Posted on Monday, June 20, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I am pleased to share another guest post from Liam Goligher, with a request where maybe we could move forward:
Professors Ware and Grudem,
Thank you for your quick, gracious and clear responses to my recent posts. I have no desire to cause either of you hurt or harm, and grieve that you have felt I did. If I may, I will for this reason avoid heightening the tension by focusing on my own account of the faith once delivered to the saints and inviting your critique. 
Our view of God is the very highest hill on which we must be prepared to die for the gospel. That view is articulated in creedal and confessional Christian churches in terms of the Nicene - Constantinople Creed of 381AD. These creedal deliverances are exegetical conclusions, the church’s way of formally expressing its submission to Scripture. Others have cited spokesmen from the 350”s arguing for some kind of authority/subordination within the Trinity, and there is no doubt that there were subordinationist strains among some of the fathers (and as you know every possible articulation of the Godhead was considered and examined under the microscope of the Word before being rejected). Tertullian spoke of the Father as ‘all being’ and the Son as a ‘tributary,’ but he also distinguished between the incarnation of the Son and the Son’s eternal generation. Novation taught that He ‘always existed in the Father.’ The councils of Nicea 325 and Constantinople 381 affirmed the full deity of the Son and (381) of the Holy Spirit. 
It is the ecumenical councils themselves (as secondary standards) that become the test of the orthodox understanding of God. John Calvin as a young man famously pulled away from using Nicene language, but with the maturing of his theological understanding he returned to this most basic mooring and gladly resumed using the language of the classical Christianity.
God ad intra
We agree that God, as He is in Himself, is a holy mystery. The Westminster Confession says ‘There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory’ (2.1). The Baptist Confession of 1689 adds ‘whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself (2.1)… not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations’ (2:3). God as He is in Himself is a simple being – not made up of bits or parts – He is one God. He is incomprehensible and immense to us as creatures. It is this doctrine of incomprehensibility that has often been raised by correspondents flowing from this debate. Yet we find it everywhere in Scripture, He asks us, “To whom will you compare me?” (Isa.40:18). What God is, in His divine essence, is not at all like what we are. There are limits to our human comprehension, ‘Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!’ (Romans 11:33). It was Eunomius, an Arian, who argued that there is nothing in God that is not perfectly known and comprehended by the human intellect, but this view was rejected by the church. Will we ever comprehend God as He is in Himself (in se)? No, not ultimately, for we are creatures and He is the Creator, and He extends beyond all our categories. Calvin said, His essence is incomprehensible; so that His divinity wholly escapes all human senses.’ This should at least give us pause before we read patriarchy back into the inner being of God (or anything else drawn from the creaturely realm, realizing that at best it is only analogously true of God) for when we do so we are acting as if we think Him to be entirely like ourselves, only bigger perhaps. 
Though God cannot be known in His fullness, yet we can know Him by special revelation; we may know Him truly but not fully. The Bible teaches and the church maintains both the unity of the divine substance (what it means to be one God) and the distinction of the persons (what it means to be God in His inter-Trinitarian relations). ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is One’ and yet we are to baptize in ‘the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’ When we meditate on the inner life of the Triune it is incomprehensible to us. Yet we may dwell on the One or on the Three; what God is as one God and what God is as three in mutual relations within the Godhead. We may also dwell on His being as Father, Son, and Spirit. The Father is unbegotten; the Son is begotten and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The personal names of ‘Father,’ ‘Son,’ and ‘Spirit’ refer to relations of origin rather than relations of authority (we must not read human paternity back into divine paternity; much less human patriarchy back into the eternal God, for He is not altogether like us). The divine ‘name’ is the ‘name of the Father, and the name of the Son, and the name of the Holy Spirit (Matt.28:18). 
The fathers were very anxious to affirm that the Son was ‘begotten not made.’ The Father and the Son are ontologically related to one another in that the Father is only the Father in relation to the Son and the Son is only the Son in relation to the Father; the divine persons exist as who they are only in relation to one another. The Father only exists eternally by giving Himself wholly as Father in the begetting of His Son. Read prosopologically, Psalm 2 records a divine conversation before the dawn of time when the Father addresses the Son and says, ‘Today I have begotten you’ (this method of exegesis is favored by Jesus, Peter, Hebrews, and the fathers). Psalm 110 makes the same move. When David begins: “The LORD said to my Lord.” he is reporting a conversation that was past tense to David’s own location in history. In that conversation the first LORD is undoubtedly Yahweh the covenant God of Israel; the most high God. Then the Most High designates a second person ‘my Lord’ (Adonai (MT) a word used to vocalize the unpronounceable covenant name Yahweh). In the LXX both are designated kurios, Lord. The second Lord in the text can be distinguished from the first Lord but is identified with Him. Both are divine but are distinguishable. 
Who then is this One whom David calls “My Lord?” Mark 12 leaves no room for doubt. Jesus argues that since David hails the Messiah as Lord, then Messiah is not David’s son but God’s Son – His lineage is more exalted than that of David. In fact, Simon Gathercole of Cambridge University points out that verse 3 speaks of this Savior (David’s Lord) as having been begotten of God before even the morning star was created. The LXX reads, “With you is the sovereign authority on the day of your power in the midst of the bright splendors of the holy ones; from the womb, before the dawn-bearing morning star appeared, I begot you.” This Greek translation, which was favored by Jesus and the early church for its accuracy, says that before the dawn of time itself, the Christ was begotten, not created or made, and that His human birth, ‘from the womb’ would take place in an unusual fashion and that God is here giving a hint of what He was going to do – and all would be fulfilled when Messiah would be born ‘from a womb’ of a virgin. 
Jesus’ enemies then knew precisely the point He was making; in fact this was the last straw in a series of claims that had his enemies whispering ‘blasphemy’ – that He, a mere man should claim to be God Most High. “According to the church’s doctrine of the Trinity, it is the personal properties of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, specifically eternal generation and spiration, that explain the distinctions we are able to discern. When these personal properties are denied, the three persons are separated from one another, and tritheism makes its appearance.” (Bavinck II.292). 
The homoousion (which you gladly affirm) was a way of further unpacking what it means for the Son to stand in relation to the Father (as begotten) rather than in relation to creation (as a creature). It is impossible to affirm the homoousian without affirming eternal generation. The specific lines in the creed that express eternal generation are “begotten of the Father before all worlds,” “begotten not made,” and also “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.” More time is spent expressing this specific shape of personal differentiation among equals then expressing same substance. This affirmation of eternal generation steers us carefully between Arius (who said the Son was less than the Father), and Sabellius (who denied distinction of persons). The homoousian stresses eternal relations not eternal roles or functions within the Godhead. The very talk of roles and functions inside God’s one being is anachronistic; it is to read from the economy back into the ontology or into the immanent. 
When Jesus speaks in John 5, He says, ‘the Son can do nothing of Himself, but only what He sees the Father doing’ (5:19), when He says this He is referring to mode of action and not being or nature, He acts from the Father. Then, so we don’t imagine that there is thereby inequality, He at once adds: ‘for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.’ And again, He states their equality by saying: ‘For just as the Father raises the dead and grants life, so the Son grants life to those whom He wishes,’ then, so we don’t deny that the Son is begotten, ‘as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself’ (5:23). He adds, ‘the Father Himself judges no one, but He has given all judgment to the Son.’ What the Father has, the Son has; what the Father does, the Son does; the ‘name’ of the Father, is the ‘name’ of the Son and the ‘name’ of the Spirit. 
This led Gregory of Nazanzus to write in Oration 40, that each of the three Persons is fully God Himself:
…neither increased nor diminished by superiorities or inferiorities; in every respect equal, in every respect the same; just as beauty and the greatness of the heavens is one; the infinite conjunction of three infinite Ones. Each God when considered in Himself; as the Father so the Son, as the Son so the Holy Ghost; the Three One God when contemplated together; each God because consubstantial’ one God because of the Monarchia.’ 
