A Trinitarian Epistemology Defended: A Rejoinder To Norman Geisler -- By: John V. Dahms

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 22:2 (Jun 1979)
Article: A Trinitarian Epistemology Defended: A Rejoinder To Norman Geisler
Author: John V. Dahms

A Trinitarian Epistemology Defended:
A Rejoinder To Norman Geisler

John V. Dahms*

In a recent article, Norman Geisler strongly criticizes an earlier article of mine1 in which I not only contend that there are limitations to the applicability of logic but also propose an epistemology that recognizes these limitations and yet explains how truth is one. The Trinity is my model for this epistemology.

I proceed to show that Geisler’s criticisms are not valid.

I. Major Criticisms Answered

Though I did not specifically say so in my article on logic, I am unreservedly committed to all the evangelical doctrines. Geisler claims, however, that I am involved in some “heresies or near heresies” (G 62). He gives two examples under this heading:

1. He raises the question whether my statement that “there is a sense in which it is only the Father who is absolute” (D 376) does not mean that “the Son and Spirit are in some ontological sense less than absolute in their nature” and says that if this is so I am heretical (G 63). My response is that when one has in view the fact that the essence of the Son and of the Spirit is the one divine essence one must say that they are absolute, but when one has in view that they are persons one must say that they are not absolute because the Son is generated and the Spirit is spirated. That which is conditioned is not absolute. I do not see how such “contradictory” doctrine could be palatable to Geisler, but it is the clear implication of Chalcedonian orthodoxy—and the Chalcedonian teaching concerning God is included among the historic doctrines of all three major branches of Christendom.

2. Geisler raises the question whether the doctrine that “it is the function (of the Holy Spirit) to unify and to preserve the Unity (of the divine persons) unbroken” (D 377) does not imply “denial of the unchangeable unity of the one essence in God” (G 63). Geisler overlooks the fact that unity of essence is only unity of essence. It is not unity of persons. To offer a poor but perhaps helpful analogy, the unity of two bodies—as in marriage—does not imply the unity of the minds and purposes of the two persons involved.

In connection with his charge that I am involved in heresy or near heresy, Geisler claims that “if the logical basis for determining truth from falsity is denied, then all Christian truth is at one and the same time false.” In this connection he states, “If it is not contradictory to affirm that God is both love and hate,

*John Dahms is professor of New Testament at Canadian Theological College in Regina, Saskatchewan.

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