On Not Signing the Nashville Statement

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TylerR's picture

Editor

I'm disappointed by this article. When evangelicals start sounding like schismatic fundamentalists, you know an issue is big news . . .

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?

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

"Suddenly those who do not sign are immediately suspected of going all squishy on the truth." ... and why shouldn't they be? It is kind of begging.

Not that I've signed. Just haven't gotten around to it yet. But that's different from publicly going out of your way to not sign and then try to claim the high ground as to why not.

He should not be surprised or dismayed that some things do indeed "become a measure" of things.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

TylerR's picture

Editor
Andrew K's picture

TylerR wrote:

I see many of these objections coming from Christians from a confessional background. This is the second person I've read who has objected to the Nashville Statement as unnecessary because the Westminster Standards already address the issue:

As Christians and as the church, we must stand strong for what the Bible teaches, in all aspects of life. But we should be careful not to bind the conscience of other believers. The Nashville Statement, for however good it might be, is not the Bible. It is also not part of the confessional standards of my denomination. As such, even if it were a perfectly accurate representation of what the Bible teaches, I would not be required to sign it. Given the many valid concerns that faithful, honest believers have regarding the Nashville Statement, we should be very cautious about making support of it a test of orthodoxy.

I recognize the author, and I strongly get the feeling that, for many who are refusing to sign, this is seen as a continuation of the ESS debate, which they feel was never really addressed to their satisfaction.

Now I stand firmly against ESS, but--should my suspicions be true--frankly this just seems childish to me; and I don't see how it relates beyond some of the signers holding to a form of it.

TylerR's picture

Editor

I agree with you on this, about the ESS kerfluffle.

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?

Bert Perry's picture

...would be someone simply saying "I didn't sign it because I don't believe God is honored by publicity stunts.  I've believed everything on the list for a long time, but appeal to popularity remains a logical fallacy."  I would also submit that it would be refreshing if people would say, when asked what they believe on these topics, that it's all in the Westminster/London Baptist/whatever Confession that their church has been using for decades to centuries.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Greg Long's picture

I'm not aware that those church confessions address this issue to the same specificity that the NS does. Sometimes there is a need for a fresh, updated, relevant statement on a dividing-line issue.

By the same logic, the Baptists in New England in the early 19th-century could have said, "We don't need an updated confession of faith because we have the London Confession." And the Baptists in London in the 17th century could have said... and so on.

-------
Greg Long, Ed.D. (SBTS)

Pastor of Adult Ministries
Grace Church, Des Moines, IA

Adjunct Instructor
School of Divinity
Liberty University

Jay's picture

Can someone please fill me in on the whole ESS discussion?  I keep hearing about it in conjunction with this but I have no idea what they're talking about.

#shelteredlife

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

TylerR's picture

Editor

The controversy is about whether Christ is eternally subordinate to the Father in a real, intrinsic (i.e. ontological) way. For example, is it a legitimate parallel to compare the husband/wife relationship to the Father/Christ relationship, pointing out that each are equal in dignity and worth, but the wife is functionally subordinate to the husband, just as Christ is to the Father? If so, (1) is this an eternal distinction, or (2) was it just adopted for the incarnation, then relinguished, or (3) was it adopted for the incarnation, and does it remain thus even now?

There is a lot to read about this, but the opening salvos are probably best. Here is Bruce Ware's response to the charge that his ESS/EFS position is out of step with Christian orthodoxy. At the top of Ware's response, he links to the initial posts of concern by Carl Trueman and others. Everything you need is pretty much here; Ware's response, and the initial posts whuich prompted the kerfluffle last summer at a popular level.

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?

Larry's picture

Moderator

The controversy is about whether Christ is eternally subordinate to the Father in a real, intrinsic (i.e. ontological) way.

I may be misunderstanding you, but the controversy isn't over ontology but function. The ESS proponents (Ware, Grudem, etc.) all affirm the full ontological equality of Father, Son, and Spirit. If you read the article you linked, Ware is explicit that they affirm the ontological equality of Father and Son. The question is over whether being eternally father and eternally son has any implications for functional subordination. 

