James Dolezal, All That Is in God (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017).
Scholasticism names a type of theology that matured in the thought of Thomas Aquinas. In the post-reformation period, both Protestant and Roman Catholic thinkers adopted many of the methods and conclusions of scholasticism, and some of these are even reflected in the Protestant confessions. In the “Enlightenment” of the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, many philosophers and theologians reacted strongly against scholasticism, so that in the nineteenth century scholastic and anti-scholastic agendas contended for supremacy in the theological academies.
I studied with Cornelius Van Til, who was in turn influenced by but critical of the Dutch neo-Calvinists such as Kuyper and Dooyeweerd. They accepted some doctrines characteristic of scholasticism—divine simplicity, aseity, supratemporal eternity—but in general they treated scholasticism as a theological blind alley. They were highly critical of Aquinas, saw him as a “synthesis” thinker, who tried to combine Christianity with Aristotelian and neoplatonic philosophy. When one neocalvinist referred to another as “scholastic,” that was a term of reproach. The general consensus was that those who do theology in the scholastic way were on a slippery slope that could end only in Roman Catholicism.
Besides extensive study in church history and the history of doctrine, I studied Aquinas in some depth, in a course with Van Til, later in a course with George Lindbeck at Yale Graduate School, and after that in my own research and writing. In the end, I emerged with great respect for Aquinas, one of the most brilliant and penetrating thinkers I have ever encountered, and certainly an impressive Christian man. But I also saw some truth in the neo-Calvinist critique of him. I trust that experience has given me something of an open mind when confronting scholasticisms of various kinds, such as that of Dolezal.
Dolezal’s book is a defense of some aspects of the doctrine of God that were stressed in the scholastic tradition. Among these, divine unchangeability, simplicity, eternity, and Trinity. He believes that the general rejection of scholastic method among evangelicals has led them to compromise these doctrines or to deny them altogether. As he sees it, the only remedy is to return to scholasticism, even to those aspects of scholasticism that make the least sense to modern thinkers.1
The most common evangelical alternative to scholastic metaphysics is what Dolezal calls “theistic mutualism” (1).
“Mutualism,” as I am using the term, denotes a symbiotic relationship in which both parties derive something from each other. In such a relation, it is requisite that each party be capable of being ontologically moved or acted upon and thus determined by the other.2
Dolezal thinks that “theistic mutualism” (TM) is very common among evangelical writers today and in the recent past. He cites as examples Donald MacLeod (21), James Oliver Buswell (23), Ronald Nash (23), Donald Carson (24), Bruce Ware (24), James I. Packer (31), Alvin Plantinga (68), John Feinberg, J. P. Moreland, William Lane Craig (69), Kevin Vanhoozer (72), Rob Lister (92), Scott Oliphint (93), and, yes, John Frame (71-73, 92-95). Wayne Grudem joins the group later for his adherence to “eternal functional subordination” in the Trinity (132-33). This group brings together many of the most important thinkers in evangelicalism today, and I am honored to be included in it, though I do not agree with all of them on everything. Dolezal, I think, should be more respectful of this group than he is. Is it not even a little bit daunting to stand against such a consensus?
Dolezal thinks that TM is a departure from “traditional Christian orthodoxy.”3 He agrees with E. L. Mascall that if we accept TM “we may as well be content to do without a God at all” (6), and with Herbert McCabe that TM presents a “false and idolatrous picture of God” (6). David Bentley Hart also charges TM with idolatry. Plainly, on Dolezal’s view, TM is vile heresy.
