Sunday, May 4, 2008

Theological Name Calling?

When Spiritwatch Ministries notified me that they had revised my Video Lecture on Patriarchy, I checked to see if the tag at the end of the video had also been altered. Scanning to the end of the video, I stopped at a point where a gentlemen (the president of the unnamed apologetics organization) makes a comment that caught my attention in a way that it had not previously.

When the organization became "concerned" about the video and the ramifications of the material contained therein, the term "name calling" entered the discussion at two specific points. Though I have strong opinions about the nature of these teachings, and especially in that forum, I assume that people perceive that I have called certain teachers and organizations "heretics" as this term was a major point of discussion in the Question and Answer Session following the lecture.

I’ve condensed all statements that I’ve made concerning what Giles and others call the Doctrine of ETERNAL Subordinationism of Christ within the Trinity and put them all in one video clip. I invite those who claim that I ever called anyone a heretic to re-examine these points in the video and to definitely watch the entire video again to compare these selected clips within full context. I called no one a heretic, though I did cite an author (Giles) who contends that these views are consistent with elements of previous Trinitarian heresies within Church history. The pertinent clips have also been condensed into a short video that appears at the end of this blog post.

I have said that I personally "have a problem" with Bruce Ware’s teachings, citing an example (regarding prayer to Jesus) as an example of how far he takes his views about the lesser authority of the Son, a view that I believe is anthropomorphic. I stated that I am not an authority in the theories or doctrine of the Trinity. I stated that I found Giles thesis to be compelling and convincing. I stated that I deferred to Giles to frame out the discussion of a basic belief within the diverse beliefs within the patriarchy movement. I referred to the writings of Bruce Ware specifically for the further investigation of the topic for those who found the information provocative. I did not call anyone a heretic. I did not say that I agreed with Giles and determined in my own right that Giles was absolutely justified in his assertions that Bruce Ware was teaching a view that was consistent with elements of previous Trinitarian heresies in the Church.

I was directly asked whether I thought that the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) promoted heresy or that they taught heresy (though some may believe that they have). I never said anything confirming that the organization was "heretical" in nature. My answer to that question, coming from the vantage of a very well informed Believer, qualified my impression that the teachings of Bruce Ware and unnamed others affiliated with CBMW were very wrong in this area. I stated how incredulous I was to find that so few people had addressed the serious problems that I identified in Bruce Ware’s writings in particular. I did not speak to the nature of the organization but about my issues with the views about the Trinity that they allow to be disseminated through their organization. I believe that CBMW is not innocent in this matter and they have put their own honor and credibility at risk by promoting many of these questionable views that appeal to a hierarchical view of the Trinity. There are many good teachers who contribute and are included within the resources on the CBMW site, and though I don’t entirely share all of their theses, that does in no way "make them heretical." But I believe that they are ethically culpable as an organization for giving these very questionable teachings a hearing in a legitimate format. Denny Burk, the editor of the Journal of CBMW has stated directly that Jesus gave up His opportunity to "go for" equality and chose incarnation instead. These men’s teachings stand on their own for whatever merit people want to attribute to them. I personally deem these teachings aberrant or poorly communicated at best and offer my own, clearly stated thesis that these teachings are anthropomorphic and not clear from Scripture. I offer the thesis that these teachings have had a tremendous impact on the development and practices within the patriarchy movement.

I do not believe that I have ever in my life called any living being an heretic, though I would be the first to admit that certain views, by virtue of the definitions of experts such as Walter Martin for example, are inherently heretical. My nature regarding the personal relationship that others have with the Lord extends great grace to others, perhaps too much for the tastes of some. I don't even say that people blaspheme the Word of God, though I have prayed to the Lord privately about the possibility that I have done so myself. To publicly declare such things is NOT my nature. I did not call those in the patriarchy movement heretics and I did not call anyone else one either. I cited a phrase that identified that Kevin Giles deemed these views to be consistent with a form of heresy. I expect the listener to then go to Giles and critically review those writings and the writings of Ware for themselves long before making the erroneous charge that I have engaged in name calling, making unwarranted and misinformed statements. They are well informed, certainly more informed than those who claimed that I have called anyone heretical. The topic was not a main or major focus of the discussion of patriarchy anyway. I avoided discussion of the topic in the Q & A session out of respect for the institution who may take issue with a woman "teaching" doctrine which was outside of my objective for delivering the workshop (informing others about the development and practices under the very non-monolithic subheading of so-called "Biblical patriarchy").

This issue concerning the teachings about the Trinity presents many presuppositional matters, and I believe that it is within the capabilities of the Body of Christ to both discuss and disagree on these very serious matters without naming one another heretics.

Primarily, they condense into these issues:

  • Christ ever was/is/will be ETERNALLY subordinate to the Father within the Trinity by virtue of authority versus Christ’s subordination in the sense that He is of lesser authority than God the Father was limited only to the kenosis and incarnation, a limitation that was only a function of the unfolding of Christ’s work as the Son of Man
  • Whether Bruce Ware’s teaching that the Father’s role/relationship of "ultimacy" or "primacy" or "preeminence" within Trinity means by virtue of reasonable human understanding that the Son is rendered with a lesser degree of authority. (In private communication, Ware denies that his view that Father’s "ultimate" authority by virtue of hierarchy leads to the logical conclusion that Christ has "lesser" authority. He believes that saying one does not imply the other or that this statement is not logical contradiction.
  • Whether this view hierarchy within the Trinity renders the Son of "lesser" omnipotence than the Father by virtue and function of this novel teaching about the Son’s "different but equal role" and relationship to the Father. (Can God be of lesser omnipotence than God? By advocating that God can be of lesser omnipotence than God, is this anthropomorphizing God by perceiving God’s authority nature in human terms?)
  • Is Christ, by virtue of His Trinitarian "hierarchical role," actually subject to "bounded choice" wherein He has all power but no viable means of alternate choice of will? (If this view reduces Christ to a hierarchical role in human terms, is He not subject to human limitations within those human terms? If this view limits God to a human understanding of sonship, then human limitations and considerations must apply.)

What the listener of the patriarchy video does with this information rests completely with and upon the listener. I’ve offered a thesis and provided ample avenues for further research of the topic, even making the video and the Workshop Bibliography available online. I’ve embedded web links when such links were available. I’ve cited my sources. I am willing to cite more and do so more specifically if people wish to contact me and request additional information. I even presented greater context for some of the quotes that I referenced to those who attended the workshop for their own investigation, allowing them the opportunity to develop their own conclusions about the material. I’ve devoted a whole section of my website, to this topic of what I understand to be Subordinationism, specifically focusing on the teachings of Bruce Ware in order to support my thesis.

I invite the reader to review these pertinent clips from the whole lecture to consider whether I have called anyone an heretic or whether I believe that those who do not share my personal views should be deemed heretics.