Doubling Down

I really find the Trinity debate interesting. You should be riveted, if you are at all curious about theology and American Christianity.

1 – I agree with Geoff Holsclaw that Ware and Grudem should be called subNicene and subBiblical. The argument is that what they’re saying is potentially heretical, not that they’re heretics. The assumption is that they are confused. They are ignorant enough, in other words, not to realize that what they are saying cannot be something you can do with the doctrine of the Trinity (collapsing ad extra and ad intra). Indeed, it is evident every time one of them posts. It is a complex issue when even Albert Mohler can’t get what’s going on (not that he seems to be holding up as a measuring stick for anything: his grasp on issues involving the donation of NIU for example). In order to maintain what the functional subordinationalists say, is the argument, those who want to be consistent will sooner or later realize that they must ditch Nicene Orthodoxy: the two positions are mutually exclusive. That is a warning about the seriousness of the issue, not a charge of heresy yet. I have no doubt that Celebrity Evangelicalism is nitwitted enough to: (1) be unable to grasp the argument the way Ware to this moment has not, or Mohler, (2) cling to the idea that complementarianism rides on this and pretend it is more important, and (3) have to deal with heretics of its own making in the foreseeable future. Who knows what else will be at stake when that time comes, though. One day Celebrity Evangelicalism will no longer exist because times change, and that is something you can pretty much count on.

2 – I see Ware doubling down on the Biblicism when he says that he has reservations about the ancient confessional language being too speculative. It is as if the pastors and theologians using the language that ended up in the creed did not take the care Ware would to ground what they were saying in Scripture. Evangelicalism is going to regret two things: (1) not making more of a study of how those people interpreted Scripture and (2) a rationalist approach to theological method rather than a more empiricist approach. The rationalist approach is that in which you think up how it should be; the empiricist in which you observe what has been done. Bah, they’ll probably say we are neither rationalist nor empiricist, we are Biblicist—and they will be right. There is a reason the historians are leading the charge. Nor do I think this controversy will stop there, should it continue in quieter and more deliberative surrounds. It has to get to the issue of the place for speculative theology. I think you often begin with conjecture, a sense of something wrong in what somebody has started teaching, and then you explore implications, find passages saying things you hadn’t noticed before, work out the ramifications of something previously undeveloped, put your finger on a heresy by figuring orthodoxy out more clearly. Besides, Scripture nowhere teaches what a person must be: we figure that out by philosophical, speculative thinking, just like we figure out essence. Thank God Origen had brought the responsible speculative Hellenic approach into the church by the time the controversies started heating up.

3 – The other thing going on here pointed out to me by the author of God without Parts is that the good guys are clinging to the confessions, which is commendable and clear, but not going beyond that to the reasons behind the creeds and confessions. We have that language for good reasons, not just for the sake of tradition. (There has been some conversation about it in places, for example the post on Maximus who dealt with the Monothelites in terms of what is a property of a nature, of a person, and why.) I don’t think the debate on the internet can get that heavy, but the publications where it really gets serious should. This is why the debate matters: if you ascribe to the person what belongs to the nature, if you treat it any way other than what is strictly possible, you will end up dividing the nature or subordinating the persons. It is obvious that Ware is unaware of that. But how exactly it is is something theologians should be able to handle. What we have is not the product of philosophy tainted speculation with no concern for Scripture, but of minds that were versed in the difficult philosophical categories and distinctions without which the doctrine does not make sense. That is why Aquinas is so valuable, on this, and subsequent Protestant treatments not so much. (I don’t think anybody really contributes anything once Aquinas was done; we just study the following chaps because we are Protestants and have to cheer our camp on.) Anyway, nobody is holding his breath regarding an intelligent discussion of the metaphysics of all this online. I think those with a commitment to confessions will be saved at least by that commitment, and those who have no real commitment but only a general and patronizing attitude toward them are doomed if the leadership stays the course put forth by Mohler.

4 – Hey, what about the voice of confessional fundamentalism? Isn’t this an opportunity for such, to show commitment to what matters, doctrinal seriousness, theological tradition, philosophical rigor, having confessions? I am being serious. All we have is the Internet Roach Motel’s links and weak discussions, which show they are either baffled or entirely on the Ware & Grudem side. Doomed. Because there is a great opportunity not only to teach and to guide, but could there not be one also for separation?

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