By Justyn Terry
These two books by Kevin Giles and Romano Guardini offer rich reflections on the person of Jesus Christ. Both authors accept the classic Chalcedonian formulation of Christology, that Jesus was truly God and truly man, and offer meditations on what this means for our spiritual lives (Guardini) or for other theological commitments (Giles).
Guardini was a Roman Catholic theologian and philosopher from Italy who was mentor to Pope Benedict XVI. He wrote Jesus Christus, first published in Germany in 1957, while working on his masterpiece, The Lord (1937). It offers meditations on the birth, life, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.
The Eternal Generation of the Son Maintaining Orthodoxy
Every chapter offers fresh perspectives on familiar biblical texts that are communicated with admirable simplicity. This is scholarship in service of the Church at its best. John’s gospel is the main focus of the study and Guardini may be faulted for allowing the other evangelists so little place here, even saying that “the ultimate revelation was made only by John” (p. 82). But we should remember his dual goals: to seek a new viewpoint, and, therefore, to see Jesus in a new light (p. 50). In both of these, he has surely succeeded.
Giles is an Anglican from Australia who served in parish ministry for 40 years and has previously written on the role of the Church and on Christian ministry. Here he presents an apology for belief in the eternal generation of the Son of God in the light of questions raised about it by several evangelical theologians who do not see this doctrine being taught in Scripture and fear it might lead to Arianism.
Writing as an evangelical, Giles shares the high views of Scripture of those with whom he is contending. But rather than seeking individual texts that support the doctrine, he wants to show that a biblical-theological examination of the whole sweep of Scripture is needed. Moreover, study of the history of doctrine shows how creedal formulations developed and how they were later defended. Both of these Giles carries out with great care and skill.
As Robert Letham points out in his foreword, one of the strengths of this book is that it addresses the much-misunderstood post-Reformation slogan of sola Scriptura. It does not mean that the Bible is the only source of theology but that it is its ultimate authority. The theological traditions of the Church are indeed to be studied, as the magisterial Reformers themselves showed so clearly. The book also makes a very strong case for the eternal generation of the Son of God and effectively counters fears that such teaching might lead to Arianism. He provides a very satisfying journey through the biblical and theological case for the doctrine.
Giles is less convincing in his attempt to show how this issue is tied to the question of the ministry of women. He believes that those who question the eternal generation of the Son of God thereby subordinate the Son to the Father, not just in role but in substance, which inevitably leads to the subordination of women to men in ministry. As an advocate of the ordination of women, I am concerned that Giles blurs a distinction between ontological and functional subordination in the Trinity that may indeed be sustained, and by so doing weakens both his theological argument and his case for women’s orders.
These are two fine books that will enrich the mind and renew the heart of all who read them.
The Very Rev. Justyn Terry is dean and president of Trinity School for Ministry.