Gregory taught that to subordinate any Person of the Three is to ‘overthrow the Trinity”: ‘For he [Arius] did not honor the Father, by dishonoring His offspring with his unusual degrees of Godhead. But we recognize one glory of the Father, the equality of the Only-begotten; and one glory of the Son, that of the Spirit. And we hold that to subordinate any of the Three is to destroy the whole’ (Oration 43;29). Calvin said that Christ was both ‘of the Father’ and ‘of Himself;’ ‘from the Father’ and ‘from Himself,’ and thereby HE asserts Christ’s self-existence, He has ‘life in Himself’ as does the Father (Calvin, Opera Calvini, VII.322; 323.4; XII.18). . 
When we think of God ad intra we think of the Divine simplicity; the eternal generation of the Son and processions of the Holy Spirit; the inseparable operations of the Three; and the one divine will because there is but one God. There is no room for any kind of social Trinitarian model there. We need to bow to the mystery of God ad intra; in Himself He is immortal, invisible, incomprehensible and unapproachable. The will of the Trinity is one will, and the operations of the trinity are inseparable and indivisible. There is no hierarchy; and there are not three centers of consciousness. When we worship God in Himself we are reminded that He and we are different in kind; He is the Creator and Ruler of all things, and we are creatures. If there is to be any understanding of who God is and what He is like, then He must first make something outside of Himself and then relate to us at a creaturely level. This He has deigned to do. 
God in the pactum salutis
What we call the economy is rooted in the eternal decree, where God freely wills that the Father send the Son to be Mediator and the Redeemer of God’s elect. 
Is there any biblical evidence of the pactum salutis or covenant of redemption? In John 13-17 the preoccupation is with the glory of Christ. That theme begins in Jn.12:23-28, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified... Father, glorify your name. Then a voice came from heaven: I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ Immediately, we have two quotations from Isaiah (53&6) followed by the comment on both the Isaiah texts, ‘Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.’ The ‘glory’ is a descriptor of Jesus in His divine glory. In Isaiah 6 the prophet sees the Lord God Almighty ‘sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up’ the object of heavenly worship. In Isaiah 52 the Lord announces of His Servant, ‘he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted’ John identifies both these exalted figures with Jesus and His glory. In the first He sits eternally in heavenly splendor; in the second He is to be exalted (in the future) to heavenly splendor. 
What has changed between Isaiah 6 and 52/53? The divine Lord has become the humble Servant and has obediently finished His task and will resume His state of exaltation. This leads immediately to the footwashing incident (Jn.13) and its location in Jesus’ knowledge that He had ‘come from God and was returning to God.’ This statement explains the significance of the acted parable: He leaves His place, puts on the servant’s towel and washes His disciples’ in a parable of salvation (“if I wash you not, you have no fellowship with me”), then resumes His garments and returns to His place. Now this movement of glory to glory and God to God is picked up at in John 17. There He speaks to the Father about glory shared (“the glory I had with you before the world existed”), times set (the ’hour has come’), promises made (“the people whom you gave me out of the world”), obligations undertaken (“the work you gave me to do”), and equality stressed (“All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them”). This snippet of a conversation confirms other Scriptures which hint at this eternal pact or covenant. 
Does the idea of the pactum militate against God’s one will? Not if we can agree that the one Triune will decreed there would be something external to Himself and that in this external reality (the economy) His will be enacted according to the’ tripersonal manner of subsistence’ (Allen & Swain, Christian Dogmatics, 122) within the Trinity. John Owen expounds this:
‘Such is the distinction of the persons in the unity of the divine essence, as that they act in natural and essential acts reciprocally one towards another – namely in understanding, love, and the like; they know and mutually love each other. And as they subsist distinctly, so they also act distinctly in those works that are of external operation…The will of God as to the peculiar actings of the Father in this matter is the will of the Father, and the will of God with regard to the actings of the Son is the will of the Son: not by distinction of sundry wills, but by the distinct application of the same will unto its distinct acts in the persons of the Father and the Son’ (ibid. p121). 
God ad extra
We must start our contemplation of God by remembering that He is immense, invisible and incomprehensible. We can never know God ad intra in all His fullness; we can only know Him ‘after a creaturely fashion’ through the work of the Mediator. In making the universe ‘out of nothing’ and in peopling it with creatures both angelic and human God then begins the business of revealing Himself to them. Here we move to the economy of redemption. 
The move of the Son of God is highlighted in the gospel of John in a variety of ways. In John 1 the emphasis begins with the co-equality, co-eternity and con-substantiality of the Word and God, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This is immediately followed by this enormous move: ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only [begotten] Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… No one has ever seen God; the only [begotten] God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.’ 
His incarnation begins His life of active obedience to His Father. ‘But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” (Gal.4:4). John 6:38 reads ‘For I have come down from heaven (He is speaking in the present, that is, in the economy), not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.’ Here Jesus stresses that in the economy of redemption, as the second and last Adam He has brought his human will and placed it under the will of the Father (which in the economy the man Christ Jesus is bound to obey). John frequently uses this language to emphasise the move ‘from God to God’ (Jn.13:1); He left His place (Jn.13) to take on the badge of the servant and wash His disciples’ feet. In Phil.2 He is already equal with God and is God but He empties Himself by taking the form of a servant in order to be obedient to death. In Hebrews 5:8 it says, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” 
In His human flesh (acting as the second and last Adam, the true and faithful Israel, and the appointed and anointed Messiah) Jesus voluntarily placed Himself under the authority of His Father. The kingdom referred to in 1 Co.15:28 is one He holds, not only as the Son of God, but also as Messiah by virtue of his messianic appointment, obedience, and reward. There is another authority given to Him on account of His obedience. In Rev.5:9 He is given the throne precisely because He purchased people by His blood. There is a kingdom over which Christ reigns as Redeemer on the basis of the work of redemption He did on His people’s behalf. He reigns because of it; and it is this mediatorial kingdom which, one day, when it has achieved its goal; He will surrender to His Father. 
In His work as Redeemer and Mediator He is most certainly subordinate to His Father. The Mediator is the Servant of the Lord; He is the Last Adam; and as long as He remains human His subordination is unavoidable. Yet in His exaltation, as Paul affirms in 1Cor.15:27, the only one not subject to Him is God the Father. Hence, in Rev.5:6 we see the Lamb where we expect to see God the Father – Lord of all; revealing and implementing the Divine plan for history. 
Professor Donald MacLeod however points to complexity in the future unfolding of God’s purposes. The members of the Trinity seem to vie with each other for the privilege of serving. There is a subtle indicator of the relationship between the Lord and the Lord of Psalm 110, that is, the Lord God and the Lord Messiah: In v1, ‘The LORD says to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand.”’ In v5, the Spirit through the Psalmist says to the Messiah, “The Lord is at your right hand…” This is a unique insight into the inter-relationships within the Godhead as the Father comes to the aid of His Son in the battles with the world, the flesh and the devil. Jesus testified to this in John 16:32, ‘I am not alone, for my Father is with me.’ In Col.1:12 we find the Father actively involved in this kingdom work long before it is handed back to Him, as Paul urges the church to give thanks to the Father who ‘has rescued us form the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.’ And in Heb.2:5ff the writer interprets Psalm 8 prosopologically as referring to the role assigned to the Son of man: “You made Him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under His feet.” The new creation will be ruled by the Father through the Son in the Spirit. 
In my account thus far I have moved from what God is in Himself to what God in to us in Christ by way of the covenant of redemption. I believe that by introducing the covenant of redemption we might find ground on which we might possibly stand together for the gospel. But gospel unity is impossible if we don’t agree about the God of the gospel. Might you be willing to import your speech about God into the pactum rather than place it in God in se? This covenant flows from and fits with God’s character. In other words, it is the first of God’s works; while we really do see God manifest in this (and all His works), this is His work and not Him in ipse.