Now, if Dolezal really thinks that all the men in the above list are heretics, he will need to spend quite a bit of time bringing charges against them in ecclesiastical courts. For my part, I shall defend only my own orthodoxy in this paper, for what difference that may make.4
Nevertheless, there are a number of points on which I agree with Dolezal and would even contend with him against some prevailing theological trends. When I began teaching theology at Westminster Seminary in 1968, my first elective course was “The Aseity of God.” Van Til, despite his disdain for scholasticism in general, was a strong advocate of divine aseity, what he called “the self-contained God.”5 In my course, I drew on Van Til, Bavinck, and the Reformed tradition. But I noted that despite the fact that many Reformed theologians considered divine aseity to be a central doctrine, few of them had developed any credible biblical basis for it. Given sola Scriptura, this seemed to me to be a serious lack, and so I spend much of the course trying to develop the doctrine from explicit biblical teaching. So I was pleased that Dolezal referred in his defense of aseity to 1 Kings 8:27, Acts 17:23-28, Rom. 11:35-36, passages I also stressed in my elective course. Like Van Til, I emphasized the creator/creature distinction and opposed any tendency toward “correlativism,” the notion that God and the universe (or something in the universe) are dependent on one another. I thought that issue had implications for epistemology as well as for metaphysics: God made human beings to think his thoughts after him, implying that all human thinking should be subordinate to divine revelation. That is the view called “presuppositionalism.” You can imagine how I recoil when someone accuses me of “theistic mutualism.” “Mutualism” seems to be the same as Van Til’s “correlativism,” and I’ve been fighting against that all my life.
When I wrote my Doctrine of God, mostly in the 1990s, My chief opponents were process theists and their evangelical cousins, the open theists. When I sent P&R the completed ms. of Doctrine of God, I suggested to them that I could take some of the material from that book, add to it some specific references to open theist writings and thereby develop a critique of that movement. They responded favorably, and in 2001 they published No Other God. They thought it best to release this smaller book a year ahead of the complete Doctrine of God, and I respected their judgment. Clearly it seemed to me that the process and openness thinkers were guilty of correlativism, and I opposed those notions from Scripture. In The Doctrine of God I defended the doctrines that Dolezal stresses in his current volume: divine aseity, simplicity, unchangeability, timeless eternity. I did not always use the scholastic arguments and definitions, and I used some arguments Dolezal doesn’t use.6 But many of my arguments were the same as Dolezal’s.
Nevertheless, it did seem to me that the process and openness theists had gotten hold of something in the biblical text—something orthodox theologians would have to deal with, without taking the path of correlativism. That something was that in Scripture God does enter into genuinely personal relationships with human beings. Indeed, Scripture emphasizes these relationships. Among them are covenants, which of course are central to biblical redemption. And the principal promise of the covenants between God and believers is “I will be with you,” the “Immanuel principle,” fulfilled in the coming of Christ. Christ came to be with us in space and time, to take to himself our sins, and to bring us new life in him. He came to be our covenant Lord. This is the Gospel, and I determined not to accept any metaphysical premise that compromised this covenantal relation between God and man.
God’s theophanies, as in the burning bush, the fire and cloud, and in the holiest place in the temple, prefigure the incarnation. And through the biblical story, God walks and talks with human beings that he chooses to be his covenant mediators. He is not a temporal being, but most certainly Scripture presents him as coming into time. He is the creator of time and space, and there is no principle that can keep him out. He is not a changeable being, but he really enters the changing world. In that world, he participates in the drama of redemption. On Monday he judges; on Tuesday he blesses. I have called that a kind of “change,” understanding the problems that creates with our general doctrine of God. Should we call that merely the appearance of change? That is a possible formulation we should consider, and it seems to be what Dolezal wants to say. But if we say that God only appears to change in these contexts, must we also say that God only appears to enter time, that the Son of God only appeared to become man (that is the textbook definition of Docetism), that he only appeared to die on the cross and rise again?
Dolezal understands that there is a problem here for those who advocate a changeless God. He admits that much biblical language is “mutabilist” (19). And he thinks the problem is adequately solved by saying that this language is nonliteral, accommodationist, anthropomorphic. He cites Bavinck’s statement that “Scripture does not contain a few scattered anthropomorphisms but is anthropomorphic through and through” (20). These convey “something true about God, though not under a form of modality proper to him” (20). The modality proper to God asserts that God does not change, even in the ways the accommodated biblical language suggests that he does. This doctrine actually contradicts the meaning of the accommodated language.
But Dolezal never seems to understand the consequences of this distinction. It implies that Jesus did not “literally” become man, suffer, and die for us. He was not literally born of a virgin. He did not work literal miracles. Of course Dolezal confesses that there is “something true” about these doctrines of the faith, but every heretic in the history of Christianity has been willing to say that much.
Another difficulty is that the problem he raises recurs on to his own view. Dolezal wants his readers to believe that the changelessness of God (and the other doctrines he defends) is derived from Scripture. But if Scripture is “anthropomorphic through and through,” why is it not anthropomorphic when it speaks of God’s changelessness? Why should we believe literally that God is changeless, but not that God literally became flesh in Jesus? Is it not possible that when God says “I change not” he is speaking nonliterally, anthropomorphically? That text may well be saying “something true about God,” but why should we take it as literal truth, while relegating “the Word became flesh” to a figure?
In fact, texts like “I change not” which yield metaphysical truth about God, are fairly rare in Scripture. Most of the statements about God in Scripture are “mutabilist.” One can argue that the metaphysical statements should take second place to the mutabilist ones in a legitimate hermeneutic. Why should we not say “the word became flesh” is literal, and “I change not” is figurative? Of course, frequency does not equal primacy. But shouldn’t there be some argument at least that the metaphysical statements are so fundamental that they reduce mutabilist statements to a lesser status? So far as I can tell, Dolezal does not supply us with such an argument.
I think what has happened here is that Dolezal is dead-on sure that Aquinas and the scholastic tradition is right. He is so sure of this that he wants to make it a lens through which to interpret Scripture. Following Paul Helm, he maintains that “classical Christian theism” (i.e. the scholastic approach) is “a set of rules, a ‘grammatical template’ by which we are enabled to coherently hold together the diversity of biblical statements about God” (37). So when there appears to be an inconsistency between the “classical” statements and the “mutabilist language of Scripture,” the former must necessarily trump the latter. But there are many of us who do not have such a high opinion of scholastic theology. It is by no means certain that “I change not” must trump “the Word became flesh.” Indeed, if we must choose between these, many of us, certainly I among them, would choose the latter. But most of us would rather not make such a choice. What we really want is to combine these two ways of thinking into one, to make them “perspectives” on a larger reality. We want to develop a theology that allows us to confess both truths firmly and loudly. Dolezal, unfortunately, wants us simply to give up the mutabilist narrative of Scripture in the interest of consistency with a theology of changelessness that emerges from the scholastic tradition.
In my Doctrine of God I attempted to develop a theology that does equal justice to the metaphysics of Scripture and to its mutabilist language. I wanted to say, with full confidence, that God is unchangeable, while also asserting, with equal confidence, that the Word became flesh.
Was this task impossible? Some might say that I should have taken more seriously the alternative of mystery. There is a lot of truth in that suggestion. God is mysterious, incomprehensible, ineffable. And often when we reach a seemingly impossible problem in theology, like the problem of evil, like divine sovereignty and human responsibility, we should consider the possibility that we have reached the brick wall of divine mystery. There are no contradictions, of course, in God’s mind or in God’s revelation. If we run up against something that looks like a contradiction, and we can make no progress toward resolving it, we are often wise to set it aside, trusting that God has an answer even if we don’t. Perhaps the wall we have run into is simply the infinite depth of God’s mind.
Dolezal appeals to mystery (38), understanding that the relation between mutabilist language and scholastic metaphysics is not easy to resolve. And predictably he adds that the TMs are the ones who don’t understand mystery. But in the end, he insists that the metaphysics must prevail over the mutabilism. We cannot have both, he thinks. They are not two perspectives. It is the metaphysics that is literally true, and the mutabilism is only anthropomorphism.
