Panel Discussion

Desiring God 2005 Conference for Pastors

"This Is My Beloved Son!" Exulting in the Trinitarian Relationships of Jesus Christ

Tom Steller: Well, there’s a lot of questions here. There are questions on the Trinity, questions on gospel and law issues, and those kinds of things. I think maybe I’ll direct this first one to Vishal as a follow-up to your talk. Some questions came in about not only eschatology but also just democracy itself. Here’s a couple questions. I’ll let you talk about them and anybody else that wants to pipe in can.

One person asks, “In light of God’s reluctance to grant Israel’s request for a king in 1 Samuel 8, is democracy a biblical model for government?” And then a follow-up question is, “Do you think a country like Iraq with no biblical base can sustain democracy?”

Vishal Mangalwadi: When God put Adam and Eve in the garden, he said, “You go and establish your dominion over the earth.” God is saying, “I am the ruler. I created it. I own it. I’m giving it to you that you go and rule.” We chose to become slaves. Jesus came to set us free, and he said, “Little flock, fear not it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). The Book of Daniel is answering the question, who really rules in the affairs of men? And it gives four answers. The sovereign God, the Son of man who comes in the clouds, and the kingdoms will be given to the saints, though meanwhile there is also an anti-Christ who rules.

But ultimately God’s desire is to give us the kingdom that we shouldn’t be ruled by tyrants and monarchs, but that we should rule. You may call it democracy, you may call it anything else, but the contemporary opposition of theocracy and democracy is not sensible because God is the ruler. His desire is that we should rule, that we should sit on the throne with Christ and rule. That to me is what democracy is, where sovereignty is given to us by the Lord.

Now modern democracy has very, very little to do with Greek democracy. It’s been a myth created by Will Durant and a few others in the 1910s that modern Western democracy came from Greece. Greek civilization had a huge impact globally all the way to India. So in South India, the architecture of Buddha is Greek. Hellenization was a huge force. Christ’s disciples in Palestine who were Hebrews were writing the New Testament in Greek language. That’s the impact of Hellenization. But nowhere in the world did Greek influence trigger a quest for freedom, for democracy. The hunger for freedom came from the Bible. It’s only when the Bible became an open book.

And as Abraham Kuyper argues — in one of the finest lectures on the subject of political freedom, his lectures on Calvinism, the Stone Lectures — it’s the lordship of Christ. Ultimate meaning of freedom is the lordship of Christ. The lordship of Christ abolishes the lordship of man. In the church, because Jesus is Lord the Pope cannot be the Lord. In the home, because Jesus is Lord, the husband cannot be the Lord. In the state, because Jesus’s Lord King George cannot be the Lord. He’s a tyrant,and therefore, the American Christians stand up against him.

Now, can democracy survive in Iraq and Afghanistan? Pakistan is a very good case. Pakistan was tutored by British secular humanism, and became a democracy at the same time India did. It has never been able to sustain democracy. The last time when Pervez Musharraf, the military general took over the country through a bloodless military revolution, I was in London on that day talking to five very educated Hindus living in Britain. They were very happy with what had happened. They thought it was the end of democracy and military dictatorship in Pakistan. I asked them, “Why are you so happy?” He said, “Democracy is not for us.” I said, “Why?” They said, “If there are five leaders, three of them are corrupt and two are honest, who will rule? The corrupt will rule. So democracy is not for us because democracy means corruption. We need the iron rule of a military dictator.”

So that was a very interesting insight into the Muslim mind in England. These were educated people who were experiencing democracy. So the problem with Islam is that for 1,300 years Islam has not created a free society anywhere in history. Why? If God does not come to this earth to establish his kingdom, then man has to rule. So those who reject the sovereignty and lordship of Christ, or the sovereignty of God, condemn themselves to be ruled exclusively by sinful men.

Think of Scotland. Think of Andrew Melville, who took over from Knox as the leader of the Scottish Reformation. King James, who authorized the King James Bible, was king of Scotland before he became king of England. James wrote two books on the divine rights of kings in Scotland because he was so afraid of the Reformation and the impact of the ideas of Theodore Beza and Hotman and the Huguenots, which was coming into Scotland. In a heated conversation, Andrew Melville physically got hold of James, shook him up, called him God’s foolish servant, and said, “Scotland is the kingdom of Christ. Christ is the king. His will ought to be done here. His kingdom is the Kirk, and James is not the head of the Kirk. He’s trying to be Henry VIII of England. But James is not the head of the church. Christ is the head of the church. James is an ordinary member.” Now imagine somebody saying that to Saddam Hussein.

Imagine someone saying to him, “Because God has come to establish his kingdom, you cannot be the head, and you cannot be the tyrant.” So that’s the source of freedom. And unless we go out with the gospel, the good news, the wise men from Babylon have come to Bethlehem because they’re looking for a king. Unless God comes to establish his kingdom, we are condemning ourselves to be ruled by tyrants.

Tom Steller: Does anyone else want to add anything to that?

John Piper: What do you mean by “unless God comes to establish his kingdom”? How does it relate to theocracy? How does Christ exert his lordship in a democracy?

