Opening Statements for the Trinity Debate on This Thursday, October 9

In working with the Henry Center, I get to work on events that bless and strengthen the faith and witness of the church.  This Thursday, October 9th at 7pm at TEDS we’re hosting such an event, a debate featuring Wayne Grudem, Bruce Ware on others on the question: Do relations of authority and submission exist eternally among the Persons of the Godhead? The Center is pleased to release excerpts from the opening statements of each side participating in the debate.  If you’re in the Chicagoland area, please do join us this Thursday at 7pm in ATO chapel at TEDS in Deerfield, IL for this stimulating debate.

1.  From the side of Dr. Grudem and Dr. Ware:

“Scripture gives us a few glimpses into inter-Trinitarian relationships in eternity past:

Ephesians 1:3-5 –  3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he [the Father] chose us in him [the Son] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.  In love 5 he [the Father] predestined us for adoption through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his [the Father’s] will.

This passage speaks of acts of God “before the foundation of the world.”  This is clearly pre-incarnation.. And what is there? The Father is the one who chooses and predestines, and the Son is already (prior to creation) designated as the one who would be our Savior and earn our adoption as God’s children.

It does not say “the Father and Son chose us.” It says the Father chose us in the Son.  It does not say, “The Father suggested some people for salvation and the Son agreed on some and disagreed on others.”  It says the Father chose us in the Son. (And this is true no matter whether you take a common Arminian view that this refers to choosing a group of people (those who would believe) or a Reformed position that it included specific people who were chosen.) On either view, it happened before the foundation of the world and it indicates a unique authority for the Father – an authority to determine the entire history of salvation for all time, for the whole world.”

2.  From the side of Dr. McCall and Dr. Yandell:

“First, let me say what this debate is not about.  It is not about biblical authority.  All of us who are involved in this debate hold to the full and final authority of Scripture.  Bruce Ware, Wayne Grudem, Keith Yandell, and I are in full and hearty agreement about the authority of the Bible.

Nor is this debate about “philosophical theology” versus “biblical theology.”  Just as both sides accept the authority of Scripture, so also both sides in this debate employ terms and concepts that are drawn from philosophy – Drs. Ware and Grudem as well as Dr. Yandell and I refer to “essence,” to “being” to “substance,” to “person.”  Both sides draw distinctions between “ontology”or “being,” on one hand, and “function” or “economy” on the other.  Both sides use philosophical terms and concepts, and I’m sure that both do so not only out of deference to tradition but also out of the conviction that such tools are genuinely useful (and perhaps even indispensable).

So this debate is not about “philosophy versus the Bible,” nor can it properly be adjudicated by counting how many verses are quoted.  Any of us could produce long lists of biblical texts that say that the Son submits to the Father in the economy of salvation, and we can just as readily produce lists of texts that show (explicitly or implicitly) that the Son is fully divine.  The important questions, however, are not “who quotes the most verses?” but “how are these  passages to be interpreted theologically?”, “do they actually support the theological conclusion that is said to be drawn from them?”  In responsible discourse in Trinitarian theology, the vital question is not “who cites the most biblical texts rather than resorting to arcane philosophical discourse?”  Instead, the vital methodological questions are “are these passages properly interpreted, and do they support the view in question?” and “are the important ontological claims adequately understood, and are these claims defensible?””

Looks to be an excellent and helpful debate.


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