Johannine Theology as Christology?

In A Biblical Theology of the New Testament W. Hall Harris begins his chapter saying: “Johannine theology is, in essence, Christology.” (167)  He continues to say that “The person of Jesus Christ is at the heart of everything the Apostle John wrote.”  While the latter statement is true in and of itself I have to object to the former.  I agree with Andreas Köstenberger when he says: “Father-Son is the dominant, controlling metaphor used for Jesus’ relationship with God in John’s gospel and letters. The persons of God the Father and the Son are thoroughly and inextricably intertwined.” (A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters, 379)  Certainly wherever Jesus is in John’s writings the Father is right there with him and the Spirit’s not far behind.  Köstenberger again says: “Jesus’ inclusion in the identity of God means that God must be conceived in relational terms, uniting God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” (Ibid., 359)  I’d have said: “Johannine theology is, in essence, Trinitarian.”

B”H

16 thoughts on “Johannine Theology as Christology?

  1. I incline to Harris’s view, in that the point of all of the conflict stories in John is that some Jewish feast or institution (like the Temple) is either obsolete or in some other way shown to be inadequate in comparison with Christ, who is the *real* embodiment of whatever that feast or institution offered. If trinitarianism is there, it is certainly not foregrounded.

  2. Brian: Yup.

    John: I disagree; not that Christ is the “real embodiment” as you say it, but that the Trinity is not at the foreground. I don’t see an either/or here.

  3. Oh those NT scholars and their opinions. I think it is hilarious that Marriane Meye Thompson says that John is all about the Father!

  4. Anthony: Was that her position, or was it that John is theocentric while its christology correlates to its theology? I’ll have to grab The God of the Gospel of John and brush up on her argument.

  5. Nick,

    As far as I remember, The God of the Gospel of John aims to demonstrate that any Christological focus in St. John’s Gospel is fundamentally dependent on its focus on Jesus’ Father.

    I’m sure Thompson would find Trinitarianism in the Gospel but as I remember the weight of her argument focuses on John’s Jesus’ Father.

  6. Anthony: I’ll have to go back and look through it but I remember her arguing against the idea that Harris espouses. I remember her relying heavily on Nils A. Dahl’s position that God is neglected in NT theology if I’m not mistaken.

  7. It is sometimes said by scholars that one can argue from John toward the divinity of christ or toward a very human christ. Both are, of course, “trinitarian” by definition. Still, most talk, including Köstenberger’s, is anachronistic since we can only seemingly conceive and talk of trinitarianism in post-Nicene, post-Constantinoplian terms. As far as I have been able to see, the only “mainstream” theologian that sees things somewhat otherwise is Larry Hurtado with his comprehensive grammatico-historical theologizing in _Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity_
    and _At the origins of Christian worship: the context and character of earliest Christian Devotion_ . Ultimately, I don’t think we have yet begun to seriously re-conceive the thought-matrix of the very Jewish and monotheistic New Testament authors regarding the relationship between God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ; elevating the Holy Spirit to a persona equivalent to the other two, despite the “personification” in John’s Gospel, just doesn’t make sense in the Apostles’ world. The general unwillingness to address this will remain the case until going back behind and beyond Nicea is considered more orthodox than unorthodox.
    All the best to all in Christ,
    Richard W. Wilson

  8. Richard: There’s a lot to respond to in what you’ve said so I’ll get right to it:

    (1) While I’d agree that both the humanity and divinity of Christ are part and parcel of Trinitarianism I don’t know that we can say they’re “‘trinitarian’ by definition.” Plenty of non-Trinitarian groups affirm both with different understandings and plenty of other non-Trinitarian groups take one over the other.

    (2) What part of what Köstenberger said above do you find anachronistic? That we conceive of the Persons relationally? Or that the Father and Son are intertwined in John’s Gospel? I don’t see either statement as anachronistic.

    (3) This isn’t to say that the language of post-Nicene Trinitarianism being foisted back onto the Scriptures isn’t anachronistic, but in attempting to explain what the Scriptures say after it’s been said it seems a necessity to foist terms back onto the text. We can all simply quote what is said, but where does that get us in terms of explanation?

