What's Your Source and Focus?

Yesterday a good friend shared with me the idea of the "Formal" and "Material" principle.  According to F.E. Mayer, "Formal principle and material principle are two categories in Christian theology to identify and distinguish the authoritative source of theology (formal principle) from the theology itself, especially the central doctrine of that theology (material principle), of a religion, religious movement, tradition, body, denomination, or organization. A formal principle tends to be texts or revered leaders of the religion, while a material principle, its central teaching."

In other words, where does an individual or church derive it theology from; what is the source (i.e. formal)?  Once this has been established, what portions of the derived theology does the individual or church tend to focus on as its central teaching (i.e. material)?  

The following diagram is a diagram fleshing this out for some of the larger denominations in the world:

Formal and Material Principle Diagram

Now it is your turn.  

What is your authoritative source of your theology?  Where do you derive your theology from?  

  • Self; What Feels Right
  • Past Experiences
  • The Bible
  • Traditions of the Church
  • Pragmatism; whatever works
  • Popular Opinion
  • Reason/Mind
  • Republican/Democrat Talking Points About God
  • Preacher (i.e. local or TV)
  • Local Cultural Norms
  • Historic Christian Leader

Once you have discerned this... 

What is your central doctrine and/or focus?

  • End Times
  • Creationism
  • Victorious Living
  • Christ Crucified
  • Social Activism
  • Gifts of the Spirit
  • God's 10 Commandments
  • Evangelism
  • God's Sovereignty 
  • Pious Living
  • God's Love
  • Perfect Sanctification


terriergal said…
Pastor Matt - it would be a neat thing to have a continuously running nonscientific poll on your sidebar, with these two questions and radio button options, which you submit and it just keeps adding up the submissions to make a bar graph. If you make it its own separate page, it would be easy to share on Facebook or google plus, as well.
@ terriergal

Got it! On the side panel. Do me a favor if you can... pass on the word about the poll to your friends if you can! Thanks for the feedback!

P.S. I will leave the poll open until March 1st to see how this goes.
Here you go:

Anonymous said…
I voted "Christ-Crucified" as well as "Other" because the heart of the Christian faith isn't just about Christ dying but Christ rising. All too often evangelicals across the board focus exclusively on Christ's death and not near enough (if any) on his resurrection. The power of the gospel is that Christ ROSE from the dead, it's our future hope to rise as well! I know you probably include that in your understanding of "Christ-Crucified" but I wanted to explain my "Other" vote... = )
@ Anonymous

So, as you were typing out your response I was working on a paper here at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. (Here for a couple of weeks for continuing education). The funny thing is that I am writing a paper on the central message of Mark's Gospel. It is amazing to see how the climax of the Gospel of Mark is the cross, not the resurrection. I'll be sharing it later next month in a blog series! Stay Tuned! Grace and Peace.