The debate between classic theism and theistic mutualism seems to be heating up. Back in June, James Dolezal published a book naming names (All That Is in God—a good book). Recently, John Frame embarrassed himself with a reply—having been named—from which he is not likely soon to recover. In fact, this reply was so bad that it seems to have brought out some eerie irenic behavior in Mark Jones. He wrote a piece that could almost be described as kindly, urging Frame toward greater coherence as if herding together a scattered collection of marbles. And now Keith Mathison has engaged at length, endeavoring to point out to John Frame in suitable language that disagreement is not the equivalent of a personal attack. Dolezal came up with the term theistic mutualism, but Mathison may have trumped him with a clever play on yesteryear’s battle against open theism: unlatched theism.
In the meantime, I’m working on a song called “O where is your door, Frame?” I’d like to contribute, you see. My review of Dolezal’s book came out a week after the book was released, you’ll remember. More measured, thorough and deliberative reviews have appeared in these last days. There is Kevin DeYoung’s, which is generally positive if blandly subservient to the spirit of the Gospel Coalition in deploring something or other; there is Keith Mathison’s, which is positive, and different from the engagement mentioned above; and there is D. Scott Meadows’, which is enthusiastic.
I also note all this because it seems to me that this is the Trinity debate 2.0. Evangelical systematic theology has problems. But this is to be expected, evangelicalism is a very depleted and diluted form of Christianity. Problems are going to arise naturally. One of the problems, not surprisingly, is careless doctrinal formulation. But this is not the main issue, it is only a symptom of a deeper problem.
I think that the main issue is really the extent to which theology is informed and ordered by philosophy. The conversation keeps going back to scholasticism versus Biblicism. The conceit is that Biblicism is more exegetical and scholasticism is more philosophical. You can tell which side is being favored when the problem is framed that way. Nobody is going to choose philosophy in order to chuck exegesis. The problem is, however, that it is not simply an issue of repudiating philosophy for exegesis, or of neglecting exegesis because one is enamored of philosophy. To frame the issue that way is to smuggle in a conclusion (that philosophy is opposed to exegesis) without properly debating it.
And that is what makes me glad: the debate is being forced.