Classical Theism & the Ongoing Trinity Wars: An Overview

A graphic featuring the classic triangle representing the Trinity.

I have watched with great interest, growing understanding, and deepening concern the debate between classical theism and—for lack of a better descriptor—“Framean biblical personalism.”1 The contrasts between these two views are basic to the following discussion. Thus, these contrasting views must be briefly explained.

This will best be done by mentioning some of Frame’s major criticisms of classical theism as represented by Thomas Aquinas. It is with Thomas’ development of classical theism that Frame is primarily exercised.2 Some of those criticisms are as follows:

  • Frame dislikes Thomas’ “philosophy of being,” saying that its relation to Scripture is “tenuous.”3
  • Frame dislikes Thomas’ view of simplicity. He objects that Thomas “seems to deny any complexity at all in God.” He concludes his discussion of simplicity by saying that “the biblical approach to this issue is far more edifying and persuasive than scholastic natural theology.”4
  • Specifically with regard to the Trinity in his chapter on “Father, Son, and Spirit,” Frame displays a caution which at times almost seems agnostic as to the meaning of the eternal generation of the Son and the eternal procession of the Spirit—and the meaning of “person” in the divine Trinity.5
  • At the same time, Frame firmly objects to the Thomist description/definition of the divine persons as “subsistent relations.” He remarks: “Aquinas’s concept of a ‘subsistent relation’ is most odd. Relations do not subsist on their own, apart from the things they relate. … To suggest that relation is somehow a better term than person to designate the members of the Trinity is, I think, wrong. The persons are not ‘really’ relations, rather than true persons. They are persons standing in relation.”6
  • Despite his caution on the meaning of eternal generation and procession, Frame opts plainly for the notion that there is (beside ontological and economic subordination) a “third kind of subordination … called a subordination of role.” This subordination regards the personal primacy of the Father in the eternal Trinity. He remarks there are “eternal roles of submission within the Trinity, which do not detract from the intrinsic deity of each person.” He affirms consequently that this provides an analogy for equal persons in human society occupying subordinate relationships to one another.7 Thus, Frame approaches (although within his fairly sophisticated development of “biblical personalism”) what is widely known as EFS (the doctrine of eternal functional subordination).

This listing of perspectives provides a brief acquaintance with the distinction between Thomistic classical theism and Framean biblical personalism.8

The present debate

The church I help shepherd had just joined the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America when the issue of divine impassibility ruptured its unity. We stayed in. I found no problems with the very good statement on impassibility issued by that body.9 Many left, however, perhaps because they rejected the doctrine, but often because they did not think the issue ought to be a condition of membership.

But other issues began to emerge which troubled me. The “classicalists” began to define themselves more stringently in Thomist terms. They insisted on a strictly Thomist understanding of the Trinity; they also insisted not only on a Thomist classical theology proper, but also on a Thomist classical natural theology. Major evangelical and Reformed organizations have recently revealed Thomist sympathies.

Of course, all this has led to debate in Reformed circles. The “classicalists” have suggested that it is the presuppositionalism of Cornelius Van Til that is responsible for the departure of many from classical theism. It cannot be denied that important presuppositionalists have at times conceded or qualified certain aspects of classical theism; but others have emphatically defended Van Til and presuppositionalism along with their commitment to classical theism. They have maintained that commitment to classical theism need not entail commitment to Thomas’ natural theology or to “classical apologetics.”10

Historical prologue

How did this debate in the Reformed community get started? When did such fiery polemics invade the serene precincts of the doctrine of God? There are a few events in Christian history that must be understood in order to understand the Trinity Wars being waged today.

The onset of Enlightenment rationalism

As most know, the turn of the eighteenth century saw the emergence of the “modern” state of mind. In this mindset, human reason was the measure of all things. This exaltation of human reason was joined with an optimistic confidence in reason to solve the problems of the universe and the human race. This same exaltation of reason led to the questioning of those Christian doctrines most fraught with mystery, those most challenging to the finite human mind.11

Of course, among such mysteries was the doctrine of the Trinity. For some, this rational re-evaluation of the Trinity meant the forthright adoption of Unitarian views.12 Such a move was common in this period. But for others it meant the adoption of a new form of Trinitarianism. For the first time, a new kind of Trinitarianism was advocated. It was orthodox in the sense that it held one essence and three persons. Yet it was heterodox in that it denied the traditional and Nicene doctrines of eternal generation and procession.13 In the words of Nathaniel Emmons (who spoke for most of New England Theology), “eternal generation is eternal nonsense.” This questioning of eternal generation spread widely among even theologians more orthodox than Emmons. It is partly this theological perspective that led to the widespread rejection of (or doubts regarding) eternal generation among evangelicals in the last century.