    (4) I’d disagree that we can only conceive of Trinitarianism in post-Nicene/Constantinopolitan terms. Many of the ante-Nicene fathers wrote concerning the Trinity even if nuancing their doctrine differently than later theologians. But those pro-Nicene Christians had to derive their concepts from somewhere, right? How did they conceive of it if they didn’t live in a post-Nicene/Constantinopolitan world? I submit that they derived their doctrine from Scripture and their experience with God in salvation.

    (5) If you read this blog for any amount of time you’ll come to find out that Larry Hurtado is my favorite scholar and I absolutely love his work, so you’ll get no disagreement from me about the excellence of it. But can’t we charge Hurtado with anachronism for speaking of binitarianism in the NT? Or can we allow it to pass because he’s attempting to explain what the Scriptures say using modern language to describe ancient phenomena? Also, what of his insistence that the devotional patterns we find in the NT and early church necessarily led to the types of questions that were being asked at Nicaea?

    (6) Can I ask if you’ve read Richard Bauckham on the subject? I’d say that he definitely qualifies as a “mainstream” theologian (although I wouldn’t consider either scholar a theologian in the professional sense of the term) who’s doing many things along similar lines that Hurtado is doing them. Bauckham even goes so far as to repudiate the categorization of ontic (= ontological) and functional christologies because he believes these to be categories wholly foreign to the NT writers. He prefers to speak of a “Christology of divine identity.” If you’ve not read Bauckham but would like a summary of his thesis then you can find it here and here.

    (7) I’ll have to completely disagree with you on two points:

    (a) That “we have yet begun to seriously re-conceive the thought-matrix of the very Jewish and monotheistic New Testament authors regarding the relationship between God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ” Guys like Hurtado, Bauckham, Dunn, Casey, Wright, et al. have done just that, albeit reaching different conclusions.

    (b) That “elevating the Holy Spirit to a persona equivalent to the other two, despite the “personification” in John’s Gospel, just doesn’t make sense in the Apostles’ world.” Two works that I’d suggest on the matter are Gordon Fee’s God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul, (esp. pp. 827-45) and the abridged version of the work Paul, the Spirit, and the People of God, (esp. pp. 24-35). He makes a strong case for how the Spirit for Paul, is personal, while at the same time being one with, yet distinct from, the Father and Son.

  9. Thanks Nick, for your extensive response. I’ll put my responses behind the corresponding numbers you provided.

    (1) I meant merely to imply that the Trinitarian tradition and the classic creeds include both the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ, albeit in particular terms.

    (2) If one is speaking strictly of Apostolic writing and thought any direct assertion of Trinitarianism therein is anachronistic. Hence: “Johannine theology is, in essence, Trinitarian” is anachronistic.

    (3) The issue is not so much terms, which constantly need re-definition perhaps anyway, but the concepts within our contemporary discussions, typically gathered up as they are from classic orthodox definitions, thence being equated with biblical thought.

    (4) There was, of course, development toward classic orthodox definitions prior to Nicea; but that doesn’t make much if any of it strictly Trinitarian unless one presumes, as you seem to, that the later culturally contorted conceptions are derived from scripture rather than post-apostolic “experience.”

    (5) New language for evolving discussion is inevitable; elevating it to equivalence with scriptural concepts is not. That questions must arise is also inevitable; presuming the answers are necessarily given in scripture is not. This later point will probably continue as my central objection to ongoing discussion of these matters because I don’t think scripture answers the questions answered by post-Apostolics. It is these extra-biblical answers that have become classic orthodoxy.