Posted on Sunday, June 19, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Seriously. I mean that in an endearing way. In fact, I hope I’m an idiot, and I think we need a lot more idiots in the church. So does Ted Kluck.
I hosted my book review club this Monday evening at my house. This is where we all read whatever book we want and come together to review it. It doesn’t have to be a Christian book, but it has turned out that all of us who attend are believers. So as we give our reviews everyone uses their gospel filter to analyze. With all the coffee and sugar that I pump us up with, we are cutting each other off, laughing, and having a great time (we probably don’t need the coffee and sugar for this, but at least we have something to blame it on).
Anyway, my mom reviewed this book by Ted Kluck and Dallas Jahncke called Dallas and the Spitfire. She said that she found it sitting around in her living room and she didn’t know where it came from. As she was reading it she realized that it was the perfect book for her husband, Rock. So now he is in the middle of reading it. That’s when I informed her that I gave that book to Rock for Father’s Day last year. Anyway, here is the excerpt she read that made me realize my husband was an idiot. Kluck was talking about his new “rock star” friend:
...he often referred to his good friends - the people with whom he had the most fun, laughs, etc. - as "idiots." He said it as a term of endearment, and that was obvious. For example, on Sunday when we were driving to church together, I was trying to describe a good buddy of mine. My new rock star buddy said, " He's as idiot, like us!" Exactly.
Friends, let me describe why being an idiot is important. First, it means that you're fun to be with because you don't take yourself too seriously and are not afraid to laugh at yourself. This is crucial. It means that when someone gives you a compliment, you just say thanks or, better yet, you make some wisecrack about it rather than saying, "It's only by His good Grace and in Him that I was ever able to even think about writing a book, because I'm a miserable wretched sinner and I want all the attention to go to the cross." For example.
Being an idiot means that while you work hard, you don't take your work too seriously. It means that you're not always on the lookout to "network" or "politic" or "synergize" your way to the top by making sanctimonious, suck-uppy comments to people who can help you get there. It means that you'd rather hang out with people who are fun than people who can move your career forward.
It means that you generally let unimportant things roll off and that you don't sweat the small stuff. It means that you're cool with occasionally telling a story in which you're not the hero and laughing at yourself and even the subculture that you hold nearest and dearest. You probably don't sign all of your correspondence with "Soli Deo_," or "In Him," or "Grace and Peace." It's just an email, man (119-120).
My husband, Matt, doesn’t always say the right thing. I fell in love with him because he’s an idiot. And once you find an idiot, you’ve got the real deal. If you are providentially blessed enough to have an idiot love you back, you know that they always will.
Not only does he not take himself too seriously, Matt won’t let me take myself too seriously either. If I get caught up in thinking I’m important, he gives me the look. Now I know what it means, “Honey, you're just an idiot, remember?” Oh yeah! If I slip out a big word in casual conversation, you can bet my idiot husband is going to use it all day long, in improper context just for fun, to help me remember that we are idiots.
In fact he and my step-father have an Idiot’s Day. This is their new affectionate term for Father’s Day after they had a fishing trip that went horribly wrong a couple of years back. The kayak trip that was much longer than they intended (supposedly) ended with the realization that the keys were in the truck parked at the beginning marker. With his tail between his legs, my idiot husband had to call me to wake the children up from their naps, put a note on the door in case our company arrived early, and leave to save the day. I brought a couple of sandwiches with me because I figured those idiots would be hungry.
*This was originally posted on Housewife Theologian on July 3, 2013.
Posted on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Well, Dr. Liam Goligher's first guest post on Housewife Theologian has generated a lot of discussion and reaction from around the world. I'm pleased to share this follow-up by Liam, one that particularly addresses a question raised by Dr. Mike Ovey: 
It has been my privilege, over some years, to know Dr. Mike Ovey of Oak Hill Theological College. At a time when there was a full on assault against penal substitutionary atonement within the evangelical camp in the United Kingdom, he and colleagues wrote the decisive academic book on the subject and were kind enough to reference my attempt at a popular defense of the doctrine. We were in the same corner then and no one (except Mike I imagine) knows how upsetting it is to now find ourselves in opposite corners in this debate. In fact I had written privately to Mike asking advice on how to reply to those who would attack my post! I say this to confirm what he says at the beginning of his post that we have had nothing but friendly relations over the years and that there is no prior animosity behind our differences. That being said, it appears our differences are great, and that on the doctrine of the Trinity. 
It is the believer’s privilege and passion to meditate on and delight in the Divine Three in One; contemplating their majesty, admiring their beauty, confessing their unity. I’m sure Mike would agree that we can think of no greater joy than to join in the worship of this great and glorious Lord. Speaking for myself, it is a particular joy to contemplate the mystery of the eternal life and love of the Eternal Trinity; their mutual delight in each other; the eternal love of the Father for the Son and of the Son for the Father in the Holy Spirit. In that eternal repose there was one mind, one will, one love, one power shared equally by the divine persons in perfect unity and identity of being. It is in this contemplation of God that I need both the Bible and the language of the church. I need the carefully crafted words of the church’s creeds to keep me from misunderstanding God or misrepresenting Him. In this regard what one or two theologians said about God in the 350’s AD while debates were going on, is not as important as what is found in the ecumenical creeds like the Nicene-Constantinople Creed of 381 AD. 
This God taught Israel to say ‘The Lord our God is One.’ There are distinctions of course. The NT writers, and Christ Himself, noted that OT prophets like David and Isaiah, when ‘in the Spirit,’ were party to conversations within the Godhead from the deepest past of pre-temporal ‘time’ (anthropomorphism if ever there was one). The fathers referred to this as prosopological exegesis, in which the prophet, using language scripted by the Holy Spirit, speaks in the prosopon, the character, the persona of a divine participant in the drama of redemption (See Matthew Bates, The Birth of the Trinity). The prophet could, in the Spirit, hear conversations before and after his own location in history. In Psalm 2 David hears the Father say to the Son at from eternity, ‘Today I have begotten you.’ As the church meditated on this and other texts, it realized that the Father (as the principle) generates, the Son is generated and the Father and the Son spirate the Holy Spirit. These actions are not understood to be distinct in themselves, but with respect of the persons they are distinct; the action by which the Father generates the Son, and the action by which the Father and Son spirate the Holy Spirit is nothing other than the pure act of God (actus purus). Within the Trinity the Father and the Son are ontologically related to one another in that the Father is only the Father in relation to the Son and the Son is only the Son in relation to the Father. Aquinas was building on the Greek fathers and Augustine’s teaching when he conceived of the persons of the Trinity as subsistent relations, that is, they subsist or exist as who they are only in relation to one another. The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father as the One in whom the Father begets the Son in love, and He proceeds from the Son as the One in whom the Son loves the Father who has begotten Him. The Holy Spirit is the product of the Father’s love for the Son, and the Son’s love for the Father.
This takes us deeply into the nature of God as He is in Himself and leaves us speechless in worship as we contemplate this One who is Three and the Three who are One. This knowledge can only be made known to us by the One who knows the deep things of God, the Blessed Holy Spirit (1Cor.2). ‘The Lord our God, the Lord is One,’ says the Shema, and Jesus says, ‘I and the Father are one.’ This confession is made explicit by the early church which proclaims with Paul (as Richard Bauckham exegetes it) in this carefully formulated statement in 1 Cor.8:6, a) but for us there is one God, the Father, b) from whom are all things and we for Him, c) and one Lord, Jesus Christ, d) through whom are all things and we through Him. Every word of the Shema is used and rearranged to enfold the Son and Lord (lines a) and c) above) into the affirmation of one God. Lines b) and d) above divide up between God and Jesus another Jewish monotheistic formula which relates the one God as Creator to ‘all things.’ Later the apostle ascribes to the one God honor for ‘from Him and through Him and to Him are all things’ (Rom.11:36). Such a move makes the eternal Son distinct yet identical to God. He is ‘before all things;’ by Him ‘all things exist;’ and in Him ‘all things hold together’ (Col.1:16, 17). As a friend wrote me today, ‘One God’ and ‘One Lord’ isn’t saying ‘one red jelly bean’ and ‘one blue jelly bean.’ It is identifying two persons with one divine being, one divine operation ad extra. 