Of course, denial of the Son’s eternal generation from the Father was an undeniable departure from a major component of Nicene orthodoxy. It was a declaration of freedom from classical theism and the Nicene Creed. It is probably partly responsible for the firm reaction against modern and contemporary views of the Trinity by a resurgent classical theism and its insistence that we must return to ancient Christian doctrine of the Father and Son.

The arrival of process theism

If Enlightenment rationalism marked the modern mindset, process theism—with its emphasis on the supremacy of process, relationality, and subjectivity—accompanied the turn in the twentieth century toward postmodernism.

To understand process theism, we have to go back almost a century to one of its early founders, mathematician and philosopher Alfred North Whitehead. His most important work was co-authored with Bertrand Russell entitled, Principia Mathematica (1910–1913). Later he became interested in metaphysics and published two works on what is called process philosophy. These foundational works were Religion in the Making in 1927 and his even more highly regarded work, entitled Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology, published in 1929.

In the following decades, theologians built on Whitehead and promoted process theism. Perhaps the most important of these were Charles Hartshorne (The Divine Relativity: A Social Conception of God, 1948), John B. Cobb Jr., David Griffin, and Schubert Ogden. Process theism was a full-on assault against classical theism. In place of the omnipotent and omniscient God of classical theism, it proposed a relational God with drastically redefined attributes. This God was relational from the very beginning. Any idea of his independence or of his creatio ex nihilo was discarded. He was not the God who created the primeval chaos. He was simply God in the midst of that chaos, wooing it to order and beauty. Most importantly, the attributes of simplicity, impassibility, immutability, and pure actuality were redefined and, in their classical meaning, denied.14

This was, of course, primarily a perspective entertained and promoted in the circles of liberal theology. Nevertheless, its prevalence in those circles inevitably began to provoke reactions in more conservative, evangelical, and Reformed circles. There were interactions from what came to be called “freewill theism,” and its attempts to defend something like the classical Christian God by emphasizing a libertarian view of free will.15 There were concessions to process theism in the development of open theism in traditionally evangelical circles. This latter view (in)famously curtailed the omniscience of God by denying his certain foreknowledge of all future events. Future events dependent on the decisions of creaturely free will simply were not knowable with certainty even by God. Process theism, freewill theism, and open theism were also forcefully rejected, especially by Reformed evangelicals. Defenses of comprehensive foreknowledge and other traditionally held attributes of God were constructed and pressed against—especially open theism.16

But something else is crucial for understanding the present situation in the Trinity Wars. Some among more Reformed evangelicals felt that certain concerns of the process, freewill, and open theists revealed certain weaknesses in the views of classical theism. These weaknesses, they averred, ought to be acknowledged as proper. Further, in consideration of these concerns they felt certain admissions about and adjustments within classical theism ought to be made. In particular, the doctrines of impassibility and simplicity were in need of some adjustment. Two names must be mentioned as epitomizing this tendency (many more might be mentioned): John S. Feinberg and John Frame. In different ways, both exemplify this response to process theism. Though they make a basic rejection of its tenets, they admit certain of its concerns and proceed to make certain adjustments to classical theism.17

It is this tendency to adjustment among evangelicals that is responsible for the call to return to a classical theism defined in strongly Thomistic terms. Along with the onset of Enlightenment rationalism, it must be understood if the Trinity Wars are to be understood.

Students, Meet Your Smartest Tool for Seminary

Evangelical theism and Trinitarianism in the late twentieth century

In the twentieth century, a revival of interest in the doctrine of the Trinity was discernible across both conservative and liberal circles. This was at first an encouraging sight. The growth of liberalism in traditional Christian colleges and seminaries had done nothing to relieve the practical modalism of even more conservative and evangelical Christianity; indeed, it only worsened this problem. Even for conservatives, the doctrine of the Trinity had faded into the background and left nothing but a theoretical and rudimentary commitment to the Trinity, with little understanding of the theological riches it holds for Christians. Such Christians spoke of God or Jesus. They did not think of their salvation or their faith in Trinitarian terms.