    (6) I appreciate your referring to Bauckham and the summary, from which I’ll quote here:

    BOQ: He contends that to properly understand Second Temple Jewish monotheism we need to focus our attention on those things that marked Israel’s God out as unique, specifically in his relationship to all other reality:
    1. His being the Creator of all things. 
    2. His being sovereign Ruler over all things. 
    These are the two main characteristics that comprise the unique divine identity of YHWH and it is the NT writers’ attribution of these characteristics to Jesus that Bauckham contends is what shows that they included Jesus within the unique divine identity of Israel’s God. EOQ
    It seems to me that NT writers rather consistently refer to God the Father as creator and Christ His Son as the agent through whom he created; and sovereignty over all also being the Father’s and derivatively His Son’s to whom He has granted that right and authority. This is why I said I don’t think that “we have yet begun to seriously re-conceive the thought-matrix of the very Jewish and monotheistic New Testament authors regarding the relationship between God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ.” Bauckham’s equating the identity of Jesus with that of YHWH doesn’t seem to me to take these distinctions adequately into account.

    (7) (a) Both Dunn and Wright (I don’t recall much of Dunn’s work read thirty years ago and don’t know any of Casey’s) perhaps substantially move in the direction of historically grounded “re-conception” regarding Jesus as Christ, God’s Son. Nevertheless, I think Wright tends to revert to classic orthodox terminology when it seems required of him (he is a very capable churchman, after all)

    (b) I will get Fee’s work on this matter and keep my mind open, though it will be a challenge to get beyond my conclusion, which is implicit in the first title you mention: _God’s Empowering Presence_. That is precisely how I understand the way in which the Apostles would and did conceive of the Holy Spirit, as Old Covenant Jews; to whit, as the empowering presence of YHWH. This is more like being distinguished “as from” rather than “distinct from” the Father; “one with” and “personal” being implicit in relation to the Father, but begging the question perhaps regarding the Son who was anointed with and hence empowered by the Spirit.

    All the best to all in Christ,
    Richard W. Wilson

  10. Richard: Thanks for numbering your responses. Believe it or not, most folks aren’t so considerate as to do that when I’ve numbered mine. I find that it makes longer comments easier to follow. Let’s get to it then:

    (1) Good and well.

    (2) I disagree for the reason that your assertion assumes that Trinitarianism began after the Apostolic witness in Scripture. That creedal Trinitarianism comes later is obvious, and no one would claim otherwise, but that doesn’t necessitate that John, or Paul, or any other NT author was not Trinitarian in some sense.

    (3) That’s only a problem if we allow it to be. One needn’t assert that John’s portrayal of the Father, Son, and Spirit was concerned with matters of their being homoousios in order to assert that his portrayal of their relationship was Trinitarian. I think conceptually the case can be made for just that, without reference to later theological developments. Now when discussing the later developments the question we need to ask is whether or not they’re consistent with the earlier revelation in Scripture.

    (4) I think this again evinces your assumption that “Trinitarian” has reference to the Trinitarianism of the 4th century. This isn’t necessarily so. I hold that Trinitarianism arose out of the shared experience of the earliest believers in Christ (i.e., in their experience of salvation) as it was recorded in Scripture. I believe that this shared experience gave rise to questions that were asked and debated with varying understandings being set forth and ultimately one understanding being codified in what we now know as the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed. But when we go back and read the history of the so-called Christological and Trinitarian controversies of the 4th-5th centuries we discover that they almost always had soteriological concerns.

    (5) Again, it assumes that Trinitarianism is only what we see in the 4th century and later. I contend that it is not. But, I also contend that the questions asked arose because of what Scripture did say and because of what Christians did experience in salvation. The extra-biblical language of later eras was simply the means of explaining what those arguing the points believed Scripture to say on the matter, but we can agree that it is not necessarily the case that Scripture did in fact say everything that they said (again, I’d point to the homoousios issue as one not directly addressed in Scripture).

    (6) I fail to see how your understanding of what Scripture says concerning creation and sovereignty are substantially at odds with Trinitarian thought? The monarchy of the Father is quite orthodox. Also, when speaking of God having agents in creation we have to be careful to note who/what they were. The OT give witness to God creating through his word and spirit which are intrinsic to who God is (as Bauckham argues). Likewise, we have to remember that God was believed to have created alone (Isa. 44:24). To conceive of any agent as a ‘partner’ of sorts or even as an ‘instrument’ separate from God would be to deny God’s uniqueness in creation.

