Roman's and Paul's Theological Method

[This was my thesis some 20 years ago at seminary. It was somewhat of a disappointment to me then, and even more so now, although there are some nuggets in here for me to re-consider...especially the Epilogue. It can easily be seen that it needs some correctives from literary/hermeneutical theories of today--esp. along the lines of A.C. Thiselton's work.]


The recent growth of interest in the area of theological prolegomena, comprising epistemology, linguistics, and methodology appears across all ideological, philosophical, and theological boundaries. A glance at the Index to Religious Literature (now Religious Index I: Periodicals) is sufficient to show this. The appearance of several books and numerous articles in the field also serves to point this out. Seminaries of all persuasions are offering courses in the subject and publishers are actively seeking new works for publication.(nl) In all of this, evangelicals are playing a part in calling attention to the need for solid work in this area.

To date, the largest amount of work done in the field has been by non-evangelicals.(n2) This is not altogether surprising, since questions of method in theology have only recently been vaulted to the front due to the epistemological crisis facing most of Western culture (of which crisis much of the church is not often aware). Nor is it especially alarming that evangelicals are not at the forefront, charging ahead with banners and troops. So little is there of cogent and substantial scholarship in the field, that the state of the discussion poses no immediate threat to the church's ranks, as say Bultmannianism did in the early 1900's . The subject matter has just not been thought out well enough to "steal way" the faithful.

All of this is not to say that evangelicals should not work in the area or even that no challenges have arisen. Indeed, significant developments in contemporary theology are growing increasingly influential, reducing rapidly the buffer of time conservative evangelicals have to formulate a "word in due season." So, although the non-evangelical is not eroding the church, the problem largely concerns the expansion and growth of the church. It is in this arena that questions of theological method are becoming of paramount importance. Liberation theology and contextualization in theology are, for examples, essentially methodological systems which compete with, and will increasingly do so in the future, evangelical theology throughout the globe. Since statistically the center of "Christendom" is shifting to the Third World at a significant rate, methodological issues will soon be the major front in the theological battles ahead.(n3) Even process theology, which at face value is interpreted as ontological rather than methodological, is clearly not so, for the merging of a philosophy with exegetical data raises methodological problems of a most serious nature. And lest the neo-orthodox escape review, let it be noted that one of the of the leading exponents of a refined Barthian system is the editor of a journal devoted exclusively to metatheological questions (n4).

Thus the opportunity for making a constitutive and decisive contribution in this area presents itself to conservative evangelicals.(n5)

It is with this in mind that this study in St. Paul is undertaken. Paul was unquestionably a leading Christian theologian of the early church. As such a careful study of his theological method may prove helpful in articulating a conservative position.

Precious little work has been done in this Paul's thought. of course works abound on Pauline exegesis and theology, and even on methodological issues such as Paul's exegetical method or Paul's use of the Old Testament. On the subject of theological method proper, the situation is in stark contrast. There are no monographs on the subject and the articles which purport to deal with the issue can be counted on one hand.

This scarcity of published work virtually dictates that this thesis be highly original. The approach will be largely inductive and confine itself to portions of the book of Romans. Paying careful attention to exegetical detail and flow of argument, the attempt to discern patterns of producing theological conclusions will be made. This should produce rich diversity of "methods" and an attempt to relate these to a central, more general theological "method" will be made.


Preface: Notes

1. For example, Westminster Theological Seminary and Dallas Theological Seminary both offer courses in Theological Method and other metatheological issues.

2. See bibliography.

3. The major thrust by evangelicals into the area of Liberation theology is largely concerned with method: Carl Armerding's Evangelicals and Liberation (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977).

4. Thomas F. Torrance is editor of the Scottish Journal of Theology.

5. The non-conservative evangelical will probably not contribute much to the area. As partaking more of the epistemic problems of the culture, his truth base is being "abandoned by a thousand qualifications."

6. Romans manifests a much less "occasional" character than does Corinthians, for example. Ephesians could also used but the material in Romans is more often argued than simply stated.



By "analysis" is meant the breaking up of a unit into constituent parts. The parts may be aspects, elements or relationships "embedded" in the unit.

Paul's use of analysis is interesting. He "takes apart" a question (6:1-4), a historical Old Testament passage (9:17-18), and even the complex of theological relationships surrounding the concept of "law" (7:1-13). He unpacks the surface phenomena and uses some part of it.

In Romans 6:1-4, Paul's accuser (n1) poses a question involving the theology discussed in 5:12-21--"Shall we remain in sin, in order that grace may abound." This thought is morally repugnant to Paul who understood the proper relationship of grace to sin (Titus 2:11-12), and he rightly attacks it. We might have expected Paul to deny the conclusion ("our remaining in sin causes grace to abound") but instead he attacks the premise embedded in the question ("we have an option of remaining in sin"). Paul has analyzed the question into constituent parts and deals with one of these parts. (The fact that the discussion in in reference to the premise i8 obvious from his rebuttal. His refutation is that since our residence has been changed (by death) from the Adam-world to the Christ-world, we cannot take again residence in the old Adam realm. We are dead to it--our names no long appear on its census tapes!) A further yet different case of analysis occurs in 9.17-18 where Paul takes apart a historical passage of the Old Testament. The historical passage concerns Pharaoh and his part in history. The quote used from Exodus 9:16 is part of a larger theological argument beginning in verse 14. The structure of this section reveals the purpose of the Old Testament quote:

A. Objecting question (14a): "What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there?"

B. Denial (14b): "May it never be!"

C. Quote 1 (Exodus 33:19): Showing mercy to Moses/ Israel (15): "For He says to Moses, 'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion."'

D. Conclusion 1: God shows sovereign mercy (16): "So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy."

E. Quote 2 (Exodus 9:16): God raised up Pharaoh (17) "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, 'For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth."'

F. Conclusion 2: God shows mercy and hardens sovereignly (18): "So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires."

Thus Exodus 9:16 is advanced as proof that God hardens sovereignly--part of the bi-polar conclusion in verse 18. Paul has taken the record of Pharaoh--a specific case--and abstracted by analysis a general principle. The unit is the story of Pharaoh and the element taken from it concerns a characteristic of God (sovereignty). As difficult as old Testament exegesis may admittedly be, for Paul the characteristic of God revealed in Pharaoh's case was the same unchanging characteristic revealed in rejection of non-elect, unbelieving Israel. His analysis of the historical flow is authenticated by God's disclosure in Exodus 9:16--it was because of God ' s purpose that Pharaoh was made stubborn.(n2)

A final case of analysis occurs in 7:1-13 where the whole complex of truth surrounding "law" is carefully dissected to show selected aspects of the relationship between law and sin.

