The unorthodox view of the Trinity related to women in ministry

The unorthodox view of the Trinity related to women in ministry

Wade Burleson has blogged on the Trinity and the unorthodox trend that has come into the church that teaches an eternally subordinated Son of God in the Trinity.

Wade writes:

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is composed of many Southern Baptists who are introducing to evangelicalism a novel, if not peculiar, view of Christ which has more in common with Arianism than the historic, orthodox view of Christ’s person. The theologians and teachers who write for the CBMW are teaching what they call “the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father” as a basis for their hierarchal view that the female is to be subordinate to the male. Women’s subordination to man, according to the teachings of CBMW, is not a consequence of sin or a reflection of cultural values, but is built upon the heirachical order God established before the fall as a reflection of the Trinity.

This view of the Trinity has been used by some complementarians who have a lot of sway in Southern Baptist circles to support the functional subordination of women.  I would recommend that you read what Wade has written and then have a read through the comments on his blog as well.  It is a frightening thing to me to see the spread of this unorthodox doctrine and how many have accepted it as gospel truth.

It also comes at a very timely place for us as we are just getting ready to release our new 2 DVD set called “The Trinity: Eternity Past to Eternity Future, Explaining Truth & Exposing Error

The DVD will be availabe by mid October at http://mmoutreach.org/ or from Amazon.com.

(October 2008 update:  The DVD is now available and a preview is available on Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLe-qF2nptA.)

73 thoughts on “The unorthodox view of the Trinity related to women in ministry

  1. I’m so excited to finally see people (other than folks like us) open up this discussion in such a widely read forum that is read by so many who hold this view.

    God will not be mocked, and I am encouraged to see people begin to question as well as reject these teachings.  And the dialogue on Pastor Wade’s blog was quite respectful which is always a blessing.  As you know all too well, Cheryl, such is not always the case.

  2. side track …..  Cheryl,

    You quoted somewhere what Thayers has to say about the definition of the Greek “n” (often translated as ‘or’ in English).  My Thayer’s is old, 1886 and it doesn’t have the word in it.  What year is the Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon that you found it in, and what page did you find it on.

    Sorry to distract, but I’m going through all my research books to see what I can find on it, for resource material.

  3. Hi tiro,

    The New Thayer’s Greek English Lexicon Copyright 1979, 1981 page 275  Greek word #2228.

    No distraction at all.  I love people who are willing to research and test all things!

  4. Thanks Cheryl.  It isn’t so much rechecking on this one as it is coming up with a list with specific references one can find for themselves.  I like my old Thayer’s but it’s really difficult to find anything beside being in really small print.  LOL

    So, yeah, Don.  What about BDAG.  I’ve got The Source’s reference handy, will be looking online for Liddle & Scott and have the New International Dictionary of NT Theology which must have 20-30 references for me to read through.  🙁  I have some others around here also.  

    I’m collecting them for Paula’s handbook.  

  5. I do not think it is.

    My take is the only way to do better than BDAG is archeology, as a general statement.  In other words, Strong’s and Thayer’s, etc. are useful, but are more limited.

  6. Strong’s is a concordance, which gives the usages of words in a particular book. So each translation or paraphrase of the Bible would need its own concordance.

    Strong’s is tied to the KJV and thus only tells us how the KJV used each word, not necessarily how first century Greek used a particular word. For that we need to use a dictionary or lexicon, preferably one that gives the full semantic range and uses the most up-to-date discoveries.

    In other words, Strong’s does not tell us the full semantic range of Greek words, but only how the KJV rendered them. It would be much better to use a concordance on the Greek texts.

    A helpful article:
    http://www.dabar.org/SemReview/bibtrans.htm

    Here is Ann Nyland’s discussion on the issue. I wish she’d listed sources for this as I have been unable to find them online:

    In the late 1880s and again in the mid 1970s, large amounts of papyri and inscriptions were discovered. These impacted our knowledge of word meaning in the New Testament dramatically. Why? Well, the papyri and inscriptions were written at the time of the New Testament. They were non-literary sources, that is, they touched upon all aspects of life – everyday private letters from ordinary people, contracts of marriage and divorce, tax papers, official decrees, birth and death notices, tombstones, and business documents. Why is this important? Prior to these discoveries, people who made up New Testament dictionaries didn’t have a clue what many of the words meant, as I said. But now, these rare words appeared commonly in different contexts, and everyday contexts too. We would use formal language in a letter to a politician, but we use everyday language in letters to friends. It is this everyday language that appears in the New Testament, and up popped hundreds of examples of these words. Large numbers of previously uncommon words found in the New Testament now appeared commonly in everyday documents as well as on inscriptions. Many mysteries of word meaning were thus solved. 15 volumes of new papyri were published in 1976. This meant that the meanings of a large number of words previously unattested were discovered. In the last 20 yrs, 4,000 inscriptions have been found at Ephesus alone. These discoveries have been largely overlooked by Bible translators. The problem is that laypersons and a significant number of Bible translators alike are unaware of all this as it is tucked away in technical journals. Available Bible dictionaries do not have this scholarship to any useful degree. BDAG has a little of it, but not much at all. In other words, Bible translators rely on dictionaries. The dictionaries are wrong, for many words. Nearly every recent New Testament dictionary is based on this outdated work while older ones are based on work prior even to that of Moulton and Milligan. the resources for translation have not been available to the Bible translator. Translators need decent dictionaries, and the current New Testament lexicon project (going on in my town, although work has stalled) won’t be in print for many, many years. As a lexicographer, I had to do my own dictionary work. every New Testament translation of today, apart from The Source, follows the traditional translations of the earlier versions, which were published centuries before the evidence from the papyri and inscriptions revealed to us the actual meanings of numerous New Testament words! The disregard of this evidence for word meaning has had a terrible impact on Bible translation. Many words suffer, but technical terms and idioms suffer particularly. For example, the term mistranslated “husband of one wife” is actually “faithful to their partner” and has been found on the tombstones of women. It is also clear that many modern translators have followed the KJV, whether directly or through the lexicons (dictionaries). The translations of most New Testament versions are based on a lack of understanding of Greek word meaning. Available translations do not sufficiently regard the abundant evidence from the papyri and inscriptions and thus in many cases present a far from accurate translation of the New Testament … because the tools are not available to the translator – the tools being published lexicons In many cases, the trouble is that religion based on mistranslation has laid down certain things in the Christian community on the whole and tradition is a very powerful thing. The Source is different because: The meanings of many words in other available Bibles are, quite bluntly, wrong. These meanings were discovered only recently but have been published only in technical academic journals related to the classics discipline in secular universities. The lexicon to replace Moulton and Milligan will not be published in fascicles [=multiple pieces over time], and is years away from publication. The Source is the only translation to date to take account of these word meanings. My field of research is lexicography.