    (7) If you’re interested in Casey’s work then I’d recommend From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God which from our conversation I gather you might agree with (I personally did not agree with Casey’s thesis but it’s worth engaging nonetheless). Also, he’s written extensively on “The Son of Man” as that’s a specialty of his. And I’m sure you’ll enjoy Fee whether or not you end up agreeing with him. He’s a fine scholar and quite erudite in his exegesis.

    Thanks for the continued conversation.

  11. So, let’s carry on:
    (1) Good; it isn’t often I make myself so transparently clear.
    (2) Uh, this seems to be a bit of a circular argument here. Trinitarianism is not to be rejected as though doing so resolved questions raised by John’s theology; nevertheless, Trinitarian in your mind still seems to en-compasss traditional formulation over biblical explicitness. I know you are familiar with the argument, but so others might address it also: given the vehement and apocalyptical provenance of Second Temple monotheism, why do we find no evidence of the supposedly inherently Trinitarian nature of NT proclamation or revelation creating any kind of conflict among Jewish communities in which the Gospel was proclaimed? Other issues resulted in mob incited and governmentally engaged violence and oppression, but never in relation to God being considered tri-partite. Shouldn’t we find that a bit odd considering Jewish sensitivities to such issues?
    (3) Oh, then not allowing it to be a problem resolves every concern on that one? You keep returning to Trinitarianism as though it were inevitable or obvious, as though not allowing a problem could result in substantial issues being willed away as though by faith. I’m sorry, but this just begs the question once again.
    (4) Yes, I surmised as much: 4-5th C. trinitarianism equals biblical Yahwehism, or the “experience of the earliest believers in Christ” in your mind, regardless of the gap between Apostolic biblical witness and the conclusions following the arguments of the “church fathers.”
    (5) I try not to assume anything; I seek primarily to reflect in my witness what is explicit in scripture. Your contentions are not necessarily the solution. Again, the questions asked on the basis of scriptural witness do not necessitate the answers offered by theologians many centuries later, and certainly the answers shouldn’t be rooted in their experiences of salvation, nor ours. The extra-bibical language of extra-biblical exegetes ought not be seen as providing valid substance to the questions we ask nor the answers we affirm by faith in Christ our Lord. If the homousios issue is not addressed in scripture why do you suppose it is adequately answered in the centuries later Trinitarian doctrinal formulations? Isn’t this contradictory?
    (6) I am not, as far as I know, at odds with biblical thought regarding creation and sovereignty; I am apparently at odds with what most Trinitarians see as the nature of biblical thought regarding creation and sovereignty. Bauckham said, and most other orthodox theologians say, that Christ is the creator and sovereign; this even goes beyond the Nicean formula, and doesn’t find its roots in scripture. I neither said Christ the Son was separate from God in creation nor denied God’s uniqueness in creation. So, please, don’t beat me up over those concerns. 8>) The Nicean creed actually affirms the biblical mode of creation “through” the Son. That isn’t a problem, but the “eternally begotten, not made,” assertion, and similar subsequent definitions, unfortunately, aren’t found in scripture. Moreover, we ought not argue that Yahweh creating through his Word or Son as agent in any way denies His uniqueness as creator or that He “alone” is creator. Again, it seems you are assuming the validity of post-biblical doctrine to argue for the validity of post-biblical doctrine; perhaps not altogether coherently. What do you mean when you say God created through His intrinsic Word and Spirit? Is it necessarily the case that these are biblically protrayed in “essentially” Trinitarianly formulaic terms?
    (7) Thank you,
    In and for Christ, Richard W. Wilson

  12. Nick concerning Bauckham his aphorism I believe is `the highest Christology is the earliest`. I am enjoying the discussion relating to the Trinity

  13. Richard: Wow, this is getting rather lengthy! I enjoy it though, so thanks again.

    (2) I fail to see how it’s circular (forgive me, but did you give a reason why it is? I might have misunderstood your comment). If we take the NT as the basis for Trinitarianism then we need to ask if later formulations are consistent with it. I say that they are, and I have no problem accepting later formulations. So yes, Trinitarianism (on the whole) encompasses these later formulations as far as I’m concerned, but I’m not reliant on them nor am I of the mind that they’re the beginning of Trinitarianism or the end of it. That said, we can leave them aside when discussing the NT. I actually find that when I attempt to do this in conversation with those I disagree with they always return to it.

