November 23, 2018


MOORESTOWN, New Jersey – Julia Mooney stands in front of a classroom of eighth graders wearing her simple gray, button-down dress.

It’s the same outfit she wore yesterday.

She also wore it the day before.

In fact, she’s been wearing it virtually non-stop since early September.

In a project that’s drawing national attention, the 34-year-old art teacher at William Allen Middle School has vowed to wear the dress every day she teaches for the first 100 days of the school year.

Wednesday is Day 47.

Mooney is trying to raise awareness of what she calls a growing “culture of excess” in America that has filled our closets to overflowing with throwaway garments.

“There is no rule anywhere that says that we have to wear a different thing every day,” she says. “Why do we ask this of each other? Why do we require that we each wear something different every day and buy more clothes and feed into this fast-fashion culture?”

Mooney is not alone. She hoped to spark discussion among her students, friends and coworkers about the peer pressure children face to buy the latest fashions and the sustainability of their “consume, consume, consume” habits. But she hasfound herself at the center of a wider national conversation around what is known as “sustainable fashion.”

Call it the antithesis of fast fashion, the inexpensive, quickly made, trend-of-the-moment clothing that has been flooding store shelves in recent years and allowing consumers to expand and quickly refresh wardrobes.

Sustainable fashion is about wearing clothing made in an eco-friendly way, buying fewer but better-made pieces of clothing, wearing them more often, and making sure garments eventually are recycled.

“This is becoming much more of a mass movement,” says fashion consultant Greta Eagan, author of Wear No Evil: How to Change the World with Your Wardrobe. “It’s spreading beyond people who are ‘green and clean’ to the general public.”

December 13, 2016

Monogenēs once more.

Kevin Giles

Following the 2016 Evangelical Theological Society annual conference in San Antonia where Dr. Bruce Ware and Dr. Wayne Grudem publicly announced that they had been wrong to deny the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son, the word monogenes has become a hot topic.

This word has become contentious because both Ware and Grudem said that they can now accept the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son because they have been persuaded that monogenēs in fact means “only begotten” and thus there is good biblical support for this doctrine.

Ware and Grudem both appealed to the work of Dr Lee Irons (see He argues that monogenēs means “only begotten” and thus there is good biblical support for the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son. Since the conference, Dr Denny Burk has enthusiastically been putting the same argument.

Iron’s argument that is now accepted uncritically by Grudem and Ware raises two separate questions; does the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son find its primary biblical support in the word monogenēs, and is this Greek word rightly and accurately to be understood to mean “only begotten”? In the Johannine writings the Son is five times said to be monogenēs (Jn 1:14, 18, 3:16, 18, 1 Jn 4:9).

In what follows I will argue that the word monogenēs is not the biblical basis for the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son, and for this reason how the word monogenēs is translated into English is, as far as the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son is concerned, of little importance.

The biblical basis for the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son.

In preparing to write my book, The Eternal Generation of the Son: Maintaining Orthodoxy in Trinitarian theology,[1] I read carefully Athanasius and the Cappadocian fathers who developed the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son in opposition to the teaching of the “Arians” of various kinds. I discovered that the Nicene fathers used the word, monogenēs, to speak of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, making the point that what made him unique above all else was that he was eternally begotten. They never appeal to this word as the basis for their doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son. The Nicene Creed of 381 reflects exactly the same thing. The Latin fathers such as Tertullian, Hilary of Poitiers and Augustine of course never mention the word.

For Athanasius and the Cappadocian Fathers, the biblical basis for explaining the divine Father-Son relationship in terms of a metaphorical “begetting” is found in a number of Old Testament texts that use the verb, gennaō, “to beget”;[2] Psalm 2:7, Proverbs 8: 26, Psalm110:3 (109:3 LXX), Isaiah 53:8 and Psalm 45:1. They took these texts to be prophetically speaking of the eternal begetting of the Son. Psalm 2:7 and Proverbs 8:26 were the most important texts for them. Psalm 2 is quoted some ten times in the New Testament. The apostolic authors took this Psalm to be referring in various ways to the Messiah, identified as Jesus Christ, the Son of God. In verse 7 of this Psalm, God (the Father) says of the messianic king, “You are my Son, today have I begotten you.” Following the apostolic writers, the fourth century Greek church fathers read this verse Christologically. They believed that Psalm 2:7 both suggested and confirmed their conclusion that that the divine Father-Son act of self-differentiation could be called a “begetting” and because it was a divine begetting it was eternal and for human beings ineffable. The apostolic writers also identify Jesus Christ with divine Wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30, Col 1:15-20, Heb 1:1-3, etc.), spoken of in personal terms in the Old Testament. On this basis, the Greek fathers of the fourth century assumed that Proverbs 8:26 also spoke of the “begetting” of the Son before creation. Because all the Greek fathers insisted this was a metaphorical begetting, not a literal one in any sense, they often quoted Isaiah 53:8 “who shall explain his generation?”

“Birth language” is, however, only part of the biblical support for the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son given by the fourth century Greek fathers. They also noted that in the New Testament the Son is often said to be “from the Father.” John, for example, speaks of the Son as “coming from” the Father (Jn 16:28, 6:46, 7:29, 8:42, 9:33, 16:27), and of the Son coming “from” heaven. Closely allied with this “from” language is the Johannine imagery of the Son being “sent” on mission by the Father to reveal and to save (Jn 3:17, 5:30, 7:29, 8:42, 17 3, 23). [3]

The most important witness to the trinitarian theology of the fourth century Greek Fathers is found in the Nicene Creed of 381, the most authoritative creed in Christendom. This was originally a Greek composition by mostly Greek speaking theologians. In what is said in the Christological clause we have a concise and profound explanation of the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son and I am convinced a clear and sharp distinction between the words monogenēs and gennaō. The clause begins with these words:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only (monogenēs) Son of God, eternally begotten (gennaō) of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten (gennaō) not made, of one being (homoousios) with the Father.

We have here three affirmations about Jesus Christ. He is confessed to be

  1. “the one Lord”, 2. “the monogenēs Son of God”, and 3. “eternally begotten (gennaō) of the Father”. In considering what the second affirmation is saying we note first that monogenēs comes before anything is said about the eternal begetting of the Son, which suggest this designation of the Son is not related to his eternal begetting; it speaks of something else. Second, we note that to translate monogenēs as “only begotten” introduces repetition that makes little sense. “We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son, eternally begotten …” . I think the conclusion that we have three separate affirmations of Jesus Christ in this clause is compelling. He is the Lord; he is the monogenēs Son, the divine Son of the Father, like no human Son, and he is eternally begotten (gennaō) of the Father.

On the basis of his eternal begetting, the creed affirms that Jesus Christ the one Lord, the only Son of God, to be “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten (gennaō) not made, of one being (homoousios) with the Father.” What these words assert is that on the basis of his eternal generation, the Son is everything the Father is yet he is not the Father but the Son. Derivation does not imply any diminution of the Son in any way, or any division or separation between the Father and the Son. The creed says emphatically that while the monogenēs Son is “begotten of the Father” he is no way less than, inferior to, eternally subordinated to or submissive to the Father in any way.

We now see why the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son is fundamental to the Nicene Faith. This doctrine establishes the two primary elements of our distinctive Christian doctrine of the Trinity; eternal divine self-differentiation, the Son is eternally begotten of the Father, and as such he is the Son and not the Father, and the full divinity of the Son. The Son is “true God from true God, one in being with the Father”.


In the many Johannine metaphors that speak of the Son as “from” the Father and “sent” by the Father, the Son’s pre-existence is assumed. Recognising this, the Latin speaking Augustine, one of the greatest theologians of all times, argued for a twofold “from-ness.” [4] The Son is eternally “from” the Father in his eternal generation, and temporally from the Father in his sending or “mission” into the world to save. From this followed his profound conclusion that the temporal missions of the Son and the Spirit – their coming into the world in history – are antecedently grounded in the eternal processions of these persons within the Godhead – apart from history. What this means is that for him, divine triunity revealed in history confirms that God is eternally triune. The economic Trinity reveals the eternal or immanent Trinity. Augustine agreed that Psalm 2:7 and Proverbs 8:26 gave a biblical basis for the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son but for him, John 5:26 was equally important.[5] “For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted to the Son to have life in himself.” For Augustine, these words speak of the divine life that the Father gave to the Son in eternity.

The Greek word monogenēs of course never gets mentioned in the Latin speaking Augustine.

How rightly to translate monogenēs?

Once it is recognised that the word monogenēs is not the biblical basis for the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son how this word is translated into English as far as this doctrine if concerned is of no great import.

With the majority of contemporary biblical scholars, I am convinced that the primary meaning of monogenēs is “only”, in the sense of “unique” or “one of a kind”. [6] I very much doubt if this conclusion will be overturned. I note, nevertheless, that some Christian scholars defend the traditional rendering of this word for various reasons.[7] And I am aware that sometimes classical scholars in their translations of the fourth century Greek fathers maintain the traditional translation, “only begotten”.[8] They do so because the Greek fathers, as I have pointed out, concluded that Jesus is called the monogenēs Son because he alone is eternally begotten. In both cases we may call this a “theological translation” of the word monogenēs.

For me, how this term is translated is not hugely important. If opting for a theological translation of this noun helps some evangelicals and Reformed theologians to accept the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son, what the creeds and Reformation Confessions define as orthodoxy, then I am pleased.


What this recent debate about the meaning of the word monogenēs and its relevance for the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son brings to our attention is the huge importance of the theological tradition. All doctrines are best understood when how they developed in history is understood, and nowhere is this more true than with the doctrine of the Trinity in general and the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son in particular. This storm in a teacup over the word monogenēs would not have taken life and flourished if more evangelicals had been better informed by having carefully read Athanasius, the Cappadocian fathers, Augustine and by knowledge of the Nicene Creed.


[1] Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012.

[2] The doctrine itself is predicated on four profound theological insights or inferences, first clearly seen by Athanasius and then assumed by all orthodox theologians across the centuries.[2] First, God is eternally triune. He is not one God who becomes three in history. Second, the first two persons of the Trinity are named “Father” and Son”. An eternal Father implies and necessitates an eternal Son. There can be no God the Father without God the Son. Third, a Father-Son relationship implies begetting, in this case an eternal begetting. And fourth, in the begetting of a child the being or nature of the begetter is given perfectly to the begotten. In the eternal generation of the Son, the Father perfectly communicates to the Son all that he is. Thus the Son is “God from God, Light from Light, True God from true God, one in being with the Father” (the Nicene Creed).