Vishal Mangalwadi: He gives us the kingdom. He takes over the kingdom from Satan, from tyrants, and he gives us the kingdom. That is the historical basis for democracy in the West. The Geneva Bible was the force which created the sentiment in America against tyranny, because in its notes kept using the term “tyrant” for kings. So if the founding fathers of America are always talking about George as a tyrant, they’re reflecting the mentality of the Geneva Bible. Because God has come to set us free, how can someone else bully us, dominate over us, and rule over us? So the problem is with the word democracy. If you use the word freedom, should nations be free, should people be free, individually free? Yes, because Jesus came to set us free. And that was the one reason why God was against Israel’s desire for monarchy, because his law should rule.

So Moses has given the law and Moses says, “This law should rule. Your rulers must read it day and night, not turn from it to the left or the right, then you will have freedom, otherwise, you’ll have slavery.” That’s what Joshua is told, that he was under the law. That’s what Samuel will says to the elders. He says, “Okay, if you really want to have the king, he must make copies of the law. He must be ruled by the law, otherwise, you’ll have slavery.” So the biblical idea is the rule of law.

The problem is with the secularization of democracy. For what is called democracy is not the rule of the majority. Think of Abraham Lincoln. If you interpret “government of the people for the people by the people,” which the secularists have taken over, although that phrase came from the preface of the Wycliffe Bible, that’s where Lincoln’s phrase came from. The Lollards were the ones who created the climate for freedom, the followers of Wycliffe. If you ask Abraham Lincoln, “Sir, you said democracy means majority rule. Here, we have a white southern majority, and a black southern minority. If the majority say slavery is okay, is it okay?” what will Mr. President say?

He’ll say, “Are you blind? Can’t you see that I’ve picked up guns to fight against this? Majority has no right to be wrong.” What the principle of the “voice of the people is the voice of God” is saying is that because the Bible is translated, published, made available to everyone, everyone can read the Word of God and determine what is right. If the experts are disagreeing — the theologians and the divines of the church — then the people of God read the Word of God to determine what is right and what is wrong.

So that was the understanding of the principle “the voice of the people is the voice of God.” Scotland was the first democracy in modern Europe and that’s where it comes from. And what that meant is that now because the Bible has been translated, made available to everyone, the people of God ought to be reading the word of God and decide. When the theologians and the experts are disagreeing, the people of God decide what is right and what is wrong. That’s democracy.

So is this theocracy, or is this democracy? In my mind they are two sides of the coin. It is the Word of God, the law of God, which is ultimately ruling both over the people. The rulers, they might have had the might, but they are under the authority of God’s Word. That’s what created freedom. Now I have a whole lecture on the subject in these tapes which is given at the university, and it actually goes into the details of how the Huguenots are the fathers of modern democracy and not the Greeks. So please pick it up. It is 90 minutes on that topic.

Tom Steller: Well, we could go there for a long time I’m sure. But there are many, many questions relating to the Trinity, and I want to get to a few of those at least. This one was addressed to both John Piper and Bruce Ware, and others can chime in for sure. It relates to Jonathan Edwards and the Trinity. And it says, “Can you comment on the Trinitarian theology of Jonathan Edwards? Specifically, is teaching that the Son is the idea of the Father and the Spirit is the love between the first two persons? Is this a form of social Trinitarianism?” So John, if you want to start on that and then Bruce, you can respond.

John Piper: I’ve never felt anything defective in the Trinity as understood by Jonathan Edwards and I really commend to you his very short and very Bible-saturated essay on the Trinity. It’s not long. It’s only 30 to 40 pages and it was conceptually one of the most helpful things I’ve ever read. Tom just summed it up, and you would be surprised what Edwards has found in the Bible, not just philosophically. To have that conception that the Father has always had a clear view of himself, an idea of himself that is so clear and so much of himself is in that idea that it is himself reduplicated back, and that’s the eternal begetting of the Son. And they have eternally loved each other with infinite delight and infinite energy. So much of themselves being carried personally forth into that energy that it is not energy merely, it is a person, the Holy Spirit. And what Edwards finds in the Bible to feed that conceptuality is enough to make me feel it’s very helpful and very orthodox.

As I have preached that over the years I have had some pretty marginal Christians come up to me and say, “You helped me get over one of the biggest humps I’ve ever had.” I mean, the only reason I think we try to put the Trinity into words is to help people over humps. Because nobody’s going to exhaust this mystery. We just have to find words. And so finding them so that they don’t contradict what’s in the Bible, say too much or too little, and protect the mystery that’s there, is a very valuable and helpful thing. So I commend the essay. I have no difficulty with it. I don’t know about you, Bruce.

Bruce Ware: Can we still be friends? I am not as convinced as you are simply because it is an analogy and all analogies fall short. Augustine devoted close to a half of his De Trinitate to analogies, and he admitted that they failed in significant ways. And in Edward’s analogy, helpful as it is in certain ways, if really it means that this is what the Son is, the idea of the Father, I find that difficult to reconcile with then the Son being of essence the same as the Father. So he isn’t an idea, he is of essence the same as the Father. The Word was God. The Holy Spirit is not the only source of love. The Father has love, the Son has love, and the Holy Spirit has love. I don’t know that it’s correct to put the source of the love of the relationship of the Father and Son in the Spirit.

