Archive | Theology/Bible

Fred Sanders on the obedience of the Son

Russell Moore recently said that Fred Sanders is a gift to the church. I couldn’t agree more. Sanders wrote a review last year of a collection of essays on the Trinity edited by Bruce Ware and John Starke. He closes his review with a brilliant summary of the obedience of the eternal Son. He writes:

What’s eternal, and essential to the divine being, is Sonship, which means eternal generation and the filial generatedness that it entails. Is the obedience of the Son’s will to the Father’s commanding authority also eternal? That seems to me to be a fairly small question, and also one that needs an answer so nuanced it’s practically a change of subject.

There is, in the relations of origin of the triune God, an irreversible taxis to which the obedience of the incarnate Christ corresponds in human form. It’s an eternal procession that reaches its strangely logical final conclusion in the sending of the Son. As for his submission to the Father, I don’t know what they call it in the happy land of the Trinity, but when it lives among us it is rightly named obedience.

This is another way of saying (I think) what Swain and Allen said in the article I wrote about yesterday. It also happens to be the perspective reflected in some of the essays in the book. I think there is much more common ground here than some of the recent controversy would indicate. I hope parties to this debate will see that (Psalm 133:1).

I mentioned this yesterday, but I think it worth saying again that Sanders has an important volume forthcoming from Zondervan on the Trinity: The Triune God. The release date is December 6, but it is available for pre-order now.

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The Obedience of the Eternal Son

Over the weekend, a friend sent me a copy of the 2013 article “The Obedience of the Eternal Son” by Scott Swain and Michael Allen. I want to commend this essay to anyone who has been following the recent debate about intratrinitarian relations. I also want to warn you that this is not light reading, and I may lose all but the specialists in what follows. Having said that, this article is worth your time to ponder and understand for the current discussion.

I’m not going to summarize the whole article, but I will give you its thesis and highlight a handful of other passages. Here’s the thesis: Continue Reading →

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A brief response to Trueman and Goligher

Recently, Carl Trueman and Liam Goligher have published a series of very serious accusations against those who affirm an eternal relation of authority and submission among the Trinitarian persons. Goligher in particular says that the view is heresy and idolatry. He identifies Wayne Grudem by name as guilty of this supposed error, but of course the accusation implicates Bruce Ware and a host of others who hold to this view as well (including yours truly).

Today, both Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware have issued very helpful responses to these “false” and “intemperate accusations” of heterodoxy. I recommend that you read both of them. They prove that the accusations leveled by Trueman and Goligher are unwarranted and misleading. They also show that Trueman and Goligher have misrepresented the view held by Grudem and Ware.

I have very little to add to what Grudem and Ware have written. Their essays are very well done. Nevertheless, I thought a handful of additional remarks might be in order: Continue Reading →

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Do not destroy… Let them fall into the pit that they dug for me

At my church this morning, Pastor Jim Hamilton preached an excellent message from Psalms 56-57. If you have a chance to listen, I commend it to you. You can download it here or listen below.

I also recommend a version of Psalm 57 that a band called The Critics put to music. I actually love this song. It’s called “Do Not Destroy,” which is a line from the superscription of the Psalm: “To the choirmaster: according to Do Not Destroy. A Miktam of David, when he fled from Saul, in the cave.”

You can listen to the song above or download it here.

God loves you. We love you. Tell us what it’s like to be you.

Andrew Wilson recently preached a message at King’s Church Eastbourne on “Transgender and Intersex.” His text is Matthew 19:1-12, and he does a faithful job with it. He is a really fantastic communicator, and he clearly sets forth the teaching of scripture and how it applies to our thinking about transgender and intersex.

This message is not mainly polemical but pastoral. I like his line about how we ought to communicate with those wrestling with gender identity issues: “God loves you. We love you. Tell us what it’s like to be you.” Of course there’s more to say than that, but we certainly shouldn’t be saying less than that, right?

