Which is it?

Today, in the continuing discussion over the Trinity,  Dr. Albert Mohler has weighed in to defend the orthodoxy of Drs. Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware.

Recent charges of violating the Nicene Creed made against respected evangelical theologians like Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware are not just nonsense — they are precisely the kind of nonsense that undermines orthodoxy and obscures real heresy. Their teachings do not in any way contradict the words of the Nicene Creed, and both theologians eagerly affirm it. I do not share their proposals concerning the eternal submission of the Son to the Father, but I am well aware that nothing they have taught even resembles the heresy of the Arians. To the contrary, both theologians affirm the full scope of orthodox Christianity and have proved themselves faithful teachers of the church. These charges are baseless, reckless, and unworthy of those who have made them.

While I respect Dr. Mohler and I appreciate his desire to defend both orthodoxy and his associates,  I have to wonder if he’s aware of statements by Dr. Ware that deny the Nicene creed on eternal generation and eternal procession:

The Western church adapted the Nicene Creed to say, in its third article, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father “and the son” (filioque) and not merely that he proceeds from the Father (alone). While I agree fully with this additional language, I believe that this biblical way of speaking, as found in John 15:26, (But when that Comforter shall come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth of the Father, he shall testify of me.), refers to the historical sending of the Spirit at Pentecost and does not refer to any supposed “eternal procession” of the Spirit from the Father and the Son. The conceptions of both the “eternal begetting of the Son” and “eternal procession of the Spirit” seem to me highly speculative and not grounded in biblical teaching. Both the Son as only-begotten and the Spirit as proceeding from the Father (and the Son) refer, in my judgment, to the historical realities of the incarnation and Pentecost respectfully.

(Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, pg 162, footnote 3, emphasis added)

I agree with Dr. Mohler that Nicene doctrine is extremely important and that charges of being outside Nicene orthodoxy are equally serious.  Those who have made the charge that Drs. Grudem and Ware are outside Nicene orthodoxy have not done so lightly.  I believe their own words are strong evidence to support the charges.

In addition,  the charge is not that Drs. Ware and Grudem are Arian. The charge is that they are subordinationists. In his book Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, Dr. Grudem writes:

For all eternity there has been a difference in authority, whereby the Father has authority over the Son that the Son doesn’t have over the Father, and the Father and Son both have authority over the Holy Spirit that the Holy Spirit doesn’t have over the Father and Son. (p. 433)

And,

If we didn’t have such differences in authority in the relationships among the members of the Trinity, then we would not know of any differences at all. (p. 433)

All Arians were subordinationists, but not all subordinationists are Arian. To teach,  as they do, that there is an eternal subordination structure in the very nature of God is the very definition of subordinationism. While the Nicene Creed was specific in addressing the Arian version of subordinationism, all forms of subordinationism are denied as well.

Al Mohler and BioLogos

Dr. Al Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written a series of articles about BioLogos and the creation/evolution debate. Here are some excerpts from his articles:

No Pass from Theological Responsibility—The BioLogos Conundrum

They will have to take responsibility for these arguments. They should expect no less than a spirited debate over their proposals, and it is nothing short of bewildering that they now ask, in effect, for a pass from all theological scrutiny. They accuse conservative evangelicals of driving evangelicalism into an “intellectual cul-de-sac” and into the status of an intellectual “cult,” and then they have the audacity to complain of the “tone” of those who argue that their proposals amount to a theological disaster.

Virtually every form of theological liberalism arises from an attempt to rescue Christian theology from what is perceived to be an intellectual embarrassment — whether the virgin conception of Christ, the historicity of the miracles recorded in the Bible, or, in our immediate context, the inerrancy of Scripture and the Bible’s account of creation.

No Buzzing Little Fly—Why the Creation-Evolution Debate is So Important

As I have stated repeatedly, I accept without hesitation the fact that the world indeed looks old. Armed with naturalistic assumptions, I would almost assuredly come to the same conclusions as BioLogos and the evolutionary establishment, or I would at least find evolutionary arguments credible. But the most basic issue is, and has always been, that of worldview and basic presuppositions. The entire intellectual enterprise of evolution is based on naturalistic assumptions, and I do not share those presuppositions. Indeed, the entire enterprise of Christianity is based on supernaturalistic, rather than merely naturalistic, assumptions. There is absolutely no reason that a Christian theologian should accept the uniformitarian assumptions of evolution. In fact, given a plain reading of Scripture, there is every reason that Christians should reject a uniformitarian presupposition. The Bible itself offers a very different understanding of natural phenomena, with explanations that should be compelling to believers. In sum, there is every reason for Christians to view the appearance of the cosmos as graphic evidence of the ravages of sin and the catastrophic nature of God’s judgment upon sin.

Dr. Falk ends his essay with a paragraph that includes this key sentence: “If God really has created through an evolutionary mechanism and if God chooses to use BioLogos and other groups to help the Church come to grips with this issue, then these three huge challenges will begin to melt away as God’s Spirit enables us to look to him and not to ourselves.” I will simply let that sentence speak for itself.

I do not believe that BioLogos is “a buzzing little fly.” To the contrary, I believe that it represents a very significant challenge to the integrity of Christian theology and the church’s understanding of everything from the authority and truthfulness of the Bible to the meaning of the Gospel. A buzzing little fly is only a nuisance. The theory of evolution is no mere nuisance — it represents one of the greatest challenges to Christian faith and faithfulness in our times.

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Was Jesus Born of a Virgin? Does it Matter?

The doctrine of the virgin birth, that Jesus did not have a human father, is one that most professing Christians have considered central to an orthodox understanding of who Jesus is. The Apostles’ creed says Jesus was “conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.” The Nicene creed says He was “incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary.” Yet many modern scholars have sought to either deny the virgin birth of Christ as foolishly unbelievable or to diminish the importance of the doctrine. So, does it matter whether or not Jesus was born of a virgin? Here are two well-known writers very different answers.

N.T. Wright, Anglican bishop and New Testament Scholar, wrote an essay for the book, The Meaning of Jesus, on the subject of the virgin birth. Here is a short excerpt of that essay:

Jesus’ birth usually gets far more attention than its role in the New Testament warrants. Christmas looms large in our culture, outshining even Easter in the popular mind. Yet without Matthew 1—2 and Luke 1—2 we would know nothing about it. Paul’s gospel includes Jesus’ Davidic descent, but apart from that could exist without mention of his birth. One can be justified by faith with no knowledge of it. Likewise, John’s wonderful theological edifice has no need of it: God’s glory is revealed, not in the manger, but on the cross.

If the first two chapters of Matthew and the first two of Luke had never existed, I do not suppose that my own Christian faith, or that of the church to which I belong, would have been very different. (171, 178)

John MacArthur, pastor and writer, took a different approach in his book, God With Us: Continue reading