Sunday, June 26, 2016

Romans 4

Spoiler alert!

DV it might go something like this:


Paul is showing that the gospel is the power of God for salvation (1v16ff)

Our need: We are all sinners who deserve God’s judgement (3v9ff)

God’s solution: But now a righteousness from God has been revealed (3v21ff)

Paul shows that the Old Testament law testifies to (3v21) and is upheld by this gospel of righteousness / justification by faith (3v31)

A Case Study from The Old Testament:

“What did Abraham discover in this matter?” (v1)

How was he justified / put right with God? (And how are we justified?)

“What does the Scripture say?” (4v3)

I.                 3 WAYS WE (& ABRAHAM) ARE NOT JUSTIFIED:

(1)   not by works (v2, v5)

(2)   not by circumcision (vv10-12)

not by the covenant sign / seal (v11)

… (not by baptism or Communion)

(3)   not by keeping the Law of Moses (vv13-15; cf. 3vv19-21, 31)

Abraham Justified c. ? 2091BC


645 years


Law Given c. ? 1446BC

            … (not by our family or national or religious heritage)

I.                 3 WAYS WE (& ABRAHAM) ARE JUSTIFIED:

(1)   … as a gift (v4)

… by grace (v16)

(2)   … by believing God (vv3, 11, 17, 18)

… by trusting God (v5)

… by faith (vv5, 9, 11, 12, 13, 16, 19, 20, 24)

(3)   … by the death and resurrection of Jesus (v24-25)

Justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone,

to the glory of God alone, according to the Scriptures


(Learn from Paul how to read the Old Testament and understand the role of the Old Testament law – v24)

Receive God’s free gift of justification by faith: Trust in Jesus!

“Therefore” …. Rejoice in peace with God and in the hope of the glory of God (Romans 5vv1-2)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Possible Post-Brexit Referendum Sermon Introduction

Look away now if you want to hear the sermon as a surprise tomorrow!

The Puritan John Owen was perhaps the greatest ever English theologian.

On the 31st January 1649 he was preaching to Parliament.

I wonder who can tell me what had happened the day before?

[Charles I had been beheaded.]

The remarkable thing is that Owen didn’t mention it once.

I’m not planning to mention Brexit either, you may be pleased to hear.

Owen had something far more important to preach about, and so do we:

It’s the great question which occupies these chapters of Romans:

How is a person justified before God?

How can sinners like you and me be acceptable in the sight of a holy God?

There is really no more important question, is there?

Our eternal destiny hangs on this.

HT @JontyGRhodes :

The joys of committies

A parishioner sent this poem to members of a committee on which I sit - not a PCC, I hasten to add, because they are always excellently chaired models of efficiency and so on - and, of though not entirely true, I thought it was worth sharing:

Oh, have some pity, I'm on a committee
Which means that from morning till night,
We attend and amend and contend and defend
Without a conclusion in sight.
We confer and concur, we defer and demur,
And re-iterate all of our thoughts,
We revise the agenda with frequent addenda,
And consider a load of reports.
We compose and propose, we suppose and oppose,
And the points of procedure are fun,
But though various notions are brought up as motions,
There's terribly little gets done.
We resolve and absolve, but we never dissolve,
Since it’s out of the question for us.
What a shattering pity to end our committee
Where else could we make such a fuss!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Simon Manchester - The perseverence of God with the dull - Mk 6:45-53 (EMA 2016)

v48, Jesus was about to "pass by", to reveal himself to the disciples, but he didn't cf. Ex 34 & 1 Kings 19 - parallels of mountains, feedings, water

(1) The teacher

6v52; 8v17, 21

Num 27; Ps 23, "Green grass"

Jesus is a superior Moses - Moses divided the people into 50s & 100s. Moses could pray but Jesus could provide

(2) The breakdown

Ps 77; Is 43; Job 9

Amos 8 - "I will pass by no longer"

(3) The perseverance of Jesus

Sail the 7 c s

Creation reveals a creator
Conscience implies a judge
Christ is personal
The calendar - BC / AD - shows Christ is impressive
The chapters of the Bible make Jesus accessible
The churches show the patience of God
The cemetery and the crematorium show the urgency of the gospel

Don Carson - Biblical Exhortations to Faithfulness in Ministry (EMA 2016)

(1) Aim for faithfulness not numbers - Is 6 esp vv9-10; Jn 8, "because I tell you the truth you do not believe"

(2) Think eschatologically - Is 6v13; ch 11; 1 Pt 1:3-5

(3) Expect opposition - Jn 15v18ff; 2 Tim 3 & 4; Acts 5v41

(4) Expect difficulties from within the church - 2 Cor 11; Col; 1 Cor etc!

(5) Frustrate Satan - Rev 12-14; 1 Pt 5:8-9; Job

(6) Discern at least some of God's purposes in your suffering - James 1v12, v2f; 2 Cor 12

(7) Reflect on your privileged position in God's evangelistic purposes

Mt 11v11 - A discouraged Baptist; A defended Baptist

(8) Identify with the cross - 1 Pt 2v21; Phil 1:29

(9) Recognise that trust in God is more important to God than your cognitive satisfaction - Job

(10) Fight relentlessly against the green-eyed monster - Jn 21; 1 Cor 4 esp. v5

Dick Lucas - Hebrews 13vv7-18, 17 (EMA 2016)

The Christian leader is to:
(i) Speak God's Word - v7 - preach
(ii) Shepherd God's Flock - v17 - pastor

Jesus himself is (i) The Word of God - 1v1ff
(ii) The Shepherd - v20

Who is sufficient for these things?

(1) Listen to God's Word

(2) Preach Christ's Gospel

(3) Watch Over God's People

3 warnings:

The temptation of (a) shame - 11v26; 12v2; 13v12

(b) sin - 13v4, marriage - 13v5, money

(c) suffering - 13v3; 10v32ff

Graham Beynon - Persevering in Holiness (EMA 2016)

Galatians 5

(1) We need to believe our doctrine of sin

(a) Sin is universal

(b) Sin is persistent

(c) Sin is deceptive

(d) Sin is Satanic

(i) The danger of superiority in ministry

(ii) The danger of self-pity in ministry

(2) We need to believe our doctrine of sanctification

(a) We do not need to sin

(b) There can be growth

(c) Holiness is the best way to live

(d) Sanctification depends on grace

(i) We are redeemed and forgiven by grace. This provides a secure foundation for sanctification

(ii) We can only live differently by God's ongoing renewing grace in the power of the Spirit

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Expectations for the future?

