Here is my response to Saint and Sinner’s response . I do not know your name so I can only abbreviate (SAS)your self designation for ease of use. In writing my response to you I want to accomplish a few things .The first would be to communicate rather than just exchange flames. To that end I try to keep the rhetoric to a minimum. I am familiar with your view as I held, it and ate, drank and slept it. I understand why you see things the way you do. I would ask that you try to understand my view in the same way, that is, from the inside out. This will better enable you to understand my responses to criticisms. I am not asking you to agree with me so much as for you to understand my view.
I understand that the Reformed view vv. 37,39 and 40 as parallel statements, but I disagree that they are so for the reasons I give below. One reason is v. 38 which is curiously left out or relegated to some insignificant or trivial meaning. Not to jump the gun, but I think v. 38 has tremendous Christological and soteriological importance. A Christ centered faith I think would recognize this. The fact that you and the majority of Reformed commentators that I have read, not a few, do this as well should give you pause.
You assert that the problem with Orthodoxy is that it constructs its doctrine exclusively around Christology and Triadology. First, I am not sure why that on its face would be a problem for Christians. A good chunk of the Bible is explicitly about Christ and Jesus himself says that the OT testifies to him. This is in part what it means for Paul to say that Christ is the end of the law. He is the goal of the law. Secondly, given that the Trinity and Incarnation are the two core doctrines of Christianity, the hinge upon which allother doctrines turn, I can’t see what the problem is. What do you propose as an alternative, anthropology? Or how about soteriology? How are we to get what the savior does right without first knowing what the savior is? And how are we to know what being made in the image amounts to apart from the image himself, which is Christ? (Heb 1:3) The difference is between us that I view starting with function to be problematic and in fact mirrors a distinctly Arian way of looking at things. http://trinitarianunion.blogspot.com/2007/03/early-arianism.htmlhttp://trinitarianunion.blogspot.com/2007/03/thoughts-on-controversy.html Christ’s relation to the world and qua savior isn’t primarily functional, though it isn’t less than that. Now I don’t know you, but given my past experience, I really don’t take Protestants seriously when they talk this way about Orthodoxy theology. Don’t feel bad. I don’t take Catholics seriously when they talk about it either. To be honest here, I think you need to be a bit more modest. I could be wrong, but I seriously doubt that you have anywhere near the background to comment on Orthodox theology in an informed manner. It takes a long time to master a tradition. I was Reformed and I still learn things about Reformed theology so I am not disposed to take your rather dogmatic statements seriously. A little humility goes a long way. Now from my perspective this is the way things seem to me. I think you are attacking a caricature of Orthodox theology. In Orthodox experience the Cross is quite central. In fact, you’ll find very few icons of Christ’s nativity in any given Orthodox Church, but you will find plenty of the crucifixion. And there is no lack of writing on the crucifixion either. Furthermore, it is not that the Incarnation saves “more” than the Cross but rather it is the foundation of salvation. As C.S. Lewis wrote, in the incarnation, God has established a beachhead, alluding to the D-Day invasion into France by the Allies. God has established a foothold. Moreover, Orthodox theology doesn’t exactly lend itself to speculative thought. This is why all of our icons are limited to historical persons and events. And since unlike Protestants and Catholics, we don’t think philosophy is the handmaiden to theology our theology is quite limited. (Where exactly is divine simplicity in the Bible?) So unless you have an example in mind, I disagree. What is more, Christology was meant to serve as the basis for soteriology and is directly linked with it in the Scriptures as well as the Fathers. Athanasius’ defense for example of the divinity of Christ turned on soteriology. Baptism deifies us by uniting us to Christ, only God can deify, Christ is therefore God. As for the Eucharist I would think something that has to do with the body and blood of Christ would be in one way or another a function of Christology. In fact, the Reformation debates explicitly turned on Christology. Was Luther mistaken? How about Calvin? Here I think you go too far and impugn your own tradition. And as far as there being only so much information about Jesus, I beg to differ. The whole bible is about Jesus as Jesus himself says. In fact, there is far more information about Jesus than any other figure, either directly or indirectly in the Bible. And it is not as if we construct every doctrine from Christology but rather that Christology and Triadology function as a template or guide, establishing boundaries and terminology for other areas of theology. Christology and Triadology function as controlling ideas and I think with a little reflection, this is true to some extent for you. On the contrary, I’d argue that your theological perspective gives little if any soteriological importance to the Incarnation, far less than Scripture demands. Take a look at Eph 1:10 and tell me what it means and how it relates to the preceding discussion of predestination. Now how are we to make sense of predestination without Christology? Think about it. What does Christology have to do with Predestination? What significance does your theological outlook give to the Incarnation, as well as the stages of Christ’s life other than a mere necessity for Him getting punished and dying? From my perspective it certainly looks like the Incarnation is only important so Jesus can get killed as suvordinated to the Father. The fact that Jesus unites his divine person to a human soul, mind and will seems to have little importance to you (not to mention his baptism). And his union with humanity seems to have no effect beyond himself in your estimation. That is, Jesus’ humanity seems to affect no one but himself on your view, and that seems to fall short of the Biblical witness.
