Prejean posted a comment on my blog, then deleted it. The PP summarized the comment in the form of a questionnaire for Prejean to answer. I’ll reproduce the questionnaire and the response before offering my own reply:
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 5:45:50 PM
Pedantic Protestant said...
Jonathan removed his comment, it seems [?].
Friday, September 09, 2005 5:46:50 PM
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 6:29:53 PM
i) Prejean’s allusion to Jn 1:14 is presumably to the clause, “and the word became flesh.” Sarx has a wide semantic domain in LXX and NT usage. In the context of Jn 1:14, it means, at a minimum, that the Logos became human—possibly with an added overtone of the infirmities of the flesh.
ii) However, Prejean’s contention is that unless you subscribe to his Cyrillene Christology, you deny Jn 1:14. But this isn’t exegesis. It is placing a far more specific construction on the text than the text itself will bear.
Even if his Christology were correct, it doesn’t follow that the Johannine clause means that the Logos became flesh in the Cyrillene sense.
The problem lies with Prejean’s childish insistence that if he can’t get everything he wants out of a verse of Scripture, then he will simply make it mean more than it actually says by extorting a surplus sense through semantic coercion.
Again, even if his Christology were correct, that doesn’t make his exegesis correct. His Cyrillene gloss goes well beyond what the verse either says or means or even implies.
This is a distinction which a Catholic commentator on John, such as Brown or Schnackenburg, would have no difficulty observing. It betrays the intellectual insecurity of his faith that Prejean cannot allow the text of Scripture speak for itself.
If I deny that Winnie the Pooh teaches quantum mechanics, I am not rendering a value-judgment on quantum mechanics.
iii) The image of the Son coming from the Father is a complex image in Johannine usage. It signifies his divinity, divine mission and commission, as well as his Incarnation.
Prejean fails to explain what is incoherent in Warfield’s analysis. As applied to the Godhead, “sonship” is a metaphor. After all, no one is contending that Christ is the physical progeny of God. So the question is what the metaphor signifies.
In Johannine usage, and NT usage generally, it is a divine title. Hence, it implies the divinity of Christ. As such, it further entails an eternal relationship, grounded in the intramundane Trinity.
Likewise, divine paternity is also a metaphor, and one correlative with the sonship of Christ. Fatherhood and sonship answer to each other.
But to turn these figures of speech into a causal model whereby the action of the Father is constitutive of the Son is crudely anthropomorphic and gets wholly carried away with the incidental connotations a mere metaphor.
And to take the further step of exchanging this image for the role of the Father as the fons deitatis or fons trinitatis is yet another wrong turn; metaphors are not interchangeable, and it is illicit to swap one theological metaphor for another.
iv) As to 2 Peter, I assume his allusion is to 1:4 (“partakers of the divine nature”), which is the classic prooftext for theosis.
It should be needless to point out that theosis is a classically Greek orthodox soteric category, not a Roman Catholic soteric category. So if Prejean’s position is that anyone who does not subscribe to the Greek Orthodox gloss on 2 Pet 1:4 is a heretic, then his fellow Roman Catholics are equally heretical.
I’d add that theosis makes use of Neoplatonic ontology to flesh out its soteriology. But Neoplatonism postdates 2 Peter. So even if it were a valid framework in its own right, it would still be anachronistic to reinterpret 2 Pet 1:4 in light of Neoplatonism—much less the late Medieval development of hesychasm.
For a philological analysis of 1 Pet 1:4, cf. J. Starr, Sharers in Divine Nature: 2 Peter 1:4 in Its Hellenistic Context (Stockholm 2000).
Starr arrives at the conclusion that what the verse in fact denotes is not deification, but participation in the moral character of Christ.
What Prejean subscribes to is not, in fact, a hypostatic union, but rather, an anhypostatic union. He charges anyone who disagrees with him with being a Nestorian, but by depersonalizing the human nature of Christ, one could, with equal logic, classify Mr. Prejean as a Monophysite.
As David Wells has put it, “it is not entirely clear how a human nature devoid of its ego is still human nature; without its prosopon, Jesus’ ousia would be merely homoiousion with ours and not homoousion,” The Person of Christ (Crossway Books 1984), 109.
In the same series is Gerald Bray’s book on The Doctrine of God, in which he raises the same sorts of objections to Nicene subordinationism that I do.
BTW, the series editor for this book was Peter Toon, an Evangelical Anglican and high churchman, as well as a diligent and devout student of historical theology. And Roger Nicole was one of the peer reviewers. So this is scarcely the “nutbar anti-Catholic fringe.”
Prejean has yet to explain how a “rational soul” can be impersonal. How does he square his own position with the Athanasian creed? What’s an anhypostatic union if not Docetism by another name?
The point here is not to either accept a Nestorian Christology or reject a Cyrillene Christology. The point, rather, is to resist the temptation to be more specific than Scripture and dogmatize beyond the bounds of revelation.