One Great Tri-Personal Book - Part II

To continue with the review of “The Son of God,” here is one final thought from James McGrath in the Forward:

“I hope that readers will find themselves welcomed into the conversation, and that they in turn will not just learn about Christology, but about being Christians who disagree – sometimes adamantly and vociferously – yet without hating one another. For it seems to me that, if we figure out who Jesus is, and in the process ignore what he taught, we have missed the point” xi.

Prior to engaging in the first, three-part dialogue, each of the three participants provided an opening statement for the sake of clarifying their position, title or terminology, allowing the reader to begin without having to make unfounded assumptions:

Trinitarian - Charles Irons wished his readers to know that he would be espousing the particular position of Trinitarianism (as there are various views) he described as “the historic position enshrined as church doctrine in the Nicene Creed” xiii. This - in a nutshell – is the view that “Son of God” denotes full ontological divinity and equality with the Father, being of one ousia (essence) or substance and having been eternally generated, which is used synonymously with eternal existence. This is the view most mainline Christian denominations would classify as “Orthodox.” He also briefly sketches two points that are the basis for most of his apology. First, he speaks of the “fundamental metaphysical presupposition that there are only two kinds of being: Creator and creature.” This distinction brings Irons to conclude with his interpretations later that Jesus therefore falls on the creator side of this distinction and is an uncreated being. Second, for the sake of defending the simultaneous full humanity, Irons lays out “a three-phase Christology: (1) eternal preexistence, (2) incarnation, and (3) exaltation” xiii.

Arian - It is difficult to ascertain exactly what it was that Arius taught, as the beliefs and writings attributed to him are through the writings of others (including archenemies). An “Arian view” was acceptable to Mr. Dixon for summarizing his perspective with the caveat of recognizing that his conclusions are not derivative of Arius’ teachings. He does state however, “if my viewpoint is successful in its attempt to consistently make sense of the biblical data, then it would have been true many years before Arius’s flash-in-the-pan appearance in history and his followers crystalizing his perspectives” xiv. As all participants in this dialogue do, Dixon believes his conclusions to be thoroughly based on biblical and Second Temple era data. While he never quotes Arius, he grants that there would no doubt be some points on which they would agree.

Socinian – Dustin Smith informed his readers that this particular view of Christology “insists that the God revealed in Scripture is numerically one and that Jesus possessed no literal preexistence” xiv. Smith stresses throughout the course of his essays that Jesus is said to have come into existence at the time of his birth. This perspective is known by many titles including (but not limited to) unitary monotheism, Unitarianism (not Universal Unitarianism), Dynamic Monarchianism and psilanthropism (mere man - which Irons uses in his response to Smith in later responses, 146). Smith also notes that Socinian Christology is anachronistic due to the name’s progenitors, Leo and Fausto Sozzini who were a “product of the Radical Reformation” xv. But like the other two, Smith contends Socinianism was a later label for describing a belief of not only the Historical Jesus, Apostles, but Jews of the ages past. Smith was fully accepting of the term.

All of the positions were well-argued while maintaining a refreshing respect and honorable disposition toward their fellow interlocutors. While Irons and Dixon indeed had many points of view worthy of consideration, I personally was most convinced by Smith’s methodology, using OT and Second Temple literature to properly assess context and period. He began by deriving much of his definition from OT and messianic expectation, and using language indigenous to those texts. There was however, objection to this - mostly by Irons - due in part to the opinion that Jewish expectation is an incapable factor of determining Christian Christology.

The next post will examine some of Dr. Irons perspectives, the first of the three sections.

1 comment:

gregplogan said...

I would stick with Monarchianism - albeit not my favorite word - but the only term that is accurate. Otherwise, trin apologists will be chomping at the bite to taunt and deride the late date... and the ignorant will be deceived.