An Easterly Influenced Reformed Theology Rather than a Westerly

The ontological characterizes the theology of Thomas Torrance, as it does, consequently for so called evangelical Calvinism. In brief, the Eastern branch of Christianity has focused on the whole person in salvation in the imago Dei. The problem for humanity in the East is a broken humanity coram Deo (before God), rather than a broken Law (and thus required penalty in need of requite), as we see emphasized in the Western frame—i.e. forensic or juridical models of atonement like what we see in the so called Penal Substitutionary Atonement theory. In passing, Sarah Coakley, as athanasius2she is discussing Trinitarianism in iconography, and shifts her focus from West to East writes this:

All our recent illustrations have traced a Western trajectory, in which a concentration of Christ’s death is one marked feature, and a problematically abstruse didacticism, another. But what of the Byzantine East, with its quite different and well-codified conventions of iconography, its perception of the icon as a non-propositional ‘door to the sacred’, and its tendency to emphasize and Athanasian salvation through Christ’s reconstitution of humanity (rather than through ‘satisfaction’ for sin)?[1]

Torrance was once asked if he was a Barthian; he replied that he was an Athanasian. It is this emphasis that streams through an evangelical Calvinist understanding of salvation; one that focuses on the recreation or resurrection of humanity in Jesus Christ. Khaled Anatolios describes this way of seeing things well:

A helpful way to synthesize the argument of Against the Greeks—On the Incarnation and to integrate it with Athanasius’s later and more explicitly polemical work is to focus on the trintarian-christological-anthropological nexus that forms the guiding motif of the work: only the One who is true Image can renew humanity’s being according to the image (kat’ eikona). The trinitarian ground of this nexus is the immediate relation (though we do not find the later technical vocabulary of “relation” in this treatise) whereby the Son is the Image of the Father. The soteriological consequence of this immediacy is that the Son is uniquely able to grant direct and immediate access to the Father. The statement that humanity was created according to the Image is simultaneously anthropological and christological: to be created according to the Image is to be granted a participation in the one who is the true and full Image of the Father. When humanity lost its stability, which depended on remaining in the state of being according to the Image, the incarnate Word repaired the image of God in humanity by reuniting it with his own divine imaging of the Father. Jesus Christ is therefore both eternal divine Image and restored human image. The saving union of divine and human image in Christ is characterized by immediacy. One foundational principle of Athanasius’s theological vision is this stress on the continuity of immediate connections between God and humanity and a corresponding abhorrence of obstacles and opaque mediations. As perfect Image, the Son is immediately united to the Father and transparently reflects knowledge of the Father; anything short of this immediate and transparent relation would deconstruct our immediate connection with the Father through the Son from the divine side. Through his incarnation, the Son repairs our human participation in his imaging of the Father from within the human constitution; anything short of a full incarnation would leave humans disconnected from both Father and Son. Thus, incarnation and the full divinity of the Son are both integral to the immediacy of our contact with the Father. Far from indicating inferior divinity, the human life and death of Jesus Christ extend the efficacy of is divine imaging of the Father in the face of humanity’s loss of the state of being according to the image. It is a wonderful display of the loving-kindness that belongs to the divine nature as such, the philanthrōpia that is equally shared by Father and Son.[2]

I am not going to quote Torrance directly here, but I have voluminously elsewhere here on my blog. The point I want to get across is that evangelical Calvinism, as an alternative to classical Calvinism, works from a more Eastern direction when it comes to construing things; albeit through Calvinian and Barthian lenses as well. We do have a place for the juridical or forensic, but it is not the frame of things as it is in Western and classical Calvinist trajectory.

If you are a newer reader here, and you’re wondering what’s so different about evangelical Calvinism, you would do well to consider what was just communicated. I have seen many, and understandably so, become confused when they read here and try to interpret things through their Western Reformed lenses; it is time to take those off and put on your Eastern lenses (realizing, again, that we have some decidedly Western influence as well).

[1] Sarah Coakley, God, Sexuality, and the Self: An Essay ‘On the Trinity’ (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 234-35.

[2] Khaled Anatolios,Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine,(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011), 107-8.