Paul has argued that the believer is free from the law (by death) and now free to live fruitful lives for God (7:1-4). He points out that before coming to trust Christ we were under law, which "stirred us up" to sin (v. 5), but that now we are free from this influence through the Spirit (w . 6-7). An improper inference is put in the mouth of a theological objector, correlating law with sin (v. 7). It is to this objection that Paul responds with an analysis of the relation between law and sin. The whole is that the law brought sin to fruition in historical experience. The analysis concerns the "law." The actual culprit is "indwelling sin" which reacted to the holy commandment in rebellion and disobedience. This analysis frees law from blame and yet still correlates it with the explosion of sin in human experience. Thus Paul "took apart" the whole to show a relationship between elements which composed it.


By "synthesis" (n3) is understood the conjunction of two propositions to make a third, whether by coordination or subordination.

Subordination is of critical importance to theology, for it sets boundaries to implicative extensions from the main clause. From a given theological statement an almost infinite number of implicates can be drawn, but with subordination the field of implicates is substantially reduced. This adds precision, and more importantly, accuracy in application of theological facts. A theological system can be seen as a system of theological propositions with carefully defined "qualification structures" which predicts and explains the data of Scripture and provides the set of existential (and ethical) implicates with the broadest, and yet accurate, range of application potential.

Here Paul does the reverse of analysis. He puts two Old Testament propositions together into one resultant and conclusive statement (9:14-18). Elsewhere he puts two Old Testament themes together but with one functionally subordinate to the other (11:11-24).

The case in 9:14-18 concerning sovereignty in mercy and justice in the case of Pharaoh has already been partially examined above. Verses 17 and 18 were cited as an illustration of analysis. In verse 18 the conclusion of verse 16 is conjuncted with the principle being drawn in verse 17.

The form of conjunction in this case is coordination. As individual propositions they serve in their specific, limited range of references. Together, they form a bi-polar statement that refers, probably, (n4) to groups which are mutually exclusive and exhaustive. In any event, the conjunction of the two provides a theological construct which has greater range of application than either alone.

A second case, involving conjunction by subordination is in 11:11-24, the section on the Olive Tree and the Branches. Here Paul is discussing two themes of Old Testament prophecy: Israel's blindness and Gentile salvation. Both concepts were clear in the Old Testament, but what was not clear was the eschatological relationship between the two. Paul, standing later in the history of redemption, can see the relationship between the themes. Indeed, the statement in verse 11 "But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles . . . ." looks at the historical progress of the gospel as recorded in Acts, in which progress Paul was personally involved. The statement in Acts 28.25-28 reveals the same perspective found in this Romans passage and it should be noted that Paul himself was the major instrument in bringing the gospel to the Gentiles.

Syllogistic Chaining

By "syllogistic chaining" is meant ordering a set of syllogisms--both explicit and implicit--by continuity of terms so as to reach the desired conclusion.

An outstanding example of this is found in Romans 6.1-11. In this passage Paul is responding to the ethical question in verse 1. His method of response includes analysis (see above) and his refutation of the premise is made by drawing logical implications from salvific facts (w . 2-11). When one "unpacks" this passage into its constituent argument steps, both explicit and implicit, what emerges into view is a chain of syllogisms beginning with major premise "we were identified with Christ" and ending with conclusion "we are not legally able to reside in the realm of sin." The following syllogism can be identified in the passage (implicit steps are in parenthesis)(n5)

Pl: We were identified with Christ.
P2: (Identification with Christ involves identification with His death)
Cl: We were identified with His death.

P3: We were identified with His death.
P4: His death was unto sin as death-exacting sovereign tyrant.
C2: We died to sin as death-exacting sovereign tyrant.

P5: We died to sin as tyrant.
P6: Death to a tyrant and his realm negates the possibility of continued life in that realm (vs. 7).
C3: We cannot legally continue to reside in the realm of sin.

Of course, the passage is asserting more than this chain but it certainly includes this. For example, a similar chain can be diagrammed from "we were identified with Christ" to "we are alive to God and His realm."

Extraction of Theological Substrata

This method is a very important one in the theological task. By it is meant the isolation and identification of theological truth embedded in a historical and goal-directed utterance.(n6) The "model" of truth involved in this method is shown in the structural relationships in Illustration 1.

The book of First Corinthians is an excellent case in point. Specific questions are advanced to St. Paul and his theology interacts with them in the historical idiom. Even the most didactic of materials invites this understanding because the readers always have specific intellectual needs and the writer is always selective in what he writes.

In Romans 3:3-4 Paul is using Psalm 51.4 in his refutation. The point of the Psalms passage as an exegetical unit does not relate directly to the point made by Paul. Instead, we find Paul arguing from the theological substructure that would have given rise to the text of Psalm 51:4. Paul argues from the basis of the Psalm and not necessarily from its main exegetical point. In the Psalm, the movement is from specific (murder and adultery) to general (unrighteousness); in Romans it is from general (unrighteousness) to specific (Israel's unbelief):

Specific sin in Psalm 51: Adultery with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah the Hittite
General concept in Psalm 51: Transgression/iniquity/sin

General concept in Romans 3: unrighteousness/lie (3:5,7)
Specific sin in Romans 3: unbelief of Israel (3:3)

The principle that God's faithfulness is highlighted by Israel's unfaithfulness is clearly not in view in Psalm 51. Yet, Paul draws upon its theological basis (which finds expression in Psalm 51) with complete legitimacy.

Use of Paradigm Cases

A paradigm case is essentially a historical case that functions as a normative exemplar (n7). It is very similar in idea to that of legal precedent . The difference is that whereas legal precedents are binding throughout a given law-culture, the paradigm case is binding upon specific communities within a culture. For example, Newton and his methodology form a paradigm case for Newtonian scientists. His perspective is voluntarily adopted (forming the community called "Newtonian scientists") and considered normative for that community.

