Categories for Doctrine and Theology

[Adapted from Paul Henebury, “Rules of Affinity,”]

2 Timothy 3:16: All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness

Since only Scripture is God-breathed, our goal as believers and students of the Bible is that all of our teaching, doctrine, and theology lines up with the clear teaching of Scripture as much as possible.

Some doctrines line up more closely to Scripture than others. Doctrines or theology that is explicitly stated in Scripture are ranked in the first category (C1). Those with the weakest support from Scripture are ranked category five (C5).

C1 = a direct statement


> God’s creation out of nothing (Gen 1:1; Isa 40:28; 45:12; Jer 10:12; John 1:3; Col 1:15-16; Heb 1:2; 11:3; Rom 11:36)

> Deity of Christ (John 1:1-3; Col 2:9)

> Inerrancy – Scripture is the word of God and without error (2 Tim 3:16; Ps 12:6; John 10:35; 17:17; 2 Pet 1:19-21)

Most fundamental doctrines are C1. A C1 doctrine is explicitly stated in Scripture.

C2 = a strong inference

Examples: The Trinity (Matt 28:19; John 1:1-3, 18; 14:15-17; 20:28; Acts 5:3-4; 2 Cor 13:14; Heb 9:14, 10:28-29)

A C2 doctrine is established on the witness of several clear C1 passages. Every major doctrine is a C1 or C2.

C3 = an inference to the best explanation

Example: precise timing of the rapture

A C3 is established on the witness of C1 and C2 texts, which overlap to point to a plausible inference.

C4 = a weak inference

Example: infant baptism

A C4 is founded on no clear or plain statement of Scripture.

C5 = an inference based on another inference

Example: Sunday as the Christian Sabbath (replacing the OT 7th day Sabbath)

A C5 is an even weaker inference based on other theological inferences, without reference to plain statements of Scripture.

Conclusion: Believers should only formulate their beliefs from C1 and C2 doctrines, with some consideration of C3 doctrines. On the other hand, C4 and C5 doctrines rely too much on human reasoning without Scripture.