There have always been battles raging in the realm of Theology concerning the formation and validity of Theological Systems. They exist today. Some are quite intense and sadly some very crude and malicious.
The existence of different conclusions resulting from the interpretation of the text of Scripture is a reality. Paul makes reference to such differences in his First Epistle to the Corinthians.
No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. (1 Corinthians 11:19, NIV).
The challenge of the exegete is to come to the text free of pre-conceived notions or conclusions. This is no small task. Knowing that we are handling the very words of God should make every person engaging this noble endeavor think carefully and prayerfully about the process they apply and the conclusions they reach.
This brings me to my concern. Sound exegesis does not or should not produce any kind of “ism”! What we produce may be characterized by others as an “ism”. That does not ipso facto make it such. To engage in careful, accurate and irenic exegesis should produce sound theological conclusions that harmonize with God’s purpose. Every exegete is a sinner and therefore must submit to multiple valid principles of interpretation and also to a system of accountability. We should listen with humility to what other competent theologians say about our work.
There is a very important principle of logic that must be applied in this process of exegesis. It is the Law of Non-Contradiction. When two people interpret a portion of God’s word there are three identifiable and distinct possible outcomes.
1. Person A is correct and person B is incorrect.
2. Person B is correct and person A is incorrect.
3. Both person A and person B are incorrect.
What is absolutely impossible is that they reach different conclusions and both be considered correct. The Holy Spirit has one and only one correct meaning or interpretation for each and every portion of God’s word. Further, God’s Word does not say one thing in one place and then contradict that in another.
To characterize the results of sound accurate and irenic exegesis as an “ism” so that you may then posit your contrary interpretation as correct is to denigrate the Special Revelation we are privileged to hold and the God who made himself known.
I make no pretense or claim that I have perfected this skill. I adamantly and persistently declare that labeling sound interpretations of Scripture as an “ism” is an egregious and serious distortion of the noble task of exegesis.