  7. That a hierarchal Trinity is applied to marraige between a man and woman, adult spouses rather than fathers and sons, is amazing to me.  Comps have taken one type of relationship and applied it to something entirely different,

    If gender hierarchalists are going to apply a (false) Trinitarian hierarchy to male and female marriage then why DO THEY NOT apply it to fathers and sons?

    Should not sons eternaly submit to their fathers? Should not father obey and give their sons command for the duration of their lives? 

    An eternal patriarchal arrangement between father and son is the immediate obvious application as long as we are making false ones.

  8. Yes, great points, Pink! It’s just like the false dichotomy between patriarchy and egalitarianism; it’s really between patriarchy and matriarchy, with egal. in the center. With that false premise, no matter what concessions patriarchalists would either make or get from us, we’d still wind up with some form of patriarchy. The game is rigged!

  9. Be careful what you ask for, as you may get it.  There are SOME who teach that a child is to obey their parents/father even when an adult!

    This is not true and in effect keeps the child a child until the parent dies.

  10.       There was an important debate on the Trinity, 10/09/08, at TEDS.  W. Grudem and B. Ware argued for the semi-Arian position of CBMW, while Tom McCall and Keith Yandell argued for the historic, “Orthodox” view of the Trinity.  And you will find a good report and summary of the debate at http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/octoberweb-only/141-23.0.hmtl.  But the indications are that “the Battle for the Trinity” is far from over. 
          And so if we want to better understand this doctrine and how to contend for it in these times, I recommend the following books:
    1.  The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief, by James R. White.
    2.  God in Three Persons: A Contemporary Interpretation of the Trinity, by Millard J. Erickson.
    3.  One God in Trinity: An Analysis of the Primary Dogma of Christianity, eds. Peter Toon and James Springster. 
    4.  The Trinity: Global Perspectives, by Velerie-Matti Karkarharen.
          Now, if you have read my blog on the Trinity, you will understand how serious I view the perversion of this centeral doctrine by certain persons to ground their false teaching regard the permanent subjugation of women to men.  Therefore, I have written a revised version of my “The Trinity and Evangelical Neo-Arianism” to Jon Zens, encouraging him to use it as one of several articles in a special edition of Searching Together on the Trinity debate.  For, as urged in Jude 3-4, I intend to contend for the Faith against all dangerous heresies, and will continue to encourgae others to do the same.

  11. Frank, I clicked on your name, but I got yahoo360 which does not exist, so I have no idea how to contact you and am not sure who you are.

  12. I just got back into town and going through some of my email.  I looked up one of Frank’s older comments and his web site should read as http://360.yahoo.com/fgeis I will correct his post if I can figure out how to correct his link.

    Just a quick update before I fall into bed from exhaustion.  The showing of the Trinity DVD went over extremely well.  I was asked to show part 2 after the Sunday morning communion service and it was very well received with lots of great feedback.  It is now available online at http://mmoutreach.org/order_macgregor_video.htm for US orders or http://mmoutreach.org/order_mmoinc_dvd.htm for Canadian and overseas orders.  We spent about 5 hours today putting the product together and stocking shelves so it is all a go now.  I will put out a formal post tomorrow and get our Amazon page ready too as soon as I can get a few spare minutes.

    Thanks for all the great comments and the feedback.  The apologists at the conference were surprised to hear the information in the Trinity DVD set and I think we sold more copies of this DVD this weekend than any other first release product.  We are very happy, but very tired and grateful to be home.

  13. Hi Cheryl,

    I was doing some quick studing before i went too work and I was reading Col. cha 3 when I came across verse 11 and made me think of 1 Cor. 15:28! I throught of your new Trinity DVD set, Love It!

    Now after reading these two verses, how can anyone think of Jesus as Lesser!!!!! Jesus is NOT eternally under the Father, we know that. These scriptures nail that for me and for my  own understanding, any throughts? Your DVD helped some much, Thanks.

