NEW

Anglican Futures: Anglican Alphabet Spaghetti

Anglican Futures Anglican Alphabetti Spaghetti A dummies guide to the plethora of organisations and acronyms linked to faithful Anglicans in the UK and Europe. I once spent some time around military personel.  Everything had its own TLA (Three Letter Acronym) right...

Canterbury Tales: Favourite Bible Stories Retold by Archbishop Justin Welby

Canterbury Tales Favourite Bible stories retold by Archbishop Justin Welby The Good Samaritan A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead, halfway...

Anglican Mission in England Elects Two Suffragan Bishops

Anglican Mission in England Elects Two Suffragan Bishops The Anglican Mission in England (AMiE) met in Synod on 18 June.  While there, they elected two suffragan bishops to aid Bishop Andy Lines in providing episcopal oversight for the overall work.  Bishop Lines also...

Pride Flags Causing Conflict at Christian School

Pride Flags Cause Conflict at Christian School Conflict has broken out in a Christian school in Oxfordshire over the display of “Pride” flags. The institution in question is Kingham Hill School.  The same Trust (Kingham Hill Trust) oversees Oak Hill College, an...

Prayer Book Society Raising Funds to Put BCPs in the Hands of Choristers

Prayer Book Society Raising Funds to Put BCPs in the Hands of Choristers The Prayer Book Society, which will soon celebrate its 50th Anniversary, is raising funds to put a special edition BCP into the hands of junior choristers around the nation.   The idea came to...

Book Review: Reimagining Britain by Justin Welby

Reimagining Britain Foundations for Hope Justin Welby Bloomsbury, 2018, new edn. 2021 (ISBN: 978-1-4729-8497-5, 322pp, £12.99) The Archbishop of Canterbury has made several notable political interventions recently, including over ‘partygate’ and the Rwanda deportation...

Birthday of Anglicanism in America

Birthday of Anglicanism in America By the Revd Canon Chuck Collins June 16, 1607 was the birthday of Anglicanism in America. On this day Captain John Smith and 104 others celebrated the Lord’s Supper when they arrived safely in Jamestown, Virginia. Jamestown was the...

Barnabas Fund Report: Two ChiBok Girls Found

Barnabas Fund Reports Two Chibok Girls Found After 8 Years 24 June 2022 Two women, who were among hundreds of schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram from the Nigerian town of Chibok eight years ago, have been found. Hauwa Joseph was discovered among a group of other...

New Bishop-elect for the Diocese of Cashel, Ferns & Ossory

Church of Ireland News New Bishop Elected for Cashel, Ferns & Ossory The Church of Ireland diocese of Cashel, Ferns, and Ossory now has a bishop-elect.  The Venerable Adrian Wilkinson, Archdeacon of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross was elected to succeed the Rt Revd Michael...

Editorial: Lessons to be Learned from the American Pro-Life Movement

Editorial Lessons to be Learned from American Pro-Life Movement Friday, 24 June 2022, the Feast of St John the Baptist, will be a date which will live in infamy amongst the supporters of abortion.  On that date, the US Supreme Court, overturned the precedent set by...

Finding the Right Hill to Die On: Book Review

Finding the Right Hill to Die On: the case for theological triage 

Gavin Ortlund 

Crossway (TGC) 

ISBN 9781433567421 

Paperback 

This book began back in 2005 when Al Mohler was sitting in A&E where he ‘discovered’ a theological tool – ‘triage’ – which refers to how medical personnel sort patients out between serious and less serious. From this experience he coined the phrase ‘theological triage’; a means of sorting out awkward doctrines that divide people.  

Basing your theological structure upon an emergency room doesn’t actually have any Biblical warrant. Consider the production of the Westminster Confession of Faith. The Westminster Assembly conducted its business in the midst of civil war and still managed to produce 33 chapters of doctrine plus a Larger and Shorter Catechism along with a Directory for Public Worship. To it was added the Form of Presbyterian Church Government. 

Enter Gavin Ortlund, disciple of triage. We understand where he’s come from and gone to. In fact, we don’t need to guess since he helpfully tells us (Ch 3 My journey on secondary and tertiary doctrines). 

Of course Ortlund advocates fighting for primary doctrines, but his list is sufficiently short that no-one is going to die anyway. 

Doctrinal Sectarianism (Ch1) is apparently the real danger! Let that sink in. So we can dismiss all those controversies in the past since they lacked sophistication. The Puritans? The Covenanters? The Seceders?  Forget them. Under triage they were all fighting over nonessentials. Take the famous Gorham case in the Church of England. Gorham was an evangelical Calvinist, who was denied a living by the Bishop of Exeter. Was the baptism liturgy a hill to die on? Gorham rightly thought so. Even the Bishop thought so, though for the opposite reason. Under triage, there is no hill to begin with.  

Take eschatology, creation, cessationism, church government, sacraments, worship – we could go on, but you get the idea. Drop them in the box called ‘secondary’ (and if you’re really clever – ‘tertiary’) and off you go whistling merrily that you’ll die on the hill of truth. For Ortlund, the majority of doctrinal fights Christians have today tend to be over third-rank issues. Ortlund mentions creation, identity of the antichrist and the millennium of Rev 20 as third-rank. However, going through the book one realises that secondary accounts for a large number of doctrines.  

Perhaps Ortlund has a different understanding of the Great Commission. Perhaps the Lord didn’t say ‘teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded’, rather what he really said was ‘teach theological triage’. If only Luther, Calvin and Knox had possessed this great theological insight.   

The central problem with the emergency room ideology is that every single doctrine has a way of affecting everything else at different times and under different circumstances. What may not matter much today may actually matter tomorrow. 

Another problem is that theological triage turns everyone into a marshmallow. No-one will die for anything. Further, it is actually an undermining of the Crown Rights of the Redeemer. Thus, either he gave a form of government to the church or he didn’t. Either he gave a body of truth to the church or he didn’t. 

What Ortlund is giving to the Church is an exit out of standing up for anything. Here is a charter for sitting down. Take the case of Daniel, all he had to do was bow his head as the parade passed by. Under Ortlund, triage means there’s no hill to die on. Maybe we should apply the triage to the Marian martyrs. 

Was predestination a hill to die on? They said yes and were condemned to flames. Was the mass a hill to die on? They said yes. How foolish. Maybe we should ask Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley, “did you die on the right hill?” What did J C Ryle conclude on this? He stated the reasons why they were burnt in his tract entitled Why Were Our Reformers Burnt? Ryle seemed to think it was a hill to die on.  

Ortlund concludes with a plea for ‘humility’. What he actually means is, let’s all engage in theological triage and you’ll all discover like him, there’s few hills to die on at all. Problem solved. 

Rev E T Kirkland 

Previous

Next