We see a similar move in Isaiah. In ch6 Isaiah famously sees ‘the Lord High and Exalted’ with the angels worshipping Him as the Lord God the Almighty. John tells us that he saw the eternal Lord of glory Himself, the Lord Christ. Yet, later in Isaiah, we find the term used again prospectively of the Servant, ‘he shall be high and lifted up and exalted.’ Jesus quotes from both Isa.6 and 52/3 in John 12, but which is it? Is He high and lifted up or will he be high and lifted up? What happens between these two affirmations, one that He is and the other that He will be? It is His appearance as a Servant empowered to obey to the point of death! The acted parable of John 13 has Him coming from God and returning to God as He lays aside His garments and leaves His place to take on the badge of the servant and wash His disciples’ feet as a sign of salvation (“if I wash you not you have no part in me”). The answer of John 17 is that Christ moved from the glory He had with the Father before the world was, to be incarnate and obey and accomplish the work, to being received back in public acknowledgement of His achievement as the eternal Son and effective Mediator into that selfsame glory. In Revelation we find Him as the Lamb sitting in the midst of the throne receiving the full worship of the adoring creatures and people; the whole heavenly host. 
These illustrations emphasize the unity and identity of the Son with the Father. Both are high and exalted; both are responsible for ‘all things’. Both share the glory of eternal deity. The Lord our God is one. This was the insight of the Trinitarian theologians. There is no doubt that Athanasius and Hilary talked about a monarchia of the Father, but they did so in a way that does not entail the sort of subordination being argued for in Mike’s piece. The real problem with the position as represented by Grudem, for example, is that they deny the classical hypostatic differentiation of the Son as eternally begotten and the Spirit as eternally proceeding. Therefore, to avoid modalism, they must talk about eternal submission or subordination. But if this typifies the Son and the Spirit, how do they distinguish the Son and the Spirit? They also deny inseparable operations, which they have to do if they are going to have subordination of the will of the Son to the Father. This runs into the problem with the classical affirmation that there is one will in the triune God. 
There is implicit in the subordinationist view a denial of the unity of God defined in terms of singularity and simplicity. Jesus echoes the language of singularity when He says ‘I, I am;’ we find that self-designation particularly in Isaiah in setting God apart from the idols of the nations. In fact, in using the expression repeatedly as He does in John’ gospel He is repeating the self-designation He gave to Moses and Isaiah. But God is also described in terms of simplicity. It means that God has no parts; that He is identical with His attributes; that He is love and holy and righteous and life and love. It’s not that He has those things but that He is those things. ‘God is what He has, and there is nothing within Him that is not wholly identical to Him’ (Gavin Ortlund). Augustine said God is pure essence without accidents. In God is everything and everything is one. God is everything He possesses. He has a distinct and different and infinite life of His own within Himself. Every name used of God refers to the same divine being, but each time from a particular angle, the angle from which it reveals itself to us in His works. God is therefore simple in His multiplicity and manifold in His simplicity (Augustine). Bavinck writes: The divine being is not composed of three persons, nor is each person composed of the being and personal attributes of that person, but the one uncompounded (simple) being exists in three persons.’ The eternal subordination of the Son challenges the simplicity of God. The very ideas of functions and roles within the Trinity ad intra are inconceivable, they are subsistent relations fully in act. 
Some challenge us for the ‘special’ language we use when discussing the Trinity; why should that be? ‘The Trinity is about persons in relation in a certain taxis, not about people in relationships with certain roles. What is the difference between persons and people, relations and relationships, taxis and roles? Every time we say “three persons” instead of “three people,” we are registering in ordinary language our sense that the matters on the God side of the equation are high and lifted up’ (Fred Sanders ). In Himself He is incomprehensible. This should give us pause for thought before we make any univocal connections between God and ourselves. We must remind ourselves that there is a category difference between God and His creation. God does not belong to reality as we conceive of it. He is outside of our reality; He is apart from us in terms of being and above us in terms of power and authority and exaltation. Gavin Ortlund quotes Anselm’s prayer “You, although nothing exists without you, do not exist in a place or time; rather, all things exist in you. For nothing contains you, but you contain all things.” Any relationship between God and creation must be analogical. 
Perhaps this is where the misstep began; thinking about how to find in God something that provides us with more ammunition for our gender views. Egalitarians did that with their flattening out of differences between the persons and talk of a ‘divine dance’ (which appears to be a ‘round’ with no principle); and now some complementarians have chosen the same route. I think that is what has made the arguments against women’s ordination seem so irrelevant; because they have shifted away from the clear texts of scripture and have been placed in the nature of the Triune God. That was a fatal move because it was wrong. And I think that this move has set back our argument 50 years. 
Better to see the matter in the economy where undoubtedly Christ, in the covenant of redemption (meaning, in eternity of course), and in the decree of God encompassing creation, election and redemption undertook to take into Himself our humanity and take into Himself the form of a servant (Isaiah’s great Servant of the Lord). There He voluntarily placed Himself into a covenant of works relationship with the Father as the second and last Adam and the true and faithful Israel on behalf of God’s elect. In that capacity He bought His human will into alignment with the Divine will (in the economy, the will of the Father) in order that His obedience and blood might be counted to those who believe. Were Christ by nature a Servant (as EFS folks suggest) then the wonder of His condescension is lost; that He who was rich should become poor; that He who was Lord should become servant; that He who gave the law should be made under the law; and that He who had ‘life in Himself’ should give up His life to death for His people. ‘Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life my all.’ Such divine humiliation draws forth from the believer such gratitude and worship at the enormity of the move He made for our salvation. 
Mike your post asked ‘should I resign?’ I have to say that I did not have you in mind when I asked the question; but it remains a good question. I asked it when a young man came up for ordination. He was thoroughly orthodox but believed in ordaining woman though he promised not to teach it. Should he be ordained? I believe not and argued that what one believes comes out whether one intends it or not. And if our church believes, as it does so far (and may God be pleased to keep us obedient to that Scripture) that women should not be ordained: then it follows that he should not be ordained to preach in our church (PCA). Well, if that were the case in terms of ordination how much more when dealing with Nicene Christianity. I would say to a person who has taken vows to believe the creed (and the articles of religion), go to your presbytery or bishop and ask whether he/they think you have shifted and then let them decide. 
Dr. Liam Goligher is Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church. He is the author of A Window on Tomorrow (Christian Focus, 1994), The Fellowship of the King (Carlisle, 2003), The Jesus Gospel (Milton Keynes, 2006), and Joseph—The Hidden Hand of God (Fearn, 2008).  Liam and his wife Christine have five adult children (Louise, Ruth, David, Sarah, Andrew) and nine grandchildren.
Posted on Monday, June 13, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Is it important for a Christian parachurch organization to align with our faith’s historic, orthodox confessions on the Trinity? After reading Owen Strachan’s response to Carl Trueman and Liam Goligher, I have to ask that question. Writing on complementarianism, Strachan states that there’s “room in our movement for both those who hold to ERAS [Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission] and those who take issue with aspects of it.” This seems different from what he says in his new book with Gavin Peacock, The Grand Design
“The Son is the Son because he submits to the Father’s will.” 
“There is no Holy Trinity without the order of authority and submission.” 
