Theological Abstrusity: Protestantism’s Glaring Failure


In the first 500 years of its existence, the Church authoritatively settled many issues such as Jewish law requirements (Council of Jerusalem – Acts 15), Christ’s deity (Council of Nicene – A.D. 325), the canon of Scripture (Council of Rome – A.D. 382), the dual natures of Jesus (Council of Chalcedon – A.D. 456), etc.

In contrast, it’s been over 500 years since Martin Luther launched his “Reformation” based on the ideal of Scriptural authority alone and rather than unite the Church, it has caused nearly constant schism resulting in hundreds of disagreeing denominations. Luther’s optimistic statement above, has been proven decisively false, bearing witness that sola scriptura (the Protestant’s foundation for schism with the Church) is a theological failure.

If this claim seems overreaching, below is a list of the continuing theological debates within Protestantism which are significant due to theological / ethical importance (e.g., salvation or morality), pedigree (e.g., academic or popular), or position variance (whether quantitative or qualitative). For the sake of brevity, I stopped at 75. (*Indicates that the topic even has its own multiview debate book(s).)

  1. Abortion
  2. Adam’s Historicity*
  3. Alcohol Consumption
  4. Apologetic Methodology*
  5. Applicability of Biblical Practices
  6. Baptism’s Meaning and Procedure*
  7. Biblical Authorship / Origins
  8. Biblical Higher Criticism
  9. Biblical Inerrancy*
  10. Christ’s Atonement*
  11. Christian Education
  12. Christian Spirituality
  13. Church Definition
  14. Church Government
  15. Church Growth*
  16. Communion (Eucharist / Lord’s Supper)*
  17. Contraception
  18. Covenant Theology*
  19. Creationism*
  20. The Meaning and Authority, of the Church’s Creeds and Councils
  21. Destiny of the Unevangelized*
  22. Dispensationalism*
  23. Divine Foreknowledge*
  24. Eastern Orthodoxy’s Compatibility with Evangelicalism*
  25. Election / Predestination
  26. Entertainment Involvement (e.g., music listening / TV or movie watching)
  27. Essentials of the Faith
  28. Eternal Security*
  29. Evangelicalism’s Nature
  30. Evolution*
  31. Faith’s Definition
  32. Faith’s Relation to Reason
  33. Family Ministry
  34. Free Grace Salvation
  35. Free Will
  36. God’s Will*
  37. God and Time*
  38. God’s Providence*
  39. God’s Attributes*
  40. Gospel Conditions
  41. Hell*
  42. Hermeneutics
  43. Judaism and Christianity
  44. Justification*
  45. Law and Gospel Relationship*
  46. Marriage / Divorce / Remarriage*
  47. The Millennial Kingdom*
  48. Mind-Body Problem*
  49. Miracles / Miraculous Gifts*
  50. Natural Law
  51. New Testament Use of the Old Testament*
  52. Old Testament Genocide*
  53. The Old Testament Canon
  54. Pauline Soteriology*
  55. Paul’s Status in Romans 7
  56. Peter’s Role / Importance
  57. Prosperity Gospel
  58. Psychology
  59. Purgatory
  60. Rapture Timing*
  61. Revelation’s Interpretation*
  62. Sabbath Observance
  63. Salvific Pluralism*
  64. Sanctification*
  65. Science and Religion’s Relationship*
  66. Social Activities (e.g., Dating / Dancing / Playing Cards / Celebrating Holidays)
  67. Spiritual Gifts
  68. Spiritual Warfare
  69. Tithing
  70. War*
  71. Warning Passages in Hebrews*
  72. Women’s Role in Ministry*
  73. Works Role in the Final Judgment*
  74. Worship Styles*
  75. Youth Ministry*

16 thoughts on “Theological Abstrusity: Protestantism’s Glaring Failure

  1. Makes the Christian journey exciting and thought-provoking. Debate is good for the soul.

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  3. (You have Eternal Security down twice)

    What about whether or not the gifts of healing, tongues etc. came to an end?
    (That might be what you meant by Miracles/Miraculous Gifts)

    Also, what about Prosperity Gospel?

  4. Good catch = copy-n-paste error. 🙂 I didn’t want to seem like I was stacking the deck by ungrouping things like Miraculous Gifts, but yes these are each an issue aren’t they? As to Prosperity . . . ugh, I hate to lend it any legitmacy but it does meet the popularity criterion. Sigh.

  5. Two passages that come to mind …

    “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all.” Eph. 4:4-6

    One faith (thousands of different denominations, multiple contrary views of salvation, morality, etc.?), one baptism (differing views on the nature of baptism and the practice thereof?), etc. …

    The other passage …

    “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory which you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” John 17:20-23

    Effectiveness in evangelism is impacted by Church unity … a unity that is visible so that the “world may know.” What kind of unity is present when believers can’t even agree on the Gospel itself?

    In light of the above two Scriptural passages, it’s hard to believe that this kind of theological debate is good for the soul.

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  7. Why are we to expect definitive answers to these questions?

    Who decides what topics need definitive answers and which are ok to be left to abstrusity?

    What is the principle behind the distinction between those that need finality/clarity and those that don’t?

  8. Well, I think first of all that this list contains a nearly comprehensive list of every doctrine the Bible, if it is to be the authority in Christian faith and practice, should address. What is the point of a 1,000 page book on faith that cannot be understood as to the doctrines of salvation? Or if I have not grasped the purpose of the Bible, then I would say that whatever purpose one ascribes, I would think that the Bible should at least meet that goal. Further, several of these topics are the very ones Protestants divided from the Catholic Church over – so one would think they at least could agree on those! Finally, as to who decides – I don’t know – maybe there needs to be a “Four Views on Theological Abstrusity” book! 🙂

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  10. I wonder what someone like Kierkegaard or Bonhoefer would say to the issue. Would it be a problem for them? I tend to think not, and that they would reject this problem. So then we need a meta question as to what we should expect. You expect answers to these questions, they dont. Who decides? How to even approach THIS question? That’s where I am at.

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