(how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference)

Is the “eternal generation of the Son” a biblical idea? Part 1

As much out of morbid curiosity as anything, I have been following the intra-Reformed debate over the eternal subordination of the Son rather closely. Posts, counter-posts and counter-counter-posts from some hard-hitting theologians have been proliferating at a great rate. For no very good reason—this is not a topic I would normally have much time for—I have been keeping a list of contributions here. The tally is currently 23, but it certainly is not exhaustive and may well go up. I get the impression that the non-subordinationists are coming out on top, but that may be because I am relying too heavily on Scot McKnight’s updates.

Trinity, subordination and narrative in Hebrews 1:1-2

Following on from yesterday’s piece on “The subordination of the Son, and why it has nothing to do with gender”….

In response to accusations that his subordinationist Trinitarianism is a departure from orthodoxy Bruce Ware, who is Professor of Christian Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, has published a defence, firmly repudiating the charges. Fair enough. My interest is not in the theological dispute per se but in how it mangles scripture.

The subordination of the Son, and why it has nothing to do with gender

There has been a furious flurry of posts (see below) from various directions this week laying into the argument of some neo-Calvinists (Wayne Grudem prominent among them) that the eternal subordination of the woman to the man is directly underpinned by the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father. I don’t want to get into the Trinitarian debate here, though I might mention a piece I wrote a couple of years back on subordination, Trinity and gender, if anyone’s interested. But I would venture to suggest that the theological subordinationists are on firmer biblical ground than the theological egalitarians. Up to a point.

Craig Keener and the fallacy of mutual submission

Craig Keener, who certainly knows a thing or two, has written a piece on Jesus Creed reaffirming the common egalitarian argument that Paul prefaces the instructions to husbands and wives in Ephesians 5:22-33 with an exhortation to mutual submission. I count myself a dyed-in-the-wool egalitarian, but I am still not convinced that this interpretation is exegetically defensible.

We get off to a rather disconcerting start with Keener’s argument that Paul expected masters to obey their servants. How does that work? Well, Paul tells slaves to obey their masters in Ephesians 6:5 and then in verse 9 says that masters should “do the same to them”. In Keener’s view Paul has “expressed one of the most radically antislavery sentiments of his day”.

What must the church become? Narrative and praxis

An opinion piece in the Guardian last week asked, “Is the end of western Christianity in sight?” On the strength of the most recent British Social Attitudes data the article asserted that “No religion” is now by far the largest self-identification in England and Wales, that the mainstream churches are failing to make converts, that religion has come to stand for the opposite of freedom, especially sexual freedom, that it is “hard to see a route back for normative Christianity”, and perhaps surprisingly that human rights “could become vulnerable in an entirely post-Christian environment where the collective memory slips from the old moorings inherited from Christian ethics”.

The world is changing. The Archbishop of Canterbury may be right in thinking that the tide is turning in this country, that the church is entering a new spring at last. He may not be right. Either way, it’s unlikely that the future will be business as usual. New wine always needs new wineskins. Here are some thoughts on narrative and praxis as we walk nervously into the unknown.

Apocalyptic-Inflationism and new creation

Keen to avoid being condemned for the “heresy” of Apocalyptic-Inflationism and to “maintain narrative orthodoxy”, James asks what he should do with passages such as Revelation 21:3-5:

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev 21:3–5)

Theological heresy and narrative-historical heresy

In his Christian Theology: An Introduction Alister McGrath discusses the taxonomy of “natural heresies” outlined by Schleiermacher in The Christian Faith (147-49). Here is the gist of the argument.

1. The essence or basic principle of Christianity is that God has redeemed us through Jesus Christ.

2. The rejection of this principle is the rejection of Christianity itself. “In other words, to deny that God has redeemed us through Jesus Christ is to deny the most fundamental truth claim which the Christian faith dares to make.”

Blessed are the narrative-historical interpreters: preaching the Beatitudes

We had a very good sermon on the Beatitudes yesterday. It did not sentimentalise the passage. It paid attention to the literary form. It was sensitive to language. It warned against careless application to our own context. But it made the assumption that this was generally relevant ethical-religious teaching: some care needs to be taken over translation, but Jesus is speaking as much to us as to his first century audience. I don’t think we should make that assumption.

Theology and history: on totally different wave lengths

I have had quite a lengthy conversation here with Bobby Grow following on from my random review posts about Samuel V. Adams’ book The Reality of God and Historical Method: Apocalyptic Theology in Conversation with N. T. Wright. The conversation was basically a dispute, a little testy in places, about whether the interpretation of scripture needs to be predetermined by theological ideas about the epistemologically prior revelation of God in Christ developed by the later church.

Grow has reached the conclusion—rightly I think—that we are “on totally different wave lengths” and appears to have withdrawn from the conversation; and who can blame him? I express my thanks for his substantial contribution. But I thought it might be worth reviewing and summarising briefly what appear to me to have been the main areas of disagreement.

Samuel V. Adams and Paul’s “apocalypse of Jesus Christ”

I think I’m getting to the bottom of Samuel V. Adams’ excellent, invigorating, complex, stimulating and—in my view—flawed critique of N.T. Wright’s historical methodology.

History and theology have given us two different ways of understanding “apocalyptic”. When historians such as Wright use the term, what they have in mind principally is a body of literature, mostly of Palestinian Jewish origin, dating from roughly 300 BC to the early second century AD, which furnished, among other things, supernaturally revealed narratives of hope for Jews suffering Greek and Roman oppression. The corpus consists of texts such as Daniel, Jubilees, 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, 2 Baruch, the Sibylline Oracles, the Testament of Levi, or parts thereof. Some of the Qumran literature has a distinctly apocalyptic colouring.


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