Explainer: Divine Simplicity and the Trinitarian Controversy

Today I’m pleased to run this helpful guest post from my friend Andrew Fulford. Given the confusion that has surrounded the recent trinitarian debate, I thought it would be useful to find someone who could write a relatively straight forward post explaining the different terms being tossed around in this debate so far. So this post is going to be a Vox-style explainer answering some of the basic questions that have come up due to the controversy.

What is divine simplicity?

If you have followed the recent upheaval over the Trinity and gender, you may have asked yourself that question. This doctrine was once taken for granted by basically everyone, from the earliest days of the church through to the Reformation and beyond, and only became unfamiliar quite recently. I’m not going to be able to explain all the details of the idea here. My objective is twofold: to give a basic outline of the idea, and to explain why the tradition of classical Christian theism held to it. Continue reading

Gender, Home Economies, and the Church, Ctd.

There are three separate strands I want to pick up from yesterday’s post.

Being Fair to the Complementarians

First, I asked in the post that people would correct me if I was misrepresenting CBMW. Shane Anderson on Twitter obliged by pointing me toward this post from 2015 that is addressing the “what about wives who make more than their husbands?” question. (So, thank you Shane. :) )

Here are a few other posts at CBMW addressing some of the questions I was raising yesterday: Continue reading

The Evangelical Gender Crack-Up

Though it (rightly) hasn’t been discussed as much as the actual trinitarian issues themselves, the current trinitarian debate does suggest some interesting things about how evangelicals are beginning to approach questions of gender. The consensus that has existed amongst most conservative evangelicals for some time is beginning to fracture—and in more than one direction. Continue reading

3 Ecclesiology Questions Protestant Evangelicals Must Answer

After publishing nearly 13,000 words on ecclesiology this month (plus some spirited debate in the comments on Dr. Leeman’s response), I wanted to draw together what seem to me to be the three main strands of the debate between Minich and Dr. Leeman.

Other posts in the series:

Continue reading

The Trinity Debate and “Big Eva”

I had hoped that the big Trinitarian brouhaha was starting to calm down to more of a restrained, tightly defined level. Then Dr. Al Mohler waded into the debate yesterday, calling attacks on his friends Drs. Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem “nonsense” without ever bothering to actually engage with the substance of Carl Trueman, Liam Goligher, Mark Jones, Alastair Roberts, Michel Barnes, Matthew Crawford, Lewis Ayres, Fred Sanders, or Matthew Emerson’s actual arguments. Apparently it only takes one dismissive wave of the hand by someone as prominent as Mohler to dismiss the careful argumentation of a half dozen leading authorities in patristics or dogmatics. Continue reading

Why the Trinitarian Controversy Was Inevitable

Recently, there has been a major clash in the Reformed and evangelical blogosphere on the doctrine of the Trinity. While others have covered the ins and outs of the controversy with some depth, I am more interested in why this clash is happening, and why it is happening now. Michael Bird has said that this is about to be a “miniature civil war”. While that may be an exaggeration, the clash was inevitable for several reasons. Continue reading

Reviewing Jonathan Leeman’s “Political Church” Pt. 2

Other posts in the series:

Here is part two of Joseph Minich’s review of Political Church by Jonathan Leeman. I will not say any more lest multiple friends mock me again for writing over-long introductions to already-long blog posts. (ahem)

You can download a full PDF of the review by clicking this link: Full Review PDF

The Failures of Leeman’s Map

Most basically, while Leeman’s map might provide guidance in the context of certain discussions, it nevertheless frequently fails to accurately chart reality at its most stubborn edges  – and will therefore mislead in some very important areas. That this is the most basic objection reflects a particular theological orientation. If one’s interpretation of the Bible appears to distort the way in which reality is carved up right in front of one’s face, then there is some question about whether the word of God (which illuminates our work and our world) has been properly understood. Reasoning in such a manner is both as natural as human nature (Leeman does it too) – and indeed it is reflected in Scripture itself. When the Psalmist writes, for instance, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:13), it is assumed that the normal experience of fatherhood illuminates divine fatherhood. The prophetic and Pauline critique of idolatry similarly assume the “obviousness” of their contentions. And in this tradition, it is to reality that we must go to judge Leeman’s map – for icebergs exist in reality whether or not they are accounted for in our imagination. Continue reading

Reviewing Jonathan Leeman’s “Political Church” Pt 1

Other Posts in the Series:

A few months ago I asked my friend Joseph Minich if he’d be kind enough to review Jonathan Leeman’s Political Church for us. He said he would. And then wrote 9000 words about it. We’re going to run his review in its entirety, but we’re doing it over two days. Today’s first part is simply going to be a summary of Leeman’s argument. On Wednesday, Minich will turn to making a critical assessment of Leeman’s work.

Before handing things off to Joe, I wanted to take one paragraph to explain why we’re running a review of such length. The answer is simple: I expect ecclesiology to be one of the defining debates of our generation in the western church.

We’re at something of a turning point in the west. The old mainline denominations are failing. In one sense we all ought to say “good riddance” as nearly all of them have long since become apostate. In another sense, however, their loss is still devastating. These institutions are the oldest Protestant institutions in North America and they are collapsing before our eyes. Rome appears headed a similar route for the most part, although I expect there will be a few regions that remain more orthodox, thanks largely to the influence of orthodox bishops. (This isn’t intended as a slur against Rome; rather it’s simply an assessment of the fact that Francis appears to be pushing the church in a more episcopalian direction not only theologically, but in terms of its polity.)

What we are left with is evangelicalism—and evangelicalism is comprised chiefly of relatively new institutions that do not know their tradition’s history, do not have discernible mechanisms for learning their history, and do not have solid answers for questions of ordinary parish ministry, church life, and church governance. If the American church has a future, it will be because God is faithful to us and aids us in finding solid answers to the vexing problems of church life and governance.

Therefore, taking the time to think about these questions and to address them faithfully is important. So yes, we’re running a 9000 word book review. But we’re doing it because, first, we need to faithfully depict Leeman’s actual argument and, second, we need to interact with it critically. Whatever one might think of Leeman’s book, one must recognize the value of Leeman’s contribution to the evangelical conversation about the church. His book will, I hope, encourage many more  people to reflect on these questions carefully and deeply. I also hope that this review by Joe will help further that work. (NOTE: If it would be helpful to you, I will be uploading a PDF of the review that will be available when we publish the full review on Wednesday. So if you would rather read a print out than read 9,000 words on a backlit screen, we’ll have that for you on Wednesday.) On that note, I’ll pass it on to Joe.

Introduction

Daniel Rodgers has called our era an “age of fracture.” This expression captures the identity crises which exist among all institutions seeking to navigate their way through what is often termed “liquid modernity.” The “evangelical” community is no exception to this identity crisis. The diversity of its many self-professed adherents as well as the speed at which independent influences randomly and variously come together (or apart)  leads many to think that orthodox American evangelicalism is fundamentally ungrounded. Continue reading