What Heresy Is (A Post for Rachel Held Evans)

This blogger called Rachel a heretic. But he’s wrong.

Yesterday, I accused C. Michael Patton of holding a heretical view of the Trinity. He does. He thinks that the Trinity is a “functional hierarchy,” which contravenes the historic creedal belief that the persons of the Trinity are co-equal in all respects. It probably also makes him a modalist, or at least a dynamic monarchianist, since he overemphasizes the role of each member of the Trinity, and thus emphasizes the oneness over the threeness of the Godhead. (I imagine that he would disagree with me on the modalism charge.)

My friend, Rachel Held Evans, saw the post, and liked it. But she also tweeted,

I guess “heretical” is what you’d call a “trigger word” for Rachel.

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Some (Honestly) Bad Reformed Theology Defending Hierarchies

C. Michael Patton literally has John Calvin looking over his shoulder.

One thing I like about C. Michael Patton is that he’s honest. He will write what many Reformed proponents think, but are reluctant to publicly affirm. Like, for instance, his post from earlier this month in which he posits that the Trinity is a hierarchy: God is on top, Christ is in the middle, and the Holy Spirit is on the bottom.

This is heresy, friends, albeit a widely popular heresy.

Patton writes:

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Does God the Father Suffer?

Fred thinks so, and I agree, in spite of the heresy of Patripassianism:

Don’t get me wrong, I believe in the Trinity, in one God in three persons. This is a historically Christian way of talking and thinking about God. It’s a helpful and insightful metaphor. And it’s a metaphor that can be supported by several passages in the Bible. But it’s not actually a biblical metaphor. It’s something that Christians have, for many centuries, laid on top of the scriptures, but it was never something we found there in any explicit form.

Set aside all the whole Monster Manual of traditional heresies and heretical -isms, where theology often starts to get into trouble is when we elevate our metaphors about God and begin worshiping and serving those metaphors rather than worshiping and serving God.

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Are the Social Trinity and Panentheism Incommensurable?

Last week, I wrote about a question at my dissertation defense over which I stumbled.  There was one other question that tripped me up.

Stacy Johnson is one of my favorite professors at Princeton, though I never took a class from him.  (He is also the author of possibly the very best book on GLBT issues in the church, A Time to Embrace.)  Stacy is not, however, a fan of Jurgen Moltmann, my theological muse.  And at my defense, he asked me a question that he really has for Moltmann:

How can someone be committed to a social doctrine of the Trinity, in which the godhead is seen as an eternal, interpenetrating relationship of three divine persons, and also a panentheist, in which God is in all things and all things are in God?

It’s a good question, for it would seem that a commitment to the social Trinity requires an understanding of God as sovereign Other, whereas panentheism seems at odds with that commitment.

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