Saturday, April 28, 2018

The radiance of his glory

I'm going to comment on this article:

where Swain takes issue with Warfield's reformulation of the Trinity. Although Swain makes an intelligent case for his position, I think Warfield had a more penetrating grasp of the issues.

From a linguistic perspective, relations of origin (i.e., eternal generation, eternal procession) gloss the personal names (i.e., Son of God, Spirit of God). From a metaphysical perspective, relations of origin distinguish the persons without dividing the essence—indeed, they are the only way of distinguishing the persons without dividing the essence. Grasping this point helps us appreciate where uses of terms such as “subordination” are appropriate or inappropriate in Trinitarian theology. When the term “subordination” is used, as it traditionally has been used, to refer to relations of origin (or to their temporal expressions in mission), then the term is licit. 

It's refreshing to see Swain admit that on his paradigm, there is subordination within the immanent Trinity vis-a-vis relations of origin. 

As Richard Muller observes, the affirmation and defense of the Son’s aseity is “the distinctive feature of Reformed trinitarianism.”36 According to common Reformed teaching, the Son not only possesses the divine attributes of eternity, immutability, omnipotence, and omnipresence, he also possesses the divine attribute of aseity. The Son is autotheos, God in and of himself. For Reformed theology, the affirmation of the Son’s aseity is integral to the affirmation of the Son’s consubstantiality with the Father. Because he is “equal with God” (John 5:19), the Son must have “life in himself” just “as the Father has life in himself” (John 5:26).

The majority of theologians in the Reformed tradition argue that the aseity of the Son is consistent with the eternal generation of the Son from the Father. The consistency between these two aspects of the Son’s person lies in properly distinguishing the Son’s being (that which the Son holds in common with the Father and the Spirit) from his mode of being (that which distinguishes the Son from the Father and the Spirit). Because he is “equal with God” in being (John 5:19), the Son has “life in himself” just “as the Father has life in himself” (John 5:26). Because he is distinct from the Father in his mode of being, the Son has “life in himself” as something eternally “granted” or communicated to him by the Father (John 5:26). For these theologians, it is precisely the Son’s distinct mode of being as one eternally begotten of the Father that accounts for his being consubstantial with the Father.37 Thus Francis Turretin:
As all generation indicates a communication of essence on the part of the begetter to begotten (by which the begotten becomes like the begetter and partakes of the same nature with him), so this wonderful generation is rightly expressed as a communication of essence from the Father (by which the Son possesses indivisibly the same essence with him and is made perfectly like him).38

i) That makes the Son a se in a very qualified sense, unlike the unqualified aseity of the Father. Even if being and mode of being are distinguishable, they're not separable. The Son still owes his existence to the Father. Since his existence is derivative, and contingent on another, he's not truly a se. The ontological asymmetry is stark. 

ii) Moreover, what reason is there to think the Father can divvy up divine being from divine mode of being, and convey one without the other? Why think that's metaphysically possible? 

Though he does not reject the doctrine of eternal generation per se, Calvin’s commitment to the Son’s aseity does lead him to revise the doctrine considerably. For Calvin and the significant minority of Reformed theologians that follows him on this issue, the eternal generation of the Son from the Father involves no “communication of essence” to the Son by the Father.39Accordingly, texts like John 5:26, which speaks of the Father “granting” aseity to the Son, are not interpreted with reference to the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son but with reference to the temporal, economic relationship between the Father and the Son in his office as incarnate mediator. The Genevan Reformer considers a properly Trinitarian exegesis of this verse “harsh and far-fetched.” In his judgment, the focus of John 5:26 is the Son of God only “so far as he is manifested in the flesh.”40

Does this mean Swain rejects Calvin's revision. Does Swain wish to return to a more traditional paradigm? If so, does Swain affirm single or double procession? 

I believe Warfield’s rejection of the personal properties of paternity, filiation, and spiration is best understood as an attempt to perfect this trajectory in Calvinian Trinitarianism.