As for disputed texts. I am not sure what you mean by that except to say that we are going to differ over their meaning. But since our theological presuppositions fill in and guide our exegesis, this will be true for not just these verses but for every verse, even when we agree superficially on the meaning. It is akin to a theist and an atheist agreeing that murder is wrong, but they in fact disagree about what murder amounts to and why it is wrong and what constitutes wrongness. Consequently, there is not a dispute between us over some verses but every verse. My point is to show that your interpretation of some verses will require you on pain of inconsistency to agree with me on those verses where we explicitly disagree. That is, there is common ground between us, but it is not neutral ground. Moreover, your argument would make any use of John 6 as supporting a Calvinist reading usesless for it is a disputed text between us as well. But I don’t think you want to retreat from using it. I mean, after all, why can’t I just say “Hey! That’s a disputed text!?” As for circular reasoning, that doesn’t seem like the charge you wish to make. Rather I think you wish to charge such a practice with yielding an unclear meaning which rests on other unclear passages. But my practice wouldn’t yield circular reasoning any more than any other consistent interpretation of a constellation of topics would. In some sense all language is circular since the meaning of every term is related intrinsically to the meaning of every other term. There are no unrelated atomic terms in a given language. So, do you think that 1 Cor 15 teaches that all who are raised are “in Christ” or not? If you do, then this will impact your reading of John 6. If not, then you have some theological explaining to do as to why the wicked are raised at all. Why is there a general resurrection if all of humanity isn’t united to Christ? And how about 2 Pet 2:1? What do you think it means to say that even those who have denied Christ are “redeemed” by him?
As for Jesus explaining the unbelief I think he is harkening back to the post-exodus experience. If so, then this means he has redeemed both believers and unbelievers. And it helps explains why Jesus presses the point of belief in terms of consuming his flesh and blood. Consequently, the explanation of their unbelief is that they are not drawn to him via the Father’s teaching and witness. (5:17-5:43, 6:45)
I do think that the “all of v. 37 is limited by the scope of belief but not so with v. 39. V. 40 clarifies v. 37 by explicitly giving conditions on belief. V. 39 though indicates a corporate meaning, which I think is why there is no condition on belief there. Moreover, v. 39 follows on the heals of v. 38 which you seem to ignore. Why I wonder? What theological relevance is there to the fact that Jesus indicates that he is doing not his will but the Father’s? Well, that will depend on how you answer the following questions.
Do the persons of the Trinity have each a difficult faculty of will or one and the same?
Is the will personal or natural? If natural what could be Jesus telling us if he speaks of doing not his will about human nature?
And if Jesus ends up bringing his human will in conformity to the divine, connection could that have to his immediate discussion of the Resurrection?
You are quite correct that Christ is telling them to eat his flesh and blood, which is what distinguishes it from the manna in the OT. A new age is beginning and so unlike the period in the desert, belief is required to enter all of the blessings. All ate there and some died. All eat here and have the fullness of life. So there is continuity and discontinuity between the two narratives. As I said before, I think the passage has a narrowing structure. Now as for restoration of all creation, I don’t think I argued that that was explicitly in the passage. But given what we know via the analogia fide, using other Scriptures we do know that the resurrection is part of the restoration of all creation. (Romans 8, Matt 19:28) So you seem to me to treat the passage atomistically as if nothing from any other passage can illumine it. But of course you wish to talk about the covenant. Well that depends on a lot of things doesn’t it? Which notion of covenant in the history of Christian theology are you utilizing? There is more than one. And it seems odd to me that you wish to preclude me from talking about the restoration of creation in Jn 6 but then you want to talk about the covenants, when the passage says nothing explicitly about them. That doesn’t seem fair, let alone consistent. And so I think you are using a double standard here.