     I also send a rebuke in Love Too Dr. Tony Evans because he was on the radio WMBI 90:1 chicago saying Eve added to God’s word. I send the Radio station a nice message in love with two of your articles and they will forward to Mr Evans to rebuke this error/false teaching. Thanks for everything.

    Colossians 3:11
    Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.

    1 Corinthians 15:28
    And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

  14. I don’t think that one could call the complimentarian view of the Trinity “unorthodox”. The doctrine of the Trinity was something the early Church had to wrestle through and they opposed the Arians so it is falacious to lable those who hold to the same view as the early Church as Arians. Please see the following documentation of the views of the early Church and orthodoxy regarding the Trinity:

    The fathers of trinitarianism
    There is general agreement among historians of dogma that Christian trinitarianism found its classic expression in the writings of St. Athansius (*373), building upon the work of St. Alexander, bishop of Alexandria (313-28), and developed in turn by the Cappadocian fathers, St. Basil the Great (*379), St. Gregory of Nazianzus (*390), and St. Gregory of Nyssa (*394).9 The doctrine was formulated in the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, itself based on models from the councils named in its title, and officially ratified at the Council of Chalcedon in 451.10 It is to these sources that we turn to determine the shape of the doctrine of the Trinity. St. Augustine added some touches of his own and secured the doctrine in the West, but “the doctrine of the Cappadocian Fathers played a predominant role, especially that of Gregory of Nyssa, and affected the formulations of the magisterium more than did the psychological speculation of St. Augustine”.11
    Interpretation of New Testament passages
    The Greek fathers arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity by two routes: exegesis of scripture, and use of the rule that the divine economy is a mirror of the Divine Nature. Among verses of the Bible they commented on in their polemics with the Arians were 1 Cor 8:6; John 5:26; 14:28; and 1 Cor 15:28.
    1 Cor 8:6 may stem from primitive Christian catechesis and has a confessional balance.
    There is one God, the Father,
    from whom are all things, and we to him;
    and one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    through whom are all things, and we through him.
    In the context, these lines lay down a monotheistic antithesis to pagan polytheism, and so presuppose the identity of the Father and the Son at some undefined level, which the later church would call the ªv**ÿ, or being, of the Godhead.12 Athanasius and the Cappadocians quoted from the verse often, and it supplied vocabulary for the Nicene Creed in several key places, as a comparison shows. According to the parallel clauses, the creation came “from” (eí) the Father “through” (¢áß) the Lord; the redeemed proceed “to” (£**) the Father “through” (¢áß) the Lord. Hence the Father is the ultimate author and goal of creation and redemption, while the Lord Jesus is the mediator of both, taking a penultimate role with respect to his Father, a role which obtains for all of his activity in the world, from the remotest beginning to the eschaton, and not just during the Incarnation.13 From this earliest form of the creed we can see that the Father and the Son are united in being, but ranked in function.
    That the Son, as over against the Father, was the mediator of creation, was appreciated by the fathers who worked out the doctrine of the Trinity. Repeatedly Athanasius speaks of the Father’s use of the Word as his organ for making the world (Orations against the Arians 2.24-26,29-30). “It is senseless folly,” writes Gregory of Nyssa, “to conceive of a creation other than that which came into existence from the Father through the Son” (On the Holy Spirit aginst Macedonius p. 316; emphasis mine). And Basil spells out the priority of the Father even more boldly.
    The fact that the Father creates through the Son neither constitutes the creation of the Father imperfect nor exhibits the active energy of the Son as feeble, but indicates the unity of the will; so the expression “though whom” contains a confession of an antecedent Cause (º*ªíÿ*ÿ*í*áí** ÿ***ÿ*), and is not adopted in objection to the efficient Cause (On the Spirit 21; emphasis mine).
    Other New Testament passages underscore the sameness yet differentiation of the Father and the Son. “As the Father has life in himself, so he has granted to the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5:26). To have life in himself is to possess what western theologians would call aseity (“from-self-ness”), not so much an attribute, as the very nature of deity, in contrast to the whole creation that depends on God for existence. Both the Father and the Son are one self-plenishing spring of life, purely divine. But it was the Father who “granted” this to the Son. “The tense carries us back beyond time,” writes Bishop Westcott; it is hard to imagine to what event in the incarnate life of the Son it could point.14
    Thus was the passage understood by the fourth-century fathers. Quoting it, Athanasius commented, “The Son’s Godhead is the Father’s Godhead” (Orations against the Arians 3.36; emphasis mine); and elsewhere: “He uses the word `gave’ in order to point to the Father who gave” (On Luke 10:22 4; emphasis mine). The latter sentence occurs in a paragraph where Athanasius is pressing home the essential unity of the Father and the Son.15 Cyril of Jerusalem (*386) makes explicit the time-frame: “He who was begotten is God … begotten not in time, but before all ages” (Catechetical Lecture 11.13; emphasis mine).
    Likewise most church fathers saw a difference between two Persons of the immanent Trinity in the saying, “The Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). Their Arian opponents had used the verse to prove the Son’s essential subordination to God. Against this faulty exegesis a few (Cyril of Alexandria, Augustine, Ambrose) insisted that the Son was speaking of his manhood; but the Greek Nicenes, almost to a man, drew out of the verse the generation of the Son in eternity past.16
    We must guard for the Unbegotten Father His proper dignity, affirming that He has no author of His Being; and we must assign the fitting honour to the Son, according to him the generation from the Father without beginning (**ñ *ñÿ*°ªñ ºÿ** *ªq ºÿ**h* Ü*ññ**áñ) … holding that the being unbegotten is the sole property (*¢**úÿ) of the Father, seeing that the Saviour Himself said, “My Father is greater than I” (Alexander of Alexandria Ep. to Alex. acc. to Theod. H. E. 1.4, p. 19; quoted Westcott, St. John, 192; emphasis mine).
    The Son says not, “My Father is better than I,” lest we should conceive him to be foreign to his nature, but “greater,” not indeed in greatness nor in time, but because of his generation from the Father himself (Athanasius Orations against the Arians 1.58; emphasis mine).
    Since the Son’s origin (**°*) is from (*º?) the Father, in this respect the Father is greater, as cause and origin (C* ÿ**áª* íÿ* **°*). Wherefore also the Lord said thus, “My Father is greater than I,” clearly inasmuch as He is Father. Yea, what else does the word Father signify unless the being cause and origin of that which is begotten of Him (Basil Against Eunomius 1.25; quoted Westcott, St. John, 193)?
    Superior greatness (*h ú£*¥ªñ) belongs to the cause (e*** *** ÿ***ÿ*), equality to the nature…. To say that [the Father] is greater than [the Son] conceived as man (*ªq íÿ** *hñ *ñƒ**ºªñ ñªª÷ú*ñª÷) is certainly true, but no great thing to say. For what marvel is it if God is greater than man (Gregory of Nazianzus Oration 30.7; quoted Westcott, St. John, 193)?
    If any one say that the Father is greater in so far as He is the cause (ÿ**áª*) of the Son, we will not gainsay this. But this, however, does not make the Son to be of a different essence (Chrysostom Hom. 70 ad loc.; quoted Westcott, St. John, 194).17
