Theology

The Trinity; the doctrine of the Trinity is a core Christian belief.  Easy to say, impossible to unpack.  So I'm not doing "research" on for this post, other than what I've done, probably resulting in a "stream of consciousness" sort of thing.

1.  The Trinity is a mystery

Christians worship the Triune God; meaning that one God exists in three "persons.".  Or three distinct persons are one God.

T.D.Jakes (who has been accused of "modalism," an old heresy) dislikes the word "person."  You cannot see God as a "committee of three" - that implies that each member of the Trinity can be independent of the others, as if they are not truly One, but three that get together to be "God."

Yet "person" seems to be the best word that we have.

Each member of the Trinity is distinct, but none of them are EVER out of communion or unity with the others.  Our God is ONE, yet three.  Our God is THREE, yet one.

It is a mystery, and one that we may not fully understand even in heaven.  Maybe the closest I can come (and still a really bad example) is the the three blind women oracles.  They are three, but they function as one.  They share an eye, and what one sees, they all see.  They speak as one.  They see as one, and they cannot function except as one.  Yet the are three.

2.  There is equality in the Trinity

No one in the Trinity is more equal than the others.  The Trinity IS God.  As one, God is complete, no person of the Trinity is more important, no person of the Trinity is more powerful, no person of the Trinity is more holy, no person of the Trinity is more eternal.

For a deeper look, read "The Forgotten Trinity" by James R. White

3. There is a hierarchy within the Trinity

This is hotly debated.

Many Complemetarians use the example of this hierarchy to demonstrate how absolute equals still live out a hierarchy.  We look at the Trinity as an example of what life can look like.  We believe the Trinity is a perfect example of persons who are equal, yet different in authority.

Many Egalitarians reject any notion of hierarchy because they believe it is impossible to ontologically live in submission (or in authority over) to an equal.  In order to have equality, you must also have equality of authority.

But there is, in Scripture, as clear "sentness."

The Father sends the Son, who does not come in His own authority, but on the authority of the Father.  "I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak.  What I say, therefore, I say as the Father has bidden me..." (John 12:49,50).

The Son petitions the Father to send the Holy Spirit: "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever," (John 14:16)
Jesus testifies to the hierarchy: "Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him." (John 13:16)

For more on the different understandings, read "The New Evangelical Subordinationism? : Perspectives on the Equality of God the Father and God the Son"

 4. The Trinity is in "Oneness" - true unity.

Deuteronomy 6:4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!”

The "one" means a plurality that IS ONE.

5. There is purpose in the Trinity

God's two greatest gifts are creation and salvation - and all three members of the Trinity are involved in both these gifts.

in Creation:

Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then are we faithless to one another, profaning the covenant of our fathers? Malachi 2:10

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him Col. 1:16

The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Genesis 1:2

In salvation, all are present in Ephesians 1.
Conclusion:

The Trinity is indeed a mystery.  I cannot explain, but I know that God is not a modalist.  The modern day heresy is known as "Oneness" theology.

The Trinity is a Biblical reality, as impossible to comprehend as eternity - all we can do is fall down and worship Him in His fullness, thanking Him for all good gifts.

For deeper reading: "The Forgotten Trinity" by James White

More than 100 things...

A couple of terms were introduced, both of which color the system's view of eschatology.

(note: the descriptions, as I understand them, apply only to end times.)

Dispensationalism: all things are interpreted literally, all promises to Abraham and David are yet to be fulfilled (no promises have already been fulfilled)

Preterist: most of all prophecies concerning the end times have already been fulfilled.

Riddlebarger explains that neither of these views are correct.

When Scripture uses figurative language, interpret it figuratively.  Dispensationalism takes the figurative and forces it into literalism.

Prophetic passages can also contain a "has passed, but has yet to come to pass" dual meaning.

Riddlebarger helps us understand that there were anti-Christ types before Jesus walked this earth, and that there have been many anti-Christs, and there will be more.

Therefore, since Antichrist has already come, remains with us today, and will come again, understanding the tension between the already and the not yet is the key to understanding what the doctrine of Antichrist actually entails, and understanding this tension enables us to know how we are to combat him.

