Today, in the continuing discussion over the Trinity, Dr. Albert Mohler has weighed in to defend the orthodoxy of Drs. Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware.
Recent charges of violating the Nicene Creed made against respected evangelical theologians like Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware are not just nonsense — they are precisely the kind of nonsense that undermines orthodoxy and obscures real heresy. Their teachings do not in any way contradict the words of the Nicene Creed, and both theologians eagerly affirm it. I do not share their proposals concerning the eternal submission of the Son to the Father, but I am well aware that nothing they have taught even resembles the heresy of the Arians. To the contrary, both theologians affirm the full scope of orthodox Christianity and have proved themselves faithful teachers of the church. These charges are baseless, reckless, and unworthy of those who have made them.
While I respect Dr. Mohler and I appreciate his desire to defend both orthodoxy and his associates, I have to wonder if he’s aware of statements by Dr. Ware that deny the Nicene creed on eternal generation and eternal procession:
The Western church adapted the Nicene Creed to say, in its third article, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father “and the son” (filioque) and not merely that he proceeds from the Father (alone). While I agree fully with this additional language, I believe that this biblical way of speaking, as found in John 15:26, (But when that Comforter shall come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth of the Father, he shall testify of me.), refers to the historical sending of the Spirit at Pentecost and does not refer to any supposed “eternal procession” of the Spirit from the Father and the Son. The conceptions of both the “eternal begetting of the Son” and “eternal procession of the Spirit” seem to me highly speculative and not grounded in biblical teaching. Both the Son as only-begotten and the Spirit as proceeding from the Father (and the Son) refer, in my judgment, to the historical realities of the incarnation and Pentecost respectfully.
(Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, pg 162, footnote 3, emphasis added)
I agree with Dr. Mohler that Nicene doctrine is extremely important and that charges of being outside Nicene orthodoxy are equally serious. Those who have made the charge that Drs. Grudem and Ware are outside Nicene orthodoxy have not done so lightly. I believe their own words are strong evidence to support the charges.
In addition, the charge is not that Drs. Ware and Grudem are Arian. The charge is that they are subordinationists. In his book Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, Dr. Grudem writes:
For all eternity there has been a difference in authority, whereby the Father has authority over the Son that the Son doesn’t have over the Father, and the Father and Son both have authority over the Holy Spirit that the Holy Spirit doesn’t have over the Father and Son. (p. 433)
If we didn’t have such differences in authority in the relationships among the members of the Trinity, then we would not know of any differences at all. (p. 433)
All Arians were subordinationists, but not all subordinationists are Arian. To teach, as they do, that there is an eternal subordination structure in the very nature of God is the very definition of subordinationism. While the Nicene Creed was specific in addressing the Arian version of subordinationism, all forms of subordinationism are denied as well.