Selective Exposure, Confirmation Bias, and Information Overload (Part 1)

You would think that we would be able to reason better in the age where we have more sources of information, better tools to evaluate information, and a broader range of available perspectives. But that does not seem to be the case. In fact, It may be the opposite. Foolish thought appears to be a bigger problem than ever.

But if you think about it, this should not be surprising. We live in an age of information overload. Robert Dykstra’s book, “Finding Ourselves Lost: Ministry in the Age of Overwhelm,” notes that we are drowning in information, and this leads to stress. So what do we do when we become overwhelmed in information?

  • We can vascillate back and forth as different information and perspectives are absorbed. That, however, adds to the stress.
  • We can bend to authority. Pre-modern thought tends toward ancient authorities (philosophers, prophets, holy writ, etc.). Modern thought tends toward modern authorities (scientists, engineers, recognized experts, etc.) However, most people who are reading this are probably more post-modern than they think.
  • We can practice selective exposure. This where we intentionally limit the amount of data and the sources of data.

Selective exposure is not in itself bad. We can’t handle all the information that is available. However, it can be a part of an ugly cycle.

  1. John (to name someone at random) comes into a situation with preconceived worldview and beliefs.
  2. John lives in a globalistic, pluralistic, multi-perspectival world with a huge amount of data to process.
  3. John, being human, doesn’t want to add unnecessary stress to his life. Unconsciously, John tends to find data that supports his preconceptions more compelling than data that challenges him to change. This is confirmation bias. Consciously, John tends to seek sources of information that he finds more compelling (ie. supporting his preconceptions) and avoid those sources that he finds less compelling (ie. challenging his preconceptions). This is selective exposure.
  4. John is not only a human, but a social being, and culture-creating being. Living in a multicultural, multi-perspectival, globalistic world, is stress inducing because it challenges one to rethink and change. As such, John is likely to slide into a sub-culture (either physical or virtual) that is consistent with his own beliefs and values. That creates what is colloquially called an echo chamber.
  5. This sub-culture tends to reinforce the beliefs of John, and may even move John to more extreme versions of his own previous beliefs. This feeds back into step 1 and the cycle continues.

There seemed to be a belief that globalism and technology would tear down cultures. Perhaps there is some truth to that… but as monocultures break down physically, they seem to increase in virtual communities.

I consider this to be a problem. It is a problem for society. It is a problem as one who wants to grow and learn as a person rather than simply spin one’s wheels. And as a missionary, I am called upon to be both cross-cultural and culturally sensitive. The cycle described above is damaging for missionaries, and ministries.

I will suggest a way that may reduce the cycle… in Part 2 (when I get around to posting it.).

When Mentors Disappoint

Karl Barth in his book “The Humanity of God” wrote,

One day in early August I 914 stands out in my personal memory as a black day. Ninety-three German intellectuals impressed public opinion by their proclamation in support of the war policy of Wtlhelm II and his counselors. Among these intellectuals I discovered to my horror almost all of my theological teachers whom I had greatly venerated. In despair over what this indicated about the signs of the time I suddenly realized that I could not any longer follow either their ethics and dogmatics or their understanding of the Bible and of history. For me at least, I 9th century theology no longer held any future.

Karl Barth, The Humanity of God, trans., J.N. Thomas and T Weiser (Richmond, VA: John Knox, l 960) 19.

Mentors disappoint. Serving in a counseling center, I see religious leaders fall… often in spectacular fashion. In my limited experience, something like half of them who fall due to moral lapse truly want to learn, grow, and be restored. The other half, want to maintain their behavior but have the repercussions of the behavior go away. It may be sad to see that happen, but it is even more sad the ripple effect this has on those who look up to them.

I have had that happen as well. Perhaps not in spectacular fashion, but I have had people I looked up to as paragons of faith disappoint in years later. I have had people (I am thinking of one in particular) I respected for their wisdom and virtue not only justify what seems clearly to be wrong, but try to talk me in to the same behavior. I won’t share details for two reasons. First, I believe that person is a good person overall. Second, what he was attempting to get me do is something that many Christians in my faith tradition would agree with. While I am quite confimed in my own understanding of the issue, I have no great desire to argue with people who passionately disagree with me. Right or wrong, in the case I am referring to, I saw it as a mentor failing.