Kim Riddlebarger. Man of Sin, The: Uncovering the Truth about the Antichrist (p. 36). Kindle Edition.

 

 

Just finished it the first time.

Still don't get it, so I'll blog through it.

the first piece I'll work through is the "why" - why are we so fascinated with the "anti-christ?"

Riddlebarger says that it's because we don't quite see "evil" as evil unless we can put a face to it.  Communism is bad, but unless we can put an evil dictator's face to it, we don't seem to connect it to life.

Another thing is that the "Left Behind" series put a name to him.  That makes it more tantalizing and we "see" more clearly.

But what we think we know (via end times fiction) might not necessarily be what the Bible says about the "man of sin."

~~~

Next question:  why am I interested in this topic?

End times in general, I think - everybody wants a glimpse into the future.  What will happen?  What will happen to those I love?  Will there be a rapture, or will we be here during the "great tribulation?"

I lean "a-mil" so I believe that Christians will be here during the great tribulation - we've been here before, we will be again.  The world hates us; and the more we love Jesus, the more they hate us.

Do I want to "date set?"  Since Christ left, Christians have looked forward to His return.  Is it near?  Is it far?  How do we know?

Is the Anti-Christ a sign?  Who is he?

In the end, curiosity brings me to this topic...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

``

 

"The Heresy of Orthodoxy"

In the first chapter, Kruger frames the direction of the book.

If "heresy" (divergent thinking) was the order of the day in the first and second century, and it wasn't until Rome had enough power to vote orthodoxy into place, heresy came first - and was the norm.  The idea that there was and "orthodoxy" was heretical (outside of common thinking)

However:

If the writers of New Testament Scripture were unified in doctrine (although not necessarily practice), then there was an "orthodoxy" ("conforming to established doctrine especially in religion" - per Merriam-Webster) before the word "orthodoxy" was used.

~~~

My thinking is that if God, through the Holy Spirit, inspired the writers, He would not have inspired them to say conflicting things. (1 Corinthians 14:33 - For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.) There is no conflicting doctrinal statements in Scripture.

Yes, there was divergent thinking in the early church. Paul addressed it.

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. Gal 1:6-7

So there were doctrinal differences, but it was not a good thing.

What Walter Bauer misses is the men who codified "orthodoxy" He treats the topic as if they all just got together one day and decided to vote on what they liked best, and "orthodoxy" is no more correct (or incorrect) than the "different gospel."

In this case, "heresy" became heresy because of orthodoxy.

But...if what happened was that false teaching was becoming more prevalent and needed to be addressed by church leadership as a whole, they would have gathered together in prayer and study, in order to determine from Scripture what "orthodoxy" was. They weren't looking for what was most popular, they were looking for what was most true. Orthodoxy was codified in response to heresy - but it was present from the start.

In this case, "orthodoxy" came before heresy.

Re-reading...

The first part of the book is reviewing the opposing doctrines. I grew up in a church that taught pre-trip rapture (and was in that vein until I "reformed") but if the teaching was "dispensational" I don't remember it.

I don't like learning about doctrines from the opposing view, but when I googled and located teaching from dispensationalist, it sounded even stranger than when Riddlebarger explained it.

So I'll just go with that for now.

To me, this is pretty closely related to "the U" - election.  If we (humans) get to pick, then the grace is resistible.  If God picks, the He is sovereign and His will be done, always.

On April 6, 1856, Charles Spurgeon gave a sermon on the "Effectual Calling" (Irresistible Grace)

Can I not remember when God told me to come down? One of the first steps I had totake was to go right down from my good works. And oh, what a fall was that! Then I stood upon my own self-sufficiency and Christ said, “Come down! I have pulled you down from your good works and now I will pull you down from yourself-sufficiency.”

Well, I had another fall and I felt sure I had gained the bottom, but Christ said “Come down!” And He made me come down till I fell on some point at which I felt I was not savable. “Down, Sir! come down, yet.” And down I cameuntil I had to let go of every branch of the tree of my hopes in despair.

Then I said, “I can do nothing. I am ruined.” The waters were wrapped round my head and I was shut out from the light of day and thought myself a stranger from the commonwealth of Israel.“Come down lower yet, Sir! You have too much pride to be saved.”

