Archive for November 2012

Going Beyond What is Written

November 30, 2012

Ryan Hedrich has continued his attack on the Trinity, but thankfully in doing so he now correctly identifies his present opponents as “Clarkians.”  In a recent blog post where he further explores his new found belief in the ontological subordination of the Son, he writes:

Several Reformed theologians hold to the position that the “person” of the Son is generated whereas the “essence” of the Son is not.

… I imagine that these Clarkians who argue that the Son’s essence is not generated mean that the divine nature or set of attributes of the Son is not generated. In other words, the Father doesn’t “communicate” the [or a] divine nature to the Son if such implies the divinity of the Son is in some sense derived from the Father; rather, Clark (and probably these Clarkians) thinks “communicate” merely suggests that the Son has the [or a] divine nature “in common” with the Father. This would suggest that the Son may well communicate the [or a] the divine nature to the Father

As strange as these things may sound to Ryan, had he been more of a “Clarkian,” or even a better theologian (armchair or otherwise), he would have realized that the idea of communication in Nicene orthodoxy is not a transfer of something from one person to another, much less from a superior to an inferior, rather it carries the idea of sharing something in common.  As difficult as it may be for Ryan,  this is why the communication of essence in one sense is perfectly acceptable, and, in another, the more common or colloquial sense, the one Ryan prefers,  it is not acceptable at all.  In Clark’s discussion of Hodge in his chapter on the Eternal Generation he notes that “Hodge complains that the Nicene fathers went too far when they derived the essence of the Son from that of the Father.”  Clark called this “an historical mistake” and explains:

The common English usage of communication has lost the meaning of the Greek koinonia. To communicate does not mean the Father hands over or gives certain things to the Son. To communicated means to have something in common. The Father and the Son hold in common the essential characteristics of the Godhead. The English word share would be a better translation.

Of course, Hodge clearly asserts the generation of the Son, and correctly rejects the generation of the essence.  His theology is impeccable.  It is an historical question here, and so far as any criticism of Hodge is concerned, not a theological issue.  It is therefore a matter of Hodge’s misunderstanding of the Greek term communicate. He writes:  “That the essential idea [of paternity] is assumed to be the communication of the essence of the parent to his child; and therefore it is maintained the there must be a communication of the essence of the Godhead from the Father to the Son.”  Note the words from and to. This suggests that the Father gives the essence to the Son. But such is not what the Greek fathers meant.  Communication means that there is a quality common to the Father and the Son.  (The Trinity, 113,114)

Even Wikipedia has this right and states; “Koinonia is the anglicisation of a Greek word (κοινωνία) that means communion by intimate participation …The essential meaning of the koinonia embraces concepts conveyed in the English terms community, communion, joint participation, sharing and intimacy.”

My objection to Ryan in his dogmatic rejection that the Son is autotheos, along with his insistence that if self-existence can only be predicated on the Father who then communicates His existence to the Son, is that he ends up with the from/to relationship that Hodge rightly rejects and Clark said was never intended by the Nicene fathers.  While thinking he is being faithful to Nicene orthodoxy he rejects it.  As Kevin Giles explains in his book, The Eternal Generation of the Son: Maintaining Orthodoxy in Trinitarian Theology:

The begetting of the Son by the Father, the creed goes  on to assert, means that the Son is “God of [ek] God, Light of Light, true God of true God.”  In other words, whatever the Father is, so too is the Son.  Then comes the climactic statement, the Son of the basis of his begetting is “one in being [homoousios] with the Father.”  T.F. Torrance says that “an absolutely fundamental step” was made in the Christian understanding of God when the words, “one in being with the Father” (homoousios to parti) were included in this creed . . . These words clearly assert that on the basis of the Son’s eternal begetting “there is no division between the being of the Son and the being of the Father, but also that there is no division between the acts of the Son and the acts of the Father.”  They are one in being and power.  Similarly, Carl Beckwith says that when the bishops of Nicaea included the term homoousios they not only “assert” that “the Father and Son are of the same essence” but also, “Whatever we predicated of the Father’s being or essence, so too we predicate of the Son.  This means when we say the Father is almighty, we also say the Son is almighty.  When we say the Father is all-powerful, good, wise and holy, we also say the Son is all-powerful, good, wise and holy.

