Launching and Landing
I read a great article the other day by Kevin DeYoung. Pastor DeYoung uses the oft-quoted, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.” At the start of the article, however, he points out the biggest difficulty with this quote: what, exactly, are the essentials?
I’ll let Pastor DeYoung (a much more prolific author and smarter man than I) speak for that deep and important topic. As for me, I’ll stick to a tiny part of what he mentioned that I thought deserved some special attention.
Pastor DeYoung talks briefly about theologies that can be classified as launching theologies or landing theologies:
Some doctrines represent different conclusions reached from basically the same premises. Other doctrines are starting points that set us on a wildly different trajectory. For example, the difference between postmillennialism and amillennialism is not a difference over first things. The two sides simply disagree how best to interpret a few disputed texts. It’s a matter of landing theology. By contrast, the doctrine of Scripture (to give one example) is about launching theology. If we get that doctrine wrong, we are bound to mess up everything else.
These definitions provide a great framework for measuring nearly any doctrine. So often, we find ourselves disagreeing with another person, and, inevitably, someone will use the aforementioned quote. This is wonderfully true, but if we’re talking about disagreeing on a launching theology, my fear (and the reality) is that everything in our practices will be askew based on that launching theology. Moreover, it is highly likely that the practices will not be the only things affected—instead, most of the other doctrines to which we hold will be forced onto the grid of our launching theologies, thus skewing both our practices and our dogma well outside of the “agree-to-disagree” realm.
I highlight this because it’s always been difficult when talking to another Christian—a person who I would, based on profession and outworking of that profession, believe to be a true convert—to determine where the line of “essentials” really ends. Because the two categories force a sort of pre-game analysis, it seems to be to make such lines much easier to delineate.
For instance, I have spoken with a social media acquaintance numerous times about numerous Christian issues. She and I disagree on the topic of cessation of the signs-and-wonders gifts. Her determination for this uses the same Scriptural premise as mine, but she comes to a different conclusion—almost the precise definition of a landing theology. In this case, I feel entirely safe calling our disagreement a charitable disagreement because even though I feel she’s made a wrong conclusion (compared to mine), I do not view it as an essential.
On the other hand, there are several people with whom I find myself disagreeing who call themselves Christians. When pushed in even the slightest fashion, almost all of our issues stem from one or more of the following: a completely different definition of the purpose of church, a completely different view of the sufficiency of Scripture, a completely different inventory for what we consider the Gospel, and a completely different definition of discipleship. Yes, we might affirm the Apostle’s Creed together, but these other issues are massive issues, and the are much more in line with the definition of a launching theology.
After all, if your view of church, discipleship, the Gospel, and Scripture is different from mine, virtually all other aspects of Christian life will be different.
Pastor DeYoung’s definitions have been helpful in these last few days as I ponder the crucial differences between Reformed theology and some of the more modern “philosophies” that are argued by many modern (and usually non-denominational) evangelical pastors.
Just figured I’d share. :)