    Yes, I am aware of the argument you set forth. It’s actually one that Dunn and more recently James McGrath raises with regard to Paul’s Christology being divine (i.e., because Paul records no conflict over the issue with his opponents then Jesus cannot, for Paul, be divine). At best it’s an argument from silence, at worst it doesn’t take into account what is said in the NT. Let’s just state the obvious for a moment: There doesn’t need to be a recorded conflict for one to have existed, and there doesn’t need to be a conflict at all for the NT authors to have conceived of God differently after the incarnation of the Son and the sending of the Spirit to indwell the church. Also, this is a bit nit-picky, but I’m aware of no Trinitarian throughout the any period of history who has conceived of God as “tripartite.” I’d imagine that such a conception would cause conflict among Trinitarians! ;-)

    But I’d have to first ask why you think that such a conception of God would be controversial in Second Temple Jewish monotheism in the first place. Anachronism is often a problem for this subject because later rabbinic Jewish conceptions of God that grew up alongside Christian conceptions are thought to be what constitute Second Temple Jewish monotheism, or post-Enlightenment concepts of monotheism are thought to be what constitute Biblical monotheism. So it would be best to know exactly what your understanding of Second Temple Jewish monotheism is. Until then I’ll note that Hurtado argues in One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism, 2nd ed. that:

    (a) early Christian devotion can be accurately described as binitarian in shape, with a prominent place being given to the risen Christ alongside God, and (b) that this binitarian shape is distinctive in the broad and diverse Jewish monotheistic tradition that was the immediate background of the first Christians, among whom these devotional practices had their beginning. (p. 114, bold mine)

    Hurtado has also argues that there was in fact conflict over the issues closely related to what we’re discussing, although his focus is on Christ devotion. Hurtado builds a case that the various conflicts that Jesus had with his opponents over “offensive Christological claims form a key component of the devotional pattern of the Christians whose experience is reflected in these accounts.” (How on Earth did Jesus Become a God? [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans], 153; cf. “Pre-70 CE Jewish Opposition to Christ Devotion,” JTS 50 [1999]: 37.) So, e.g., when Jesus is accused of blasphemy for claiming divine prerogatives such as in John 10:30 or Mark 2:7 that reflects the community’s conception of Jesus as divine. With reference to Paul Hurtado makes the point that: “Paul ceased acting against Jewish Christians precisely as a result of a revelation of Jesus’ exalted status, which suggests that exalted Christological claims and associated religious practices were the major objectionable features of the Christian movement that drew Paul’s ire prior to conversion.” (How on Earth, 170; cf. “Pre 70,” 51.) So the point is that conflicts did exist because of changing early Christian conceptions of God.

    (3) But what’s your actual objection here? That this problem exists? Okay, and? I can only speak for myself and it needn’t be a problem for me personally. I’m quite capable of discussing this issue with you without reading 4-5th century creedal Trinitarianism back into the NT.

    (4) Could you define how you’re using “Biblical Yahwehism” (I’m used to seeing it spelled as either “Jahwism” or “Yahwism”)? I ask because pre-exilic and post-exilic Yahwism are different. And no, 4-5th c. Trinitarianism in my mind is exactly that: 4-5th c. Trinitarianism (if you don’t believe me then read my comments on chapters 5 & 6 of this book). That it’s consistent with the Trinitarianism we see in the NT and a legitimate continuation of the NT view of God is something I heartily affirm.