Came across this well-known quotation from Cardinal Francis George of Chicago from 2010 quoted in D A Carson (ed.), The Enduring Authority of the Christian Scriptures (IVP Apollos, 2016) :

"I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square. His successor will pick up the shards of a ruined society and slowly help rebuild civilization, as the church has done so often in human history."

Simon Manchester on Exodus 32-24 (EMA 2016)

Persevering with the disobedient

God perseveres with us

"Passing by" - Ex 34 - also 1 Kings & Mk 6

(1) The disobedience - breaking the 2nd commandment

(2) The mediation

God arranges for Moses' mediation and feeds him his lines - a kind of invitation by prohibition

(3) The perseverance of God

Jonty Allcock on Luke 5:1-11 (EMA 2016)

Persevere in Evangelism: Keep fishing

How the narrative develops:
Jesus is fishing for people
Simon is fishing for fish
Jesus is fishing for fish
Jesus is fishing for Simon
Simon is to fish for people

Stages of fishing: (1) enthusiastic (2) losing heart (3) Frazzled

We need Jesus to teach us the one great lesson of the boat:

We fish by faith, not by works - cf. Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac; Gideon's army

Not do better, do more, try something new but humble trust

Not by our hard work or ability or plans but by the power of Jesus

Jesus is the great fisherman

Jesus fishes by preaching the word (cf. Is 61)

Jesus preaches to the crowd but deliberately encounters the individual

"caught" = enclosed, Jesus is gathering in a people

Before you are a fisherman you are a fish - you must be caught by Jesus

A vast catch, a multitude

Ez 47

4 practical ways that fishing because Jesus says so keeps us fishing:

(1) It trumps all our excuses. Simon could have objected "You're not a fisherman", "I'm tired", "I've tried it" etc. He could have focussed on washing his nets.

The church is a boat for fishing - not just a lovely aquarium to be beautified

(2) It overcomes our pessimism (vv6-7). There will be a great catch. The kingdom of heaven will be full even if your church isn't. Your ministry is part of this.

(3) It smashes our pride (v8). God is in Peter's boat!

(4) It resets our whole lives (v10bf) - Not Jesus joining Peter's fishing business! Not Jesus making my work grow or fitting in to the jigsaw of my life.

Don Carson on Preaching 1 John (EMA 2016)

11 things to consider when preaching 1 John:

(1) John speaks in both shades of grey and absolutist terms

(2) You need to come to some kind of understanding about the nature of John's opponents (probably proto-gnostics)

(3) You need to deal with the cyclical nature of the letter, the way in which it returns to themes such as love and obedience. Avoid saying everything in your first sermon, but be aware of what is coming, summarise and add as you go stressing the fresh stuff.

(4) The test which the letter gives work both positively to encourage true believers and negatively to exclude false "believers" and false teachers

(5) Work out how the letter contributes to the Christian doctrine of assurance with a focus on Christ but also bringing in the additional witness of a changed life etc. Don't discourage real Christians. Our salvation depends on Christ and his saving work not on our thinking we have passed these "tests".

(6) Work hard on certain hard passages such as 2v26ff - no teachers needed - cf. Jer 31v29ff; no priestly / prophetic / kingly mediating class in NT times as in OT - 3v9 - not an ontological statement but a strong prohibition: sin is not "the done thing" in the church and is never excusable. Danger of explaining away the text and robbing it of its impact. ch 5 - sin unto death; ch 3 - 3 witnesses

(7) Observe the many connections with John's gospel. cf. Raymond Brown in Anchor Bible Commentary. Christology - Jn 20:31ff - Christ the Son of God; cf. Prologues - Word / Life

(8) Our connection with the apostolic gospel. Partnership / fellowship in the Apostles' teaching is the means of fellowship with Christ - 1vv1-4

(9) Consider the eschatology - inaugurated - 2v18; 4v3; 2v28; 3vv1-3 - and it's impact on life now

(10) Relationship to 2 & 3 Jn. 2 Jn addresses a church too open to false teaching; 3 Jn addresses a church too narrow (rejecting the Apostles for another leader, no heresies mentioned). Similar false teaching in 1 & 2 Jn. The danger of running ahead and leaving the Apostles behind.

(11) Save the last line of the letter for the last sermon for its rhetorical impact. Anything that distorts the Biblical revelation is a kind of idolatry, distorting who God is.


Vaughan Roberts - The Lessons from John Newton (EMA 2016)

[I may not have written down all these quotes perfectly. It would be worth checking with the audio when it's available]

On how to keep going in Christian life and ministry:

(1) Always delight in grace

42yrs of ordained ministry

I stand in need of an Almighty Saviour and I find one in Jesus Christ

(2) Keep looking to Christ

Newton's motto: "None but Christ"

To know Him is the shortest way to grace

I am nothing; Christ is all

Heb 12v2

2 Cor 3v18

Two eyes on Christ

An enlarged heart having by faith a view of Jesus and his work

Hymn: But since the Saviour I have known
My rules are all reduced to one;
To keep my Lord, by faith, in view,
This strength supplies and motives too. 

(3) Be disciplined in devotion, especially in Bible reading and prayer

The hardest part of my calling is to keep my eyes on Jesus Christ, hungering and thirsting for him


Precious Bible! what a treasure,
Does the word of God afford!
All I want for life or pleasure,
Food or medicine, shield and sword;
Let the world account me poor,
Having this, I want no more.

(4) Maintain close relationships

Ecclectic society

influential in founding what eventually became Church Missionary Society

(5) Suffer well

We do not deal in unfelt truths

Newton's mother died when he was 6. His father was distant and sometimes away at sea.

Newton and Mary had no children. One of their adopted nieces died. Another ended up in Bedlam.

Mary's ill-health and death. Newton felt his hand was being sawn off by degrees.

When his popularity waned, Newton felt slighted and despised.

Hymn: What contradictions meet
In ministers employ!
It is a bitter sweet
A sorrow full of joy:
No other post affords a place
For equal honor, or disgrace!

How unspeakably wonderful to know that all our concerns lie in the hands that bled for us

The end will make amends for all

"The Lord Reigns" should be the banner over every headline in every newspaper

My memory is nearly gone, but two things I remember: I am a great sinner and I have a great Saviour

Vaughan especially recommended Newton's Letters, Tony Reinke, Newton on the Christian Life, and Clare Heath-Whyte, Old Wives Tales - the chapter on Mary Newton

Monday, June 20, 2016

3 deliberative desires, 1 ability to will?

I have been reading Andrew Moody with interest. Here I parade my ignorance about a couple of points!

Moody seems to want to think of the persons of the Trinity as three willing agents (who share the one (natural) divine will?), or of three minds, so as to avoid Modalism (that is, so as not to collapse the persons into three masks or appearances of the one God). (As with wills, I believe it would be traditional to think of one divine intellect, though of course existing in three persons).