    The priority of the Father is not only ontological, according to this interpretation, but also a matter of honor. As Basil has it, “The words express rather the honour given by the Son to the Father than any depreciation by the speaker… The comparison lies between beings of one substance, not between those of different substances” (Against Eunomius; emphasis mine).18 Such an exegesis lives on among modern critical interpretations of John 14:28.19
    A problematic verse was 1 Cor 15:28, “The Son himself will be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” In context, the Son’s subjection will come about when he delivers the kingdom to the Father, after destroying every enemy (v. 24). The messianic reign of Christ, from Ascension to Parousia, embodies the royal ideology of Judah, wherein the anointed human king accomplishes the rule of Yahweh over the world on Yahweh’s behalf. So that God might assume direct rule at the very end, however, the Son must yield the supreme office; the Son’s role thereafter is not specified. The purpose clause (“that God may be all in all”) orients the subjection of the Son to the final state.20 Overall the verse outlines an economic subordination of the Son to the Father reaching into eternity future.21
    While several interpretations of 1 Cor 15:28 were current in the patristic period, the one that accords best with modern exegesis is that of Cyril of Jerusalem.
    For He shall be subjected, not because He shall then begin to do the Father’s will (for from eternity He “doth” always “those things that please him [John 8:29]) but because, then as before, He obeys the Father, yielding, not a forced obedience, but a self-chosen accordance; for He is not a servant, that He should be subjected by force, but a Son, that He should comply of His free choice and natural love (Catechetical Lecture 15.30; emphasis mine).
    To sum up: The goal of these observations is neither to suggest that patristic exegesis of the cruxes before us was uniform, nor that ancient comments were beyond the need for refinement. The point is, that the very theologians who forged the Homoousios formula were also led by their understanding of scripture to confess in various ways that the Son qua Son honors the Father, and that this honor obtains both before and after the Incarnation, both at creation and in the eschaton–indeed that it is integral to the timeless relation of the two Persons. Critical study of the New Testament in the twentieth century has uncovered a broad exegetical basis for conclusions akin to these.22
    Theological method: from the Economic Trinity to the Immanent Trinity
    In their understanding of scripture, the fathers were guided by an assumption that the way God has revealed himself in history points to what he is in eternity. Beginning in the fourth century, sacred science was divided into two halves, the study of the divine “economy” and of speculative “theology” proper. Scholasticism insisted that the “processions” ad intra of the Persons of the Trinity can only be known by their “missions” ad extra. As a leading Catholic theologian of the twentieth century puts it, “It is through the `economy’, and only through it, that we have access to `theology.'”23 Eastern Orthodoxy agrees: “We experience God as three-in-one, and we believe that this threefold differentiation in God’s outward action reflects a threefold differentiation in his inner life.”24 This has been the view of the whole catholic tradition in theology, including St. Athanasius, St. Gregory of Nazianzus and the other Cappadocian Fathers, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, St. Thomas Aquinas, John Henry Newman, Hans Urs von Balthasar, and many others.25 It is this tradition, and no less, that Dr. Bilezikian characterizes when he speaks of magical tricks, “this amazing jump of logic”.
    When we apply this centuries-old and universally accepted theological method to the New Testament witness that the Father sent the Son into the world etc., in which the roles of the Father and of the Son are never reversed, the result is trinitarianism of the sort found in the following examples.
    Basil the Great: The Son is second in order (*ßÑ£á) to the Father, because He is from (*º?) Him, and in dignity (*Ñá*úÿ*á), because the Father is the “origin” and cause of His Being…. Why is it necessary, if the Spirit exists as the third in order (*ßÑ£á), for him to be third also in nature (***£á)(Against Eunomius 3.1; emphasis mine)?
    Gregory of Nazianzus: Now, the name of that which has no beginning is the Father, and of the Beginning the Son, and of that which is with the Beginning, the Holy Ghost, and the three have one nature–God. And the union is the Father from Whom and to Whom the order of Persons runs its course, not so as to be confounded, but so as to be possessed, without distinction of time, of will, or of power (Oration 42.15; emphasis mine).
    Gregory of Nyssa: He who perceives the Father, and perceives Him by Himself, has at the same time mental perception of the Son; and he who receives the Son does not divide Him from the Spirit, but in consecution (*íªóª*ƒ**) so far as order is concerned (íÿ** **ñ *ßÑáñ), in conjunction (*÷ñ*úú*ñ**) so far as the nature is concerned (íÿ** **ñ ***áñ), expresses the faith commingled in himself in the three together (On the difference of essence and hypostasis 4; among the letters of Basil, no. 38; emphasis mine).
    The third flame is caused by that of the first being transmitted to the middle, and then kindling the end torch (On the Holy Spirit against Macedonius p. 317).
    The Father is always the Father, and in Him the Son, and with the Son the Holy Spirit (On the Holy Spirit against Macedonius p. 319; emphasis mine).
    The fountain of power is the Father, and the power of the Father is the Son, and the spirit of that power is the Holy Spirit … beginning from the Father, advancing through the Son, and completed in the Holy Spirit…. Except for the distinction of order and Person, no variation in any point is to be apprehended; but we assert that while [the Holy Spirit’s] place is counted third in mere sequence after the Father and Son, third in the order of the transmission, in all other respects we acknowledge His inseparable union with them (On the Holy Spirit against Macedonius p. 320; emphasis mine).
    Cyril of Jerusalem: And the Father indeed gives to the Son; and the Son shares with the Holy Ghost [citing Matt 11:27; John 16:13-14]…. The Father through the Son, with the Holy Ghost, is the giver of all grace (Catechetical Lecture 16.24).
    An eminent Anglican scholar describes the patristic view in these words.
    It is clearly Gregory’s doctrine that the Son acts as an agent, no doubt in subordination to the Father Who is the fountainhead of the Trinity, in the production of the Spirit. After him the regular teaching of the Eastern Church is that the procession of the Holy Spirit is “out of the Father through the Son.26
    This feature of the thought of the Cappadocians and their followers is all the more remarkable when we consider that the heresy in the forefront of their concerns was Arianism. In their heated situation, they had every reason to major upon the sole essence of the Godhead which resides wholly in each of the three Persons, at the expense of emphasis on the properties Sabellianism, and were constrained by the data of scripture and of salvation-history to recognize distinctions not only of Person, but also of order, and of honor, among the triune Persons, insofar as they have mutual relations not defined simply by their common essence.
    Catholicity as a criterion of truth
    In the light of this historico-theological background we can appreciate the full significance of the finely nuanced words of the Nicene Creed.
    We believe in one God, the Father, the almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all that is, seen and unseen.

