Wednesday, June 04, 2008

"Yes, but" Theology

A problem which plagues conservative theology especially is what I call 'yes, but' theology. A desire for 'balance', 'moderation' or even just a (generally good) desire to take into account the whole of Scripture results in the truths that Scripture presents being blunted, sometimes against each other. It works like this...

Person A: I'm not worried about future finances; God has promised to provide.
Person B: Yes, but we do need to be prudent and wise in our saving and make sure we provide for our families!


A: Jesus says I should lose my life for his sake.
B: Yes, but of course you ought not to do anything rash or foolhardy!


A: Human reason is utterly corrupted by the fall.
B: Yes, but of course humans are still in the image of God so we can still address them as rational people.

'Yes, but' theology evacuates the promises, threats and descriptions given by God of any force, and it does so in the name of thoroughness, systematization, and consistency. In reply, I say... No. When the Word of God is heard, it comes with force that crashes through every system. It may involve us in what seems to be a contradiction. It may cause us to pursue a course of action that looks like fanaticism. But it (he!) will not be tamed.


  1. Anonymous8:57 pm

    You have been reading Barth having you...

    Its great to see the word of God being treated not primarily as an ethical code but more as God's means of transformation. Far more God centered - which is probably good.

  2. "You have been reading Barth having you..."

    My thoughts exactly!

  3. oy oy - who let a blanche on the blogosphere? Our parents are old friends from London - d'ya remember we used to come down to So'ton to visit your family?

    I shall be paying close attention this here blog...

  4. ;-) No doubt if Barth was English he would have responded to Brunner "Ja und Nein."

    And Paul would've said 'Don't mishear me - when I say the circumcision are dogs, mutilators and anathema I also want to affirm their sincerely held biblical sensibilities...

    Great post.

  5. Anonymous10:56 pm

    Hi Daniel,

    Thanks for your posts!

    This one reminded me of this post by Adrian Warnock which I came across again recently. Think you might find it interesting!


  6. I'm delighted in two ways. First, that you are making the insights Barth bestows on us so gloriously edible; and secondly, that I am in the company of Matt Finn in reading your 'blog.

    I am reminded of Luther's definition of faith (I think in his commentary on Romans 5): 'a living, daring confidence in God's grace'. Thank you for being daring.