[3] See more fully, Giles, Eternal Generation, 84-85

[4] See further on Augustine, Giles, Eternal Generation, 151-171

[5] He frequently appeals to this text, See The Trinity, 1.22, 26, 29, 30, 2.3, 4, 7.4, 15.47. On this see K. E, Johnson, ‘Augustine’s Trinitarian Reading of John 5: A model for the Theological Interpretation of Scripture,’ Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 52/4 (2009), 799-811.

[6] See Giles, Eternal Generation, 66, note 10 and 144-148.

[7] So R. Letham, The Holy Trinity in Scripture, History, Theology and Worship, Philipsburg: P&R, 2004, 384-387. We should also note that the NKJV, the MEV and the NASB translations maintain “only begotten”.

[8] See my discussion of this in my Eternal Generation, 145, note 124.

November 23, 2016

The Nicene and Reformed doctrine of the Trinity.

(A paper given by Kevin Giles at the plenary forum on the Trinity at the Evangelical Theological Society annual conference, 15th November, 2016 at San Antonia. The other speakers were Dr Bruce Ware, Dr Millard Erickson and Dr Wayne Grudem; Dr Sam Storms presided.)

Kevin Giles

Thank you, Dr Storms, for your welcome. It is a huge honor to be invited to give the introductory address at this ETS plenary forum on the Trinity.

In putting my case this afternoon I am going to speak very forthrightly and unambiguously, as from past experience I am sure Dr Grudem and Dr Ware will do.[1] Dr Erickson who stands with me in opposing Dr Grudem and Dr Ware’s teaching on the Trinity I am sure will be the clearest in what he says and the most gracious. I speak bluntly because the issues we are discussing are of monumental importance for the evangelical community. I believe what Dr Grudem and Dr Ware teach on the Trinity, and now very large numbers of evangelicals believe, contradicts what the Nicene creed, the Reformation and post-Reformation Protestant confessions and the ETS doctrinal statement teach.

To begin my presentation, I make three matters perfectly clear. First, I have no distinctive doctrine of the Trinity. My exposition of the Trinity which follows is simply an outline of what I consider to be the historic, orthodox doctrine of the Trinity as spelt out in the Nicene Creed. I know absolutely nothing about a so-called “evangelical egalitarian doctrine of the Trinity”

What this means is that I have basically the same understanding of the Trinity as the many complementarian confessional Reformed theologians who have “come out” in opposition to Dr Grudem and Dr Ware’s teaching on the Trinity.[2] What this immediately reveals is that the divide on the Trinity is not between evangelical egalitarians and complementarians but between creedal and confessional evangelicals and non-creedal and confessional evangelicals.

Second, I want to state clearly and unambiguously that I think the doctrine of the Trinity has absolutely nothing to say about the relationship of the sexes. I personally do not ground my gender egalitarian commitments on the Trinity and virtually no evangelical egalitarian does. I have been publishing on women in the Bible since 1975 and I have never appealed to the Trinity to support the substantial equality of the two sexes.

The gender complementarian, Fred Sanders, who is giving the lecture on the Trinity after this forum confirms what I say. On his blog and in a personal email to me he says, “I have not been able to find one sentence where Kevin Giles works to secure his own [gender] egalitarian position by appeal to the Trinity.”

I do not appeal to the doctrine of the Trinity because I believe the doctrine of the Trinity is our distinctive Christian doctrine of God, not our social agenda, but why and how the doctrine of the Trinity might inform our doctrine of the sexes, whatever that may be, completely escapes me. The Trinity is three divine persons, all analogically spoken of in male terms. Why and how we must ask, can a threefold analogically all “male” relationship inform a twofold male-female relationship on earth? No analogical correlation is possible. The argument just does not make sense. The logic of this argument is that threesomes are the ideal, or male-male relationships are the ideal!! None of us I image would affirm these deductions!

The impossibility of correlation is made clear by Dr Grudem in his Systematic Theology. On page 257 in an attempt to make a connection, he likens the Trinity to dad, mum and their one child. In doing so he feminizes the Son – the Son becomes an analogue of the woman. Worse still, this family picture of God has nothing to do with the revealed doctrine of the Trinity. It sounds more like Greek mythology.

This observation takes us right to the heart of what I believe is the fundamental and inherent error in Dr Grudem and Dr Ware’s doctrine of the Trinity; depicting God in human terms, instead of how he is revealed in Scripture.

My consistent argument for nearly twenty years has been that that if we evangelicals want to get right our doctrine of the Trinity, the primary and foundational doctrine of the Christian faith, we must sharply and completely separate out doctrine of the Trinity and our doctrine of the sexes. They are in no way connected and when they are connected both doctrines are corrupted.

I have not time to discuss1 Corinthians 11:3 in any detail but I am sure this one text does not justify connecting the doctrine of the Trinity and our doctrine of the sexes. This is not a trinitarian text; the Spirit is not mentioned, and it would seem that the Greek word kephale (Eng. “head”) almost certainly carries the metaphorical meaning of “source”. Woman comes from man (Adam) (1 Cor 11:8, 12) and the Son comes “from” the Father.

Now my third point by way of introduction. In my presentation, this afternoon I am arguing that what Dr Grudem and Dr Ware teach on the Trinity is a sharp and clear breach with historic orthodoxy as spelt out in the Nicene Creed.

There can be no denying that we have starkly opposing doctrines of the Trinity. Dr Grudem and Dr Ware argue on the basis of creaturely analogies for a hierarchically ordered Trinity where the Father rules over the Son, claiming this is historical orthodoxy; what the church has believed since 325 AD. I argue just the opposite. On the basis of scripture, I argue that the Father and the Son are coequal God, the Father does not rule over the Son. This is what the church has believed since 325 AD. You could not have two more opposing positions. There is no middle ground.

When it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity we are not discussing a theological question where one side can assert something and the other side the opposite and resolution is not possible. In this case, there is absolutely no uncertainty as to what constitutes trinitarian orthodoxy. No other doctrine has been more clearly articulated by the great theologians of the church across the centuries and none more clearly and consistently spelt out in the creeds and confessions of the church.

The Nicene Creed is the definitive account of the doctrine of the Trinity for more than two billion Christians. It is binding on all Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, Presbyterian and Reformed Christians. These 2 billion believers agree that anyone who denies what is taught in the Nicene Creed stands outside the catholic faith, and any community of Christians that rejects what the Nicene Creed teaches is by definition a sect of Christianity. On this basis, we do not accept Jehovah’s Witnesses as orthodox Christians because they cannot confess this creed, even though like us evangelicals they uphold the inerrancy of Scripture.

Be assured, I do not place this creed or any other creed or confession above Scripture in authority or on an equal basis with Scripture. For me, and for 2 billion Christians, this creed expresses what the church has agreed is the teaching of Scripture. I believe every single statement in this creed reflects what the Bible says or implies. In my view, we have in this creed the most authoritative interpretation of what Scripture teaches on the Father-Son relationship.


The Nicene Creed of 381.

In this creed, the Son is communally confessed in these words. Note the “we” – we Christians:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only (monogenēs) Son of God, eternally begotten (gennaō) of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten (gennaō) not made, of one being (homoousios) with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and our salvation he came down from heaven, by the power of the Spirit he was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.

Let me now highlight seven things this creed says clearly and unambiguously about the Son of God.

  1. First, “We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ.” These words reflect exactly 1 Corinthians 8:6. In this verse as you all know, Paul makes the Jewish Shema (Deut 6:4), which is a confession that God is one, a confession that the one God is God the Father and God the Son. Again, as you all know Lord/ Kurios is the name of God in the Greek OT. In this confession, we are therefore saying we believe the “one Lord”, identified as Jesus Christ, is God without any caveats, yet not a second God. In other words, we are confessing Jesus Christ to be Yahweh, omnipotent God.

In the New Testament Jesus Christ is confessed as “Lord” over 600 times. The title Lord excludes the thought that Jesus Christ is eternally subordinate or submissive God.

This first clause in the Nicene Creed immediately draws to our attention the logical impossibility of confessing Jesus as Lord and at the same time arguing he is set under God the Father and must obey him. If the Father and the Son are both rightly confessed as Lord, the supreme co-rulers over all, then they are not differentiated in authority. They are one in dominion, rule, power and authority.

Let me illustrate the point I have just made. After hearing an Anglican complementarian theologian in Australia put the case that the Son must obey the Father, I asked him how he could confess Jesus as Lord on Sundays in church and then during the week teach that the Son is eternally subordinated to the Father and must obey him? He replied, “ I see no contradiction, the Son is just a little bit less Lord than the Father.”

In arguing unambiguously and repeatedly that the Father and the Son are essentially and eternally differentiated in authority, Dr Grudem and Ware contradict the first clause of the Christological confession in the Nicene Creed

  1. Second, the Nicene Creed says, “We [Christians] believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only (monogenēs) Son of God, …. Again, we all know that the word monogenēs means “only” in the sense of “unique”; “one of a kind”. The Greek church fathers of course as Greek speakers also knew it meant “only” in the sense of “unique”; “one of a kind”. None of them thought it meant “only begotten”. What is more, none of them appealed to this word or the texts in which it is found as the basis for their doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son.

John uses the word monogenēs of Jesus Christ five times (Jn 1:14, 18, 3:16, 18, 1 Jn 4:9). This designation of the Son was deliberately included in the creed because it explicitly excludes the disastrous error made by all the Arians of various brands, namely that human sonship defines divine sonship. All the Arians argued that because Jesus Christ is called the Son of God he is like a human son, he is subordinate to and must obey his father.

What this clause in the creed is saying is that Jesus’ sonship is not like human sonship. There is something about his sonship that is absolutely different to creaturely sonship.

In saying Jesus’ sonship is not like human sonship I am not saying anything novel. The best of theologians across the ages with one voice have insisted that human relationship and human language cannot define God. Our creaturely language is adequate to speak of other creatures but inadequate to speak of the Creator. The fourth Lateran council (1215 AD) made this point very starkly, “For between Creator and creature, no similarity can be expressed without implying greater dissimilarity”. What this means is that human language used of God is not to be taken literally, “univocally”, but analogically.