Moody cites Maximus the Confessor's distinction between deliberative desire and the ability to will.

"Deliberative desire," he [Maximus] says, belongs to the hypostasis as the ability to will belongs to the essence; Opuscule 3, PG 91.48A-B. Thomas Aquinas makes the same distinction using different terms in Summa Theologiae 3.20.1. [Footnote 4 of the blogpost]

Now that, I need explaining to me, please! What is the difference between deliberative desire and the ability to will? And why would we want to say there are three deliberative desires grounded in persons and one ability to will in the divine essence? Is it just a way of saying that the Son could not disagree with the Father? If so, fair enough, but I'm not sure it adds much.

I'm inclined to think that one could imagine three modes or manners of having or personalisations (or something like that) of the one divine will. I'm not sure what the best terminology would be. Nor how exactly this differs from what Moody is suggesting here.

(I am also inclined to the idea that God's will is entirely necessary, which Moody rejects in preference for a particular version of making God's will to create "free". Moody is with the majority here, I believe. But it does not make sense to me. If God's will is perfectly at one with his wisdom and goodness it seems to me that God freely and necessarily chose to make the best of all possible worlds. God could not have done otherwise, but that does not mean he is compelled from outside. He does what he pleases in conformity to his omnipotent wisdom and goodness. But that is probably a distraction from this present discussion!).

I could also do with a lot more thinking about what the Fathers meant by "persons" with respect to God and what we should mean by it. I wonder how helpful "acting agent" is, but I can see the danger of making "persons" an (almost) empty category. I think we feel a strong desire for the persons to feel personal - even almost like personalities - but I have the sense that this was not quite what the Fathers meant? Obviously all the good guys in this debate want to avoid both the Modalism mentioned above a Tritheism which 3 agreeing people would suggest.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Romans 3 - some headings

I seem to have written a sermon without headings, but for those who like them, these from The Revd Vaughan Roberts' sermons on the St Ebbe's church website are eminently clear:

How Can I Be Free From Guilt? (3:21-24)

(1) Christianity is a gift from God (v21)...

(2) ... paid for by Christ (v24)...

(3) ... received through faith (v22).

How Can I Be Sure God is Just? (3:25-31)

The death of Jesus:

(1)   Appeases God’s anger (v25)

(2)   Proclaims God’s justice (vv25-26)
(3) Humbles human pride (vv27-28)

Romans 3

I am considering creating visual aids for the grown up for:

JUST AS IF I'd never sinned



What Jesus has DONE before what we should DO

Friday, June 17, 2016

One divine will in three persons

There can scarcely be anyone who has had the time and the will to read all that evangelicals have been writing about the Trinity in the last week or so. There has no doubt been a certain amount of cattishness, bad manners and a good deal of heat, but in my more optimistic moments I think there has been some light. At least I am tempted to feel a bit clearer I think that:

The three persons of the Trinity are distinguished by their eternal relation of origins. There is one divine nature and one love, power, will, intellect etc. but this one divine nature exists only in the three persons. There is no divine nature or attributes etc. behind the persons. Both the oneness and the threeness are irreducible. The one God is in three distinguishable persons. The Son loves the Father with the divine love (since he is divine and of one substance with the Father) but he does so in a manner consistent with his eternal relation of origin towards the Father. So with his will: he wills the divine will since he is divine (is / has / shares the divine nature and is of one substance with the Father) but he wills it as Son. The Son’s will is the same as the Father’s divine will but it can be distinguished from the Father’s since it exists in the person of the Son and stands in a Sonly relation to the Father because of the Son’s relation of origin to the Father. Right?

 P.S. no heresy intended! Please feel free to put me right!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Romans 3 - Big Words That End In SHUN

Inspired by Australian Christian singer-songwriter, Colin Buchanan, it is tempting to preach from Romans 3 some 'Big Words That End In SHUN' (from the Super Saviour CD, Aussie Praise):

Salvation (Romans 1:16-17)

Revelation (3vv1-2)

Justification (3v22, 26)

 Redemption (3v24)

Propitiation (3v25)


Colin also has Imputation, Resurrection (4v25) and Adoption (8v15).

The kids have suggested Crucifixion.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Eternal Relational Subordination of the Son? What are some of the issues?

I do not claim to be any sort of expert on the doctrine of the Trinity, nor to have all the answers, but, as much for my own benefit as anything else, this is an attempt to calmly lay out some of common ground and the issues that might be disputed between conservative evangelicals who want to respect the traditional doctrine. What follows has something of the nature of a series of points which we need to keep in mind.  

(For some further reading of blogs, articles and books, see here).

Of course the divine life is incomprehensible and mysterious to us. We must remember the Creator/creature distinction. Our talk about God is especially analogical. Although we are made in the image of God, it is unsurprising if God’s life is not entirely like our own. It is no simple thing to argue from the nature of human person to the nature of divine persons or from the immanent life of the Trinity to the relations between men and women, for example. Even if we grant that wives should submit to their husbands in a manner analogous to the way in which the Son submits to the Father, of course there will be great differences since, for example, the Triune persons are eternal and perfect and could not disagree.

Arguments for complimentary (equal but different) relationships between men and women need not depend on our doctrine of the Trinity.

Having said that our knowledge of God’s inner life is limited, we still insist that God has revealed himself clearly (if not exhaustively). God’s revelation is directed towards our salvation, but knowing him is involved, indeed, central. Our focus of concern should be the economy of God’s revelation and its practical implications for our love of God and neighbour, not speculation about the hidden life of God, but it is reasonable to think that God’s saving and revealing activity in his economy relates to and flows from his immanent life. It is good and right to want to know God. God’s revelation really reveals something of who he is in himself. When God acts he is not pretending and it is hard to think that his acts are arbitrary. (In fact, even if this is something of a minority report in the tradition, I am inclined to think that all of God’s actions are both volitional and necessary, flowing from who he is and governed by his wise and good will).

If we wish to be orthodox Christians we must affirm the full deity of all three divine persons. The Son is no less God than the Father. His being / substance / essence / deity are no less than the Father’s and he is equal with the Father in this sense, and entirely worthy of the same divine worship. To deny these things is a kind of Arian or semi-Arian / homoian subordinationism.

Yet there is order to the divine life. The Son is eternally begotten of the Father and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. These relationships are not interchangeable. The Father therefore has a kind of (atemporal) priority amongst the persons of the Trinity.

Having said this, the Father is never without his Son. If the Son is from the Father, the Father is only Father because he has a Son. We might say that the persons have a kind of mutual dependence – it is not just that the Son depends on the Father for his identity as Son. Without his Son the Father would not be Father.