So what does one do? On the bad side, one can lose faith. But if one does that, it perhaps indicates a need for a bit of soul-searching. A spiritual mentor should point a person to God not to himself or herself. If one’s faith is destroyed by the failing of a mentor, then perhaps the mentor did a poor job of mentoring, or perhaps the mentee has simply placed his/her faith in the wrong place. Now, I don’t want to take it too far. I have heard people use this argument and extend it into victim-blaming. They would say, if a mentor fails and the mentee loses faith, that is the fault of the mentee. I don’t think so. A real mentor is responsible to some extent for the mentee, and cannot simply accept no responsibility for the harm done to the mentee. But, again, a mentee should take time to reflect on whether his or her faith is based on who Jesus is, or who the mentor was, or is.

I would argue, however, that there are some good things that can come from the failure of a mentor.

  1. It can point one to God rather than the mentor. (I already spoke about this.)
  2. It can bring an opportunity to reflect on one’s own perspectives. Is the judgmentalism, self-pride, or other poor views that need to be addressed? Every mentor will fail in some way. No one is perfect, so it is good that each of us learn this in some way or another.
  3. In some cases, the “fall” of the mentor may have been for doing something right rather than wrong (martyrdom is full of these) and so the mentor may provide an opportunity for new inspiration.
  4. Other times, like described by Barth above, one must say that the mentor had led one down the wrong road, and it is time to choose a better road.

Good and Bad Reasons for Theological Blogging

I like to blog. I do believe that those of us in ministry are theologians. I think there are great reasons to blog theologically, but perhaps I should also be realistic about it.

At one time weblogs were the hot new thing, but those times are past. Hotter and newer forms of media are here now. If you want to get views, putting cute animal pics on Instagram, and retweeting some trending conspiracy will likely get you bigger results. Blogposts almost never go viral. In over 10 years of blogging, I have only had one post that snuck up on the periphery of “going viral” and it wasn’t even a post that I liked that much. Some people speak of the possibilities of monetization. While this is indeed possible, it is not a likely trajectory for most people writing in theology. I have known a few who have succeeded in doing this, but in those cases, their blog was treated like a business with staff an advertising budget, and merch for sale. Commonly, they accepted (often quite cringy) advertisements to be on their website (“Anyone wish to talk to their own personal angel?”) I also don’t think that blogs are a great evangelism tool. There is no real substitute for real human interaction combined with compassion through action. Your awesome proofs that Jesus is God are unlikely to be read, much less leading to radical conversion. Nothing wrong with trying, but one don’t let your excitement be dashed by reality.

There are reasons, however, that theological blogging can be beneficial.

  1. It is a good place to record and hone your thoughts. As you read and meditate, you have some good thoughts and some… not so good. Both of these are likely to be forgotten, unless you write them down. The process of writing them down helps on its own, but this is enhanced if you write your thoughts down where they can be retrieved. Having them written down in an electronic form with search functions, tagging, and hyperlinks available, may work better than simply writing in notebooks. And writing to a real (potential) audience can force one to write more thoughtfully and coherently.
  2. It can serve as a repository of research and reflections that may be drawn upon for other uses. Such uses include sermons, training seminars, articles, books, videos, and so forth. I have been blogging on my main website for over 10 years. In that time, I have accumulated almost 1,200 posts that would overflow a 2000 page book. Some of the writing I have done I am quite proud of. Others… less so. But by utilizing categories and tags and searches, I can find things I have collected (with references) and thoughts that can speed up producing other material.
  3. It can be used to influence others. I do think one needs to keep things in perspective here. I average around 1000 views per month. It is okay, but hardly impressive numbers. Some do more and some do less, but if you are talking about theology, generally you will not attract big crowds. But that is okay. There are even advantages to this. If you want to blog on your favorite recipe for strawberry turnovers, or the most beautiful waterfalls in the Philippines, you will have a much larger likely audience. On the other hand, you also have much greater competition. You will not be on the first page of Google search… or second page… or third. Also, the likelihood that you will have lasting positive impact with searchers is fairly low. However, if you search on Google for “transcendental contextualization,” a blog I wrote shows up on page 2, and a slideshare I created based on blogposts I had done is on page 1. The same thing occurs if one is looking at interreligious dialogue based on the missiologist Max Warren. Writing on less common topics does have advantages sometimes.
  4. It can break down barriers, and promote communication. Two thirds of my visitors are either from the United States and the Philippines. The other third are from a large variety of nations and territories— 198 so far in 2020. Many of those locations are considered “creative access” regions. And since blogs can be set up to allow forum responses, one can also learn and grow that way. <And of course, if you find your comment feed is sounding like most youtube comment feeds, you can turn off the feature… no worries.>

I said before that I believe that all ministers are theologians. But not all ministers are good theologians. I believe blogging can help one become better. I also think it allows ministers to provide an alternative perspective to the dubious messages that float around from various other sources— both Christian and non-Christian.

