Some Random Thoughts on the Current Controversy
A couple of weeks ago I raised the question of the ecumenical implications of the current discussion of Nicene Trinitarianism for evangelicalism. Since then it has become clear that there seem to be three basic reactions to the debate from within the evangelical camp. The theologians in the cross hairs of debate genuinely believe that they are in line with the tradition. Leaders within Calvinistic evangelicalism know that this theology is wrong but yet, for whatever reason, want to keep it within the bounds of the movement. And many seem unable to believe that good men whom they respect could be so wrong.
I noted in my own call for ecumenical realignment that the Reformed Baptists might well be seen by Presbyterian Nicenes as better partners for dialogue. Well, here is an interesting quotation from a Reformed Baptist blog on the controversy:
In the recent controversy relating to the triunity of God, one wing of evangelicalism is now holding another wing doctrinally accountable, in brotherly love. But it is becoming clear that the common doctrinal foundation that was assumed to be shared, is not in fact shared. As a result, those being held accountable resent and oppose the accountability as an imposition of a foreign standard to which they have made no commitment. But the standard by which they are being measured is the faith of the church throughout the ages, and this on the doctrine of God. All is not well in evangelicalism, nor has it been.
You can read the whole thing here. In the UK, Andrew Wilson (who incidentally happens to be co-author of this wonderful, powerful book on raising autistic children) has also offered some reflections on the significance of the debate for complementarianism, both theological and practical.
The way the debate has carved up reminds me in some ways of countless conversations with evangelical friends which I have had since arriving in the USA fifteen years ago. They generally fall into one of the following two frameworks:
Conversation Type 1:
Friend: American Calvinistic Evangelicalism believes Doctrine A is vital but Doctrine B is really pretty negotiable.
CRT: Well, I too believe Doctrine A is vital but I also think Doctrine B is extremely important, especially as it actually stands in positive relation to Doctrine A. So I guess I’m not a Calvinistic Evangelical. But that’s ok. We can still be friends.
Friend: You are a Calvinistic Evangelical! And how dare you be so divisive as to claim that Doctrine B is extremely important?!
Conversation Type 2:
Friend: Why don’t you throw your lot in with one of the really big Calvinistic evangelical groups? Don’t you believe in expressing Christian unity beyond your own congregation? Isn't that good for the advancement of the Gospel?
CRT: Yes, I do, and I agree that it is good for the Gospel. That is why I am a member of a confessional Presbyterian denomination – because I believe Christian unity should be expressed by confession and polity which has biblical sanction, is organized under elders, and has a formal ecclesiastical existence beyond that of the local congregation.
Friend: Denominations are divisive! And how dare you insult the congegationalists and the Baptists!
It’s a funny old world.