Calvin’s precedent in revising the doctrine of eternal generation and his pattern of exegetical reasoning provide the foundation for “the more advanced position” on eternal generation that Warfield finds in Herman Alexander Röell (1653–1718).41 Röell, Professor at Franeker and then Utrecht in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries, was a leading synthesizer of Cartesian rationalism and Reformed theology.42 Building upon a notion of divine perfection derived from his Cartesian natural theology and eager to avoid the subordinationist tendencies he detected in Arminian and Socinian thought,43 Röell elevated the Calvinian commitment to divine aseity to the level of critical principle for Trinitarian theology. The effect was to exclude any conception of communication or origination, whether in being or mode of being, from God’s triune life.44 Where the majority of Reformed theologians had confessed a self-existent Son because they confessed an only-begotten Son, and where Calvin had confessed a self-existent Son alongside the (modified) confession of an only-begotten Son, Röell forced theology to choose between a self-existent Son and an only-begotten Son.

That provides some interesting historical background information. 

Warfield’s first argument against the traditional interpretation is that the New Testament uses a wide variety of names in varied orders to describe the Trinity. This argument, however, is not problematic for the traditional interpretation of the personal names “Father,” “Son,” and “Spirit.” The variety of names and varied orders of naming that appear in the New Testament neither relativize nor undermine the traditional interpretation. As we will see below, the New Testament often employs additional names for the Trinity in order to further specify the meaning of the names “Father,” “Son,” and “Spirit.”

i) Swain seems to be saying "Father, Son, and Spirit" are specifically Trinitarian, or intra-Trinitarian designations, denoting how the members of the Trinity relate to one another, whereas other Biblical designations are economic designations, denoting how they relate to creation. 

ii) If so, one problem with that understanding is that, while it might apply to the "Father/Son" designations, it seems to break down with the "Spirit". On the face of it, the "Spirit" is an economic designation, connoting how the Spirit is the source of biological life as well divine speech. 

Swain says:

the church confesses that within the eternal depths of God’s being there is one who stands in the relation of a father to a son, one who stands in the relation of a son to a father, and one who is breathed forth in the mutual love of the other two. 

Where does Scripture indicate that the Spirit's name reflects or represents "one who is breathed forth in the mutual love of the other two"?

Where does Scripture indicate that the Spirit is the product of the mutual love between Father and Son? Where does Scripture indicate that breathing forth is symbolizes mutual love? 

iii) What about the "Alpha & Omega" designation, for both the Father and the Son, in Revelation? That's a designation which seems to represent God's eternal preexistence and aseity, rather than a merely economic designation. And it's something applied to Father and Son alike (Rev 1:8,17; 21:6; 22:13).

iv) Although Scripture undoubtedly uses economic designations for God, these reveal the character or capacity of God. 

Warfield’s second argument against the traditional interpretation of the personal names is that in Scripture the names “Son” and “Spirit” connote likeness, equality, and sameness with the Father rather than derivation from the Father. This argument also runs into problems upon closer analysis. In biblical idiom—whether it be Trinitarian or non-Trinitarian contexts, literal or metaphorical contexts, relations of origin are not opposed to likeness; relations of origin regularly constitute the basis for likeness. In Genesis 5:3, Adam “fathers” Seth “in his own likeness, after his image.” In this paradigmatic instance of literal fathering, natural likeness between Adam the father and Seth the son is traceable to the relation of origin whereby Adam begets Seth. Likewise, even in metaphorical cases of fathering, where there is metaphysical disproportion between father and offspring, the link between begetting and likeness is preserved and emphasized. In the Davidic Covenant, the right of the Davidic heir to rule on earth as YHWH rules in heaven follows from the fact that YHWH has “begotten” him as his son, thus constituting him the heir of God’s family business (2 Sam 7:12–14; Ps 2:6–9). In similar fashion, though there is infinite metaphysical disproportion between God and the created lights that he has produced and placed in the heavens, James 1:17 perceives in the created lights a filial resemblance to the “Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” Again, in metaphorical contexts of begetting as in literal contexts, resemblance is rooted in relations of origin.45

i) The point is not that familial terms can't connote relations of origin as well as resemblance, but that as theological metaphors, the scope of the analogy is limited, so we should try to ascertain the intended scope of the comparison. Fatherhood and sonship are rich, open-textured metaphors, so it's necessary to isolate the point or points of analogy. There's no presumption that everything carries over, since that would be pagan and polytheistic. 

ii) The Davidic covenant uses adoptive metaphors, but that's counter to procreation inasmuch as an adoptive father did not beget his adoptive son. 

iii) Furthermore, it's less than clear how "Spirit" denotes a relation of origin. Maybe Swain means it's breathed out by an agent. But it can also be something breathed in. A source rather than an effect. 

