Update on the Complementarian Trinity Debate

Update on the Complementarian Trinity Debate June 21, 2016

Just when you thought the melee was over, some interesting posts on the Complementarian Trinity Debate have gone up!

Over at TGC-A, Andrew Moody has part 2 of “The Ordered Godhead.” He confesses that he is driven by an “aesthetic agenda” rather than by a gender agenda where “The idea that creation arises out of the Father’s initiating desire to honour his Son; and that it is completed by the Son’s response seems beautiful to me.” He rightly observes that the point of contention is whether the Son’s “response” involves what some call “obedience” or “subordination” and what is precisely meant by it. Moody notes how “there is a difference between Jesus’ eternal and human life. But there is also a kind congruence.” Nonetheless, Moody believes that there is a limitation in how far one can analogize about the Father-Son relationship. He states: “I’m confident that I’m not motivated by a desire to bolster traditional gender relations. I believe that our best practice is, as much as possible, to work with the analogies that Scripture gives us, and (1 Cor 11:3 notwithstanding) that means that sexual relationships are supposed to be reflections of Christ and the church – not the Trinity. The second person of the Trinity is God’s Son; not his wife.” I would say “marital relationships” rather than “sexual relationships” (alas, not all sex is marital!), but I think it is a sober point over all. I wholly agree with Moody about the concurrence of the divine persons in the eternal plan of salvation. I also enjoy the beauty of the “Trinity of ordered relations,” but the issue is whether that order entails a hierarchy of authority, and that’s where some get twitchy.

Wayne Grudem continues his riposte with “Another Thirteen Evangelical Theologians Who Affirm the Eternal Submission of the Son to the Father,” where he includes a list of Protestant theologians who allegedly hold to eternal subordination. He also protests against those who prefer eternal generation to eternal filial submission:

But just what is meant by “eternal generation”? In what they have written [Golligher and Trueman], I cannot discover what they mean. To substitute the words “paternity” and “filiation” provides some Latinized terminology but those terms simply mean “existing as a father” and “existing as a son,” which tells us nothing more. Quite honestly, I find it impossible to say whether or not I agree with “eternal generation” until someone explains, in ordinary English, what he means by it (not just what it does not mean). (If “eternal generation” simply means “an eternal Father-Son relationship,” then I am happy to affirm it.)However, what is surprising to me, and I think quite uncalled-for, is that Goligher and (apparently) Trueman are insisting that those who disagree with their particular interpretation of the Nicene Creed should have no teaching office in the church.

Liam Golligher has been busy as well writing responses to both Mike Ovey and to Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware.

On whether Ovey should resign, Golligher states:

Mike your post asked ‘should I resign?’ I have to say that I did not have you in mind when I asked the question; but it remains a good question. I asked it when a young man came up for ordination. He was thoroughly orthodox but believed in ordaining woman though he promised not to teach it. Should he be ordained? I believe not and argued that what one believes comes out whether one intends it or not. And if our church believes, as it does so far (and may God be pleased to keep us obedient to that Scripture) that women should not be ordained: then it follows that he should not be ordained to preach in our church (PCA). Well, if that were the case in terms of ordination how much more when dealing with Nicene Christianity. I would say to a person who has taken vows to believe the creed (and the articles of religion), go to your presbytery or bishop and ask whether he/they think you have shifted and then let them decide.

And I think Golligher’s difference to Grudem and Ware can be seen in this paragraph:

The homoousion (which you gladly affirm) was a way of further unpacking what it means for the Son to stand in relation to the Father (as begotten) rather than in relation to creation (as a creature). It is impossible to affirm the homoousian without affirming eternal generation. The specific lines in the creed that express eternal generation are “begotten of the Father before all worlds,” “begotten not made,” and also “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.” More time is spent expressing this specific shape of personal differentiation among equals then expressing same substance. This affirmation of eternal generation steers us carefully between Arius (who said the Son was less than the Father), and Sabellius (who denied distinction of persons). The homoousian stresses eternal relations not eternal roles or functions within the Godhead. The very talk of roles and functions inside God’s one being is anachronistic; it is to read from the economy back into the ontology or into the immanent.

The thing I wish Golligher would unpack and explain further are:

Why does eternal generation make eternal functional subordination redundant?
If the economic relationships do not express immanent relationships, at least in some way, then has there really been a revelation about God ad intra?

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