He makes the case in his book that there is no room for any other position on the Trinity. And yet, since we have written and shared our concerns on these teachings last week on MoS, patristic scholars of the caliber of Michel R. Barnes and Lewis Ayres weighed in, warning of the consequences of unorthodox teaching on the Trinity. And I’m going to have to once again echo Todd Pruitt by quoting Michael Bird:
Let me add- and this was not at my behest or invitation – that when two of the biggest names in fourth century trinitarian theology graciously dismantle your theological argument for basing human relationships on a subordinationist trinitarianism, the game is over. Time to abandon the SS Subordinationism, man the life boats, look for a nice Nicene Island for refuge to land on, and find less complicated ways of arguing for complementarianism.
So, given the fact that Strachen is the President and Editor-in-Chief for CBMW, and that Wayne Grudem is a council member and board member, as well as Bruce Ware being a council member, I had to ask a question. I threw it out on Twitter. Linking to Strachan’s response, I asked if this was the official teaching of CBMW? Even after the critique from Ayres? Grant Castleberry, executive Director of answered:
Grant Castleberry ‏@grcastleberry 5h
5 hours ago
@aimeebyrdhwt You don't have to affirm ERAS to be complementarian or under the CBMW umbrella. Only the Danvers Statement.
Denny Burk also directed me to the Danvers Statement. I found that peculiar. Is Danvers orthodoxy weightier than Nicene orthodoxy? Do I want to learn about a version of male authority over women from men who hold to EFS [Eternal Functional Subordination] and ERAS and are not in line with our orthodox confessions on the Trinity?
Basically, I am pleading here for CBMW to make a statement about their position on the Trinity. I believe this is a reasonable request. An important, reasonable request. 
Let's not make light of our confessions. For a short discussion on the importance of the confessions for the Christian church, Jonathan Master has a great interview with Carl Trueman up today on his podcast, Theology on the Go. You can listen here.
Posted on Monday, June 06, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
On Friday, I posted Part One of a guest post by Dr. Liam Goligher, Is it Okay to Teach a Complementarianism Based on Eternal Subordination. Hopefully it has opened some eyes regarding some troubling teaching in the name of complementarianism. Here is the Part Two that I promised:
While we were sleeping, feeling secure that they were not tampering with the glory of the gospel, they were in fact tampering with the glory of the eternal Son of God!
My last article ended assuring that God as He is in himself requires our faith and adoration, not our speculation. We can however be sure that His eternal being is faithfully expressed in how God deals with the world. It is at this point we move to what we know of God in Christ. The NT tells us that He is the Son of the Father; this describes His filial and eternal relationship with the Father; as the Divine Son He shares the nature of His Father. He existed 'with God in the beginning’ and He ‘was God’ (Jn.1:1-3). This tells us that He shared eternity and equality with the Father. There are not degrees of Godness; one is either God or one is not. Paul later tells us that the Son is ‘by very nature God’ and ‘equal’ with God. Since God is God, He cannot be God by nature without being God in all His thinking, willing and acting. 
Indeed, that is where the early Christians located Jesus, within the identity of the God of Israel. And they went further; by using a person-centered reading of the OT, they found embedded in the texts accounts of conversations between divine persons that gave them clues as to how to speak of God as Trinity. Our Lord located Himself there when He used the emphatic "I, I am;" when He claimed power and authority normally attached to God Himself (e.g. to have "life in Himself;" to "forgive sin;" to be the locus and focus of worship (Jn. 4); to speak as God to Israel (Matt.5-7); to be ‘one’ with the Father); and when He spoke of the "glory" He shared with God the Father before all worlds began (Jn.17). He was the one who spoke to Moses at the burning bush; and who appeared to Isaiah (when the prophet had a vision of the heavenly temple, the council chamber of God). To hear Him is to hear the Father; to know Him is to know the Father. From all eternity, He was ‘face to face’ with God; His sonship is utterly unique.
Primacy of the Father?
The church long ago rejected any form of primacy of the Father within the eternal Trinity, though there were some among the fathers who wanted to assert primacy to justify bishops in the church, just as there are some among evangelicals who want to assert primacy to justify patriarchy in the home and beyond. And the church long ago rejected any form of eternal subordination of the Son to the Father. The language of Psalm 110 makes it quite clear that when the Son speaks to the Father, He speaks as God to God, as Lord to Lord. Jesus quotes that psalm in Mark 12 where He claims to be Lord, and is completely understood by the rabbis as claiming to be the 'Son of the Most High' that leads to their charge of blasphemy. In other words, the Pharisees understood Jesus’ claim to be Son as an ontological claim. 
It was this Son who humbled Himself (notice the voluntary nature of the movement in Phil.2) by taking "the form of a servant" by being found ‘in fashion as a man.’ He did not ‘empty Himself’ of deity or of ‘all but love’, but He humbled Himself and emptied Himself by ‘taking’ something He never had before – servanthood (He took the nature of a servant) and humanity (He was found in fashion as a man). The grammar tells it all, ‘himself He humbled taking…’ He takes the form of a servant, and becomes the second and last Adam to win our salvation by His active obedience in the life He lives and in His passive obedience in the death He dies. 
This movement is quite obvious in Isaiah's revelation of the Messiah. First, His divine identity is established - He is the Son "given" to us; divine titles belong to him: He is "mighty God, everlasting father.” The coming Son is ‘Immanuel,’ God with us. By the time we reach Isa 40 we are expectantly looking for the appearance and arrival of God Himself ("Behold your God"). And it is precisely at this point that we are introduced to the Servant of the Lord. Care is taken to locate the Servant alongside God - He too is "exalted, high and lifted up" with divine honors. John’s gospel makes it clear that the thrice holy ‘Lord God the Almighty’ of Isa.6 is the ‘Servant’ of Isa.52-53 (John 12). The movement from divine Son to divine Servant, from exalted Sovereign (ch6) to the despised and rejected Servant (ch52-53) is clear. It is this humiliation that distinguishes His eternal and divine life before His incarnation, from the creaturely and earthly life He lived in His flesh. The Son continues as God after His incarnation, and what He does in the flesh He does as one person, the God-man. So, in His earthly life we see this mixture of the earthly and heavenly. What is creaturely about His life on earth cannot be read back into the life of the Triune. When it comes to us His people we can only imitate the earthly and godly aspects of His life. Then, after the resurrection Jesus is exalted as “Son of God with Power,” the Mediator of our salvation, who reigns as the glorified God-man. 
What Is at Stake
The internal life of the Trinity is neither egalitarian nor hierarchical because of the very nature of God as God. Only in His voluntary state as a servant do we read that ‘the head of Christ is God’ (1Cor.11:3). Only in the economy of redemption, in His state of humiliation, is this true. As the second and last Adam, acting for and in place of His people, He is placed in a covenant of works relationship with the Father, charged to obey where we disobeyed and to ‘fulfill all righteousness’ on our behalf so that His righteousness might be ‘accounted’ to us (Isa.53; Romans 4). As such, His ‘food’ is to do the will of Him who sent Him and to ‘finish’ His work. His obedience was entirely congruous with His having taken our creatureliness into Himself. We derive our model of servanthood, submission and obedience from His perfect example. To confuse Christ in His state of humiliation with the eternal Son as He was ‘with God in the beginning’ is to move beyond Scripture and Christian orthodoxy as historically understood. 
So, here is the bottom line: God has revealed Himself as Trinity. To speculate, suggest, or say that there is a real primacy of the Father or subordination of the Son within the eternal Trinity is to have moved out of Christian orthodoxy and to have moved or be moving towards idolatry. Idolatry is to believe or say of God something which is not true of Him. Scripture is our authority in the matter; and the church’s confessed faith is a safety check on our understanding of it. This gospel clarity is imperative for the pastor/preacher. With the souls of men and women at stake, confusion or unwarranted speculation (in the interests of novelty or academic advancement) at this point is fatal. The church took so long to articulate its position on the Trinity and Christology because it recognized the danger of heresy and blasphemy. What we face in evangelicalism today is at best shoddy thinking and at worst ungodly thinking about the first principle of our religion – “Who is God?” The teaching is so wrong at so many levels that we must sound a blast against this insinuation of error into the body of Christ's church. Before we jettison the classical, catholic, orthodox and reformed understanding of God as He is we need to carefully weigh what is at stake – our own and our hearers’ eternal destiny. 
