I must note at the outset: Swain and Allen explicitly reject ESS, EFS, and ERAS as presented by Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware. Further, nothing below is meant to suggest that they have in fact adopted the Barthian program or are themselves “Barthians.” And I also must include the obligatory (and accurate), “I am no expert on Barth, but…”. I am far from it.
I have been mulling over Scott R. Swain and Michael Allen’s article “The Obedience of the Eternal Son” for quite some time now, having had mixed feelings. Plus, I don’t really see myself well positioned to critique such better lights as these. (In fact, if you haven’t read Reformed Catholicity: The Promise of Retrieval for Theology and Biblical Interpretation by Swain and Allen, I would suggest clicking out of this article and ordering now.) Nevertheless, as proponents of Eternal Subordination of the Son seem to be finally adopting the doctrine of Eternal Generation, and are now beginning to use the doctrine as the basis for ascribing obedience to the Son in eternity, I’ve decided to at least ask few questions over the next couple of posts.
I was reminded recently of the article “Why the Trinitarian Controversy Was Inevitable,” wherein Dr. Christopher Cleveland argues that the current Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) controversy was an inevitable result of the failures of modern academia, specifically noting the failures of Southern Baptist seminaries. He refers, e.g., to SBTS’s replacing doctrinally unsound professors with conservative Biblicist professors in response to rising theological liberalism:
Because of this clash between the conservatives and the liberals within theological institutions of the time, there emerged an entire group of evangelical scholars who were trained in seminaries or in other related fields but were not trained in a way that cultivated in them an appreciation for the task of traditional dogmatics. Whether for reasons of neglect in their theological training under more critical theologians or because of their purposeful avoidance of dogmatics in favor of Biblical studies, a generation of evangelical scholars arose who had no serious acquaintance with the classical categories of theology developed in Patristic, Medieval, and Reformed orthodox thought. Nor did they have allegiance to those categories. What mattered in the fight against liberalism, in the minds of so many, was the Bible, not theology.
Elsewhere in academia, he continues, there was a resurgence of scholarship focusing on more dogmatic studies, working from traditional Reformed Scholastic categories. The inevitable then occurred: to put it bluntly, the poorly educated Biblicist Baptists, incapable of testing doctrines by historic categories due to poor training or inattention, found themselves on a collision course with the Reformed orthodox likes of Carl Trueman and Willem J. Van Asselt over Trinitarian doctrine.