    (5) I’d ask how exactly you “reflect in your witness what is explicit in Scripture”? Does that entail simply quoting passages of Scripture? If so then what explanatory power does this have? We’ve already both agreed (I think) that it’s inevitable that we’ll have to resort to language not found in Scripture to explain what is said in Scripture. We’ve both certainly done that in our conversation here. So our contention isn’t over extra-biblical language, or is it? Also, what makes you more confident in your explanations than in the explanations of the church fathers? You and I are much further removed from the time and context in which the NT was written than they were. You and I use language that is not found in Scripture to explain what is found in Scripture, as did they. So I fail to see what provides “valid substance” to mine or your extra-biblical language that doesn’t also provide it to theirs.

    And if our experience of salvation is the same as the experience that is witnessed in the NT then why is that invalid to base our answers on? Is your position that our (or the church fathers or the NT writers’) experience of salvation (e.g., being drawn by the Father to the Son whom we confess as Lord and then given the gift of the Spirit) is not the same? Or is it that this experience is not somehow Trinitarian? I’m just searching for a reason why we shouldn’t base our answers in part on this.

    No, it’s not contradictory for the reason that there is a logical correlate between what the NT does say about God (i.e., there is only one God and that the Father, Son, and Spirit are all divine) and what later theologians would say about the Father, Son, and Spirit being of one substance. It’s consistent with what the NT does say, while not being stated explicitly in the NT.

    (6) I’m unclear on what you’re saying here because you seem to be contradicting yourself. On the one hand you say that you’ve not denied God’s uniqueness in creation, and you also have not said that the Christ the Son was separate from God in creation. On the other hand you’re saying that if one were to call Christ the Son Creator then they’ve gone beyond the Nicene formula and are not rooted in Scripture. I’m trying to understand how this is a consistent position. It seems that if Christ the Son is not separate from God in creation, then he shares in God’s uniqueness as Creator. If this is the case then how is it not rooted in Scripture to conceive of Christ the Son as Creator? Also, Bauckham hasn’t actually said that Christ is Sovereign and Creator. He has said that Jesus participates in God’s sovereignty and creation and is thus included in the divine identity of the one God. Since you’ve not read him I can’t expect you to have been aware of that.

    To my knowledge, I’ve not mentioned the Son being eternally begotten and not made. This is what I was speaking about in paragraph 1, even when I don’t mention these later formulations the people I disagree with keep bringing them up. Since this hasn’t been at issue up until this point I see no reason why it should be at issue now.

    You’ve lost me on the last bit. If we “ought not argue that Yahweh creating through his Word or Son as agent in any way denies His uniqueness as creator or that He “alone” is creator” then why did you bring it up? I’ve already made this point and agree with it. What I mean by “intrinsic” is that the Word and Spirit belong to who God is, i.e., they can’t be separated out from God and conceived as other gods, or lesser beings, or anything of the sort. When I say that God created through them I only mean to say that these are the means by which God created, i.e., by speaking things into existence via his word in the power of his spirit (see e.g., Ps. 33:6). I don’t understand your closing question. Could you rephrase it?

    Andrew: Yes, Bauckham says that repeatedly in his latest volume.