(Calvin gives a distinctive account of the Son as having his divinity from himself since asceity is an attribute of deity. This has some plausibility to it).

There is a perichoretic indwelling between the persons. The Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father. The persons cannot be separated are not to be confused or confounded.

The tradition also teaches the inseperable operation of the members of the Trinity, but again, the persons act in an ordered manner: the Son dies on the cross (as a man); the Father does not, yet the work of the atonement is the work of the Triune God and of all three persons. Some of the Fathers write that all the works of God follow this pattern of from the Father, through the Son, completed in the Spirit.

It is the eternal relations of origin which define the persons. The Son is all that the Father is except Father.

It seems reasonable to say that it was suitable to the Son’s “nature” as Son (or more precisely, his relation of origin to the Father) that it was he who should become incarnate.

The Father sends the Son. The Son does not send the Father. It is tricky to say whether or not there is some kind of sending prior to the incarnation. Is this sending merely a temporal matter of the economy or is there something eternal here? Is there some sort of eternal “decision” that the Son will be sent? Again, the eternal God’s “decisions” would be rather different from our own since our deciding usually involves a process of deliberation.

Augustine speaks of the Son’s involvement in his own sending. The Father sends his Son by the Word such that the Father and the Son can be said to send the Son (De trin. ii.9, 103).

When we speak of the persons of the Trinity we are far from speaking of three people. To speak in this latter manner risks suggesting three gods. Simply to say that all three persons share the same nature is not necessarily sufficient to safeguard the unity of the Trinity since three men might be said to each share a human nature but there are still three men. Neither is it sufficient to safeguard the unity of the persons to say that they always agree. Again, we could imagine three men who did that.

Traditionally it has been argued that wills are a property of natures and not of persons. So the incarnate Christ has two natures, human and divine, each of which has a will. But there is only one divine will, which all three persons share, not three separate (but agreeing) wills. The persons are also traditionally understood to have one divine intellect. What exactly is meant by “persons” with reference to the Trinity, therefore, is hard to say.

Whilst the persons are identical apart from their relation of origins, perhaps it might be said that each of the persons possesses all of the divine attributes in a way that is conditioned by their relation of origins. The Son might be said to possess the divine will in a Sonly manner (though of course there can be no sense of the Son yielding to a different or superior will of the Father, since all three persons are equally wise and good and so on)? This might allow us to think of certain dispositions analogous to submission as existing between the divine persons.

If we accept the traditional view of the divine will outlined above, it is also hard to see that a Covenant of Redemption by which the divine persons agree that the Son would become incarnate would make sense. Or else it becomes a trivial point: of course the divine persons “agree” because they timelessly share one divine will.  

When Christ speaks in the gospels, he may be speaking according to his human nature or according to his divine nature. Some statements may apply only to the incarnate state. “God” might refer to one of the persons or to the Triune God.

No doubt there is much more to say which others have / can say much better than I can!

One Divine Will in the Trinity

D. Butner Jr. gives a number of examples of Fathers and later writers teaching that there is one divine will. I'm afraid the stamina is failing me for typing them all out accurately and fully, but here's a taste:

Gregory of Naziansus:

the passage [John 6:38] does not mean that the Son has a special will of His own, besides that of the Father, but that He has not; so that the meaning would be, "not to do Mine own Will, for there is none of Mine apart from, but that which is common to, Me and You; for as We have one Godhead, so We have one Will

Fourth Theological Oration (Oration 30), section 12


The will of the Father and of the Son is one, and their operation is inseprable. (The Trinity, II.5)

For Gregory of Nyssa in all Trinitarian action there is one motion and disposition of the good will which proceeds from the Father through the Son to the Spirit.  (Answer to Ablabis: Not Three Gods)

John of Damascus, An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith 1.8 argues that there is only one will in God. The persons are distinguished only by their relations of origin.

Gregory Palamas (see Butner, p139)

Anselm of Canterbury (see Butner, p140)

Hugh and Richard of St Victor (Butner, p141)

2nd Helvetic Confession (Butner, p142)

John Owen and William Ames (Butner, p142)

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Parish Magazine Item for July

It’s been excellent to see the installation of a number of publicly accessible defibrillators locally recently (in Bodle Street Green, Dallington, Rushlake Green, Cade Street and Broad Oak). Funds are currently being raised to place a cabinet in Warbleton. Although Rushlake Green and Punnetts Town might not seem very far away, I’m told that every moment counts towards the chances of someone who has had a cardiac arrest making a good recovery. Although training in how to use the machines is available, they talk you through what to do, so anyone should be able to operate them. They can also only be used if they detect that they are needed.  

In a way, we might say that the church’s primary mission has always been healthcare – but above all of a spiritual not a physical variety. Historically the church has often been at the forefront of caring for the literally sick and dying, for example, by founding hospitals or through nursing orders. But the Bible makes clear the priority of the soul over the body. Of course our physical existence matters greatly, but our spiritual life, which lasts for ever, is even more important.

Jesus implied that he is like a doctor who has come for the sick (Mark 2:17) – that is, for those who know their need of him and who are ready to admit that they are sinners. If we think we are spiritually healthy left to ourselves, Jesus will seem irrelevant to us, we will struggle to see the need of the cross. The incarnation was a rescue mission. Jesus would say that our situation is critical: we need emergency care and it is radical intervention, not a mere sticking plaster or a cosmetic treatment that he has in mind. All of us are spirit-sick sinners in need of the cure which Jesus offers. Without him, our prognosis is fatal because, the Bible says, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

The Christian diagnosis, then, is that we are not just spiritually a little off colour. According to the Scriptures, we all have a terminal heart condition. We are, to put it frankly, as the Apostle Paul does, spiritually dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:1). And it is no good telling a dead person to get a life! A dead person is, on their own, hopeless and helpless. We need someone to make them alive again. A resuscitation, or more accurately, a resurrection, is needed if we are to live.

This new spiritual life is exactly what Jesus offers. Sometimes people are dismissive of so-called “born again Christians” but the phrase comes directly from the teaching of Jesus. He told the eminent Jewish religious leader, Nicodemus, that he “must be born again” if he was to “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). The Bible teaches this new birth or regeneration elsewhere (1 Peter 1:3 & Titus 3:5). Even if we find the language unfamiliar, we must not miss the point that Jesus says that we each require radical inner transformation. The Spirit of God must breathe new life into our souls. All real Christians are born again Christians, though their conversion experience may not be a dramatic one.