    We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
    the only Son of God,
    eternally begotten of the Father,
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made,
    of one Being (iúªª**áªñ) with the Father.
    Through him (¢á’ ªu) all things were made….(emphasis mine)
    Embedded among clear asseverations of the Son’s perfect deity (God, Light, true God, Homoousios with the Father), are phrases that affirm just as clearly the unilateral communication of the divine essence from the Father to the Son, which is the ground for the Son’s mediatorial role in the creative act. As the Nicene Creed is the one ecclesiastical document that can plausibly claim ecumenical standing, recognized in the West and in the East alike from A.D. 451 onwards, it is in precisely this form that the doctrine of the Trinity has been received by all traditions of the church.
    It remains only to note its impact on those theologians whose work has been most seminal. St. Thomas Aquinas, the “Angelic Doctor” of Roman Catholicism, decided, “As the Father is not from another, in no way is it fitting for Him to be sent; but this can only belong to the Son and to the Holy Ghost, to Whom it belongs to be from another” (Summa theologica Q. 43 Art. 4).27 Eastern Orthodoxy has always harked back directly to the primitive liturgies with their rich prayers to the Father through the Son, and to its own celebrated Greek fathers. To quote a leading exponent of the Christian mind of the East: “From all eternity God himself, as Son, in filial obedience and love renders back to God the Father the being which the Father by paternal self-giving eternally generates in him.”28 Finally John Calvin, the systematic theologian of the Reformation, had this to say.
    It is not fitting to suppress the distinction that we observe to be expressed in scripture. It is this: to the Father is attributed the beginning of activity, and the fountain and wellspring of all things; to the Son, wisdom, counsel, and the ordered disposition of all things; but to the Spirit is assigned the power and efficacy of that activity. Indeed, although the eternity of the Father is also the eternity of the Son and the Spirit, since God could never exist apart from his wisdom and power, and we must not seek in eternity a “before” or an “after”, nevertheless the observance of an order is not meaningless or superfluous, when the Father is thought of as first, then from him the Son, and finally from both the Spirit (Calvin Institutes 1.13.18; emphasis mine).29
    This, then, is what Dr. Bilezikian calls the “personal opinion” of Augustus Strong, found in his Systematic Theology under the subtitle “Generation and procession consistent with equality”.30 Strong himself, of course, cites authorities (Pearson, Hooker, Whiton, Shedd, Edwards, E. G. Robinson, Weiss, Treffrey, Princeton Essays, Watson, Bibliotheca Sacra, Dick) for his idea of “an eternal subordination of Christ to the Father,” not least the dictum non de essentia dicitur, sed de ministeriis (“it is said, not about essence, but about ministries”).31 Similar testimonies could be multiplied ad taedium.
    St. Augustine it was who, standing on the shoulders of older catholic heresiologists, laid down the rule, securus judicat orbis terrarum (“the circle of lands judges secure”), meaning that “the deliberate judgement, in which the whole Church at length rests and acquiesces, is an infallible prescription and a final sentence against such portions of it as protest and secede.”32 With respect to the relations among the triune Persons, the standard of orthodoxy has been set for many centuries.
    Conclusion
    Not a single one of Dr. Bilezikian’s charges can stand. The trinitarian doctrine he impugns as heretical, is in fact that of historic orthodoxy. To accuse his fellow evangelicals of introducing it de novo, merely to bolster their patriarchal program, is unworthy. That only a few individual theologians subscribe to it, is patently false. His own rationalistic premise that unity of essence necessarily implies parity of station and function runs contrary to scripture as understood in all the major theological traditions.
    Arguably the charges could be reversed. Let Dr. Bilezikian demonstrate that any one of the church fathers, or of the Doctors of the church catholic, held his form of trinitarianism-let him bring forth from their writings, sentence by sentence, explicit and emphatic denials of an order among the Persons of the Godhead, considered as to their Personhood, as distinct from their common being. In shape and language his doctrine of the Trinity corresponds exactly to the feminist egalitarianism of which Dr. Bilezikian is a well-known champion. Let him point to massive wings of the church universal in which his view has long been accepted and taught. Who, except the Christians for Biblical Equality and feminists of like ilk, has been persuaded of his method, his axioms, his interpretations of relevant biblical texts?
    Back in 1990 Robert Letham concluded his “Theological Comment” with the warning, “One fails to see how evangelical feminism as such can consistently or for long preserve the historic Christian doctrine of the Trinity.”33 The Trinity, we recall, is “the central dogma of Christian theology.”34 A fateful step was taken in 1993, when Gilbert Bilezikian gave his lecture at Wheaton College, and the organization Christians for Biblical Equality began to lend the weight of its name and apparatus to publish the transcript. Whether their charge of heresy, aimed at others, will rebound on their own heads, is a matter for the Church as a whole to judge, and not an individual reviewer. The facts adduced in the present paper may help the faithful toward an informed verdict.

