Thursday, June 09, 2016

some back and forth on ESS, EFS and stuff like that in the wake of the Byrd/Trueman sound-off, Ware and Grudem weigh in, Trueman has responses

For the folks keeping track of the blogosphere since Aimee Byrd and Carl Trueman discussed the subordination of the son in complementarianism in the United States, there's been some responses from Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem to which Trueman has some responses.  Excerpts below:
Bruce Ware

positing an eternal relation of authority and submission among the Trinitarian persons does not conflict in any way with this orthodox heritage, because the issue here is how the three persons function as Father, Son, and Spirit, not whether one has a nature that is superior to or inferior to another (the latter, of course, is flatly denied). At the ontological level, there is absolute equality of deity as all three share fully in the one and undivided divine nature. But at the functional level, in the roles that each carries out, they can be - must be! - distinguished from one another. To take the most obvious example, only the Son - not the Father, nor the Spirit - embraced the role of becoming incarnate. So, yes, while there is an inseparability of operations among the Trinitarian persons, this does not, and cannot, mean that the Trinitarian operations are not distinguishable from one another. Distinguishable, yet inseparable - this is not only consistent with the pro-Nicene heritage, it is demanded by Scripture.
Third, one of the ways Scripture presses the distinction among the roles of the Trinitarian persons is by highlighting the ultimate authority of the Father, and the willing submission of the Son and Spirit, in all that God does
God the Son, then, is both God and Son. As God, he is fully equal with God the Father, in that both Father and Son possess fully the identically same and eternal divine nature. As such, the equality between the Father and Son (and Spirit) could not be stronger - they are equal to each other with an equality of identity (i.e., each possesses fully the identically same divine nature). As Son, the Son is always the Son of the Father and is so eternally. As Son of the Father, he is under the authority of his Father and seeks in all he does to act as the Agent of the Father's will, working and doing all that the Father has purposed and designed for his Son to accomplish. The eternal Son, God the Son, is both fully God and fully equal to the Father, while he is fully Son and eternally in a relationship of Agent of the Father, carrying out the work and implementing the will of the Father in full submission and obedience to all that the Father has planned. God and Son, i.e., fully God (in nature) and fully Son (in person)--this is who this Second Person of the Trinity is as Hebrews, John, and the New Testament declare.

Fourth, none of this glorious Trinitarian theology is being devised for the purpose of supporting a social agenda of human relations of equality and complementarity. I do believe there is intended correspondence, indeed. But that is a far cry from saying that we are "reformulating" the doctrine of the Trinity to serve our social purposes. God forbid! Let God be God, regardless of what implications may or may not follow! And may our sole aim be to know the true God through his self-revelation in Scripture--the one and only true God, who is God only as he is Father, Son, and Spirit.
- See more at:
In his response Professor Ware argues that the Bible teaches eternal functional submission. I have never doubted or denied that that is what he and others think the Bible teaches. Nor do I doubt that there are historical precedents for this position.  Nor, incidentally, do I reject as anti-Nicene the idea that the relational ordering within the Trinity has any significance for the economy – the medieval era contains fascinating debates within the boundaries of Nicene orthodoxy on why the Son and not the Father became incarnate, for example (and I use it only as such -- this is not an endorsement) Aquinas, Summa 3a.3.8.  I simply deny that contemporary notions of EFS are compatible with the nature of the relations as understood in Nicene orthodoxy as defined in 381 and since then held by the church catholic.
Nicene Trinitarianism involves a host of commitments – to divine simplicity as classically articulated by Gregory Nazianzus, to the unity of the divine will, to inseparable operations and, of course, to eternal generation.  Repudiation or revision of any one or more of these involves a revision of the whole and thus ceases to be Nicene Trinitarianism.

And while I am happy to hear that none of this is driven by identity politics, it does raise one more question.  Even if we were to grant that Nicene orthodoxy is wrong and Bruce Ware is right --- what does any of this have to do with male-female gender relations?  The answer, I believe, is nothing at all.
Who was claiming that I had denied the Nicene Creed of 325 A.D. and the Chalcedonian Creed of 451 A.D.?  It was none other than my friend Carl Trueman, professor of church history at my own alma mater, Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia (M.Div., 1973). Apparently, even Westminster Seminary itself had made a mistake in awarding me an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 2011!
To respond: I accuse no-one of rejecting the Nicene Creed of 325, as he states (at least in the version of the post available at 13:52 on Friday).  Nicene orthodoxy is actually defined at Constantinople in 381.  I simply state that those who get rid of eternal generation and speak of eternal submission are outside of the bounds set by 381 -- which is the ecumenical standard of the church catholic, albeit in the West subject to the revision at Toledo.
If Nicaea 325 is the standard of Nicene Trinitarianism with which he and Bruce Ware are operating, then I understand why they think an appeal to the homoousion is sufficient.  But history and the church catholic say otherwise.  Eternal generation etc. etc. are also of critical importance, as Constantinople 381 indicates.

While I "could" write some stuff about this I've got other things I'm mulling over. 

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