To argue that human language can define God is possibly the most serious theological error any one can make. It leads to idolatry; making God in our own image. We evangelicals should not define divine fatherhood and divine sonship by appeal to human experience as liberal theologians are wont to do. We should define divine fathership and sonship in the light of scriptural revelation.

In the New Testament Jesus Christ is called the Son/Son of God to speak of his kingly status, not his subordination. The Reformed theologian and “complementarian”, John Frame, says,

There is a considerable overlap between the concepts of Lord and Son. … Both [titles] indicate Jesus’ powers and prerogatives as God, especially over God’s people: in other words, [the title Son speaks of his] divine control, authority, and presence. [3]

I agree completely with Dr Frame. I believe the NT calls Jesus Christ “the Son of God” to speak of his kingly status NOT his subordinate status.

Dr Grudem and Dr Ware again in stark contrast to the Nicene Creed’s confession that Jesus is the Son in a unique way, constantly and consistently argue that Jesus Christ is to be understood like any human son and as such is subordinate and necessarily obedient to his father. Note very carefully their theological methodology; they define God in creaturely terms, not by what is revealed in Scripture.

In absolutely rejecting Dr Grudem and Dr Ware’s theological methodology I follow the gender complementarian, Dr Robert Letham. He roundly condemns Drs Grudem and Ware in One God in Three Persons, for predicating their understanding of the Son of God on fallen human relationships. He says, this is an Arian argument that must be categorically rejected. He writes,

“The Arian argument that human sons are subordinate to their fathers led to their contention that the Son is subordinate to the Father. The church rejected the conclusion as heretical and opposed the premise as mistaken. Rather, [it taught], the Son is equal with the Father in status, power and glory”.[4]

Let me say it very clearly; to confess Jesus Christ as the monogenēs, the unique Son, is to say I believe he is not like any human son. He is more dissimilar than similar to all human sons.

  1. Third, the Nicene Creed says, We [Christians] believe …the unique Son of God, is “eternally begotten (gennaō) of the Father.”

Now we come to what is called “the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son”, what I and most other orthodox theologians believe is the foundational element in the doctrine of the Trinity. You can see how important it was to the Bishops who drew up this creed because they have us confessing twice the generation of the Son, once at the beginning and once at the end of the christological clause. This doctrine is like two book ends. I have put the words in bold in my Power Point. Remove these words from the creed and there is nothing to support what stands in the middle.

The doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son is affirmed in the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds and by all the Reformation and post-Reformation confessions of Faith and by virtually every significant theologian over the last 1800 years.

The doctrines of the eternal generation of the Son and the eternal procession of the Spirit seek to explain threefold eternal self-differentiation in the life of the one God. It does this by noting that the Bible speaks of the “begetting” of the Son “from” the Father, and the “procession” of the Spirt” “from” the Father. It is a doctrine arising out of Scripture that explains so much in Scripture. It is an eloquent doctrine. It has very solid biblical support. To argue that the greatest theologians across the centuries have taught a doctrine for which there is no biblical warrant is mind boggling. It is implausible.

For the authors of the Nicene Creed, and virtually all orthodox theologians, the primary basis for distinguishing and differentiating the Father and the Son is that the Father eternally begets the Son, and the Son is begotten of the Father. This is the ONLY difference between the Father and the Son the Nicene Creed mentions and allows, and this difference is essential to the doctrine of the Trinity.

Both Dr Grudem and Dr Ware openly reject the doctrine of eternal generation. Dr Grudem says it would be best if the words about the begetting of the Son were deleted from the Nicene Creed and from all “modern theological formulations”’ of the doctrine of the Trinity.[5] Dr Ware says, this “doctrine is highly speculative and not grounded in biblical teaching”.[6] At this point there is no ambiguity; both Dr Grudem and Dr Ware undeniably say they reject the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son as it has been understood for 1800 years and thus deny what indelibly and eternally differentiates the Father and the Son.

  1. Fourth, we note that immediately after the confession of the eternal begetting of the Son the Nicene Creed says the Son is, “God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God”. What these words assert is that on the basis of his eternal generation the Son is everything the Father is but he is not the Father but the Son. Derivation does not imply any diminution of the Son in any way, or any division or separation between the Father and the Son. These words are in the creed to say emphatically that while the Son is “begotten of the Father”, and “from” the Father he is no way less than, inferior to, eternally subordinated to or submissive to the Father in any way.

To argue that the Nicene Creed speaks of the eternal begetting of the Son to teach the eternal subordination of the Son, as Dr Grudem and Ware do,[7] is to put it very bluntly perverse. For the bishops who promulgated this creed and all orthodox theologians across the centuries the eternal generation of the Son teaches that the Son is “God from God, light from light, True God from True God.” The doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son rather than teaching the eternal subordination of the Son teaches the eternal co-equality of God the Father and God the Son.

  1. Then fifth, follows the knockout blow. We believe the Son is “one being/homoousios with the Father”. This is not a word the Bible uses of the Son. It is an implication drawn from the confession that the Son is “God from God”. Let me explain the force of the Greek word homoousios.

All of us share the same human being but we are not one in being. The Father and the Son uniquely are one in being. They are both God in all might, majesty and glory without any caveats whatsoever.

If the Father and the Son are one in being this means that they cannot have three wills; they cannot be separated in what they do, the one God cannot be divided into the Father who rules and a Son who obeys, and their glory is one. The word homoousios allows for no dividing or separating of the divine persons. It excludes absolutely any possibility that the Son can be eternally subordinated to the Father and thus other than the Father in might, majesty, dominion, authority and glory.

None of the various schools of Arian thought in the fourth century could endorse the word, because as fourth century men living in a Greek culture they understood that to confess that the Father and the Son are one in being meant the Father and the Son cannot be divided or separated in any way. Modern day evangelicals who separate and divide the Father and the Son, setting the Father above the Son, accept the term because they do not understand its force. They think it means simply that they have the same divine being.

Both Dr Grudem and Dr Ware say that they affirm that the Father and the Son are one in being but at the same time they sharply separate and divide the one God into the Father who rules and the Son obeys, implying two wills in God, and thus in reality deny that the Father and the Son are one being.

  1. Six, the Nicene Creed says, of the Son that, “Through him all things were made”. These words reflect exactly the words of scripture (1 Cor 8:6, Jn 1:3, Heb 1:2, cf Col 1:16). For the Nicene fathers the most fundamental division in the whole universe is between the creator and what he creates. These words are thus included in the creed to make the point emphatically that the Son is the omnipotent co-creator, yet as in all things, he and the Father contribute to this work distinctively as the Father and the Son. In this instance, the Father creates through or in the Son (Col 1:16).

In contrast, Dr Grudem says, the Son in creation is simply “the active agent in carry out the plans and directions of the Father”[8] – which is exactly what Arius taught. Dr Ware, says the Son “creates under the authority of the Father”.[9] I definitely see no support for these assertions in the Nicene Creed and indeed I think the wording of the scriptures and the creed exclude the idea that the Son is the subordinate creator. Scripture speaks of him as the co-creator.

Before moving on I must digress for a moment. Because orthodox theologians seek to take into account everything Scripture says on the divine three persons they affirm “order” in divine life and actions. They agree that nothing is random or arbitrary in God. Scripture speaks of patterned ways God acts. One example that we have just noted is that he creates “through” or “in” the Son and not in any other way. More importantly from Scripture we learn that the Father begets the Son and sends him into the world. Such patterning differentiates the divine persons, not subordinates any one of them. Orthodoxy accepts order in divine life and actions but not hierarchical ordering. This conclusion is confirmed by noting that in the roughly 70 times where the New Testament writers associate together the three divine persons, sometimes the Father is mentioned first (Matt 28:19); sometimes the Son (2 Cor 13:13) and sometimes the Spirit (1 Cor 12:4-6).[10]

  1. Seventh, the Nicene Creed says, We [Christians] believe that “For us and our salvation he [the Son] came down from heaven, by the power of the Spirit he was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man”.

In this phrase the creed reflects Philippians 2:4-11. Jesus Christ, God the Son, had “equality with God [the Father] yet he “emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form he humbled himself, and became obedient to the point of death.”

What Philippians 2 teaches is the willing and self-chosen subordination and subjection of the Son for our salvation. On this basis, orthodox theologians with one voice insist that the subordination and obedience of the Son seen in the incarnation should not be read back into the eternal life of God. To do so is huge mistake.

In the incarnate Son, we meet in the Gospels we see kenotic-God, self-emptied God; the Son of God who came down from heaven. To read back into the eternal life of God any of the human limitations of the kenotic Son, or his obedience to God the Father as the second Adam, is just bad theology.

With Athanasius, Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin, I believe to interpret Scripture rightly we must recognize that in Scripture there is “a double account of the savior”, one in “the form of God” and one “in the form of a servant” and the two should not be confused. What these great theologians concluded is that the kenotic Son does not reveal fully the exalted Son. I agree.

The Arians of the fourth century read the Son’s incarnational self-subordination, obedience to the Father as the second Adam and his human limitations back into the eternal life of God. Dr Grudem and Dr Ware do exactly the same and thus sharply break once again with the Nicene Faith and virtually every major theologian who has written on the Trinity since 325 AD.

I leave the Nicene Creed at this point. Before concluding I need to comment specifically on Dr Grudem’s claim in his Systematic Theology, page 251, that the eternal role subordination of the Son has been the church’s doctrine at least since the council of Nicaea in 325.[11] This is simply not true.

“Role subordination” is definitely not found in the 325 or 381 versions of the Nicene Creed as we can see from the quotation on our screen. The word “role” does not appear, nor any synonym, nor the idea.

The very first person in history to speak of the role subordination of the Son was George Knight 111 in his 1977 seminal book, The New Testament Teaching on the Role relationship of Men and Women.[12] It was he who first introduced the concept of the Son’s “role subordination” into Evangelical theological circles. It was not known before this time. Many theologians across the centuries have spoken of the “subordination of the Son” but none have spoken of the “role subordination of the Son or the Spirit” before Knight. To have done so before late nineteenth century is impossible because the French word “role” appeared first in English in 1875 to speak of the part an actor plays, and first in the sociological sense to refer to characteristic behavior in 1913.[13]

The more general claim that the eternal subordination of the Son has been the teaching of the church since 325 is likewise objectively false. We have just seen, the Nicene Creed seeks to exclude the eternal subordination of the Son in a number of ways: relationally, the Father and the Son rule as the one Lord; temporally, the Son is eternally generated by the Father and as such is “true God from true God”, and ontologically, the Son is one in being with the Father. The Athanasian Creed is even more explicit. I wish I had time to outline what it teaches. This is summed up when it declares that the three divine persons are “co-equal” God.

