Several years ago I wrote a fairly restrained critique of the emerging church movement as it then existed, before it morphed into its present diverse configurations.1 That little book earned me some of the angriest, bitterness-laced emails I have ever received—to say nothing, of course, of the blog posts.
In a conversation late in his life, Goethe commented that the secret of artistic genius lay in self-limitation. One might perhaps apply the same today to theological controversy. Indeed, while knowing one’s limits is important to making appropriate contributions to many areas, it is vital in theology.
Lately there has come out of cold storage a question that has been hibernating among conservative evangelicals for some time. That question has to do with the status of people who live and die without ever hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ.
In recent years a debate has emerged among conservative evangelicals over the “eternal functional subordination” (EFS) of the Son. At the center of this dispute is the question of how we are to understand scriptural teaching regarding the nature of the Son’s eternal relationship to the Father. Is the obedience of the Son to the Father limited merely to the incarnation, or does it also extend to the Son’s eternal relationship with the Father?1 The trinitarian teaching of the church fathers plays a central role in this dispute.
Conflict in relationships is often rooted in inappropriate or unmet expectations. This commonplace wisdom regarding everyday relationships is no less true of one’s relationship to the church. Our conduct and feelings toward the church are governed largely by our expectations of what the church should be. These expectations, furthermore, are rooted in our understanding of the church’s nature.
John Sailhamer’s The Meaning of the Pentateuch is clearly the magnum opus of this great scholar’s accomplishments over the last three decades and perhaps a Magna Carta for evangelical interpretation. The book’s title succinctly expresses the thesis. It is about the essential meaning of the Pentateuch, which is not just ancient historical literature but divine revelation.