On a related note, Andrew also participated in a podcast discussion with Megan Defranza about her book on intersex. You can listen below.

At one point during the discussion, Andrew asks Defranza a pointed question. He presses her to explain how her views on intersex challenge a more conservative reading of scripture. I’m not sure that she ever answers his question directly. If I were to characterize the challenge her book brings, I would do it this way.

Conservative evangelicals have argued that the “givenness” of the male/female binary is the basis for the givenness of the gender role distinctions. Defranza believes that intersex persons prove that the male/female binary is not a “given.” In other words, the male/female binary of Genesis 1 and Matthew 19 is no norm at all. One implication of this view is that evangelical Christians can and should embrace transgender identities as normal and good.

As I have said before, the revision that she proposes is a theological earthquake and completely at odds with what the Bible teaches.

I am grateful for Andrew’s willingness to address these issues with clarity and pastoral concern. More pastors need to be doing the same.

What does the Bible teach about homosexual desire and identity?

Heath Lambert and I did a series of interviews with Family Life Today about our book Transforming Homosexuality. For many of you readers, the content of our book is no mystery. Still, in these recent discussions we do go into a little more depth. Dennis Rainey and Bob Lepine are great interviewers, and they are pros at teasing-out the practical implications of things.

One of the things that comes out in these interviews is how much this book applies to all people. Yes, we are trying to ask and answer pressing questions about homosexuality. But in doing so, we are really just talking about the way sin and desire work inside all people—including us.

All of us—gay, straight, or otherwise—have deeply ingrained desires that are contrary to God’s will for us. In that sense, Christians have far more in common with our gay neighbors than perhaps we have previously recognized. We all stand in need of the transforming grace of God, and that is exactly what the gospel offers us.

The interview is in three parts and will be airing over the next three days on radio stations across the country. Family Life has already posted the series to its website, and you can listen or download them there. You can access them as well at the Family Life Podcast. Finally, you can listen or download below. Continue Reading →

Are you a closet annihilationist?

National Geographichttp://www.dennyburk.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/030916_0459_IsHellrealD1.png has an interesting article on the doctrine of Hell. Chris Date, Preston Sprinkle, Clark Pinnock, and Edward Fudge are all quoted in the piece. The gist of it is that evangelical belief in the traditional doctrine of hell is in decline.

Over the last 20 years, the number of Americans who believe in the fiery down under has dropped from 71 percent to 58 percent. Heaven, by contrast, fares much better and, among Christians, remains an almost universally accepted concept…

Annihilationsists believe they have already made significant inroads within the evangelical community.

“My prediction is that, even within conservative evangelical circles, the annihilation view of hell will be the dominant view in 10 or 15 years,” says Preston Sprinkle, who co-authored the book Erasing Hell, which, in 2011, debuted at number three on the New York Times bestseller list. “I base that on how many well-known pastors secretly hold that view. I think that we are at a time and place when there is a growing suspicion of adopting tradition for the sake of tradition.”

Four thoughts about this: Continue Reading →

Complementarianism: A quick observation about where we’ve been and where we’re going

I was just reading Joe Carter’s explainer on the Justice Department’s recent warning to North Carolina concerning their “bathroom law.” (By the way, Carter’s explainers are always excellent and helpful. Don’t miss them.) He shows that the Justice Department’s redefinition of “sex” is unprecedented and actually will do harm to real women. In his conclusion, Carter makes an observation worth noting:

This is why complementarianism is not merely about “submission” within the family. It’s also about protecting women from a culture that worships male power and disdains femininity, and has no qualms about using the LGBTQIA movement to codify advantages for men into the law.

I think Joe is right about this, and there is a smiling providence that we would do well to acknowledge. The complementarian vision was forged in an intra-evangelical conflict over the role of women in ministry. Ultimately, it involved issues of authority and leadership in both the church and the home. In the late 80’s and 90’s when evangelical theologians began to produce a body of work to articulate and defend the complementarian position, no one could have anticipated how important this work would be for the controversies we are now facing. Continue Reading →

Is disagreement about homosexuality an “intra-evangelical” discussion?