Now, I read your exegesis of the three verses, which ignores v. 38. I didn’t see any demonstration that the passages are equivalent. I saw plenty of assertions to that effect but no appeal to their grammatical structure or past historical usage that would imply what you claim. Given that Christ raises up both wicked and just on the last day (John 5:28-29) the simply use of raising up a group doesn’t imply that the group is a group of believers per se. Now, appealing to “standard consistent exegesis” sounds a lot like “the assured results of higher criticism” to me. The question is not whether it is “standard” but correct and what determines that are the arguments given. Now consistency is important, but I don’t think you have given a clear argument on exactly where given the grammar I am being inconsistent. Secondly, one’s theological presuppositions control everyone’s exegesis of a passage, including yours. There is no neutral perspective from which to read and interpret the text. Calvinists do this with respect to 2 Pet 2:1. Anyone reading that or say 1 Tim 4:10 certainly wouldn’t come to a Calvinistis interpretation without the respective theological presuppositions. So to convict me of interpreting the passage in light of my theological presuppositions is just to accuse me of being consistent. My claim is that people like White aren’t consistent with their theological presuppositions. Moreover, when you say that you have every reason to assume and no reason not to, that the groups are identical, I thought you were presenting an argument so that we didn’t need to assume anything. Secondly, I see no reason to accept your repeated assertion. I understand from the way that you look at the text, it looks fairly obvious, but of course the same is true from my perspective. Now it is quite possible that I am mistaken, but given the fact that competent readers of the text came up with the same interpretation as I did, on similar grounds, if there is an error, it is not an obvious one, lest we convict such authors as being morons. Jerome was sufficiently competent in Greek. Are you? Why then did Jerome come up with the view that I did? Same with Maximus or Cyril. Both men has astoundingly good command of the language, so much so that few authors can reliably translate their works due to their complex usage. So even if I am in error, you’ll have to do more than convict them of silly mistakes because what it more likely is that your argument hasn’t touched their position and mine as well.
I don’t need creation to be in John 6 as I noted above for it to be true that the not losing any of it is in mind. I can demonstrate its conceptual proximity with other passages of Scripture to the resurrection. Scripture illumines scripture, doesn’t it? And I could just as easily assert that the scope of the two verses are different and only someone with an over riding theological interest would deny it. Not only does that border on a genetic fallacy (ad hominem) but it wouldn’t be the first time that a Calvinist was led to an interpretation because of their theological commitments. Just read some Calvinist commentaries on 2 Pet 2:1. The lengths they have to go to deny the import of the surface grammar. Hmm, maybe they were redeemed in that they had more time to repent or maybe they were redeemed by being delivered from temporal judgments, or some such nonsense. The whole passage is about the superiority of Christ over Moses, which was part of the previous chapter. It is not an essay on election. And if you do not think that there is nothing about the general and specific, then you need to tell that to White, for he claims as much as well. We just disagree over what the general and specific denote. And you might want to tell that to D. A. Carson, who says as much as well in his commentary on the passage. I am not pulling this out thin air.
While no one denies that Christ will renew creation, some deny it is by virtue of the Incarnation. And some will deny that the immortality that the wicked receive in their resurrection is derived from Christ’s resurrection. Why? Because they conceive of union with Christ exclusively at the level of person and then they usually confuse person with intellect. Consequently children can’t be united to Christ in baptism because they do not yet employ their intellect to a sufficient degree. Of course if intellectual activity is what constitutes personhood, you have got a fast track to the legitimacy of abortion, which incidentally was the underlying reason why Protestants by and large considered abortion a “Catholic issue.” It is because they had an implicit adoptionist Christology, Jesus became God when he could reason. If you do not think that all are redeemed in Christ according to nature, then please explain how you understand 1 Cor 15:22.
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.”
Now are the two groups different here? Are the wicked not raised? If so, how do you explain Revelation 20? If their resurrection is not part of Christ’s work of redemption, what biblical warrant do you have for thinking it is based in something else other than Christ’s resurrection? It seems lame to say that God needs to punish them in order to be just because the demands of justice are never fulfilled either in the case of annihilation or perpetual suffering. Consequently the best explanation of their perpetual existence is that humanity is united to an eternal person and can’t cease to exist. This is why annihilationists and conditional immortalists usually deny the divinity of Christ as well. I don’t see any inconsistency accepting Hebrews 9. If you think there is, then it would be helpful to spell it out by making an argument.
I know White doesn’t deny that the wicked are raised but that is not the point. My point was that if he were consistent he would have to and so would you. And it is quite true that those groups deny Calvinism, but it is true that modern anti-Trinitarianism came out of Calvinism. It just took Calvinistic assumptions in a different dialectical direction. Modern anti-Trinitarianism didn’t pop out of 18th century Thomism for example. Why do you think that is? Secondly, I don’t think they have much in common with me. I for example think our union with Christ is intrinsic and not an extrinsic mental relation, as Calvinists do. Even in sanctification, the union is one of an uncreated cause to a created effect in the soul. Their reasoning is something like the following. We are united to God via a created and contingent mental relation, Christ unites us to God, therefore Christ is created and contingent. Sola fide lays the groundwork for contemporary Arianism by virtue of Nominalism. This is why you didn’t get modern Arianism from say Thomism because the Thomists are Realists.
