Essay / Theology

HCG Moule’s Outlines: Christology (2)

moule outlinesMore good stuff from HCG Moule’s Outlines of Christian Doctrine.

Moule read the 39 Articles as a straightforwardly Reformed document, and although he was calm and never feisty about his brand of Anglican Calvinism, it had solid edges. Here he is in his “why I am not an Arminian” mode, explaining what he found lacking in the notion of conditional election:

It fails to do what the Scripture doctrine of election manifestly aims to do, to emphasize the guilty impotence of man and the mystery of the ways of grace. Practically, it makes man, not God, the chooser. (p. 50)

He was also alert to certain recurring temptations of Reformed theology. Like Calvin, Moule was vigilant against collapsing election into some sort of generalized determinism:

As to the assertion of the freedom of the will, it is to be noticed that such assertions were made [in the early church] mainly in the face of Rabbinic or pagan fatalism. In our time, the thoughtful Calvinist would be as earnest as his Arminian friend in vindicating the autexousion of the will against materialistic necessitarianism. (p. 51; consult also his footnote to A.A. Hodge’s Lectures on Theological Themes, p. 158)

Moving on to christology, Moule’s treatment of the Son’s eternal generation is a marvel of clarity. I’ve noticed that teachers can vary widely on how they pitch this doctrine. They can either treat it as sheer paradox (“It’s generation… but it’s eternal! Bow before the mystery!”) or as a reasonable inference from stupendous facts, a theologoumenon that reconciles wonders to each other. Moule tends toward the latter:

The inscrutable mode of this blessed Filiation is named in the theology of the Christian Church ‘the Eternal Generation.’ The phrase is due to Origen (cent. iii.), and was, like the word Trinity, an instance of the happy denomination which at once collects and clears up truths already held. Scripture reveals that the Christ is the Son antecedent to Incarnation. It also reveals that He is eternal. ‘Eternal Generation’ (gennesis achronos, proaionios) combines these truths in the thought that the Begetting is not an event of time, however remote, but a fact irrespective of time. (p. 59)

Further on the subject of how theologically helpful a few non-biblical terms can be:

The Homoousion and not simply the Godhead of the Son, was the crucial word of the discussion, because the Arians patronized a secondary, illusory, use of the word ‘God,’ which thus ceased to be a test-word. (p. 66)

And another shot at the Arians, this time in the form of a quotation from Henry M. Gwatkin:

Far from spanning the infinite abyss which philosophy, not revelation, had placed between God and sinless man, the Arian Christ is nothing but an isolated pillar in its midst. (Gwatkin, Studies of Arianism, p. 28; cited on Moule p. 66)


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