What is true in non-Trinitarian contexts of begetting, both literal and metaphorical, is true in Trinitarian contexts as well. Leaving aside the question of how we should translate μονογενής (various options include “one of a kind,” “only begotten,” and “only child”), consider three examples of how the New Testament portrays the Father-Son relation as a relation as a relation of origin, with the Father being the principle or source of the Son’s person or agency, and ontological equality, with the Son sharing the self-same nature and agency of the Father.46

(1) Illustrations of the Father-Son relation: The New Testament employs a number of illustrations, what Athanasius calls “paradeigmata,”47 that further amplify the nature of the relation that obtains between the Father and the Son. These additional names for the Son are not merely ornamental. They function as indispensable conceptual tools that help faith contemplate more fully the (ultimately incomprehensible) nature of the Father-Son relation.48 Drawing on Old Testament and other Jewish wisdom literature (e.g., Proverbs 8; Wisdom 7:26), the New Testament portrays the Son as the “radiance” of the Father’s glory (Heb 1:3), as the “image” of the invisible God (Col 1:15), and as the “Word” of God (John 1:1; Rev 19:13). In each instance, these illustrations indicate complete ontological correspondence between the Father and the Son: the Word of God is God (John 1:1); the image of the invisible God stands on the Creator side of the Creator-creature divide as the one by whom, in whom, and for whom creation exists (Col 1:16–17); the radiance of God is the exact imprint of the Father’s substance (Heb 1:3). These illustrations also indicate that ontological correspondence between the Father and the Son obtains within the context of a relation of origin wherein the Father is the principle or source of the Son, who is his perfect Word, image, and radiance.

i) Col 1:16-17 & Heb 1:3 indicate resemblance: a mirror-image or copy.

ii) Jn 1:1 may also indicate resemblance, where words correspond to thoughts. An outward expression of inner thought. 

iii) The "radiance of his glory" (Heb 1:3) is probably a pleonastic expression while the imagery is likely an allusion to the Shekinah. A luminous theophany symbolizing the presence of God. Or it may mean reflection, which, once again, indicates resemblance. 

iv) To insist that they imply a relation of origin begs the question. Is this admittedly figurative language meant to denote a process or the result of a process? For instance, when Ezekiel compares the Shekinah to a rainbow, he's simply describing the effect of sunlight filtered through rainclouds, and not the meteorological process by which rainbows are produced. It's not a relation of origin, even though rainbows are the product of dispersion. 

(2) God’s unique name/nature and the Father-Son relation: The New Testament also indicates that the Father and the Son share the unique divine name and nature within the context of a relation characterized by giving on the part of the Father and receiving on the part of the Son. According to John 17:11 and Philippians 2:9–11, the Father has given his “name” to the Son. According to John 5:26, the Father has granted the Son to have “life in himself” just as the Father has “life in himself.”

i) How does the fact that the Son shares the name of Yahweh imply a relation of origin?

ii) In Jn 5:26, the "life" in view isn't God's essential nature, but spiritual life, eternal life, which God conveys to Christians. 

(3) God’s external actions and the Father-Son relation: Finally, the New Testament in various ways displays God’s external actions toward his creatures as expressing the ordered relation of the Father and the Son. In God’s creative and providential activity, the Father acts through the Son (John 1:3; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16), and the Son acts from the Father (John 5:19). In similar fashion, the Son’s mission to become incarnate and make atonement is a mission he fulfills in obedience to the Father who sent him (Mark 12:1–12; John 6:38; Gal 4:4–5), and the Son’s enthronement as king is an authority he receives from his Father (Matt 11:27; 28:18; Eph 1:20–23; Heb 1:3–4; with Ps 110). In each of these instances, we are not dealing with a distinction between God’s action and the action of a creature. We are dealing with God’s unique divine action as creator, providential ruler, redeemer, and lord, and with a distinction that obtains within this unique divine action: a distinction that expresses the ordered relation of the Father and the Son.

i) But it seems like Swain wants to have it both ways. On the one hand he appeals to supposedly intra-Trinitarian designations in contrast to economic designations, in his attempt to establish relations of origin. But then he turns around and appeals to economic/teleological descriptions. 

ii) In 1 Cor 8:6, Paul splits the Shema in two, where the Father has the name of God (Elohim) while the Son has the name of Lord (Yahweh). How is that an "ordered relation"? 

iii) Warfield and like-minded Trinitarians don't deny that there are ordered relations in the economic Trinity. 

iv) The Son's enthronement reflects a royal succession trope in which a crown prince succeeds his father as the new king (or coregent). To say that's an ordered relation is a half truth since the royal successor takes the place of his royal predecessor. 