But Matthew Barrett, speaking for the proponents of classical theism, saw a problem.18 All this interest in the Trinity was being “co-opted” for liberal and conservative agendas. It was not interest in the Trinity for the Trinity itself, but interest in the holy Trinity as eminent promoters of our particular social agendas. In evangelical circles, this had resulted in a fierce battle between the egalitarians and the complementarians. Complementarians felt that in the co-existence of equality and subordination in the eternal Trinity, there was a paradigm which proved that such equality and subordination could co-exist in human relationships and especially between men and women. Hence, there was no jeopardizing of the dignity and equality of women in being appointed to a subordinate status in the family and the church.19 The Christian feminists did, indeed, regard equality and subordination as inconsistent, defining equality as “role-interchangeability.”20 They, however, saw no subordination in the doctrine of the Trinity. Indeed, egalitarians like Millard Erickson and Kevin Giles accused complementarians of “tampering with the Trinity.”21 Complementarians responded with a litany of quotations from Trinitarian theological giants purporting to prove such an “eternal functional subordination” (EFS). Egalitarians responded with the charge that such complementarians were refurbishing an ancient error. Subordinationism (derived from the Greek idea of the hierarchy of being) taught that the Son and Spirit were essentially or in their being less than the Father.22

Chief among these complementarian stalwarts who appealed to the Trinity were Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware. Strangely, however, while appealing to the historic doctrine of the Trinity to buttress their complementarianism, they themselves at the beginning of this controversy did not hold aspects of the historic doctrine. Rather, with many evangelicals they doubted or denied the doctrine of eternal generation.23

Resurgent classical theism and Trinitarianism in the early 21st century

This whole scene from the standpoint of a historically informed and classical theist was disastrous. It also seemed to be irreverent to co-opt the Trinity for our human social agendas. Classical theists began to raise their voices in objection. James Dolezal defended a Thomistically understood doctrine of simplicity. This, he asserted, undermined the “social Trinitarianism” assumed by both egalitarians and complementarians.24 Fred Sanders complained that the Trinity and its taxis were not the kind of thing that could be used to support either the agenda of egalitarians or complementarians.25 Scott Swain restated the historic doctrine of the Trinity and affirmed similar concerns.26 Somewhat strangely, the fiercest denunciations by such Thomistically inclined classical theists seem to be reserved for the complementarians—who were widely warned about the danger of subordinationism, tritheism, and social Trinitarianism.27

The perspectives of these strongly Thomistic classical theists were attractively argued and clearly presented by Matthew Barrett in his acclaimed book, Simply Trinity. In this book, he purports to present the historic doctrine of the Trinity and show how it has been distorted and co-opted to serve postmodern social agendas. His most pointed critique is reserved for the complementarians and the idea (advanced by certain of them) of an eternal functional subordination in the Trinity. He is at pains to deny any such subordination. He admits that (1) there is an economic subordination of the Son and Spirit to the Father in their missions; (2) there is subordination of the Son and Spirit in the eternal covenant of redemption; and (3) there is an order (or taxis) in the eternal Trinity and, thus, a sub-order in the eternal Trinity in itself. Yet, he affirms, never may we admit that there is subordination in the eternal Trinity.28

Questions for the combatants

This is a review article and not a polemic. But it does seem proper to raise questions for both the classical theist opponents of eternal functional subordination and the complementarian advocates of it.

Questions for the proponents of eternal functional subordination

My first question for those brothers who still advocate eternal functional subordination is very simply: Is the use of the term “functional” wise? What does it mean? What “function” did the subordination you advocate serve in the Trinity considered ad intra? Is this terminology in itself a part of the historic doctrine of the Trinity?

Frame is to be commended by affirming the doctrine of eternal generation. Though he has affirmed with a great deal of caution about its meaning, he has affirmed the historic doctrine. Both Ware and Grudem have now adopted the doctrine of eternal generation, too. But does it not raise questions about their views that at the beginning they taught eternal subordination and not eternal generation? A study of Trinitarian thought reveals that eternal generation was sometimes rejected because it was thought to entail eternal subordination of some kind. On the other hand, eternal subordination of some kind was often accepted because it was thought to be an entailment of eternal generation. Does not their original advocacy of eternal functional subordination but not eternal generation raise concerns about the historical character of their views?

