Thursday, July 07, 2016

Bruce Ware's recent post, and ERAS

Dr. Bruce Ware has rather recently came up with a guest post speaking to the issue of the Trinity, in light of the recent Trinitarian controversy. As I have mentioned many times, I do think Ware's and Grudem's critics are misrepresenting them, and this piece by Ware seems to validate my case. Of course, I could be wrong, but then, such has to be proven, and I don't see critics proving their case.

In this interview, we see Ware affirm the doctrine of the oneness of God's will in his answers to the first and second queries:

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.


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.

Ware's third answer is a rejection of libertarian freedom with regards to the willingness of God the Son in the economy of salvation. In Ware's fourth answer, he claims that he (at least) now believes in the eternal generation of the Son.

In his fifth answer, Ware sends what seems to me a clear signal that he distinguishes between the immanent Trinity and the economic Trinity, and does not hold to ontological subordination at all but rather that the eternal relations of authority and submission (ERAS) happen only in the economic sense. He states:

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.

It is interesting that, in the comment section, the same kind of terrible argumentation is repeated ad nauseum. Ware, as it seems to be proven from this article, clearly claims that ERAS pertains only to the economic Trinity, but yet in the comment section, we have people continue to attack him of promoting ontological subordination. My question then is: Where's the proof that he did so? If Ware denies that, and explicitly states here that he only believes in ERAS in the economic sphere, shouldn't we accept his statement as true, unless one wants to call him a liar? Where's the proof that Ware is promoting ontological subordination? I don't see it!

Now I get it that Ware and Grudem are biblicists and are reframing certain theological categories. But that alone does not constitute heresy. Disliking how they theologize is insufficient for the type of accusations that have been hurled at them. If their critics want to be taken seriously by those of us who are "in the middle," so to speak, start actually representing them correctly. If you think Ware and Grudem actually affirm ontological subordination, please show us why that is the case and why Ware is lying in this interview. Until they do so, I would hope that they stop their baseless pontification and stop violating the ninth commandment.


hanguoxiong said...

Dear Brother in Christ,

Greetings and I hope you are doing well in the United States. I know that this Trinitarian controversy has been very heated. Thus, I do not wish to add more heat to the issue.

About your views in the post, my conviction on this matter(of which I would seek to apply to myself as well) is from this passage, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding" - Proverbs 9:10.

I have raised this because the doctrine of the Trinity is to be approached by all Christians (including myself) with great reverence and humbleness of mind as we seek to understand and obey the great mystery of the revelation of our triune God.

Having said that, I take a different position from you regarding your views on Carl Trueman's critique of Grudem's and Ware's position. I say this not to imply that Grudem and Ware are heretics, or that Carl is absolutely right in everything he says. But I believe it is necessary for Grudem and Ware to rethink their position on eternal submission and consider whether it is truly in line with Nicene Trinitarianism. This is a valid question, I believe, that Carl and other concerned brethren has raised for Grudem and Ware to reevaluate their position.

These are my thoughts on this issue; and I would seek, by the grace of God, to humbly adore the truth of the Trinity with all reverence of mind and heart, together with brethren who confess the doctrine as summarized in the Nicene creed.

Have a blessed week.


Daniel C said...

Hi David,

It could be a valid question, IF eternal submission is contrary to Nicene Orthodoxy. But while eternal submission is not Nicene, I don't think the case has been proven that it is contrary to Nicene Orthodoxy.

Most of the rhetoric assume ERAS/ EFS is necessarily ontological subordination of some sort, and those are definitely contrary to Nicene Orthodoxy. But if, as this post by Ware seem to show, if ERA/EFS is just economical, then Nicene Orthodoxy does not speak to the issue at all.