Chapter A11, “Divisions of Christian Doctrine”
Pieper here discusses three doctrinal issues, though he will postpone detailed discussion. First, he describes Law and Gospel, then Fundamental and Non-Fundamental Doctrines, then he will close with a discussion of open questions.
Law and Gospel are not popular as a framework for theological discussion. Pieper suggests this is because modern theologians have discarded the idea of the vicarious atonement, thus making the categories obsolete. Yet the Bible clearly calls all to obey God’s Law. Then, when we are unable to obey, God gives us his work of Gospel. Thus, the theologian must treat both correctly so we can know sin, good works, and our need for Christ.
Fundamental and Non-Fundamental doctrines arise next. Pieper makes it clear that all biblical doctrines are important. yet the fundamental doctrines must be held or there is no salvation. For instance, Christ’s atonement is a fundamental doctrine but Satan’s existence is not. All doctrine is important. But some is so important that to miss it is to perish. Pieper discusses how some fundamental doctrines may be of secondary importance as well, not usually destroying the Christian faith, but hindering it.
Pieper then turns to “open questions and theological problems.” He observes that these are truly few in number and that the Bible is patently unclear or silent. As an example he cites the problem of how some angels fell when they do not have a sinful nature. The Bible is silent on this issue. He also addresses the problem of God’s stated desire that none should perish and the fact that some do. Again the Bible leaves this open so we have no dogmatic answer.