John Piper: Yeah, that’s not the way to say it. He’s not the source of love. The love is flowing from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the Father and is the Holy Spirit. You have to read the essay because those kinds of concerns are addressed. So you decide for yourself whether the term “idea” can carry personhood with all the essence. Here’s an interesting thing. I made a big case that you should use non-biblical language to defend the truth of biblical language. Edwards is a lot closer in his biblical language than Nicaea is. He doesn’t work with homoousion, that extra-biblical and strange language, which I think is absolutely crucial and necessary to use.

But he’s using biblical language. The word idea is “Word.” I mean when you read Athanasius it’s Word. Word. In the beginning was the Word. That’s a biblical thing. Now I can’t imagine somebody saying just what Bruce said to John, the Apostle. Word can’t be essence. If you’re just a word of the Father, you’re not of essence with the Father. So that response to Edwards would be a similar response I think to the apostle John when he uses Logos. Logos is a really risky language for the second person of the Trinity, and so is the word “idea” and so is homoousion. We’re just risking all over the place. So just go there and see if it’s helpful and see if there’s enough Bible there and take that warning to heart.

Tom Steller: Speaking of illustrations, and any of you can answer, what illustration would you give to children or youth regarding the Trinity? How do you simplify this for children and youth to try to grasp the Trinity?

Bruce Ware: With both of my children, I taught them systematic theology on my knees by their bed at nighttime. I realized when they were little and didn’t want to go to sleep that instead of fighting it, I co-opted it. So I spent many wonderful hours that I remember with relish on my knees at their bed as they were in those 15 or 20 minutes before they went to sleep. And I taught the Trinity to Bethany and Rachel when they were three and four and five years old, I taught the hypostatic union, I taught the substitutionary atonement, and I taught justification by faith. We just went through the Bible and through theology.

So one of the great delights in doing that is thinking how to get these concepts at a level that is for kids. And you know if your kids get it or not. You can see it in their eyes and you can see it in their expressions if they get it or not. I think with the Trinity you have to use analogies but help them understand where they fail. So use an analogy like a triangle. It’s one but with three sides, but here’s where it works and here’s where it doesn’t. Use an analogy like water — solid, liquid, vapor. But actually, that’s a great analogy of modalism.

It’s not of the Trinity per se. But what the different analogies can do is give them windows, every one of which is deficient, but at least there are windows which together can help shape an understanding. One I finally came up with, and I use it in class, is that I draw on a board. Again, this is just an analogy in part of one aspect of the Trinity. I draw on the board a circle with a red marker, and then I overlap it exactly with a blue marker, and then I overlap it exactly with a green marker. So you have on the board one circle, but that one circle is made up of a red line, a blue, and a green line, but it’s one circle. So the blue and the green and the red are not the same lines, but they comprise or they encompass the identically same circle.

It’s something like that. I came up with that on my knees with Rachel trying to think of how to convey this. So I just would encourage all of you dads to take up the challenge of communicating glorious truths to your kids rather than shun it. Kids are curious, they really are. And we squelch their curiosity by not wanting to deal with questions that they ask because maybe we don’t know quite how to answer them, or we don’t know how to put it in ways that can communicate it to them. So rather than resisting that, work with it. Work with your kids to help them grow.

Tom Steller: Any other analogies that you want to mention at this point? Okay, here’s a missiological question that has to do with the Trinity. Someone asks, “How does the doctrine of the Trinity help in evangelizing Asian people saturated in polytheism and pantheism?” And then related to this — and again there is this whole issue of contextualization and pilgrim and Indigenous and so forth — “What do you say to Muslims who say that ‘Son of God’ means that God has a wife? In Muslim culture should we avoid translating its Son of God so as to prevent misunderstanding?”

Vishal Mangalwadi: Obviously, the question has many facets and perhaps all four of us should address something, so I’m glad to be the first one. I can take the simplest. What helped me with the Trinity was my high school biology when I was studying amoeba. An amoeba reproduces itself through cell division, and the two amoebas are identical DNA, and if an amoeba can exist as three with the same DNA, then their creator has to be far more wonderful. This was my basic understanding. It’s an analogy, and it’s a symbol. But if he created a creature which can actually exist as two or three or 30, the creator has to be far more wonderful.

So that helped me have mental peace. The problem of unity and diversity remains and is very important in Indian philosophies like Hinduism and Buddhism. It’s not just a question about God’s Trinity, but even for me to exist as an individual, a real person distinct from God with my own thoughts where I can defy God, disobey God, go against him, and be free. That’s not possible in Hinduism or any form of monism, whether it’s materialism or Jungian unconsciousness extended to say that this is Brahma, that we are all just waves in one ocean. So the problem of unity and diversity remains real and doesn’t have to do just with God. Modern psychology cannot comprehend how you can be a real subject, a real self. So I find the Trinity to be the best affirmation that in fact, I can be real. Distinct from God, have my own consciousness. Those are the things that I would use in my conversations.