According to the logic of the Scriptures, we can be confident that Jesus can give the new spiritual life which we need. In his earthly ministry, he literally raised the dead. He called himself “The Resurrection and The Life” (John 11:25) and his own rising from the dead showed his mastery over the grave. The risen Jesus would say, “I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and of Hades [that is, the place of the dead].” (Revelation 1:18). It is by faith in Jesus that he said we can pass over from death to life (John 5:24). This new eternal life is a spiritual reality in part now for those who trust in Jesus, but the eternal life which Jesus gives will also go on beyond death. This life is first spiritual, but it leads, at judgement day, to the resurrection and transformation of the body too.  

Perhaps when we see the defibrillators in our villages, we might think of the new life which Jesus offers.

Eternal Subordination of the Son? & Augustine

Keith E. Johnson, 'Trinitarian Agency and the Eternal subordination of the son: An Augustinian perspective' Themelios 36.1 (2011): 7–25

In a debate where there is sometimes name-calling and excessive heat, Johnson seems to attempt a careful and fair treatment of Augustine and those who have sought to enlist him in their cause.

Johnson argues that:

Augustine’s mature account of trinitarian agency involves two elements. on the one hand, the working of the Father, son, and Holy spirit is inseparably the work of the three ad extra. on the other hand, in this single act, the divine persons work according to their relative properties ad intra. The Father acts with the other divine persons according to his mode of being “from no one” (unbegotten). The son acts with the other divine persons according to his mode of being “from the Father” (generation). The spirit acts with the other divine persons according to his mode of being “from the Father and the son” (procession). Combining these two elements we might say that the divine persons act inseparably through the intra-trinitarian taxis: from the Father, through the son, in the Holy Spirit.


Augustine writes:

what we are saying may perhaps be easier to sort out if we put the question this way, crude though it is: in what manner did God send his son? did he tell him to come, giving him an order he complied with by coming, or did he ask him to, or did he merely suggest it? well, whichever way it was done, it was certainly done by word. But God’s word is his son. So when the Father sent him by word, what happened was that he was sent by the Father and his Word. Hence it is by the Father and the Son that the Son was sent, because the Son is the Father’s Word (De trin. ii.9, 103, emphasis mine).

"Inseparable action, therefore, intrinsically qualifies all the working of the Father and son, including the “sending” of the son by the Father. EFS proponents, therefore, misread Augustine when they sever his comments about the Father “sending” the son from Augustine’s unequivocal affirmation that the divine persons act inseparably."

Again, Augustine:

so it is that the invisible Father, together with the jointly invisible son, is said to have sent this son by making him visible” (De trin. ii.9, 103)

Johnson's conclusion is as follows:

"So where does Augustine stand on the EFs debate? we have seen that Augustine is misread by proponents and opponents of EFs alike. Moreover, important differences exist between Augustine’s trinitarian theology and the theology of some representatives on both sides in the debate. There is no evidence that Augustine believed that the hypostatic distinction between the Father and the son is constituted by eternal “authority” (on the part of the Father) and eternal “submission” (on the part of the son). to the contrary, this element of EFs is incompatible with his account of trinitarian agency. At the same time, Augustine does not explore the speculative question of whether any analogy might exist between the son’s filial mode of being eternally “from the Father” and his obedience to the Father in his state of humiliation."

He adds in a final footnote:

"Thomas Aquinas, who builds on Augustine’s trinitarian doctrine, does not explore this question either. several twentieth-century theologians, however, do explore this possibility. two notable examples include karl Barth and Hans Urs von Balthasar. Barth’s discussion of the eternal obedience of the son (see karl Barth, Church Dogmatics iv/1: The Doctrine of Reconciliation [trans. G. w. Bromiley; Edinburgh: t&t Clark, 1956], esp. 195–203) has been the subject of extensive debate. receiving almost no attention in the EFs debate, however, is an important Catholic contemporary of Barth, Hans Urs von Balthasar. von Balthasar’s theology is profoundly trinitarian and quite speculative at points (owing in part to the influence of the Catholic mystic, Adrienne von speyr). in his five-volume Theo-Drama, von Balthasar labors to show how key facets of the economy of salvation— especially the cross—are grounded in God’s immanent life. For example, von Balthasar claims that the economic self-emptying (kenosis) of the son in the incarnation reflects a kind of super-kenosis in the divine life in which the Father gives himself away wholly and without remainder in the begetting of the son. in relation to the present discussion, von Balthasar claims that the human obedience of Jesus reflects something fundamental about the son’s eternal relationship to the Father: “For [the son] simply expresses in the oikonomia what he has always expressed anew in the eternal, triune life: his complete readiness to carry out every one of the Father’s wishes” (Hans Urs von Balthasar, The Last Act, vol. 5 of Theo-Drama Theological Dramatic Theory [trans. Graham Harrison; san Francisco: ignatius, 1998], 513; see also 86–89). [Editor’s note: Cf. stephen M. Garrett, “The dazzling darkness of God’s triune Love: introducing Evangelicals to the Theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar,” Them 35 (2010): 413–30.]

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Doyle on the monarchy of the Father / eternal submission of the Son

I think all the orthodox would agree that there is an order amongst the persons of the Trinity. The Son is eternally begotten of the Father. The Spirit, on the Western understanding, proceeds from the Father and the Son. Whether or not the distinction between the persons goes beyond their eternal relation of origins or, to put it differently, what freight we should give to that relation, is, it seems to me rather trickier.

Critiquing the work of Kevin Giles, Robert Doyle quotes this on the monarchy of the Father from Athanasius:

[Against polytheism] For we must not think there is more than one ruler and maker of Creation: but it belongs to correct and true religion to believe that its Artificer is one … Who then might this Maker be? … the God we worship and preach is the only true One, Who is Lord of Creation and Maker of all existence. Who then is this, save the Father of Christ, most holy above all created existence, Who like an excellent pilot, by His own Wisdom and His own Word, our Lord and Saviour Christ, steers and preserves and orders all things, and does as seems to Him best?

Athanasius, Against the Heathen, paragraphs 39-40; emphasis mine. See also Against the Heathen, paragraphs 6-7; also Defence of the Nicene Council/[Definition], 26, 30-31; and On Luke 10.22.

He also cites Defence of the Nicene Council/[Definition], 30, On Luke, 4-5 and Defence of the Nicene Council/[Definition], 31, On Luke, 4-5. Doyle comments: "Note that here and in Athanasius’ wider writings the priority (that is, the order) of the person and work of the Father in defining who the Son is: from the Father to the Son; from the Father who is the monarch, the one ruler as well as the one origin. In this way, Athanasius recognizes the asymmetrical, yet mutually conditioning nature of the relations between Father and Son. By locating the monarchy in the Father, and his wielding of it through that which is also truly God, his very own Word, the Son, Athanasius keeps the Son and the Father as both truly God, and safeguards this differentiation in the one God from slipping into polytheism."

