I put quite a lot of thought into my last post on the hermeneutic circle - indeed, it was probably by far the longest post, I think, that I have ever done on this blog at around 1600 words. But the length fortunately didn't seem to throw off Jonathan B., a French reader in London. Here's his question:
You seem to fault the authors of 2nd Sirmium for their interpretation of "the Father is greater than I", but for what reason exactly? According to you, is it false to say that the Father is greater and the Son subordinate? (let's forget about 4th-century ontology and just stick to the terms greater/subordinate in their 1st-century sense)
Don't you think these legitimate concerns about protecting the religious 'centricity' should not go as far as to prevent us from using plain scriptural vocabulary/notions?
So with this controversial statement, which during my rejection period of the Trinity stood as a glaring proof against the validity of the fourth-century emergence of the tri-personal God, it is not as simple to assert: the Bible said it "plainly". If we adopt the critical historical route, which I most certainly want to do, and want to integrate hermeneutics as fully active in the first-century, which I also most certainly want to do, then I have to realise that John's book was, along with the other gospels, a deeply theological and christological work rooted in real-world events and locations, intended to shape and protect (or "preserve") the Johannine community's faith. As a result, I conclude that it is distinctly possible that "Father-eclipsing" was a likely phenomenon as early as the first century in some circles. Amazing, huh?! To answer the question more fully, however, I confess I'd like to know more (perhaps more than is publicly known) about the location in which this gospel was composed, the relationship of the community with its Jewish roots and a good number of other things besides.
So in short: I don't fault Sirmium, I simply am grateful that we have such an explicit, succinct and clear presentation of the paradox that was perceived to threaten a stable and sustainable Trinity. I also think deeper engagement with the hermeneutic circle prevents us from access to "plain scriptural vocabulary/notions", as plain as some might appear to us.
Thanks Jonathan for your question.