Don’t Start Attending Our Church?

In ministry, we are guided, in part, by the Great Commission— to share our faith in season and out of season. And often, this drive to share our faith can often be conflated with a drive to grow our church. I have had this happen to me as well. I have had people share the Christian gospel with me, and I let them do it even though I am already a Christian. But as they shared the faith, it really quickly drifted into “their form of faith” and they seemed genuinely bothered that I was a fellow Christian but not switching to their own specific church, or sect, or theological perspective.

This seems pretty messed up to me, but what about the opposite. Is it okay to be a bit discouraging of people switching to one’s own church? I recall a story of a man who sought to convert to Judaism. Talking to a rabbi, he was shooshed away. It was only with the man’s third attempt to have the rabbi oversee his conversion that the rabbi relented and guided him through the process. As a Christian, this seems weird. While the US Marine Corp has long utilized the slogan “The Few, the Proud, the Marines” to suggest their elite status, Christian churches tend to follow a slogan more akin to, “Come on in, we will take anyone.” And in some ways, that is good. God loves and accepts anyone, so how could we do less?

However, while there is no excuse (that I know of) to discourage someone from following Christ, there can be reasons to discourage someone from switching to one’s own church. Some churches can be toxic and perhaps one doesn’t want to have a young believer thrown into such toxicity. Some churches are not a good fit for someone (this may not be a good reason to reject someone, but it may point to the need of informed decision-making on the part of the person). However, I will give a couple of examples from my setting in missions.

  1. Shortly after arriving in the Philippines, I became a member of a church that organized medical missions. My wife joined that group. Even though it was officially a local church ministry, in practice well over half of those who joined were from other churches. We certainly welcomed our medical team members to visit our church. However, we did not encourage them to change church. Medical missions is based on partnership. When we encourage volunteers to leave their own church and come to ours, it sabotages those partnerships making it difficult to work. If we do a medical mission near our church, if we want to partner with other churches, we really can’t prioritize our church over other churches when it comes to new believers. If we in a distant location we have to partner with another church, we really limit ourselves if we only work with churches that are part of our same association or theology. We need to show these other churches respect if we hope to continue to work with them.
  2. A few years later, we were part of a different ministry… one we started. It was a counseling center where we also taught Clinical Pastoral Education (we are still part of that organization). We were working with a local pastor. Our group was ecumenical, but that particular pastor kept putting pressure on the volunteers as well as the trainees to join his church. That did cause problems. It is hard to get trainees to come if their church or denomination know that we are working in some way to undermine them. In fact, after we had resolved that issue, I had ended up telling more than one person when they were talking about denominations and churches, “Please don’t leave your church (or denomination). We are hoping to continue to work with your church (or denomination), so we hope you will continue to still attend there and serve there.”

If one accepts the catholicity (mystical union) of the Body of Christ, and sees that as preeminent over a particular theological novelty, or a specific sect, I believe one can serve far more effectively in missions. Perhaps a third story would suggest this.

3. My wife led a friend to Christ. Although, we did not pressure her to join our church, she chose to, and, in fact, her family and our family worked together in church for several years. However, soon my wife’s friend had a concern. One daughter was very active in a church that was of a very faith tradition. My wife’s friend wondered what she could do to get her daughter to switch churches. My wife’s suggestion was to not discourage her in any way as to the church she is presently attending. She is not only attending but also involved in ministry there. It is not a cult… let her be. The daughter ended up staying in that church for another year or two. Eventually, she did switch churches. However, she did not join our church or denomination. She actually joined a different denomination and eventually became a missionary. It is my view, at least, that her decision to follow God in missions comes, in part, by not embracing a church wars. (I do remember one time saying something to her disparaging of one aspect of her new denominations’s theology. It did no long-term harm. However, it came from a bad place, not an edifying place.)