TylerR's picture

Editor

It depends on who you read! The people who are most vehemently against EFS/ESS argue that the logical conclusion of the position is an ontological subordination. See, for example, Goligher's charge:

Because, mark this, to have an eternally subordinate Son intrinsic to the Godhead creates the potential of three minds, wills and powers. What they have done is to take the passages referring to the economic Trinity and collapse them into the ontological Trinity.

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?

Jay's picture

It's late and I just read through some of the articles.  I don't really feel like this is as major of an issue as the MoS folks seem to be making of it, and am inclined, right now, to agree with Dr. Ware.  These paragraphs, I think, are sufficient to explain why:

To press this point a bit further, notice that the Father elects us in the Son (Eph. 1:4-5), creates the world through the Son (John 1:2, 1 Cor 8:6, Heb 1:2), sends the Son into the world (John 3:16), and delegates judgment to the Son (Rev 2:27), while the Son after his Ascension sits at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:32-35), receives from the Father the authority to pour forth the Holy Spirit in New Covenant fullness (Matt 28:18; Acts 2:33), makes intercession before the Father (Heb 7:25), receives revelation from the Father to give to the church (Rev 1:1), and will eternally be subject to the Father (1 Cor. 15:26-28). Again, not one of these relationships is ever reversed - the Son does not elect us in the Father, does not create the world through the Father, does not send the Father into the world, does not delegate judgment to the Father, nor does the Father sit at the right hand of the Son, or bring intercessory prayers to the Son, or receive revelation from the Son to give to the church, or become eternally subject to the Son. 

We agree that the actions of any one divine person involves the other Trinitarian persons in corresponding ways. But whenever Scripture specifies actions that occur between two or more members of the Trinity, the position of greater authority is always held by the Father, while the position of submission to that authority is always held by the Son and the Spirit. This principle is simply inviolable in Scripture. 

God the Son, then, is both God and Son. As God, he is fully equal with God the Father, in that both Father and Son possess fully the identically same and eternal divine nature. As such, the equality between the Father and Son (and Spirit) could not be stronger - they are equal to each other with an equality of identity (i.e., each possesses fully the identically same divine nature). As Son, the Son is always the Son of the Father and is so eternally. As Son of the Father, he is under the authority of his Father and seeks in all he does to act as the Agent of the Father's will, working and doing all that the Father has purposed and designed for his Son to accomplish. The eternal Son, God the Son, is both fully God and fully equal to the Father, while he is fully Son and eternally in a relationship of Agent of the Father, carrying out the work and implementing the will of the Father in full submission and obedience to all that the Father has planned. God and Son, i.e., fully God (in nature) and fully Son (in person)--this is who this Second Person of the Trinity is as Hebrews, John, and the New Testament declare. 

Fourth, none of this glorious Trinitarian theology is being devised for the purpose of supporting a social agenda of human relations of equality and complementarity.

Where do you two fall, and is there some sort of weakness to this position that I should carefully consider?
 

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Larry's picture

Moderator

It depends on who you read! The people who are most vehemently against EFS/ESS argue that the logical conclusion of the position is an ontological subordination.

In trying to understand what person X is saying, it is most helpful to read and believe person X. They are more likely to know what they mean than person Y who is trying to disprove them. In this case, Ware, Grudem, et al have been explicitly and undeniably clear that they are not denying the ontological trinity. That should end the discussion, it seems to me.

If others think something is an implication of their position, then they can make that argument. But when something has been denied, it is at least equally possible that the respondent is incorrect, and given the theological weight of Grudem and Ware, probably more like that Goligher et al are wrong on that particular point.

Which is not to say that ESS is correct. It is only to say that Ware and Grudem do not deny the ontological Trinity. 

Larry's picture

Moderator

Where do you two fall, and is there some sort of weakness to this position that I should carefully consider?

With caution, I will attempt an answer. The detractors say that ESS is a denial of Nicea. I don't see that. The weakness is not, to me, ontological. ESS proponents affirm the complete ontological trinity. If you read Goligher's article linked above, you the beginning quotes from "Contemporary Evangelicalism" are all regarding function and the second set of quotes from the creeds in "Orthodox Christianity" are all referring to ontology. So Goligher is not responding to point at hand, it seems to me. He is attempting to compare quotes that are talking about two different things. If Grudem and Ware say that they affirm the ontological Trinity and if everything they have written confirms that, then I think we should take them at their word until some further evidence arises. BTW, Grudem and others have provided evidence from church history that ESS of some sort was long held to be orthodox. 