In my book, I tried to explore other options. Theologians have sometimes said that God is “unchangeable in his essence, but changeable in his relations to changing things.” That should not be difficult for readers to understand. To say that God is unchangeable in his essence is to say that he always remains God, and he always remains the same God. He always has the same attributes and the same three persons. But he has also decided to create a world, something different from him. And he is, of course, related to that world. The phrase “creator of” itself designates a relation. And if God is “creator of” the world, he is also creator of everything in the world. That means that God is significantly related to indefinitely many things and persons outside himself. He is the creator of the sun and of the moon. He is the creator of the angel Gabriel, of the earth, the sky and the water around it, of the birds, fish, and animals, of Adam and Eve, of King David, of George Washington, of Herbert Hoover, and, and… And his plan for the world and all the things in it is incredibly complex. God is unchangeable, but he has indefinite numbers of relations to changing things.
When the changing things change, those relationships change. When Adam obeys, then disobeys God, his relation to God changes. When Jonah tries to escape from God by taking a ship to Tarshish, God knows about that and the relationship changes. Indeed, you can’t escape from God, for God is everywhere (Ps. 139). I don’t know what Dolezal does with the divine attribute of omnipresence, but he clearly wants to avoid saying that God “experiences” anything in the changing world,7 let alone that God actually enters that world.8 So it doesn’t seem to me to be an abuse of language to say that God becomes creator when he creates, though of course that becoming is based on qualities of his unchanging nature. And it is not wrong for us to speak of attributes (an attribute is nothing more than a description or designation9) of God that correspond to his creative acts and the relationships he has with the created world. He is not only “creator of” the world in general, but also creator of the sun and moon, of the tree of life, of Adam and Eve, etc. These are attributes of God, qualities he has by virtue of his relationships with creation. Dolezal thinks that such language is really “inventing new attributes,”10 but certainly this language has at least as much biblical justification as the attributes of changelessness, simplicity, and eternity.
Dolezal, of course, wants to insist with the scholastic tradition that all of God’s attributes are identical with his essence and therefore identical with one another (42). Is “creator of the world” identical with divine changelessness or simplicity? I don’t understand how that can be, but perhaps the question can be relegated to mystery. In any case, the answer does not seem to be that we cannot speak of divine attributes based on his actions in the world.
Such is Dolezal’s account of divine immutability, set forth in chapter two of his book. In chapters three and four, he takes up the question of simplicity directly, to which we have alluded. Like Dolezal, I have argued the case for divine simplicity, using, indeed, some of the same arguments Dolezal refers to. But I have qualified that case by saying that God is not only simple, but in his own way, highly complex, as I have argued above. Dolezal criticizes this view, which he finds in Kevin Vanhoozer’s work and my own. He thinks that divine complexity is inconsistent with his simplicity, and he denies that language denoting the complexity of God’s attributes literally applies to his actual being:
Frame means not only that the truth of our propositions corresponds to the reality of God’s nature, but that the form of our propositions mirrors the form or manner of God’s intrinsic act of being (72).
As before, he thinks that any statements we make about the complexity of God’s nature are “accommodations,” not literally true. I’m not sure what he precisely means here by the italicized words or by the phrase “intrinsic act of being.” But I would like to know whether he considers his denial of such mirroring to be literally true. If he is making a literal statement, that would seem to contradict his claim. If he is not, then the whole discussion vanishes into the air. My concern is simply that Scripture does represent God as a complex being. He performs innumerable acts for innumerable reasons. He has innumerable thoughts and plans. His love has innumerable objects. Are we supposed to deny all of these biblical teachings for the sake of the simplicity doctrine? I don’t doubt that God’s actual nature is beyond our ability to understand or describe it. But God has given us a book, and we ought to be able to trust its statements about God without fearing the wrath of the scholastics.