Then we have all the Reformation and Post-Reformation confessions of faith that likewise seek to exclude the eternal subordination of the Son in a number of ways. With one voice they affirm that the three divine persons are “eternal” and importantly “one in being and power”. It is not just temporal and ontological subordination they reject but also relational subordination; the Son is less in power than the Father. The Belgic Confession of 1561 is the most specific, adding that the Son is neither “subordinate nor subservient.”

The words “power” and “authority” often overlap in meaning in English like the words house and home but in both cases the words are not exact synonyms. However, when it comes to divine life the words “power” and “authority” in English and in Greek may be taken as synonyms. If the Son has all power then he has all authority and if he has all authority he has all power. Both terms speak of divine attributes shared identically by the divine persons. What is more, Paul insists that the Son who reigns over all has “all authority (exousia), power (dunamis) and dominion” (cf. Eph 1:21).

“Equality” in being and power, we should also note, is affirmed by the Evangelical Theological Society doctrinal statement to which we have all subscribed. We ETS members all confess the Father, the Son and the Spirit to be “one in essence/being and equal in power and glory”. To confess that the Father, Son and Spirit are equal in power of course means that one does not rule over the other in any way. The Father and the Son are God almighty, omnipotent God.

I also note that Dr Ware stands in opposition to the ETS doctrinal statement in that he rejects “equality in glory”. He says, the Father has “the ultimate supremacy and highest glory”.[14] For him, the Son is less in glory and for this reason must give “ultimate and highest glory to his Father”.[15] In saying this he not only denies the ETS doctrinal statement but also the teaching of scripture where the Father and the Son are alike glorified (1 Cor 2:8, Gal 1:3-5, Eph 1:3-5, Heb 1:3, Rev 5:12-13, 7:9-12, etc) and again the Nicene Creed which says the divine three persons “together” [are to be] “worshipped and glorified”.

To be faithful to our doctrinal statement we ETS members we must reject what Dr Grudem and Dr Ware teach on the Trinity.

Some of you may be tempted to dismiss what I have argued for one reason or another but please note that on my side now stand dozens of highly respected theologians, some gender complementarians some gender egalitarians, some evangelicals some not.

Kyle Claunch from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, speaking specifically of Dr Bruce Ware and Dr Wayne Grudem’s doctrine of the Trinity, agrees completely with me that what they teach is not historic orthodoxy. He says their doctrine of the Trinity entails a commitment “to three distinct wills in the immanent Trinity”, [16] an idea proscribed by orthodox theologians. And he adds more significantly that,

[Their] “way of understanding the immanent Trinity does run counter to the pro-Nicene tradition, as well as the medieval, Reformation, and Post-Reformation Reformed traditions that grew from it.” [17]

What could be clearer? Clyde Claunch, says explicitly that what Dr Grudem and Dr Ware teach on the Trinity “runs counter” to the Nicene Faith and the Reformation confessions.  This is exactly what I have argued. He and I agree absolutely.

I conclude: In the Nicene Creed seven wonderful affirmations about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, are made. I unequivocally endorse them all. I love them. These seven affirmations give content to my faith. I have written in the past and have spoken today to encourage us all to confess Jesus Christ as Lord in these words because this is the faith of the church; what the vast majority of Christians past and present believe is the teaching of scripture.


After I sat down Dr Ware spoke. He began by saying, “I have now changed my mind.” He then went on to tell the several hundred evangelical theologians present that he now endorses the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son because he now recognizes it has good biblical support. It is foundational to the doctrine of the Trinity!!! It was as if the air had been sucked out of the room. He did not mention me but as I am the only evangelical who has written a book on the doctrine of the eternal generation I take it he was saying I had convinced him that he had been in error and needed to say sorry to the evangelical community for leading it reject the foundational element in the doctrine of the Trinity.

After Dr Erickson had spoken, Dr Grudem spoke. He too began by saying that he now believed the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son and that he would be correcting his Systematic Theology when he revised it!!! I thought to myself, how long will it be before these two hugely influential evangelical theologians will confess that teaching the three divine persons are hierarchically ordered is also mistaken and a threat to the historic faith.

On the matter just mentioned, the eternal subordination of the Son, Dr Grudem and Dr Ware stood firm. They argued that “in eternity past”, in his incarnation, and in “eternity future” the Son was necessarily obedient to the Father. This they claimed was what the Bible taught.

Professor Erickson spoke after Dr Ware. He made three points. He first argued that if the Son’s subordination in “role” or “relations” was necessary and eternal then it was ontological. Second, that many of the things Dr Grudem and Dr Ware argued were logically inconsistent. And third, that Dr Grudem and Dr Ware’s appeal to the Bible was all too often illegitimate. The texts to which they appealed to support their views did not say what they claimed.

In the very brief time at the end of the forum for exchange between the four speakers Dr Ware took me to task on two matters; Dr Grudem did not address me. It was as if I had not spoken. Dr Ware first said that unlike me he made a clear distinction between the words “power” and “authority”. He accepted that the Son was “equal in power”, as the ETS doctrinal statement ruled, but not in “authority”. In the minute I had to reply I asked him could he say that men and women were “equal in power” since basic to his position was the Father-Son relationship (for him not me) prescribes the man-woman relationship? He made no answer.

Second, he accused me, as he had in his talk, for making an invalid distinction between the Son as he is revealed in history (his incarnation) and as he is in eternity. He said this implied that what was revealed in scripture was not a true revelation of the Father-Son relationship for all time. For him, he said, “everything” we learn of the Father-Son relationship in the Gospels speaks of what is true in eternity. In reply I asked him did he believe the Son in heaven got tired, was ignorant of certain things, went to the bathroom and could die? He replied, “Of course there must be some differences”. What this means is that we simply disagree on what in the revelation of the Son in history eternally true and what is not. I follow what is said in Philippians 2:4-1; in eternity the Son is “equal” to the Father in all things, in becoming man he took the “form of a servant” and became obedient to the Father to win our salvation. In eternity he is not a servant/slave. He rules as Lord and King.

[1] In my public presentation, I omitted this paragraph and the one on what Dr Fred Sanders wrote to me because of time constraints.

[2] Such as Robert Letham, Carl Trueman, Fred Sanders, Liam Goligher, Aimee Bird, Keith E Johnson, Stefan Linbad, Todd Pruitt, Michael Horton and Rachel Miller.

[3] John M. Frame, The Doctrine of God, Phillipsburg: P&R, 2002, 658. Italics added.

[4] “Eternal Generation”, in, One God, 122.

[5] Systematic Theology, 1234.

[6] Father, Son and Holy Spirit, 162.

[7] Systematic Theology, 251-252, 1234, Countering the Claims, 239-240, Evangelical Feminism, 210-213;

[8] Systematic Theology, 266.

[9] “Equal in Essence, Distinct Roles: Eternal Functional Authority and Submission among the Essentially Equals Divine Persons of the Godhead”, JBMW, 2008, 13.2, 49.

[10] See the very full account of this phenomenon by the complementarian theologian, Roderick Durst, Reordering the Trinity: Six Movements of God in the New Testament, Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2015.

[11] Systematic Theology, 251-252.

[12] Grand Rapids; Baker, 1977.


[14] Father, Son and Holy Spirit, 50, 65. In this book time and time again Dr Ware speaks of the “supremacy” of the Father and often of his “priority” and “preeminence” in the Godhead. For him the divine persons are not “co-equal’ as orthodoxy with one voice asserts.

[15] Ibid., 6755

[16] “God the Head of Christ”, in One God, 88.

[17] Ibid.

July 7, 2016

My colleague at Northern, Geoff Holsclaw, whose dissertation was accepted for publication in a series edited by arch-Trinitarian theologian Lewis Ayres, has responded to Bruce Ware’s recent post. Geoff has provided the whole of Ware’s post so you can read what he says and Geoff responds within the post and I have his comments in italics for ease.

Geoff: As many know there has been a “civil war” of sort raging among Reformed complementarians about whether or not the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father, so if his subordination is only within the work of salvation. Many have pressed for a response from Bruce Ware concerning issues of orthodoxy and heresy, particularly regarding doctrines related to the Nicene Creed and the nature of God’s “will” (whether God has one will or three). Ware recently posted a response of which I wrote a lengthy engagement. I’ve decided to post the original response and my comment spaced throughout because both are quite long and it would be easy to get lost.

(From Secundum Scripturus, with comments added)
The following is a guest post by Dr. Bruce Ware, T. Rupert and Lucille Coleman Professor of Christian Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Knowing the Self-Revealed God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
Clarifications and Declarations in a Humble Endeavor to Know the Trinitarian God Rightly

Bruce A. Ware

“. . . Let him who boasts, boast in this, that he understands and knows Me . . .” (Jer 9:24)

I’m grateful to Matthew Emerson, Luke Stamps, and Luke Wisley for allowing this guest posting on their blog site. While the discussion of Trinity of recent weeks has been productive in many ways, there remains for me one distressing element. Much of the discussion has been made within the context of charges of unorthodoxy regarding myself and others committed to the position that we see the Bible indicating eternal relations of authority and submission within the Trinity. Several issues have been raised by a number of writers, and I wish here to clarify just how I see our position as consistent with the pro-Nicene tradition and with Scripture. While much more can be said, I am hopeful of providing enough to see the lines of thought that could be developed further in another context. I’ll address five main issues raised, as I have seen them discussed over these past weeks.

Dr. Ware,

Thank you for your time and thoughtfulness in responding. I and many others have longed to hear your thoughts on these issues. 

For reference, I am a graduate of TEDS and now a professor of theology at Northern Seminary.  I am very committed to Scripture and proper doctrine, and I’m not overly squeamish about people having authority.

With that said, I don’t think you have responded adequately with the heart of the criticisms placed against you.  Let me indicate why as I move through the 5 issues you listed.


  1. Issue: How can one uphold the inseparable operations the pro-Nicene theologians found indispensable along with the notion that the Father, Son, and Spirit each acts in distinct ways as indicated repeatedly in Scripture (e.g., Father sending, Son going, Spirit empowering)?

