Monday, February 15, 2010

Honoring the Son

Dan Chapa has a 4-part reply to me:

“Stafford asserted that Hebrews 1:3 relates to God and Christ’s essence rather than their persons.1 You responded, not by contradicting him on this point, but by describing the consubstantial identity of the Father with the Son in terms of a numerical distinction.”

Dan is now swapping out the context of my statement. When I said “I didn’t affirm or deny that all members of the Trinity are numerically one in essence,” I was responding to Dan, not to Safford.

I was responding to Dan’s specific arguments. Answering Dan on his own terms.

If Dan wants to change the subject, he’s at liberty to do so, but it’s deceptive to swap out the context. Stafford’s argument isn’t the same as Dan’s argument. Answering Dan on his own terms is hardly equivalent to answering Stafford on his own terms.

“It sure seems like you were denying the numerical oneness of the divine essence, but perhaps you were responsive to Stafford in some rather subtle way here, which is why I asked for clarification.”

i) Let’s see. In the very passage of mine that Dan quotes, I introduce a key qualification. For some reason, Dan blows right past my qualification as if it didn’t exist. What did I say?

“As to Heb 1:3, we need to keep a couple of things in mind: i) To speak of the Son as a ‘copy’ of God is figurative imagery. A metaphor is an analogy. Every analogy has an element of disanalogy…Stafford, with wooden literality…And keep in mind, once again, that this is figurative.”

So after reading this, what does Dan say?

“It sure seems like you were denying the numerical oneness of the divine essence.”

Even though I explicitly and repeatedly qualify my statement to make emphatically clear that I’m analyzing figurative imagery, Dan acts as if I’m making a literal statement about a numerically distinct essence.

It’s tedious to deal with an opponent who, when I painstakingly qualify my usage, immediately disregards the qualifiers.

ii) The figurative imagery of replication involves a numerical distinction between the original and the copy.

A copy may be “generically” identical to the original, but a copy is not numerically identical to the original.

Whether or not the Father and the Son are numerically one in essence is not something you can derive from the metaphorical usage of Heb 1:3. That’s a more specialized distinction than this figure of speech is able to delineate or amplify.

“They do have to do with unity (i.e. oneness or being one); else they wouldn’t be ‘monotheism passages.’”

i) ”Monotheistic” is merely a label. It’s not a substitute for exegesis or conceptual analysis.

ii) Apropos (i), keep in mind that Jehovah’s Witnesses appeal to the monotheistic passages to disprove the Trinity. That’s one reason we need to know the difference between unity and unicity. By his refusal to distinguish the two, Dan is arguing like a Jehovah’s Witness.

iii) Unity is not interchangeable with unicity. Unicity is a synonym for singularity. It denotes something unique, one of a kind. Sui generis.

That is not the same concept as “unity.” And it doesn’t entail unity. Something can be unique without being unified.

This is not to say that God is disjointed. Just that Dan can’t infer the internal “structure” of the Godhead from monotheistic passages.

iv) In the monotheistic passages, the one true God (Yahweh) is set against pagan idolatry. That’s the context.

The monotheistic passages don’t distinguish between generic essential unity and numeric essential unity. The wording isn’t that specialized.

“Since unicity implies unity…”

It does? Where’s the argument?

“Paul uses the monotheistic passages to both rule out polytheism…”

Paul doesn’t need the principle of unity to rule out polytheism. Unicity will suffice.

“And urge for the unity of the body of Christ. (1 Cor. 8:4, Eph 4:3-16).”

i) Actually, Eph 4:3-16 is a complex passage that trades on a dialectical relation between the one and the many.

ii) Moreover, the unity is view (in Eph 4) falls short of either generic or numeric essential unity.

iii) Dan is also shifting from the concept of numeric “identity” to the concept of numeric “unity.” But identity and unity are hardly convertible concepts. “Unity” is a looser concept than “identity.”