… The Nicene bishops also in this creed confess that while the Son is fully God in all might, majesty and power “for our salvation [he] came down [from heaven] and was incarnate and became man and suffered.” The Lord of glory stooped to save.  These two affirmations in this christological clause affirm both the eternal and unqualified deity of the Son and his temporal subordination for our salvation, reflecting the teaching of Philippians 2:4-11.” (119,120)

Unitarians, Arians, and assorted subordinationists are of a different opinion and think a from/to relationship is precisely what is meant and therefore affirm the ontological subordination of the Son to the Father.  The problem with their interpretation is that they end up losing the Son while thinking they still have the Father when in fact they end up with neither.  That’s why Unitarianism is heresy.  Unitarians are going to hell.  There is really no other way to say it.   (more…)

Digging In The Mud

November 20, 2012

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables (2 Timothy 4:3,4).

No one who denies the Son has the Father (1 John 2:23).

Departing from the faith is an ever present danger. False teachers are everywhere and their ability to sow the seeds of error, even among those who ought to know better, can never be underestimated. However, I would have thought that for Christians everywhere the essential deity of Christ was an issue that was beyond dispute. Silly me. God is, after all, three Persons of one essence or substance; not three Persons of three essences or substances. So why would some men who profess to be Christians say that: “The Father is divine of Himself. The Son and Spirit are divine in virtue of the communication of a divine essence from the Father to them in eternal generation and procession.” And, “the meaning of ‘God’ is peculiar to the Father in the sense He alone is auto-theos. The other persons are subordinate to the Father, not because they have inferior divine natures, but because they possess their divine natures on account of the Father.” Or, more simply; “The Son and Spirit are not ‘autotheos.'” Certainly, Jesus Christ is autotheos, divine of Himself. From Jesus’ confession that he is the self-existent I AM and the Almighty Jehovah of the Old Testament, to John’s insistence that the Word was God and dwelt among us, to doubting Thomas’ confession that Jesus is his Lord and His God, even to Jesus’ own testimony that he is the Alpha and the Omega of Revelation, the biblical and exegetical evidence is overwhelming that Jesus Christ is very God of very God.  Yet, it seems that some men, even those calling themselves Christian Scripturalists, think all this is doubtful and Jesus’ confessions concerning his own essential equality with the Father are really confessions of the Father’s unique divine nature and who alone can properly be called God.

I first stumbled on this strange subordinationism where the Son is said to derive his divine essence from the Father as He lacks self-existence in himself on a supposedly “Clark” Facebook discussion page in series of posts by Ryan Hedrich.  I should add that Hedrich is a former Trinity Foundation Worldview Contest winner.  However, the theory he is advancing is not unique to Hedrich as he picked it up from Drake Shelton who has evidently been very busy sowing the seeds of an 18th century Unitarian subordinanist heresy for quite some time,  along with some other very rotten seeds.

So, given Hedrich’s interest in this unusual theology, I stopped by Shelton’s blog “Uncreated Light.” I confess I have not spent much time on Shelton’s blog, and when I have it was usually the result of someone sending me a link while commenting on what a loon he is. However, in addition to his usual theological lunacy, I was shocked at the depth Shelton’s pathological hatred and bitter racism and I don’t shock easily.  Given the sheer number of Shelton’s racist screeds on his blog it amazed me that any Christian, let alone anyone calling themselves a “Scriptularist,” would spend any time actually searching this site for some digestible kernel buried in so much dung.  After all, John Robbins warned his readers about the resurgence of racism cloaked the guise of Christianity in his piece “Christians and the Civil War.”  John wrote:

Living in the South for the past ten years has made it clear to me that many citizens of the South, even in the 21st century, are still fighting a guerrilla war with disinformation, wishful thinking, and propaganda. Some of these Latter Day Confederates seem to be people who were born and reared in the North and now feel they must prove their fidelity to the Lost Cause. Apparently their Northern roots have given them a guilty conscience. What is worse, many of these men profess to be Christians and mix their religion with their love for the Confederacy, making the two inseparable. … Because of this compound of Confederate ideology and counterfeit Christianity, a lot of hooey has been written, published, and reprinted about the Christian nobility and character of the Old South. Even Presbyterian Robert L. Dabney’s 1867 book Defense of Virginia and the South, which purports to defend Southern slavery from the Bible, has been reprinted. This embarrassing and inexcusable association of Christian theology with Southern slavery has been a stain on Christianity in the South and a hindrance to the proclamation of the Gospel for two centuries.

Needless to say, and a short perusal of “Uncreated Light” will bear this out, Shelton has been following in this detestable tradition for some time.  Here’s a sample from just one of Shelton’s hate filled posts that are littered throughout his blog:

My white Southern reader, your government does not want you to identify with your Ancestors. It doesn’t want you to read their history and understand that they were being murdered by the hundreds of thousands in Europe before they fled here to North America. It doesn’t want you to know that later they were murdered, raped and pillaged for decades under this Yankee Government…. And it sure doesn’t want you to know that the Multi-Cultural Integration that you experience today was forced on your parents or your grandparents at the end of a Bayonet.

