Progressive Doctrine – Going Beyond the New Testament

I am currently reading a book for one of my classes that will start next week called “Beyond the Bible” by I. Howard Marshall.  In chapter 2, he is discussing the development of doctrine.  Though not an original idea, he discusses “redemptive movement” from the works of W. J. Webb which highlights the idea that, throughout history, God has been progressively revealing more about himself and his will, and as a result, doctrines change and morph throughout history:

Second, and more important for our present concern, Webb traces what he calls “redemptive movement” or drive in Scripture that leads us on to a fuller redemption than was envisaged in the New Testament.  He is able to show how there is a tendency toward a fuller liberation in the ongoing history of redemption, as can be seen in developments from the Old Testament to the New Testament, and he argues that this can and should be carried further in the church.  The movement from forbidding eunuchs to approach the temple to fully incorporating them in the people of God is a good example.  Here, it seems, there is a consideration that goes beyond the cultural to establish the legitimacy of some movement and advance in ethics.

This is a very interesting idea, and one that the church has most certainly already been involved in.  One big example is the involvement and role that women have in the church.  Should women still remain silent in church and have no role in the pastorate?  There are definite signs of commands being more driven by the time and culture, especially in light of the transition from the OT to the NT with the inauguration of the kingdom of God ushered in by Jesus.

But how far do we go with this?  How are we to know if change is good and necessary, especially if it may contradict the face-value of certain texts and teachings in the NT?  This is certainly an interesting topic, and I would love to hear any thoughts you may have on this.

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