Friday, September 09, 2005

Trinitarianism and Such

What does scripture clearly teach about God relative to the ontological Trinity doctrine? Let's review.

(1) Scripture refers to the Father as God.

(2) Scripture refers to the Son as God, even the incarnate Son as God [For example, see Thomas' confession in John 20:28, see Jesus' own confession in 8:58, see Paul's referral to Christ as "God over all" in Romans 9:5.]

(3) Scripture refers and identifies the Holy Spirit as God.

(4) At the same time, scripture presents the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as distinct in a certain way: the Father is not the same as the Son nor is the Father the Holy Spirit; the Son is neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is neither the Son nor the Father.

Beyond these four points relative to the ontological Trinity doctrine, we do not go further, as scripture itself does not go further. There is a seeming tension between the conjunction of (1)-(3) and (4). At the same time, there is no formal contradiction, for neither do statements (1)-(3) imply the negation of (4), and vice-versa. Scripture presents these very clear statements concerning the nature of God.

Now it would be nice to have a fuller explanation of, for lack of better words, just how the triune nature of God "works" or is instantiated. But scripture doesn't provide such an explanation. Pushing the distinctness of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit too far leads to an implicit [or even an explicit] tritheism; pushing the fact that each of the HS, Father, and Son is God can very well lead to modalism. Or
one can sacrifice the unitedness of the HS, Father, and Son by claiming a "lesser deity" for the Son and the Holy Spirit, a la your modern day Watchtower adherents, and, from days of yore, the Arians. So, we're on a pretty thin highwire, and the breeze is substantial.

This doesn't mean that we have to take our ball and go home; we can try to make headway through metaphysical reasoning and such. The important thing, though, is to not place one's metaphysical deductions on a level with what scripture reveals. I myself, years ago, studied Christology fairly intensely, and came away with the conclusion that we won't understand the inner workings of God in our current state of knowledge. Perhaps others think they have something worked out. On my end, I'm open to whatever explanations are out there, but, having seen a fair number of explanations in my Christology volumes [both Reformed, Lutheran, and Roman], I consider the exercise futile.

As a result, I hold (1)-(3) and (4), despite the tension. But, when I think about other things, there are plenty of other mysteries and tensions as well:

(i) How does God becoming incarnate and dying on a tree exactly effect my standing with God?

(ii) How exactly does the Resurrection provide the mechanisms for glory and such that Paul claims?

One more question like (i) and (ii) isn't going to rattle me.

Now lately, Jonathan Prejean has been running around various internet sites charging Evangelicals with gross deficiencies in Christology, and he does this within his own trinitarian idiom of invective, Nestorian-baiting, and chest-puffing at his own supposed intellectual greatness, using all three facets in a breathtakingly unified fashion.

From the Evangelical side of the fence, he's welcome to whatever philosophical deductions he wants to make. We hold (1)-(4) and let matters hold with that; we don't press or shouldn't press orthodoxy based on whether we think a deduction from (1)-(4) actually follows from (1)-(4).

Prejean states that claims of theological tension, are, in his technical langauge, "b.s." In reply, I find much of Prejean's affectations of certainty regarding his finer points of Christology to fall into the same technical categorization, and he fails to realize that some of us have actually read things along such lines [but we don't posture concerning such facts nor do we herald them to feed an ever-hungering ego] and have failed to be convinced for whatever reason.

Prejean also makes a rather big to-do about people speaking past each other --- it is silly, so he says [and I agree] for an Evangelical such as myself to argue that, say, the Roman doctrines of Mary are false because they're not found in the Bible, for Romanists already know that, and, in their system, the fact that something is extra-scriptural is not fatal. But Prejean, having completely metamorphized into the "Barrister of Braggadocio and the Systematician of Sola Snarka" as of late --- a title I once offered in friendly jest but now must in terms of the development of doctrine say is a dead-on accurate appraisal --- seems not to grasp the idea that we Evangelicals don't define heresy by contradicting a deduction from a church council or a creed, but instead define heresy by contradicting scripture. Just as he doesn't seem to care about the Marian doctrines of Rome not being stated in scripture, so too we're not losing sleep over the fact that sometime in the past a council condemned a certain deduction from scripture to be heretical. So, the great Prejean --- clearly our intellectual superior, so he'll be happy to remind you, despite the fact that he has stated that can't stand the idea of people talking to others as if they're stupid --- is imposing on Evangelicals a category we ourselves reject. In short, he's talking past the likes of myself and Hays on this point.

Now he's welcome to think he's right and we're wrong. And he's welcome to gratify his lately-insatiable ego with affectations of greatness while questioning the education of others. But he is rather wasting his time trying to press on us categories that we reject.


Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Friday, September 09, 2005 4:13:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

John 1:14 [my quick translation]:

And the word became flesh and tented among us, and we beheld His glory --- glory as of the-only-begotten-of the Father, full of grace and truth.

(1) Are you saying that Hays doesn't believe that God the Son became flesh?

(2) Are you claiming that Hays denies that the Word-who-became-flesh did not come from the Father?

