Truly Audacious Proposals

Let us all reflect for a moment on the dramatic significance of Grudem’s claim about eternal generation. What he is saying is that the church catholic has for over 1600 years been affirming theologically and liturgically, as the key ecumenical summary of its faith, a document – the Nicene Creed – which in one of its core and defining assertions is superfluous or virtually meaningless or confused (or a wax nose which means whatever any Christian chooses). That is surely far more audacious than disagreeing with a selective concatenation of decontextualized quotations from Charles Ryrie and a few other evangelical luminaries.

Carl Trueman

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  1. While I don’t agre with Grudem at all on this, I think we can admit that certain portions of the creeds have been subject to reinterpretation over the years such that it is fair to ask what an individual means by a certain clause. The descendit is the most obvious with a range of sometimes contradictory options, and I don’t think many of us protestants have prayer to the dead in mind when we confess the communion of the saints.

    • When portions of creeds or confessions with which we agree are challenged, “How Dare You!” may be a legitimate approach, but it isn’t sufficient. They need to be defended (I am still almost flabbergasted that two defences of the Westminster Confession statement on remarriage following divorce, particularly for willful desertion not involving fornication, still appear to be of recent origin involving myself – that of causation by the deserter of the innocent party to be in adultery through remarriage, and that of branding opponents to legitimate remarriage as departers from the faith and heeders of doctrines of demons – The latter argument was also propounded in a lady’s letter that was printed in the English Churchman simultaneously with my own. Do please expose my ignorance of antecedents if you can).
      As regards the Descent into Hell, the place of torment, that happened while Christ was still on the cross. He was buried by the wrath of God, at the end of which He cried Tetelestai.

  2. Does that mean that BOTH major authors of systematic theology textbooks post Berkhof (Grudem and Reymond) deny Eternal Generation?

    Some time ago I concocted a little ditty, which I hereby inflict on you:

    Christ could not be a human son
    Till human he became
    When He’d be called the Son of God.
    He already had that Name.

    For if Christ was not Son of God
    Before to dwell He came,
    Then who walked with the faithful three
    In midst of fiery flame?

    And did the Sp’rit record those words
    Of king of Babylon,
    And fail to say he was deceived,
    For that was not God’s Son?

    No, Christ is from eternity
    God’s Wisdom, Word and Son.
    May heav’n and earth sound His praise, while
    Eternity shall run!

    I later saw an article on the internet with several arguments, some better than the fiery furnace one (which was also included), but haven’t been able to find it again.

  3. To question any human extra-biblical formulation should not be gasped at in horror as though this were tantamount to questioning inspired Scripture itself. This kind of righteous self-assurance in the church was faced by Luther, who appealed only to Scripture, not to long church history or any magisterium

    • Allan,

      Your account of Luther is not correct. He placed Scripture above all other authorities but he appealed to the Christian tradition regularly and he attributed to it some authority. He was not a biblicist, i.e., he did not read Scripture as if no one had ever read it before. He was a trained theologian who interacted with the Christian tradition and who appealed to Augustine and to other fathers as well as to other writers and to ecclesiastical documents.

      The confessional Protestant tradition has always been to place Scripture above all other authorities but it has never been to read Scripture as if no one has ever read it before.

      Ecclesiastical documents (e.g., confessions) may indeed be challenged and they should be revised where they are shown to be imperfect. That is not to say, however, that such revisions may be done willy nilly or outside of an ecclesiastical process. In the Reformed churches we have a process for making revisions. To use that process is an act of love.

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