Paul uses several arguments that have the basic argument pattern and force of paradigm-case arguments. He gives Abraham as the paradigm for becoming a believer (4:1-12) and Christ as paradigm for a believer's ethical decision (15:3,7) .

Paul's use of Abraham in Romans 4:1-12 is a test case for Gentile (uncircumcised), pre-Law faith. Paul has advanced to the readers the position that the law cannot justify. Then, not to deprecate the Law, Paul turns around and argues that the Law is actually established (3:31). His proof of this last point is that Abraham was justified by faith.

Original Proposition: The Law cannot justify.
Objecting Implication: The Law is thereby annulled.
Counter-Assertion: The Law is actually established.
Proof: Abraham was justified by faith, not works.
This indicates that the "establishing" referred to in 3:31 amounts to the "holding up" of the principle present in the Law's example of Abraham. In other words, since the New Testament revelation of salvation by faith agrees with the same principle found in the Genesis account of Abraham, the testimony of the Law is established as being true. A normative aspect of the recorded event is clearly maintained.

The status of paradigm, which is herein being ascribed to Abraham in Romans, can also be seen in other argumentation in the chapter. Paul describes the various aspects of the historical faith of Abraham and makes a pattern-reference to us in verse 24. Coupled with the similar use of David in 4:6-8, this argues that these events, in the life of the patriarchs, were paradigmatic for all who sought righteousness. (Notice that this argument would carry little weight with those who were not members of a community which placed great value in Abraham as precedent.)

Another example of this, of broader significance for the believer, is the use of Christ as paradigm case for the believer's ethical decisions. Romans 15:1-7, like many other New Testament passages, agrees that "as Christ did, so should we." This is, of course, a pattern or image argument, where we are to live our lives after the pattern of Christ. As such this argument takes on the character of a paradigm case, in that we choose to emulate Christ and become identified as a "follower of Jesus" (note the community aspects of this). Christ, as example, set patterns of acceptance of others which become binding upon us in His community. The idea of paradigm-case is stronger than the idea of example (n8).

Theological Extension

By "theological extension" is meant the drawing out of implications from central theological facts to less central ones. This is a major function of theology and Paul engages in it consistently. He makes extension from Christ's judging to believer's judging (14:4), from clear issue to unclear issue (14:16ff), from ontology to ethics (6; 12:3ff), and from ultimate history to transition history (13:11-13).

In Romans 14, Paul begins by confronting the issue of "judging another." After instructing the readers not to judge one another, he buttresses this injunction with a reference to the Lord's judgment. The point is clear: since Christ will judge the believer, we neither can nor should judge him ourselves. Paul is taking a central dictum ("Christ will judge His servants") and drawing an implication from it to a peripheral (n9) idea ("we should not do so'').(n10)

In Romans 14:16ff a similar argument type can be seen. Paul's point is that since the kingdom is not conceived with restrictions over diet, we should not hold tenaciously to liberty in these areas (if offense is given in so doing). In this case Paul is arguing from the character of the kingdom (clear and central) to dietary ethics (unclear and peripheral). This is extension from a central to a peripheral but related issue.

In Romans 6 and in Romans 12:3ff, the argument by extension is also manifest. In both cases the central concept is one of ontology and the peripheral concept one of ethics. In Romans 6 the ontological (central) point is that we are no longer legal residents in the kingdom of sin. The peripheral issue concerns how we should live in relation to sin. The extension is that we should live as those dead to sin. In Romans 12 the ontological point (central) is that believers are united in the body of Christ. The peripheral issue concerns how to view ourselve6. The extension is that we should see ourselves as unique part in a organic unity. The central point in each of the above samples concerns the new creation in Christ and this is extended to how we should walk in this universe of temporarily mixed character.

A final example of theological extension occurs in Romans 13:11-13. In this section Paul is exhorting his readers to live "as in the day" (v. 13). This is an argument from the character of life in the ultimate eschaton (central) to ethical implicates for the present life (peripheral). The fact that our lives in the eschaton will be conformed to the Lord (v. 14), imp1ies by extension (n11) that we should live godly in the present age. This is extension from ultimate eschatology to present, personal ethics.

Hypothesis Proposal and Testing

By this is meant the proposal of a theological construct or hypothesis and testing of that proposal against the data. A familiar process in science, it is more common than is realized in the theological disciplines.

The argument in Romans 3:31-4:12 is an interesting case of hypothesis proposal and testing. The hypothesis proposed is that the Law witnesses to justification by faith for both Jew and Gentile. Paul tests this hypothesis against the best Old Testament case--Abraham--and the hypothesis is confirmed. Throughout this passage Paul will advance a hypothesis, then look at the record of Abraham to confirm or reject the proposal. Illustration 2 shows each major hypotheses and its outcome.

Structuring for "Goodness-of-Fit"

This method concerns the "structure" of one's theology --how the theological propositions qualify one another in ordinate relation. Structuring for "goodness-of-fit" is trying to order the propositions to fit the data "better than" other rival configurations. Paul is clearly trying to relate the particularity of the Law, justification by faith, the legal Mosaic system, Gentile salvation, etc. into a coherent whole to minimize interpretive difficulties. His attention to the issue of "law" in Romans shows his concern to so order the above concepts so as to "fit" the data of both Old Testament and the new revelation in Christ.

Romans 7 is an excellent example of this. In this chapter Paul is trying to explicate the relations between believer, law, sin, indwelling sin, and death to law. He has to so construct his position so as neither to destroy the Law's holy character nor to minimize the role it played in the explosion of actual sin in the world. His careful building of a doctrine of indwelling sin in response to Law, is calculated to keep the data of Scripture intact and balanced.


Deductive elements are common in Paul's argument. An argument is deductive if it draws a conclusion from certain premises on the grounds that to deny the conclusion would be to contradict the premises. They can be identified by the presence of premises of universal character (whether implicit or explicit) and application to a more specific case.(n12)

The deductive movement can be seen in Romans 4:1-4:

Universal premise: A person cannot boast before God.
Inclusion statement: Abraham is a person.
Conclusion 1: Abraham cannot boast before God.

Hypothetical Statement: If Abraham were justified by works, then he could boast before God.
Denial of consequent (from above): Abraham cannot boast before God.
Conclusion 2: Abraham was not justified by works.

The universal premise is that "no one can boast before God." The application to Abraham in justification is that "Abraham cannot boast before God." This effectively refutes the idea that Abraham was justified by works (4:2).

