Jumping from a link in one of Johnny Mac’s recent blogposts, I found this article by Dr. Albert Mohler on “theological triage” – a very important concept that is very helpful in maintaining fellowship across doctrinal lines without compromising the foundational principles of the Biblical gospel. I can (for instance) sharply disagree with Johnny Mac over the issue of the perpetuity of the Gifts of the Spirit and over the issue of Calvinism, and still very much appreciate him as a brother. I can sharply disagree with Mark Driscoll over his ecclesiology… and, there it is again, that darned Calvinism… and still appreciate him as a brother.

But on “first-order” doctrines like the nature of salvation (contained in the famous “solas” – sola gratia, sola fide), or the Trinity, or the Nature of Jesus – if we disagree on these or call these into question then we no longer have any basis for Biblically Christian fellowship.

Hence, when Rob Bell says stuff like:

What if tomorrow someone digs up definitive proof that Jesus had a real, earthly, biological father named Larry, and archaeologists find Larry’s tomb and do DNA samples and prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the virgin birth was really just a bit of mythologizing the Gospel writers threw in to appeal to the followers of the Mithra and Dionysian religious cults that were hugely popular at the time of Jesus, whose gods had virgin births? But what if as you study the origin of the word virgin, you discover that the word virgin in the gospel of Matthew actually comes from the book of Isaiah, and then you find out that in the Hebrew language at that time, the word virgin could mean several things. And what if you discover that in the first century being “born of a virgin” also referred to a child whose mother became pregnant the first time she had intercourse? (Velvet Elvis, p. 26)

…he places himself outside of the community of faith.

Sorry, man; them’s the facts.

And his weak disclaimer on the very next page that he “affirm(s) the historic Christian faith, which includes the virgin birth and the trinity” is negated by the previous citation on page 26 and its implications – if these foundational doctrines are called into question, then the Pollyanna, fideistic affirmation on page 27 is rendered pointless.

Ideas have consequence.

If Jesus was not born of a Virgin – and by that, I mean physically born of a woman who was unambiguously a virgin – then He is unqualified to be the sinless Savior, and we are all dead in our trespasses.


The little NRSV-ish semantic two-step shuffle he tries to dance around the issue of Isaiah’s use of almah’ is thoroughly unimpressive. There are much better explanations than ones which obliterate the foundation of the Biblical record.

But anyway; back to Mohler’s article.

Here’s a quote which summarizes his point:

The error of theological liberalism is evident in a basic disrespect for biblical authority and the church’s treasury of truth. The mark of true liberalism is the refusal to admit that first-order theological issues even exist. Liberals treat first-order doctrines as if they were merely third-order in importance, and doctrinal ambiguity is the inevitable result.

Fundamentalism, on the other hand, tends toward the opposite error. The misjudgment of true fundamentalism is the belief that all disagreements concern first-order doctrines. Thus, third-order issues are raised to a first-order importance, and Christians are wrongly and harmfully divided.

Great article – well worth the read.