The question behind the question
Take a theological question or an issue that divides the church and dig into it you will find behind it another, deeper question: what is the nature and method of theological inquiry? Below the surface disagreement is a disagreement on the what and the how of doing theological reflection for the church.
It’s often difficult for teaching and ruling elders to discern the deeper questions that lay beneath disagreements because they don’t have doctoral degrees in the theology or Biblical studies. The literature is so immense that it takes no small effort to become familiar enough with it to be a reliable guide for the body of Christ.
If you wish to become more acquainted with the various paradigms for theological reflection, a good place to start is Rollin Grams’ (Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) book, Rival Versions of Theological Enquiry: Mapping Baptistic Identity (2005). Grams borrows the approach used by philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre in his well-known Gifford Lectures, Three Rival Versions of Moral Enquiry. And while the subtitle of Grams books reveals he is writing in a baptist context, the paradigm is helpful for a broad range of churches.
I recommend the book for teaching and ruling elders who wish to understand more deeply how the method of our theological inquiry produces very different outcomes in the way we understand and give expression to Christian discipleship.