John Piper: My first reaction is to really feel bad about the way that question is formed because I think it is symptomatic of a postmodern view of truth. How is the Trinity helpful? I don’t like that question at all. And then they ask, “Should we in a Muslim context treat the second person of the Trinity as the Son of God?” Is there an alternative? I mean this is troubling, so whoever wrote it can come up and get in my face afterwards. But it’s probably somebody on my staff. So my answer to the second one is absolutely you talk about the Son of God. There is no alternative. This is woven into the nature of biblical language so deeply you don’t have an alternative. That’s my view anyway.

And then with regard to how the Trinity is helpful, the Trinity is the Trinity. You preach the gospel and you preach monotheism over polytheism, and then as you unpack the nature of the Son and the Spirit, you help them move just like the first centuries move towards Trinity. So I just want to mainly say we are operating from the truth. Don’t be so swept away by all kinds of contextualization talk and accommodation talk as though the Bible is a wax nose and you can just do anything you want with it as though the truth didn’t have any biblical contours about it. It is so prevalent today to lose so much in the discussion of translation and contextualization.

Ken Jones: Well, I do want to say this in relation to sharing the doctrine of the Trinity in a culture that has been polytheistic. I think this points up one of the very important reasons why we need to make sure that our missionaries are solid and trained in the basic doctrines of the faith because if not, it’s very easy for them to explain the Trinity in a way that’s tri-theistic, and therefore, they will further confuse the people they are attempting to evangelize. I think this is one of the reasons why many of us, as you go to different parts of the world where Christianity has been shared in a foreign culture, see the problems of syncretism where they just carry over certain aspects of their former religion and cover it up with Christian garb. So this is why it is very important that we are careful of who we send into the mission field, and it’s important that they are trained, or at least versed in the basic doctrines of the faith so that they’re not confused by that.

Bruce Ware: I have my two cents on this to add to what has been said, which are very, very helpful comments. It would be for this as well as any apologetical issue. If the goal is to be able to present the resurrection of Christ, or present the authority of the Bible, or present in this case the Trinity, so that your unsaved listener out there will hear and go, “Oh, of course, of course, it’s so obvious I see it now” and yet be unsaved, unregenerate, and the Spirit has not worked in his life. What are we thinking we’re doing? I mean actually, if you end up with that result, probably you have compromised the truth in order to get an agreement on it.

The fact of the matter is that we hold views that are so counterintuitive to the minds of other cultures, perhaps in religious views and unsaved people generally, that it must be the work of the Spirit in the life and the heart and the mind of an individual with the proclamation of the truth that then works together — Spirit and truth together, Spirit and Word — bring for those in whom God works an enlightenment to see and to grasp. And then they say, “Oh, now I see it, but that’s because the Spirit has worked.”

Vishal Mangalwadi: Let me take the question of helpfulness. How is it helpful? It is the basis of Western civilization. Augustine and his view of Trinity is absolutely essential. Without the Trinity language makes no sense, communication makes no sense, love makes no sense, free will makes no sense, and marriage makes no sense. Very often we don’t understand that when God says, “Let’s make man in our image,” he makes man male and female. I am God’s image. I become more of God’s image when I choose to fall in love with someone and stay in love with someone in an abiding love. When two of us have a baby, we become more of God’s image because that’s when I understand the Father-heart of God. When my wife tells me at 2:00 in the morning that the baby is crying, she says, “Will you please wake up and get up and change the nappy?” that’s when I understand the Father-heart of God. I need to remain in this relationship of love and I cannot say three times I divorce you, I divorce you, I divorce you and I’m done.

Because for me to be God’s image is to be in a permanent relationship of love with this person. So Trinity is the reason why you have monogamy. It’s one man and one woman in a lifelong relationship and family. And this is why children ought to submit to parents. Now all of that is disintegrating because the foundational assumption is gone, and the whole question of reason or logic, I’d love to spend a whole hour talking about it. Why did the West become a thinking civilization, a logo-centric worldview? What was happening in India, in Hinduism and Buddhism, you could not have had along with Edward’s idea, that in the beginning was the idea, or in the beginning was the Word, or in the beginning was reason, and reason was with God and reason was God. Translating logos in the beginning was sense because the word logos was used both for the spoken word as well as for the word in the mind, which is sense.

That is the basis why the West became a rational civilization, and I would be glad to take 15 minutes to expound it, but I’ll resist that. So in terms of helpfulness, is it helpful? The new dark age would come because the foundation for Western rationality — including Western marriage and love, which is a moral choice, and free will — all rests on the metaphysical foundation of the Trinity.

Tom Steller: One of the most frequent questions that came forward here is, “Is the belief in the Trinity necessary for salvation?” Part of it was raised in light of Oneness Pentecostalism, which shares so many things that we share. How essential is belief in the Trinity to salvation? And then a corollary would be, “Can we fellowship with people that claim Christ and reject the Trinity? Can you do pro-life things together? Can you do citywide prayer together?” It’s that kind of question.

Bruce Ware: I’ll take the first part if someone else wants to take the second. Distinguish with me two kinds of unbelief. One unbelief is because you simply don’t know. The other unbelief is that you have looked at it, carefully understood it, and you reject it. Now I take it that a little child can come to faith in Christ and truly be saved without understanding the Trinity. Do you think so? There’s a difference between minimal comprehension of something and studied rejection of something. So I would have a huge problem with a Oneness Pentecostal who has examined the doctrine of the Trinity, rejected it, and claims to come to faith in Christ, and it would be similar to other kinds of doctrinal areas that are central to the gospel. I think that’s an important thing. So I would expect a true believer to grow in understanding when taught the Trinity from the Bible and embrace it. If in fact this person when taught the Trinity from the Bible has serious reservations and rejects it, then I wonder whether or not this person is truly saved. So that’s how I would approach it.

