There has been much debate about the Doctrine of God over the past few years. The technical end of the debate is about whether a particular historical approach known as Classical Theism is the benchmark of orthodoxy and whether certain theologians have strayed beyond that therefore making them heretics.
There are two specific examples of this in play at the moment. The first is about something called Divine Impassibility and whether or not God has emotions. The second is about a controversy referred to as Eternal Functional Subordination and is all about how the Father and The Son relate to each other.
Now at times this seems like a debate for professors and students to get excited with and nothing to do with the practicalities of everyday church life. So does it really matter?
I want to suggest it does. First of all take Impassibility. The root of this doctrine is that God is sovereign and unchanging. Nothing from the outside can overcome, overwhelm or manipulate him. Get this wrong and we end up with a weak and unreliable God whom we cannot trust. However equally when talking about human emotions in every day language we are talking about love, joy, happiness, anger, sadness. The Bible talks about God using that type of language. Furthermore if we are made in God’s image then if we cannot analogically relate something in our character to something in his nature then we have a problem. So I think that if we get this wrong then we are likely to end up with people who are suspicious of and unable to express or respond to human emotions too.
Similarly, why does it matter what we think about the son’s relationship to the Father? Well it matters because if we get this one wrong then we end up denying something of his deity and that affects our salvation.
However, it also matters because I think the protagonists have been talking past each other about different things. Classical Theists rightly want to safe guard an orthodox view of God’s nature. EFS proponents are interested in how the persons relate to each other.
Now at one level there must be mystery. We cannot know everything exhaustively about God. However we can know truthfully. What EFS proponents want us to remember is that the incarnation is a revelation and so what Jesys shows us about his relationship to his Father is going to reveal truth about his eternal relationship to him.
Finally at stake is whether we can determine truth and error from Scripture alone or whether we need something else to help us spot false teachers.