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Theological Clarity and Application

Blog: Theological Clarity

By Scott Thomas, President of Acts 29

The number one reason men do not pass the application and assessment phase for membership into Acts 29 Network is that we do not observe that they have a clear understanding of basic theological concepts. Acts 29 does not require a seminary degree to apply nor do we believe a seminary degree unequivocally equips one in theology. We want our planters to be robust in their theology and possess clarity. We also want them to be able to make practical application from it. Our theology concomitantly informs everything we believe and everything we do.

As we examine movements of God, David Garrison said that every movement possesses biblical authority as one of its characteristics.* Ed Stetzer argued that a movement has theological integrity. ** Dr. Alvin Reid stated that a movement must have clarity and theology was implied.*** Seth Godin wrote in his book, Tribes, “A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” Drawing from the wisdom of these men, I would further state that a movement must possess not just theological integrity or clarity but also theological unity. We can all be clear on our own theological positions and we can all believe the Bible is the authority and still lack the theological unity we need to be a sustainable and reproducible movement.

To achieve unity, we agree on the doctrines that we deem are essential and we agreed that we can possess latitude on others. We call these “closed handed” and “open handed” issues. For instance, inerrancy of Scripture, virgin birth, penal substitutionary atonement and deity of Christ (among others) are in the closed hand. We will fight over these. Conversely, gifts of the Spirit, methods, baptism mode and eschatological details are in the open hand. We choose not to fight over these issues, although they serve as lively topics of interest as we challenge each other’s position. We have unity in the closed handed issues and we have charity in the open handed issues.

I have written 7 questions to diagnose if you possess enough theological clarity to plant a theologically-rich church. I have also provided some sub-points for further understanding to the questions. With each of these theological concepts, I believe strongly that a man who is motivated can gain clarity through intentional study with friends like Grudem, Carson, Piper, Driscoll, Keller, Packer, Sproul, Boice, Duncan, Frame, Goldsworthy, Ware, Horton, Lloyd-Jones, Spurgeon and Calvin.

The lead pastor of any church must serve as a theological gatekeeper for the body. He should be well read and informed concerning basic theological positions while relentlessly scanning the evangelical landscape for deviant theology and wolves seeking to mislead the sheep.

SEVEN SELF-EXAMINING QUESTIONS FOR THEOLOGICAL CLARITY

I. Do I have a clear understanding of the gospel?

Definition of gospel
Implications of the gospel
Centricity of the gospel
Transformative power of the gospel

II. Do I possess a clear understanding of the orthodox doctrines of faith?

1. Revelation of God
2. God – His attributes
3. Trinity
4. Creation
5. Angels, Demons and Satan
6. Mankind - his creation, fall and curse
7. Sin – its effects
8. Christ – His incarnation and redemption
9. Salvation
10. Atonement
11. Church
12. Resurrection
13. Election
14. Justification
15. Adoption
16. Sanctification
17. Perseverance
18. Death
19. Holy Spirit – His Power
20. Return of Christ
21. Final Judgment
22. Heaven

III. Am I an articulate apologist for the faith and able to apply a Scriptural argument regarding the following theological positions?

1. Annihilationism
2. Antinomianism
3. Arianism
4. Arminianism
5. Consubstantiation
6. Deism
7. Dictation Theory
8. Dispensationalism
9. Doceticism
10. Dualism
11. Evolution
12. Fatalism
13. Feminism
14. Limbo
15. Monism
16. Pantheism
17. Pelagianism
18. Perfectionism
19. Purgatory
20. Soul Sleep
21. The Mass (Catholic)
22. Transubstantiation
23. Universalism

IV. Have I demonstrated a commitment to the local church as an expression of a gospel community on mission to make disciples of all nations?

Great Commission Mandate
Sending Nature of the Church
Global Responsibility

V. Can I exercise grace toward those who hold to other views of theology so that I can collaboratively promote the Kingdom of God?

Unity
Diversity
Charity

VI. Can I biblically defend basic church ecclesiology?

1. Purposes
2. Authority
3. Mission and Ministries of the Church
4. Spiritual Gifts
5. Purity and Unity
6. Church Discipline
7. Church Government
8. Complementarian Church Leadership
9. Preaching
10. Baptism
11. Lord’s Supper
12. Membership

VII. Do I possess a thorough understanding of the Bible and am able to comprehend and communicate intelligently about theological concepts?

1. Adoption
2. Ammillenialism
3. Angels
4. Apostle
5. Aseity
6. Baptism in the Holy Spirit
7. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit
8. Body of Christ
9. Born Again
10. Canonicity
11. Common grace
12. Communicable and Incommunicable Attributes
13. Complementarian
14. Conversion
15. Cosmological Argument
16. Covenant
17. Covenant of Grace
18. Covenant of works
19. Covenant community
20. Credo Baptism
21. Deacon
22. Death
23. Decree of God
24. Definite Atonement
25. Demons
26. Dichotomy
27. Disciple
28. Doctrines of Grace
29. Ecclesiology
30. Effectual Calling
31. Egalitarian
32. Eisogesis
33. Ekklesia
34. Elder
35. Election
36. Eschatology
37. Excommunication
38. Exegesis
39. Exorcisms
40. Expiation
41. External Calling
42. Faith
43. Father
44. Final Judgment
45. Foreknowledge of God
46. Forensic Justification
47. Free will
48. General Revelation
49. Glorification
50. Heaven
51. Hell
52. Hematology
53. Hermeneutics
54. Holy Spirit
55. Humiliation of Christ
56. Hypostatic Union
57. Imago Dei
58. Imminent Return
59. Impeccability
60. Imputation of Sin
61. Incarnation
62. Incomprehensibility Of God
63. Inerrancy
64. Infallibility
65. Infinite
66. Intercession
67. Invisible Church
68. Keys of the Kingdom
69. Liberty
70. Limited Free will
71. Lord's Supper
72. Lordship Salvation
73. Mediator
74. Millennium
75. Miracles
76. New heavens and new earth
77. Officer in the church
78. Omniscience
79. Ontological Argument
80. Original Sin
81. OT and NT Priest
82. Overseer
83. Paedo Baptism
84. Parousia
85. Particular Redemption
86. Penal Substitution
87. Pneumatology
88. Postmillenialism
89. Predestination
90. Premillenialism
91. Propitiation
92. Providence
93. Rapture
94. Reconciliation
95. Redemption
96. Regeneration
97. Regulatory principle
98. Religious Affections
99. Repentance
100. Reprobation
101. Resurrection
102. Sanctification
103. Satan
104. Second Coming
105. Son of God
106. Soteriology
107. Sovereignty
108. Special Revelation
109. Spiritual Body
110. T.U.L.I.P.
111. Teleological Argument
112. Theistic Evolution
113. The Fall of Mankind
114. Theology proper
115. Total inability
116. Transcendence
117. Tribulation
118. Trinity
119. Virgin Birth
120. Worship

*David Garrison, Church Planting Movements (Midlothian, VA: WIG Take Resources, 2004), p. 171 ff.
**Ed Stetzer and Warren Bird, Viral Churches (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2010), p. 169
***Alvin Reid, Gospel Centered Movements Change the World (e-book, http://alvinreid.com/e-books/advance.pdf)

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Scott Thomas has served as the President of Acts 29 Network and a Pastor at Mars Hill Church. Scott has been a pastor for 30 years—first as a youth pastor and then as a lead pastor and church planter/church replanter for 16 years.