Ken Jones: I’ll take the second part of that as it relates to working with other churches or people from other churches on social issues, et cetera. I think here we need to make a distinction between communion (being able to commune together and share at the Lord’s table), fellowship (working together, or being in agreement on various things where we assume a common body of truth that we embrace), and then service (what we can do together in the name of the church without compromising our particular theological and doctrinal convictions). Now I personally adhere to the idea of two kingdoms as espoused by Augustine and also Martin Luther. I think that there are a number of things that we can do along with non-believers as it relates to the kingdom of man, or as it relates to social good. But I think we do have to be careful when we march under the umbrella of the church in terms of who we can engage, who we can stand with.

Now if we are talking about abortion, then who is my ally against the act of abortion? And that would be anyone that understands and seeks to conserve life. That could be Oneness Pentecostal, that could be a Jehovah’s Witness, and that could be a Mormon. But if I’m doing it in the name of the church and when we talk about prayer fellowships and prayer breakfasts, this again is where we have to draw the line. I could not march for the cause of abortion under a Jehovah’s Witness flag or in the name of the Jehovah’s Witness religion, nor could I attend a prayer fellowship in the name of fellowship with a Mormon because we are not in fellowship. So here I think that we need to be clear on what it is that we are seeking when we come together with people of different beliefs. Are we actually seeking communion? Are we claiming fellowship? Or are we engaged in service?

Tom Steller: Bruce, this was a question that was directed to you in light of your comment about the preponderance of Scripture that you pray to the Father. There is an example in Acts 7 where it seems like Stephen addresses Jesus, and I’m wondering how strictly that should be pushed home into the church. And then there’s a kind of a corollary question of the fact that so many of our worship songs are really prayers to Jesus and declarations to Jesus of how much we love him and honor him and worship him.

Bruce Ware: In the example in Acts 7, Jesus is standing there. It’s sort of like Paul on the road to Damascus with Jesus appearing to him, which in my judgment then makes it a special case, not necessarily normative as an example for how Christian prayer ought to be the case of Stephen. And I do think the norm is clear. Ephesians 2:18 is a helpful verse that captures, I think, the theology of Paul as it relates to Trinity. He says, “Through him (Christ) we both (Jew and Gentile) have our access in one Spirit to the Father.” So we go to the Father through the mediator, the one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, by the Spirits prompting, enabling, empowering, uplifting work. So the norm is clear. We pray to the Father in the name of the Son in the power of the Spirit.

Now the Bible never does say, “Don’t pray to Jesus,” or, “Don’t pray to the Spirit.” So I’m not going to say that. I will not say that. I’m not going to say it’s a sin to talk to another member of the Trinity. I’m just saying that the norm is clear, so we ought to honor the norm and have a good reason for an exception if we do have an exception. So yes, can you at communion rightly in your heart pray, “Lord Jesus, thank you. Thank you for taking on my sin, dying in my place on the cross.” When we sin, we’re told we grieve the Holy Spirit. Can you say in your repentance, “Holy Spirit, I am deeply sorry that I have grieved you. Please be merciful and restore your work in me.” Yeah, I think so, but I want to be careful there. I don’t find encouragement to pray that in a normative way from scripture, but these are persons. So I think we need to keep that in mind as we contemplate the Trinity.

Vishal Mangalwadi: There’s a difference between me and the others on the panel in the sense that I’m not part of the Christian theological in-house debate. I’m looking at biblical Christianity and its impact on the world as an Indian. So I’m looking from outside the in-house debate, and a lot of your questions are from the in-house debate. From outside, from the secular, non-Christian perspective, it’s not just the issue of the Trinity of God. On the basis of that, Augustine drew his Trinitarian view of man — that we are existence, intellect, and will. The loss of the trinitarian view of man has been significant. What that is doing hit home in Cambridge when we were researching for the book of the millennium. Ruth was photocopying some papers and a Ph.D. scholar became interested in what she was doing and began talking.

When Ruth said, “We are researching how the Bible is created in the modern world,” he got very excited. He said, “This is absolutely great. I’m not a Christian, but I have become convinced as a clinical psychologist that the most helpful understanding of what a human being is for clinical psychology comes from Jonathan Edwards Religious Affections and Augustine’s trinitarian view of man.” We began to go wrong with Darwin after Origin of Species. Darwin wrote the book as an expression of emotions in man and animals. Fourteen years later, William James, the American philosopher, built on it on “what is an emotion?” Prior to them all the conversation, all the literature, reflected the Edwardian language of the passions of the flesh and the affections of the spirit. This man began to help us understand what has been lost. So then he gave me his paper, which I’d be glad to share with any of you, on how significant the losses are, and how he was mourning.