Zondervan will be releasing later this year a new book on homosexuality in their Counterpoints series—a series I appreciate and have recently contributed to. This new volume features two writers who believe homosexuality is not sinful and two writers who do. I have not read this book yet, but I am eager to see it as soon as it is available. Having said that, here are a few things to be watching for:

1. Framing Sexual Immorality as an Evangelical Option – The publisher’s description has a section that caught my eye:

Until recently most books fit neatly into two camps: non-affirming books were written by evangelicals and affirming books by non-evangelicals. Today, this divide no longer exists. Recent books written by evangelicals appeal to the authority and inspiration of Scripture as they argue for an affirming view. The question of what the Bible says about homosexuality is now an intra-evangelical discussion.

Again, I have not read this book yet. But the publisher says this book frames the discussion as an intra-evangelical dialog. This seems to suggest that one can be an evangelical Christian while affirming sexual immorality as a moral good. It seems to suggest that homosexuality is an issue over which faithful evangelicals can have disagreement and nevertheless still be considered evangelical. If the publisher’s copy is indeed borne-out in the book, that would be a whole new departure in evangelical works on this topic. It would not be a middle-of-the-road view. Framing the issue that way would give the “affirming” side what they always wanted. If not total agreement, it at least acknowledges that their views are within the pale. Such an impression would be quite misleading, but it is the impression left by the publisher’s description.

2. Are there enough views represented? – In the book Heath Lambert and I recently wrote, we identify at least four different “views” on the question of homosexuality: liberal, revisionist, neo-traditional, and traditional. This classification is important in our view because the Bible’s teaching is the central issue, not whether one is construed as “affirming” or “non-affirming” according to some non-biblical standard. Differences on this issue revolve around biblical authority and willingness to adopt revisionist readings. Additionally, the Bible’s teaching on sexual orientation is also at the center of this conflict. Both sides of the “intra-evangelical” debate affirm the Bible’s authority and its prohibition on homosexual behavior. The “intra-evangelical” debate between neo-traditionalists and traditionalists concerns the ethics of sexual orientation. Neither the liberal nor the revisionist approach can be in any way labelled as faithfully Christian, much less evangelical. The former denies the authority of scripture outright, and the latter denies it by distorting its message beyond recognition. In any case, these are meaningful distinctions, and as far as I can tell there is no one representing the “traditional” view in this volume.

3. “Affirming” vs. “Non-Affirming” – Related to the above, I am persuaded that the labels “affirming” and “non-affirming” frame the issue in a way that is already biased against what the church has always believed about homosexuality. When the labels are applied to questions of human identity, they sound as if one group likes gay people and the other doesn’t. The label “non-affirming” seems to imply animus against same-sex attracted people, while “affirming” seems to suggest openness and grace. This is an unfair and misleading way to frame this discussion, and it certainly is not a framing that originates with this book. Maybe this book will make better use of the terms than I have seen elsewhere, but I am obviously skeptical about that.

In any case, the book releases in November. Stay tuned.

Some reflections on a church that has recently embraced egalitarianism

Last night I watched Pastor Pete Briscoe give his rationale for leading his church to welcome female elders to their leadership structure (see above). Briscoe pastors Bent Tree Bible Fellowship, a large congregation in the metro area of Dallas, Texas. His sermon amounts to a recitation of long-standing egalitarian readings of scripture. I admire that Briscoe and the elders made a public presentation of the decision and their justification for it. They have laid their cards on the table, and that is a good thing. But I still think their reasoning is flawed on many points. I am not going to give a point-by-point rebuttal. That would go beyond what is feasible in a single blog post. I would simply highlight three concerns that I think are salient in this particular case. Continue Reading →

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