“With respect to God, there can be no distinction between numeric and generic unity; since two divine essences would either actually be one (as we learned from Leibniz) or one of the divine essences would be lacking in some perfection, which is both impossible and demotes the ‘same-essance’ as affirmed by the Church to the ‘similar-essance’ affirmed by the semi-Arians.”

i) To begin with, Dan is shifting gears from exegetical theology to philosophical theology. He has yet to establish numeric essential unity on exegetical grounds.

That doesn’t necessarily mean Scripture is silent on the subject. Perhaps it does teach numeric essential unity. But since that’s thesis which Dan is defending, then the onus lies on him to exegete that teaching from the relevant passages of Scriptures (assuming they exist).

In principle, Scripture might be silent on that distinction. In that event, Scripture would not be opposed to that distinction. Rather, Scripture would be neutral on that distinction.

Dan is skipping over key steps in his argument. He needs to go back and make a rigorous case for each step along the way. Dan is oblivious to how much he is reading into his prooftexts.

ii) With respect to God, we must make room for numerically distinct persons of the Godhead. Yet these persons also share the same divine attributes.

iii) And notice, once again, that Dan is shifting from the concept of “identity” (which was the original topic of this debate), to the concept of “unity.” But “unity” is a more elastic relation than “identity.”

“If two essences are the same with respect to substance, space and time, what could divide them? Two glasses of water of the same formula could be divided with respect to space or time.”

Time and space are not the only principles of individuation. Abstract objects can be distinct.

“But given God’s immensity, the same could not be true with respect to God. ”

“Immensity” is a spatial metaphor. Dan can’t validly infer numeric identity from generic identity on the basis of a spatial metaphor.

I asked, “How does Dan happen to know how the “church at large” understands the Nicene creed?”

Dan responds by quoting a passage from Hodge:

“The creeds are nothing more than a well-ordered arrangement of the facts of Scripture which concern the doctrine of the Trinity. They assert the distinct personality of the Father, Son, and Spirit; their mutual relation as expressed by those terms; their absolute unity as to substance or essence, and their consequent perfect equality; and the subordination of the Son to the Father, and of the Spirit to the Father and the Son, as to the mode of subsistence and operation. These are Scriptural facts, to which the creeds in question add nothing; and it is in this sense they have been accepted by the Church universal.”

i)But, of course, that doesn’t answer the question. I didn’t ask, how does the Nicene creed understand Scripture? Rather, I asked, how does the church-at-large understand the Nicene creed.

What the Nicene Fathers understood, and how the church-at-large understands the Nicene Fathers, are obviously two different things.

ii) I’d also note the irony of this exchange at a time when there’s a raging debate over at the blog of David Waltz on how the Nicene Father’s understood the Nicene creed. Does it, or does it not, rule out Arianism–or some variant thereof?

Dan Chapa acts as though the Nicene formulation is unambiguous. But to judge by the debate over there, with different commenters quoting church historians back and forth, it’s really quite equivocal.

“From a historical standpoint, your arguments effectively make Athanasius and the Cappadocian Fathers into Arians.”

i) All this objection amounts to is that I can’t be right, for if I were right, then someone else would be wrong.

Dan’s frivolous objection is duly noted.

ii) And he also resorts to hyperbole.

“Continuation has a borrowed atemporal sense.”

That’s a lovely, tendentious assertion. Whenever you’re ready, I await the supporting argument.

“I could be mistaken, but I believe the EOC is agnostic towards the status of Christians outside the EOC.”

Here’s an example of EO “agnosticism” regarding the spiritual status of Protestants:

“JNORM is welcome to correct me on this if I am mistaken.”

When did JNORM become an authoritative spokesman for Eastern Orthodoxy?

“This is an epistemic paradox, but not a logical one.”

Of course, the doctrine of the Trinity is traditionally formulated to avoid explicit contradiction. However, linguistic formulations are placeholders–and they can mask implicit tensions. The difficulty reemerges when we try to unpack the language and relate the concepts.

Ultimately, Christians accept the Trinity as an article of faith, on the authority of God’s self-revelation.

Attempts to rationalize the Trinity move us into the realm of philosophical theology. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that move, but our faith in the Trinity is not (or ought not be) contingent on the success or failure of that program. Faith seeks understanding, not vice versa.