Another deductive point is made in Romans 13:1-7, where the axiom is that "all authority other than God's is derivative" (v. 13:lb). In the above case the movement was from general to specific ("no one" to "Abraham"); in this case it is from general to more specific--but still general ("no authority" to "human governmental authority").


Inductive elements in Romans are also visible. Induction is a process where from premises about some things of a certain kind a conclusion is drawn about some or all of the remaining things of that kind. In this class are those arguments and movements which start from a specific and move to the general. Paul's experience of death by sin through law, in Romans 7, is very important in the manner in which he configures the doctrines around these foci. He reasons from his case to the case of all men--an inductive argument. Likewise, Paul' 5 use of himself as counterexample in 11:1 is inductive in thrust, but here it argues against the categorical negative in the same verse ("God cast off all Jews").


Chapter One: Notes

1. Presumably the same as in 3:8.

2. It is interesting to note here that God's choice in Pharaoh's case was to let him do as he wished. This is in keeping with the general principle of God's "turning men over" to their own devices. Romans 1 is, of course, a clear passage on how God will turn the wicked over to their own desires. In the case of Pharaoh, God sovereignly choose to do just that--to let Pharaoh continue to choose "No" to God's people.

3. The word is not to be taken here in the dialectical sense of "merger of contradictories."

4. There is nothing in the argument that requires the groups to be static or even exhaustive.

5. The passage affirms more than the syllogistic chain, of course.

6. Charles Caldwell Ryrie discusses this general area in his discussion of "Introductory Matters" in Biblical Theology of the New Testament, pp. 27-37.

7. For a good overview of paradigm-case theory see Ian G. Barbour in Myths, Models, and Paradigms..

8. It is, of course, possible that the NT argues from the ultimacy of Christ as God-man rather than from the paradigm-character of His life. But it must be noted that the refer- ences to Christ in the NT more often than not include words like "example," "imitate," etc.

9. By the word "peripheral" is not meant "of less important" but rather that it was of relative "distance" from the central facts of the Kerygma. It is not a denial of importance.

l0. A question may be raised here concerning the tension arising if the paradigm-case approach were used in this case, yielding the result "We, like Christ, should judge." The resolution comes from noting that the argument hinges upon a discontinuity between us and Christ as regards authority, not ethics.

11. The warrant (see Toulmin, Uses of Argument) for this is that "the ultimate provides ethical reference points." Since life in the eschaton will partake of an ultimate character, that life can function as an ethical reference point for orienting our present life.

12. Although it could still be a generic term.


The Question of Unity

The diversity of the methods discussed in the chapter above raises the question of the unity of the methods. Does Paul choose a method on an ad hoc basis merely to support his assertions? Or is there rather an "inner logic" to his methods, unifying them into several expressions or applications of one theological method?

The position taken herein is that the methods do constitute a method (singular). The point or basis of unity is the subject of this chapter--Paul's view of theology.

Theology as Propositional Truth

Paul unmistakably held a position that theological truth could be expressed in historically conditioned, actual propositions without significant loss of content. As such they made definite and determinate truth-claims.

In support of this conclusion, let it be noted that no other proposed Pauline view of theology can account for the observed character of Romans. Paul's elaborate argumentation patterns and his definite rejection of opposing theological formulations (e.g., 7:7 and 6:14) are inexplicable from any other standpoint. Furthermore, Paul's arguments from hlstorical fact (e.g., Abraham's justification before Law) and his arguments from ontology to ethics (see above) indicate a propositional (and correspondence)l view of truth. Finally, in Romans 16:17 Paul speaks of things "contrary to the teaching which you received." The expectation of Paul, that his readers could discriminate between the teaching and its contraries, indicates a position that theological constructs were meaningful and determinate. They were A and not non-A. Theology, for Paul, was propositional truth. (n2)

Theology as Inferential Truth

There is an impressive amount of evidence in Romans favoring the conclusion that Paul viewed theology as an interlocking, implicative, inferential and consistent system.

Romans 6 is a classic example, for in this chapter he consistently draws implications from the ontological status in Christ to ethical responsibilities (and options) in our lives. All such arguments " from some area to some area" are indications of an inferential view of truth. Indeed, all arguments which reach a conclusion starting from a premise, are inferential and Romans is filled with such arguments (as opposed to merely ex cathedra, unsupported dicta).

Elsewhere in Romans Paul refutes an objection by showing inconsistency between premise and logical conclusion--an inferential argument. In 3:5-6 the objection is raised: "if God's righteousness is demonstrated by my unrighteousness, then God is unrighteous to show wrath upon me." In this case the premise is correct, but the conclusion does not follow (the response in verse 6 shows this--"God will judge the world"). The point of the rebuttal is that the righteousness predicated of God in the premise is lost in the conclusion--a self-stultifying argument. The fact is that God will judge the world in righteousness.

Finally, Paul's attempts at system construction, involving "goodness-of-fit" and "hypothesis testing" support this conclusion. Paul's use of Abraham, for example, is a case of formulating a position, drawing implications (predictions) from it and then examining the data of the historical record for confirmation. "Doing justice to the data" is an inferential concept and Paul is consistently engaged in the process (e.g., the elaborate construction of a theology of law in the entire book of Romans).

Theology as Systematic Truth

The basic difference between truth as inferential and truth as systematic, concerns "how far" the implicative chaining is allowed to proceed. It involves crossing (or interlocking) interdisciplinary and subject matter boundaries. It is a linking together of all areas of thought into an implicative, propositional, and rational whole.

Although Romans does not contain much non-theological argument, there are still significant evidences of a view of truth as systematic. Arguments of the "from one area to one area" are data in support of this conclusion.

The propositional and inferential character of theological truth has an all-important correlate: theology as non-paradoxical. The importance of this point is that no principle exists which can restrict the "length" of an implicative "chain." That is, logical or subject matter boundaries do not exist (except for convenient, taxonomic reasons!). Thus, truth in theology can be systematic.

Paul, of course, argues across several "sub-boundaries" within the area of theology. He argues from the past to the present (Abraham as paradigm), from ontology to ethics, from eschatology to ethics (Romans 13:11-14), from anthropology to soteriology (Romans 5, 8), and from soteriology to ontology (Romans 6:1-13). Illustration 3 may help shows this.