Another concern about the historically informed character of EFS was its neglect of the doctrine of simplicity and especially the “one will” of God. D. Glenn Butner has properly asked how EFS is consistent with the one will of God when it seems to entail two different wills—one submitting to the other—in the Son and the Father.29 Frame, I surmise, would appeal to his tweaking of the Thomist doctrine of simplicity in addressing this problem. Ware and Grudem did not address it at the beginning of this debate, nor did they foresee this issue. Perhaps this problem may be addressed within the bounds of historic Trinitarianism, but the advocates of submission within the eternal Trinity ought to provide a response to this problem.

All of these questions revolve around the concern of how historically informed the advocates of EFS have been. In turn, this naturally raises the question of how committed they are to the historic doctrine as exemplified in the Nicene Creed.

Questions for resurgent classical theism in the early 21st century

Advocacy of the classical tradition of Trinitarianism commits one to present that tradition fairly and clearly. Pleading for the “classical tradition” requires faithfulness to that tradition. But there are serious questions that must be raised about misrepresentation and miscommunication of that tradition by those purporting to press its claims. These concerns are raised in many places by their statements, but, once more, Matthew Barrett’s Simply Trinity conveniently raises many of them.

Misrepresentation of the tradition

I believe that questions may be raised about the way in which Barrett and others press for a monolithic unity in the Trinitarian tradition.

For example: Barrett and other classical theists claim Warfield as one of the heroes of historic Trinitarianism and at the same time fail to note that this hero did not himself hold (what Barrett himself says was) the key doctrine of eternal generation. Did not Warfield reject eternal generation precisely because he thought it entailed eternal subordination?30

Barrett also exalts Thomas Aquinas, making him the epitome of classical theism. But the question must be asked: Are there not other forms of classical theism that do not require the embrace of Thomism? Thomas in his natural theology distances himself from two other classical theists, Anselm and Augustine. He disagrees with them about the fundamental issue of how to argue for the existence of God. Why must we privilege Thomas over Anselm and Augustine? It is fair to wonder why Thomistic classical theists sometimes seems to paper over the differences among major figures of classical theism.31

I also think questions need to be raised about the accusations of subordinationism that were widely raised against proponents of EFS. Here my question for those raising such accusations: Do you understand the nature of historical subordinationism? It asserted a dilution of the essence or deity of the Son and Spirit. On the other hand, EFS, whatever its problems, has steadfastly maintained that the essence of the Father and the Son are identically the same. Is it fair to charge them with subordinationism?

Another question for the advocates of classical theism has to do with their rejection of any ad intra subordination in the Trinity. The advocates of EFS have responded to the charges of novelty and tampering with the Trinity with long lists of respected Trinitarians who seem to acknowledge a kind of eternal or ad intra subordination in the Trinity. What do the classical theists do with this apparent historical precedent for eternal subordination? Yes, it may not be EFS exactly, but it is. To use the traditional phrase, “subordination in modes of subsistence.” Will they claim that these quotations only refer to economic subordination? Having looked at them carefully, this seems unlikely to me. Will they claim that such statements only refer to the eternal order or taxis but really do not mean anything more? But, then, why does the tradition constantly use the word “subordination”? Will they say—as I have heard several say—that it was all right for other generations of Trinitarians to use the word subordination, but not for us? Why? If we are going to be traditional Trinitarians, then let us use and defend their terms—including this one. Will they say that the meaning or connotation of “subordination” has changed? Then the question is: Who changed the meaning? I fear the answer is actually gender egalitarians. May there not be serious consequences in allowing the word to be redefined by egalitarians?

Miscommunication of the tradition

We classical theologians—for I count myself among that number—have an obligation to clearly communicate the meaning of our beloved and revered theology to our generation. On this point, a number of questions may be raised for the advocates of Thomistic classical theism.

Regarding the Trinitarian persons, Thomistic classical theism has widely reverted to Thomas’ speaking of them as “subsistent relations.” What does this mean? Does this highly technical terminology really communicate the biblical truth to our generation? It seems to me that Frame’s objections (documented above) to this description of the divine persons will be shared by many Christians.

Regarding the divine relationality: while we do not adopt the views of process theism, still our generation needs to know that God would relate to us personally and wants us to relate personally to him. By unqualifiedly denouncing social Trinitarianism on the one hand, and by stating simplicity and impassibility in perhaps unqualified ways on the other hand, has Thomistic classical theism rendered itself incapable of communicating on this issue? Are there three persons in the Trinity; and does this not require that we think of them as in fellowship interpersonally?