“The passages with ‘gennao’ (Acts 13:33, Heb 1:5, 5:5) are not really in question, even if those with monogenes are. Do you really question if begotten (or Fathered) applies to Christ? That goes against some rather plain scriptural statements.”

This is one of the points at which dialogue with Dan Chapa always breaks down. I suspect that one of his underlying problems, which is endemic to his soteriology as well as his Triadology, is that Dan is a dispensationalist. And he brings his pop dispensational hermeneutic to issues over and above eschatology.

Mind you, academic dispensationalists like Darrel Block are far more sophisticated. They would never fall into this trap.

But Dan seems to operate at a more popular, retrograde level (a la Chafer, Scofield).

As a result, he reads the Bible in a very “flat” fashion. He acts as though you can simply read the “plain sense” off the surface wording of a passage. You don’t need to consider the linguistic or conceptual background.

So, for example, he simply assumes that Acts 13:33 must teach the eternal generation of the Son because it uses reproductive imagery. But to understand what is meant, it is necessary, both to consider the original context of the Psalm, which the NT speaker is quoting, as well as the way in which that carries over into the argument of the NT speaker. Briefly:

“The king is Yawh’s son (cf. 2 Sam 7:14), who rules his father’s realm as his regent. The king implies that he heard Yhwh give this decree, so the occasion was hardly the day of his physical birth, but his designation or coronation. Yhwh did not bring him into being then but did enter into a fatherly commitment to him in adopting him as a son. The words uttered on that occasion made him heir to his father’s wealth and authority and are the undergirding of his position now. To judge from practice elsewhere in the Middle East, ‘You are my son’ is a performative declaration of adoption: 89:27 [27] will then indicate the correlative response,” J. Goldingay, Psalms 1–41 (Baker 2006), 100-101.

So the reproductive imagery is used as a synonym for royal “adoption,” which is, in turn, a metaphor for royal inheritance–as the crown passes from one king to another.

Now let’s see how this coronation formula carries over into NT Christology:

“This ‘begetting’ and the enthronement the psalm implies have been fulfilled in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (cf. 2:33-36,where resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of God are viewed as linked events),” D. Peterson, The Acts of the Apostles (Eerdmans 2009), 392.

Here the timing of the event has reference, not to the eternal generation of the Son, but to the Resurrection (followed by the Ascension and Session of Christ). And it has reference, not to “eternal generation,” but to the coronation of the Davidic Messiah.

“Yet you say the Son was not eternally begotten and question if He was begotten at all. Do you see why I question if your views are in line with the church at large?”

Confessions are written by theologians. I don’t equate theologians with the “church at large.” They are just a small part (albeit important part) of the church at large.

What the Nicene Fathers may have meant by “begotten of the Father before all worlds,” and what a 13C French peasant may have understood, are hardly identical. The “church at large” includes the laity throughout the ages.

“The three statements (Without father or mother, without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life ) are about Melchizedek, not Christ.”

That completely misses the point of why the author introduces Melchizedek into his argument. It’s an argument from analogy. He is drawing a parallel between Melchizedek and Christ. A typal/antitypal relation. Moreover, what is merely foreshadowed in the type holds true at a higher level in the antitype.

“Nor is the ‘without father or mother’ language the point of analogy between Melchizedek and Christ, since Christ is called the Son of God.”

Of course, that commits a level-confusion in terms of what fatherhood/motherhood is in view–and how the literal pedigree, or absence thereof, relates to the typological pedigree, or absence thereof.

“So ‘eternal priesthood’, not being un-begotten, is the point of analogy.”

Which again, that overlooks the thrust of the argument. What grounds that effect? this is grounded in the nature of the officeholder. It’s special nature of the Melchizdekian priest that gives rise to the special nature of the Melchizdekian priesthood. As Bauckham explains:

“We can now see that what the author of Hebrews says of Melchizedek in 7:3 is precisely what he said of Christ in applying the words of Ps 102 to him in chap. 1. In both cases, this is the full eternity of the only true God. Just as the God of Ps 1-2 remains, whereas all his creation perishes, so the Melchizedekian high priest remains a priest, whereas Levitical priests, being merely mortal, come and go. Also important here is 7:16: Jesus ‘has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life’ (another alpha privative adjective: akatalutos). Jesus qualifies for his never-ending priesthood because he shares the fully eternal being, the indestructible life, of God. His eternity in the future–the ‘forever’ of Ps 110:4–is not merely contingently never-ending, but due to his inherently indestructible life,” op. cit., 31.

