Just Ordered (It’s a Long Story)

So here’s the deal. The other day I got an email talking about same day shipping for Amazon Prime members on select items and orders over $35. I decided to put it to the test so I ordered God the Trinity: Biblical Portraits by Malcolm Yarnell and Ministry in the Image of God: The Trinitarian Shape of Christian Service by Stephen Seamands. I also ordered Metal Gear Solid V.

Now this was on a Sunday and I was skeptical that I’d get my stuff that same day. I was right to be skeptical. Nighttime rolled in and no delivery. I tracked the package and it said that the company LaserShip “attempted” delivery. The problem is that I was home and they did no such thing. I contacted Amazon customer service and the woman on the phone tried to contact the delivery company but they were closed. So I’d have to wait until today for my shipment.

Well today came and I didn’t find a package when I got home from work around 9pm. I tracked it again and LaserShip said they delivered it to the front door. Another lie. There was nothing at my front door or either of my next door neighbors’ front doors. LaserShip is awful! Completely dishonest and I’m disappointed in Amazon for using them. So I contacted customer support again and they told me to give it until tomorrow. If I don’t have my items by then they’ll either ship new ones or issue a refund. Whatever the outcome, this has been incredibly annoying.

I also ordered the following books from Wipf & Stock just a few moments ago:

How To Read T. F. Torrance by Elmer Colyer

Communion with the Triune God by Dick O. Eugenio

Colin Gunton and the Failure of Augustine by Bradley G. Green

Perichoresis and Personhood by Charles C. Twombly

The Trinity Hurdle by R. Sutcliffe

Novatian of Rome and the Culmination of Pre-Nicene Orthodox by James L. Papandrea

Some Scattered Thoughts on the EFS/ERAS Debate

I’ve been doing my best to keep up with the recent goings on about the subject of the Son’s subordination to the Father but I have to admit that even my best has left me woefully behind in all that has been said on the subject in recent weeks (those interested will do well to consult Seumas Macdonald’s collation of posts on the subject). I miss the days of working from home and being able to engage in fruitful theological dialogue. But I digress. I want to share some scattered thoughts on it all with the hope that I’ll have something substantial to say about the subject at some point (although I couldn’t imagine when that might be).

First, a few observations:

It seems like the label heresy is getting thrown around pretty easily. I’m actually okay with this. I know that it’s a serious charge but this is serious subject matter and if certain folk think other folk are far afield enough then why not charge them with heresy? It doesn’t mean the charge will stick but I see no problem with putting it out there.

There has been a repeated call for Christian charity and an irenic tone as these debates continue. I would also urge Christian charity but some issues require polemic. Again, if certain people feel that others are far enough off the mark (or perhaps not so far but simply unwilling to listen to reason) then polemic might be more appropriate.

The issue of eternal generation seems to be at the forefront of this debate. From all I’ve read it seems as though Grudem is not a proponent (although not necessarily opposed) and yet many on his side seem to think this is one of the foundational concepts for EFS/ERAS.

The repudiation of EFS/ERAS from across the interdisciplinary spectrum is a sight to behold. Theologians, biblical scholars, and patristic scholars alike seem to think that EFS/ERAS is bad theology, unbiblical, and unfaithful to the tradition of the church.

Now for my personal position:

Some years back I put together something I called the Trinity Blogging Summit (I apologize for the name but I was never all that creative) where various bloggers contributed posts/papers on various topics concerning the Trinity. For the first annual TBS in 2008 I wrote a paper called “Sent from the Father: A Case for Pre-Temporal Obedience.” In that paper I took a look at the sending/sent language/theme in the Gospels and concluded that the Son qua Son obeys the Father out of love and that if this loving obedience could take place before the incarnation then it does no violence to the doctrine of the Trinity from a biblical perspective to suggest that it can be done from all eternity.

Now please keep in mind that my concern has never been with authority and submission structures in the church, the home, or anywhere else. I do not see the Trinity as a model to be followed by created beings. The problem as I see it, and have seen it since at least 2008, is that people on both sides of the debate want to co-opt the eternal relations between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and use them as the basis for their preferred model of marital relationships or the ordination of ministers. And this cuts both ways. Kevin Giles has been as guilty of this as Bruce Ware, although it seems that in recent years Giles has backed off a bit while Ware has gotten more resolute.