Response: I gladly affirm my commitment to the doctrine of the inseparable operations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Because each person of the Trinity possesses the identically same divine nature, each uses the same power and relies on the same knowledge and wisdom in conducting the various works that each does. So, there cannot be a separation or division in the work of the One God since each person participates fully in the One nature of God. But this does not preclude each person accessing, as it were, those qualities of the divine nature (e.g., power, knowledge, wisdom) distinctively yet harmoniously, according to their own hypostatic identities as Father, and as Son, and as the Holy Spirit, such that they bring to pass one unified result accomplishing the one work of God. In this way, the personal works of the Father, Son, and Spirit may be distinctive but never divided; each may focus on particular aspects of the divine work yet only together accomplish the one, harmonious, unified work of God. Each work of the Trinitarian persons, then, is inseparable, while aspects of that one work are hypostatically distinguishable. Inseparable, but not indistinguishable—this accounts for the full biblical record of the works of God which are unified works done by the one God, yet always carried out in hypostatically distinguishable ways.

Khaled Anatolios offers assistance on this issue when discussing the position on divine agency advanced by Gregory of Nyssa. Anatolios writes that Gregory ruled out the notion of the Trinitarian persons functioning as separate agents, working independent of one another. But, he continues,

the notion of an altogether undifferentiated agency in which each of the persons partakes in exactly the same manner is also implicitly but very clearly ruled out by Gregory’s consistent strategy of using three different verbs to distribute the common action distinctly to the three persons. . . . [T]he typical pattern for that distribution is that every action issues from the Father, is actualized through the Son, and is completed by the Spirit. There is thus an ineffable distinction within unity in divine co-activity such that the one divine activity is completely effected by each of the persons and yet is distinctly inflected between them. Every activity that is originated by the Father is equally yet distinctly owned by Son and Spirit [Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011) 231].

I affirm what Anatolios suggests, that we can understand Trinitarian co-agency neither as “altogether undifferentiated” nor as divided and independent. Rather, all divine action is performed by the Father, Son, and Spirit in an undivided yet distinct manner, as inseparable while also being hypostatically distinguishable.

1) The first issue is that some claim you don’t support the doctrine of inseparable operations and you respond that you do. Along the way you also reiterate the doctrine of appropriations (that some actions seem particularly connected to one member of the Trinity).  The REAL ISSUE that you haven’t addressed is the relationship between “inseparable operations” (which speak of eternal relationships) and “appropriations” (which speaks of the economy for our salvation).  “Inseparable operations” was the doctrine that created theological speed bumps on the highway of human (even biblical) speech of God, slowing down heretical statements found in Scripture that referred to the economy (incarnation) from being hastily applied to eternity (“inseparable operations” was to buffer against Arian and semi-Arian exegesis).  You don’t mention how the two pro-Nicene doctrines relate to each other and what difference it would make for your predication of God in eternity.  All subordinating statements about the Son, excluding “sending” language in John, are language of the economy, not of eternity (I’ll get to John below, and yes, 1 Cor. 15).

So, for you to affirm inseparable operations is fine and good, but this affirmation doesn’t seem to do any work in your system. And the work it was meant to do for pro-Nicenes was generally to keep people from affirming what you are affirming.


  1. Issue: Closely related is the next question, regarding the will of God as this pertains to the one and undivided divine nature and the three distinct persons. Can there be a will of authority (from the Father) and a will of submission (from the Son) without conceiving of separate and separable divine wills?

Response: In short, my answer is yes. But the issue is anything but simple. I would suggest that we affirm what the church Fathers did, that “will” as a volitional capacity is a property of the divine nature. So, in this sense, each of the three persons possesses the identically same will, just as each of them possesses the identically same power, and knowledge, and holiness, and love, etc. Yet, while each possesses the same volitional capacity, each also is able to activate that volitional capacity in exercising the one will in distinct yet unified ways according to their distinct hypostatic identities and modes of subsistence. So, while the Father may activate the common divine will to initiate, the Son may activate the divine will to carry out, e.g., “from” the Father, “through” the Son—as has often been affirmed in Trinitarian doctrine following the pattern in Scripture itself (e.g., 1 Cor 8:6). Given this, one might even speak of one unified will of God, as the volitional capacity common to all three, along with three “inflections” of the unified divine will (borrowing Anatolios’s wording), or three hypostatically distinct expressions of that one divine will, or even three distinguishable acts of willing which together bring to light the fullness of that one unified will—all of which express the particular ways each divine person activates that common will as expressive of their particular personhood and distinctive yet undivided personal action. This way of understanding the will of God—one will that is the volitional capacity of nature, along with distinct activations or inflections of willing from each of the three divine persons—is akin, then, to how we should understand, for example, the love of God. Love is a quality or attribute of the divine nature and as such is common to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Yet the Father’s expression of love for the Son is distinctly the Father’s, as the Son’s expression of love for the Father is distinctly the Son’s, and the Holy Spirit’s expression of love for Father and Son is distinctly his—one common attribute of love with three expressions or inflections of that capacity of love through each of the three Trinitarian persons.

Apart from such a perspective, it is difficult to imagine how the three Trinitarian persons share in intimate fellowship, love, communication, and mutual support. While there is one divine will, there must also be what Anatolios refers to as “distinct inflections of the one divine will belonging distinctly to the three hypostaseis” [Retrieving Nicaea, 220, fn. 234] lest we propose, even unwittingly, some form of modalism or unitarianism. Terminology here is difficult, but if we are to undergird the genuineness of shared love and fellowship in the Trinity, and if we are to acknowledge the Trinitarian grammar of divine willing that is expressed from the Father, through the Son, and completed by the Spirit, then something along the lines of one unified divine will of volitional capacity along with three distinct yet undivided inflections or activations of willing by the three persons needs to be upheld. As a result, we can conceive, for example, how the Father can plan, purpose and will to send the Son (John 6:38; Eph 1:9; 1 John 4:10), and the Son accept and embrace the will of the Father (John 4:34). These are “distinct inflections” of the one and unified divine will, as seen from the particular hypostatic perspectives of the Father and the Son.

2) The second issue is that some claim that you deny the one will of God and posit three wills connected to the three persons.  You deny this and affirm one will and 3 “inflections” of will.  Again this is very helpful as an affirmation, but your overlaying of “inflection” of will with “authority” on the one hand and “submission” on the other never seems warranted by your claim, and you never explain why “authority/submission” is a non-contradictory way of parsing out “inflection”.  The use of “authority/submission” requires separate wills, and you have not shown how those words would retain their meaning once understood as only “inflections”. You often, in this post, slip into speaking of the “Father’s will” as if it were different than the “Son’s will”, but would those sentences still make sense if you said “Father’s inflection of will” and the “Son’s inflection of will”? Clear meaning would quickly recede I think.

A better use of your “inflections” would be the model of brain, nervous system, and muscles for the one will of moving an arm.  The brain initiates the action, the nervous system relays (speaks) the action, and the muscles complete the action.  The brain initiates the will to act, the nerves relay the will to act, and the muscle completes the will to act (one action/will, three inflections of action/will).  This fits much better with the quote you offered by Anatolios concerning inseparable action than your application of it by using the terms “authority/submission” (Also see this on the Son obeying the will of the Father:


  1. Issue: Is the Son free in his willing to obey the will of the Father? Some might think that if the Son must embrace the Father’s will, then he cannot truly be free in accepting to do the Father’s will. This issue is raised by D. Glenn Butner, Jr., in which he dismisses the notion that the Father could genuinely will in an authoritative way and the Son in a submissive way since the Son cannot will other than the Father has willed. As he writes, “. . . the Son cannot submit to the Father because such submission requires freedom [“Eternal Functional Subordination and the Problem of the Divine Will,” JETS 58.1 (March 2015) 147].” 

Response: But this objection only stands if the kind of freedom one is considering is libertarian freedom, i.e., the so-called power of contrary choice. That is, Butner’s criticism only works if the freedom by which the Son is said to “freely obey” the Father is one in which he can equally obey or disobey the Father, i.e., the Son has libertarian freedom which requires the power of contrary choice. But I have argued elsewhere that libertarian freedom is a failed conception that neither explains why moral agents choose precisely what they do, nor does it accord with the strong sovereignty of God we see throughout the Scriptures [God’s Greater Glory: the Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004) 85-95; and “The Compatibility of Determinism and Human Freedom,” in Whomever He Wills: A Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy, eds. Matthew M. Barrett and Thomas J. Nettles (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2012) 212-230]. If we adopt instead the conception of freedom in which our freedom consists in our unconstrained ability to do what we most want, or to act according to our highest inclination—sometimes referred to as a “freedom of inclination”—then this problem is removed. The Son’s willing submission is his free and unconstrained expression of what he most wants to do when he receives the authoritative will of the Father, which is always, without exception, to embrace and carry out precisely what the Father gives him to do.


3) The third issue you mention I’m in complete agreement with.  The freedom of the will is not merely the freedom of choice, but the freedom to choose and will the GOOD. For human beings this freedom would indeed be a submission or obedience to the GOOD they see or know.  But since the GOOD is none other than God as a nature of divinity and not just one persons of the Trinity, then the Son cannot submit to the GOOD that is other than himself for he, like the Father and Spirit, are GOOD.  So the Son indeed freely wills the GOOD, but not in submission/obedience to the GOOD, but because he is GOOD. So in this affirmation of freedom, in eternity, authority and submission are inadequate to the greater glory of God.


  1. Issue: Have the proponents of ERAS (eternal relations of authority and submission among the Trinitarian persons) denied the Nicene doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son?

Response: The answer emphatically, and for all proponents of our view whom I know, is no. We have never denied this doctrine, and indeed we affirm it as declaring very important truths about the eternal relation between the Father and the Son, the eternal deity and unity of both the Father and the Son, and the eternal Fatherhood of the Father and eternal Sonship of the Son. Although I believe I could speak for all proponents of ERAS, it would be best here to speak for myself alone. For my 30+ years of teaching, I have believed and taught with great conviction that the Father is the eternal Father of the Son, the Son the eternal Son of the Father, and that the Son, in possessing the identically same and eternal divine nature as the Father possesses, ishomoousios with the Father. Where I have always hesitated is with biblical support put forth by others for the twin doctrines of eternal generation (Son) and eternal procession (Spirit), sometimes called the doctrine of the eternal modes of subsistence. Because of this, though I have never denied this doctrine, I have been reluctant to embrace it. I have craved biblical support and yet have not been convinced by what has been offered. John 5:26, for example, perhaps the most-frequently cited text in support of eternal generation, does not, in my judgment, teach this doctrine. The verse begins with “for” (gar) indicating it is explaining what was said in 5:24-25. There, those who believe in the Father are granted eternal life (5:24), and those likewise who believe in the Son are granted resurrection life (5:25). How is this? The explanation comes in 5:26 where the Father has life in himself, presumably to give to those who believe, and he has given the Son also life in himself, again presumably to give to those who believe. The subject is the gift of eternal life, not the ontological life of the Father and Son in the immanent Trinity. Well, this is not the place to conduct more exegetical commentary, but just to say that I have not been persuaded of this doctrine from the biblical texts cited in its support (yet, in light of what you’ll read below, I would be happy to be so persuaded!).