It’s a pity that Dan is more anxious to honor the Nicene Fathers than he is to honor the Son. He’d rather demote and degrade a NT prooftext for the deity of Christ than surrender Nicene subordinationism.

“That Christ is begotten and God’s Son is clearly reconcilable with His being a Priest in the Order of Melchizedek.”

i) This is another example of Dan’s flat reading of Scripture. He’s trying to harmonize metaphors, as if different metaphors need to be harmonious. But that commits another level-confusion.

Authors can use different metaphors to make different points. They can even use related metaphors to make different points. And metaphors, being figurative, needn’t be literally harmonious with each other.

ii) In addition, each distinctive metaphor may have a distinctive conceptual background, such as literary allusions to OT usage.

You can’t simply isolate one theological metaphor, isolate another theological metaphor, and then directly relate the two. Rather, you have to interpret each metaphor in context, consistent with the package of associations which comes with that metaphor–along with how it functions in the flow of the argument.

Dan seems to operate with a concordance approach, where he simply plucks one or more occurrences of the same word out of context, then attaches it to something else.

“Bauckham somehow manages to conclude that Christ is unbegotten from the scriptures' statement that Christ is begotten, based on Sibyl’s claim God is unbegotten. (p.52) Helenistic Jews probably did think of the Father as unbegotten, but that just sharpens the distinction between begotten and unbegotten rather than transformimg begotten into unbegotten.”

i) There is no “somehow” in Bauckham’s conclusion. He presents an argument for his conclusion. Indeed, his entire essay is currently available online, so anyone is free to see his process of reasoning.

ii) This is yet another example of Dan’s flat reading of Scripture. It doesn’t occur to him that the usage in Hebrews might be idiomatic.

Bauckham tries to understand the phraseology in light of period usage. What did that phraseology signify in period usage? What would that mean to a Hellenistic Jew, writing to fellow Jews?

Bauckham’s argument isn’t based on the Sibyl’s claim, but on how that passages is a witness to the idiomatic terminology under review.

But Dan will have none of that because he thinks he can read off the “plain sense” of a passage from the surface wording.

If Dan overheard someone remark about “shooting the bull,” he’d report the speaker to animal cops. “Shooting the bull” can’t be an idiomatic expression. No, that would violate the “plain sense” of the phrase.

“Given Christ’s Sonship and being under the Father’s authority were before the foundation of the world, what’s the basis for a distinction between an economic and intrinsic status?”

Notice how Dan makes it sound as if the Son of God is an underage minor, living with mom and dad. Grounded for a week if he gets home after curfew. “Sorry, Dad! I lost track of time when I was out playing touch football with Michael and Gabriel!”

Dan doesn’t seem to have any room for anthroporphic discourse in his reading of Scripture. His Christology might be good Miltonian Christology, with Milton’s very Olympian depiction of heaven, but it’s not a serious way of viewing the Godhead. It fails to take seriously the divine attributes of Christ.

“The passage is ‘I have begotten you’. ‘I’ is the Father and ‘you’ is the Son. So the Father begets the Son.”

i) I think that misses the point of Bauckham’s argument. As I understand him, Bauckham is stating that in Hellenistic usage, the principle of divine aseity could be expressed through the idiom of divine self-begetting. Only God can beget God.

So, for the Father to say (in Hebrews), “I have begotten” the Son is a binary, Trinitarian way to express the principle of divine aseity.

And divine begetting is an idiomatic synonym for aseity or eternality. A different way of saying the same thing, where unbegotten and self-begotten are idiomatic synonyms.

And the author of Hebrews reformulates this unitarian idiom in binary terms since he is a Trinitarian.