No!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! You are to be Negroized. Your ancestors demonized and their history twisted and scarred, all for one purpose: To turn the greatest Protestant lands, the most powerful enemy of the Roman Catholic Church, into an impoverished, negroized, atheistized, savagized body of confused ignorant political slaves.

What is worse is that Shelton has even setup a phony website purporting to be a “Scripturalist” church, complete with an image of Gordon Clark prominently displayed where he writes:

The Protestant Scripturalist Church of Louisville is not only intended to nurture individual souls for Christ, it is meant to rescue and preserve the Anglo-Protestant Culture. Since before the Civil War, we have seen an all out attack on our way of life and on the peoples who rescued the world from Roman Catholic tyranny… A Protestant, on the other hand, rejects global government in the pursuit of a divinely ordained Nationalism governed by indigenous or ethnic peoples striving to maintain their distinct ancient cultures.

I have to think Trinity Foundation lawyers might have something to say about having Clark’s name and image associated with such a vile man and his website even claiming to be a Christian church (of course, it’s probably news to Shelton that a webpage does not a church make).

This has all been a roundabout way to see if Ryan Hedrich was able to find any edibles buried in Shelton’s bowel movements. Since I didn’t have the stomach to spend any time searching Shelton’s blog myself, as I couldn’t get past his many posts on “anti-white racism,” I restricted myself to Hedrich’s defense of Shelton’s sub-trinitarianism on the Clark Facebook page and on his own blog, Unapologetica.

It is first important to remember that with any false teaching there is always mixed in a grain of truth and thread of orthodoxy. For example, Hedrich writes quoting Shelton:  (more…)

Trinitarian Musings

November 6, 2012

I had reason this past week to revisit some ancient Trinitarian controversies that I had long forgotten about and would have thought were put to rest long ago by Reformed theologians, not least of which is John Calvin himself.  In the process I had the opportunity to revisit Robert Reymond’s discussion of the Trinity in his New Systematic Theology which tracks closely and elucidates Gordon Clark’s theory of the unity of the Persons of the Trinity.  The following is is from Clark’s piece on the Trinity as discussed in  Reymond’s systematic theology (320-324):

Suppose we have a lot of dice of various sizes. They all have the same shape. Now, this shape is something real. Even though the shape comes in different sizes, it is the same identical shape. If sensory objects alone were real, there could be no idea of similarity or identity, for none of the individual dice is itself similarity. Nor is any one of the dice cube. If one of the dice were the cube, and if only sense objects are real, then no other die could be cube. Hence, there is a real object of knowledge, the cube. It is not a sense object, not only for the preceding reason, but also because this cube exists in many places at once, as no sense object can. Similarly, Plato united all men under the Idea Man, all horses under the Horse, and all beautiful things under real Beauty. With other arguments also Plato asserted the reality of knowable intellectual objects.

The other part of Platonic theory that no Christian can accept, and Philo’s transformation of it, will be discussed in the next chapter. But without this part of the theory, viz., the assertion of non-sensory intellectual objects, it is hard to see how an understanding of the Bible would be possible. To begin with, God himself is a non-sensory object. So is the idea of justification by faith-as well as man and animal and cube. Empiricism would require all nouns to be proper names of individual sense objects; it can never account for the unity in this multiplicity, and therefore renders both communication and thought impossible.

Now, when we face the subject of the Trinity-the common unity in the three Persons-may we not say that the three Persons share or communicate the common characteristics of omnipotence, omniscience, and so forth, and so constitute one essence? The Platonic point of view makes this essence a reality, as truly as Man and Beauty are real. Were the essence not a reality, and the Persons therefore the only realities, we should have tritheism instead of monotheism.

As Reymond explains:

What Clark is saying here, in other words, is that if their Persons (distinguished as Person by distinguishing “personal properties”) are absolutely identical in all the attributes of deity, they are really and essentially one God; their one identical divine essence is as real as the distinguishable properties of the Persons. Three Persons with the same omnipresence would have one omnipresence. Three Persons with the same omniscience would have one omniscience. Three Persons with the same omnipotence would have one omnipotence. Three Persons with the same all-encompassing purpose would have one purposed. Three Persons identical in divine essence would be, in a word, one God.

%d bloggers like this: