Our Advent Calendar Tradition

Like many of you, my wife and I are trying to cultivate Christ-centered traditions in our household. And that is no less true during the Christmas season. I thought I would share one thing that we do that some of you readers might wish to incorporate into your family traditions—an advent calendar.

We like the advent calendars because they are about advent—the first coming of Christ in fulfillment of God’s promises. Advent calendars are a way to mark every day of the Christmas season with that singular focus. In our house, the tradition is very simple. Beginning on December 1, we read a daily verse of scripture pertaining to advent season. I will say a few words of instruction about the verse (very short!). After the reading, the children take turns opening that day’s door on the calendar. Our calendar is a manger scene. For every figure in the manger scene, my wife and I briefly explain who they are and why they are important. Continue Reading →

Deep in the Weeds on MONOGENES and Eternal Generation

Last summer, I did something that I had never taken the time to do before. I read the Nicene Creed in Greek. Of course I was very familiar with the English version of the Creed before then, but not so much the Greek. One thing that is clear in the Greek is that the Nicene fathers were interpreting scriptural terms in saying that Jesus is the “only begotten” (MONOGENES) and “begotten not made” (GENNAO). These terms derive from John’s writings, and the Creed clearly interprets MONOGENES to denote “generation” or “begottenness.”

That the Son is “begotten not made” and “begotten before all ages” means that the Son’s “only-begottenness” is eternal. Thus the doctrine of eternal generation emerges in the Creed not only as the church’s confession but also as an interpretation of specific biblical texts (John 1:14; 1:18; 3:16; 1 John 4:9). To be sure, the doctrine of eternal generation has a broad biblical basis and does not rely solely on MONOGENES. Nevertheless, the Nicene Fathers feature MONOGENES in the Creed as an exegetical linchpin for the doctrine. Continue Reading →

Why churches might need to excommunicate “affirming” members of the congregation

Andrew Wilson has a really good article this morning about non-affirming Christians who affirm the Christian bona fides of affirming Christians. Wilson is interacting with Steve Holmes and Alan Jacobs on this point. Both Holmes and Jacobs claim that affirming homosexual relationships is an error, but not one that should call into question the authenticity of someone’s Christian faith. Andrew makes a number of good points in response to this claim, and I would like to add some more here.

The question before us is whether gay-affirming sexual ethics are a first order issue or a second order issue. Is it an issue that distinguishes Christian from Christian (like baptism)? Or is it an issue that distinguishes Christian from non-Christian (like the deity of Christ)? Holmes and Jacobs are both arguing that the “affirming” position is an error but not one that sets someone outside of Christianity. In other words, it’s more like a difference over baptism than a difference over the deity of Christ. Holmes writes: Continue Reading →

Lee Irons has posted a summary of his unpublished paper on MONOGENES

Just a quick follow-up on my last post. Lee Irons has posted a summary of his unpublished paper at The Gospel Coalition website. Obviously, there is much more to his argument than what is included in a single blog post. Still, you can see the broad outlines of his work there.

I should also mention that the paper that convinced Grudem to change his view is nearly two years old. Lee has collected even more evidence and data since 2014, and the case for “only-begotten” has gotten even more compelling as a result. The results of that research will appear in a forthcoming volume edited by Fred Sanders and Scott Swain, Retrieving Eternal Generation (Zondervan, 2017). Continue Reading →

A Note on the Trinity Debate at ETS

Image result for evangelical theological societyI attended the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) last week in San Antonio. There was much that happened there, but of course the focus of much attention was the conference theme—the Trinity. For me, the most significant thing that happened was on day one in the session that featured Kevin Giles, Bruce Ware, Millard Erickson, and Wayne Grudem. While the plenary addresses tended not to address the EFS controversy, this particular session confronted it head-on.

The debate was direct and even heated at times, especially in the panel discussion. But in my view the most important thing that happened was Ware’s and Grudem’s unambiguous affirmation of eternal generation. Before now, neither of them had outright rejected the doctrine, but they had questioned its biblical basis. Grudem in particular has an entire appendix in his Sytematic Theology arguing that the term MONOGENES does not mean “begotten.” Ware and Grudem both revealed that they are now persuaded that the Bible teaches the doctrine, and that the eternal relations of origin constitute the personal distinctions between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Continue Reading →

The Doctrine of the Trinity and Complementarianism in Recent Discussions

Reformed Theological Seminary held a conference last weekend on the Trinity. The speakers include my colleague from Southern Seminary Michael Haykin as well as Scott Swain, Ligon Duncan, and D. Blair Smith. The audio from the sessions is now online.

I look forward to listening to all of them, but I can already recommend to you Ligon Duncan’s message, which I just finished this morning. It is really wide-ranging and addresses head-on recent controversies. It is titled “The Doctrine of the Trinity and Complementarianism in Recent Discussions.”

Here are links to the other messages:

Trump is not with social conservatives on gay marriage, but we already knew that.

“60 Minutes” aired an interview earlier this evening with President-elect Donald Trump. It was wide-ranging, but I want to focus attention on two items dealing with abortion, gay marriage, and the Supreme Court. Trump’s response to questions on these topics is not encouraging for those of us who believe in the transcendent nature of these particular issues. You can read the exchange about abortion in the following excerpt from a transcript:

Lesley Stahl: One of the things you’re going to obviously get an opportunity to do, is name someone to the Supreme Court. And I assume you’ll do that quickly?

Donald Trump: Yes. Very important.

Lesley Stahl: During the campaign, you said that you would appoint justices who were against abortion rights. Will you appoint– are you looking to appoint a justice who wants to overturn Roe v. Wade?