Once again, I’d love to spend 15 minutes explaining why a trinitarian view of man is so important to our understanding of who we are and how therapists can help someone who has come to him, and how a counselor can help. And it explains why the secular world is not able to help, because it doesn’t have the framework to understand what a human being is. But I won’t take those 15 minutes right now except to say that there was a secular scholar in Cambridge University who was studying what secularism, building on Darwinian understanding of what a human being is, has made mess of a whole discipline of psychology to a point that psychology is now a subject in decline in the academic world. You cannot understand men, so you have to give up studying the whole question, unless you go back to Augustine and Edwards who built on the Bible. So don’t throw away the wealth which the secular world is now beginning to discover and understand. I won’t take any more time than that. Just make the claim and we can talk about the details later.

Tom Steller: There are some questions relating to Jesus and the Spirit. A question that came in from several was, “If Jesus lived his life by the power God gave him in his humanity, would that mean he would be peccable? In other words, does the Trinity and salvation rely on Christ’s peccability?” This is about the peccability versus impeccability of Christ.

Bruce Ware: I hold to divine impeccability, that is, that it is impossible for God to sin. I hold that Christ, because he was God, was impeccable. Sometimes the question comes up in class and people say, “But Christ was hungry and yet he was God. God can’t be hungry, so why couldn’t he sin yet he was God?” The difference in my judgment is that hunger does not implicate the moral nature of God; sinning would. How could the person of Christ sin and it not implicate the moral nature of God? I hold what has been held through the vast majority of the church, and that is that Christ could not sin. Millard Erickson doesn’t hold that view in his theology. You can read his defense. The main reason people have given it up is because they can’t reconcile impeccability with genuine temptations.

How could Christ genuinely be tempted and yet not be able to sin? Here’s my answer. I wish I had 15 minutes to amplify, but here’s my answer in a nutshell. The reason that Christ could not sin is different from why he did not sin. He could not sin because he was God. He did not sin because as a man he submitted to the Spirit, he followed the word of the Lord, he prayed to his Father, and he successfully, with all the resources the Father gave him moment by moment, resisted every temptation. He did not rely upon his deity in his fight against temptation, in his victory, in every case. He was impeccable, but he was tempted in every way as we are yet without sin.

John Piper: Bruce, wouldn’t you say — I hope you agree with this — that the word “able” is ambiguous. Edwards really struggled with impecc-able. To say that he’s not able is going to just cause endless confusion in the church, because people think you mean he didn’t have enough muscle in his arm to poke somebody he didn’t like. Well of course he did. He was able to poke an enemy. He was able with a tongue to form a swear word. He was able to sin. What you mean is — and we must help people distinguish physical ability and moral ability — he was morally unable, meaning he was so good he couldn’t do bad.

Now people can get their head around that. They can think, “Okay, he’s not locked in. He’s not wearing a chain, thinking, ‘I really want to do something bad here, but I can’t.’” But rather he is so good — and that’s just going to be rooted in his divine nature — that he can’t do bad. That’s really helpful. So I just want to urge us to take these theological words we throw, like “impeccable,” and ask “able” in what sense? Would you agree with that?

Bruce Ware: I agree with that. It’s good.

Tom Steller: Here’s another question: “If it’s true that Jesus went about healing all those who are oppressed of the devil by the power of the Spirit, and he cast out demons by the power of the Spirit, and Luke presents Jesus as the perfect Spirit-empowered Man, are there miracles of Jesus that showed divinity coming through? For example, some of the nature miracles where people saw and worshiped him?

Bruce Ware: I do think that his forgiving sin in Mark Chapter 2 is a clear demonstration of his identity as God. How can he forgive sin? I mean the Pharisees said to themselves, “Who can forgive sin but God alone?” Chalk one up for the Pharisees. They got that one right. Only God can forgive sin. So when Christ forgives sin and raises the paralytic, demonstrating his power to do both, he shows himself as God. There is no question that is the case. Now, all the other miracles I would argue are miracles not unlike miracles that were done by Moses, by Elijah, and by prophets of God through whom the Spirit of God worked and God brought about miracles through them. How do they testify to his deity, particularly in John’s Gospel? Because in John it’s very clear there’s a link between his miracles and his deity. In my judgment, it’s not directly that he performs the miracle by his deity, but rather that the miracle that he performs confirms the words that he says by which he declares to be “I am.” He says, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58).

In John 10 he says, “Even though you do not believe me, believe the works . . .” (John 10:38). The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me . . .” (John 10:25).

So his works were confirmatory to his own stated identity. He says, “If I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28). I take that as an indicator of the norm. And that is confirmed by Acts 10:38, which says, “[You know] how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.”

I take it to be the norm that Jesus did what he did in the power of the Spirit. His works confirmed his testimony of his identity, of who he is.

Tom Steller: Here’s one more question and then we’ll see if there’s follow-up on that from the other panel members. In terms of Jesus and his baptism in the Spirit, “What really happened at Christ’s baptism when the Spirit descended and rested on him? Was it only a symbol or representation of what was already a reality? Or did something new happen? In what sense did the Holy Spirit come with Jesus’ departure that had not come before?”