I am of the opinion that it does little to no good to look to the church fathers for an answer to this debate because it is a debate that they weren’t having and had never occurred to them. I am also of the opinion that whatever we say about the immanent Trinity that has not been revealed to us in Scripture is speculation. Some speculation is more reasonable than others but at the end of the day it’s all guesswork.

And that brings me to something I noted in my scathing review of Millard Erickson’s book on the subject: “The fact is that the only picture we have of the Father-Son relationship in Scripture is one of the Son doing the will of the Father out of love for the Father but never of the Father doing the will of the Son or the Spirit.  The Father sends the Son and the Father and Son send the Spirit yet this is never reversed.” So my question is why? Why does the economy take such shape? And why would we propose that the economy is not reflective of–without being identical to–the immanent Trinity?

We all recognize that there is an order within the Trinity. Most in this debate affirm that the Father alone is unbegotten/ungenerate, that the Son is begotten by an eternal generation, and that the Spirit proceeds from the Father (and many say the Son as well) by an eternal procession. Most would agree that these are asymmetrical and irreversible relations. Most agree that while Father, Son, and Spirit all share equally the divine being, possess one divine will, and act as one God, that they each have unique personal properties that distinguish them from one another.

I’m of the opinion that any talk of subordination or obedience or submission in the immanent Trinity is talk of personal properties. If an asymmetrical and irreversible order of “origin” (I use the term loosely for lack of a better one) does no harm to an orthodox doctrine of God then I can’t see why a corollary order of loving filial obedience would either.

And now a word about the recent discussion that took place on the Christ the Center podcast.

The panelists, who all were opposed to EFS/ERAS made much of the pactum salutis and kept stressing a single divine will and distinct personal wills within God at the same time. The idea of the pactum salutis has the Father calling the shots, so to speak, and the Son and Spirit obeying them, with the understanding that this could have been otherwise. They say that there is no ontological ground for the Son obeying the Father and that he does so freely, not necessarily.

But that’s similar to something I said back in 2008 when I made my initial argument for my understanding of EFS. I said, “The eternal obedience of the Son and Spirit is derived from the eternal Trinitarian ταξις and is best described as a willing obedience.  The Father commands without demanding.  There is no coercion on the part of the Father, and the Son and Spirit do not obey begrudgingly.” The point being that from all eternity the Son and Spirit freely act in obedience to the Father as Son and Spirit of the Father. This is the outworking of the single divine will. Is this speculative? Of course! But I think it’s a speculation that accords with divine revelation.

The thing that concerned me about the recent Christ the Center podcast wasn’t so much the pactum salutis as it was the stressing of distinct wills (and consciousnesses) within the Trinity. They were sure to maintain that these were personal wills (and consciousnesses) and that there was only one divine will but I still struggled to see how this doesn’t devolve into some form of social trinitarianism. Likewise, does the incarnate Son then have three wills? A divine will, an eternal personal will, and an incarnate human will? That seems to be the logical conclusion from the insistence on a single divine will and three personal wills within the Trinity (although admittedly Camden Busey says he believes the Son to have “one human will according to his human nature and one triune will according to his divine nature”).

So anyway, these are just some random thoughts on the debate. I recently read an older review of Kevin Giles’ book on eternal generation that mentions me and my review of the same book. After some link following I saw that the author, James Cassidey, had referred to me as a non-Arian subordinationist. I’ve been called worse, but I think it important to note that I view myself as someone who prefers to constrain his speculation as much as possible to what the biblical text says about God. Of course I do go beyond it but I try to do so in a way that doesn’t end up saying the opposite of what has been revealed.

And for those interested, here are some links to reviews I’ve done of books related to this issue:

The Eternal Generation of the Son: Maintaining Orthodoxy in Trinitarian Theology

Father, Son, & Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, & Relevance

Jesus and the Father: Modern Evangelicals Reinvent the Doctrine of the Trinity

The Trinity & Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God & the Contemporary Gender Debate

Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism?: Philosophical and Systematic Theologians on the Metaphysics of Trinitarian Theology

Who’s Tampering with the Trinity?: An Assessment of the Subordination Debate

Women, Men, and the Trinity: What Does It Mean to Be Equal?