  15. int3grity,

    Please do not cut and paste large volumes of material. We would like to hear what you have to say, but the cut and paste is not helpful nor do I want to allow it. Please summarize your position instead.

    Where does the material say that the Son is not equal in authority with the Father as the complementarian position states? This is not a historical position at all.

    Thanks for dropping by. I would recommend that you have a look at the Trinity DVD clip on youtube at http://ca.youtube.com/watch?v=JLe-qF2nptA This will give you some idea of what the complementarian position entails.

    Perhaps you too are saying that Jesus should not be prayed to?

  16. I apologize. I was actually addressing the accusation which claims the complimentarian position is unorthodox. The material I posted was record of the early Church’s position regarding the doctrine of the Trinity that shows the accusation of arianism and unorthodox trinitarian views is unfounded.

  17. Quote: “Perhaps you too are saying that Jesus should not be prayed to?”

    This is not fair. It proves the point I was trying to make in my original post. Complimentarians are not Arians or unorthodox and I don’t claim that people should not pray to Jesus. I haven’t even come to a conclusion finally on the egalitarian?complimentarian issue yet. I am studying it. I have found a lot of misrepresentations of opposing positions in this debate. Both sides are guilty of it.

  18. int3grity,

    Well, when I had personal email communications with Bruce Ware, I told him that his view of the Trinity would not allow him to witness to JWs for he would find himself in agreement with them that Jesus cannot be prayed to and Jesus is subordinate to the Father. I have never seen that this view of the unequal authority of Jesus is historically orthodox. Nor have I ever seen in historic Christianity a teaching that Jesus cannot be prayed to. I do not view that as orthodox at all, and I think it is harmful to forbid Christians to pray to Jesus.

  19. Have a look at my Trinity DVD clip on youtube and then tell me if I have misrepresented the view. This view that you will hear is being taught in Christian seminaries to many denominations through teachers like Dr. Bruce Ware. It concerns me very much.

  20. By the way, it is always okay to ask questions. Asking a question is asking for more information to understand what a person believes. It was not a statement. But thanks for trying to clarify.

  21. Hi Cheryl. I have viewed your DVD (some parts numerous times to make sure I was rightly understanding it) as well as listened to debates and read much about this issue. I think there is a general pattern in the Bible given to pray to the Father in the name of the Son and with the help of the Spirit. This doesn’t mean we don’t ever talk to Jesus or the Spirit. We thank Jesus all the time and ask for the Spirit to help us. Is it really true that the complimentarian position is that a person can NEVER pray to Jesus or the Spirit? Could it be that they are saying that is the general pattern in the Bible and also the model Jesus Himself gave us when He was asked, “Lord, teach us to pray”?