Doesn’t this mean you reject the doctrine of the eternal modes of subsistence, then? No, it does not, for reasons that have pressed more heavily upon me in recent years. Allow me to offer these two reasons for why I have come to accept it: 1) I have great respect for the history of this doctrine, knowing its near universal acceptance through the history of the church, and this provides strong reason to accept it as the heritage of the church to us now in the 21st century. 2) Also important to me is my long-standing commitment to what I see very clearly in the Bible, and that is the eternal Fatherhood of the Father, and the eternal Sonship of the Son. But then, if you ask the question, “just how is the One who is called ‘Father” in fact eternal Father? And just how is the One who is called ‘Son’ in fact eternal Son?” it is here that the doctrine of the eternal modes of subsistence offers the only real accounting or grounding available. While the Father is eternal Father, and the Son the eternal Son, the best way to account for these truths is by affirming what the church has taught, viz., that the Father eternally begets the Son, and the Son is eternally begotten of the Father. So, while I remain unconvinced at present that specific texts in Scripture teach this doctrine, I accept and embrace it as the “church’s doctrine” and the only genuine explanation that grounds the Father as eternal Father, and the Son as eternal Son.

Now, does affirming the eternal modes of subsistence cause problems for our commitment to an eternal relation of authority and submission in the Godhead? Absolutely not! In fact, it only strengthens our view. Precisely because the Father eternally begets the Son, the Father, as eternal Father of the Son, has the intrinsic paternal hypostatic position of having authority over his Son; and precisely because the Son is eternally begotten from the Father, the Son, as eternal Son of the Father, has the intrinsic filial hypostatic position of being in submission to his Father. The eternal modes of subsistence, then, ground the eternal distinction between Father and Son (and Spirit), while the eternal relations of authority and submission then flow out from and are expressive of those eternal modes of subsistence. Honestly, eternal (ontological) modes of subsistence, and the eternal (functional and hypostatic) relations of authority and submission work like hand and glove.

4) The third issue you mention is that people claim you deny the Nicene creed and eternal generation/procession.  You seem to clearly affirm Nicene and the “homoousios” but are hesitant in regard to eternal generation/procession.  That is fine and I won’t press you on that. 

However, here and elsewhere you wonder on what basis is the Father the Father and the Son the Son, and on what basis does the Father send the Son and is the Son sent by the Father except because the Father has authority and the Son submits.  However, it is exactly eternal generation that supplies the reason: As the Son is (in eternity) from the Father, so the Son is sent (in the economy) from the Father. That is the reason. Authority and Submission need not be inserted into the equation except when our Western imagination inserts it based on our need to affirm freedom and will. It is a very Western, and especially Modern, idea that will, rather than goodness, beauty or truth, would be placed at the center of God’s actions.

However, at the end of that section you state that “eternal (ontological) modes of subsistence, and the eternal (functional and hypostatic) relations of authority and submission work like hand and glove.”  This, in regard to the tradition, is patently false, and in regard to what you have actually proven, unsubstantiated.  For pro-Nicenes, eternal generation (that the Father is FROM no one, that the Son is FROM the Father, and (in the West) the Spirit is FROM the Father and Son), was 1) the only way the persons were distinguished, 2) and was preferred to the model you are offering regarding wills (and for now you haven’t really applied you “inflection of will” so your model falls at best on the border of pro-Nicene theology). 

It is a fairly OUTRAGEOUS and MISLEADING for people who do not know the tradition for you to say they fit like hand and glove.


  1. Issue: Finally, is it not the case that affirming the eternal authority of the Father over the Son, and the eternal submission of the Son to the Father, indicate both the superiority of the Father over the Son, and that the Father has a different nature than the Son?

Response: No, neither of these problems follows. Allow me to address each separately. First, the Father’s authority over the Son does not indicate he is superior to the Son because 1) the Father and the Son each possesses the identically same nature and hence they are absolutely co-eternal and co-equal in nature, and 2) authority and submission describe merely the manner by which these persons relate to one another, not what is true of the nature of the Father or the Son. In other words, authority and submission are functional and hypostatic, not essential (i.e., of the divine essence) or ontological categories, and hence they cannot rightly be invoked as a basis of declaring one’s ontology (nature) greater and the other’s lesser. Ontologically, the Father and Son are fully equal, but as persons, they function in an eternal Father-Son relationship, in which the Father always acts in a way that befits who he is as Father, and Son always acts in a way that befits who he is as Son. Their Father-Son manner of relating (functioning) is seen (in part) in the authority of the Father and submission of the Son, as is evidenced by the vast array of the biblical self-revelation of the Trinitarian persons. And, since the Father is eternal Father, and the Son eternal Son, this manner of relating is likewise eternal.

Second, but can the Father truly have the same nature as the Son when the Father has eternal authority over the Son? Yes, indeed, because “authority” and “submission” do not define or characterize the one and undivided nature that the Father and Son (and Spirit) share fully together, nor should they be thought of as attributes of God, per se. Holiness, wisdom, and power, of course, are attributes of God, and these (and all other) divine attributes are possessed equally by the Father and the Son, since each possesses the same eternal and undivided divine nature. But authority and submission are ways of relating, not attributes of one’s being. Put differently, authority and submission are hypostatic and functional properties pertaining to the persons in relation to one another, not ontological attributes attaching to the one commonly shared divine nature. So, while the Father and Son are fully equal in nature, as each possesses the identically same and eternal divine nature, the Father and Son are also distinctive persons, with person-specific properties that express the ways in which they eternally relate as Father to Son, and Son to Father, including hypostatically distinct paternal authority and hypostatically distinct filial submission.

One caution is needed here. To say that a property of the person of the Son, qua Son before his Father, is to express a hypostatically distinct filial submission to his Father, is not to suggest in the least that his authority over all that is created is any less than the authority of the Father. Since the Persons of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit are equally infinite, uncreated, self-existent, and eternal, while all things otherwise are by nature finite, created, dependent, and temporal, there is no division of authority among the Trinitarian persons over creation. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have equal divine authority over creation, while they also exhibit within the Trinitarian relations the authority and submission appropriate to their mode of subsistence and hypostatic identities.

To conclude, I wish to cite a statement of our position that for decades seems not to have caused quite the stir as we’ve seen in recent weeks. I affirm what I end with, and am grateful for the wisdom, insight, beauty, and biblical fidelity expressed here. May God grant all of us humility and tenacity to seek to know God as he has revealed himself to be.

Part of the revealed mystery of the Godhead is that the three persons stand in a fixed relation to each other. The Son appears in the gospels, not as an independent divine person, but as a dependent one, who thinks and acts only and wholly as the Father directs. . . . It is the nature of the second person of the Trinity to acknowledge the authority and submit to the good pleasure of the first. That is why He declares Himself to be the Son, and the first person to be His Father. Though co-equal with the Father in eternity, power, and glory, it is natural to Him to play the Son’s part, and find all His joy in doing His Father’s will, just as it is natural to the first person of the Trinity to plan and initiate the works of the Godhead and natural to the third person to proceed from the Father and the Son to do their joint bidding. Thus the obedience of the God-man to the Father while He was on earth was not a new relationship occasioned by the incarnation, but the continuation in time of the eternal relationship between the Son and the Father in heaven. As in heaven, so on earth, the Son was utterly dependent upon the Father’s will [J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973), 54-55].


5) Here you basically reaffirm the terms of the entire debate and how they are indeed plausible.  I don’t need to engage that here as the above points indicate that you still haven’t addressed the core issues involved in this debate. 

To reiterate, it is good to hear your responses and affirmations of traditional (and by that I mean biblical) positions, but you still haven’t show how these responses/affirmation do any real work within ERAS, and I suggested that if they did, the framework of ERAS would become unstable at best.

Thank you again for you time.  We all hope to continue to hear more from you and your colleagues on this very important issue.  As I’ve said before, I don’t think you a necessarily heretical, but I do think you are currently sub-biblical and sub-Nicene (


February 8, 2016

Valentines Day And Church: Single Awareness Sunday? By Jonathan Storment

So unfortunately this year Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday.

I say unfortunately because in most of the churches I’ve seen in life make a really big deal about marriage and families and romance and kids and happily ever after, and rightfully so. Those are good gifts from God in many people’s lives.

But what is so unfortunate about Feb 14th falling on a Sunday this year, is that many (most) churches have gone beyond celebrating marriage and family.

For the past several decades we’ve all but idolized it.

Christians Who Don’t Want to Mingle

A few days ago, I saw an advertisement from Christian Mingle that starts by saying:

“Single Christians: Good News! has over 13 million people registered online

So join today and find God’s match for you.”

I can’t tell you how frustrated that silly ad makes me. After all, I thought Christians meant something bigger and better when they’re talking about good news. But the ad also frustrates me because it assumes that God has a match for everyone, and if you haven’t found your match you must be on the outside of God’s will just looking in at all the normal Christians.

I understand this as a marketing strategy, I just don’t like it as a from a “Christian” one.

Maybe we should give grace to Christian Mingle, they actually aren’t run by theologians, they are run by Spark Networks, the some company that also runs Mormon mingle, Adventist mingle, J-Date,  Black, deaf singles, plus-sized singles and many, many more.

But all this raises the question, What’s the deal with singleness? 

Because from a historical perspective, the church used to have a place for single people, We used to know what a gift that single people were to a Church.

Stanley Hauerwas points out that when Christianity first was introduced to the pagan world it changed the way they viewed marriage because it de-idolized it. After all, there was no more radical act in that day than to live a life without producing heirs.

Children were the way to achieve significance for an adult, because they would remember you. Children gave you security, because they would take care of you in your old age. And it was in that culture, that a large percentage of Christians chose to remain single, making the statement that their future was not guaranteed by the family… but by God.

