Well, I guess there has been some progress. At least now I know that yes, brother Briggs was making reference to me, hence, I am a dangerous man to be warned about globally, evidently. I doubt I will get much in the way of serious response about the allegation of kenoticism. It is all wrapped up in the use of specific terminology by those who, let’s be perfectly honest, do not take their Christology into the arena of ideas (apologetics). Hence, they can slap some “appropriations” or “we distinguishes” on their philosophical formulations and call it good, everyone will be happy with that…in the local theology club anyway. But it doesn’t translate outside of the narrow confines of those who share their extra sources of authority, i.e., “but WCF participant X said this, but then Owen said that” etc. and etc. The irony is, I have actually heard folks saying this is the “consensus of the church,” a phrase I hear far too often on the battlefield to ignore.

I know we have invested a lot of time over the past few years on this, and much of what I have said has been ignored (and will be, I am afraid). I have taught many to both love the Trinity and defend it, to make it central to the message we proclaim to Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, unitarians, Muslims, etc. And I have always based that exhortation on the same foundation: when we believe in sola scriptura and tota scriptura, we will believe in the Trinity. It flows from the text of Scripture naturally and necessarily. It is not a doctrine created by tradition or ecclesiastical authority, but from the revelation of God in history itself. As a result, when we address the interpretation of Scripture provided by individual church writers from the past (which often varies widely in its content) as well as church councils (whether Nicea or Ariminum, Constantinople or Ephesus, Chalcedon or Trent), all are subjugated to the same ultimate authority: God’s revelation in Scripture. When we read Protestants baldly stating that you must start with Nicea to even understand Scripture, we know where this leads, inevitably. I have always taught and believed that Nicea’s authority is derivative: it has authority only in that it represents accurately the teaching of a higher authority, that of Scripture. As the LBCF put it:

The supreme judge, by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Scripture delivered by the Spirit, into which Scripture so delivered, our faith is finally resolved. (I:10)

The only relevant passage that brother Briggs (and believe me, he represents a wider circle of RB leaders, most of whom will not publicly engage this dispute, but choose rather to do so privately, behind closed doors) can be referring to is Mt. 24:36, the infamous and very difficult (both interpretationally and textually) text about the Son’s knowledge of the day and the hour. The text has, of course, received widely divergent readings through history. [I heard of one school actually now making it a requirement to hold to the “classical interpretation” of this text, as if such an interpretation actually exists or has been defined by some Protestant ecumenical council]. I have offered a possible understanding of how the Son, as the Son, could, in this context, speak of Himself in these words, and have connected this to the Son’s role as Messiah. I have said repeatedly that this is language of the incarnated Son, but, at the same time, recognized that, exegetically, it is pretty much indefensible to say that “Son” here is to be “partitively” dismissed. Unlike my critics, I have to take my understanding into the arena of conflict and apologetics, and interpretations that depend upon a patchwork of specialized terms and concepts hold together about as well as cellophane tape in that context. While not providing a defensible interpretation themselves, my critics have seized upon this singular difficult text to make the charge of kenoticism. They ignore my published works wherein I affirm the deity of Christ and defend it and instead seek to label me as one who is in some fashion compromising the truth that Jesus is the Lord of glory, the God-man, Yahweh incarnate. The Son’s deity is not collapsed into His humanity. As Horton put it, “In modern theology there was a move toward a kenotic Christology (from the Greek word kenosis, “emptying”) with the obverse direction: collapsing his deity into his humanity, so that in the incarnation the Son empties himself of his deity in order to share our human nature” (Pilgrim Theology). Everyone, and I mean everyone, has to deal with what kenosis meant, and the reality that there is an action undertaken in the Son’s self-humiliation that allows the glorious Second Person of the Trinity to walk the dusty roads of Galilee without consuming all who encountered Him due to His holiness and glory. Writers have used terms like “veiling” to describe the purposeful, intentional act of incarnation, yet no one can actually define the act with more specificity than is provided in Scripture (or, if they do, they are leaving the sufficiency of Scripture behind in the process).

But let it be said clearly and boldly: even if Mt. 24:36 is referring to a purposeful laying aside/veiling of divine knowledge (in the exact same context as laying aside divine glory), it was solely focused upon the accomplishment of the Son’s mission as Savior, and does in no way diminish His deity and represents a temporary, temporal situation, one that was self-imposed. This is not kenoticism, Eutychianism, or Nestorianism.

But their real target is not this text, it is the methodology wherein they, not I, are seeking to bring in external sources and make them normative in our handling of Scripture. This is the real issue at hand, as we have pointed out many times.

Which leads us to this “Socinian method” allegation. First, saying “you are using a method associated with the Socinians” is not the same, obviously, as accusing someone of being a neo-Socinian.” You simply cannot define the term Socinian without the element of anti-Trinitarianism being front and center. Hence, it is lazy, cheap theatrics to use the term of a self-professing Trinitarian. It is just as easy and cheap as referring to any Protestant as a “neo-Papist” if they appeal to some use of the term “tradition” (which is why I don’t do it). If you wish to argue that appeal to tradition leads to dangerous conclusions, then do so (as I have done). But don’t do the cheap, lazy thing and use emotionally loaded terms of heretical content. In the same way, I have zero respect for anyone using “Neo-Socinian” in this context. Zero.

Next, the use of the slanderous epithet is simply bogus on its face. The Socinians were rationalists. Their unitarianism (just as it is seen in modern unitarian argumentation–about which my critics seem woefully ignorant) flowed from a deeply defective view of Scripture itself. Their rationalism led them to reject the supernatural content of Scripture, and hence its witness to the deity of Christ, and the personality and deity of the Spirit. The cheap and silly error of those using the term “neo-Socinian” today is that they are trying to sneak a form of ecclesiastical authority and tradition in the back door by decrying anyone who would dare to subjugate conciliar authority to Scriptural authority. “The Socinians rejected Nicea based upon biblical arguments! You must be a Socinian!” Luther rejected conciliar formulations based upon Scriptural arguments! He must have been…uh…wait, that doesn’t work.” Right, it doesn’t, and this is especially true for Baptists who, by definition, are biblicists to the core. Any Baptist pretending to talk about the authority of the “Great Tradition” simply makes me laugh as soon as they engage ecclesiology, soteriology, and especially sacramentology, including both the Supper and baptism. “But, we are only talking about theology proper” we are told. Right, I am sure you will “differentiate” consistently there.

If one could even pretend to identify a specific, singular “Socinian method” it would be that of naturalistic rationalism, not the application of the first chapter of the LBCF, which is exactly what I have been promoting and defending consistently for decades. I would refer folks to the article published in Pro Pastor, the journal of GBTS, on the definition of sola scriptura as found in that chapter. My critics have been utterly silent, as far as I know, on the content of that article, published in the midst of this controversy. The silence speaks volumes.

So, in conclusion, it is slanderous and false for Reformed Baptists to accuse their brethren of neo-Socinianism. It must stop, and those guilty of it must repent of their divisiveness and slander.

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