  22. int3grity,

    Are you talking about the Trinity DVD or the Women in Ministry DVD set?

    While Jesus was on the earth, he taught people to pray to the Father, but when he left the earth, he took on a relationship with his body just as his Father has a relationship with us.

    Relationship with Jesus is not going past him to the Father. Nor is it going to the Father in the authority or name of Jesus. It is going through the Son. Through the very person of Jesus so that our relationship is with BOTH the Father and the Son.

    When I was in communication with Dr. Bruce Ware, I asked him how he had a relationship with Jesus if he never prayed to him. He never answered me. In scripture we are to have a relationship with Jesus. How do we do that? Our relationship is not with only one person of the Trinity.

    The teaching is spreading and infecting Christian seminaries that we are not allowed to have a personal relationship with Jesus by communicating with him in prayer. The teaching is that this is not allowed because of the Father’s greater authority so that our relationship is with the Father thru the Son (meaning we come to the Father and end our prayer “in Jesus name”) This is not a relationship with Jesus. It is not the historical position and it greatly concerns me that young men and women are being taught to see Jesus as a secondary authority and a merely a way to the Father. Yet the Bible shows us that Jesus is our bridegroom. We are to be in intimate relationship with him. Anyone who denies this intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus through communicating with him in prayer and sharing our heart’s desire with him is not following after the orthodox teaching about Jesus.

    When error comes into the church, it is always very subtle. However the end result is always a denial of the Lord Jesus in one way or another. When Jesus is denied a relationship with us and us with him, scripture is denied and Jesus is not being honored as the Father is honored.

  23. It was the Trinity DVD I saw. I would be interested to see if there are recorded prayers of the early Church fathers and contemporaries of the apostles which show the early Church directed prayer to Jesus rather than the Father. The question that I have is regarding orthodoxy. The original question was whether the orthodox position of the Church has historically been roles within the Trinity or if the egalitarian position which removes those distinctions apart from the incarnation was the historically orthodox view of the Church. The accusation against complimentarians was that they have a new and unorthodox view of the Trinity and it lines up with Arianism. My lengthy post showed quotes from the ealry Church as they were articulating the doctrine of the Trinity in OPPOSITION to arianism. So how can it then be said that complimentarians hold to arinism and unorthodox views when the writtings of the early Church fathers, including Athenatias himself, seem to line up clearly with the complimentarian position of roles within the Trinity? Those same positions of the early Church were articulated in the midst of heated debate AGAINST the Arians.

    It seems like there are misrepresentations of bothe positions in this debate.

  24. If God is truly a Trinity and not three gods as the cults declare, then it follows that it is utterly impossible to pray to one Person of the Trinity without praying to them all, because all Three compose one God. To think otherwise would be as absurd as the popular sarcastic phrase, “Talk to the hand!”

    The apostle John wrote that whoever has the Son has the Father as well, and that whoever rejects the Son rejects the Father. Paul wrote that Jesus is the exact representation of the invisible God– not merely of the invisible Father. And note that it took both the Spirit and “the power of the Most High” to conceive Jesus in Mary. Jesus Himself said on various occasions that He would raise himself from the dead, and also that God would raise him. The Persons do various things, but they sometimes overlap, such that it is not scriptural to claim the Father only ever does this while the Son only ever does that, and the Spirit never does either of those things.

    Last, it is logically impossible for there to be “roles” among persons of equal being and essence on a permanent basis. Phil. 2:5-11 clearly shows Jesus voluntarily laying his equality aside for a time, then taking it back up again. Hebrews shows God becoming “Father” to the “Son” at a point in time, not from eternity past. Please also see These Articles on a Trinity debate held this past year.

    Rest assured as well that none of this talk of “roles” within the Trinity would be heard at all without one goal in mind: justifying permanent, intrinsic male authority over female by arguing for the possibility of equality of being but inequality of permanent role. The ones who wish male preeminence are the ones causing this division.

  25. int3grity,

    You said:

    I would be interested to see if there are recorded prayers of the early Church fathers and contemporaries of the apostles which show the early Church directed prayer to Jesus rather than the Father.

    Early Christians prayed to both the Father and the Son not just one or the other. The earliest prayer to Jesus is recorded in scripture in the book of Acts.

    Acts 7:59 They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!”

    Paul also wrote the book of Corinthians to all those who call on the name of Jesus.

    1 Corinthians 1:2 To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:

    When a Christian prays to Jesus, he is calling on the name of the Lord Jesus.

    You said:

    The question that I have is regarding orthodoxy. The original question was whether the orthodox position of the Church has historically been roles within the Trinity or if the egalitarian position which removes those distinctions apart from the incarnation was the historically orthodox view of the Church.

    The orthodox teaching of the Trinity never involved the teaching that because of some “roles” that the Word of God in the Trinity did not have equality i.e. equal authority, yet this is exactly what is being taught by those who teach that there are separate “roles” in the Trinity. This is the part that is considered not orthodox. Jesus is not less than the Father in any way in the Trinity. He does not have any less authority, or less power, or a subordinate will. All three in the Trinity share the same authority, power and will.

    You asked:

    So how can it then be said that complimentarians hold to arinism and unorthodox views when the writtings of the early Church fathers, including Athenatias himself, seem to line up clearly with the complimentarian position of roles within the Trinity?

