When a Dad Worries His Son, The Father Better Have Some Good Answers
I have four sons and a daughter, the firstborn being Matthew. He’s a thinker. And he’s trying to give his father a hard time over some of my comments. Matt’s worried that I’m putting the Torah as a higher authority than the Person of Jesus Christ as revealed in the gospels. Here’s his question:
“What role does the person of Jesus Christ play in all of this?”
Now Matthew is concerned that his father might be going off in a wrong direction, so he’s checking up on his old man to make sure. He comments further,
” Shouldn’t it be Jesus Christ that we look to as the central revolving point of the Scriptures rather than the Torah?”
Good questions. Here’s my reply:
Nothing gives a father more joy than to know his son is trying to understand the mysteries of Scripture. And since your conception, you have been one blessed by God and it does not in the least surprise me that you, out of all your siblings, are the one to check up on your father’s theological ramblings.
You’re wondering if I’m trying to exalt the Torah over the person of Christ. You even question my commitment to orthodox Christology because you think I believe that the Torah holds more authority than the Jesus Christ revealed in the Gospels.
Now I’m certainly going up a path that may appear to be against “conventional” wisdom. But it is a path that we should not fear. Here’s why.
You might like to read again (Did you read it a first time?) Rushdoony’s book, The Foundations of Social Order: Studies in the Creeds and Councils of the Early Church. The early church councils were concerned about Jesus and who He was. At the center of those early controversies were the Christological and Trinitarian issues, with the Trinitarian topic reaching it’s culmination in the Athanasian Creed, while the Christology issues were systematized at Chalcedon in the year 451 A.D.
The early church councils were dealing with views about Jesus and about God. Marcionism, Sabellianism, Arianism, Manicheanism, Pelagianism — all these crazy -isms which confuse most people today — were wrong ideas about Jesus, his divinity, his humanity, and his relation to God. They were wrong on one or even more of these issues. You will find there was some kind of subordination of one (or more) of the Persons of the Trinity, and it was this subordination that was rejected by the church fathers.
Western Christianity determined itself to be thoroughly Trinitarian, and at the center of this idea is the equal ultimacy of the Three Persons of the Godhead. There can be no subordination of any of the persons of the Trinity. The Father is not superior to the Son or the Spirit; the Son is not superior to the Father or the Spirit; and the Spirit is not superior to the Father or the Son. The same can be said about their inferiority to one another. While there is an economic subordination (i.e. what they do), there can be no subordination in their essence. In terms of their transcendentalism and therefore their authority, there is equal ultimacy in the Three Persons.
Let’s put that another way. The Three Persons of the Trinity speak with One voice; they don’t contradict each other.
What do you think this means when we read the Torah or our New Testament? Who was the ultimate author? If you say God, you are right. But what do you mean by the word “God”? Do you mean the THREE persons of the Trinity equally and ultimately authored the Torah? Because if you don’t, you’ve denied the Trinity at that point.
I have more than a sneaky suspicion that a large part of our problem today in Christianity is the heretical idea that the Jesus who appeared in history is superior to the God who wrote the Torah. Therefore, Jesus should be listened to as the ultimate authority, while the God who wrote the Old Testament can now take a subordinate role in the issue of revelation. Now I can use the word “heretical” here quite legitimately, because those early church councils anathematized any kind of subordinationism in theology.
My son, as an orthodox Trinitarian I find it challenging, if not impossible, to accept an idea that gives more authority to Jesus in the Gospels than to the Jesus who wrote the Old Testament. I happen to think they were written EQUALLY by the same God — Three Persons.
In which case, why would the equal and ultimate Three Persons of the Godhead contradict themselves? Why is it necessary to make a choice between Old Testament and New Testament? Am I choosing between the First and Second Persons of the Trinity? This is nuts.
What I am saying here is that if you want to hold to an orthodox Trinitarian view your must hold to the equal ultimacy of the Three Persons. Therefore, there are no contradictions in Scripture. The Three Persons did not at one time say the Old Testament law was forever (read Psalm 119, for example), then teach later that it was not forever, that it was just a temporary assignment and then for the Jews only.
This same Person who appeared on earth also wrote these words: “Blessed is the man . . . whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law does he meditate day and night.” The same Person who authored these words also said: “I did not come to destroy (do away with) the law, but to fulfill it.” Get the idea?
Now I know what I’m writing here cuts against what you may be taught in your church and what I hear as I visit different churches in America. But we need to contend for the truths of Scripture as defined by our church fathers and handed down to us in our creeds.
Do you get the idea of Scripture here? One God, Three Persons, all speaking with One Voice. That puts the Torah in a very special position. Why wouldn’t we all hold to the priority of the law as the standard by which everything is measured?
You know, Matt, it’s fascinating to see how the Pharisees tried to trip Jesus. They kept accusing Him of not meeting the standards of the Law, the Torah. Now Jesus never once condemned them for their methodology. He did, however, condemn their wrongful interpretations of the Torah. In other words his response was along these lines: “If you guys just understood the Torah properly, you would not say nor would you do the crazy things that you say and do.”
So Matt, I’m convinced that the choices we are facing today in Christian theology are almost exactly the same ones our forefathers battled in the early church. The same errors are appearing in Christian circles, and being accepted as “orthodox” when in fact, they smell of one (or more) of the -isms that the early church fathers battled so successfully.
Perhaps I am being a little too provocative at times as I try to grapple with the issues of systematic theology that I see here. And there are legitimate questions on the NT canon that need to be addressed. Among them are these questions: “What are the correct criteria for selecting the documents to add to the Old Testament canon? And on what authority are those criteria known to be the correct criteria?”
The real issue here is not so much a question of the New Testament canon and whether or not we have the right books. Let’s say we accept these 27 books as canon as they are. Now it’s going to be a matter of their interpretation, and any interpretation of them that is not in conformity with the Torah—the undisputed revelation of God within Christianity—needs to be challenged.
So this is my reply to you. I hope and pray it convinces you, and if not, causes you to dig deeper into your own thought processes and the pursuit of Truth. It’s worth the struggle.
I think I am on very safe ground here with my view of the ontological Trinity and its implications for OT/NT interpretation. We should preserve, as much as we can, the historic Trinitarian faith of our fathers, or, as Rushdoony points out so well, join the heretics. There is no middle ground.
And so, my son, I’ll pray that you continue to work your way through these issues so that when my days on earth have run their course, there will be a next generation of Christians willing to uphold the faith that was handed down to us. Let neither you nor I be the ones that diminish or destroy that heritage in any form.
This is my prayer and legacy for you. I hope this helps.
I love you.
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