As well as my running commentary on the back and forth between Michael Bird/Robert Shillaker and Keving Giles.

B”H

Just Ordered

I woke up around 6:30 AM today and grabbed my phone. I generally peek at my email but today I opened up the Amazon app. I wasn’t fully awake but I pulled the trigger on a couple of books that were in my shopping cart. They were The Holy Trinity Revisited: Essays in Response to Stephen Holmes and Your Will Be Done: Exploring Eternal Subordination, Divine Monarchy and Divine Humility.

The first volume is one I’ve had my eye on for a while. It’s a collection of essays that critically interact with Stephen Holmes’ recent The Quest for the Trinity: The Doctrine of God in Scripture, History and Modernity (US title). I was greatly appreciate of Holmes’ work but had a few complaints of my own. I’ll be interested to see what his interlocutors have to say and see if we share any of the same concerns.

The second volume is one I just recently learned of thanks to this whole blog conversation about eternal functional subordination within the Trinity. Michael J. Ovey is a new name to me but I hope that he’s contributed something meaningful to this debate with this book. Time will tell.

The funny thing is that I fell back asleep for a few minutes after ordering these and I forgot all about it until a little later in the morning after I was at work.

B”H

Got My Keyboard Back

I don’t believe that I mentioned this but the keyboard I got a couple months back to make music with broke after having it for only a month. I came home from work one day, turned it on, and was met with a non-functioning piece of hardware. I couldn’t return it to B&H whom I bought it from because it broke on day 32. They have a 30 day return policy. So I had to go through the manufacturer warranty process.

I contacted Akai once with no answer. I contacted them again with no answer. After a week or so I got two emails from different representatives. One contained instructions on what to do to see if I could get the keyboard working. It didn’t help. So I contacted that rep and told him it didn’t work. No answer, for like two weeks. So I contacted the other one and explained what happened. He responded promptly with instructions on how to get the whole thing going.

So I printed out the address label provided and spent $30 of my own money to ship the thing to one of their repair centers. The other day I got the paperwork on what was wrong (it was something on the circuit board) and what was done to fix it. They promptly shipped it back and now it’s in my possession. I’ll be plugging it in shortly to make sure everything is working properly and then I can get back to my burgeoning career as a music producer.

Just thought I’d share.

B”H

Help a Brother Out

UPDATE: Several kind folks sent along copies of the article. Thank you all! 

The other day Denny Burk referenced the article “The Obedience of the Eternal Son,” International Journal of Systematic Theology 15/2 (2013): 114-34. Does anyone have a copy of this article that they could pass along? I’d greatly appreciate it. Thanks!

B”H

One Brief Thought on the Recent Eternal Functional Subordination Kerfuffle

I’ve typed plenty on the debate over eternal functional subordination over the years. Much of what I’ve said can be found in book reviews. Some can be found in dedicated posts to one point of the discussion or another. I’ll leave it to interested readers to search my blog and find all that I’ve said. But I want to repeat something since I keep reading the word “Arian” being used with reference to those who affirm some kind of eternal functional subordination, or eternal authority-submission structure, or eternal asymmetrical order of relation, etc.

If it’s “eternal” then it ain’t “Arian.” It’s really that simple. Arians believed the Son to be a created being. Plain and simple. Yes, he was created “before” time (wrap your head around that one) but the Father existed “before” that. No one who believes that the Son has from all eternity been obedient or submitted to the Father is an Arian because they all believe that for as long as their has been a Father to obey/submit to, there has been a Son who obeys/submits.

That’s my spiel. And a huge thanks to Seumas Macdonald for his roundup of posts on the recent discussion. It saved me a lot of time and energy!

B”H

Better Late than Never

I just saw a review of Kevin Giles’ The Eternal Generation of the Son written by Jim Cassidy on the Reformed Forum blog. It’s a good review. Much more sympathetic to Giles’ work than my own review. Cassidy begins with reference to my review and he agrees with certain points I make but disagrees with others. I only wish I had known about this more than 3 years ago when it was originally posted! It was still good reading though, and I always go back to my reviews of Giles’ books and think that I was unnecessarily harsh at the time of writing them. There’s just something about his stuff that riles me up. In any event, check out Cassidy’s review. It’s worth your time.

B”H