Point Theology, Circle Theology

I am a fan of Circle Theology.

Circle Theology is one way of thinking about classical orthodoxy. We talk and think about theology in such a way that we create a big circle. The Truth is in the circle (we think).

Contrast this with another way of thinking about orthodoxy, a newer way, but by no means new. I call this alternative "Point Theology." Point Theology holds that Truth is on the point and that that anyone can find that point if they just think hard enough, read long enough and restrict their theological influences to the right sources.

Circle Theology doesn't deny Truth. Circle Theology just operates on the assumption that, as flawed and limited beings, perfect truth ... truth whittled down to a point ... will always elude us.

Circles lead to humility.
Points lead to pride.
Circles make us generous.
Points make us combative.
Circles protect us from heresy.
Points ... surprisingly ... leave us vulnerable.

So, what's this look like

The Trinity
Good Trinitarian theology spends a lot of time talking about what God is not. Not "One God in three disguises." Not three gods. Not hierarchical. Not absent. Not evil.

This theology-by-negation protects you from affirming a part of the truth and then running off into heresy.

This was the theological method of the church fathers.

And it fundamentally operates on circles

Reformed Theology

But what about the Five Points? Am I knocking Calvin? A lot of my friends have HUGE crushes on him.

Circle Theology does not prevent you from enjoying the Five Points (or Westminster or The Chalcedonian Creed). Classically, these creedal statements defined circles of belonging. Think about a yard (points as fences, boundary markers) rather than a Twister board (points as locking you in and down).

This theological method allows you to relate with people who don't agree with you on everything. And let's be honest, who agrees with you on everything?

This was a popular method ... though not the only method ... That showed up in the Reformation.


Evangelical Bloodsport

When evangelicals fight, we're tempted to write people who disagree with us on one point all the way outside the circle. These fights become violent, fueling both pride and arrogance. Even if the correction is accurate, the pride that comes with Point Theology, makes it nearly impossible for the other person to receive the correction.

In a culture skeptical of the motives of people who claim the Truth Point, Circle Theology really resonates. The open-handedness goes a long way.

I don't know many practitioners of Circle Theology today.

What difference do you think it'd make if we worked more in circles than points?


  1. Anonymous4:47 PM

    Good stuff Steve, as always.

    Particularly clever and devastatingly concise: "evangelical bloodsport." Almost didn't have to read the paragraph to know where you were going and be rebuked by it! Thanks


  2. Steve, I really enjoyed this post.

    I just have one question: can I, or can I not, organize the Rob Bell bookburning for GCF? :P