Regarding the divine “affections,” is it enough to say merely that God has “perfections” (as some are satisfied to say)? Yes, perhaps “passions” and “emotions” carry too heavy a load of theological baggage to be used. But does substituting the word “perfections” adequately communicate? Are we not permitted to say that God has affections?

A last word

Let me express one last question which applies broadly to the Trinity Wars: has the rationalism of the Enlightenment too deeply infected everyone with a need to give a rational account of God? Of course, we must use our reason to understand the teaching of Scripture. Of course, we must not ask people to believe non sequiturs or contradictions. But may we not in this post-Enlightenment age take on too great an obligation to explicate holy mysteries that transcend our finite understandings?

Related articles

Related resources

The Doctrine of God

The Doctrine of God

Regular price: $33.99

Add to cart
2,000 Years of Christ’s Power (4 vols.)

2,000 Years of Christ’s Power (4 vols.)

Regular price: $79.99

Add to cart
No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God (Foundations of Evangelical Theology)

No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God (Foundations of Evangelical Theology)

Regular price: $27.99

Add to cart
Crossway Bruce A. Ware Collection (5 vols.)

Crossway Bruce A. Ware Collection (5 vols.)

Regular price: $67.99

Add to cart
Simply Trinity: The Unmanipulated Father, Son, and Spirit

Simply Trinity: The Unmanipulated Father, Son, and Spirit

Regular price: $24.99

Add to cart
Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 2nd ed.

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, 2nd ed.