The primary weakness, to me, seems to be multiple wills. But it seems to me that Father/Son relationship implies something about subordination. And if the begetting of the Son is eternal (as all say it is), then that seems to have some kind of eternal subordination or submission to some degree. After all, what is "father" as compared to "son" if there is no functional difference? 

The most vehement opponents of ESS all agree (I think) that the covenant of grace (with the resulting sending of the son) is a covenant from eternity past. I would suggest that the very act of sending is an act of authority in which the son subordinated himself in function. So if sonship is eternal (and all opponents of ESS agree that it is) and if the son was sent from eternity past (and all agree that he was), then ESS seems to be a necessary part of sonship. 

Whether that is entirely sufficient, I am not sure. But I lean that way. 

I do not find ESS helpful in the gender role debate which is where it became a big issue. In that respect, to me it was a good house built on the wrong foundation. The foundation was not a problem and the house was not a problem. They were just mismatched. 

I think the point of the gender role debate was to say that just like God the Father and God the Son could be equal in essence (ontology) yet differ in function, so a man and woman could be equal in personhood and yet differ in function. A difference in function (whether father/son or husband/wife) did not entail a difference in essence. It was in response to those who argued that submission of women in marriage was a denial of their equal personhood. But equal personhood of male and female is clear in Scripture quite apart from a strained argument on the Trinity. 

Jay's picture

With caution, I will attempt an answer. The detractors say that ESS is a denial of Nicea. I don't see that. The weakness is not, to me, ontological. ESS proponents affirm the complete ontological trinity.

Yes, I didn't see that either, and that's why I was confused as to why this is a thing.  Ware is very clear on that point.

I do not find ESS helpful in the gender role debate which is where it became a big issue. In that respect, to me it was a good house built on the wrong foundation. The foundation was not a problem and the house was not a problem. They were just mismatched. 

Yes, and I'm not even sure why the two were compared.  I mean, I see that someone could try and make the comparison, but at the end of the day, they are two totally and completely different animals.  Human marriage covenants aren't eternal, like the Trinity is, and neither functions in exactly the same way.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

AndyE's picture

Jay wrote:

Yes, and I'm not even sure why the two were compared.  I mean, I see that someone could try and make the comparison, but at the end of the day, they are two totally and completely different animals.  Human marriage covenants aren't eternal, like the Trinity is, and neither functions in exactly the same way.

  Here is Andrew Naselli on the connection:  http://andynaselli.com/trinity-husbands-wives

FWIW, I agree with him.

Bert Perry's picture

One thing that comes to mind is that if we have ESS being important in describing male-female interactions, especially that in the church and that in marriage, is it not simultaneously important in describing father-son relationships on earth?  Not an unimportant distinction for me, as my dad is not a believer, as far as I know.

There is the reality that sometimes we can take an analogy too far, but again, that would impact how the doctrine of the Trinity affects almost all of our relationships, no?

What's the argument about Nicea, by the way?  I know the creed, and I'm not getting any problem from there.  Looks like I'm missing something.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Don Johnson's picture

Jay wrote:

With caution, I will attempt an answer. The detractors say that ESS is a denial of Nicea. I don't see that. The weakness is not, to me, ontological. ESS proponents affirm the complete ontological trinity.

Yes, I didn't see that either, and that's why I was confused as to why this is a thing.  Ware is very clear on that point.

I do not find ESS helpful in the gender role debate which is where it became a big issue. In that respect, to me it was a good house built on the wrong foundation. The foundation was not a problem and the house was not a problem. They were just mismatched. 

Yes, and I'm not even sure why the two were compared.  I mean, I see that someone could try and make the comparison, but at the end of the day, they are two totally and completely different animals.  Human marriage covenants aren't eternal, like the Trinity is, and neither functions in exactly the same way.

as to why the Trinity is part of the discussion, it is because 1 Cor 11 uses the relationship of the Trinity as a theological basis for the relationship of husband and wife

Andy Naselli's notes point this out, see the link that AndyE provided

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3