That’s what I take Bauckham to mean. Dan is free to disagree with Bauckham, but he needs to engage the actual argument.

ii) And he also needs to demonstrate that Bauckham’s linguistic analysis is wrong. What, precisely, is wrong with Bauckham’s use of comparative linguistics?

After all, the author of Hebrews frequently employs more specialized terminology than other NT writers. So it’s only appropriate to take his erudite, linguistic background into consideration.

ii) And this is on top of the fact that such language is already idiomatic in the OT passage which the author was quoting. In Ps 2, God didn’t literally beget David. Rather, that’s a metaphor to describe his coronation as the theocratic king.

“Given Christ’s Sonship and being under the Father’s authority were before the foundation of the world, what’s the basis for a distinction between an economic and intrinsic status?”

i) Notice how Dan constantly reasons in circles. Observe how he’s appealing to the Sonship of Christ, when the meaning of that title is the very issue under review.

ii) As I’ve already documented, the Sonship of Christ doesn’t have a uniform meaning in NT Christology. It varies from writer to writer. Likewise, same writer may use that title to connote different things depending on the context.

In some cases it connotes intrinsic divinity, but in other cases it connotes an achieved status.

iii) What he means by the Son under the Father’s authority before the foundation of the world he doesn’t spell out. He needs to state his prooftexts, and, what is more, exegete them in context.

“I agree with your view of John 5, but not its cross-application to John 6.”

This assumes that 6:57 has a fundamentally different meaning than 5:26. I disagree. 6:57 is a summary statement of 5:21,24-27–which, in turn, refers back to 1:4. And I’m not alone in this. That’s the common view of commentators.

Of course, Dan is at liberty to disagree if he has a better argument.

“Here’s the text: ‘As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me.’ So the Son proceeds from the Father…”

It’s misleading to use the word “proceed” to gloss 6:57 unless you’re going to distinguish between Scriptural usage and patristic/conciliar usage. “Proceed” is a loaded word because it acquired a technical meaning in patristic/conciliar usage. It would be anachronistic to read that back into Johannine usage.

“The point of analogy is not the type of life.”

The text doesn’t distinguish between the kind of life the Father gives and the kind of life the Son gives. So, for Dan to suggest that it’s not referring to the same kind of life in both instances is not a distinction which he can educe from his chosen prooftext.

i) To introduce a discontinuity between one kind of life and another destroys the natural flow. According to the text, the Son can only give what he has. If, however, the kind of life he has is different from the kind of life he gives, then he’s not transmitting what he has to another–which, in turn, the Father transmitted to him. So Dan’s interpretation disrupts the logical drift of the argument: You can only share what you possess.

If, however, the kind of life which Jesus gives is not the same kind of life that Jesus has, or receives (from the Father), then Dan’s interpretation invalidates the logic of the dominical claim.

ii) For some reason, Dan also fails to draw any distinction between the incarnate Son and the discarnate Son–as if everything said of Jesus in the Forth Gospel is equally true of him irrespective of the Incarnation.

“The Father is the source of the Son’s life and the Son is the source of our life.”

If it’s the same kind of life in both instances, then that is pantheistic–which destroys the unique Sonship of Christ in the Fourth Gospel.

And if it’s not the same kind of life in each instance, then that severs the principle of continuity which undergirded the claim.

“Hence we use the Son’s being alive because of the Father to understand the metaphor of the Father’s generation of the Son.”

i) Except that John doesn’t actually make that connection–either explicitly or implicitly. At most, it would be consistent with figurative generation.

ii) And if, for the same of argument, we stipulate to Dan’s equation, then the equation is reversible. If Jn 6:57 is economic, then so is the generation of the son.

“The Father’s authority over the Son from before the foundation of the world (not just since the incarnation) helps us understand the metaphor of His begetting the Son.”

I’m waiting for the reference, as well as the exegesis.

“His authority is based on who He is, not some agreement the pre-Father makes with the pre-Son as to who gets to be Father and who will play the role of Son.”