Of course, the Father doesn't literally abdicate, much less die, but that should caution us not to press these theological analogies or metaphors.  

Similar patterns of divine naming characterize the Spirit’s relation to the Father and the Son as well. (1) Illustrations of the Spirit’s relation to the Father and the Son: The New Testament employs several paradigms or illustrations that amplify the unique nature of the Spirit’s relationship to the Father and the Son. As in the case of the Father-Son relation, a number of these illustrations are drawn from the Old Testament (e.g., Isa 44:3; Joel 2:28; Ezek 47:1–12). Particularly instructive are illustrations that associate the Holy Spirit with water. The Spirit is identified as one who is “poured out” by the Father (Rom 5:5) and by the Son (Acts 2:33), as the element with which Jesus baptizes his disciples (Mark 1:8; 1 Cor 12:13), and as the living water that flows from the throne of God and of the lamb (Rev 22:1). This rich web of imagery at once identifies the Spirit as divine source of life and as one who in his life-giving identity and mission proceeds from the Father and the Son.

i) Apparently, Swain is trying to prooftext double procession, but his examples are drawn from the economic Trinity rather than the immanent Trinity. 

ii) The sanctifying action of the Spirit is analogous to washing. But that's not processional language.

iii) Is the river of life in Rev 22:1 a symbol of the Holy Spirit? Where's the exegetical argument?

(2) God’s unique name/nature and the Spirit’s relation to the Father and the Son: The New Testament also indicates the nature of the Spirit’s relation to the Father and the Son by virtue of the Spirit’s relation to God’s unique name and nature. As the Father gives the divine name to the Son, so the Spirit (who also shares the divine name: 2 Cor 3:17) causes the Son to be acknowledged as “Lord” (1 Cor 12:3), to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:11). Similarly, while the Spirit is “the truth” (1 John 5:6), he is also the Spirit “of truth” (1 John 4:6). Consequently, he is able to guide Jesus’s disciplines “into all the truth” (John 16:13) because of the unique relation in which he stands to the Father and the Son: He does not speak “from himself” but only what “he hears” (John 16:13), taking what he holds in common with the Son and with the Father and declaring it to the apostles (John 16:14–15).49 When it comes to divine truth, therefore, the distinction between the Spirit and the Father and the Son “is not in what is had, but in the order of having.”50

Is that an ordered relation of origin, or the fact that if God is truth, and the Spirit is divine, then the Spirit is an agent of truth by virtue of his divinity, and the relation between deity and truth?

(3) God’s external actions and the Spirit’s relation to the Father and the Son: Finally, as in the case of the Father and the Son, the Spirit’s ordered relation to the Father and the Son is expressed in God’s external actions toward his creatures. The Father and the Son work through the Spirit: the Father gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask him (Luke 11:13) and Jesus performs miracles “by the Spirit of God” (Matt 12:28). Moreover, as the Father sends the Son to accomplish his incarnate mission, in similar fashion the Father and the Son send the Spirit to indwell God’s children (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7; Gal 4:6) in order that, through the Son, Jew and Gentile might have access “in one Spirit to the Father” (Eph 2:18; with 1:23 and 5:18). Once again, an observable pattern emerges: The distinction between the activity of the Spirit toward creatures and the activity of the Father and the Son toward creatures is not a distinction between creaturely action and a divine action. The distinction between the three is a distinction that is internal to the singular divine action whereby triune God fulfills his ancient covenant promise to dwell among his people forever (John 14:16–17, 23; with Lev 26:12), and that manifests the Spirit’s ordered relation to the Father and the Son. In the coming of the triune God to dwell among us, the Spirit comes from the Father through the Son and leads us through the Son to the Father.