Chapter five deals with the eternity of God, affirming the timelessness of God’s existence. I too have defended the doctrine of timeless eternity over against process thought and open theism. Dolezal presents the following definition:
…God does not experience successive states of being and thus has no future and no past. (82).
He concedes that Scripture sometimes speak of God as a mutable being, using “temporalist” language (85), just as he earlier admitted that Scripture sometimes uses “mutabilist” language to refer to the simple God. But the temporalist language, like the mutabilist language, is non-literal, accommodation. Dolezal criticizes a number of TM theologians who hold different views of God’s eternity. Here is what he says about me:
The key to Frame’s doctrine is his apparent belief that God’s existence extends beyond his atemporality. As Creator and providential Lord of time, Frame believes that God also exists as a changing being within history itself. He can say this because he believes that “there are two modes of existence in God.” Frame does not agree that biblical talk about change in God is merely anthromorphic, as the classical view explained it. Rather, if God acts in time, then he really exists temporally (93).
I have no serious quarrel here with Dolezal’s paraphrase of my position. This is the same principle I stated earlier in this paper: that according to Scripture God really enters the temporal world. That seems to me to be obvious from biblical accounts of God’s involvement with human history, with providence, and especially with redemption. Certainly these biblical accounts are anthropomorphic, in that they are in human language, and doubtless they are describing realities that human ears cannot entirely understand. But these accounts are in God’s authoritative book, and that book authorizes us to speak as it speaks about God, both in the area of metaphysics and in the area of history. And the central message of Scripture is not that God is changeless or simple or timeless but that he came to save us from our sins. The Word became flesh and was crucified for us. How can a changeless God enter time? The metaphysics may well elude us to some extent. But the ultimate reason is that God is the creator of time and therefore the Lord of time. He can do with time what he wants. He can enter it or not, as he chooses.
I have gone out on a limb, slightly, saying that because God comes into time he has a temporal existence. That simply means that he can fully enter relationships with temporal beings, becoming an actor in the historical drama. He answers their prayers, punishes their sins, forgives them on the basis of Jesus’ work, speaks to them, governs all the forces of nature and history to fulfill his purposes. In that temporal existence, God does not sit somewhere as a static block of wood. He is dynamic. He responds to people. He does one thing on Monday, another, different thing on Tuesday. That existence seems to me to be very different from the existence of the Trinitarian persons “before” the creation of the world. But I will be the first to concede that we don’t know how precisely to describe these two kinds of divine existence. Maybe Dolezal can find a better way; but you won’t find it in this book. Rather, what he does is to deny God’s “temporal existence.” And to deny that, I believe, entails denial of the biblical gospel, that
in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Cor. 5:19)
Great is the mystery of reconciliation. But I cannot clarify that mystery by denying that God really was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. If I must choose between this confession and the scholastic account of divine eternity, I will unhesitatingly choose the former.
The last chapter, chapter 6, deals with the doctrine of the Trinity. Rightly, Dolezal begins this discussion by reiterating what he said earlier about the unity and simplicity of God. God’s Threeness cannot be understood outside the context of his Oneness. But what are these three that the church has historically called “persons?” Dolezal quotes G. L. Prestige:
If Christianity is true, the same stuff or substance of deity in the concrete has three distinct presentations—not just three mutually defective aspects presented from separate points of view…but three complete presentations of the whole and identical object, namely God, which are nevertheless objectively distinct from one another. (118)
Each is fully God, for each possesses the whole divine essence. Dolezal goes on:
Yet the three persons are really distinct. How so? Classical Christian theists generally locate this distinction in personal relations or, in slightly more imprecise language, “several peculiar relative properties.” Specifically, it is in relations that we locate the real distinctions of paternity (unique to the Father), filiation or begottenness (unique to the Son), and spirated procession (unique to the Spirit). (119)
So, like Aquinas, Dolezal’s view of the Trinity is that there is one God, with three “subsistent relations.”