I do believe that one problem this competition for church membership can also show itself in confusion as to what the gospel is. As I noted at the start, it seems like for some, sharing the gospel is, for them, getting someone to become an attending and tithing member of their church and the actual message of the gospel is an inadequate and unsatisfying part of the presentation for them.

Missions Theology Book Update

I have decided to work more on my book on Missions Theology. I had started to work on it four years ago, but then stopped when working on my book on Interreligious Dialogue (See My Books above). But I decided to work again. A few updates:

—The working title has changed. Now, “‘Walking With’ as a Metaphor for Missions Theology“

—As the title suggests, I try to center most of the book at least loosely on this metaphor. Key topics in this area are:

Chapter 3. ‘Walking With’— As Metaphor of Missions. This looks at this term and variations of it as it is used in the Bible, and consider how it may relate to Christian missions.

Chapter 4. “Sent Ahead”— The Great Commissions. This looks at missions in terms of God sending out His people, focusing on several versions of the Great Commission in the Gospels and the Book of Acts.

Chapter 5. “Sent Ahead”— Missionaries in the Bible. This continues the idea of the previous chapter, but more specifically in terms of missionaries (apostles) in the Bible as Sent Out ones.

Chapter 6. “Following Behind”— The Missio Dei. This chapter looks at missions from the opposite perspective. while Chapters 4 and 5 see missions as God sending out His people before Him, this chapter sees missions in terms of God going out on missions, and preparing for His people to follow Him in missions.

Chapter 7. “Staying Behind”— The Theology of “Anti-Missions.” This chapter is a bit self-explanatory. Christianity has vascillated between promoting missions, denigrating missions, and being indifferent to missions. This chapter is on the theologies of those who have opposed Christian missions.

—The biggest topic I am covering outside of this metaphor is evaluating contextualized/local theologies. How might one identify a good contextualization as opposed to a bad one.

Some Perspective Categories on God

CategorySub-CategoryBrief Description
AtheistPositive AtheistPositively believes in the non-existence of a supreme personal God/being
AtheistNegative AtheistStates lack of belief in a supreme personal God/being
AgnosticClosed AgnosticDoesn’t know if there is a God, and doesn’t believe it is something knowable.
Agnostic“Ignostic”Doesn’t know if there is a God, and doesn’t really care.
AgnosticOpen AgnosticDoesn’t know if there is a God, but would like to know.
PantheistRejects a personal God, but accepts the spiritual interconnectedness of all things. Creation is the holy, and the transcendent.
PanentheistSimilar to pantheist. However, a pantheist may say that God IS everything, while a panentheist would probably say that God IS IN everything (or permeates everything)
PolytheistBelieves in many gods (at least the existence of many gods)
PolytheistHenotheistBelieves in many gods, but chooses to worship only one
PolytheistDualistBelieves in two primary Gods. They worship one god, and see themselves as opposed to the other.
MonotheistBelieves in one true God. Rejects the term god as applying to other beings.
MonotheistDeistSees God as transcendent creator, who is presently uninvolved in this world.
MonotheistUnitarianGod is one and cannot be seen as divided in any way
MonotheistBinitarianGod is one but can be identified in terms of two persons— Father and Son.
MonotheistTrinitarianGod is one but can be identified in terms of three persons— Father, Son, and Holy Spirit
MonotheistModalistGod is one and cannot be divided, but changes His form at different times in History or in different settings.
OtherAntitheistUsually just means anti-religious, or in opposition to theists, rather than a statement regarding belief in God
OtherSkepticDoubts or rejects things that are outside of the mainstream “scientific” and will only diverge from these beliefs with a high level of verifiable evidence.
OtherFreethinkerStands in opposition to Authorities and Tradition for determining what is right or what is important (including authorities that skeptics might accept).
OtherHumanistMore ethical in viewpoint than focusing on God or not God. Humanists often would see themselves as Spiritual, but not Religious— or perhaps Spiritual, but not Theistic.
OtherNaturalistOne who rejects the existence of any form of existence beyond our universe. (Or one who may accept multiple universes, but would reject one that might be described as “supernatural.)

Some of these terms I got from Brian McLaren’s book, “Finding Faith.” Some I got elsewhere… don’t remember. Obviously human thought and behavior is far too broad to be encapsulated in a few key terms… but these still help a bit.