That’s an obtuse statement in reference to my argument since I’ve already defended the eternal Sonship of Christ. Try to pay attention next time.

“We disagree on this point, but I haven’t criticized the B-theory of time because it hasn’t become all that relevant yet.”

Whether or not the Father acquires a temporal property by making the world isn’t contingent on the A-theory of time, that I can see. It may be consistent with the A-theory of time, but someone could affirm the A-theory of time, yet also affirm that God subsists outside of time.

“Well some folks disagree with that assessment and point to Monotheism in Jewish thought instead. And for good reason: the Platonic concept of emanations was altered by the Church Fathers from the idea of a God to creation emintation to the idea of an emination internal to God.”

But that’s the problem. They start with a flawed paradigm which they imported into the discussion, then they tweak it a bit to make it fit. But why should we frame the discussion in those terms to begin with?

“There’s a difference between expressing Christian doctrine in terms of a given philosophy and imposing a philosophy on Christian doctrine. By the time we get to Augustine, we have the opposite going on. Augustine goes to great lengths to read Christian doctrine back into pagan Platonic philosophers.”

But we were discussing Nicene Triadology, not Augustinian Triadology. Since Augustine was not one of the framers of the Nicene creed, it would be anachronistic to interpret the Nicene creed in light of his subsequent reflections on the Trinity.

“With regard to the Trinity, the Church Fathers made a sharp and vital distinction between their views and Neo-Platonic philosophers with regard to the equality of the Father and Son.”

In order to justify that statement, Dan would need to give a separate exposition for each of the church fathers. I have no reason to think he has the competence to do so.

“Logical relationships are often discussed in causal and temporal language, simply because we have no other way of expressing them.”

i) Logical relationships aren’t expressed in terms of x being the source of y.

ii) Moreover, if, by your own admission, human language is inadequate to accurately describe the Trinity, then you have no springboard from which you can launch your missiles against my own position.

“If we strip causality of time, change, motion and action, what’s left sure looks like a logical relationship. What’s left are things like if X, then Y (which is a logical relationship.) If we want to call what’s left ‘causality’, OK, but it’s a different type of causality than the one we experience and if we call it ‘causal’ is should be qualified.”

If you strip away all of the features that make causality causal, then “eternal generation” reduces to an empty cipher. You’re now fighting tooth and nail for an indefinable label.

Unless you can present an intelligible alternative to my position, your own position reduces to jabberwocky–where “eternal generation” is synonymous with “slithy toves.”

“To be God and to be a creature are mutually exclusive conditions. So it does not and cannot follow that if Christ receives His divinity from the Father, He is a creature.”

It follows logically from your stated position. To deny the unwelcome implication doesn’t make it vanish into thin air.

“It seems as if you are asking me to prove a negative; that generation does not imply creaturehood. Meanwhile, you reject my explanation of generation and time. I think rather the burden is on you to demonstrate that, given my view of generation and time, generation implies creaturehood. ”

Either you’re spouting gibberish or you’re making sense. If you’re making intelligible claims, then I can draw attention to the logical implications of your claims.

But if, when challenged, you retreat into the inadequacy of language to express theological truths, then the onus is hardly on me to refute gibberish. At that point there’s nothing to refute. It has no truth-value to begin with.

“If generation was a choice, it would be an action and therefore inceptive of time.”

Well, you’ve backed yourself into a dilemma. On the one hand, you say creation initiates time. Yet you’ve also said that choices presuppose time.

In that event, God couldn’t chose to make the world. For time would already need to be in place for him to make that choice, yet he couldn’t make the choice before time came to be as a result of his choice (i.e. creative fiat).

The more you try to salvage your position, the more irrational and contradictory it becomes. It would behoove you to scrap your position and start from scratch.

“Both God’s nature and His actions must be understood in a logical order, rather than a temporal order. God’s decree is His first act and its effect is creation and the inception of time. His decree is one and simple in and of itself, but understood by us in a logical order based on its effects in time.”

Eternal generation (or procession) is not a logical order. Rather, it’s a constitutive principle.

“About all we can do is ascribe a logical order to it.”

