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Theological Gravity

by S. M. Hutchens

As a Touchstone editor, my alarm bells go off when I find someone making in a submission to the magazine theological statements that appear to me (1) speculative, (2) careless or ignorant, or (3) outside the area of creedal agreement plausibly described by "mere Christianity," especially when (1) and (3) are not explicitly identified as such. Much can be accepted as Touchstonian when a preamble such as, "Baptists have historically believed that _____," or "the Orthodox call this _____, and believe _____" is included, for that represents a teaching moment that gives one confessional group an opportunity to consider the beliefs of another. Not so when there is simply an assumption that something falling outside the Vincentian canon, but contained in some developed system, is mere Christianity.

Sometimes whether or not this is happening is difficult to judge, but I believe in cleaving hard toward strictness because of the grave seriousness of theology. This is something Carl Braaten in particular impressed upon me, and on this I agree with him completely. As I understand him, Carl retired from teaching at the Lutheran School of Theology essentially because he found that, as the years went on and his own convictions intensified, he could find vanishingly fewer students who took theology seriously as something that was not to be trifled with, had eternal consequences, and for which bad theologians put their own souls and the souls of those they influence at risk.

S. M. Hutchens is a senior editor and longtime writer for Touchstone.

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