Holding Fast the Confession

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TylerR's picture


The article's suggested questions for candidates at ordination concerning the doctrine of God:

What is God? Please give exegetical detail for each aspect of your definition.

Give a definition of the doctrine of the Trinity. Please support your answer from scripture.

What are the personal properties of each Person of the Trinity?

Define eternal generation. Describe where the doctrine of eternal generation is derived biblically, and why the doctrine matters.

Is it proper to refer to the Son as subordinate to the Father? Why or why not? Please support your answer from scripture.

Do you affirm that God is without, “body, parts, or passions”? What is the significance of this exegetically, theologically, and pastorally?

What does it mean to call God “simple”?  

Can God add parts or properties to Himself?

What is the significance of divine simplicity -- exegetically, theologically, and pastorally?

Does God change? Please support your answer from scripture.

Must God change in order to perform His work of creation, or to engage relationally with His creation? Please support your answer from scripture.

How are we to understand passages which speak of God’s “repentance”?

Does God grow in knowledge? Please give exegetical details to support your answer.

How many minds are there in God?

In what ways would you speak of the Son of God changing in His assumption of a human nature in the incarnation? Please explain the exegetical and historical background of your answer.

The impetus behind this article is the eternal functional subordination controversy; variously called EFS or ESS. I disagree with EFS wholeheartedly. I've read Ware (EFS) and I've read Erickson's book against EFS. As far as I'm aware, only Erickson, Kevin Giles and D. Glenn Butner have written book-length works against EFS - the rest of the generically conservative evangelical folks seem to tilt towards EFS.

The issue of eternal generation is tied up with EFS; it's advocates generally don't hold to eternal generation. Interestingly, Erickson opposes EFS and dislikes eternal generation. Buswell, who didn't address the issue ('cuz it wasn't an issue in his day), presents Christ's functional subordination as temporary and strongly suggests we get rid of eternal generation altogether. David Beale, a theologian and historian much closer to home, dedicated perhaps 30 pages of his historical theology to arguing against eternal generation. 

Speaking for myself, I don't understand eternal generation and have never read an account by a theologian who seemed to understand it, either. I think Shedd came close, but I forgot his reasoning one day after reading it - it's very convoluted. It smacks of some kind of ontological subordination to me, no matter which way you slice it - and it doesn't seem tied to the text. 

Read Beale. Then read Shedd, Calvin and the usual suspects for eternal generation. Then read the Bible. Then, consider whether we're talking about Biblical categories. Fred Sanders has a tome out advocating specifically for eternal generation, and I may get it. I'd prefer a good journal article though, honestly! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

David R. Brumbelow's picture

We can get too detailed, complicated for someone being ordained.  Are you just trying to trip him up? (This is not directed at anyone in particular).    

First, don’t ordain a novice.  But don’t go to the opposite extreme either. 

As for questions, how about:

Fundamental / Basic Doctrines of the Christian Faith

Baptist Distinctives

Personal Salvation and Baptism

Morality and Practical matters.

I would have no problem with the questions being given to the candidate ahead of time.  Make ordination a big deal in the church.  Have the ordination council, at the meeting, all sign the ordination certificate, and have it framed. 


David R. Brumbelow

josh p's picture

I have only been to one ordination but I thought the level of questioning was about right. I don’t think the tendency is to be too detailed. The Christian landscape would probably be a lot better off if more was required. Next month I will have my “oral boards” for my bachelor in Bible and Theology. I will be basically defending my doctrinal statement. I have gone way beyond the course requirements in many areas and even still I would hope that a pastor would be required to go deeper than I am. One would hope that a pastor would be the most theologically knowledgeable person in the church. In the Information Age, one person with the internet and some free time can develop a “pet doctrine” that causes a lot of strife in the church. Pastors need to be prepared to face that.