Principles & Particulars

Written by Victor Stanley Jr.

Presbyterians generally teach that the principles of their organization, not the particulars, are taught in Scripture. So let us briefly look at principles and particulars to see if this statement can stand as true or if it is an untenable position to hold.

Principles are those things that underlie many actions, rules, regulations, and laws. They are the fundamental ideas that drive the actions of a person, institution or society. As a result, principles may result in variety of applications, and this is best seen by looking at the laws of various societies.

The Levitical law said that men could not round the corners of their hair (Lev. 19:27), this was built upon the principle of the Israelites distinguishing themselves from the pagan customs and rituals regarding idol worship and ceremonies for the dead. While in modern times that particular law may not apply to Christians the underlying principle still stands, Christians should make sure that the way they behave keeps them distinct from pagans. Maybe this means refraining from certain cultural rituals and practices, or not dressing or styling oneself a particular way .

With this in mind the Presbyterian’s assertion, that the principles of their organization are taught in scripture but their particulars are not, is a very agreeable statement. However, in using principles to develop particular practices one must be careful not to skew or corrupt said principle for the sake of pragmatism. While principles can be fleshed out in a multiplicity of ways, if they are stretched too far their integrity weakens and they lose their truth and value.

 

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