Craig A. Carter’s Retrieval of “The Great Tradition”

All modifications of, or departures from, classical theism are really modifications of, or departures from, the Protestant confessions.

Ironically, many “Reformed Baptists,” such as James White, who proclaim their allegiance to the Second London Confession of 1689, do not teach it faithfully. They appear not to understand what the Confession means when it says that God is “without body, parts, or passions.” (2LBC 2.1) This seems to be because they fail to understand the 17th century Protestant scholastic theology from which the confession arose. They echo rationalistic modernists in denying Divine simplicity because they do not see how important it is for safeguarding monotheism in trinitarian theology. They also show no sign of grasping the importance of speaking analogically about the attributes of God in order to maintain the oneness of God when speaking of the triune nature of God. The category of “mystery” does not work in their theology. Nor do they distinguish between what the fathers called theologia and economia, that is, the immanent and the economic Trinity. There is only one Trinity, of course, but not everything that can be said about the economic Trinity can properly be said about the immanent (or eternal) Trinity because of the historical fact of the incarnation.

In 2016 a major debate on the doctrine of eternal functional subordination (later called eternal relations of authority and submission) broke out. Wayne Grudem popularized this teaching in his widely read Systematic Theology, which I reviewed here. This debate is still on-going. Recent books by Matthew Barrett (Simply Trinity), Scott Swain (The Trinity), and Fred Sanders, (The Triune God), have pointed Evangelicals back to the orthodox doctrine of God. The most important point the whole controversy reveals, however, is how tenuous a grasp most Evangelicals today have on the finer points of the historic doctrine of God and the implications of the confessions that Protestants are supposed to be teaching.

Another closely related controversy relates to the recent rise of social trinitarianism in liberal theologians like Moltmann and conservative ones as well. Many Evangelicals apparently see nothing wrong with viewing the three persons as three distinct centers of consciousness with separate wills. The 20th century “revival” of trinitarian theology was a swing of the pendulum away from the anti-Trinitarian Deism of the Enlightenment period. But the pendulum swung too far, and the result was to imperil the carefully balanced pro-Nicene theology which taught that the three persons are one ousia with one will and one power.

The Great Tradition Retrieval Project: Correcting a few misunderstandings – Credo Magazine

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