One might object that many of the aforementioned examples of Trinitarian naming refer to the persons within the economy of salvation, not to their eternal relations. However, while many of these examples speak of the persons in the economy, it is important to observe that they do not merely speak of the economy. The focus in each of the above instances is the relation that obtains between the persons, whether prior to or within the economy of redemption. Moreover, the fact that the New Testament portrays the missions of the Son and the Spirit as means of unveiling God’s true name and nature (Matt 11:25–27; John 17:3, 6) suggests that we should not draw too sharp a division between God’s eternal modes of being and his temporal modes of operation. The distinction between the immanent Trinity and the economic Trinity does not map onto the Kantian distinction between noumenal and phenomenal realms. Better, I think, to see the temporal missions of the Son and the Spirit as the free, gracious, temporal extensions of their eternal, necessary, natural relations of origin.51

i) Of course, Warfield didn't think the distinction between the immanent and economic Trinity was equivalent to the Kantian noumenal/phenomenal distinction. That's a strawman. 

ii) No doubt God's action in history is the action of the eternal God. They trace back to the immanent Trinity. But the Trinitarian division of labor in the economy of salvation is contingent rather than necessary. The immanent Trinity is identical across possible worlds whereas the economic Trinity is worldbound. 

What about Warfield’s worry that the traditional interpretation of the personal names compromises the full equality of the divine persons? The preceding discussion suggests that Warfield’s worry is unjustified. According to the pattern of personal naming traced above, the eternal relations of origin that constitute the Son and the Spirit as divine persons do not constitute them as derivative deities. The eternal relations of origin that constitute the Son and the Spirit as divine persons are the bases of their full ontological equality with the Father: the Son of God is God; the Spirit of God is God.52 Moreover, this pattern of personal naming suggests that, far from undermining God’s aseity, the doctrines of the eternal generation of the Son and the eternal procession of the Spirit actually deepen our understanding of God’s perfection. Aseity is not merely a negative attribute, referring to God’s lack of dependence upon creatures. Aseity is a positive attribute, referring to the internal, tripersonal fecundity of God’s life as Father, Son, and Spirit. God is eternally, internally full. And God’s eternal, internal fullness is manifest in the eternal generation of the Son and the eternal procession of the Spirit.53 As Warfield’s European counterpart, Herman Bavinck, eloquently affirms, God’s intra-Trinitarian fecundity “is a beautiful theme,” which illumines both God’s internal perfection as Father, Son, and Spirit and also God’s external works: But the "fecundity" of God's life
God is no abstract, fixed, monadic, solitary substance, but a plenitude of life. It is his nature (οὐσια) to be generative (γεννητικη) and fruitful (καρπογονος). It is capable of expansion, unfolding, communication. Those who deny this fecund productivity fail to take seriously the fact that God is an infinite fullness of blessed life. All such people have left is an abstract deistic concept of God, or to compensate for his sterility, in pantheistic fashion they include the life of the world in the divine being. Apart from the Trinity even the act of creation becomes inconceivable. For if God cannot communicate himself, he is a darkened light, a dry spring, unable to exert himself outward to communicate himself to creatures.54 

But on Swain's paradigm, the "fecundity" of God's life is asymmetrical: the Father alone is the source of fecundity while the Son and Spirit are the effect. That hardly preserves the aseity of all three Persons. That's not an intra-Trinitarian plenitude or fecundity, but a Paternal fecundity or plenitude. The Father as the headwaters. 

Warfield’s interpretation, which reduces the meaning of “Son” to “likeness,” cannot tell us why the Bible calls the second person of the Trinity God’s “Son” rather than God’s “Brother.” It is unclear, on Warfield’s interpretation, what the personal names “Father,” “Son,” and “Spirit” actually reveal about the nature of God other than bare triunity.

1. One reason to use father/son designations as a theological metaphor is because no one is more like a father than his  son. 

2. Apropos (1), a father/son relationship symbolizes the principle of representation. And that in turn has two key aspects:

i) Resemblance:

Because father and son are so alike, a son is revelatory of his father.

ii) Agency

A son is uniquely equipped to act on his father's behalf and in his father's stead.

3. It also trades on dynastic succession, where a son is the the father's royal heir.

4. A fraternal relationship has representation in the sense of resemblance, but not in the sense of agency or hereditary succession. 

5. Swain has no explanation for why, on his view, Scripture doesn't employ consistently familial language for the Trinity: Father, Son, Brother. Why isn't the Spirit cast in fraternal terms rather than a metaphor from a different domain, if the intention is for the designations to denote relations of origin? 

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