Dr. Liam Goligher is Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church. He is the author of A Window on Tomorrow (Christian Focus, 1994), The Fellowship of the King (Carlisle, 2003), The Jesus Gospel (Milton Keynes, 2006), and Joseph—The Hidden Hand of God (Fearn, 2008).  Liam and his wife Christine have five adult children (Louise, Ruth, David, Sarah, Andrew) and nine grandchildren.
Posted on Friday, June 03, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I am pleased to share two guest posts with you, written by Dr. Liam Goligher, on classical Trinitarianism, and why that matters. Stay tuned for Part Two on Monday!:
Is the Trinity no more than a social program for the world and the church? Is the eternal life of the Trinity hierarchical or egalitarian? Are there three minds, three wills, and three powers within the Godhead? Are the current Trinitarian views of some evangelical people in danger of leading them out of orthodox Christianity into eccentricity (at best) or idolatry (at worst)?
All of the questions above are under debate in the evangelical church today. Some, whose instinct is to defend the differences between men and women, are following the egalitarians in redefining the Triune nature of God to defend their position. Egalitarians typically describe the Trinitarian as a divine dance. They use this as an argument for an undifferentiated humanity made in this God's image. Now, some who pose as complementarian are proposing the idea of hierarchy or primacy within God as a being, God as He is in Himself. They teach that there has always been authority and subordination within the Trinity. This view poses a clear and present danger to our understanding of who the Christian God is. Contrast these few quotes:
Contemporary Evangelicalism
“The Father is the authority of Christ, and always has been…There is no Holy Trinity without the order of authority and submission” (Strachan and Peacock, The Grand Design).
“I hold to the eternal submission of the Son to the Father” (Wayne Grudem, 
"Former TEDS systematic theology professors Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware returned to the suburban Chicago seminary and argued the affirmative: relations of authority and submission do indeed exist among the persons of the Godhead. They pointed to a number of biblical texts that show that while the Son dwelt among us, he submitted to his heavenly Father. This was not the point of disagreement, however, so Grudem cited additional passages, arguing that they suggest the Son has submitted from eternity past and will submit for eternity future. He turned to Ephesians 1:3-5, Romans 8:29, and John 1:14 to argue: 'The role of planning, purposing, predestining — the entire history of salvation — belongs to the Father, according to Scripture. There is no hint of any such authority for the Son with respect to the Father.'" (Christianity Today, Oct.10/08).
(Edit update 6/10 to expand Colin Hanson's quote)
Orthodox Christianity
“I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of light, very God of very God” (Nicene Creed)
“In this Trinity none is afore, nor after another; none is greater or less than another” (Athanasian Creed).
Father, Son and Holy Spirit exist “in an inseparable equality of one substance” (Augustine).
“We believe with all our hearts and confess with our mouths that there is a single and simple spiritual being, whom we call God – eternal, incomprehensible, invisible, unchangeable, infinite, almighty: completely wise, just, and good, and the overflowing source of all good” (Belgic Confession).
“There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness; the Maker, and Preserver of all things both visible and invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost” (39 Articles).
“In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. The Father is of none, neither begotten nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son” (Westminster Confession of Faith). 
“The Scriptures manifest that the Son and the Holy Ghost are equal with the Father, ascribing to them such names, attributes, works, and worship as are proper to God only” (Westminster Larger Catechism, Q11).
“The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father's glory, of one substance and equal with him who made the world, who upholdeth and governeth all things he hath made…” (1689 Baptist Confession)
"If there be one God subsisting in three persons, then let us give equal reverence to all the persons in the Trinity. There is not more or less in the Trinity; the Father is not more God than the Son and Holy Ghost. There is an order in the Godhead, but no degrees; one person has not a majority or super eminence above another, therefore we must give equal worship to all the persons." (Thomas Watson)
"In deeds of grace none the Persons of the Trinity act by themselves. They are as united in their deeds as in their essence. In their love towards the chosen they are one, and in the actions which flow from that great central source they are still undivided" (C. H. Spurgeon). 
It’s not hard to see who has moved! These quotes highlight what is at stake in the teaching of some contemporary evangelical scholars and pastors: they are presenting a novel view of God; a different God than that affirmed by the church through the ages and taught in Scripture. This is serious. It comes down to this; if they are right we have been worshipping an idol since the beginning of the church; and if they are wrong they are constructing a new deity - a deity in whom there are degrees of power, differences of will, and diversity of thought. Because, mark this, to have an eternally subordinate Son intrinsic to the Godhead creates the potential of three minds, wills and powers. What they have done is to take the passages referring to the economic Trinity and collapse them into the ontological Trinity. 
What's at Stake with this New Teaching?
I am an unashamed biblical complementarian. The original use of that word took its cue from the biblical teaching about the differences yet complementarity of human beings made in the image of God while not running away from the challenges of applying biblical exhortations for wives to submit to their own husbands in the Lord or the prohibition on ordination for women in the church. With only those two caveats, as Calvin told John Knox, women may be princes in the state, but not pastors in the church. But this new teaching is not limiting itself to that agenda. It now presumes to tell women what they can or cannot say to their husbands, and how many inches longer their hair should be than their husbands!  They, like the Pharisees of old are going beyond Scripture and heaping up burdens to place on believers' backs, and their arguments are slowly descending into farce. 
They are building their case by reinventing the doctrine of God, and are doing so without telling the Christian public what they are up to. What we have is in fact a departure from biblical Christianity as expressed in our creeds and confessions. Out of that redefinition of God their teaching is being used to promote a new way of looking at human relationships which is more like Islam than Christianity; more concerned with control and governance than with understanding the nuances of the relationship of the Son with His Father in eternity on the one hand and how that differs from the roles they adopt in the economy of redemption on the other. They make this move by failing to distinguish between God as He is in Himself (ontology) and God as He is in Christ in outworking of the plan of redemption (economy). 
Collapsing Who God Is in Himself Into the Economic Roles of the Trinity
They are in turn doing great dishonor to Christ. They collapse the intra-Trinitarian life of God into the roles adopted by the persons to accomplish our redemption. If they are right, then Paul is wrong when he writes that Christ "took the form of a servant" and became man in order that He might become "obedient to death," because for these new teachers, his obedience in his humanity is simply an extension of his eternal obedience. It means the writer to the Hebrews is wrong because Jesus did not "learn obedience" since He had spent eternity "obeying" His Father. Jesus is wrong because, when He says, "I and the Father are one," He means so only in a modified sense. And John is wrong when He says that “the Word is God,” for, by definition, if He is a servant bound to obey, then He must not have as much Godness as God the Father has in His Himself. Surely it has been the basic stuff of Christian preaching that Christ gave up status and place to take on our humanity and become obedient to death, even the death of the cross. Where is the glory in Christ's humiliation and obedience that have been the theme of our songs through the ages? Let there be no doubt at this point; departure from the faith starts with incremental adjustments to received doctrine, those adjustments eventually lead people away from the faith altogether. So, we urgently need to see how far these men are moving. 
The Intra-Trinitarian Life of God
At the heart of our confession as Christians is God the triune (theology proper) and the work of God (the economy). Before all worlds God existed in the Trinity of His sacred persons. In John 17, Jesus speaks of the glory which, as the Son, He shared with the Father in the love of the Holy Spirit before the world began. In His high-priestly prayer, the Son reflects on the bliss of that communion which He enjoyed within the interior life of the Godhead. In the repose of their eternal life, the divine persons shared one mind, one will, one power, because there is but one God (and not three) with one divine nature (Phil.2, Col.1, Heb.1), one divine splendor, and one divine being. The relations are signaled by the names ascribed to them: The Father begetting the Son (Psalm 2, John 1), the Son being the begotten, and the Spirit proceeding as the mutual love of the Father and the Son. These eternal relations, absolutely considered, pertain to being: the Son and Spirit share the very nature of God as God – they are essentially identical (though relatively distinct). Within this eternal life, there was distinction without primacy and order of being without priority of life or authority. The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Spirit is God. There is only one God and we baptize in the threefold name of that one God. John Calvin, citing Gregory Nazianzen, says this beautifully, “We cannot think of the three without thinking of the one or of the one without thinking of the three.”
