Friday, April 18, 2008

Eternal Procession Does Not Equate to Eternal Priority

From Bruce A. Ware’s

An Mp3 audio download from CBMW

(Quotes from the audio are 
displayed below in blue text)

Speaker Bruce Ware:
"But is it not obvious that Jesus said over and again throughout His ministry that He was sent to do the will of the Father -- over thirty times in John’s Gospel, this is the case… " "Clearly a central part of the notion of Father is that of Fatherly authority. Certainly, this is not all there is to being the Father, but while there is more, there certainly is not less or other. 

[Blog Host says “????”] The masculine terminology used of God throughout Scripture portrayed in masculine ways had authority over His people. 
"While the early church clearly embraced the full, essential equality of the three Trinitarian Persons, nonetheless, the church has always affirmed likewise the priority of the Father over the Son and the Spirit.

[Blog Host says “????” This is a logical leap of presupposition and an all inclusive statement that the speaker’s own definition is not even true of the “egalitarian feminist church.”] 
"Since this priority cannot be rightly understood in terms of essence or nature, -- Why? – Why does the Father not have priority in terms of essence or nature to the Son or the Spirit? Whose nature does the Son possess? The identically same nature as the Father. Whose nature does the Spirit possess? The identically same nature as the Father and Son. So this priority cannot be in terms of essence, because they are equal in essence more than my wife and I are equal in essence."

[Blog Host says: Certainly if, by the speaker’s own profession elsewhere, women are the indirect image of God!]. 
My wife and I are both image of God – we are both equal in essence but we’re equal as “same kind of things.” We’re both human beings, image of God. The Father, Son and Spirit are equal in essence because of identity. They have an identically same essence. Not just same kind – Same. Same essence. Okay?" 
"So. The early church fathers could not speak of priority in terms of essence, so it must be in terms of relationship. Not essence, but relationship. As Augustine affirmed that the distinction of persons is constituted precisely by differing relations among them, in part manifest by the inherent authority of the Father and inherent submission of the Son. This is most clearly seen in the eternal Father-Son relationship in which the Father is eternally the Father of the Son and the Son is eternally the Son of the Father."

[Blog Host says: But this is not assumptive or inextricably bound to hierarchy or an eternal command/submission paradigm but is a description of relationship that might not be characteristic of a father and son at all ages. Is Christ eternally a young, innocent who lacks wisdom and the shrewdness of experience? This statement neither supports nor denies an eternal, vertical hierarchy of authority. This is a logical leap of presupposition.]. 

But some might wonder, does this convey and eternal authority of Father and the eternal submission of the Son?" "Hear how Augustine discusses both essential equality of the Father and Son and the “eternal-functional” subordination of the Son. This is Augustine’s words now, quote:"  
"'If the reason why the Son is said to have been sent by the Father, is simply that the one who is the Father and the other is the Son, then there is nothing at all to stop us from believing that the Son is equal to the Father and con-substantial and co-eternal.' So they are both equal in essence and yet that the Son is sent by the Father not because one is greater and the other less but because one is Father and the other is Son. So it’s the relational difference between them not their essential difference.” 

[Blog Host says: But their essential difference is not limited to nor need it be defined by an eternal hierarchy. This is a logical leap of presupposition.]


This was my thesis before I found the writing of Giles and the cry of my heart. I offer it here for those who call me misinformed. Bruce Ware is making three Gods of the One by shoving God into his own finite ability to understand and comprehend the infinite wonder of God – He who is so beyond the capacity of the creature who can only see in terms of human relationship. We know in part and see through the glass darkly, yet we rest in faith – that faith which God imparts through the miracle of spiritual discernment. 

We understand the relationship of Father to Son and Son to Father, and through the limitations of the analogy of being. We can only comprehend that which we know, for that which is greater than us is beyond our comprehension. James Sire discusses this at length in “Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling.” 