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Response to Bruce Ware: Khaled Anatolios in Context and Lewis Ayres

What we know of the persons is their modes of origination and the characteristics attributed to them by Scripture—as long as all attributes are understood to be those of the one simple Godhead. The language of individuation itself serves here to emphasize that the nature of a divine person remains ineffable[1]. ~Lewis Ayres

Bruce Ware’s Responses

Yesterday, one of the key proponents of Eternal Functional Subordination (EFS), Dr. Bruce Ware, presented a guest post over at the blog Secundum Scripturas. In the post he seeks to respond to those of us (I’m pretty sure he didn’t have little ole’ me in view, but that’s okay, I’ll respond anyway) who have been critiquing his (and Grudem’s et al.) EFS position. He offers five points of nicaearesponse to the major points of critique as he sees them. What I want to do is to respond to two of his points, his point number one and two. I believe each of his points, for the most part, really miss the mark in offering substantial rejoinder back to those who have been critiquing his position. But particularly egregious, in my view, is his response as we find it in his points number one and two. He writes:

1.Issue: How can one uphold the inseparable operations the pro-Nicene theologians found indispensable along with the notion that the Father, Son, and Spirit each acts in distinct ways as indicated repeatedly in Scripture (e.g., Father sending, Son going, Spirit empowering)?[2]

His response to this is as follows (at length):

Response: I gladly affirm my commitment to the doctrine of the inseparable operations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Because each person of the Trinity possesses the identically same divine nature, each uses the same power and relies on the same knowledge and wisdom in conducting the various works that each does. So, there cannot be a separation or division in the work of the One God since each person participates fully in the One nature of God. But this does not preclude each person accessing, as it were, those qualities of the divine nature (e.g., power, knowledge, wisdom) distinctively yet harmoniously, according to their own hypostatic identities as Father, and as Son, and as the Holy Spirit, such that they bring to pass one unified result accomplishing the one work of God. In this way, the personal works of the Father, Son, and Spirit may be distinctive but never divided; each may focus on particular aspects of the divine work yet only together accomplish the one, harmonious, unified work of God. Each work of the Trinitarian persons, then, is inseparable, while aspects of that one work are hypostatically distinguishable. Inseparable, but not indistinguishable—this accounts for the full biblical record of the works of God which are unified works done by the one God, yet always carried out in hypostatically distinguishable ways.

Khaled Anatolios offers assistance on this issue when discussing the position on divine agency advanced by Gregory of Nyssa. Anatolios writes that Gregory ruled out the notion of the Trinitarian persons functioning as separate agents, working independent of one another. But, he continues,

the notion of an altogether undifferentiated agency in which each of the persons partakes in exactly the same manner is also implicitly but very clearly ruled out by Gregory’s consistent strategy of using three different verbs to distribute the common action distinctly to the three persons. . . . [T]he typical pattern for that distribution is that every action issues from the Father, is actualized through the Son, and is completed by the Spirit. There is thus an ineffable distinction within unity in divine co-activity such that the one divine activity is completely effected by each of the persons and yet is distinctly inflected between them. Every activity that is originated by the Father is equally yet distinctly owned by Son and Spirit [Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011) 231].

I affirm what Anatolios suggests, that we can understand Trinitarian co-agency neither as “altogether undifferentiated” nor as divided and independent. Rather, all divine action is performed by the Father, Son, and Spirit in an undivided yet distinct manner, as inseparable while also being hypostatically distinguishable.[3]

Critique of Ware

One problem here, and this problem continues to persist in muddling this discussion, is the imprecision in distinguishing between God’s life in se, and God’s life ad extra; the former refers to the ontological inner-life of God, which is indeed, ineffable. The later refers to the economic outer-life of God revealed in redemptive history. Ware, even on this most basic point is not providing the type of crisp categorical distinctions that would help propel this discussion to greater heights. So that is problem one; an issue of not defining terms as carefully as should be done. Nobody denies that there is subordination in the economic out-working of God’s life in His Self-revelation in Christ; the issue, of course, is when that ‘out-working’ in the economy is exhaustively read back into the inner life of God.  As if that aspect of His life has lost its ineffability and ultimacy relative to our knowledge (a dose of the Reformed distinction of archetypal/ectypal knowledge of God would go a long way towards complementing the in se/ad extra distinction).

But even more significantly is Ware’s appeal to Anatolios’ reading of the Cappadocian father, Gregory of Nyssa. You will notice in the quote that Ware provides from Anatolios that Anatolios uses the language of ‘distinctly inflected’ in order to describe the differentiation that inheres, ostensibly, between the hypostases of God’s life. Later on, in another point of response that Ware offers, he elaborates further upon Anatolios’ language of ‘inflected’ as he gets into his point number two:

2.Issue: Closely related is the next question, regarding the will of God as this pertains to the one and undivided divine nature and the three distinct persons. Can there be a will of authority (from the Father) and a will of submission (from the Son) without conceiving of separate and separable divine wills?