Now it is possible that Dolezal is working with an unconventional definition of “relation.” If he is, he has not told us, and I confess that in all my study of scholasticism over sixty years I have never found a definition of “relation” that could sustain this kind of talk. Some philosophers have distinguished four elements of a fact: things, properties, actions (or states), and relations. So “the yellow cat is on the mat” can be analyzed as two things (the cat and the mat), a property (yellow), a state (is), and a relation (on). One can imagine a scholastic philosopher trying to determine by process of elimination how to describe the persons of the Trinity: well, they are not things (substances), for God is only one substance. They are not properties (attributes). They are not actions or states. So they must be relations. But what can it possibly mean to say that persons are relations? Well, they are not ordinary relations (like “on” in our example) but substantive relations. But what could that be? What would it mean to regard “on” as a substantive (or any other relation, like “behind,” “taller than,” “nephew of,” “to the right of,” etc.)?
Here, Dolezal identifies the relations as Christians have often done, by reiterations of the names of the persons. For “paternity,” “filiation,” and “spirated procession” are of course reiterations of the names “Father,” “Son,” and “Spirit.” I do believe there is some additional biblical evidence for “eternal generation” and “eternal procession;” these are not merely extrapolations from their personal names, though I think that these concepts are basically grounded in the nomenclature. But in this discussion it is easy to forget the question I posed earlier: what is a substantive relation, and why is this concept sufficient to identify the three persons?
When we speak of the eternal generation of the Son from the Father, what are we talking about? It appears that we are talking about two persons, the Father and the Son. But how can there be two persons within a being who is supremely simple? It is no answer to say that we should somehow focus, not on the persons, but on the relations between them. There are two persons (and another, making three), and that fact creates a problem for people who try to attribute simplicity to God.
But the difficulty is worse than that. For to Dolezal, the “persons” are not the beings who are related by eternal generation. Rather, the persons are the relations themselves, the “substantive relations.” In this case, the persons are not the Father and the Son; rather the persons are paternity and eternal generation (and similarly for eternal procession). The “persons” are abstractions11, not what we normally call persons, and not even something reasonably analogous to those we normally call persons. And even if we can defend the concepts of eternal generation and procession from Scripture, Scripture never comes near to asserting that these abstractions are what the Father, Son, and Spirit really are.
So I think the analysis of the Trinity into substantive relations is a failure. To say this is not to reject the whole scholastic doctrine of simplicity, which both Dolezal and I defend, with some differences. I cannot supply an analysis that overcomes all the problems. Rather, I throw up my hands in the face of the greatest mystery in God’s revelation. For all of Dolezal’s talk about analogy and anthropomorphism, I wish he had acknowledged that here. I fear that Dolezal is one of many theologians who are fond of speaking about mystery in general terms, but who demand absolute conformity to the conclusions of their own specialized study.
But until a better way appears (perhaps in the new Heavens and new Earth) I intend to follow the biblical depictions of the Father, Son, and Spirit as a holy family, both in Heaven and on Earth, analogous to (though certainly not identical with) our earthly families, with a unity far beyond what any society of human beings is capable of.
I am grateful to God for giving to James Dolezal substantial gifts of theological knowledge and intelligence. But insofar as he desires to convict most of his colleagues of heresy, I cannot join him on the side of the prosecution.
Rather, I am hoping that in time Dolezal will develop a more mature way of responding to his colleagues. What he has done has been to adopt scholasticism, one philosophical model of the relation of God to the world, and demand that his colleagues agree with this model in detail, if they are to maintain their orthodoxy. But there are all sorts of things wrong with this approach:
- Dolezal seems to think that Aquinas and his scholastic successors were infallible. There is not the slightest hint in this book that Aquinas was, or may have been, wrong about anything. He has accused his colleagues of idolatry, but it doesn’t seem difficult to charge him with the same thing.