In the 1st Century, Augustus Caesar ordered that widows be fined if they didn’t remarry within two years. But in Christianity, widowhood was highly respected and remarriage was, if anything, mildly discouraged. The church stood ready to sustain poor widows, allowing them a choice as to whether or not to remarry. It praised them, as though they were a special treasure.

Or at least it used to.

A Single Advantage

A few weeks ago in the New York Times, Jessica Crispin wrote a fascinating article entitled “St. Teresa and the Single Ladies” about how challenging being single in American culture is, and how she (though not a Catholic) is drawn to the only religion she knows of that values singleness.

Here’s how she said it:

I can’t remember the last time I saw a television show or a film about a single woman, unless her single status was a problem to be solved or an illustration of how deeply damaged she was…I’ve been single for the most part going on 11 years now, and so I have heard every derogatory, patronizing, demeaning thing said about single women. “There has to be someone for you,” a married woman friend once said exasperatedly after I recounted another bad date. Implying, unconsciously, that there must be one man somewhere on the planet who could stand to be around me for more than a few days at a time. I can’t help but think that we lose something when we couple up, and maybe that thing is worth preserving. I pointed out to a different friend that it was the nuns who were the most socially engaged, working with the world’s most vulnerable.

Remember what the word mono means? (not the kissing disease) It means “one.” as in, “solitary” or “focused.”

Historically Christianity has had a tradition called Monasticism, a way of living out a singular focus on the Kingdom of God.

Now Monasticism isn’t really part of my heritage, but I wish it was. Because at its core, monasticism is just about a single-minded pursuit of Jesus. It’s about people who have chosen to devote their singleness to the Kingdom of God.

And these are the people who are teaching Jesus’ parable to the rest of us: when you find the pearl of great price, you leave everything else to go after it. According to Jesus, a life of singleness devoted to the Lord is some people’s calling, and it is a high calling; and even if yours is a temporary singleness, there’s more to being single in Jesus, than waiting around for romantic love. There are things your singleness allows you to do that a married couple cannot.

In the words of the Times article, “We lose something when we couple up, and maybe that thing is worth preserving.”

Becoming Eunuchs and Other High Callings

There’s a time in Matthew 19, when Jesus talks about the dangers of marriage, and how painful it can be when it goes wrong, and his words were so strong that his disciples actually respond by saying, “Maybe it’s better not to marry!”

And I think it’s fascinating that Jesus doesn’t respond, “Oh no, sorry, you’ve got me all wrong! You must have misunderstood. Marriage is the greatest. Everyone ought to try it.”

No. What Jesus actually says is, “Not everyone can accept this word… some are eunuchs because they were born that way; others were made that way by people; and others have made themselves eunuchs because of the kingdom of heaven.”

When Jesus talks about eunuchs, I don’t think He’s talking about surgery, He’s talking about people renouncing marriage. This is Jesus putting a very high value on singleness.

And then He says, “The one who can accept this should.”

If you were getting acquainted with the Jesus story for the first time, one of the most shocking parts about Jesus life would be the fact that Jesus is single, stays single, even fulfills God’s purposes as a single!

We forget what a scandal it was in 1st Century Judaism that Jesus was not married. As a Jewish man, (especially a rabbi) You had a duty to God, your ancestors, and to your family to marry and make babies. Later rabbis would even say: “Seven things are condemned in heaven, and the first of these is a man without a woman.”

Marriage was so taken for granted that Biblical Hebrew has no term for bachelor. It was considered necessary in order to be part of society. You had to be a part of a family, and those who weren’t were seen as an outcast (particularly true for women).

But Jesus did not focus on the family, at least not like that. Instead Jesus created a new family. He stayed single, and created and claimed instead a family that included all kinds of people from all walks of life.

Including single people. No…especially single people.

Do you realize how risky it is to be single? Do you realize how much faith it takes to not have heirs? I like the way Rodney Clapp says it:

The single Christian ultimately must trust in the resurrection…. Singles mount the high wire of faith without the net of children and their memory. If singles live on, it will be because there is a resurrection. And if they are remembered, they will be remembered by the family called church.

So I wrote this several days ahead of Valentine’s Day, because this year it falls on a Sunday, and I know that there are a lot of preachers who really love people, and want to care for everyone, but this just isn’t on their radar. You need to know, chances are there are a lot of people in your church who have seen this day coming for weeks, and they might even be dreading it.

So If you are a preacher or church leader think carefully about how you talk about what really matters. And if you are a Christian be careful not to lose sight of the bigger picture.

Because after all, Valentines day is only about romantic love.

But Sunday is always about something better than that.

It’s about Resurrection.

Yes it’s true that it’s not good for a person to be alone, but that doesn’t have to mean marriage, That’s what the church is for.

And contrary to what Christian Mingle says, that’s what Good news for Single Christians really looks like.

Stay in touch! Like Jesus Creed on Facebook:

February 7, 2016

Matt Bonesteel:

The study found three possible reasons for the increase in flu deaths because of the Super Bowl:

1. “An increase in large gatherings increases the frequency of human contact and probability of transmission.”

2. “Postseason play alters travel patterns and increases the contact or mixing rate between possible susceptible and infected groups via fan mobility.”

3. “Postseason play may affect local economies in areas with participating teams, through increased tourism from outside or increased local expenditures. Changes in local income or employment rates may in turn influence behavior and health expenditures.”

But if you’re actually going to the Super Bowl itself, it’s all good: The researchers found that flu deaths did not spike in cities that hosted the game, mainly because it’s usually held in warm-weather cities where the flu isn’t as prevalent.

The researchers propose that anyone hosting a party remind guests to wash their hands and avoid sharing drinks or food during parties.

February 12, 2015

Sarah Larimer:

If you don’t believe me — a human being who has both been chased by a goose as a child and pecked in the head by a tiny winged attacker as an adult — then maybe you should believe Ron Jaecks, a runner who was targeted by an owl at an Oregon park.

Reports the Statesman Journal:

Jaecks was jogging near the baseball field about 5:15 a.m. Suddenly in the morning darkness his stocking cap was pulled from his head, and almost simultaneously he felt something puncture his scalp.

Jaecks thought he was dying.

“It was like a huge electric shock ran through my body, but also like I got hit in the head with a two-by-four all at the same time,” Jaecks said. “Or maybe a strike of lightning.”

Jaecks, 58, immediately began to run faster, trying to escape his assailant.

Running in circles and screaming, the general surgeon for Kaiser Permanente began to think that he was having a stroke or an aneurysm.

January 16, 2015

Ron Charles:

Tyndale House, a major Christian publisher, has announced that it will stop selling “The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven,” by Alex Malarkey and his father, Kevin Malarkey.

The best-selling book, first published in 2010, describes what Alex experienced while he lay in a coma after a car accident when he was 6 years old. The coma lasted two months, and his injuries left him paralyzed, but the subsequent spiritual memoir — with its assuring description of “Miracles, Angels, and Life beyond This World” — became part of a popular genre of “heavenly tourism,” which has been controversial among orthodox Christians.

Earlier this week, Alex recanted his testimony about the afterlife. In an open letter to Christian bookstores posted on the Pulpit and Pen Web site, Alex states flatly: “I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.”…

This evening, Todd Starowitz, public relations director of Tyndale House, told The Washington Post: “Tyndale has decided to take the book and related ancillary products out of print.”

September 28, 2013

By Mark Stevens:

Logos Bible Software: Review for the Jesus Creed.

I have been a Logos user for 6 or so years now. Without exaggeration I use it daily and would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for Bible study software. In my opinion it is simply the best on the market. Whether you are a PC or Mac user you will not regret your investment.

Logos 5

Logos 4 was a very good product and to be honest I was a little surprised to see that they had released a new version so quickly.  At first I was sceptical about the need for an upgrade however, because I like the product and by in large I am brand loyal, I upgraded. At first the changes seemed cosmetic but as soon as I began to use Logos 5 I could see this was more than bit of plastic surgery. A lot of thought has gone into how information is connected and what information is important to the user. I’ve used other Bible Study software. Sure they connect books and you can arrange them on the screen, but Logos connects text with text. For me it is the little things that matter and it’s the little things in Logos 5 that make it a stand out product.

For a full list of new features you can visit Logos HERE.  For now here are two I enjoy about Logos 5:

Time line:  This is a great new feature. For Bible nerds like me it is the electronic equivalent of those massive bible charts the old-school visiting preacher would bring to church to explain biblical and Christian history. However, it is more than just a chart. Click on any of the historical markers and it takes you to resources that address that topic! So long as you have resources you can jump from Bible text, to Bible chart, to dictionaries and other resources.

The Sermon starter guide. Each Tuesday I punch in the text for the coming Sunday and in seconds most of the heavy lifting is done. Logos 5 even provides you with sermon outlines (if you are so inclined). In seconds my Logos 5 research assistant collects all of the information related to a particular text and provides me with a list of resources. It outlines themes, commentaries, categories, illustrations and Dictionary articles relating to my theme or text.

Despite all the great new features of Logos 5 there is one major flaw and that is the notes feature. I have heard so many people complain about the poor notes feature in Logos. It doesn’t even come with a spell checker. Why Logos, why? I get around this by taking notes in Word but it means I have to switch back and forth

What I like about Logos 5

I have never once regretted my investment in this Bible Software package. For me it is the small things that makes Logos great:

  • Type in a passage and in seconds I am transported into the world of the text. Logos is my personal research assistant…except I don’t have to feed it or get it coffee.
  • Search thousands of resources in seconds.
  • Copy and Paste! (this really irks me about Kindle)
  • Obtain all the relevant bibliographical details in the format I need. i.e Harvard, SBL etc.
  • Cross platform support. I can take my massive library everywhere on my tablet!

But there two things I love more than anything else. Allow me to explain:

At times I wonder if I should have invested in hard copies of the many commentary sets I own in Logos Bible Software. I mean it would look pretty impressive if I had NICOT/NICNT, Hermeneia, Word Biblical Commentary, Tyndale, Baker Exegetical, Calvin’s Commentaries, NIV Application Commentary and the Pillar NT Commentary sitting on the bookshelves in my study. But then I think of the wonderful benefit of owning these great resources as part of Logos Bible Software. I work between a study at church and a study at home. I love not having to carry tonnes of books back and forth between my two desks. My library goes where I go. It works for me!