"In the immanent Trinity the roles and functions of Father and Son are not interchangeable, but permanent. The Son is Lord by sharing in his own way the monarchy of the Father who gives it to him."

"the Father cannot really be the eternal Father unless he has such an eternal Son, of the same substance as himself, and to whom he gives his authority. The Father does not hand over his authority to an agent who is his essential inferior. Further, if the Father is not the final locus of authority, how indeed can he really be a ‘father’? It is proper for the divine Father to ‘give’ and the divine Son to respond to that."

"Let me say it again: a careful reading of the texts referred to above shows that in Athanasius’ writings, the giving of authority to the Son by his Father belongs to the immanent Trinity, and not the economic alone."

"Augustine is absolutely insistent that in the eternal counsels and life of God, only the Father could ‘send’ and the Son be ‘sent’. ‘Sender’ and ‘sent’ are permanent roles or functions, not interchangeable. For the triune God to act truly according to his eternal being or essence, only the Father could be the Sender, and the Son the Sent One. In Augustine’s thought there is no possibility of these being interchangeable."

For Augustine "economic subordination does speak of the eternal relations, not just the one substance. Jesus states that, “the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing” (John 5:19ff). And in that way he—at least in the economy—is subordinating himself to the Father. Augustine, however, makes it clear that this economic relation is to be tied closely to the eternal relation. As related in eternity, so the Son operates on earth.
… that the work of the Father and the Son is inseparable [inseparabilis est operatio], and yet the Son’s working is from the Father just as the he himself is from the Father; and the way in which the Son sees the Father is simply by being the Son. For him, being from the Father, that is being born of the Father, is not something different from seeing the Father; nor is seeing him working something different from his working equally; and the reason he does not work of himself is that he does not (so to put it), be of himself … (On the Trinity, II.3)
For Augustine "The Father operates by the Son. The Father creates by the Son, and not vice versa. That is, the roles/functions/work are not interchangeable. This can be clearly seen in Augustine’s account of the missions: the Sending by the Father and the Being Sent by the Son.
It was not fitting that the Begetter be sent by his Son, but that the Son be sent by his Begetter. This is not inequality of substance, but the order of nature.19
The pattern seen in them is not arbitrary, but reflects the eternal relations.20 It is foolish, Augustine says, to think that the Son or the Spirit could send the Father.21 "

"Rahner strongly insists that the Father could not die. The roles/functions/operations of the Persons of the Trinity are not interchangeable, but eternal. What happened in the economy is rooted in the eternal differentiation of the three Persons. If every divine member of the Trinity could become man, become incarnate, that would ‘create havoc with theology’ and ‘be against the whole sense of holy Scripture’. Rahner also affirms that theincarnation reveals not only something about God generally (which we already knew anyway), but particularly about the Person of the Son or the Logos, “his own relative specific features within divinity”.27 Later, Rahner ties the obedience of the Son in the economy back into the immanent Trinity.28

For Barth "eternal relational subordination within the Trinity, and that it is necessary to salvation!30 The methodological point made by Barth, which is also that of Athanasius and Rahner (amongst others) is that unless the ordering in the relations we see in the economy actually witness to the relations in the immanent Trinity, then we are in fact not in touch with God himself. "

"Barth, in his thorough christological way, goes on to apply this to man-woman relationships...."33

Eternal Subordination of the Son? (Frame & Letham)

John Frame argues for what he says might be called "an eternal subordination of role" amongst members of the Trinity. "Both Eastern and Western thinkers have regularly affirmed that God the Father has some sort of primacy over the other two persons." (The Doctrine of God, P&R, 2002 p719) as fons deitatis (fountain of deity) or fons trinitatis (fountain of the Trinity) citing this as a central point in the theology of the Cappadocian fathers. (See Fortman, The Triune God, p76 and Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, p135).

Frame argues that the economic activities of the persons are analogous to their eternal relationships and that the forms of economic subordination suggest this pattern. "The Son and the Spirit are voluntarily subordinate to the commands of the Father, because that kind of subordination is appropriate to their eternal nature as persons." (p720)

See also John V. Dahmns, 'The Subordination of the Son', JETS 37 (1994): 351-64 and Stephen Kovack and Peter Schemm, 'A Defence of the Eternal Subordination of the Son' JETS 42 (1999): 461-76 and the bibliography in Grudem, ST, p251.

Frame also points to Gilbert Bilezikian, making the opposite egalitarian case in 'Hermeneutical Bungee-Jumping: Subordination in the Godhead' JETS 40 (1997):57-68

Responding to criticisms of him in Bilezikian's article, Robert Letham also argues for an order or taxis amongst the persons of the Trinity though he thinks the words hierarchy and subordination unhelpful (The Holy Trinity, P&R, 2004, p480). On p483 he describes it as an orderly disposition, rather than a matter of rank. It is akin to "a well-arranged constitution" (p491, citing Lampe, Patristic Greek Lexicon, 1372-3). "As Barth indicated, we can argue - with caution - that the submission displayed by the Son while securing our redemption reflects realities in God." (p483)

On p492, Letham points to Barth CD IV/1:192-205 for Christ's incarnate obedience suggesting an obedience in eternity.

Letham says that in On The Trinity 2.5.7-9, Augustine "expressly teaches that the Father sent the Son prior to the task about which the sending is concerned" (p483). "Eternal relations" are revealed here (p494)

Letham also points to Phil 2:5-11 as referring to "Christ's determination not to exploit his equality with God to his own advantage" as referring "to the situation prior to his incarnation." (p483).

Letham also cites Paul Rainbow, 'Orthodox Trinitarianism and Evangelical Feminism' -

Reviewing the work of Kevin Giles (The Trinity and Subordinationism), Letham agrees that "the phrase "the eternal subordination of the Son" is outside the boundaries of the tradition." (p490)

Letham also recommends Paul Molnar's "fine volume on the immanent Trinity", Divine Freedom and the Doctrine of the Immanent Trinity: In Dialogue with Karl Barth and Contemporary Theology (T&T Clark, 2002)

The Son - God from Himself (Calvin)

One of the things I would like to think about a little more when time and energy allow (perhaps on a rainy day in retirement) is Calvin's doctrine of the Son.

For Holmes, Calvin has "one distinctive emphasis... in stressing the autotheotic existence of the three hypostases. For Calvin, the Son is God of himself, not God by gift of the Father - similarly he Spirit. Calvin's argument is essentially that the fullness of deity possessed by the Son and Spirit must include aseity, and so that it is improper to speak of the Son's deity as derived from the Father. (Holmes, Quest for the Trinity, p169f).