I did leave out universalism but I don’t think bringing it up will help your case. First, Origen isn’t a church Father. It takes more to be a Father than simply being in the past. (1 Cor 4:15) Nyssa’s views and Origen’s likewise were condemned on the subject precisely because they failed to make the distinctions I am making between Person and Nature. Universalism, which also came out of Calvinism at about the same period as modern Arianism is just the flip side of Calvinism. Both confuse person and nature and hence end up at opposite ends of the spectrum. Calvinism makes salvation entirely personal, in part because they have made human nature evil and so only persons who meet such and so conditions are saved. Universalism confuses person with nature so that Christ’s redemptive work extends to all in the same degree. In fact, Calvinism and Universalism share the same basic soteriology, they both think that God determines the will of human agents. They only differ in scope. Calvinists has God doing it to some and universalists to all. At that point they are conceptually identical. Just go read the universalists of the post-reformation era. They by and large appeal to a Calvinistic soteriology of God determining the will. So, not to be rude, but I think the heterodox shoe is on the other foot.
If the Fathers are not of ultimate authority in terms of applying the rule that is Scripture, why think that you are of equal stature with them? Where does this idea that everyone’s interpretation can potentially carry the same normative grip come from? I mean how does that comport with say Heb 13:7, 17? Jesus teaches that the church has binding authority. (Matt 18:17) Are you telling me that if the church rejects a teaching that your acceptance of it is of equal normative value? Secondly, the only authority a modern exegete has are his arguments. His interpretation is only as good as the arguments he gives. On my view this isn’t so with respect to the Fathers and the church as a whole. Why? Because I think Christ is truly united to his Church and conveys his authority to it. Consequently divinely empowered teachers as the Fathers are acting merely on human authority. You need to understand that the idea that no interpretation is infallible has serious ramifications for ecclesiology and Christology. It implies that the powers of Christ are not conveyed to his body. And that raises serious Christological (Nestorianism), if not biblical problems. (Luke 9:32, John 17:5) And even if the Fathers weren’t of greater authority, it doesn’t follow that one can or should dismiss them out of hand. I am not sure why in this case we should prefer modern exegetes over past ones. You seem to dismiss the Fathers too easily, especially the fact that they reject monergism. Let me ask you this. Between Christ’s two wills, is that monergism or synergism?
I don’t have to assume that Tertullian was a recipient of apostolic tradition. To some degree he in fact was. How else do you explain his familiarity with Christianity? Did he get it via psychic powers or something? All I am showing is that the interpretation isn’t something new I invented. And sure sometimes the Fathers disagree, but how does it follow that we are helpless in such situations? Oh golly gee, the Fathers disagree, guess we can’t know anything! How does that follow? It doesn’t. Moreover it would only be a problem if we had no way to sort through it, but we do and that is part of what the canon of St. Vincent does. And this is why Tertullian and Ireneaus both invoke it as a test for authentic tradition.
Moreover, if the Fathers aren’t reliable guides, why trust that they designated the apostolic authorship of the gospels correctly? Based on what evidence? To my knowledge there aren’t any designated authors for any gospel manuscript prior to the first century. Those were all added later on the basis of the veracity of the people you have dismissed as generally unreliable. And if the Fathers disagree on everything and that discounts their standing, how does it not follow that we have sufficient grounds to dismiss the standing of modern exegetes who agree on even less? And even if they didn’t why not think their agreement isn’t the result of resting on the previous work of the Fathers?
And it just seems silly to think that people like Tertullian and Ireneaus didn’t have access to things we don’t. If this were true, we would never be baffled over some of their writings. Moreover, since texts are a snapshot of a period, there is always information left out for no text is complete. This is just simple historiography. As for traditions apostolic in origin, well Basil gives us plenty of examples, which the Orthodox continue to practice.
And again, I can’t see how you can say that we only have very little information about Christology. Have you excised the Gospels and the Apostolic Epistles from your Bible? Who and what exactly do you think they are talking about if not Christ? Moreover, I’d recommend picking up any Protestant systematic theology such as Hodge and looking at the quite a bit of Christological information that the Bible gives. Now, I have taken a good bit of time to respond to everything you wrote. If you wish to continue the discussion, I ask that you do more than dismiss Scriptures with “disputed text!” If you aren’t willing to discuss the Scriptures, there isn’t anything to talk about.