Then I was brought down to see my corruption,my wickedness, my filthiness.

“Come down,” says God, when He means to save. Now, proud Sinners, it is of no use foryou to be proud, to stick yourselves up in the trees—Christ will have you down. Oh, you that dwell with the eagle on the craggy rock, you shall come down from your elevation—you shall fall by grace, or you shall fall with a vengeance one day. He “has cast down the mighty from their seat and has exalted the humble and meek.”

When God "means to save" -

What I know is this...there is nothing - NOTHING - special about me.  I didn't turn to Christ because I'm smarter, or holier, or more spiritual...

It is only by the work of the Spirit that I can claim to trust.

And trust is a challenge sometimes, but I can no more turn away, than I could stop being...the core of who I am.

Unconditional election...AKA predestination.  It is my second least TULIP doctrine to try to explain.

Based on the premise that "God is sovereign and He gets to pick - not only how, but who."

This builds on the "T" - total depravity.  Not that each peson is as totally depraved as they could be, but rather every part of each person's will is touched by Adam's nature (original sin).

How many people seek God?

The answer (as well as in other places, is answered in Romans 3:

"None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one."

If we don't seek God, how do we find Him?

Ephesians 1:3-6. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved.”

Christ told His disciples,

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide...(John 15:16)

But what about my will?

So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy (Romans 9:16)

But that isn't fair

But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?"  Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? (Romans 9:20-24)

11 Comments

I'm finding that I don't like the word "subordinationism". There are better words to describe the belief that we're talking about. However...that appears to be the "word of the day".

Craig Keener (an egalitarian) wrote a rather long article: "Is subordination within the Trinity really heresy? A study of John 5:18 in context."
In the opening page he writes:

Nor, in fact, do Christological views coincide as closely with views on gender roles as some of the advocates of either position claim. Thus, for example, I frequently talk with Christians who espouse a complementarian view of gender roles while expressing surprise that anyone would deny the full equality in all respects of the Father and the Son. By contrast, I and some other scholars I know who support a very broad range of women's ministry affirm the Son's subordination to the Father. To be sure, that subordination may be voluntary, and we do not draw from it the same conclusions many of our complementarian colleagues do; but the fact remains that one's view on gender roles does not enable one to predict one's view of relations within the Trinity, or vice-versa. I do see evidence for the Son's subordination to the Father in rank; I also believe that evangelicals who differ on the matter should do so charitably. (emphasis mine)

The article begins at John 5:18

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. (ESV) (emphasis mine)

(A) Does Jesus Claim "Equality"? (5:18)

Jesus is "God the Son", but He is also acting as an agent for the Father. Keener makes the point that when we say that Christ as claiming equality with the Father in this passage, we are following the logic of Christ's enemies, not the actual words of Christ. Yes...clearly Christ is communicating His deity in this passage, but equality of roles with the Father? Keener believes not:

But while Jesus claims deity at various points in this gospel (e.g., 8:58; 20:2829), he also denies equality of rank with his Father. This is particularly clear in his response to those who think he has claimed such equality (5:19-30). Jesus does this by calling attention to his role as Son and agent. (emphasis mine).

In verses 19-23 we see the following points

  • Jesus is following the example of His Father
  • Jesus is saying that He can do nothing of His own accord
  • Jesus has been given authority by His Father

Nowhere in this passage does Christ claim equality - He claims Sonship, with delegated authority and obedience.

(B) Jesus as God Son

Keener brings up a point that I had not heard of or thought of. Jesus was obediently following His Father's example. In the Jewish culture, how did a son learn his trade? By following his father's example - apprenticeship.

Nevertheless, this part of the discourse is framed with Jesus' claim not to act "from himself," or on his own initiative or authority (5:19, 30),25 fitting the Jewish conception of the agent who carries out his commission? Jesus elsewhere emphasizes that he does nothing "from himself" (5:30; 7:17-18, 28; 8:28, 42; 14:10), as the Spirit does not (16:13), and that the disciples cannot produce anything profitable from themselves (15:5).

(c) Jesus as God's Agent

In this section, Keener touches on the argument that yes-Christ was subordinate for the duration of His incarnation. But Keener points out that since Christ was "sent", that the submission started (at least) a little while before His birth.