Response: In short, my answer is yes. But the issue is anything but simple. I would suggest that we affirm what the church Fathers did, that “will” as a volitional capacity is a property of the divine nature. So, in this sense, each of the three persons possesses the identically same will, just as each of them possesses the identically same power, and knowledge, and holiness, and love, etc. Yet, while each possesses the same volitional capacity, each also is able to activate that volitional capacity in exercising the one will in distinct yet unified ways according to their distinct hypostatic identities and modes of subsistence. So, while the Father may activate the common divine will to initiate, the Son may activate the divine will to carry out, e.g., “from” the Father, “through” the Son—as has often been affirmed in Trinitarian doctrine following the pattern in Scripture itself (e.g., 1 Cor 8:6). Given this, one might even speak of one unified will of God, as the volitional capacity common to all three, along with three “inflections” of the unified divine will (borrowing Anatolios’s wording), or three hypostatically distinct expressions of that one divine will, or even three distinguishable acts of willing which together bring to light the fullness of that one unified will—all of which express the particular ways each divine person activates that common will as expressive of their particular personhood and distinctive yet undivided personal action….[4]

All of the preceding context to simply get to this point. What we see admitted here, by Ware, is that his appeal to the language of “inflection” in Anatolios has a fitting context for his own personal usage. Inflection for Ware serves as a grammatical hook in order for him to reach back into the pro-Nicene theology, through Gregory of Nyssa (according to Anatolios), in order to make his thesis about ‘distinct hypostatic identities and modes of subsistence’ “work;” while still, ostensibly, maintaining the orthodox position of the one will of God in the ousia. This is illustrated, as we just read in the longer quote above, when Ware writes (to reiterate what we just read):

…Given this, one might even speak of one unified will of God, as the volitional capacity common to all three, along with three “inflections” of the unified divine will (borrowing Anatolios’s wording), or three hypostatically distinct expressions of that one divine will, or even three distinguishable acts of willing which together bring to light the fullness of that one unified will—all of which express the particular ways each divine person activates that common will as expressive of their particular personhood and distinctive yet undivided personal action….[5]

Has Ware moved away from his social Trinitarianism whatsoever? The answer seems very clear to me: No! He is still, even if by sleight of hand, affirming that in the Godhead, consisting of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, that there are “three distinguishable acts of willing;” in other words he is affirming three distinct wills, even if as he says they are bringing “to light the fullness of that one unified will.” But what about the appeal to Anatolios’ reading of Gregory of Nyssa, does Anatolios in an unequivocal way, mean the same thing as Ware; is Anatolios agreeing with Ware’s deployment of the language of inflection?

Khaled Anatolios in Context

In the section of Anatolios’ book, which Ware refers to in his post yesterday, the sense provided by Anatolios is not the same sense nor context within which Ware leads us, suggestively. Anatolios, much like Lewis Ayres (even if Anatolios is a little critical of Ayres’ reading of Gregory), is quite clear, that in the 4th century, at a methodological level, to speak of ousia-hypostasis was not a matter of discerning the detailed what of God’s inner life (in se), but instead it was appealed to as regulative of how we should think of the ineffable inner life of God relative to origination (as the Ayres quotes speaks to that we started this post out with). Anatolios writes:

The methodological point of the foregoing remarks is that our appropriation of Gregory of Nyssa’s ousia-hypostasis language is misguided to the extent that we are exclusively concerned with the objective ontological “information” content of this language (i.e. does it delineate a generic unity? what exactly is the content of the category hypostasis?) without paying equal attention to how Gregory is actually using it to regulate the act of signifying God as Father, Son, and Spirit in the comprehensive utterance and performance of Christian faith. As it happens, if we approach the matter in the first place from a strictly literary perspective, Gregory’s sentences for the most part are not objective statements of the form, “God is …” but rather directives about how to organize and structure our speaking and thinking of God. Our analysis of Epistle 38 will therefore try to follow closely that pattern in which the recommendation of ousia-hypostasis language is articulated not primarily in terms of what it means but rather in terms of how it regulates our speaking of God. Of course, the former is not excluded but only comes into view by proper appropriation of the latter.[6]

Ware’s appeal to Anatolios, then, actually does the opposite from what Anatolios contends for how we should understand Gregory of Nyssa’s usage of the language ousia-hypostasis. Ware uses the ‘inflection’ language (which is taken from a footnote 234 on the previous page to the quote we just offered) to get at the what and the ontological information of the inner life of God and what is happening in the “distinguishing acts” between the persons. Ware makes much more of the inflection language than Anatolios does, and indeed, as I read Anatolios, Ware does the exact opposite from what Anatolios suggests we should do with such language.

