opposites cannot both be true at the same time; for example, Christianity and Islam cannot both be true in regards to salvation). Christians are not to leave their brains at the door when they come to church or when they read the Bible. We are not fideists, who believe with no basis for human reason.
Every worldview should have as its basis a precondition for intelligence. I believe that Christian theism, as taught in the Bible, is the precondition for all intelligibility. Without the Bible one cannot give an account for anything rational, and all knowledge and presuppositions are reduced to absurdity. We believe, therefore we reason.
I believe that since the Bible is objectively true there should be a subjective reality attached to it. When we analyze our conversion to the Christian faith, we realize it was a subjective experience with an accompanying subjective witness in our spirits that we are children of God (Romans 8:16). Most of us were not aware of the objective claims of the Bible and the evidences for the Christian faith when we first came to Christ. Even now, with the exception of the transcendental argument for the existence of God, most Christian apologists utilizing the evidentialist approach cannot claim 100% objective certainty, but only high probability. The result is that, in spite of what most Christian theologians may say, most base their faith initially on a subjective experience.
There are two aspects of this quadrant in my life:
A. Everyone is molded and shaped by their context in regards to their opinions, beliefs, and attitudes. Therefore we cannot disregard context in terms of accounting for our theological persuasions or even our presuppositional thinking.
I listed this quadrant fourth because I believe the first three quadrants play a greater role in terms of shaping our theology, although in many ways all four quadrants are interrelated and overlap each other.
B. All theology must be contextualized to our time/space reality. Though the essence of the Gospel never changes the methods, the means, and the language in which the Gospel is communicated should be based on the context in which we find ourselves.
I believe very strongly in the role of the local church and in the corporate city, national, and global church. Often the individualism of the Enlightenment and the rough individualism of the United States (formed by the Jeffersonian rights of the individual) are superimposed on our faith and biblical hermeneutic. This has resulted in private interpretations of Scripture based on the subjective views of individuals that fail to recognize the majority of Scripture was written for a corporate body in a city, for a people group, or for the nation of Israel as a whole. This individual subjectivism disrespects the historic church and the role of the contemporary community of faith and leaves the interpreter with no checks and balances. I value the concept of the hermeneutic community and believe that it behooves me to interface with the local, regional, national, and international church in regards to interpreting Scripture, as well as having a working knowledge of the collective Body of Christ throughout history to see how church fathers in the past worked through some of the controversies and challenges of Scripture, theology, evangelism, and the local church.