The Works of God
So, God in Himself (in se) is Trinity, but what about the works of God? From eternity God the Trinity, the One who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, of His own good pleasure, without any external pressure or internal need on His part, willed one will and chose to become our Father, through the Son, in the Spirit to the praise of His glorious grace (Eph.1). The divine will of Father, Son and Spirit then caused everything to exist ex nihilo, out of nothing; space and time, darkness and light, stars and planets, heaven and earth, Angels and humans. First, there was God alone in the blessed repose of His Trinitarian fullness, and then by His decree (a simple willing on God's part) there was God and everything that is external to God, all creation both material and spiritual. Scripture delights to praise 'the counsel of His will' by which everything exists and is sustained. What drove the creation was His intention to share the bliss of the divine life with elect sinners - through the decree of the Father, by the work of the Son, in the love of the Spirit. The relations of the eternal Trinity would determine the way God would reveal Himself to creatures. The Father would elect a people to give to the Son; the Son would voluntarily choose to become both a servant and a man in order to become our mediator; and the Spirit would act to enfold us into the divine life and love. We typically refer to this as the Pactum salutis or the covenant of redemption. This one act of willing and doing occurred simply and immediately without any effort whatsoever on God's part - the inseparable operation of the persons: Father, Son (Word) and Spirit. In the Triune God the three ‘persons’ think as one, will as one, rule as one and act as one, and God does so from the perfect rest of His eternal life. The persons’ mutual indwelling and delight in each other is beyond our understanding. Their fellowship is unique and cannot be reproduced. 
Classical Trinitarianism  
What I have written so far is classical Trinitarianism, or Orthodox Christianity. This is how the church has viewed God from the earliest days. This is the view of God enshrined in the creeds and confessions of the church. To shift from this is to move into unorthodoxy. To speculate, suggest, or say, as some do, that there are three minds, three wills, and three powers with the Godhead is to move beyond orthodoxy (into neo-tritheism) and to verge on idolatry (since it posits a different God). It should certainly exclude such people from holding office in the church of God. On the other hand, to say, suggest, or speculate that God’s life in heaven sets a social agenda for humans is to bring God down to our level. The eternal life of God as He is in Himself is incomprehensible to us and impossible to reproduce except by analogy. The life of the Three-in-One cannot be replicated by creatures. To use the intra-Trinitarian relations as a social model is neither biblical nor orthodox. God is not a collection of people, but we are. He is the Creator and we are His creatures. The incarnate Christ sets an example of godly living as God in human flesh; He does not give us an example of the eternal life of God. The inner life of the Triune God does not support hierarchy, patriarchy, or egalitarianism. If you think about it for a moment, how could it? Here we have the perfect communion of divine persons who share the same nature and equality as God, while we are discreet and distinct beings. The life of God in Himself is utterly distinct from ours, which is graciously why He has created all things, and in Christ has taken on our flesh, in order to display to His elect people something of His life, relations and roles with respect of us. 
God as He is in himself requires our faith and adoration, not our speculation. 
Dr. Liam Goligher is Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church. He is the author of A Window on Tomorrow (Christian Focus, 1994), The Fellowship of the King (Carlisle, 2003), The Jesus Gospel (Milton Keynes, 2006), and Joseph—The Hidden Hand of God (Fearn, 2008).  Liam and his wife Christine have five adult children (Louise, Ruth, David, Sarah, Andrew) and nine grandchildren.
Posted on Monday, May 30, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Remember The War Room? In my own circles, I heard from more than a handful of people who walked away from that movie saying they were inspired to pray more. One of my concerns was with what kind of theology on prayer and the God whom they were praying they also walked away with. I was especially concerned about that after reading and reviewing the lead actress’s bestselling book based on the movie. Priscilla Shirer’s Fervent was more about women’s struggles and Satan’s strategies than it was about God and prayer. I concluded my review pointing out that Shirer opens the book saying that praying with precision is key, and I wished that there was more precision in her teaching on prayer itself, her biblical exposition, and her theology on sin, God’s revelation, and spiritual warfare. 
So I wonder, how has the prayer life of those who watched The War Room or read Shirer’s Fervent changed a week, or a month, after being inspired? Has their prayer life improved in a sustainable way?
I’m going to put my neck out there and guess, no, no it hasn’t. But whenever someone recommends a book that has disturbing theology in it, I like to be able to reply with a recommendation of my own. So I am happy to offer Megan Hill’s new book, Praying Together to anyone who was intrigued by The War Room or Fervent. In fact, it’s a great little book that stays true to its subtitle: The Priority of Prayer in our Homes, Communities, and Churches.
Hill’s book does something Shirer’s does not---it focuses on the God we are praying to and a correct theology on prayer.  I also love that she explains what is happening when we pray. While Shirer focuses on Satan’s strategies, Hill teaches us that since we are relating to a Trinitarian God, “in prayer we approach a loving, listening Father, and we are helped by the intercession of the Son and the groaning of the Spirit.” She quotes her own father as explaining, “’When we pray, God talks to God.”(23). You see, Hill teaches us that God’s being, attributes, and work on our behalf has everything to do with our prayer life. And then she goes to God’s Word to teach us about the act of prayer and the fruits of praying together.
Together. Sure, it is vital to have a personal prayer life, but God’s people are a covenant community. And this is where you can see Hill’s passion. She teaches how we disciple one another in the gospel when we pray together. In praying together, we train one another in faith, theology, repentance, desire, thankfulness, and the act of prayer itself. 
Hill’s focus isn’t on separating ourselves into a special room with sticky notes of prayer requests on the walls, but on a sustainable prayer life together with God’s people. She has a wonderful chapter on the importance of corporate, elder-led prayer, including practical tips on how to pray when someone else leads. She then moves on to public prayer meetings in church life, teaching how to lead while others pray. The book ends with both rich and practical help on praying with others in our communities, and especially in our homes. 
This makes for an inspiring book that will help us to cultivate a sustainable prayer life both personally and in our homes, communities, and churches. Not only that, Hill teaches us how to pray effectively because her focus is on who God is, and what he is doing in when we pray. She handles God’s Word responsibly in her teaching. No, you won’t get the sensationalism of The War Room. You won’t get to be the star of your prayer life because of your own fervency in it. You will get something better---an ordinary, sustainable prayer life to an extraordinary, faithful God, with our eyes pointed to that Great Day when we will join him for eternity.
Posted on Wednesday, May 25, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
If Machen were living today, Jon Payne believes he would write another book. This one would be entitled Christianity & Evangelicalism.
Are Christianity and evangelicalism so radically different now that they actually constitute two different religions altogether? 
Is evangelicalism a rival to Christianity?
What are each founded upon?
Dr. Payne warns that he is not going to be highly nuanced in this sermon, as he is pleading with his congregation to hold fast to authentic Christianity. It’s a powerful message for the whole church, as we are living in a post-Christian culture. Who are we listening to? 
I recommend you do take a listen to our friend Jon, “No Payne, No Gain”:
Posted on Wednesday, May 18, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
My cohorts and I had a rousing conversation on today’s podcast about women teaching Sunday school. As we were sharing our opinions, I realized we were kind of arguing in circles because we did not share the same view of the function of Sunday school. So, I thought I would expand on that a little more, and I’ve asked Todd to do the same in response.