Lewis Ayres on Gregory of Nyssa

Lewis Ayres, as corollary with Anatolios’ ‘methodological point,’ in regard to how ousia-hypostasis language worked for Gregory, is even more precise; he closes the door even harder on Ware’s point about “three distinguishable acts of willing” within the Trinitarianism of Gregory of Nyssa (or the Cappadocians and orthodox Patristics in general). Ayres writes (at length):

Like most other pro-Nicenes Gregory uses a variety of terminologies for describing the relationship between the divine unity and persons; ousia, fusis, hypostasis, and proswpon, are all brought into service when it is deemed necessary. As we have seen, however, the deployment of these terminologies does not result in Gregory offering us a dense account of divine personhood as such. Gregory does tell us, of course, that we can distinguish the persons with causal language. Now, given the structure of modern readings of Gregory, it is only to be expected that mention of this argument will result in the question being posed ‘what degree of distinction does this causal language involve?’ I suspect that the nearest we can come to the answer that Gregory might give to this question is to repeat that given with reference to pro-Nicenes more generally in Chapter 11: ‘we do not know’. Scripture demands that we confess a logic of eternal distinction which insists that insofar as we can talk of God as an eternal and distinct reality, so too we can speak of Father and Son and Spirit as eternally distinct realities. At the same time Scripture demands that we speak of a unitary divine power and nature, and, for Gregory, it demands of us analogical talk that attempts to explore the resonances and implications of the character of God’s action as narrated in Scripture. For those modern commentators who accept the account of east and west as differentiated by a preference for social or mental analogies, failure to deploy some sort of social analogy of necessity implies a failure to distinguish the three persons appropriately. However, such an equation is not a necessary one and its deployment reveals a lack of understanding of the peculiarly modern preoccupations that make it seem plausible.[7]

I think we could safely say that Ware fits into the ‘modern commentators’ that Ayres refers to.

Summary

I realize, for a blog post, this is very long; but I wanted to attempt to provide context for a central plank of Ware’s response from yesterday. 1) We saw that Ware still affirms three distinguishable wills among the hypostases (so tri-theism). 2) We saw that Ware’s appeal to Khaled Anatolios’ work on Gregory of Nyssa was out of context, and overwrought. 3) And through Ayres, we further saw that any appeal to Gregory of Nyssa, by Ware, will not work in the way that Ware wants it to. We saw, particularly through Ayres, that the fine detail, and the appeal to “inflection” language goes deeper than Gregory would have wanted to go.

Beyond all of this, what we have seen in Ware’s response is someone who is immovable. He is stretching things, like his appeal to Anatolios, in order to make a case from the pro-Nicene history. He is attempting to give credibility to his beliefs through history that isn’t available to him. His intentions are not malicious, I don’t think, but at some point it is best to maybe give in a little. When you have the consensus of Patristic scholars against your position, and against your (Ware’s) reading of pro-Nicene theology, it is time to give it up.

Addendum

Peter Leithart in a 2014 First Things post highlights an essay that Anatolios wrote after the publication of the book of his that we have been referring to throughout my post. In it it seems pretty clear that Anatolios holds that each hypostases/person in the Godhead has a distinct will of agency; yet he maintains that the three wills are unified in the one being of God through perichoresis etc. This notwithstanding, with reference to Gregory of Nyssa and the context of the book Retrieving Nicaea, what I have highlighted still stands. If you read the First Things article what stands out is that Anatolios, personally, believes that three wills per the hypostases is required by the text; he doesn’t seem as absolute in regard to Gregory (it would be strange if he was especially after he wrote what he wrote in his book). Even so, Ayres leaves any ambiguity out here, and makes clear that understanding the exact nature of the persons is dubious relative to the canons of the ecumenical councils.

 

[1] Lewis Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology (Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 359.

[2] Bruce Ware.

[3] Bruce Ware.

[4] Bruce Ware.

[5] Bruce Ware.

[6] Khaled Anatolios, Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011), 221.

[7] Lewis Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy, 363.