Chapter Two: Notes

l. A correspondence theory of truth essentially is the view that truth consists in some form of correspondence between belief and fact. For further discussion, see The Encvclopedia of Philosophy, s.v. "Correspondence Theory of Truth."
The fact that Paul bases ethics on ontics, and argues ethics from ontological statements, indicates a correspondence view of the relationship between ontological statements and ontic reality.

2. In addition, since Paul viewed truth as belonging to God (e.g., Romans 1:25), theology then becomes a paraphrase (or even translation) of God's truth into a cultural and linguistic context.

3. See the arguments given in Chapter I under "Theological Extension."


A Model for Integration

The task of integrating such diverse methods as synthesis and analysis, deduction and induction, extension and extraction is a challenging one indeed. What is basically needed to accomplish this is a model of the theological enterprise, onto which each of the several methods can be mapped. If the model is a sufficient one, each method could be so mapped. Once each method is related to a common model, the similarities between the diverse methods can be studied. To this end, the more formal and symbolic the model is, the greater the probability that the unity of the methods could be observed.

Arriving at a suitable model of theology is no trivial task to be sure. There is much discussion over the use of models in the theological task, but little on a model of the theological task.(n1) If the discussion in chapter II is taken seriously, any model of theology (or more specifically, Paul's theology as manifested in Roman) must be able to illustrate or represent logical and linguistic structures. Thus whereas suitable models may be found in virtually any discipline (e.g., fluid mechanics, social psychology, structural anthropology) the model adopted herein must be able to represent clearly both logical operations (e.g., implication, equivalence) and linguistic operations (e.g., transformation, paraphrase). Mathematical models are often used for those types of operations, probably due to the close kinship between logic and mathematics.

A further difficulty arises when we broach the question as to what exactly are we modeling: the theological product (i.e., linguistic) or the theological process (i.e., the production of the linguistic product). Another way of stating this question offers us a potential resolution: are we modeling the static propositions or the transformations between propositions (e.g., from premise to conclusion)? This way of phrasing the question suggests that if we model the states of both theological data and theological conclusion, then the transformation between the two may also become obvious. Hence a model that portrays theological propositions in a static way will be adopted.

A last question which might be raised by some, concerns whether we will model the theological concepts or the linguistic expression of those concepts. This question, of course, presupposes a hard dichotomy between the two as well as questions the adequacy of language to convey truth. For Paul, this problem did not exist. When the risen Lord spoke to Paul "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting" Paul understood the concept as expressed through an adequate communication medium--language.(n2)

With these questions behind, the model which we will use in this research can now be proposed. The model will incorporate two features: symbolic expression of each method and graphical representation of the basic constituents of the symbolic expressions. We will describe these two features in reverse order.

The graphical aspect centers on portrayal of a proposition whether simple or extremely complex. A proposition can be seen as "containing" a vast number of implicates. That is, a given sentence may "imply" a varied number of other actual or potential sentences. For example, the sentence "justification always is by faith" implies the sentences "justification has always been by faith" and "justification will be by faith from December 21, 1934 through January 17, 1957." It would imply more sentences, of course, but these are sufficient for illustration. The sentence "justification has always been by faith" likewise contains a number of implicates:

1. Abraham was justified by faith.
2. David was justified by faith.
3. Naomi was justified by faith.
The significance of this sample list is that two of the implicates are data in the Biblical record.

Thus a proposition can be seen as a set of implicates. The converse is also true--a given set of implicates forms one proposition. This "set" model of a proposition leads naturally to a "graph" model of a proposition: a proposition can be seen as a two-dimensional figure containing all of its implicates and only its implicates, represented by points or embedded figures within the larger figure. An example of this "graphic" model is found in Illustration 4.

In the example the following facts should be noted:

  1. The area of triangle ABC represents the proposition "justification is always by faith"
  2. The points within that triangle are all implicates of that linguistic proposition
  3. P1 could represent the implicate "Abraham was justified by faith"; P2 could be "Noah was justified by faith"
  4. Sub-regions within ABC (such as ABGE) would represent implicates of ABC, which also implicated P1 and P2. So ABGE could be the proposition "justification before the Crucifixion was by faith"
  5. In this scheme, EGC would then represent "justification during and after the Crucifixion was and is by faith"
  6. Sub-regions could also be subdivided. ABGE, being "justification before the Crucifixion was by faith" contains DFGE "justification between the Conquest and the Babylonian Captivity was by faith," containing P4--"David was justified by faith"
One other aspect of this model must be pointed out before we discuss the symbolic expression feature of our approach. Some "proposition-spaces" are defined by the intersection of other "proposition-spaces." Consider Illustration 5.

The area of figure ABD represents "the Gentiles will be saved," containing P1, "Isaiah prophesied that the Gentiles would be saved." Figure CEFG represents "Israel will be blinded" with P3 being "Isaiah prophesied of the blindness of Israel." The intersection of these two figures is HCD, the set of implicates common to ABD and CEFG. P2 would be the proposition "Gentile salvation came through Israel's blindness." What is important to note here is that HCD can be seen as produced by the intersection of the two larger figures. Likewise HCD could have been produced by intersection of different figures than the two shown, or produced by more than two figures. In any case, the proposition represented by HCD would be determinate and fixed in character and implicates.(n3)

Illustration 5 also affords us a simple way to express the symbolic feature of our method. Let Px be the proposition defined as ABD; Let Py be the proposition defined by area CEFG; and let Pz be the proposition delimited by HCD. Then we will express the relationship between the three areas (and propositions) thus:

Pz = R(Px, Py)
This will be read as "P sub z is defined to be the intersection of P sub x and P sub y under relation R." The relationship R in the case of Illustration 4 is a relationship of subordination: Israel's blindness subserved Gentile salvation. There are many possible types of relationships, as we will see, but the notation will be basically the same.

The symbolic formula given above is also directional: the movement is from left to right. Graphically, this could be understood as starting with figure HCD, and then constructing figures ABD and CEFG. That would be equivalent to starting with Pz and showing it to be the conjunction of Px and Py.

The reverse movement

R(Px, Py) = Pz
would be understood as drawing ABD, then drawing CEFG, and finally noting the intersection CDH. In its linguistic and logical aspects, this amounts to taking proposition Px and determining its implicates, then doing the same for Py, finally noting the propositions which comprised Pz.

