Yesterday you raised so many matters I think I had better (attempt to) address them in a separate post. But one caveat: I am not promising to respond to every point you make. I will try to respond to the points which most catch my attention. Apart from the cut-and-thrust of debate being interesting in itself, I am motivated to respond because important issues are at stake about how we do theology and arrive at theological judgements. (Let me state at the outset and just once rather than wasting words on repeated apologies, my approach here is that if I have been misunderstood by you then I have been insufficiently clear!)
(1) On reading Scripture: Citing me and then giving your initial response [3.35 pm] we have,
"First, all language is expressed in a culture in which elements reflect orthodox theology and other elements do not. The language of the Bible and the language of the fourth and fifth century fathers is no more or less good as a language in which to express truth about God. Insight is possible in 'liberal democracies' which were denied to our forbears in the faith.
We are better able to appreciate the mutuality of the Three Persons in their unity and their indwelling of one another than Scripture could, because the language of the Bible denied it insights possible in liberal democracies."
And a little further down you write, "WO supporters almost invariably articulate some kind of view of Scripture like the one you just put forward there – and I think it would be hard to have any kind of a classical view of the sufficiency of Scripture, or even of its infalliblity, and probably not even of its inspiration when you think that the culture of the Bible prevented it from having insights into the character and nature of God that we are able to have because of our culture."
The language of the Bible, of the Church Fathers and of ourselves, is what it is: culturally-bounded, endlessly optimistic that it expresses the truth, always open to clarification, correction and new consequential conclusions been drawn. In respect of Scripture I do not demur from the classical evangelical views of its sufficiency, infallibility, and inspiration, thus it constitutes a special case with respect to my previous sentence: it is always open to clarification but not to correction and from it new consequential conclusions may be drawn. Nevertheless its language remains culture-bounded because it was written by culturally-bounded people using the language they were familiar with - even Jesus' own words were translated into Greek and expressed through four gospel versions! I understand the first Trinitarians to be clarifying the message of Scripture about the nature of God and they did so in their language; I understand the history of Trinitarian theology since as further clarification (also using the language of the day); and I understand our exploration of Trinitarian theology as involving yet further clarification. As we use the language of our day we (who live in the West) may have a great appreciation of the mutuality of the Three Persons being circumscribed by liberal democracy. (We may not - we need to wait for the clarifications of the next generation!). What I did not mean to imply is that Scripture itself lacks insight into the character and nature of God, and certainly not because of the boundedness of the cultures into which it was written. But I am happy to press for the greatest possible clarity about how those insights were expressed. Some were expressed in the language of hierarchical imperialism and that, because of other insights expressed in Scripture, is not the whole story of Scripture's insight into the Godhead.
PS I find your approach to reading the Bible very interesting when you appeal to the notion of a classical evangelical reading/approach. If referring to sufficiency, infallibility and inspiration then, as noted above, I am reading similarly. But are you referring to a classical evangelical interpretation of Scripture? If so then I am not at all on the same page ... because there is no such thing or, at least, no such thing as an agreed interpretation among evangelicals. After all it is evangelicals who read Scripture differently re baptism, communion, spiritual gifts, eschatological matters, when it is right to divide the church and so forth. Further, evangelicals have been divided in sundry times and places through history on matters such as slavery, apartheid, the messianic significance of Hitler and the like.
(2) On liberal democracy (within the same 3.35 pm comment, elsewhere and other comments, e.g. by Shawn): As you observe, there are limits to the characters employable in a comment so I didn't, but could or should have, bound my admiration for the positive features of liberal democracy with the usual caveats of its imperfections, idolatries and general inadequacies measured against Paradise Lost and (one day) Regained. There is a great debate over where in the world of societies and political regimes the kingdom of God is to be found and in a few remarks here I would not presume to resolve that once and for all (not least because one of the greatest variations between the Reformers was over the role of God's rule in the human rule of society). What I am, however, trying to do is to take immensely seriously, even literally, those parables in which Jesus likens the kingdom to a seed growing into a tree and yeast permeating the rising loaf. If Jesus spoke truly (surely we agree on that) then we would expect to see signs of the growth of the kingdom in the world today. I see those signs in the development of health, wealth, education, human rights, freedom (especially freedom from fear of tyrannical rule) which mean that our world is a far better place to live in than in 1912, 1812, 1012 or 12 AD. In short we flourish better as human beings today than yesterday but we are wildly short of anything that could yet be called the complete fulfilment of God's purpose for life or the establishment of his kingdom in every corner of the globe. The greatest human flourishing in the world today is in liberal democracies. The simple sign of that is the desperate human desire of peoples to move from tyrannies to liberal democracies. Incidentally this great motivation in people movement gives the lie to your claims that freedom etc is a privilege of the educated classes in liberal democracies: the poorest of the poor, the most illiterate clamber into boats and make their way to Australia!!
(3) On submission and authority (5.17 pm) where among other things you write,
"The existence of submission and authority in human existence no more need a justification than love does. To paraphrase your statement:
Why should one part of the one humanity love another part if we are one humanity?
In all three cases (love, authority, submission) one member of the one humanity acts towards another member and the other member is acted upon, in a way that has some similarities to the Godhead.".
I think you are letting yourself down here with an absurd comparison. One part of humanity can love another part of humanity and the other part of humanity can love the first part back. The love deepens our oneness and is consistent with that oneness. By contrast in a world divided into masters and slaves only one part gets to express authority and only one part gets to express submission: that world is divided into two non-mutual classes.
A further point, it has not been part of what I have said to argue that submission and authority are not part and parcel of human existence. Leaders need to be followed; employees need an employer and so forth. My point has been whether the oneness of humanity makes sense when one group must always be the authority and another group must always be the submissives, without opportunity to interchange roles. Where does the justification for women always being the submissives and men being the authorities come from? If it comes from God it is a mystery as (you yourself having noted) the Son's eternal submission to the Father has no bearing on the matter.
(4) On choice as an element of full humanity (your comments in 7.36, 7.38 and 7.53 pm): surely you accept that their are two (or more) senses of 'full humanity'? The tiny foetal baby in a mother's womb is fully human, as fully human as you and me, and as deserving of being treated with dignity as a king or a queen. But no one is satisfied with the foetal baby remaining a foetal baby: there is more to humanity than that! We feed and nurture the mother so the baby grows within her, once born we offer food, water, shelter, nappy changes and later potty training encouragement to walk, education, opportunities to participate in activities such as sport and music, and then later in work and learning for a career, along with possibilities for meeting people of the opposite sex in order to enter into marriage (or not). Why? Because we are not fully human if we remain at one stage of humanity. We despair when we find that a child has been locked in a basement for ten years or when cancer strikes a teenager just entering into that particular fullness we call 'adulthood'. I suggest that being able to engage in choice is to engage in being human (for our ability to choose is part of what sets us apart from other animals), it is not confined to some special class of liberal democrats, and it represents a movement into a fuller experience of humanity. When I was a child I had little choice, now I am an adult I have some choice. I am glad I do not remain a child!
I agree that the New Testament teaches embracing our given situation by making a choice, and so, if in 54 AD I am a slave reading Paul's epistles, I have a new sense of dignity as a slave by embracing the possibility that I can choose what kind of slave I will be: one choosing to submit or one grumbling about submission. But does the New Testament teach the eternal division of humanity into masters and slaves?
I conclude with a question to you: on the basis of your approach to fullness of humanity, liberal democracy, choice as an aspiration for humanity, on what grounds would you have fought for the abolition of slavery if you were on Wilberforce's or Lincoln's team?
With kind regards,