Khaled Anatolios Says No to Eternal Functional Subordination (EFS)

One wonders if Eternal Functional Subordination (EFS) advocates like Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware have spent any time reading the authorities on the development of Trinitarian grammar in the 4th and 5th centuries. Books like Lewis Ayres’ Nicaea and its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology or Khaled Anatolios’ Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and jesusbaptismMeaning of Trinitarian Doctrine? I mean even a cursory glance at just some of the pages in these books should throw much pause into Grudem’s, Ware’s, et al.’s commitment to EFS (the idea that the Son is eternally obedient and in submission to the distinct will of the Father, as if the wills could be distinct to begin with). Notice, for example, what Anatolios writes just as he is starting his book (and he is not responding to EFS, or this debate whatsoever, he is just doing the work of an ecclesial and historical theologian) out:

… One can hold that the eternal Trinity is the subject of the economy of salvation without holding that the features of the “economic Trinity” are exactly those of the eternal Trinity. In fact, the development of Nicene orthodoxy hinges on the insistence that, at least in one crucial respect, the “form” or appearance of the economic Trinity does not correspond to that of the immanent Trinity. A strict and unqualified conflation of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity would entail that the subordination of the incarnate Son to the Father reflects the same order of subordination in the immanent Trinity. But a large part of the logic of Nicene theology consists precisely in overcoming this inference.[1]

This is exactly what the EFS crowd is doing; i.e. reading the economic Trinity directly back into the relations of the immanent or ontological Trinity. But Anatolios, an authority in this field (as is Ayres et al.), just said that it is this very thing that ‘the logic of Nicene theology’ is seeking to overcome. If Grudem, Ware, et al. read things like this what do they do? Do they just sit there and shrug their shoulders and go “hmm, Anatolios and the other guys (Ayres et al.) don’t really know what they’re talking about!” I mean if I stop and think about this whole EFS thing which has the evangelical and parts of the Reformed world embroiled (particularly because at this year’s national ETS meeting the topic of discussion is going to be the doctrine of the Trinity and this very locus) it is totally silly. Not silly in the sense that it isn’t causing damage to people’s perspectives about God (and the attendant fall out that produces for spirituality), it is, but silly when the historical and doctrinal issues are laid out in perspective. Grudem, Ware, et al. don’t even have an argument to make (from all kinds of different directions)!

The real problem, as I see it, now, is that it’s too late, Grudem, Ware, et al. have dug their heels in and they’re going to fight (as will those who follow them). This will be a cultural-political battle rather than a real life theological disputation. Indeed, that’s how it has already played out online. I’ve seen like almost no actual material theological engagement around this; only commentary about how we’re going to have a “civil war,” and others lamenting the fact that nobody is really talking about the real life theological issues (which makes those posts very ironic). Indeed, there have been some posts (which I won’t index now) that have gotten into the nuts and bolts of it all (like Darren Sumner’s good posts on the issue). But as far as I can see this so called debate, like most anything else in much of the evangelical world, is coming down to a battle of personalities rather than theological disputation.

My hope and prayer is that by time ETS rolls around folks like Grudem, Ware, and those who are defending them (like Mohler, even though he supposedly disagrees with them) will take their time to re-fresh and re-read Anatolios, Ayres, Michael Barnes, Donald Fairbairn, and other pertinent resources, and come to their theological senses.

[1] Khaled Anatolios, Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011), 4.

A Response to Scot McKnight’s Post; to the Social Trinitarians and Complementarians; and to the ‘Conservative Calvinists’

Scot McKnight just posted on a brewing controversy apparently taking place among so called “conservative Calvinists.” The issue, as McKnight explains it:

I speak here of the eternal subordination of the Son, of a teaching that some Reformed theologians are saying fellow Reformed types are not only not consistent with the Reformed tradition but are flirting with idolatry if not heresy. (source)

rublevMcKnight goes on further and identifies the ‘conservative Calvinist’ voices that are most influential, and provides further context to the debate; he writes:

These posts are aimed at Wayne Grudem, Bruce Ware and Owen Strachan. I have been in communication this week with a bundle of theologians who (1) are deeply concerned about these theologians and what they are teaching the church and (2) know that it is an uphill battle to get the principals to listen. But the voices from within the complementarian crowd that is self-critical on this issue of Trinitarian relations as a template for hierarchical complementarianism may move more and more to a position that sees the folly of this new theology. (source)

When McKnight says “These posts,” he is referring to some blog posts that Carl Trueman, and a guy by the name of Liam Goligher have written contra Grudem, Ware, and Strachan; the latter three are the primary voices promoting eternal subordination in the Trinity in order to argue by analogy that there is a similar hierarchical subordination between men and women (which is consistent with their hard complementarian beliefs juxtaposed with the egalitarian position).