Bruce Ware: Good question. Thank you so much. Some people have held that he received the Spirit at his baptism. I cannot conceive this to be the case. If the forerunner of Messiah, John the Baptist, was filled with the Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb, well wouldn’t the Messiah have been so? Doesn’t Luke 1:35 testify to more than merely the biological miracle of the virgin conception? Doesn’t it testify the Holy Spirit will come upon him and the power of the most high will overshadow him? So the holy one born of Mary will be called “the Son of God.” Doesn’t this indicate the Holy Spirit present in the life of this miraculously conceived person, the God-Man, from conception? I think this is what Luke intends. I think it’s what he intends when he talks about how the grace of God was with him (Luke 2:40 and Luke 2:52), in regard to growing in wisdom.

So I take it that Luke understands Jesus to have had the Spirit and to be possessed of the Spirit from the first instance, from his conception. So what happens at baptism? It’s not a reception of the Spirit. This was his entree into public ministry. He was granted Spirit empowerment, which is obviously all through the Old Testament. You have people like Samson and Bezalel, who built the Tabernacle. And there is this Spirit empowerment that comes upon people, and that continues in the New Testament. Peter receives the Spirit in Acts 2, but then he says, “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have I give to you. Take up your bed and walk” (Acts 3:6). He was filled with the Spirit to do that.

Well, he had the Spirit. So there can be then a release of Spirit power and enablement that matches calling to ministry and matches the task that God gives, and I take it that’s what happened for Jesus at the baptism. It also of course provided a physical, visible confirmation to John the Baptist. Remember John 1:33 says, “The one upon whom you see the Spirit descend this is my Son.” So John saw that and John knew this was the Messiah. He needed to know that. And to others, they heard the voice and they saw the dove descend. So it provided a number of functions, but I don’t believe it was receiving the Spirit initially.

Tom Steller: So you wouldn’t agree with the Gospel of Thomas where Jesus formed a bird out of the mud and told it to fly away? That wouldn’t have happened before his baptism?

John Piper: Can I ask? I was surprised to hear you say in view of what you said about John the Baptist being filled with the Spirit in his mother’s womb, that Peter received the Spirit in Acts 2. I thought he got the Spirit when he was born again.

Bruce Ware: In John 7, Jesus came on the last day of the great feast and he said, “I’m the living water. He who drinks of me will never thirst again” (John 7:37–38). And John’s commentary on Jesus’s statement is as follows: “Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (John 7:39). So I understand that the whole prophetic testimony of the Old Testament is of a day coming when God will pour out his Spirit (Joel 2:28), which is quoted in Acts 2:17. Then there is Ezekiel 36:27, which is the cure to the failure of the people of God to live wholly before him. He says, “I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” That’s the future work of the indwelling of the Spirit.

Jesus says, “[The Spirit] dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). So is the Spirit at work in Old Testament saints up through the time of Pentecost and the disciples? Yes, corporately. You can look at Isaiah 63:10–11, which talks about the Spirit in the midst of the people. Haggai 2:5 talks about the Spirit in the midst of the people corporately. I understand the personal indwelling of the Spirit to be a New Covenant reality. That is the mark of the New Covenant. God says, “I will write my law on your heart,” and, “I will put my Spirit within you,” which begins at Pentecost.

John Piper: So you’re inserting a reality called indwelling that is a different thing from regeneration, and between regeneration and these fillings that come along. So you’ve got kind of a three-stage thing. Most people are going to hear you denying that the Spirit was a work in regeneration. I would have no problem saying that the New Covenant reality was happening to every born-again saint in the Old Testament in anticipation of the New Covenant.

Bruce Ware: I can’t see that.

John Piper: In order to be true to your theology though, you just create new stages, or different ways of describing the work of the Spirit, just like you said in Acts 2 when Peter receives the Spirit, and in Acts 4 he gets empowerment when he prays. So that’s the distinction. And you have regeneration before Acts 2, is that right? So he was regenerate beforehand. I’m not sure. I don’t have this distinction. So there’s a difference on the ends of the table here. I don’t see anything unique happening in Acts 2, except my Packer-ian interpretation of this verse in John 7:37–39. What has not yet been is the presence of the Spirit as the Spirit of Christ bearing witness to the Christ through the gospel. That’s not anybody’s experience before, more or less, Pentecost, when the Spirit is poured out as the Spirit of the Son, and is known as the Spirit of the Son, bearing witness to the Son. But that outpouring to regenerate and to fill was I think going on before.

Bruce Ware: And I know this is a huge issue, especially with Reformed theology. I’m fully aware of that. Honestly before God, John, I know it’s exactly the same for you. I’m trying to be faithful to the text, and that’s what I see the text indicating. There is this future time, this eschatological age of the Spirit when God will pour out his Spirit on all mankind. Peter didn’t even get it, I don’t think, in Acts 2 that it meant the Gentiles. He didn’t see that until Acts 10 with Cornelius. He really does mean it. Every single believer gets the Spirit, and I think that’s a New Covenant marker. I see the New Covenant beginning at Pentecost and you see that as having been there earlier.

John Piper: Inaugurated would be the word to use. The president is president on January 1 and he’s inaugurated on January 20.

Tom Steller: Okay, here’s a question for Ken: “You said that the law must be preached before the gospel. How is that reconciled with two things? First, John 16:8–11 it says, “When he (the Spirit) comes, he will convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. And secondly, how is that reconciled with the observable reality that preaching law is not exemplified by the apostles in their sermons?”