Regular price: $59.99

Add to cart

Take Your Bible Study Deeper, Faster
  1. In his The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002), John Frame explains “biblical personalism” on page 579 and exemplifies it in his discussion of divine simplicity on page 214 and following; and in his discussion of the Trinity on page 688 and following.
  2. I think it is wrong to identify classical theism with Thomas and Thomism. There are significant differences between Augustine and Anselm, on the one hand, and Thomas, on the other hand; but surely Augustine, Anselm, and many others who significantly depart from Thomism deserve the name of “classical theists.”
  3. Frame, Doctrine of God, 220.
  4. Frame, Doctrine of God, 227.
  5. Frame, Doctrine of God, 707–16.
  6. Frame, Doctrine of God, 702.
  7. Frame, Doctrine of God, 719–22.
  8. Vern Poythress in his The Mystery of the Trinity: A Trinitarian Approach to the Attributes of God and Robert Letham in his The Holy Trinity have presented arguments similar to mine in this piece and would reward careful reading.
  9. This statement may be found online here. This association renamed itself and is now called the Confessional Baptist Association.
  10. Exemplifying this defense of Van Til’s orthodoxy is Lane G. Tipton’s recent volume, entitled The Trinitarian Theology of Cornelius Van Til (Libertyville, IL: Reformed Forum, 2022).
  11. For a fine discussion of this, see Nick Needham’s new contribution to modern church history: 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, vol. 5: The Age of Enlightenment and Awakening (Fearn: Christian Focus Publications, 2023), 15–84.
  12. Needham, 2000 Years of Christ’s Power, 91f.
  13. Samuel Miller, Letters on the Eternal Sonship of Christ: addressed to the Rev. Professor Stuart, of Andover (Philadelphia: W.W. Woodward, 1823). This Dutch Reformed theologian lived from 1653 to 1718: “His deference to the importance of reason and his non-Calvinistic views on the eternal generation of the Son … aroused suspicion. He taught that ‘generation’ here implied merely that the second person of the Trinity possessed the same nature and essence as the first.” This led to an extensive controversy and the condemnation of the teachings of Roell in 1691 by various synods of the Dutch Reformed Church: Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, 10:65.
  14. Extensive documentation might be presented here, but taking the classical doctrine of simplicity as an example, see Whitehead’s Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology (New York: Macmillan, 1929), 522, 529–31. Also see Hartshorne’s The Divine Relativity (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1948), 15, 145. See also John Feinberg’s extensive assessment of Process Theology in No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2001), 149–82.
  15. John B. Cobb Jr. and Clark H. Pinnock, eds., Searching for an Adequate God (Grand Rapids, IL: Eerdmans, 2000). See especially in this volume Nancy R. Howell’s essay, entitled “Openness and Process Theism: Respecting the Integrity of the Two Views.” See also David Griffin’s essay in this volume entitled, “Process Theology and the Christian Good News: A Response to Classical Free Will Theism.”
  16. Bruce A. Ware, God’s Lesser Glory: The Diminished God of Open Theism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2000); John Frame, No Other God: A Response to Open Theism (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2001).
  17. See John Frame’s chapter on “Metaphysics” and especially his discussion of simplicity in The Doctrine of God, 214, 225. See also John’s Feinberg mention of the contributions of Process Theology in No One Like Him, 171–72.
  18. Matthew Barrett, Simply Trinity: The Unmanipulated Father, Son, and Spirit (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2021). This is the burden of chapter 1 of his book entitled, “Trinity Drift.” See especially pages 30, 34, 36.
  19. Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem are well-known for the Trinitarian defense of complementarianism. See Ware’s Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005); also see Grudem’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, IL: Zondervan Academic, 1994), 454–60.
  20. Letha Scanzoni and Nancy Hardesty, All We’re Meant to Be (Waco, TX: Word, 1974), 110. See Susan T. Foh’s discussion of this claim in Women and the Word of God (Grand Rapids, IL: Baker, 1980), 38–45. In these pages, Foh shows that there are indications in their writings that this definition of equality has a frankly secular origin.
  21. Millard Erickson, Who’s Tampering with the Trinity (Grand Rapids, IL: Kregel, 2009) represents all these views. For a rebuttal by an orthodox Trinitarian, see Steve Wellum’s review, entitled “Irenic and Unpersuasive: A Review of Millard J. Erickson, Who’s Tampering with the Trinity?” Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 15:2 (Fall, 2010): 37–47. Also see Kevin Giles, The Trinity and Subordination (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2002).
  22. Robert Letham and Kevin Giles, “Is the Son Eternally Submissive to the Father Kevin Giles?” Christian Research Journal 31:1 (2008). In this article, Giles makes the charge of subordinationaism. He says, “The originator of the contemporary expression of subordinationism that has now engulfed the conservative evangelical world like a raging fire is George Knight III. In his highly influential book New Testament Teaching on the Role Relationship of Men and Women.
  23. Grudem and Ware famously renounced their former doubts about eternal generation in 2016. See here and here.
  24. James Dolezal, All That Is in God: Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Theism (Grand Rapids, IL: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017.
  25. See Fred Sanders comments in his 2012 post.
  26. See Scott Swain’s foreword to Barrett’s Simply Trinity, 15.
  27. I think this is clearly the case in Barrett’s Simply Trinity.
  28. Matthew Barrett, Simply Trinity, 106, 239, 256, 321, 344.
  29. D. Glenn Butner Jr., “Eternal Functional Subordination and the Problem of the divine Will,” JETS 58:1 (2015): 131–49.
  30. Note particularly Swain’s article entitled, “B. B. Warfield and the Biblical Doctrine of the Trinity,” Themelios 43:1. I document Warfield’s deviation from Nicaea in the paper I wrote for Bruce Ware, entitled “The Scriptural Support for the Historic Doctrine of the Eternal Generation of the Son in Light of Current Evangelical Objections.” The paper is available at Academia.edu. Justin Taylor documents the criticisms of Warfield’s failure to confess eternal generation in this blog post.
  31. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Volume 1, Question 2, Article 1; Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 1, Chapters 10–12. Gordon H. Clark, Thales to Dewey (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1957), 272–73, remarks: “Thomas faced two other contrasting views. One is that the existence of God is self-evident and neither needs nor is susceptible of proof from prior first principles. Those who hold this view argue that God has implanted in all men an elemental knowledge of himself. The idea of God is innate. On this showing any argument or so-called proof could be nothing more than a clarification of already present ideas; and such in effect was the nature of Augustine’s, Anselm’s and Bonaventura’s attempts. Now, in one sense Thomas is willing to admit that God’s existence is self-evident: it is self-evident in itself, it is self-evident to God; but it is not self-evident to us. God has not implanted ideas in the human mind, and all knowledge must be based on sensory experience.”
Share
Written by
Sam Waldron

Sam Waldron is President and Professor of Systematic Theology at Covenant Baptist Theological Seminary in Owensboro, KY. He is one of the pastors at Grace Baptist Church in the same city.

View all articles

Your email address has been added

Written by Sam Waldron
Explore top resources on counseling, mental health, grief, pain, and loss.
Unlock curated libraries and Bible study tools for up to 30% off with your first Logos 10 package.