With this model in mind, the way is clear to begin mapping the methods noted in Chapter I onto these "proposition-spaces" and observing the transformation or interactions between the theological statements. The procedure which will be followed is simply to express the method in symbolic form and, where helpful, relate this symbolic form to a graphic presentation. (This latter step will . essential to the study, since it should be straightforward from the preceding examples.)

Analysis Analysis maps quite easily onto our model. It involves the breaking up of a unit (a "proposition-space") into the various "proposition-spaces" which define and determine it. Since we begin with a unit and move to multiple units, the process can be expressed thus:

P = R(P1, P2)
As seen above, this graphically means smaller area P and construct two larger areas P1 and P2 which, when drawn, intersect to produce P.

In the first example addressed in Chapter I, the various elements of the symbolic expression can be identified:

  1. P is "We can remain in sin to cause grace to abound."
  2. P1 is "We can remain in sin."
  3. P2 is "Sin causes grace to abound."
The intersection of P1 and P2 produces P. In Paul's argument, he moved from P, via analysis, to Pl and P2. A denial or refutation of Pl (including all the implicates of it) by definition refutes P (whose implicates are a subset of P1).

Another of the examples cited in Chapter I breaks down as this:

  1. P is "Law brought sin to fruition in human experience" (and consequently is blameworthy).
  2. P1 is "In the presence of Law, indwelling sin becomes active."
  3. P2 is "Active indwelling sin brought sin to actuality in human experience" (and consequently is blameworthy).
The breaking of P into the intersection of Pl and P2 allowed the correlation of law with the explosion of sin in the world and yet removed the blame for actual sin from its holy character.


Synthesis also maps onto our model in a rather straightforward manner. The theologian begins with two propositions, P1 and P2; posits the relation R and arrives at a summary proposition Ps. Graphically, this can be seen as drawing the figure containing all the implicates of P1, then drawing the figure containing the implication of P2, and finally formulating the expression Ps which describes the implicates in common between P1 and P2. It can be symbolically expressed thus:

R(P1, P2) = Ps
The intersection-relation between implicates of P1 and implicates of P2 form the implicates of Ps.

One of the cases of Paul's use of this method was used in Illustration 4. P1 was "the Gentiles would be saved," P2 was "Israel would be blinded, R was a relation of subordination, and the result Ps was "Gentile salvation came through Israel's blindness."

Synthesis is then seen to be a movement in reverse order to analysis.

Syllogistic Chaining

The preceding two methods really resolved into one-step formulae; syllogistic chaining does not. As would be expected from the word "chaining," what we have is a series of one-step formulae, with the term of each consisting of the result of a previous syllogism. In our symbolism, a single syllogism is expressed as the intersection of two propositions--major and minor premises:

R (P-major, P-minor) = P-conclusion
Graphically, this movement represents locating the propositional implicates of P-major, locating the implicates of P-minor , and then formulating P-conclusion to identify implicates common to both premises. The R here is the familiar relationship of major premise to minor premise.

When we move from a single syllogism to two syllogisms in a "chain," we see the following:

R(P1, P2) = P3
R(P3, P4) = P5
Notice that P3 becomes the a term in the second formula. This chaining method could of course continue indefinitely with each formula (i.e., syllogism) incorporating preceding conclusions as one of its terms.

It becomes immediately apparent upon examining the syllogistic formulae that each one, formally, is simply a case of synthesis as defined above. The difference between a chain of syllogisms and a series of disconnected syntheses is that in the case of the chain, the proposition-space of a preceding synthesis is further divided by another synthesis. That is, the field of implicates grows increasingly smaller as additional qualifying syntheses are performed on it.

The case adduced in chapter I was presented in three syllogisms. In our model, the final conclusion ("We cannot continue to legally reside in the realm of sin") amounts to the intersection of P1 ("We were identified with Christ"), P2 ("Identification with Christ involves identification with His death"), P4 ("His death was unto sin as death-exacting sovereign tyrant"), and P6 ("Death to a tyrant and his realm negates the possibility of continued life in that realm"). The implicates of the proposition-space of the conclusion would be smaller in number than the implicates of any of the constituent propositions. In this case, we have exactly three cases of synthesis in chain fashion.

Extraction of Theological Substrata

This particular method is of special importance to theological science, for it forms the heart of the theological enterprise of evangelicalism. The evangelical theological endeavors to begin with Scripture, arrive at theological truth, then restate and reapply that truth onto the contemporary setting. This is, of course, exactly what Paul was doing in the example cited from Romans 3. The sequence of events was the same. He started with a Biblical statement in Psalm 51:4. He moved from it to a more generic theological truth, and then applied that truth to Israel's unfaithfulness in his own day. Actually, this contains two movements: one from original scriptural statement to theological truth and the other from theological truth to contemporary application. An attempt to express these steps in symbolic form produces the following two formulae:

A: P-Biblical statement = R ( P-historical form A' , P-theological statement)

B: R (P-theological statement , P-historical form B) = P-contemporary statement

The R in this case is essentially the relation between form and content in a linguistic utterance.

A closer look at formulae A and B leads to the observation that formula A is one of analysis and that formula B is one of synthesis. As analysis, formula A is not exclusive. In other words, a proposition-space can be created by any number of intersections, of any number of other proposition-spaces. This particular one is legitimate but not the only way of analyzing the Biblical text. Other theological truths which went into the formation of Psalm 51:4 (for example from the area of anthropology) could also function as a term in a different analysis.

The synthesis, on the other hand, is determinate and exclusive. Within a given grammatical system and with a specific goal in mind, the authorial process could produce only one proposition-space. The linguistic expression could have varied slightly, to the extent that legitimate paraphrases existed in the linguistic system, but this fact does not detract from the determinate and fixed character of the implicates-set, delineated by the synthesis.

In popular terms, formula A would be called "deriving the principle from the Bible" and formula B would be called "applying the principle to life."

Use of Paradigm Cases

Although the paradigm-case argument can be construed in a significantly more complex manner, (n4) for our purposes it is adequate to resolve it into a one-step movement. It can first be illustrated in "loose" syllogistic form:

Major Premise: Abraham was justified by faith.
Minor Premise: Abraham's life is normative for the Abrahamic community.

Conclusion: Those who are in the Abrahamic community must be justified by faith.

