Avoiding Controlled Alienation

...Gadamer argues (rightly, in our mind) that it is in fact our very personal relation with the object that actually provides our way to understand the object. For Gadamer, “Prejudices are not necessarily unjustified and erroneous, so that they inevitably distort the truth. In fact, the historicity of our existence entails that prejudices, in the literal sense of the word, constitute the initial directedness of our whole ability to experience. Prejudices are biases of our openness to the world. They are simply conditions whereby we experience something — whereby what we encounter says something to us.”8 In fact, attempts to gain some personal remove from the subject at hand — what Gadamer calls “controlled alienation” — work against our ability to know as we ought. “What kind of understanding does one achieve through ‘controlled alienation’? Is it not likely to be an alienated understanding?”9

Hans-Georg Gadamer, Philosophical Hermeneutics, trans. David E. Linge (Berkley: University of California Press, 2008), 9.
Gadamer, Philosophical Hermeneutics, 27.

Theology in Social Contexts

Because theology is an attempt to appropriate the truth of Scripture in light of life’s questions, each theologian’s theological paradigm cannot help but be heavily influenced and directed by the particular questions that arise from his or her unique social location.


...it was Luther’s immersion in the functionally semi-Pelagian soteriological paradigm of medieval scholasticism that caused him to rethink the doctrine of justification by faith.


Pressing Deeper Beyond Apologetically-focused Theology

An apologetically focused theology, though essential, forms only the outer ring of the theological enterprise. It defends the structure, but it is not itself the whole structure. Certainly, we must continue to advance a robust evangelical presence in the wider academic community; evangelical academic theology must continue. But we must also recognize that being forced to play within the present academic boundaries limits the ecclesial impact of academic theology.


The Pastor's Professor is Not The Pastor

Despite assumptions to the contrary, the pastoral office retains the burden of the church’s theological leadership, regardless of the vocational context of professional theologians and scholars. Or to say it again, the burden of maintaining the theological and ethical integrity of the people of God is inevitably linked to an office within the church, not to a group of people with intellectual gifting. Insofar as pastors bear the day-to-day burden of teaching and leading God’s people, they simply are the theological leaders of the church. As goes the pastoral community, so goes the church. Assuming sufficient tenure, show us a pastor with robust theological depth, and we’ll show you a local church with a corresponding theological depth. Likewise, show us a pastor who lacks the capacity to think meaningfully about the gospel, and we’ll show you a church that lacks the same. It doesn’t matter how theologically informed the pastor’s professor is. The theological integrity of a local church will not rise above that of its pastor. What is true for individual churches is true for the church as a whole.


The Eternal Fatherhood

The fatherhood of God possesses three analogous and related components: creative fatherhood, theocratic fatherhood, and adoptive (redemptive) fatherhood. First, God's very creation of mankind, the imprint of his image on man, and his providential care over all his creation, demonstrate his fatherly origination and care for humanity. Since God is Father, those whom he created in his image are his sons. Second, the theocratic fatherhood of God appears in his corporate adoption of Israel as his chosen people. As demonstrated by the exposition in Romans 9, this covenant people is definitively recognized by God as his son (cf. Ex. 4:22-23). In establishing the son ship of Israel, God elucidated his sovereign expectations of his people (Ex. 4:23), but also his particular and paternal care for his chosen ones. In this elevated position as corporate son, Israel typologically foreshadowed the exclusive privileges of those adopted under the provisions of the new covenant, and affirmed the intended teleology of covenantal sonship. Third, the adoptive fatherhood of God restores the original blessings of intimacy established in the Garden of Eden, and advances these blessings to their glorious denouement in solidarity with Christ the Son par excellence (cf. Rom. 8:12-17) by the eschatological Spirit. In view of this development of the filial interactions of God with humanity in history, we must say that God acted in a fatherly fashion throughout Scripture, because he is a Father by nature. More specifically, the ontological character of God as Father is determinative of the creative and the redemptive; God's fatherly actions in creation and redemption are derivative of his eternal ontological character. Presupposed by God's eternal fatherhood, created men are sons, who alone are redeemed to intended sonship privileges and constitution by the messianic Son himself. Adoptive sonship realized in Christ is grounded for Paul in the eternal reality of God's fatherhood, and is in direct continuity with the created reality of Adamic sonship as a finite replica of the archetypal sonship of Jesus Christ.

