Biblicism Never Dies

In 2016, there was an eruption in conservative Evangelical and Reformed theologians surrounding the doctrine of the Eternal Functional Subordination of the Son (EFS). There’s no need to rehash what has already been said, as that has been summarized helpfully elsewhere. Needless to say, it was the hot topic for podcasts, blogposts, books, and academic articles for more than a year. Seemingly everyone had an opinion on the Trinity debates, and sides were taken, uniforms passed out, and strategic advances made.

Now, several years later, there seems to be something of a ceasefire, with the theological battlefield only seeing an occasional rifle shot to the other side instead of the constant cannon fire it once witnessed. Some may be led to think that since so much time has passed, and since the debate isn’t as white hot as it once was, that something of a peace treaty has been reached. An “agree to disagree,” kind of thing, if you will. So, is the battle over? No. Far from it.

Why do I say this? Well, first of all, no one (that I’m aware of) has repudiated their positions. Those who have eschewed the biblical and catholic doctrine of God in favor of a more “Biblicist” approach are still teaching their erroneous views. Some theologians have even doubled down on their views in the face of a seemingly mountain of evidence to the contrary.[i]

However, now it seems that other vital doctrines are being compromised. Doctrines that were once seen as imperative to hold for one to be considered orthodox. Sadly, some have even adopted arguments that were once only reserved for Socinians, rather than hold fast to the orthodox faith confessed in all ages. Doctrines such as divine simplicity, impassability, actus purus, and inseparable operations are all up for grabs.

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Derrick Brite | “No, The Trinity Debates Aren’t Over” | December 30th, 2023


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  1. Serious, non-sarcastic question: is the environment preferable now to 2016? Are the errant doctrines taking root in places besides Grudem’s systematic theology? should we prefer that the battle return to 2016-2017 intensity?

      • Let me try. I wonder whether we should prefer that the intense debate on the EFS controversy and/or other errant doctrines should continue at the high intensity levels which characterized the debate on EFS in 2016. That is, should we shout “false teacher” from the rooftops until the culprits are driven out or made to recant? It seems like now that the debate is quiet, it is an opportunity to assess the damage. Does calling attention to the debate amplify a teaching which would otherwise die in obscurity? I am not trying to imply I know the answer to the question I’m asking. I don’t.

        To draw an analogy to politics (dangerous, I know), the worst politicians get more attention than they deserve. We know Who AOC and MTG are merely by their monograms. They raise up acolytes and receive support based on their popularity, when their popularity is almost entirely based on (well deserved) negative criticism.

        • Michael,

          EFS is a symptom. Biblicism is the root or perhaps a more basic symptom of another even more fundamental error: rationalism. All biblicists are rationalists (e.g., Socinians) ostensibly affirming the Bible. What they’re actually doing, however, is placing themselves over Holy Scripture but they do so under the guise of affirming it.

          Biblicism thus never goes away. It’s always with us and always needs to be sprayed like weeds in the yard.

          The political analogy does not seem helpful since, on that analogy we should stop saying the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (AD 381) or Chalcedon (AD 451), or the Athanasian (prob. late 5th century), since those are all polemical documents aimed at errors that most everyone knows to be errors. We still confess them actively however, because the same rationalism that produced Arianism or Nestorians or Eutychianism or Modalism always exists. Thus, we confess. There are still active proponents of EFS/ESS. They are still leading the gullible and the naive into gross error. So, it’s necessary continually to remind people of the fundamental error of biblicism, which has hundreds of thousands (and perhaps more) adherents through the work of a range of writers from John MacArthur to John Frame.

          To use a military analogy, biblicism is Atlanta and orthodoxy is Sherman’s army and the orthodox should march all the way to the sea.

  2. Understanding the requirement of charity and respectful civility, I still need names. Over time, I have found names, e.g. Wayne Grudem, cropping up in places I had thought to be reliable. For example, I have a mental list of those who committed to the FV belief system, as well as those who supported or participated in aspects of FV, in order to be alert when reading those sources. Is there a more prudent location for the naming of names, in order to preserve charity? Or is it possible, as in this article, to name some names whose position is made clear? Lola Kindley

    • Lola,

      Here are some of the figures from the earlier debate.

      If you want names, see the discussion of Biblicism in Recovering the Reformed Confession. One figure there is John Frame, who published a defense of “Something Close To Biblicism” in the Westminster Theological Journal. Wayne Grudem and the proponents of biblicism are biblicist in their methodology. John MacArthur is biblicist, who because of his biblicism has wandered into more than one serious theological problem (e.g., denying the eternal generation of the Son). It’s widespread and even endemic in evangelical theology and even in some quarters of ostensibly confessional Reformed theology. I recall a conversation with a senior Reformed theologian who was defending the proposition that God is one person and three persons. His final line of defense was, “It’s in the Bible.” That is nothing but rank biblicism.

      See these Resources On Biblicism.

    • Lola – in his systematic theology Grudem indicates that he is both a continuationist as well as a charismatic and denounces those who don’t agree in more or less charitable kind of way, but denounces nonetheless. He also argues emphatically for credobaptism as the only legitimate method and, in his final chapter, denounces Mike Horton in a less than charitable way for his amillennial view of eschatology. He also has a dim view of covenant theology. Yet, his systematic work seems to be the “go to” volume for “evangelicals,” not that that’s much of a surprise.

  3. Thank you for taking my request seriously.
    On another note, it is counterintuitive for me to think of biblicism as rationalism, but of course it is. The biblicist holds as his supreme authority his (fallen, flawed, partial, indeed prideful) mind and his self-referential, self-affirming logic.

  4. I’m struggling to understand how “divine simplicity” satisfies the “necessary” component of “good and necessary inference”. For example, what makes simplicity necessary for equipping the saints for works of service?


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