Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Jesus and the Father, a Symptom of the Larger Disease.

In 2006, Kevin Giles, Anglican scholar and vicar of St. Michael's Church in North Carlton Australia published this book, "Jesus and the Father, Modern Evangelicals Reinvent the Doctrine of the Trinity". In many ways it is a defense and further exposition on his earlier work, "The Trinity and Subordinationism".
The importance of this book both in it's target field (the doctrine of the Trinity) and in the larger scope (the state of Evangelicalism) cannot be understated. Giles convincingly makes his case in the following points: First, that modern Evangelicals have strayed away from the historic, orthodox, Catholic, doctrinal formulation of the Trinity and have come extremely close to various Arian heretical reformulations of it. Several popular Evangelical scholars are taken to task on this point such as George Knight III, Wayne Grudem, Bruce Ware, Norman Geisler, John Frame, Robert Letham and Robert Doyle to name but a few. No denomination or Protestant tradition is safe from the penetrating analysis that Giles applies using the weapons of the historic orthodox voice, the regula fide. Evangelical, Reformed and Anglican scholars are exposed as being severly lacking in the proper understanding of historical theology.
The main point of contention is that modern scholars are defending the eternal subordination of Jesus in authority and function to the Father. If this surprising revelation is not enough, these scholars use this proposition to defend the 'hierarchical' view that a women should be subordinate to her husband, since we are told, this is the example Jesus shows us in His relationship with the Father. In 300+ pages Giles inspects this modern innovation in painstaking detail exposing it's weakness on many grounds from both the voices of the early fathers, Calvin and modern conservative scholarship. Giles sober handling of the issues and breath of knowledge on the secondary literature is impressive and I must quote him in length on this point, "I have read all the contemporary books on the Trinity on the shelves of the university library I use, as well as other books on this topic I have borrowed elsewhere or bought, including all the conservative evangelical works that endorse the eternal sobordination of the Son" (p.169).
What we as Catholics say is that this one issue (and a major distortion it is) is but one symptom of the larger disease of modern evangelicalism. Modern Christianity has built it's house on sand rather than on the solid unshaking rock of history. And with the smallest of winds, bits and pieces fall over and exposes the emptiness inside. Imagine, what is the central piece, the very cornerstone of our faith, who our God is - is mangled and reinvented in modern garb. It is not difficult to prove then that the remaining tenets of our Catholic-historic faith have been similarly misunderstood and reinvented. To the credit of this great Anglican scholar he admits as much when he speaks very highly of Roman Catholic scholars on this issue, such as Edmund Fortman, Karl Rahner and Yves Conger to name but a few. I close tonight quoting Giles again on page 169 of this great work, "I have not found a Roman Catholic theologian who gives any support to the idea that the Son is eternally subordinated in any way".

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