Connecting the Dots

Kevin Giles presented a paper at the ETS refuting and condemning Ware & Grudem’s approach.

“In my presentation, this afternoon I am arguing that what Dr Grudem and Dr Ware teach on the Trinity is a sharp and clear breach with historic orthodoxy as spelt out in the Nicene Creed.”

He argued for the 381 Nicene Creed: “In my view, we have in this creed the most authoritative interpretation of what Scripture teaches on the Father-Son relationship.”

And that is the issue.

You can read the argument in the paper. The point of a creed is authoritatively to interpret Scripture. That is why this creed is as prominent as it is. The result is that the creed then serves to include those who subscribe and to exclude those who do not. The question put to Ware & Grudem is whether they do or do not subscribe to Nicene orthodoxy. If yes, then recant the teaching that the Son is eternally submissive. If no, then say so, and come clean. And the simple argument is that the Nicene Creed’s teaching is logically incompatible with what they have publicly taught on the submission of the Son to the Father.

Here is Giles’ earlier diagnosis, which explains the heart of the difference: “All doctrines are best understood when how they developed in history is understood, and nowhere is this more true than with the doctrine of the Trinity in general and the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son in particular. This storm in a teacup over the word monogenēs would not have taken life and flourished if more evangelicals had been better informed by having carefully read Athanasius, the Cappadocian fathers, Augustine and by knowledge of the Nicene Creed.”

That can be called historical-grammatical interpretation, incidentally.

Anyway, who cares what you mean by eternal generation as long as you’re willing to affirm the language? The issue is that there are now quite a few Evangelical theologians who do not believe doctrines are best understood when how they developed in history is understood. If that is what you believe, then come clean. Albert Mohler once famously held his faculty to account for subscribing with integrity to the founding documents of Southern Seminary. Wouldn’t it be a great paper for the ETS to do a historical investigation and see if any of the parties involved had doctrine of God issues? It would be interesting just to see about getting access to the primary sources.

What is so great about understanding doctrines as they developed in history?  It keeps them anchored to what they are designed to do. There are other forces operating, you know.

Carl Trueman: “If nothing else, the debate over the Trinity of the last six months has pointed to how contemporary economies of power and money, detached from ecclesiastical accountability, profoundly shape the American Evangelical landscape.”

Ecclesiastical accountability has to do with documents which you either agree with or you don’t. How do you interpret these documents? The way they have always been interpreted. No, that isn’t simple, but yes it can be done. I still remember the class on historiography and hermeneutics where the light came on for me: they’re the same thing. It makes the end of the Palookaville paragraph more interesting. The debate “has also revealed how the Evangelical mind is gripped by the notion that, while any deviation on scripture is lethal, considerable flexibility on the doctrine of God is tolerable. History indicates otherwise and Evangelicals need to understand that.”

In this case, you have deviation from the doctrine of God and from Scripture, as the formulation of the Nicene Creed demonstrates. Probably lethal, and it is why the issue matters.


3 thoughts on “Connecting the Dots

  1. Thank you for your continued, and very candid, commentary on this Trinitarian debate.Your last two sentences of this blog post are very powerful, and they rightly summarize the enormity of what is at stake.

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