Is that what the Nicene Fathers did?

“Each person doesn’t have a separate nature.”

I didn’t say that each person has a separate nature. Rather, I said that each person has an inderivative nature.

“They all share one simple divine nature that defines the relationships between the persons.”

No, you want to say more than that. Your position isn’t merely that three persons constitute one God because they share one nature. Rather, your position is that three persons constitute one God because two of the three persons (Son and Spirit) participate in the nature of another person (the Father). On your paradigm, the divine nature is uniquely correlated with one person rather than three. For you, the nature of God is properly the nature of the Father.

“But the divine nature is not a person, but rather each person has the whole divine nature. Hence there are not four persons, but three.”

That’s not responsive to my actual argument. As I put it: “To say that Father’s nature necessitates generation and procession makes him the effect of a generic nature which subsists over and above the property instance of the Father. So you now have a quaternity rather than a Trinity: Nature>Father>Son>Spirit.”

Go back and deal with my actual argument.

“They are modes of subsistence of the Divine Nature, not the Father.”

On your paradigm, they are subsistent modes of the Father’s nature.

“I am reasoning like the Church Fathers who based eternal generation on these texts. Just because Arians, then and now, abuse these texts does not mean we can pay these passages no mind. I have asked you three times to comment on the passages, but to date you haven’t done so.”

i) Eternal generation is a more specific concept than stating that the “Father is the Son’s God.” Therefore, your prooftexts underdetermine your conclusion.

ii) You also make no allowance for the Incarnation. Jesus isn’t simply the Son qua Son. His relationship with the Father is also qualified by his humanity.

“While I agree with those three connotations, I certainly would not limit sonship to them. In fact, those three connotations seem isolated to what sonship tells us about Christ simpliciter, rather than the Father/Son relationship.”

I cited standard exegetical monographs on NT Christology to fill out the argument. And I could cite others.

“Father/Son relationships have many aspects, but one of them is authority.”

i) That’s an overstatement even on human grounds. Grown children don’t have a lifelong obligation to obey their parents. Rather, when they marry and have kids, they create a new authority structure. They have a standing obligation to honor their parents, but not to obey them from the cradle to the grave.

And the Son (qua Son) was never a little boy. The Son is omniscient, omnipotent, &c.

ii) Moreover, you make no allowance for anthropomorphism. You act as if the Son of God is an underage minor, living at home. Must you operate with such a childish view of God-talk?

“If the Father/Son relationship doesn’t imply authority, why not just call them heavenly brothers?”

i) You assume that you already know what father/son terminology means in NT Triadology.

ii) In fact, one thing it connotes is the way in which a son images his father. Hence, the father/son relation signifies a revelatory or representational principle, where a son represents his father.

And, in fact, that’s easy to document in NT Christology.

iii) That also harmonizes the subordinationist passages with the egalitarian passages.

On the one hand, a faithful representative cannot speak or act independently of the party on behalf of whom he is speaking or acting. For in his representative capacity, he is representing the interests of a second party rather than his own interests.

On the other hand, the best type of representative is one who has the most in common with the second party he represents. For the more he has in common, the more truly he can speak and act in exactly the way the second party would speak and act on his own (e.g. Jn 1:18; 8:38; 10:15).

Therefore, the subordinationist passages actually presuppose the egalitarian passages, not vice versa. Due to the coequality of the Trinitarian persons, one member can truly represent another member.

In a fundamental respect, they are what they represent. Like father, like son.

“The Fathers declaration that ‘this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased’ is one of the many texts on the Sonship of Christ that implies the Father’s authority over Him.”

So I take it that on your view, the Son cannot reciprocate the Father’s love or pleasure–since that would represent an exercise of authority over the Father.

Not only is this absurd, but you also overlook the mutual glorification of the Trinitarian persons–which is a common theme in the Gospel of John. They honor each other. Defer to each other. Seek the glory of the other. That’s essentially egalitarian rather than hierarchical.

1 comment:

  1. BTW, I think that Greg Stafford has (once again) officially left the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society and has started his own group called the "Christian Witnesses of Jah".