Holmes says that Helm's John Calvin's Ideas is probably the best account of his doctrine of the Trinity. Sadly it is 40 quid for the Kindle version!!!

Also, Kurt A. Richardson, 'Calvin on the Trinity' in John Calvin and Evangelical Theology (ed. S. W. Chung)

Holmes also points to the then forthcoming book by Brannon Ellis, Calvin, Classical Trinitarianism, and the Aseity of the Son (OUP, 2012). That is a mere £66!

Mark Jones gives a useful clarification of Reformed thought on this subject here (proposition 11):

The Father communicates the whole Godhead to the Son, “for Essentiae communicatio facit omnia communia; the Godhead being Communicated by the Father, all things of the Godhead…only the distinction of the Persons excepted” (Goodwin). The classic Reformed position on the eternal generation of the Son includes the communication of the divine essence from the Father to the Son.  However, there is no generation of a new essence.  Hence, the Son’s deity, being communicated from the Father, is not derived from another essence, but is identical to the Father’s essence and therefore the Son is a se.  On this point, the majority position differs from Calvin’s. We may argue that although the Son is from the Father, he may still be called “God-of-himself,” that is, “not with respect to his person, but essence; not relatively as Son (for thus he is from the Father), but absolutely as God inasmuch as he has the divine essence existing from itself and not divided or produced from another essence (but not as having that essence from himself).  So the Son is God from himself although not the Son from himself” (Turretin). Turretin is making the distinction between aseitas personalis, a trinitarian heresy, and aseitas essentialis.

The Eternal Submission of the Son and Compementarianism

There is some discussion going on on the interweb (when isn't there?) about complementarianism (the relationship between men and women who are equal but different) and between the divine persons. Does the Son as Son eternally submit to the Father and so on?

As much as bookmarks for myself, here are some links (some blog posts, articles, books or sections therein):

Carl Trueman and Liam Goligher -

Liam Goligher (20/6/16), A Letter to Professors Grudem and Ware

Bruce Ware responding to Trueman and Goligher, God the Son--at once eternally God with His Father, and eternally Son of the Father

Trueman also responds to Ware

Trueman has added that he is not motivated by some kind of "feminism" or ecclesial agenda.

Trueman (21/6/16), Once more unto the breach... and then no more: A final reply to Dr. Grudem

Trueman, The Ecumenical Consequences of the Peace

Michael Bird comments on the above discussion 'The Coming War: Nicene Complementarians vs Homoian Complementarians'

Grudem (for EFS)

Grudem, Another Thirteen Evangelical Theologians Who Affirm the Eternal Submission of the Son to the Father

Bruce Ware's response, God the Son--at once eternally God with His Father, and eternally Son of the Father

Denny Burk (who argues for EFS) A brief response to Trueman and Goligher

Stephen Holmes' review of Bruce A. Ware and John B. Starke (eds), One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life (Wheaton: Crossway, 2015).

Fred Sander's response to the Holmes review, Generations Eternal and Current and also Sander's response to Ware and Starke (ed.s), God in Three Persons entitled Things Eternal: Sonship, Generation, Generatedness. Sanders also wrote on The Trinity in Gender Debates back in Oct 2012.

Sanders has written 18 Theses of the Father and the Son, which Michael Bird has commented on briefly.

Sanders reviews his writing on the Trinity relevant to this debate and gender issues - A Plain Account of Trinity and Gender

Mike Ovey has responded to Goligher, Should I resign? (Tom Watts discusses Maximus and the two wills of Christ in the comments)

Mike has also responded to Michael Bird, arguing that his position upholds a version of Homoousios similar to Hilary of Poitiers, not a Homoian theology: Can Michael Bird read my mind? Alas, it seems not

Mike Ovey also has a relevant new book out published by Latimer: Your Will Be Done: Exploring Eternal Subordination, Divine Monarchy and Divine Humility

Liam Goligher has responded to Mike Ovey.

Some of this goes back to Kevin Giles' work which Ian Paul discusses here.

Robert Doyle also reviews Kevin Giles in an article Doyle calls, "Use and abuse of the fathers and the Bible in trinitarian theology"

Keith E. Johnson, 'Trinitarian Agency and the Eternal subordination of the son: An Augustinian perspective' Themelios 36.1 (2011): 7–25

D. Glenn Butner Jn., 'Eternal Functional Subordination and the Problem of the Divine Will' JETS 58/1 (2015) 131-49. - argues that we should reject EFS as we should not think of the Son as having his own will but in sharing the divine will since wills are classically attributed to natures not persons in Trinitarian and Christological thought. He has also written Eternal Submission and the Story of the Seven Ecumenical Councils

Scott Swain on the covenant of redemption and orthodox Trinitarian theology (the question of the one divine will so how can the persons agree)

Scott Swain and Michael Allen, 'The Obedience of the Eternal Son' International Journal of Systematic Theology Volume 15, Issue 2, pages 114–134, April 2013 (requires access / payment) - a response to Barth, argues that the obedience of the eternal Son can be combined with a traditional Trinitarian theology.

The key section in Barth is Church Dogmatics IV.1 §59.1. Swain and Allen summarise Barth's proposal: "Son’s obedience to the Father in accomplishing the work of salvation is not merely a consequence of the humble existence he assumed in the incarnation but rather constitutes his opus proprium within the opera Trinitatis ad extra, the Son’s distinctive manner qua Son of executing God’s undivided saving will."

Michael Allen, ‘From the time he took on the form of a servant’: The Christ's Pilgrimage of Faith' IJOST Volume 16, Issue 1, pages 4–24, January 2014 (requires access / payment) - argues that the economic relations between Father and Son flow from their eternal relations.

Mark Thompson, 'Eternal Relational Subordination: Is there order in the Trinity?' - argues that ERS need not undermine an orthodox doctrine of the Trinity nor lead to Arianism

Michel R. Barnes and Lewis Ayres (interacting with Ware) have commented.

Owen Strachen (who argues for Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission, responds to Trueman and Goligher)

Mark Jones, Why Did The Son Become Incarnate? Because He Submitted?