As noted above the syllogistic form is a case of synthesis:
R(P-major, P-minor) = P-conclusion
The above syllogism or synthesis only is binding for those who claim to be members of the Abrahamic community. This is, of course, the nature of a paradigm-case argument. Even with this limited-reference argument, Paul interestingly enough advances Abraham as paradigm-case for Gentile salvation, through the reference to Abraham's pre-circumcision days. Whereas this argument might carry little weight with Gentile readers, it would provide a powerful apologetic for Gentile salvation by faith, in the eyes of the Abrahamic community!

Theological Extension

This method, like extraction of theological sub-strata, is used in a major function of theology: the drawing out of implications from central theological facts to less central ones.

The first example cited in Chapter I concerns "judging one another" in Romans 14. The central point is that Christ will judge the believer. The peripheral point is that we should not judge believers. The steps of this extension can be seen as follows:

Step 1: P1 = R(P2 , P3), where
Step 2: P3 = R(P4 , P5 ), where
Step 3: R(P4 , P6) = P7, where
Step 4: R(P7 , P2) = P8, where
Steps one and two are analytic and steps three and four are synthetic. Paul began with P1 and reduced it down to a point of difference between Christ and ourselves and then worked his way back to the conclusion.

This basic pattern of analysis followed by synthesis can be illustrated graphically by a sample two-step movement (as opposed to the four-step argument above). Symbolically, we would have this:

Pa = R(Pb , Pc)
R(Pc , Pd) = Pe
This is an extension of Pa to Pe. Graphically we would have the situation portrayed in Illustration 6.

The movement is from the set of implicates in Pa to the set of implicates in PE. The "pivot proposition" or common term is clearly Pc in this case. Pd functions as a "selector" of implicates from the entire mass of implicates in Pc. This is the synthesis step, resulting in the conclusion Pe.

In a sense, the first half of this process is the reverse of syllogistic chaining, in that instead of repeated syntheses, repeated analyses take place. This "backward chain" continues until the desired major premise (or pivot proposition) is found. At that point, a syllogistic chain begins and continues until the desired conclusion is reached. Theoretically then, any proposition-space could lead to any other proposition-space via extension, and indeed this is exactly what we would predict on the basis of Paul's view of theology as systematic and interlocking (Chapter II).

Hypothesis Proposal and Testing

So far each "method" has resolved into two types of movements: analysis and synthesis. Combinations of these have been observed and the possibility of integrating all the other methods into these two categories seems almost certain.

Yet when we consider hypothesis proposal and testing, a subtle but significant 6hift of activity becomes apparent. The activity of analysis and synthesis is basically formulation of theological statements; hypothesis activity is that of verification of those statements. This causes us to refine our target as stated in the preface. Our original target of "patterns of producing theological conclusions" now is revised into "patterns of formulating and verifying theological statements."

In order to relate this verification process to the model we have adopted, the logical "structure" of the verification process must be laid out. As a first approximation, we may say something like the following: "Hypothesis P implies data Q. If not-Q then not-P and our hypothesis has been falsified. If Q, then P and our hypothesis has been verified."

The student of logic will immediately recognize the last statement in the above description to be logically incorrect. The assertion of Q, in the implication, does not imply P. Either P or not-P with Q would be a true implication. (The first part is of course valid under modus tollens. ) This is tantamount to denying the ability to verify a hypothesis on the ground that Q might be compatible with other hypotheses besides P.

Yet, a further refinement of our understanding of the verification proces6 will surmount this difficulty. A hypothesis P1 is logically equivalent to a proposition-space P2. This proposition-space P2 consists of statements of predicted order-pairs. In other words, P2 contains statements of the form "if condition P3 obtains, the datum P4 is found also." Thus P2 contains statements correlating given conditions with predicted data. This can be symbolized as follows:

Ps = R-equiv(P1 , P2)
P2= R-corr(P3 , p4)
What this amounts to is that the hypothesis is equivalent to a series of "if p, then q" statements, where p are the "input" conditions or test values, and q are the resultant values. Since we are testing the hypothesis, p will always be true and we will observe the results for either q or not-q. The two possible outcomes are as follows:
One: P3 and P4 both true, making R-corr (P3 , P4) true, and P1 true by equivalence;

Two: P3 and not-P4, making R-corr (P3 , P4) false, and hence P1 false by equivalence.

Thus verification can occur because a hypothesis does not merely imply a set of data; but rather it is equivalent to a set of ordered-pairs of data.

In Paul's case in Romans, the several hypotheses advanced in Romans 4 are all equivalent to certain Old Testament data. The hypotheses are used to predict what would be found in Old Testament cases (such as Abraham) and then the data was examined for verification or falsification. In Romans 4, the hypothesis "justification has always been by faith" is equivalent to the ordered-pairs "if Abraham was justified, then he was justified by faith" and "if David was justified, then he was justified by faith." Since the protasis of each was true, and the predicted apodosis of each was true, the relations of correlation, and then equivalence, hold true. Verification of the theological construct was complete--justification was by faith.

Structuring for "Goodness-of-Fit"

This method involves formulation of additional hypotheses, in the process of verifying an original one. For example, if hypothesis Hl predicts that everywhere in the Biblical text that we find p, we also find q, then what is to be done if a case of p and not-q occurs? Two options are obvious: (1) discard the hypothesis; or (2) qualify its applicability. This latter alternative amounts to identifying some other factor r that is present in the anomalous case, and not present in the other cases, and then constructing an additional hypothesis H2 involving p, q, and r. This second hypothesis qualifies the range of application of H1 in such a way that Hl is verified. As more and more hypotheses are so added, less and less problems will remain in explaining the data. This process attempts to build the smallest system of hypotheses that still minimizes the discordant data.

The formulation process, in our model, (n5) involves identifying and separating the set of implicates (p, q, not-r) from (p, q, r). The resulting disparate implicatesets are then operated on by any of the above methods.


Deduction appears as a formulation method, and is one-step synthesis. This is not surprising since deductive arguments are typically shown as syllogistic and therefore synthetic in our notation. The symbolic expression of a universal argument shows this synthetic character:

R-I(Pu , Ps) = P-concl


Again, induction is a one-step synthesis of an observed specific with a second premise concerning the representative character of the specific. This too is not surprising since inductive arguments are commonly presented in syllogistic form.

