I’m a classic complementarian who affirms classic orthodoxy regarding the eternal relations of the persons of the Trinity (i.e. that the eternal relations of origin distinguish the persons, not a social schema). I also believe that what the Bible says about gender is enough to support complementarianism without comparing the relationship between male and female to the inner life of the Godhead. Additionally, I don’t believe the relations of the persons of the Godhead are comparable to relations between male and female. I therefore disagree with those who wish to bolster their position on gender with a social Trinitarian schema, whether it be from an egalitarian or complementarian perspective. I thus disagree with Bruce Ware, Wayne Grudem, and other complementarians who attempt to support complementarianism via the doctrinal innovation known as eternal functional subordination. I disagree not only with tying in gender roles to God’s inner life but also with the social Trinitarian understanding of the relations between the persons of God upon which such a claim is based.
That being said, I’ve seen many on social media and on blogs willing to throw around phrases comparing Ware, Grudem, et al.’s position to heresy. This is unfair, careless, and a straw man. If you read Ware’s Father, Son, and Holy Spirit or Grudem’s systematic theology, both of these theologians strongly and clearly affirm the unity of the Godhead in essence. According to them, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all equally and fully share in the one divine being. They are homoousions. They also, though, posit that the Son willingly and volitionally submits to the Father ad intra. While I have serious disagreements with this latter position, both biblically and historically, this is not a classic heresy by any means. It is an innovation, in my opinion, but one that incorrectly understands eternal relations rather than one that departs from classic orthodoxy regarding the unity of the Godhead.
I’m not sure evangelicals can disagree without someone throwing out a heresy bomb at some point, but we should at least give it a good old college try.
5 thoughts on “Heresy Hunting and Eternal Relations of Origin”
Hi Matt! I decided to start reading posts about the recent Trinitarian controversy to challenge myself. I have a question for you, and please pardon any lack of background information on my part. My understanding of your argument here, and your latest post about this topic, is that the persons of the Trinity are distinguished from each other by generation, not by their social roles. Why can’t both be the case: The Father generates the Son, and yet the Son eternally submits to the Father? Why can’t the two be compatible? I know there is the factor of not wanting to say that the Son has a separate will from the will of the Father, and that is an important question. But I don’t understand why distinction based on eternal generation and distinction based on gender roles are contradictory, or why the choice there is either/or. Maybe I’m missing a nuance here.
Actually, things are becoming clearer to me as I read the Darrin Sumner post. According to him, as I understand him, the church fathers distinguished among the persons of the Trinity according to generation, and they rejected the idea of the Son being under the Father in a hierarchy. That places the debate in context, for me. Feel free to disregard my question, unless you have something to add. 🙂
Glad it helped!
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