History and Theological Method

You have to be rather intensely devoted to the Trinity Debate to be reading the comments on Lee Irons’ blog. I think the comments are interesting because they’re responses by Kevin Giles.

Irons believes the Greek word monogenes ought to be translated ‘only begotten’. He believes that when Giles translates ‘unique’ he is wrong. Now I don’t know about you, but doesn’t it seem that the semantic domain of ‘only begotten’ would have a significant overlap with ‘unique’? I think Giles defends himself in the comments, though he receives no response from Irons there. I’d also like to read Giles’ book now.

Anyway, Giles does something interesting. I think he puts a finger on the part of the issue that really interests me more than anything, theological method. I really think that this is where the historians are exposing a problem with the biblical and systematic theological assumptions about method that allow EFS to come up in the first place. Irons then appears to be reinforcing it, and Giles swings his pick at it.

This is what Giles says.

The Greek fathers basically constructed their doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son and eternal procession of the Spirit on logical deductions and inferences. What we need to recognize is that these two doctrines answer a very big question, how can the one God be eternally three persons? For three hundred years really smart theologians could not adequately answer this question. They began with the premise that God is eternally one and in more than one way then tried to show how he became three in history. It was only early in the fourth century that the deduction was made that God must be eternally triune and only then could the best of theologians began exploring how to explain eternal threefold divine self-differentiation. They noted that the NT spoke repeatedly of God the Father and God the Son and they inferred an internal Father by necessity implies and eternal Son. The next step was to argue a Father-Son relationship implies a begetting; a begetting where the nature/being of the begetter is perfectly communicated to the begotten. Having made these deductions they then found texts in support of this inference, Ps 2:7, Prov 8:25 and Ps 110.3.

How many evangelicals want to speak that way about the formulation of doctrine? He goes on from there to lay it out in the rest of the long comment, and apparently his book does too. It is illuminating. It is too bad it is so buried away, but it is there for the avid.

It is also ironic. Irons—in another thing he wrote—persuaded Grudem and Ware. And circumstances, no doubt, helped that persuasion, but the paper by Irons was the stated determining influence. After all, it is the same method.

2 thoughts on “History and Theological Method

  1. “internal Father”??? surely its not that way in the original! It makes for a funny typo, though.

    Don Johnson
    Jer 33.3

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