The Trinity is so Fourth Century

While New Calvinists decide how to receive the teachings of Eastern bishops, Roman Catholic cardinals have moved on. According to Christoph Cardinal Schonborn:

AL [Amoris Laetitia] is an act of the magisterium that makes the teaching of the Church present and relevant today. Just as we read the Council of Nicaea in the light of the Council of Constantinople, and Vatican I in the light of Vatican II, so now we must read the previous statements of the magisterium about the family in the light of the contribution made by AL.

The funny thing about the evangelical controversy over the Trinity, the updated version offered by the likes of Ware and Grudem comes for the sake of outdated views of women’s roles.

Appropriating the past is tricky. Best to hire a historian.

But Aren't Piper and Grudem Making the World Safe for "Bad" Charismatics?

Tim Challies writes:

There is a challenge here for myself as a Reformed, North American believer: I have a very narrow view of the Christian world—a too-narrow view. MacArthur made it clear that he did not host this conference in order to critique the Wayne Grudems and John Pipers of the world; if these men were representative charismatics, Strange Fire would have been a non-event or, at the least, a very different event. He hosted the event because there are hundreds of millions of people around the world who make the fraudulent practice of fraudulent gifts the heart of their expression of the Christian faith.

[He didn’t write, thanks Nate] But even if you don’t make “the fraudulent practice of fraudulent gifts” the heart of your Christian faith, even if “the fraudulent practice of fraudulent gifts” is only a side dish in your Christian walk, do you ever want “the fraudulent practice of fraudulent gifts” to be part of your Christian practice? Or do you want to let Christian leaders who do not reject “the fraudulent practice of fraudulent gifts” to go uncriticized?

Since Challies appears to be a friend of Grudem and Piper (hence along with MacArthur his granting them an exemption), perhaps he can spend some of his personal capital and straighten them out of the work of the Holy Spirit.

Hart on Leithart and Grudem

Don Frank kindly prodded my memory about excerpting part of my review essay on two new books on Christianity and politics, one by Peter Leithart on Constantine and Wayne Grudem on the United States. The full review is here. What follows is part of the review.

The vast literature on religion and politics summons up Qoheleth’s oft-quoted remark, “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body” (Eccl. 12:12). Remarkable indeed is the amount of published material on questions surrounding church and state, at least in the United States. For instance, in 1960, when despite strong anti-Catholic prejudice John F. Kennedy prevailed over Richard Nixon as the first Roman Catholic president, the number of books published on church and state ran to eighteen, up from five titles during the previous year. Figures returned to 1950s levels until 1976 when the bicentennial primed the pump of scholarly output. In 1976 publishers produced seventeen books. The presidency of Ronald Reagan and the presence of the Moral Majority would help to sustain the market: in 1980 eighteen and in 1981 fifteen books were devoted to church and state themes. By 1984 when the critique of secularism was taking hold, the number of books rose to thirty. Since then the numbers have only escalated: forty-seven in 1990, seventy-four in 1996; forty-four in 2000; eighty-one in 2004, and 188 in 2008. Obviously, if dinner conversations unravel when interlocutors introduce religion and politics, and if controversy sells, then publishers hoping to generate a return on their investment in an author, paper, cover art, and advertizing might look to religion and politics as a valuable topic. Still, doesn’t Qoheleth have a point? Hasn’t all this publishing wearied the subject, if not the readers?

The good news is that the titles under review demonstrate that more can be said, even if readers debate whether it needed to be. (For what it’s worth, these were two of sixty books published in 2010 on religion and politics.) Wayne Grudem’s Politics According to the Bible is textbook in size and arrangement of material, running from basic principles (about one-quarter of the book), to specific issues (about two-thirds) ranging from American foreign relations with Israel to farm subsidies, and concluding observations (one-eighth). Peter Leithart’s Defending Constantine is part biography of the first Christian emperor, assessment of his policies, and apology for Constantinianism (more below). Leithart is specifically intent to defend Constantine from the sort of criticisms leveled and made popular by John Howard Yoder, the Anabaptist ethicist who coined the term Constantinianism to highlight the ways in which the church’s entanglement with the state leads to unfaithfulness and even apostasy.

The cover art for each book is revealing. For Leithart’s the image from a reproduction of Constantine in an act of worship tells readers where the book is headed—a portrait of the emperor as a Christian one. Grudem’s book features the dome of the U.S. Capital building with a U.S. flag flying in front. What each author ends up doing is baptizing his subject. In Leithart’s case, Constantine is a model for Christian politics. For Grudem, the United States and its ideals of freedom and democracy are fundamentally Christian versions of civil polity; he even includes the full text of the Declaration of Independence in the chapter on biblical principles of government. The result is two books, published in the same year, written by two white men of conservative Protestant backgrounds in the United States, equipped with biblical and theological arguments, both making a case for Christian politics from wildly different political orders—one a Roman emperor, the other a federal republic. Readers may reasonably wonder if these authors are letting their subjects—the United States and Constantine’s empire—determine Christian politics or are basing their arguments on biblical teaching and theological reflection.