(3) Are you asserting that Hays denies that the Word-who-became-flesh is not full of grace and truth?

II Peter 1:3-4 [my quick translation]:

As all [things of] His divine power which issue unto life and godliness have been bestowed upon you through the knowledge of the one who called you by his own glory and goodness, through which things the valuable and greatest promises have been bestowed upon you, so that through these you might be partakers of the divine nature, fleeing the corrupted things of the world that are produced by evil desires.

(4) Are you claiming that Hays denies that God's agency has bestowed on Christians what is necessary for life and godliness?

(5) Are you claiming that Hays denies that Christians will be partakers of "the divine nature" ?

Hopefully Hays can speak for himself here.

Friday, September 09, 2005 5:45:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

Jonathan removed his comment, it seems [?].

Friday, September 09, 2005 5:46:00 PM  
Blogger CrimsonCatholic said...

Hays and Svendsen are Nestorians, so they don't believe the premise in (1). Autotheos is an outright denial of the premise in (2), unless you accept Warfield's incoherent account of divine economy. Re: (3), I'm not sure how Hays could say anything meaningful about the Word-Who-became-flesh, because He doesn't believe the Word became flesh.

Re: (4), I don't know what "agency" means in this context; I do not believe that he thinks they were bestowed "by His glory and goodness." And yes, he denies (5).

So, yeah, pretty much, I think his Christology makes a mockery of Scripture. But I don't even see any benefit in wasting further time on it. That he's a sham artist who name-drops in lieu of argument has been exposed; that his Christology is anti-Nicene has been exposed; that Nicene Christology and the condemnation of Nestorianism is clearly taught in Scripture should be obvious to anyone who cares (and most Evangelicals who aren't in the nutbar anti-Catholic fringe agree).

Good victorious, evil punished, yada yada. No matter what they say at this point, their credibility is shot among anyone who accepts the Nicene creed as the standard of orthodoxy and who has the least bit of respect for historical theology. I was just going to say that y'all can have your "me and my Bible" fraternity, and good luck with all that.

Got nothing to do with intellectual superiority, BTW; it's got to do with basic scholastic honesty and me being able to read carefully enough to catch them when they're faking it. They are trying to appear as if they fit within "conservative Evangelicalism," as if they are somehow normal, and I'm just pointing out that they are an extreme fringe that is rejected by most of conservative Evangelicalism. Nestorianism and anti-Nicene Christology are not cool, even for Protestants. But hey, if you want to stick with it, fine by me. My work is done; the quacks are unveiled.

Friday, September 09, 2005 6:29:00 PM  
Blogger Pedantic Protestant said...

There's some faking going on here, but we'll doubtless disagree on the identity of the fakers.

Friday, September 09, 2005 6:55:00 PM  
Blogger Jason Engwer said...

Evangelicals can and have publicly demonstrated the reliability of their system of authority, whereas people like Jonathan Prejean haven't shown the reliability of theirs. To the contrary, in his recent discussions with Steve Hays and me, Prejean repeatedly refused to make a case for Roman Catholicism, made arbitrary claims about his system of authority, and frequently contradicted himself. He often applies standards to other people that he doesn't apply to himself. How many times has he "retired" now, and how often now has he lost his temper and referred to how "frustrated" he is with Evangelicals, all the while claiming that he isn't concerned with what his Evangelical critics are doing? Why does he keep visiting their web sites and commenting on their blogs, then? He often posts comments about how he's recently read some article on the web that's convinced him that Evangelicalism is even worse than he previously thought, and that Evangelicals are guilty of some heresy or another. I wonder which heresy it will be next week.

At least when somebody like Pedantic Protestant tells us what he believes, we know why he believes it, and we can publicly verify it, with commonly accepted standards of historical research. But when Prejean tells us that our souls are in danger for not accepting the Assumption of Mary or not going along with his latest philosophical speculations, nobody can verify that Prejean is correct.

In his latest post, Prejean once again tells us that "My work is done; the quacks are unveiled." Is that another "retirement"?

Jason Engwer
New Testament Research Ministries

Friday, September 09, 2005 8:25:00 PM  
Blogger GeneMBridges said...

^If so, I'll give it the weekend.

Friday, September 09, 2005 11:09:00 PM  
Blogger Eric Svendsen said...

Prejean wrote:
"Hays and Svendsen are Nestorians, so they don't believe the premise in (1). Autotheos is an outright denial of the premise in (2), unless you accept Warfield's incoherent account of divine economy. Re: (3), I'm not sure how Hays could say anything meaningful about the Word-Who-became-flesh, because He doesn't believe the Word became flesh."

Mr. Prejean, you have distinguished yourself as a complete liar regarding this issue. NO ONE affirms premis # 1 and 3 more than I. Stop lying about my views. What's the deal with you anyway? Running out of ambulances to chase in California? You have become nothing more than a pin-headed RC fundamentalist. Your credibility is utterly shot, and I think you know it--what else explains your recent incoherent ramblings? Let us know when your descent into the Pius X movement is complete--and, oh; please be sure to say Hi to Bob Sungenis for me.

Friday, September 09, 2005 11:33:00 PM  

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