Also, by using the Layouts feature I can save a layout I am working on at church and the next day when I sit down at my computer at home I can access the exact same layout! All my research, notes and sermon preparation is saved in one place! Oh, and my wife loves the fact that we don’t have to buy more book shelves! J

Is Logos 5 for you?

Let’s be honest, Logos Bible Software is not cheap therefore, anyone thinking of investing this kind of money should consider a few things:

  • Firstly: Make sure you’re comfortable reading books from a screen. This hasn’t bothered me as much as I first thought. Because I mainly use commentaries I find I am reading smaller portions of books. For a while I thought I might convert to a completely digital library. I just can’t do it. But I love having my commentaries portable!
  • Secondly: Be prepared to invest. Logos 5 doesn’t come cheaply. Base packages start at $295 ranging to $5000 for the massive Portfolio library. I suggest a mid-range library to start with and then add commentaries and the IVP essential Reference pack as well as BDAG/HALOT dictionaries. The outlay is big but Logos do offer payment plans. Think of it as an investment.
  • Thirdly: Be prepared for a big initial download and indexing. Setting up Logos 5 is easy but it can be time consuming (You don’t have to sit in front of the computer the whole time but the computer needs to be left alone for a good amount of time. My library is about 9Gig (3400 resources) and it took a good 6-8 hours to download and then an hour or two to index the library.
  • Fourthly: Be prepared to be tempted. Logos is big on marketing. Unapologetically so. They send a lot of emails with a lot of great resources for sale. Sales. Oh the sales! Sometimes it can be like the island of the sirens. You just have to convince yourself not to look! 😉
  • Fifthly: It pains me to say it but Logos don’t always get it right. Over the past few years a few product launches and flow of information could have been better. Having said that Logos have always responded graciously and understandingly to customer complaints and feedback. In fact I’ve never seen a company respond so well!
  • Finally: Ask yourself what you want Logos for. I originally purchased the Original Languages collection because I wanted something to aid in my study of the text. Overtime I have added a full range of commentaries to my library. Logos has become my sermon preparation suite. If I had to I could use Logos 5 from start to finish to prepare a sermon.

Remember your Logos 5 investment is yours to keep. If your computer is stolen you can simply load Logos 5 onto your replacement computer. Also, Logos sales are fantastic and always helpful. They truly go the extra mile to help out.

At the end of the day Logos offer a money back guarantee if you’re not completely happy with the product and they offer this easily and without hesitation. So if you’re wondering give it a go. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed! Try emailing Dave Kaplan at Logos [dave[dot]Kaplan[@]logos[dot]com and tell him Mark Stevens sent you! (I will get a Logos credit on my account if you mention my name. I think it is about $30!)


September 17, 2013

Malcolm Jeeves is a Christian, an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of St. Andrews (one of the founders of the department), and of late he has been thinking and writing about the intersection of mind and brain and the relationship of the psychology and neuroscience with Christian faith and religious belief. His new book, Minds, Brains, Souls and Gods: A Conversation on Faith, Psychology and Neuroscience,  takes a conversational to the issues that arise between the scientific study of mind and brain and the Christian view of humanness and soul.

After an introductory chapter on the nature of Psychology as a discipline Jeeves dives into one of the more controversial issues in modern neuroscience – the relationship between mind and brain. Ben (the student) poses some rather common questions, and Jeeves responds with longer essays describing some of the history of this discussion (all the way back to the ancient Greek philosophers) and looking at the heart of the issues involved.   In this chapter on the mind and brain Jeeves emphasizes the importance of top-down and bottom-up mechanisms and the need to avoid excessive reductionisms, the claim that we are “nothing but” material connected by electrical impulses.

Do you think that the relationship between mind and brain poses a challenge for Christians?

Are we nothing but meat and the activity of brain circuits?

Here I will highlight what I see as the four most important points that Jeeves makes in this chapter.

(1) It is important to avoid reading beliefs into the data. This can include Christian beliefs, and it can include secular beliefs. The relationship between intelligence and religiosity is interesting – and the paper drew a variety of opinions and interest.  Both atheists and Christians read beliefs into the results. Some vocal atheists read into the data “intelligent people know enough to reject faith” others read into the data “intelligent people are too arrogant to accept faith.”  (That was not the argument I was trying to make, but it is how some read my argument.) Of course we will try to draw connections and to hypothesize on meaning – but we must always be aware of our predisposed beliefs and try to recognize the distinction between data and interpretation in our own work and in the work of others. Interaction with the data should sharpen our beliefs.

Jeeves takes this idea back into our approach to scripture as well.

The temptation to read into the text of Scripture is always with us. I was reminded of this very recently in an email I received from theologian Tom Wright. He said that we find it all too easy “to allow our traditions to echo back off the surface of the text that is trying to tell us something else,” and that “all too often the word ‘biblical’ itself has been shrunk so that it only now means ‘according to our own tradition, which we assume to be biblical.'” (p. 29)

I find that, from the Christian side of the discussion between science and faith, there is too much emphasis on tradition and too little attention paid to immersion in scripture and search for the meaning of scripture.

(2) It is important to hold many of our conclusions loosely with appropriate skepticism. Ben responded to Malcolm:

I appreciate your emphasizing the danger of reading into the data our preconceived ideas, whether the data is the text of Scripture or the data gathered by science. … [H]ow do we best think about the relationship between mental processes and the brain today? (p. 30)

Jeeves uses this question as an opportunity do point out that “the course of research never runs smoothly” and that at some level conclusions are growing, developing, and maturing. To the outsider this looks like the fickleness of science, but it is actually the normal process. Nowhere is change more pronounced these days than in the field of neuroscience and the relationship between mind and brain. Although some scientists will give the impression of certainty in their conclusions, all should be considered critically and with the potential for change.

An example Jeeves chooses to consider is the idea of “right-brain” and “left-brain” functions. Much research on the hemispheres of the brain is well-founded, but reality is more complex than the simplistic ideas allow. Recent research has pointed to a top-bottom distinction rather than left-right, for example.   He turns to Tom Wright again, this time in a somewhat more critical and cautionary frame.

For example, in a recent book titled The Master and His Emissary, Psychiatrist Iain Gilchrist has written engagingly about the left-right hemisphere differences and how they may help us to understand some of the wider trends in western thinking in recent years. Picking up on this theme, Tom Wright sees aspects of biblical scholarship as predominantly left-hemisphere, preoccupied with “microscopic analysis of details.” “Facts,” Wright says, “are left-brained business.” Wright urges us that “only when the detailed left-brain analysis can be relocated as the emissary to right-wing intuition, with its rich world of metaphor, narrative, and above all imagination, can the discipline [biblical scholarship] become healthy again.”

I do not doubt that all that Wright says in comment and criticism of some aspects of biblical scholarship is true, and I am not competent to judge, but I would be careful of seeming to tie my views on this topic to what is thought to be the last word in hemispheric specialization. Wright’s views convince me without the support of changing views of brain functioning. (p. 32-33)

It is good to explore the connections between observations of behavior with what we are learning about brain function. It is unwise to seem to tie these observations tightly to the scientific theories – especially at the cutting edge of knowledge. Left brain, right brain is almost certainly a significant over simplification.

(3) Avoid reductionism.  Jeeves points out that it is important to avoid separating separating mind and brain. We need to avoid the reduction of the mental to “merely” the physical.

The temptation to slip into unthinking reductionism is always there. It is not an issue that divides Christians and non-Christians. Neurologist and neuroscientist Raymond Tallis, who has highlighted the dangers of what he calls “biologism,” describes himself as an atheist humanist. … He has offered a trenchant criticism of reductionists who believe that our greatest human conceptual abilities can be reduced to neural firings in our brains. He calls them “neuromaniacs.” He is equally critical of those who seek to minimize human differences from other animals by, on the one hand, anthropomorphizing animals, or, on the other hand, “animalizing” humans in entirely unjustified ways. This he calls “Darwinitis.” (p. 36)

I’ve ordered Tallis’s book Aping Mankind (and a few other books I’ve found referenced by Jeeves) and will return to these issues in future posts. I think there is a big danger in trying to hard to make humans “merely animals.” Whether through natural means as Tallis would advocate, or through divine action, humankind is not merely an animal. The distinctions, I believe, are both quantitative and qualitative.  But this is too big a topic to dig into deeply here and it will come up again.

(4) The brain has a capacity to change in response to actions and thoughts. Learning, habits, discipline, these all have some power to change the very structure and signaling in the brain. Jeeves points to a study of London Taxi Drivers. When the hippocampus changed in size and shape over the course of their training, and these changes were correlated with qualifying or failing to qualify at the end of training. Another example is found in the way phobias, such as a spider phobia, can be overcome by conditioning. Brain scanning methods demonstrate that the changes are not “simply” behavioral. There are very real changes in the brain activity as the subjects overcame the phobia. “In effect, by modifying thinking and behavior, brain processes were also modified. Hence the use of the term top-down effect.” (p. 39)

Jeeves doesn’t raise this here – but I think this is why spiritual disciplines, regular prayers, liturgies, and the like are so important in Christian life. It is not that we must do something to earn God’s favor. Rather it is because the very things we do and habits we develop shape who we are at a rather profound level.

Duality … but not substance dualism. Much of the discussion concerning the relationship between mind and brain in Christian circles comes down to the the question of body and soul. Many Christians are what would best be described as substance dualists (or here). That is, they believe that an immaterial soul or person has a real substance separate from the physical body or substance that contains the person.  Jeeves sums up his discussion by noting that he, as a scientist, psychology professor, and Christian, believes that we are a psychobiological unity. There is an intrinsic interdependence, both bottom-up and top-down, between the physical brain and body and the mental processes.

It also seems to me that we cannot reduce the mental to the physical any more than we can reduce the physical to the mental. In this sense there is an important duality that we need to recognize between the mental and the physical, and I don’t believe this duality requires us to believe in two kinds of substances or a dualism of substance, and that makes me a dual aspect monist. (p. 40)

This is a tough subject for many Christians. The separation of body and soul is embedded in our language and tradition. Modern neuroscience is requiring something of a revision of thinking here. But, as Joel Green has argued (Body, Soul, and Human Life: The Nature of Humanity in the Bible) this may take us back to a view of humanity closer to that found in the Bible. (For those who may be interested, I did a long series on Joel’s book a couple of years ago – Being Human.) The notion of humans as a psychobiological unity reshapes some of our thinking, but is not in conflict with the Christian faith.

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