Robert Matz and A. Chadwick Thornhill have edited a volume on the doctrine of impassibility. In the book, four authors argue for God’s impassibility or its opposite: God’s passibility. Each of the four authors situates the doctrine of (im)passibility along biblical lines, which has the benefit of clarifying the relationship between doctrine and Scripture. At the same time, the editorial restrictions for this volume prevent it from being a smashing success. [Read more…] about Does God Have Emotions like Us? (Review: Divine Impassibility: Four Views of God’s Emotions and Suffering)
If Christ is God, why does Paul calls him “the firstborn of all creation”? Does Paul mean that God created Christ? Is Christ a creature of God?
No. Christ certainly is the firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15) as well as the firstborn of the dead (Col 1:18; Rev 1:5) and the firstborn among many brethren (Rom 8:29; Ps 89:27; Heb 1:6; 2:11). Yet this language when read in context does not deny Christ’s deity.
Instead, it affirms that Jesus is preeminent over all creation as well as the firstborn of the new creation, the first fruits of the new-creation harvest by his death and resurrection. [Read more…] about Why Is Jesus Called the Firstborn of Creation?
A few years ago, a number of prominent pastors called the eternal functional subordination view (EFS) outside of the bounds of orthodoxy. Some saw such attacks as imputing heresy to EFS. And one recent book considers EFS in the same orbit as Homoianism, a particular strand of Arianism (the denial that the Son shares the same divine essence as the Father).
It is worth, then, reviewing Gregory of Nyssa’s response to Eunomius, a so-called Anomoean who could call the Son “God” while also affirming that the Father is greater than the Son. It is worth doing so because many of us repeat the same arguments as Eunomius but with orthodox conclusions. [Read more…] about Don’t Uncritically Call People Heretics
When John connects the Word in John 1 to the words of creation in Genesis 1, John Behr sees the completion of the project of God—the creation of the human being. The perfection of the human being happens not as we might expect but in the Passion of Christ which includes not just the cross but the entire scope of the gospel story.
To reach his conclusion, Behr joins the horizons of history, reception history (later interpretation), and phenomenology (specifically, of Michel Henry). While he may not explicitly state it, Behr throughout synthesizes the various horizons to make a case for the revelation of Jesus, the Word of God, at the cross. And through his life-giving flesh offered at the cross, we become sons of God, living human beings.
Does he succeed in making his case? In many ways, he does since his goal partly means accurately reporting early Christian interpretation of John (Ignatius, Ireneaus, and so on). However, his interpretation of the Gospel of John is less persuasive. By saying this, I do not mean his entire interpretive project misses the mark (John does portray Christ as the paschal lamb who perfects humanity in the passion). Yet I find a number of his interpretations to be historically improbable. [Read more…] about The Perfection of the Human Being (review of John Behr’s John the Theologian & His Pachal Gospel)
Sometimes familiar language in the Bible loses its meaning because it is so familiar. One example is Paul’s command to “put on the new man” (Eph 4:24). What does that even mean? And why should it be so important for how we live our lives as the context of Ephesians indicates?
To answer that question, we need to consider how paul uses “put on” language in the New Testament. [Read more…] about Paul says, “Put on the new man.” What does that mean?
Penal substitutionary atonement (PSA) is not a single doctrine. As the name suggests, the doctrine comprises theological principles like a penalty for sin, a substitutionary saviour, and a particular vision of the atonement. And actually, it draws from even more theological first principles than this list.
The composite nature of PSA explains why few Christians before the reformation defined PSA exactly as the Reformed did, while most pre-reformation Christians affirmed the first principles that would make up the doctrine. Hence, the historical plausibility of PSA derives from the fact that each of its theological first principles finds clear affirmation among Christians and Scripture. So its composite conclusion not only follows from these but also has its roots in 2,000 years of church history.
These first principles include: God is just, we are unjust, and the man who ascended the cross substituted himself for us to bring us salvation. Put together, PSA makes good, biblical sense. And stated in this way, it is obvious how Christians throughout the ages have affirmed these biblical teachings using different idioms of theology. In the following, I explain these theological first principles, albeit in short form. [Read more…] about What Is Penal Substitutionary Atonement?