  14. I’ve enjoyed it so far also.
    (2) Yes, I understand your not seeing your Trinitarian assertions as circular reasoning. “Trinitarian in some sense,” (as you said and to which I responded) implies, well “Trinitarian.” As you assert: “if we take the NT as the basis for Trinitarianism then….” This is circular; IMO. If you don’t take the NT as being Trinitarian then you wouldn’t use the term as shorthand for its doctrine of God. I don’t “assume” Trinitarianism started subsequent to the Apostles, but I just haven’t quite been able to find it in their writings, either explicitly or even “in some sense,” unless that sense is formally conceived as all “three” acting in unified and singular purpose under the authority and for the sake of the One Name (Ha Shem?) as in Matt 28’s baptismal formula.
    The argument concerning the lack of opposition in regard to the presumed NT revelation of a tri-personal God (tripartite perhaps wasn’t the best word to use) doesn’t seem to me to take seriously the sensitivity Jews would have to this very issue. Jews had varying views on the nature of God, to be sure, but I don’t think I need to detail my understanding of them for you to realize that there isn’t any tri-personal concept among them at that time. To similarly be a bit nit-picky, I should point out that the conflict even leading up to the debates and decisions of Nicea and following weren’t about whether Christ was “divine,” but rather whether there was a “time” when he was not, then more pointedly whether he subsisted as the same stuff as God the Father.
    Exalted status is no doubt a major issue for opponents of the Gospel, as Paul was formerly, but I’m not convinced that the pre-conversion Paul opposed the Gospel because it claimed he was divine (that is a bit of an ambiguous term in any case). That the Jewish community accused Jesus of blasphemous assumption of divine prerogatives is not for me equivalent to the Christian community asserting his divinity. This is a big issue for me, as I’ve grown increasingly annoyed that Christian apologists for the Great Tradition (ie. Trinitarianism) jump from the Jews’ false assertions that Jesus was claiming to be God, or equal to God, to the positive assertion that Jesus was claiming to be equal to God. Jesus clearly says that “the Father is greater than all,” and he doesn’t add “except me.” If the antagonistic Jews were actually convinced that Jesus had claimed to be God or acted as though he were God I would think that these charges would be brought against him before the authorities prior to his crucifixion, but they aren’t. Oh, another argument from silence?? False charges issued by lying, murderous mobs, with those assertions not apparently substantially believed even by those who spoke them, seem to be the stuff on which many traditional arguments are based.
    Moreover, the farther we get along the trajectory of thinking about why a “binitarian” shape of early belief makes sense the less we will be inclined toward continuing the use of trinitarian terminology.
    (3) Really?
    (4) Yes, I think I noticed that.
    (5) I surely use derivative expressions in my witness regarding Christ and the Gospel (I don’t speak Koine and neither do many others!). No, it is not about the words used; again, it is rather about the concepts. Explanatory argumentation using arguments that would most likely be incomprehensible and irrelevant to the Apostles seems to me to be what most of our developed theological traditions are about. If the simplest basics of the Gospel aren’t enough then we are most likely arguing “about words,” or rather about concepts not explicit in scripture. Language and meaning is a cultural phenomena; reconstituting as much as possible the NT witness is my preference rather than endless elaboration beyond it; I’m more of a restorationist than an orthodoxist. Approximating a trajectory from Christ and his words (as embodied in the Canon) into my understanding and experience, and back to those words in their own historical-linguistic-cultural context so as to more closely approximate what they alone believed and wrote is my goal. Explicit reference to scripture with a minimum of elaboration through argumentation is my preference; a kind of Ockham’s razor approach, as much as possible. In this light I really can’t speculate adequately whether the experience of salvation of others gives adequate validity to mine; I don’t understand the point you are trying to make here since experience is not that with which we are, or at least which I am, concerned. Arguments for conceptions of who God is beyond what is explicit in scripture, regardless of whether they are “logical[ly] correlate,” to me seem ultimately idolatrous, however consistent they may seem to their promoters (cf. Aaron and the Golden Calf).
    (6) Whether Christ is separate from God in his role as creative agent is not a question I have found to be answered in scripture, so I’m not contradicting myself, or scripture, by not saying whether he is or isn’t. Please don’t “beat me up” about that either. By now it seems neither of us is understanding the other. I didn’t refer to the Nicean formula regarding the Father being the creator to dispute a point you made, but in relation to Bauckham. He had, according to the quote, asserted that the attributes of Creator and Sovereign were attributed to Jesus Christ in the NT, and therefore he considers Christ as included within the identity of Yahweh. The quote doesn’t say Jesus merely “participates” in those attributes of God. You have here IMO merely rephrased classical orthodox definitions of the nature of God. If you don’t understand my last question it seems likely that it is because, as I noted in (2) above, that your argumentation is circular. My apologies, but restating the question is not likely to be productive.
    All the best to all in Christ,
    Richar W. Wilson

  15. Richard: I think at this point we’d just be going in circles since I feel like we’re just talking past each other. So I’ll have to agree that to keep repeating ourselves “is not likely to be productive.” Thanks for the dialogue, though, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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