Ken Jones: Well first off, I didn’t say you had to preach the law before the gospel. I said you had to preach both law and gospel. So be clear on that. Secondly, the passage that you cited from John means that the Spirit will convict through the law. So I don’t see any inconsistency there. Thirdly, in the observable preaching of the apostles, you do see declaration of law. You see it throughout their sermons. So I mean, I don’t see where there’s a problem in terms of preaching the law to drive people to Christ. In fact, even in Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill, we see him presenting Christ as being the one who will bring judgment. So I don’t think there’s a problem there.

Tom Steller: Here’s a second question to you, Ken. This is addressing you as the co-host on the White Horse Inn with Mike Horton.

Ken Jones: Okay. Don’t ask me to pay any apologies for Michael Horton. I’m not responsible for anything that Rod Rosenblatt said, or Kim Riddlebarger said. Okay?

Tom Steller: The question says, “Would you agree with Michael Horton, who apparently has articulated on the show, that unless one understands the covenant of works and the covenant of grace, rightly you do not understand the Scriptures? Do you have a comment on this?”

Ken Jones: Yeah, I would agree with that.

Tom Steller: So does John Piper have a right understanding of the covenant of works?

Ken Jones: I mean, I understand there are debates and disputes over the whole concept of the covenant of works. I understand that, but I do think that it clarifies the gospel when we do understand the covenant of works versus the covenant of grace. But now the way Mike uses it as a hermeneutic, I don’t agree with him on every point. I will say that.

John Piper: I found a link with Doug Wilson’s church site and it has an audio clip of a conversation between Doug Wilson and Michael Horton. It’s so illuminating on this issue. When you listen to these guys talk, they really don’t disagree with each other. They really don’t disagree on that issue. I’ll just state it. I liked what Wilson said on this phone conversation, and what he said was that in the milieu today, in the debate among Reformed people, some take the covenant of works to mean that Adam, by perfect unaided obedience, accumulates merit for himself and his posterity, if he would have, and then we would’ve all been justified in Adam and we would’ve passed the test. And he said, “Now if I say I don’t agree with that, people run way farther as though I don’t have that structure in my head.”

And what he says is that it’s not unaided, number one. Adam should have been depending on God by faith for the enablement to do that. And it isn’t accumulating, therefore, merit. Therefore don’t use merit language, he would say, which is historically explosive. But he would argue that when Calvin used merit language, he wasn’t using it like a Catholic would use it — the storing up of merit. It was rather that he was fulfilling all that God required by faith. So I would say the first Adam should have obeyed perfectly by trusting the enabling grace. And there they had a little conversation on the phone about whether you should use grace there. Then Horton said, “I don’t like to.” And they agreed, “Okay. But yeah, it was.”

Adam totally fails at that. Then what should Jesus do? He doesn’t rely upon himself. He relies upon the Spirit. He trusts his Father. He doesn’t accumulate merit, but he performs the law perfectly. That must happen. The First Adam’s failure must be satisfied by the Second Adam. The law must be fulfilled. Everything God ever demanded must be fulfilled perfectly and by faith alone. So I say amen to that. The structure of the covenant there, fulfilled and completed by Christ and by faith, must happen. So the structure of covenant theology stands. Regarding the details of how you talk about merit and faith in the exercise of the original covenant and the second one, there’s disagreement there. But when they talk to each other long enough, these two anyway, they wind up just agreeing. At least it seemed so to me. If they listen to this tape and I got that wrong, they can write me a letter and we’ll see.

Tom Steller: Here’s one last question. Anyone can answer this. “What is your evaluation of the emerging/emergent church movement, like McLaren and Driscoll, et cetera. Any recommended critiques?”

John Piper: McLaren and Driscoll are oil and water. Let’s get that one clear right away. If those two are put out as the Emergent Church, then Whitefield and Wesley are the revival, which they were. There were common things. They both preached in open air, and they both called for repentance and new birth. Now, culturally, it’s culture that defines this new thing. Frankly, I don’t think it’s a very big new thing. I don’t expect anything from the Emergent Church different from any of your churches. I think this is kind of a passing thing. Christianity Today makes it a big deal and newspapers make it a big deal because it’s just so cool to go watch people do funny things in worship and light candles and have incense and dark ceilings and loud rock music and all that. We think, “Whoa, that’s fresh.” Give me a break.

But Mark Driscoll is a solid, Reformed pastor from Mars Hill Church in Seattle. He has a book called The Radical Reformission. It’s pretty radical. When I went out there to speak, I ate supper at a brewery because the owner of the brewery is in the church, and everybody drank booze but me. I mean that’s weird, but that’s part of the emergent thing. Whereas with McLaren, it’s like mercury. When you put your finger on McLaren he moves. What does this guy believe? That’s part of the postmodern, post-propositional way of thinking. They think, “Don’t corner me and make me say what I believe about something because that’s part of your problem. You’re just kind of locked into your logical, linear, Western, doctrinal kind of Christianity. It has no life and can’t convert anybody who’s under 30.” To which I just say, “Get a life.” I want to publicly thank Ken Jones, Bruce Ware, and Vishal Mangalwadi, and I want you to thank them as well.