Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Irony of Mohler’s Post on the Trinity

Mark Jones comments
| Faith

Yesterday Albert Mohler vigorously defended Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem from charges of unorthodoxy and heresy.

In his post Dr. Mohler explicitly claimed:

“Affirming separate wills within the Trinity would be heresy, but we lack adequate human categories for understanding how exactly to define these doctrines comprehensively.”

I quite agree with Dr. Mohler. Affirming three wills is heresy. Affirming three wills is exactly the same thing as affirming three gods. Will is a property of nature. God's will is his power is his goodness is his eternity. Three wills equals three powers. Yet, we know the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God, but that there is only One, True Living God with one will. 

So what is the problem?

Yesterday, Carl Trueman drew attention to this quote from Kyle Claunch in the collection of essays, One God in Three Persons, edited by John Starke and Bruce Ware (pp.88-89).

"One often overlooked feature of such a proposal [on eternal submission of Son to Father as articulated by Grudem and Ware] is that this understanding of the eternal relationship between Father and Son seems to entail a commitment to three distinct wills in the immanent Trinity.  In order for the Son to submit willingly to the will of the Father, the two must possess distinct wills.  This way of understanding the immanent Trinity does run counter to the pro-Nicene tradition, as well as the medieval, Reformation, and post-Reformation Reformed traditions that grew from it.  According to traditional Trinitarian theology, the will is predicated of the one undivided essence so that there is only one divine will in the immanent Trinity.

"By arguing for eternal authority and submission in the Godhead, Ware, Grudem, and others are not abandoning all traditional Trinitarian categories.  Rather, drawing on the distinction between the one divine essence and the three divine persons (a distinction that is basic to Trinitarian orthodoxy from its earliest mature expressions), they are making a conscious and informed choice to conceive of will as a property of person rather than essence.  The model of a three-willed Trinity then provides the basis for the conviction that structures of authority and submission actually serve as one of the means of differentiating the divine persons."

Here is the problem. If Mr. Claunch has accurately understood Grudem and Ware, then he is saying they hold to three wills in the Godhead. If Dr. Mohler is correct, he is saying three wills amounts to heresy. So if both Mr. Claunch and Dr. Mohler are correct – and I am inclined to agree with them both – then we have a serious problem, namely, that Grudem and Ware hold to a heretical view.

What makes this ironic, of course, is the fact that Dr. Mohler was trying to do the opposite in his defense of Grudem and Ware.

Or, perhaps Claunch, whose PhD supervisor is Ware, totally messed up his interpretation of Ware. But it did get through the editors - one of whom is Ware - so I assume the interpretation is not totally out of left field. I would be curious to know if Ware of Grudem have ever disavowed this unorthodox position in print since the publication of "One God in Three Persons." 

I have noticed so far that Dr. Moore and Dr. Mohler have both said they don’t hold to the positions of Grudem and Ware (ESS), but they don’t think their views are unorthodox. Onlookers might be forgiven for thinking that friends of Dr. Mohler are getting a pass on heterodox positions whereas if others were holding to classically heterodox views they might not enjoy the same generosity. I don't know if this is the case, but it is hard not to think that in light of the evidence above.

Frankly, this has been my concern from the very beginning as I have sought to understand the peculiarities of ERAS/ESS. To those of us who have published in the area of the Trinity, this all smacks of tritheism.

I would like to see some other voices stand up and call these Christian men and professors to re-think their views. Carl, Liam, myself, and others can continue to point out the issues, but I’m beginning to wonder if content and theology really matters anymore.

Honestly, a lot of people are watching and reading and a lot of them are beginning to wonder if something odd is going on. Changing the doctrine of the Trinity, as Claunch suggests Ware and Grudem are doing, has been the issue. I am firmly opposed to female ordination or ministers and deacons. I would leave the PCA if that happens. But I'm even firmer that we should not be messing with the Trinity. And positing three wills in the Godhead is messing with the Trinity. 

So the problem I have with Dr. Mohler is not that I disagree with him. Rather, I simply think he needs to carry through the logic of what he's saying. 

Author

Mark Jones

Rev. Dr. Mark Jones (PhD, Leiden Universiteit) has been the Minister at Faith Vancouver Church (PCA) since 2007. He is also Research Associate in the Faculty of Theology at University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. He lectures at various seminaries around the world and is currently writing a book titled, "God Is: A Devotional Guide to the Attributes of God" (Crossway, 2017) and "Faith, Hope, and Love" (Crossway, 2017).

My Website: http://amzn.to/2aT50QJ