Donald Trump: So look, here’s what’s going to happen– I’m going to– I’m pro-life. The judges will be pro-life. They’ll be very—

Lesley Stahl: But what about overturning this law–

Donald Trump: Well, there are a couple of things. They’ll be pro-life, they’ll be– in terms of the whole gun situation, we know the Second Amendment and everybody’s talking about the Second Amendment and they’re trying to dice it up and change it, they’re going to be very pro-Second Amendment. But having to do with abortion if it ever were overturned, it would go back to the states. So it would go back to the states and–

Lesley Stahl: Yeah, but then some women won’t be able to get an abortion?

Donald Trump: No, it’ll go back to the states.

Lesley Stahl: By state—no some —

Donald Trump: Yeah.

Donald Trump: Yeah, well, they’ll perhaps have to go, they’ll have to go to another state.

Lesley Stahl: And that’s OK?

Donald Trump: Well, we’ll see what happens. It’s got a long way to go, just so you understand. That has a long, long way to go.

Even though Trump clearly wants to appoint Justices to overturn Roe v. Wade, it appears that Trump can’t bring himself to state what is plainly the view of pro-lifers. We are in fact trying to end abortion-on-demand, and that does mean passing laws that will lead to some women not being able to access abortions. That is certainly a controversial view, but it is not a difficult one to understand. It is the pro-life view, and that Trump cannot find the words to say as much is telling.

Moreover, when asked if he’s okay for women to get abortions in states that make it legal, he punts. He doesn’t say whether he would support that or not. All of this adds up to one conclusion. Trump does not have a consistent and coherent pro-life point of view, and that is a huge problem for those of us who put the sanctity of human life as the most important concern.

Here is the exchange on gay marriage.

Lesley Stahl: One of the groups that’s expressing fear are the LGBTQ group. You–

Donald Trump: And yet I mentioned them at the Republican National Convention. And–

Lesley Stahl: You did.

Donald Trump: Everybody said, “That was so great.” I have been, you know, I’ve been-a supporter.

Lesley Stahl: Well, I guess the issue for them is marriage equality. Do you support marriage equality?

Donald Trump: It– it’s irrelevant because it was already settled. It’s law. It was settled in the Supreme Court. I mean it’s done.

Lesley Stahl: So even if you appoint a judge that–

Donald Trump: It’s done. It– you have– these cases have gone to the Supreme Court. They’ve been settled. And, I’m fine with that.

Notice what Trump does here. He dodges the direct question about whether or not he supports gay marriage. Rather, he says that the Supreme Court has settled the issue and therefore his views on the matter are irrelevant. When Stahl points out that he will appoint judges that can overturn the Supreme Court’s gay marriage decision, Trump says that Obergefell is “settled” law and that he’s “fine” with how the Supreme Court settled it.

Did you catch the difference between the abortion answer and the gay marriage answer? When it comes to abortion, Trump wants to appoint judges that will overturn Roe v. Wade. Even though Roe is “settled” law, Trump favors overturning it. Yet on marriage, Trump is unwilling to oppose this “settled” law. Why? Why would Trump be willing to appoint justices to overturn Roe but not to overturn Obergefell? The reason is really simple. These issues that drive social conservatives are not issues that he cares about.

Joe Scarborough warned social conservatives in July that Trump is not with them on gay marriage. Scarborough says,

It really speaks to Donald Trump’s worldview that he hasn’t really shown during the primary campaign… Social conservatives, if Trump is elected, duck because he’s not on your side on these issues. It’s not like this is the first time we’ve been saying that. He does not care. He has a more open view, and certainly he’s more in line at least with millennial voters and with an awful lot of voters. So that wasn’t a real surprise to any of us that know Donald. It may be a surprise, though, to Jerry Falwell Juniors that go out and say certain things…

Bottom Line: Donald Trump is not a social conservative, and he doesn’t behave like one. And he’s not going to govern like one either.

The Evangelical Theological Society and the Trinity

It is that time of year when all of us Bible nerds relocate ourselves to a non-undisclosed location in order to debate with each other about theology and stuff. This year, the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) will be held in San Antonio, Texas. And the theme is on the Trinity. One might think that this theme emerged in response to the trinity controversy over the summer, but that would be mistaken. This theme was decided long before that. Our topic for the week was entirely coordinated by a smiling Providence. Among the highlights from the program:

  • Millard J. Erickson, “Language, Logic, and Trinity: An Analysis of Recent Subordination Arguments”
  • Bruce A Ware, “The Nature of the Priority of the Father within the Trinity: Biblical Basis and Importance”
  • Wayne Grudem, “Why a Denial of the Son’s Eternal Submission Threatens both the Trinity and the Bible”
  • Kevin Giles, “The Book, One God in Three Persons, a Critical Review”

The Plenary addresses will feature:

  • Fred Sanders, “Evangelical Trinitarianism and the Unity of the Theological Disciplines”
  • Gerald R. McDermott, “How the Trinity Should Govern Our Approach to World Religions”
  • Scott R. Swain, “The Bible and the Trinity in Recent Thought: Review, Analysis, and Constructive Proposal”

I will be moderating a session on transgenderism. It’s one of the sessions not dealing with the main theme, but it is nonetheless timely. I invite anyone attending the annual meeting to join us as we consider “An Evangelical Appraisal of Transgenderism and Gender Dysphoria.” Our session meets on Tuesday morning, 9:00 AM – 12:10 PM, in Hyatt – Lone Star Salon A. Here’s the program:

  • Owen Strachan, “The Clarity of Complementarity: Transgender in Moral & Theological Perspective”
  • Preston Sprinkle, “A Biblically Compassionate Response to Transgender Persons”
  • R. Albert Mohler, “Understanding the Transgender Revolution in the West”
  • Panel Discussion, Denny Burk (moderator), Owen Strachan, Preston Sprinkle, R. Albert Mohler

Hope to see you there.

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