Good Theology Requires Good Anthropology

Just a few thoughts that were bumping around in my head today. I figured I better write them down before they fade away. I may edit this post, or replace it with a new post later.

Good Theology Requires Good Anthropology (as it says above). I believe this statement is true for several reasons.

  1. All theology is contextual. If that statement is true, as I believe it is, then the context in which a theology is designed for must be understood. This requires cultural or social anthropology. Since I have talked about this one so much in the past, I feel that I don’t need to dwell on it further here.
  2. Our understanding of God is commonly based on an understanding of ourselves. Much of our understanding of God is ex negativo. We understand God by what He is not. Most commonly, this draws on our understanding of ourselves. When we say that God is omnipotent, some people like to say, “That means God can do everything and anything.” But that is not really what that means. A better understanding is more like, “So, you know how everything and everyone we know are limited in terms of power? Well, God is not like that.” An awful lot of the attributes of God are really just contrasts to ourselves and our perspectives. But since mankind is created in God’s image (imago Dei), an understanding of ourselves also is suggestive of God (creativity, imagination, humor, love of variety, desire for attachment and socialization). Finally, we also use metaphors to understand God and many of these are tied to humans or human qualities (like Shepherd or Heavenly Father). Since metaphors for God inform by the tension of the logical disconnect between God and Man, we understand God more by understanding who we are, and who we are not.
  3. God’s special revelation of His Word was created within human interaction to be understandable by humans. Humanity is part of God’s general revelation (as part of His creation, and part of history). Therefore, to understand these revelations in developing a theology takes a solid understanding of what it means to be human.
  4. Theology is an attempt to understand God’s mission regarding mankind and His creation. Soteriology and Hamartiology don’t make a whole lot of sense if we don’t have a healthy understanding of mankind as being both loved by God, and separated from God. We can’t really come to terms with our responsibility as witnesses of Christ, stewards of His creation, and servants of God, if we don’t come to terms with some way the challenges of individual free will, social responsibility, and the will of God.

I think I will stop here for now. But I definitely feel I have seen some pretty toxic theologies out there. Some make an honest attempt to be Biblical— at least if “biblical” means picking certain verses that support the narrative of choice. I believe, however, a clear understanding of who humans are (individually and corporately) would greatly reduce some of the problems that come up in theology (systematic and practical).

Free Books

As noted a few days ago, this site has just passed the 10 year point. In recognition of this, I have decided to offer free PDFs of three of my books here. <Note: I am writing this in November 2020. I haven’t decided on how long to maintain these links. So if the downloads below don’t work by the time you read this, please don’t take offense. However, I plan to keep these available for a few months at least.> They are:

My book on doing Medical Missions. This is a more readable, and shortened version of my doctoral dissertation.

My book on Interreligious Dialogue. This is the book that I use for my seminary course on this topic.

My book, Missions in Samaria. This is the book that I turned sermon series, into an article, and then into a short book.

Should a Missionary be a Theologian or a Dogmatist… or Neither?

A missionary serves in a place where he or she must teach new believers. But should this role be handled as a Theologian or a Dogmatist?

The term “dogmatist” is commonly used in a negative sense. This alone may indicate that I think it is the wrong answer to the question I pose. Let’s however, consider a more gentle definition. Two more perjorative definitions are:

Definition #1: a person insists that her beliefs amount to knowledge, and this leads her to insist that others are ignorant.

Definition #2: a person who believes too strongly that their personal opinions or beliefs are correct.

Gentler Definition: a person who inflexibly considers himself or herself knowing the truth and seeks to train others to agree.

This definition sees the person as having a great deal of conviction regarding beliefs and sees the person as focused on preserving and transmitting those beliefs with as little change as possible.

In a previous post, (, I had quoted Charles Hodge:

“If your review shall have the effect of commending the views which they advocate to the favorable regard of our younger theologians, I shall rejoice. I have but one object in my professional career and as a writer, and that is to state and to vindicate the doctrines of the Reformed Church. I have never advanced a new idea, and have never aimed to improve on the doctrines of our father. Having become satisfied that the system of doctrines taught in the symbols of the Reformed Churches is taught in the Bible, I have endeavored to sustain it, and am willing to believe even where I cannot understand. … I feel this the more because may of our brethren in this country have expressed great dissatisfaction with those articles. I am persuaded, however, that they contain nothing more than the common Protestant doctrine on the subject.”