The Unity of the Method

From the above analysis and re-interpretation of Paul's "methods," a clear pattern emerges into view. We see Paul working with analysis and synthesis as basic building blocks in his theological task of formulation. The common element between these two items is that of linguistic movement. That is, all the methods of formulation involved moving from a proposition to its implicates or vice versa. Great care was exercised, of course, in moving from either generic to specific or specific to generic, but it was primarily a linguistic and logical task.

Even the methods of verification can be integrated with the methods of formulation, because verification simply involved the inspection of a particular implicate-set. Often the formulation of a proposition (i.e., linguistic form) coincided with construction of a hypothesis. Thus, linguistic movement also played a major part in theological verification.


Chapter Three: Notes

1. Sample discussions may be found in Ian G. Barbour, Myths, Models, and Paradigms and Issues in Science and Religion, Frederick Ferre, Language, Logic and God, and Gordon D. Kaufman, An Essay on Theological Method. Thomas F. Torrance offers an unusual model of theology itself in Theological Science (p. 23) but specifically relates it to perception of theological data--not at all the formulation of theological concepts.

2. It should also be noted that the linguistic expression of this objection is self-stultifying, for it uses a linguistic expression ("Theological concepts") to refer to theological concepts. One simply cannot use linguistic expressions to refute the legitimacy or adequacy of linguistic expressions!

3. The student of logic will notice the similarity between this "graphic" presentation and traditional Venn diagrams. The major difference as used here is that Venn diagrams are used in determining validity; our graphs are used to illustrate the theological "movement" from statement to statement.

4. For example, several steps of analysis can be performed on Abraham's life before we reach a "theological event" which is normative for the Abrahamic community. Furthermore, the nature of the minor premise (or warrant) would be ana- lyzed, taking us into the theory of warrant and backings (see Stepen Toulmin, chapter three, Uses of Argument).

5. This method could be best expressed by a quantification model. In this type of model, our original hypothesis would be expressed as

H1 = (p, q) Rl(p, q)
If a case of (p, not-q) were observed, then we would construct
H2 = (p, q, r) R2 (p, q)
which would effectively limit the application of H to cases of (p, q, not-r).


That this is just a beginning is an obvious understatement. So much more could be done in Romans, in Paul, in theological method. Significant discovery, for both theological and paradigmatic purposes, may occur in these additional areas.

The integrative model itself could certainly be refined. More examples from Romans could be addressed and the analysis of the different cases intensified. The model could be expanded from two dimensions to three dimensions, allowing or graphical representation of the types of R. Much more could certainly be said concerning this.

Even the question studied could be further refined. The presentation herein dealt with the manner of construction of theological statements. What was only hinted at, was the somewhat more difficult question as to the "direction" of this constructive movement. In other words, we discussed the method of construction but not the "target" of the constructive task. It was mentioned that often Paul's theologizing was aimed at refutation of another proposition. This forms a general target--the contrary proposition--but still doesn't indicate how Paul used the method to reach that goal. The objections were prompts to discovery; the "path" of the discovery is still hidden.

There is a question, of course, as to whether or not this further question can actually be studied. Discovery is certainly historical in nature whereas justification of a position (e.g., in Romans) is less easily labeled as such. Watson and Crick, in their "discovery" of the double helix, for example, cannot pinpoint the "nature" of the discovery, but can certainly defend their position in the public area of scholarly writing. To the extent the justification argument conforms to the discovery path, to that extent discovery-method is discernible in justification discourse. This question of relationship needs further work.

A second area for future work concerns the nature and use of theological qualification. By this I refer to the "putting together" of theological propositions in such a way as to qualify one another. We saw this above in Paul's use of synthesis. The case of subordination is especially vivid. Subordination is of critical importance to theology, for it sets boundaries to implicative extensions from a main clause. From a given theological statement an almost infinite number of implicates can be drawn, but with subordination the field of implicates is substantially reduced. The way this occurs is by the forcing of additional constraints on the original field of implicates. In other words, a theological proposition A yields a large set of implicates when conjuncted with specific situation-conditions. Subordinate proposition B will narrow that set by "selecting" only those implicates that match its set of situation-conditions. This process adds significant precision, and more importantly, accuracy in application of theological facts. (Application is simply the conjunction of a theological proposition-complex with a specific set of situation-conditions.) A theological system can thus be seen as a set of theological propositions with carefully defined "qualification structures," which predicts and explains (or retrodicts) the data of Scripture and provides the set of existential (and ethical) implicates with the broadest, and yet accurate, range of application potential. We have seen this qualification at many points in our study of Paul, and its ubiquitous presence in Bible application makes it a significant area for further study.

A final area which needs solid work is that of theological substrata. This question is more familiar to the reader, of course, due to the fact that the Bultmannian debate has largely been concerned with this question. The relation of theological truth to historical and cultural statement is indeed a tricky relation to analyze. A general understanding (such as the one presented herein) is not difficult to gain but a more specific grasp that allows the "extraction" of the generic component in a way that facilitates accurate and broad applications is not as simple a matter. To this writer, the issue basically centers around identification, specification, and qualification of implicit theological data in a given text.

The discipline of Biblical theology holds some promise here, since it provides a theological grid for historical utterance. It allows us to see theological aspects in what appears to be purely historical data. As such, Biblical theology provides theological data (not theology per se) for the structuring and qualifying work of systematic theology. (Note that Biblical theology has its role in essentially historical texts. In texts which are already theological "at the surface," the discipline is less important.)

These three areas--theological discovery, theological qualification, theological substrata--raise intriguing and significant questions for the field of metatheology. As provocative as these questions are, our study has been necessarily limited to a descriptive one. And, as a descriptive study, this work could hardly make normative claims, but it might be asked whether or not anyone can do theology any other way than Paul did--via linguistic movement. Evangelicals openly avow their revelational basis in linguistic Scripture and so such "movement" is to be expected. But what about the non-evangelical? It can be argued that although they use a different truth base (e.g., existential encounter, comparative religion, etc.), the data still gets processed in linguistic form. Hence, the linguistic movement is present there, as well. To proclaim the normative character of our results, therefore, may be like instructing a living man to cause his heart to continue pumping. I rather suspect that that is the case.


Works Concerning Theological Method

Works Specifically on Pauline Thought

The Christian ThinkTank...[] (Reference Abbreviations)