todd braye

Dennison on Balance and the Redemptive-Historical Hermeneutic

Or, Why the Karate Kid Crane Kick Has No Place in NC Ethics

“Balance.” The word is treasured by everyone seeking everything from the pathway to a full life to, well, the key to proper theology. I’ll cut to the chase – I understand the concerns of those who deem theological “balance” needful. Indeed, no one wishes to fall prey to the “extremes” (The word “extreme” is to be avoided at all costs, right? Especially in matters of theology and politics! But that is another topic for another time). Within the ranks of Reformed, Evangelical theology, and more specifically, NCT circles, the concern for balance may rise from a fear of antinomianism (as fast and loose living), on one hand, and an undermining of the written word on the other. Both are legitimate concerns. And both are rightfully in the cross hairs of those who love the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. However…

Question:

Does the Christian indicative, i.e. union with Christ, Christ in the believer (Galatians 4:6) by grace alone through faith alone, or the indwelling Spirit of Christ written on the heart as New Covenant Law as that which/Who governs Christian ethics, need balancing with the many NT commands/imperatives? I say “no.” One reason I say this is exegetical. I won’t detail this at the moment. But another reason I say this is wrapped up in the following excellent quote:

‎”The Biblical theologian will not submit the indicative-imperative structure of Biblical ethics to the ‘golden-mean’ (balance) between them. Such an edition of the Aristotelian model placed upon Biblical revelation leads to a formulation which views the indicative as being independent and distinct from the imperative as the imperative is independent and distinct from the indicative. Hence, the Christian life is viewed as a life of being and acting in which each independent and distinct mood of the verb is comprehended and lived in balance. The idea that seems to be portrayed is that the imperative (specific acts of obedience) must be added as a complement to our lives in order to establish the balanced life…As we keep in mind the continuum in Biblical revelation, the indicative-imperative construction is not to be modeled after Aristotle’s balanced life in which we are to avoid extremes. Rather, the issue in the Bible is to understand its organic unity; the Christian life is the organic union of the indicative and the imperative” (W.D. Dennison, “The Redemptive-Historical Hermeneutic and Preaching”).

I hope to expand on this in the coming weeks. Deo Valente.

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About Todd Braye

Todd Braye (B. Mus., M.Div) After graduating from the Canadian Theological Seminary, Todd served a church in eastern Ontario for six years before returning to Alberta to serve as the pastor of Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Blackie. Presently, he labors for Action International Ministries for "Pastoral Leadership Development."