-Quoting Charles Hodge in “The Life of Charles Hodge” by Archibald Alexander Hodge (published 1881) . Note that this passage is quoted in part by Edward William Fudge in “Hell: A Final Word”)

Hodge, based on the quote above could be described as a dogmatist. He believes that his denominational flavor of Christian theology is correct and so he embraces simply passing it on to his students. In this sense, he really might not be called a theologian, but rather a conservator of past doctrine (a dogmatist). Of course, a study of his work may show that he did actually attempt to express the Bible creatively in new settings. I am simply referring to the quote as the basis of describing him as a dogmatist.

The theologian must create the bridge between God’s revelation and human culture (since theology is a human rather than divine construct). And since human culture is constantly in flux, and theology must change.

Based on this, if nothing else, a missionary must be a theologian rather than a dogmatist. However, we should not jump on this too quickly. After all, a missionary serves a mission board, and/or a denomination, and/or a church. As such, a missionary is commonly expected to take a conservative role in terms of doctrines. A missionary is likely to be chastized for choosing to do Eucharist in a manner different from the sender. Generally, the supporters would much prefer a dogmatist.

On the other hand, the missionary is also expected to be an effective communicator of God’s message. As such, the message should not come out garbled or deceptive to the recipient culture. The senders certainly don’t want the missionary to confuse or mislead the hearers. As such, they certainly want the missionary to do more than simply indoctrinate with little consideration for the culture and symbols of the hearers.

Of course it could be said that a missionary doesn’t have to be either. A missionary can simply evangelize and churchplant and leave theologizing and indoctrinating to others. In practice, this cannot be done. In ministry, there is a road with theologizing at one end and dogmatizing at the other. In between are different shades of each. In ministry you don’t have to be at either extreme of this road, but you do not have the option of simply not being on the road.

Much like a lot of things in the Christian faith, the concept of “Creative Tension.” Missionaries are cultural “Agents of Change” and “Agents of Preservation.” But this exists with Theology as well. One serves one’s denomination and church. But one also serves God. The priority is God, meaning faithfulness to His message. To do this means to preserve the message through creatively contextualizing it in a new culture.

However, one is also part of a supportive community and tradition. I have seen pastors and missionaries simply ignore their heritage, things can turn prety ugly fast.

Contextual Theology Diagrams

I have SLOWLY been working on my book on Missions Theology. I am putting here a couple of diagrams that are associated with the sections related to Contextual Theology.

  1. The first one is the one related to Models of Contextualization. I am using Stephen Bevans six models.

I try to relate the six models of Stephen Bevans to the focus on the Word of God, Human Context, and Individual Reflection. Of course, all six models take seriously, to some extent, all three areas, but there is a tendency to lean towards one of the poles.

Translation and the Countercultural model emphasize the Word of God over the others. As such, they tend to be appreciated more by Evangelical groups. The Anthropological model gives greatest weight to Human Context.

The Transcendental and Praxis Models I have put as closest to Individual Reflection. Both are intentionally iterative. The Transcendental Model is related to David Tracy’s model for theological reflection. The Praxis Model is the iteration between action and reflection, which is also the general pattern for Practical Theology.

This leaves the Synthetic Model. I would love to place it at the Human Context end of things to make the diagram symmetric. However, the Synthetic Model takes human tradition, praxis, and the Word of God and intentionally synthesizes it. Since those three each point to a different pole, that means that the Synthetic Model fits best in the middle.

2. The second on is Tests for Sound Contextual Theology. This also draws, more loosely, on some work by Stephen Bevans.

These tests help determine whether a contextual theology should be seen as a healthy localization of the Christian faith or not (or as Bevans would say, “in bounds” or “out of bounds”).

The tests are from Divinity, Community, and Function. For previous descriptions of these categories, one can go to a previous post of mine:

I thought about adding more tests. These include:

  • Test of Cultural Relevance (Does it draw from local symbols?)
  • Test of Cultural Resonance (Does the theology speak to the unspoken concerns and passions of a culture?)
  • Test of Aliveness (Does it identify its need to change as culture changes, or does it see itself as “having arrived at ultimate truth”?)

However, upon further reflection, it does occur to me that while these may be good benchmarks for good theology, they are not really tests of orthodoxy.