Also, as a "representative agent" He carried the full authority of the Sender. This was in accordance with the time;

Agency represented commission and authorization, the sense of the concept which provides a broad conceptual background for early Christian agency. In many cases, at least in our later sources, the agent's own legal status was comparatively low. Indeed, under rabbinic rulings, even slaves were permitted to fill the position.32 Yet agents bore representative authority, because they acted on the authority of the one who sent them. Thus perhaps the most common rabbinic maxim concerning a person's agent is that "he is equivalent to the person himself."33 In the broader Mediterranean world envoys or messengers were backed by the full authority of those they represented. (...)

Even when one sent one's son (Mark 12:6), the messenger position was necessarily one of subordination to the sender. Although the concept of agency implies subordination, it also stresses Jesus' functional equality with the Father in terms of humanity's required response: he must be honored and believed in the same way as must be the Father whose representative he is (e.g., Tohn 5:23; 6:29).

(and I'm just a third of the way through the article...)

We have the framework for Christ's submission, obedience, subordination, and agency for the duration of His ministry while He walked this planet - and (at least a little) prior to.
Still...that does not provide proof that this submission is eternal.

Next up: section II: 1 Corinthians 15:28.

14 Comments

First, the basic definition of "heresy", since this is a word that has been used in connection with "subordinationism".

Heresy:

From merriam-webster:

1
  • a: adherence to a religious opinion contrary to church dogma
  • b: denial of a revealed truth by a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church
  • c: an opinion or doctrine contrary to church dogma
2
  • a: dissent or deviation from a dominant theory, opinion, or practice
  • b: an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truth or to generally accepted beliefs or standards

I think it is important to understand that in order to have a "heresy", you have to have an authority to proclaim it OR to have an absolute, definitive theory, opinion, practice or doctrine to which to adhere (and be contrary to).

POINT: If you choose to level an accusation of "heresy", you should have an authoritative church body that represents "the Church" as a whole. If you cannot do this, you are choosing, either as a single person or small body, to proclaim orthodoxy and/or heresy outside of the "body" as a whole.

Accusations of heresy are serious business. False accusations are more serious yet. We should be very cautious when using such words as "heresy" or "blasphemy", lest we bear false witness against brothers and sisters in Christ.

I have little trouble examining doctrine against "historical proclamations" of heresy.  There was a time that was much closer to the cross and the apostles then we are now.  There was a time when the church was united; before the church in Rome and the Eastern Church separated.  Before that time, the young church had several councils that gathered together, examined Scripture and proclaimed "orthodoxy".

So...who decides?

A Church Council is an official ad hoc gathering of representatives to settle Church business. Such Councils are called rarely and are not the same as the regular gatherings of church leaders (synods, etc). An ecumenical council is one at which the whole Church is represented. The three major branches of the Church (Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant) recognize seven ecumenical councils: Nicea (325), Constantinople (381), Ephesus (431), Chalcedon (451), Constantinople II (553), Constantinople III (680), Nicea II (787). Further ecumenical councils were rendered impossible by the widening split between Eastern (Orthodox, Greek-speaking) and Western (Catholic, Latin-speaking) Churches, a split that was rendered official in 1054 and has not yet been healed. (from PBCC.org)

I'll let folks do their own search for the "seven ecumenical councils" - because which of the three major branches will cite different sources, yet all three branches recognize a group of seven councils on which all agree.

In short...if these seven councils agree that a doctrine is "heresy", all three major branches of Christianity today (Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) will agree.

The Seven Ecumenical Councils:

  • The Council of Nicea, 325
  • The Council of Constantinople, 381
  • The Council of Ephesus, 431
  • The Council of Chalcedon, 451
  • The Council of Constantinople II, 553
  • The Council of Constantinople III, 680
  • The Council of Nicea II, 787

To wrap it up, these seven ecumenical councils of the early church met to BOTH unite the church on essential doctrine and to separate those who teach heresy from those who teach truth.

I believe that if a teaching is not found (or condemned) in these seven councils, it becomes more difficult to level an accusation of "heresy". Again, we should be very careful when doing so.