We can only describe what we know and have already comprehended, like A Square in Flatland. In finite terms, like a small child describing the wisdom of his parent concerning the most complex tasks of the human understanding of the adult, we come to the Persons of the Godhead with the limitations of our being, like Job when God asked him “Were you there?” I place my hand over my mouth before Him. (I am not willing to do so before those who subordinate my Savior, however.) 

It seems that Dr. Ware cannot comprehend God beyond a relationship of hierarchy and a vertical order of succession, but love, compassion, empathy and sacrifice can easily replace these hierarchy and roles. He offers the example of roles and relationships as the distinctions, and the distinctions are in such human terms that they demean the Lord Jesus, making Him much like a human child of a “supreme” Father. Yet he claims also that the Divine Persons are equal in all respects while in terms of authority and primacy he describes them as not equal at all. 

I assert that these anthropomorphic limitations confine the infinite, bound by the limits hierarchy. They are the Three in One, they cannot be Three apart from the one --neither in authority nor in essence. Our Brother Ware offers arguments and paragraphs of many sentences and builds an argument, but always, there is a sentence that leaps back into the presupposition of a hierarchy, that which is unrelated to the arguments. In my reading, these topics all begin with the a priori assumption of hierarchy and they end with it. There are some lovely prose and rhetoric in between. 

The Divine Three are not in fellowship and harmony of fluid dance in his view but are only in a performance-oriented perception in very human terms. He quotes absolutely sound statements of Augustine that acknowledge the con-substantial and co-eternal relationship of the Father and the Son and repeats their relationship to one another, but this neither supports nor disproves an hierarchy authority of performance-focused and role-focused value. 

It as if, to me, he says “The sun is warm and the day is clear therefore this proves that the sun is golden and the sky is blue.” Post hoc ergo propter hoc. 

Each separate morsel of evidence offered is lovely and true unto itself, but they neither proceed to nor support his thesis in my reading or hearing. Ware offers Augustine to validate his thesis of human hierarchy, and I would use this very same statement of Augustine’s to support the relationships of the Father and Son in their fluid, mutual submission dance out of love and honor and respect within the very heart of God (Themselves) as the very nature of the Divine Three. 

It is, oh, so subtle, but this is man’s sophistry to me. Dr. Ware’s arguments contain many Scriptural principles and many true statements, but he cannot escape the presupposition of hierarchy that weaves these things together to support his initial presumption. He has not proven anything with Biblical evidence but has built an argument that, for me, is full of holes of eisegesis. He might well say the same of my view, but I am not risking the Deity of Christ Jesus in the process. Augustine wrote at the end of his preface as he endeavored to understand the Trinity:
“Let us hold fast to this rule, that what has not yet become clear to our intellect may still be preserved by the firmness of our faith.”
I do not have all the answers and only finite boxes into which to put them. But I have sufficient grace through the Word that God has written in my heart and mind by the Spirit and through the study of my Love, the Word. As Augustine’s own motto declares, I have “faith that seeks understanding.” I do not have understanding that then seeks to find faith which is the dilemma of the Christian existentialist, so prevalent in the church today. 

This human analogy is certainly lesser than the full realization of the mind and perspective of God, and I am like a small child on the lap of my Abba, the Mind of the Ages. I will not, as I believe Van Til once described, dare to presume to crawl up on His lap and proceed to slap Him in the face. 

I offer here another quote of Augustine that transcends the anthropomorphic concept that Jesus is one with no authority to hear prayer, who by role and relationship is like a mere “special purpose God,” powerless to do anything other than that which He is hierarchy-bound to do. I fall prostrate and undone before the Holy, Holy, Holy Throne, in awe of Him, of That which is joyfully beyond my finiteness but yet still my substance and evidence through faith.
From Augustine's preface to Book 8 , De Trinitate
Thus the Father is God, The Son is God, The Holy Spirit is God;
The Father is good, The Son is good, The Holy Spirit is good,
And the Father is omnipotent, The son is omnipotent, and the Holy Spirit is omnipotent; But yet there are not three Gods,
nor are there three goods,
nor are there three omnipotents,

But one God, one good and one omnipotent,
the Trinity itself.