To reiterate, Jesus' eternal sonship explicitly attests to God's eternal fatherhood and man's created sonship.


The Imago Dei and Marriage

Relying on the imago Dei in creation, the apostle Paul unveils this eschatological restoration of this relational dimension of sonship with his marriage analogy: the union of the husband and wife is analogous to the union of Christ and his church (Eph. 5:21-33). Accordingly, in Ephesians 5, Paul's mind turns to God's creation and to the divine institution of marriage pictured in Genesis 2. Under inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul assesses that the intimacy to be enjoyed in Christian marriage, with an admitted level of inscrutability (cf. Eph. 5:32), is explicated by analogy to the intimacy enjoyed in the union of the messianic Son of God and his bride, the church....

Returning to Paul's marriage metaphor, the first Adam, created in God's image, wed Eve-who was also created in God's image. As the first institution established by God the Creator, Edenic marriage reflected the nature of intra-Trinitarian fellowship; Adam and Eve's interpersonal relationship reflected the intimacy of the social Trinity. Through the fall, not only was the image of God grossly compromised, and the Father/son relationships tragically ruined, but further, human interrelationship-most agonizingly, the marriage relationship-became irreversibly non-intimate (Gen. 3: 12-13).

Hence, it is in view of the imago Dei that Paul is able to assert this marriage/church analogy. Since the restoration of the bride through redemption rested on the Son who was the perfect image, the marriage relationship in Genesis 2 must likewise rest on the original relational image of God imprinted on God's sons. The analogy of the precious and intimate relationship of the bride of Christ, the church, with the groom, Jesus Christ, is based on God's creation of the marriage institution as a reflection of himself. The re-created daughter of God is fit to wed the incarnate Son; the bride in whom his image is restored is thereby qualified to wed the perfect Image Son who gave up his life for her. Summarily, the relational makeup of humanity, as an aspect of the imago Dei, exists within the context of created and redeemed sonship. Just as the Father has fellowship with the Son, so, too, the children of God have fellowship with one another, by the restoration of relational purity in the messianic Son himself (see chart below). The relationship of Christ to his church attests to this analogy and to the ectypal sonship of created man.

  First Adam Second Adam Eve/Church
Creation Created Son Eternal Son Created Bride
Fall Alienated Son Eternal Son Alienated Bride
Redemption Restored Son Incarnate Son Restored Bride
Eschaton Realized Son Wedded Son Consummated Bride

Navigating between Scylla and Charybdis in Biblico-Systematic Theology

This implies that Reformed biblico-systematic theology operates both in constructive and polemical ways. The constructive task without the polemical function is blind; the polemical function without the constructive task is empty. Both aspects of biblico-systematic theology need all the emphasis we can give them, so that we avoid the Scylla of Post-Conservative Evangelicalism, which casts a contemptuous eye at confessional Reformed orthodoxy, on the one hand, and the Charybdis of Reformed traditionalism, resolute in polemics against heterodox innovations, yet resistant to authentic advancements within the Reformed tradition based on faithful biblical exegesis, on the other hand.


Why Two Wills? Two Intellects?

...if the human nature of Jesus, as finite, is incapable in itself of comprehending the infinite knowledge of the theologia archetypa, then any equation of the theologia unionis with archetypal theology must involve some alteration of the human nature of Jesus. For Jesus to be possessed of an infinite divine wisdom according to his humanity, there would have to be either a communication of divinity to humanity or a transference of divine attributes to Jesus’ humanity within the hypostatic union. But that union takes place without comixture or comingling, without a confusion of the natures, and thus without either a communication of divinity to humanity or a transference of the divine attributes to the human nature. Thus Jesus has two natures, two wills, two intellects—a divine and a human—and each has the knowledge that is proper to it. Christ has knowledge or wisdom, then, according to two modes, the divine and the human, the former being essential and incommunicable, the latter being habitual and communicable.


Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy; Volume 1: Prolegomena to Theology , 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 250.