On the podcast, Todd said that Sunday school in his church is set up in such a way that it makes an impression of the teacher giving exhortation with authority, like it would be done during a worship service. And yet, the other elements of the worship service, such as the call to worship, the singing, confession of sin and assurance of pardon, congregational prayer, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s Supper, the benediction, you get what I’m saying, are purposefully absent from Sunday school as to distinguish it from the worship service.
Of course, Sunday school does look very different than it did in its beginnings only a couple hundred years ago. It was first established in Britain, and eventually spread to the U.S., to teach overworked children affected by the Industrial Revolution how to read and write, with the Bible as the primary textbook. They were learning about the Christian faith as they were receiving a basic education. It was certainly not confused with the worship service, even as adults began attending and there was more mature exposition of Scripture.
This leads me to ask, why is it now? 
While I don’t think all Sunday schools in every church need to have the same set-up, the way that we present it does matter. So that raises a lot of questions. Is a Sunday school class equivalent to a worship service? To this, all three of us would agree in the negative. Should we be setting them up that way? Some do give that feel. And Todd made a distinguishing point that his church is much larger than Carl’s or mine, and therefore the Sunday school classes are not as easily set up in a cozy, casual manner. If the class is to be like a worship service, then we are going to want someone who is ordained or on that track delivering the “sermon.” However, Todd isn’t so much looking for an ordained person, or someone who may be called to ordination in the future. He wants someone who is equipped to teach and who is a man, as to not cause confusion.
So let’s take a look at what is similar, that may cause confusion. There is a teacher. And that person is teaching from Scripture. Secondly, Sunday school takes place in the same building as the church. Thirdly, Sunday school occurs on the same day as the worship service, usually immediately preceding it. That leads me to two more questions: With these three commonalities, is it then too difficult for us to distinguish between Sunday school and worship? And, if we are unable to discern the difference, should we continue to have Sunday school at all?
If we are to continue providing Sunday schools in our churches, there are good reasons to purposefully distinguish between those Sunday school classes and our worship services. The call to worship carries a summons from God. We are not summoned to attend Sunday school in this kind of authoritative manner. The call to worship is a call from God, invoking a response. And the liturgy begins, as our Father in heaven is the host. So one function offers general teaching in the setting of a class, the other offers the sacrament of the preached Word in a worship service. If Sunday school classes do not have all the elements of a worship service, why would we want to mimic one?
And this is where it gets more interesting. The biggest concern for not having women teaching Sunday school is so that we do not give the appearance of a woman teaching with authority over a man (1 Tim. 2:12). However, there doesn’t seem to be a problem with giving the appearance of a worship service without providing all the elements in worship, which is the context in which God promises to bless us in Christ. 
What kind of authority are we talking about here? Granted, some churches would have a problem with women teaching men even if it wasn’t confused with the worship service. But those who rightly want to protect the authority of the ministerial offices of the church, but do not go beyond the biblical parameters of headship and household may be undermining the very offices they are trying to protect. I agree with Todd that appearances are important. While I want to respect any equipped person that my elders ask to teach a class in church, I do not want him or her to have the appearance of carrying the same kind of authority as the elders. I want to be assured that every layperson is teaching under the accountability and guidance of the elder’s oversight. Because we do want to protect the household structures in God’s church, and we don’t want to host anything that would cause such confusion, we should aim to provide clarity on what the function of Sunday school even is. 
That’s why I don’t like the “err on the safe side” argument that I often hear. Why would we be content with erring on any side? We should be upfront about the differences and work at presenting the appearance of what we are actually doing.
Here’s what we miss when we err on the safe side:
1) The emphasis of the ministry of Word and Sacrament and real authority given to the officers of the church.
2) An opportunity for the elders to help equip all laypeople, including the women, to be teachers, skilled in the Word of righteousness, and to become mature and discerning (Heb. 5:12-14).
How can we help to encourage mutual learning between the men and the women in the church that trickles down from the ministry of Word and sacrament? This is where I see Sunday school functioning. 
I’ve already introduced what I think is a very helpful teaching regarding women as ezer, or necessary allies. To be an ally, we have to be equipped to teach. One can learn from Hannah’s prayer and Mary’s song in Scripture and see that they were well equipped in the Word, as well as resolved and discerning women. Necessary allies should be competent allies. Women are major influencers in the household of God. We are teaching all the time, most often in many informal ways, just like laymen in the church. And when the elders notice a woman who exhibits more of a formal gift to teach, wouldn’t they want to take an active role in helping her to mature in that way? Doesn’t it adorn the ministry of Word and sacrament to have the responsible and prepared reflections of the laymen and laywomen, learning and teaching as an extension of what they have received? I experience this kind of help and encouragement from the elders in my own church, and it supports and shapes both my learning and teaching. 
I could write a lot more about that, but sticking to the Sunday school topic, take a look at this conclusion from John Frame (offered to me by a reader once in my comments section) on the difference between women teaching from the special office in worship, and the general office in Sunday school. You will see that this presbytery report also agrees that appearances are important.
Since I know that Todd, Carl, and I all agree on the necessary contribution of women in the church, the need to equip them well, the special offices of the ministry, and the need to give proper appearances, I found it interesting that our perceptions about the function of Sunday school were really the main issue. And I’m looking forward to reading what Todd has to add or to differ from what I’ve suggested here.
Posted on Monday, May 09, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
Today, Books at a Glance posted my review of a book I wish everyone would read. I posted a reading reflection from this book several weeks ago about propaganda masquerading as fluff, in evangelicalism, particularly in the women’s section of the Christian bookstore. Subverted is both a page-turner and an eye-opener. Here’s a portion of the review. Be sure to click on the link at the end to read it in full:
This is one of those books that got me making noises while I read it. Like a good meal, where you are just compelled to express “mmm’s,” and comments about the flavors and combinations of food, I read Subverted with both gasps and chuckles. This book is an eye-opener. Sue Ellen Browder kicks off her book apologizing that she has no good justification for the role she played in promoting the sexual revolution, as we know it today. She was duped herself, and yet takes responsibility for believing in propaganda over actual truth. And so she explains, “In the beginning, the women’s movement and the sexual revolution were distinctly separate cultural phenomena” (11).
Then Browder tells the story of how a movement that began with the wonderful goals to provide equality for women in the workplace, education, and domestic rites was subverted by another movement that deceptively promotes liberation by means of sexual promiscuity and abortion. Browder basically perpetuated this sabotage as a writer for Cosmopolitan Magazine in the 70’s–80’s. I have to say, even being the cynic that I am, I was shocked to hear about how Browder graduated from journalism school with all the idealistic fervor to be a good investigative reporter, landed her dream job to work for the glitzy Cosmo culture, and was immediately taught to make up sources and stories, complete with fictitious experts, creating the illusion of the life of the “Cosmo girl” persona. They flaunted the life of single, sexually uninhibited, aggressive, career women who supposedly were living the dream that was to be sold to all the so-called enslaved women out there.
Most of us are familiar with the name Betty Friedan as a leader of the women’s movement, made popular by her infamous book, The Feminine Mystique. And I would say many conservative Christians place much of the blame on her for feminism gone wrong. But Browder elaborately demonstrates how it isn’t that black and white. Freidan wasn’t originally a supporter of the sexual revolution and was repulsed by the images and messages Cosmo promoted. So how did a woman who valued motherhood, wanting to pave a way for moms to not be discriminated against in the workplace, end up becoming such a pivotal person in the sexual revolution? Why would she add a clause that is opposed to motherhood, the repeal of anti-abortion laws, in the National Organization of Women’s package of “women’s rights”?
Browder demonstrates how the behind the scenes manipulation and influence of a name that we are not familiar with plotted the course that Freidan foolishly helped to pave. “What happened between the closed doors between Larry Lader and Betty Friedan would misguide my thinking in such a way that it would change my whole life and the lives of millions of other Americans” (48). 
Read the rest here.