The issue as I see it is that so called social Trinitarianism, which Grudem, Ware, and Strachan are all proponents of is being coupled with another social issue, i.e. the relations of the sexes, creating an unnecessary dilemma. There is no reason to collapse God into a social analogy just so we can justify our pet-beliefs about complementarianism and/or egalitarianism, etc. In fact this is a backward way for doing genuinely Christian Dogmatic theology. Genuine Christian Dogmatics, by way of taxis or order always starts with God and His Self-revelation in Jesus Christ; it does not alternatively attempt to read social analogies back into God’s life. Khaled Anatolios says it this way when commenting on the patristic church and its understanding of God and revelation:

As Creator, God is both radically other than his creation and positively related to it. The difference between God and world is such that creatures can only know God through his free self-revelation. Any attempt by creatures simply to infer the nature of the divine on the basis of creaturely realities will inevitably amount to a projection of created features onto the divine and will thus amount to a mythology (Athanasius). Divine self-disclosure is available through its inspired witness in the Scriptures, as interpreted by acts of ecclesial communion (synodal councils) and as appropriated and performed in worship and discipleship. The combination of these three elements constitutes what fourth-century theologians referred to as eusebeia. That the elasticity of that term combined these elements is evidenced by the range of translated meanings, all of them appropriate in distinct contexts, which are alloted to it: “piety,” “orthodoxy,” “religion,” and so on. An authentic retrieval of Nicene trinitarian theology should endeavor to reappropriate trinitarian eusebeia in this global sense: as appropriating determinate ways of reading Scripture through interpretations gleaned from acts of ecclesial communion and ways of celebrating and suffering this divine self-disclosure in worship and discipleship. However, even as integral reception of God’s self-revelation does not eradicate divine infinity and incomprehensibility and the incommensurability between the divine and the human. The infinite God cannot be contained by finite human knowing. Yet, human knowing and human existence in its entirety can be so contained and determined by the divine self-disclosure as to be suffused with knowledge and love and union with the divine. Christian eschatological hope looks forward to a consummation of this process in the eternal enjoyment of the sight of the Father, Son, and holy Spirit. In the meantime, Christian existence consists in the project of referring one’s existence toward this sight such that every internal and external act becomes oriented to the love and knowledge of the Triune God.[1]

Grudem’s, Ware’s, and Strachan’s Errors

1) All three are attempting, as we refer to Anatolios’ language, “to infer the nature of the divine on the basis of creaturely realities,” which “realities will inevitably amount to a projection of created features onto the divine and will thus amount to a mythology (Athanasius).” This is the problem that underlies so called social Trinitarianism where we end up with three distinct wills in the hypostaseis of the Divine Monarxia (Godhead). And in the case of these three conservative theologians, they are motivated to do what they do by what I consider, in the least, to be heterodoxy, relative to a doctrine of God, by a social issue (i.e. their brand of complementarianism); the very thing that the early church and Anatolios warns against, and for good reason!

2) On a more formal level, as we already touched upon, they are failing to engage in actual Christian Dogmatics. Meaning that they are at some level repudiating the confessional position of the historic orthodox church, provided voice, in particular, in the ecuemincal councils of Nicaea-Constantinople-Chalcedon, and attempting to innovate in a way that violates the very mind of the church. It is one thing to work constructively within the boundaries of the ecumenical grammar on the Trinity, as Karl Barth does, which Hunsinger labels the ‘chalcedonian pattern’; but it is altogether another thing to work outside of those norms in order to bolster one’s position on a social issue such as complentarianism. Indeed it is even that much more heinous to use God’s name in order to sanction one’s pet-belief about male/female relations; I would suggest it is to use God’s name in vain.

Conclusion

I think if someone wants to argue for complementarianism they should avoid appealing to God’s ousia or being in order to do so. It creates a false dilemma for people, making them think that if they affirm complentarianism that they must also now affirm social Trinitarianism and eternal subordination in the Godhead. I think this is a serious issue for those placing this dilemma before church leaders and the laity, and as such they should tread much more lightly and circumspectly than they are. This isn’t just an academic debate; my guess is that God is paying attention, and most likely is not happy with having his name tied to a social program that he never prescribed or mandated in the first place (at least as far as I can tell from His Self Revelation in Christ).

[1] Khaled Anatolios, Retrieving Nicaea, 282.

 

Images of the Image of the Imago Dei, The Vicarious Humanity

I love thinking about this reality, it is life-changing! Check out the following, something I posted quite awhile ago, originally.