And: God's Will and Eternal Submission Part 1: God's Will; Eternal Subordination of Wills? Nein! Part Two; Biblicism, Socinianism and "Arid" Scholasticism

Mark Jones has also written: Some Propositions on God, the divine essence, the Trinity, and the covenant of redemption and some questions for Fred Sanders

And: Subordination in the Pactum? (And the irony of ESS) - Owen on the divine will & Witsius

And: Wayne Grudem’s Historical Theology Analyzed

Andrew Wilson, Eternal Submission in the Trinity? A Quick Guide to the Debate - 10 questions involved in the discussion

Donald Macleod, Subordinationism (out of the blue) - rejects EFS

Alistair Roberts had written this before this round of exchanges irrupted, The Eternal Subordination of the Son, Social Trinitarianism, and Ectypal Theology

Alistair Roberts has also written: The Eternal Subordination of the Son Controversy: The Debate so Far

And also: The Eternal Subordination of the Son Controversy: Survey of Some Relevant Material

A brief comment from Douglas Wilson (a complementarian who does not hold to EFS), Being Careful on the Trinity

Andrew Moody on The Gospel Coalition Australia website: The Ordered Godhead: (1) Commending Nicea - defending the eternal generation of the Son

Andrew Moody & Mark Baddeley have continued the series with The Ordered Godhead: (2) The Beauty of Ordered Willing

Mark Baddeley, The Ordered Godhead: (3) Speaking of God… - seven reflections on the current debate on the legitimacy or otherwise of speaking of the eternal begetting of the Son and an eternal obedience of the Son to the Father

Stephen D. Kovach and Peter R. Schemm Jr., 'A Defence of the Doctrine of the Eternal Subordination of the Son' JETS 42 1999 461-76.

Jowers and House (ed.s), The New Evangelical Subordinationism? Perspectives on the Equality of God the Father and God the Son (Pickwick, 2012)

Daren O. Sumner, 'Obedience and Subordination in Karl Barth's Trinitarian Theology' (PDF) published in Advancing Trinitarian Theology: Essays in Constructive Dogmatics.  Edited by Oliver D. Crisp and Fred Sanders.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014

Sumner has also blogged: What Is the Immanent Trinity? A Clarification for the Eternal Subordination Debate

Paul Helm on Warfield's doctrine of the Trinity

Peter Leithart, Are The Divine Persons Persons? (discusses the divine will(s!))

John Stevens, Are We All Heretics Now? Reflections On The Furore About Eternal Subordination Within The Trinity

Matthew Barrett, Better late than never: The Covenant of Redemption and the Trinity Debates

Gleaned from The Face Book:

Jim Packer on "the entire submission of the Son to the Father’s will” says: "It is the nature of the second person of the Trinity to acknowledge the authority and submit to the good pleasure of the first. That is why He declares Himself to be the Son, and the first person to be His Father. Though co-equal with the Father in eternity, power, and glory, it is natural to Him to play the Son’s part, and find all His joy in doing His Father’s will, just as it is natural to the person of the Trinity to plan and initiate the works of the Godhead and natural to the third person to proceed from the Father and the Son to do their joint bidding. Thus the obedience of the God-man to the Father while He was on earth was not a new relationship occasioned by the incarnation, but the continuation in time of the eternal relationship between the Son and the Father in heaven. As in heaven, so on earth, the Son was utterly dependent upon the Father’s will.” — JI Packer, Knowing God (chapter 5).

John Owen: "the will of God in each person, as to the peculiar acts ascribed unto him, is his will therein peculiarly and eminently, though not exclusively to the other persons, by reason of their mutual in-being. The will of God as to the peculiar actings of the Father in this matter is the will of the Father, and the will of God with... regard unto the peculiar actings of the Son is the will of the Son; not by a distinction of sundry wills, but by the distinct application of the same will unto its distinct acts in the persons of the Father and the Son.” — Commentary on Hebrews (Banner edition 2:88)

Wilhelmus a Brakel: "The Christian's Reasonable Service" Volume 1, p252. - "Since the Father and the Son are one in essence and thus have one will and one objective, how can there possibly be a covenant transaction between the two, as such a transaction requires the mutual involvement of two wills? Are we then not separating the Persons of the Godhead too much? To this I reply that as far as Personhood is concerned the Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father. From this consideration the one divine will can be viewed from a twofold perspective. It is the Father‟s will to redeem by the agency of the second Person as Surety, and it is the will of the Son to redeem by His own agency as Surety." available at

Peter Lombard (1100-1160):  “And so the Father is not said to have sent the Son and the Holy Spirit because he is greater and they are lesser, but especially for the commendation of the authority of [the Father’s role as] the beginning.” Sentences, Book 1, Distinction 15.  (“Non ergo ideo dicitur Pater misisse Filium vel Spiritum sanctum, quod ille esset major, et illi minores; sed maxima propter auctoritatem principii commendandam.") cf. Augustine's De Trinitate, Book 4, chapter 21, section 32

(There is a list of sources similar to the above (in chronological order of their appearing) at:

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Help from Stephen Holmes on the will of the Son

I have recently been pondering the patristic and classical consensus that the eternal Son does not have his own will. Rather, each of the divine persons shares the same divine will (and wisdom and power and so on). This of course has a bearing on if and how the Son (as Son) submits to the Father since what sense does it make to say that the Son submits to the Father if he does not have his own will? If you hold to a Covenant of Redemption by which the members of the Trinity agree that the Son will become incarnate to save the world, what would this look like if the Persons do not have their own wills?

It was with this question in mind that I read Stephen Holmes, The Quest for the Trinity: The Doctrine of God in Scripture, History and Modernity (IVP Academic, 2012) and I wanted to capture here the material most relevant to the issue.

Justin Martyr calls the Logos “a second God” but qualifies this by saying that he is distinct in number not in will p61 citing Dial. 56

According to Tertullian, the divine monarch is not compromised by the existence of the Son, since the Father and Son share one will and intention (Prax. 4, citing Jn 5:19) p70f

For Origen, the Son is the perfect image of the Father. Every quality of which he is possessed is identical with that possessed by the Father…. This even applies to mental faculties, if God may be spoken of in these terms. So against Celsus Origen insists that the Father and the Son share the same mind, speak with one voice, and are one “in the identity of their wills”.  (Cels. 8.12) p77

Gregory of Nazianzus – the three “are not sundered in will or divided in power” (Or. 31.14) p115

John of Damascus, Holmes says, “sums up the received doctrine of the Trinity in the mid-eight century” and “no serious scholar has disputed this to my knowledge”. The three “having the same essence and energy and will and concord of mind… I do not say similar but identical – and then movement by one impulse. For there is one essence, one goodness, one power, one will… one and the same, I repeat, not three resembling each other.” De fid. Orth. Ch 8. P120

“East and West alike are united in insisting on the unity of the divine will and knowledge” (p145)

See also p173 on Biddle

Though Charles Hodge “seemingly unwittingly” “accepts a redefinition of the word ‘person’” “he holds to the singularity of the divine intellect and will” (p191)
On Dorner and the turn to the person see p194f on self-determination and volition as important aspects of modern understanding of personhood but problematic when applied to the Persons