- Like Muller, then, he tries to make systematic theology totally subordinate to historical theology. But this is to put the cart before the horse. We can learn much from the theologians who have preceded us in history, but sola Scriptura requires us to test everything they say by the direct study of Scripture.
- As we can learn much from our predecessors like Aquinas, we can also learn from our colleagues, especially those who have labored longer than we in seeking the meaning of Scripture. None of our colleagues is infallible any more than historical figures are; but we should criticize our colleagues with a level of humility and respect, especially those who our older than we (“Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father” (1Tim. 5:1)) We might even be able to learn from colleagues who take positions opposite to our own, if we carry out friendly conversations, rather than laying down the law. I do not sense that humility in Dolezal’s book. Rather, his manner feels like a steamroller, ready to crush anyone who takes issue with any of his jots or tittles.
- Dolezal’s book shows no sense of proportion. He wants us to confess without doubt the traditional metaphysical doctrines, but his method creates many problems for the biblical gospel of salvation, and he does not seem to sense any need to work those problems through.
- I repeat what I have said elsewhere, that traditionalism is not a biblical virtue. And total alignment with a historical tradition leads to spiritual shipwreck.
- If you enter Dolezal’s conceptual universe, you must be prepared to navigate some terminology that is fairly abstruse to many modern readers. Often he says that God is “pure actuality” (xiii, 7). The language of Scripture, he says, tells us something true about God, but not “under a form of modality proper to him” (20, cf. 72). Dolezal throws around terms like “ontological,”(26) “real” (25), “essence,” “quiddity,” “substantial form” (41), assuming that the reader is well enough versed in scholastic philosophy to immediately perceive that Dolezal is using these terms in something other than a conventional modern sense. Often he makes no attempt to explain or justify his distinctive scholastic vocabulary. ↩︎
- 1, note 1. ↩︎
- This phrase comes from Richard Muller’s Foreword, xi. Dolezal does not say anything precisely equivalent, but it is fair to assume that Dolezal agrees with Muller. Incidentally I have disagreed with Muller before. See Frame, “Muller on Theology,” in Frame, Selected Shorter Writings 3 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishers, 2016), 1-26. Although I respect Muller’s great achievements as a historian of doctrine, I strongly reject his assertion that systematic theology is essentially based on the work of church history. Rather, I insist, sola Scriptura obligates us to judge all historical theology (and everything else) by the teaching of Scripture. ↩︎
- For my history of theological skirmishes, see my Memoir, Theology of My Life (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2017). I defend my thesis that the Reformed community wastes a lot of time in fruitless controversies in “Machen’s Warrior Children,” in Frame, Selected Shorter Writings 3 (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishers, 2016), 86-121. ↩︎
- He also understood divine simplicity, eternity, and the Trinity, in a more-or-less scholastic manner, following Bavinck. ↩︎
- It still seems to me that the best argument for divine simplicity is that the biblical God is personal, and like human persons he acts and thinks as a whole being. It is the person who thinks, for example, not his intellect or his wisdom. ↩︎
- He says, “As an aside, I find the whole notion that God has “experiences” to be wrongheaded.” (31, n49) ↩︎
- Even God’s attribute of omniscience would seem to be problematic for Dolezal, for how can a God who has no significant relations to changing things know what is going on in the changing world? ↩︎
- Perhaps there is some technical definition of “attribute” in scholastic theology that I am missing, but if so I don’t think that Dolezal has supplied that definition. ↩︎
- Muller (ix, x) and Dolezal (65) charge TM evangelicals with “inventing new attributes” of God based on his relation to creation. ↩︎
- Keep in mind, of course, that Dolezal affirms Aquinas’s statement that “the abstract and the concrete are the same in God” (121). But we should always remember that the reason for invoking “relation” in this context is its abstract character. Three concrete beings in the Trinity would not sustain the simplicity of the Godhead. ↩︎