Here is a good quote from Greek Orthodox theologian Khaled Anatolios on the vicarious humanity of Christ and Incarnation:

A helpful way to synthesize the argument of Against the Greeks—On the Incarnation and to integrate it with Athanasius’s later and more explicitly polemical work is to focus on the trintarian-christological-athanasiusanthropological nexus that forms the guiding motif of the work: only the One who is true Image can renew humanity’s being according to the image (kat’ eikona). The trinitarian ground of this nexus is the immediate relation (though we do not find the later technical vocabulary of “relation” in this treatise) whereby the Son is the Image of the Father. The soteriological consequence of this immediacy is that the Son is uniquely able to grant direct and immediate access to the Father. The statement that humanity was created according to the Image is simultaneously anthropological and christological: to be created according to the Image is to be granted a participation in the one who is the true and full Image of the Father. When humanity lost its stability, which depended on remaining in the state of being according to the Image, the incarnate Word repaired the image of God in humanity by reuniting it with his own divine imaging of the Father. Jesus Christ is therefore both eternal divine Image and restored human image. The saving union of divine and human image in Christ is characterized by immediacy. One foundational principle of Athanasius’s theological vision is this stress on the continuity of immediate connections between God and humanity and a corresponding abhorrence of obstacles and opaque mediations. As perfect Image, the Son is immediately united to the Father and transparently reflects knowledge of the Father; anything short of this immediate and transparent relation would deconstruct our immediate connection with the Father through the Son from the divine side. Through his incarnation, the Son repairs our human participation in his imaging of the Father from within the human constitution; anything short of a full incarnation would leave humans disconnected from both Father and Son. Thus, incarnation and the full divinity of the Son are both integral to the immediacy of our contact with the Father. Far from indicating inferior divinity, the human life and death of Jesus Christ extend the efficacy of is divine imaging of the Father in the face of humanity’s loss of the state of being according to the image. It is a wonderful display of the loving-kindness that belongs to the divine nature as such, the philanthrōpia that is equally shared by Father and Son. [Khaled Anatolios,Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine,(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011), 107-8.]

So we are images of the Image in the Son as we participate from His life for us. He is the Image of God, and the recreated image of the image that was originally created in the garden in Adam and Eve. So Christ was the human image of God whom Adam and Eve reflected as the image of the image first. It is only as this image is recreated and restored through the ‘firstborn status’ of the Son (Col. 1.15ff) that salvation and reconciliation is realized for us in Christ. This fits well with Thomas Torrance’s understanding of Theosis, and his ontological theory of the atonement; and something that is central to what Myk Habets and I consider to be the grist of evangelical Calvinist soteriology.

 

Image of the image of the image: Salvation

Here is a good quote from Greek Orthodox theologian Khaled Anatolios on the vicarious humanity of Christ and Incarnation:

A helpful way to synthesize the argument of Against the Greeks—On the Incarnation and to integrate it with Athanasius’s later and more explicitly polemical work is to focus on the trintarian-christological-athanasiusanthropological nexus that forms the guiding motif of the work: only the One who is true Image can renew humanity’s being according to the image (kat’ eikona). The trinitarian ground of this nexus is the immediate relation (though we do not find the later technical vocabulary of “relation” in this treatise) whereby the Son is the Image of the Father. The soteriological consequence of this immediacy is that the Son is uniquely able to grant direct and immediate access to the Father. The statement that humanity was created according to the Image is simultaneously anthropological and christological: to be created according to the Image is to be granted a participation in the one who is the true and full Image of the Father. When humanity lost its stability, which depended on remaining in the state of being according to the Image, the incarnate Word repaired the image of God in humanity by reuniting it with his own divine imaging of the Father. Jesus Christ is therefore both eternal divine Image and restored human image. The saving union of divine and human image in Christ is characterized by immediacy. One foundational principle of Athanasius’s theological vision is this stress on the continuity of immediate connections between God and humanity and a corresponding abhorrence of obstacles and opaque mediations. As perfect Image, the Son is immediately united to the Father and transparently reflects knowledge of the Father; anything short of this immediate and transparent relation would deconstruct our immediate connection with the Father through the Son from the divine side. Through his incarnation, the Son repairs our human participation in his imaging of the Father from within the human constitution; anything short of a full incarnation would leave humans disconnected from both Father and Son. Thus, incarnation and the full divinity of the Son are both integral to the immediacy of our contact with the Father. Far from indicating inferior divinity, the human life and death of Jesus Christ extend the efficacy of is divine imaging of the Father in the face of humanity’s loss of the state of being according to the image. It is a wonderful display of the loving-kindness that belongs to the divine nature as such, the philanthrōpia that is equally shared by Father and Son. [Khaled Anatolios,Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine,(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2011), 107-8.]

So we are images of the Image in the Son as we participate from His life for us. He is the Image of God, and the recreated image of the image that was originally created in the garden in Adam and Eve. So Christ was the human image of God whom Adam and Eve reflected as the image of the image first. It is only as this image is recreated and restored through the ‘firstborn status’ of the Son (Col. 1.15ff) that salvation and reconciliation is realized for us in Christ. This fits well with Thomas Torrance’s understanding of Theosis, and his ontological theory of the atonement; and something that is central to what Myk Habets and I consider to be the grist of evangelical Calvinist soteriology.

 

First Summary from Khaled Anatolios: Revelation

Here is the first theological conclusion that Khaled Anatolios offers at the end of his book; this one is on Revelation. I will quote him at length, and then offer a brief reflection of my own at the end.

As Creator, God is both radically other than his creation and positively related to it. The difference between God and world is such that creatures can only know God through his free self-revelation. Any attempt by creatures simply to infer the nature of the divine on the basis of creaturely realities will inevitably amount to a projection of created features onto the divine and will thus amount to a mythology (Athanasius). Divine self-disclosure is available through its inspired witness in the Scriptures, as interpreted by acts of ecclesial communion (synodal councils) and as appropriated and performed in worship and discipleship. The combination of these three elements constitutes what fourth-century theologians referred to as eusebeia. That the elasticity of that term combined these elements is evidenced by the range of translated meanings, all of them appropriate in distinct contexts, which are alloted to it: “piety,” “orthodoxy,” “religion,” and so on. An authentic retrieval of Nicene trinitarian theology should endeavor to reappropriate trinitarian eusebeia in this global sense: as appropriating determinate ways of reading Scripture through interpretations gleaned from acts of ecclesial communion and ways of celebrating and suffering this divine self-disclosure in worship and discipleship. However, even as integral reception of God’s self-revelation does not eradicate divine infinity and incomprehensibility and the incommensurability between the divine and the human. The infinite God cannot be contained by finite human knowing. Yet, human knowing and human existence in its entirety can be so contained and determined by the divine self-disclosure as to be suffused with knowledge and love and union with the divine. Christian eschatological hope looks forward to a consummation of this process in the eternal enjoyment of the sight of the Father, Son, and holy Spirit. In the meantime, Christian existence consists in the project of referring one’s existence toward this sight such that every internal and external act becomes oriented to the love and knowledge of the Triune God. [Khaled Anatolios, Retrieving Nicaea, 282.]

Straightaway Anatolios highlights that God’s self-revelation in Christ cannot or should not be subsumed by something we impose upon God by our own making; or, in short, Anatolios underscores how Athanasius, and others, were against an early kind of “natural theology” wherein God becomes a predicate or projection of our own constructions and imaginations (so an early indictment against “Liberal Theology,” and the Schleiermacherians … and Thomas Aquinas to boot). It is interesting that the way that Khaled concludes his retrieval on ‘Revelation’, that it sounds quite Barthian and Torrancian; so the question might be, who came first Athanasius, or Barth, for Anatolios? Or maybe Anatolios is suggesting, constructively, that Barth (and I would include Torrance) were so steeped in Athanasius (which it is not secret that both Barth and Torrance rely more on an Athanasian tradition than the Augustinian one) that their respective views on and against a natural theology sound eerily similar.

We also see Anatolios closing his thoughts in reference to Augustine’s concept of faith-sight and the eschatological vision that funds this for Augustine. I actually really like the last clause from Anatolios; this one: “In the meantime, Christian existence consists in the project of referring one’s existence toward this sight such that every internal and external act becomes oriented to the love and knowledge of the Triune God.” I think this clause will preach! There is a hope that has already entered into our lives, in Christ; but this hope is something that we adore through faith, and not sight, and yet it is this sight, and the longing for it, that shapes our existence as Christian people moment by moment (or it should). Indeed, as John has written, it is this hope that has the moral effect of purifying us (cf. I John 3:1-3); the hope that we are indeed sons and daughters of God in Christ, and that this hope will become consummate where faith will finally give way to sight; where love abides, and faith and hope finally have found their end, in Christ. Anatolios’ summary statement on ‘Revelation’ moves us through his three interlocutors, i.e. Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, and Augustine in various ways; you will have to read the book to see what I mean (my pastor, Daniel is, why don’t you join him 😉 ).