    Those who hold to the view that Jesus is not equal in authority with the Father are not the same as full arians as the Jehovah’s Witnesses are, but they do share some characteristics with them. They share the teaching that Jesus will be eternally subordinate to the Father and that Jesus does not have the same authority as the Father and consequently Jesus cannot be prayed to.

    You said:

    It seems like there are misrepresentations of bothe positions in this debate.

    I don’t think that the egalitarian position misrepresents the complementarian position when they point out that there are similarities with the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses. When one is clear in what the similarities are, then one should not be considered guilty of misrepresentation. Of course there are some complementarians who do not believe in the eternal subordination of the Son. They are unwilling to negate the equality of Jesus in the Trinity because of their views of women. I heartily applaud complementarians who will stand strong and true to Jesus and thus honor the Father by their refusing to lower Jesus’ authority.

  26. FWIIW, there is a difference between Arius, who can be considered the first arian, and arians in general. Some of the (general) arian arguments look very similar to the arguments of those who hold to the eternal subordination of the Son.

    The Jewish Shema (Hear O Israel, YHWH is one….) at the most presents God as a unified plurality, so as one makes some possible differences, the unified plurality can no longer be the case and it becomes tri-theism or something that is not monotheism.

  27. Here is the point I am trying to make: I am not arguing one position or the other since I am still researching and working through these things. My contention is with the misrepresentation of many good Bible preachers and teachers by those who hold to egalitarian views. This is a common trend I have discovered as I have been researching this issue. I have seen the same thing in the Calvinism/Arminianism debate. There is a constant use of falacious and slanderous arguments and accusations. Ad hominem attacks, straw man arguments, etc are employed primarily by the egalitarian side. This has been my observation from what I have seen so far. I think the best thing is for official moderated debates to be held about these issues so each side can point out where it is being misrepresented. No offense, but I think that many of you are shadow boxing and are taking this thing way too far. This will be my last post. I just want to end with a quote from the Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon which illustrates what I have generally seen in this debate as well as the the spirit of this blog. The quote is in reference to Calvinism but I think the principle applies in this debate to the Egalitarian approach:

    “The most infamous allegations have been brought against us, and sometimes, I must fear, by men who knew them to be utterly untrue: and, to this day, there are many of our opponents, who, when they run short of matter, invent and make for themselves a man of straw, call that John Calvin and then shoot all their arrows at it. We are not come here to defend your man of straw — shoot at it or burn it as you will, and, if it suit your convenience, still oppose doctrines which were never taught, and rail at fictions which, save in your own brain, were never in existence.” – Charles Spurgeon

  28. int3grity,

    Surely you’re also aware of what anti-egals call us: lost, Jezebel, rebellious, not respecting scripture, liberal, man-hating, slippery slope to approving homosexuality, etc. etc. etc. Nothing I’ve ever seen from an egal comes close. If you are truly undecided, then be consistent and aim your rebuke equally at those who “dismember” the Body in such vicious ways because they feel men are favored by God over women. Have you gone to CBMW to rebuke them?

  29. Hey Cheryl!

    I have been following your work on women in ministry, and I have been impressed. I have a question about the Trinity and eternal subordination.

    Do you believe that the Son is eternally begotten of the Father? If so, do you think one can affirm this creedal belief without falling into the eternal subordination of the Son?

    Thanks!

    Kyle

  30. Hi Kyle,

    Welcome to my blog! Thanks also for your kind remarks.

    The begetting of the Son is related to 1 Cor. 11:3 which is Christ not the LORD of hosts. The humanity of Jesus was begotten of the Father and even in His resurrection he is said to be begotten. As far as the LORD of hosts in the Trinity, since He is equal with the LORD God and had no beginning and no end, there is nothing that can be generated that wasn’t there before.

    To be “generated” something is brought into existence. It is understandable that the body of the Lord Jesus was prepared by God and Jesus took on flesh Himself, but as far as His Spirit there can be no generation and “eternal generation” becomes nonsensical.

    However having said that I understand that those who use this language do not really believe in a “begetting of the Spirit” as if that there would be a beginning rather than fully God. I do think that one can believe in the “eternal begetting” without having to believe in an eternal subordination. I believe that most just accept this as an eternal relationship rather than a bringing into existence something that wasn’t there before. I don’t know if anyone has ever really understood or explained how in eternity there could be a begetting without a beginning. I personally think that it is a regrettable term. But since the idea behind the term is fundamentally about an eternal relationship, I don’t make a big deal about it. But if we are going to be technical an eternal begetting or eternally begotten are two terms that are basically nonsensical in anything other than relationship.

    Does this make sense?

  31. Hey Cheryl,

    That is helpful. The reason I ask is because the Nicene creed speaks about Christ being eternally begotten, that is, eternally generated. There was not a time when he was not, yet there is an eternal begetting in this relationship. This does make me a bit uncomfortable, for it seems to make the very being of the Son in His divinity dependent upon the Father, but it is creedally affirmed, and I hesitate to go against ancient ecumenical creeds. It does seem like the biblical references are referring to the Incarnation and not eternal realities, but then we must say the creeds got this one wrong.

  32. Kyle,
    I am on your side on this one. I have determined to make use of the term in the creed to emphasize the eternal relationship and to point out that Father and Son are terms of reference to the incarnation. The relationship of love is eternal but the thought of an eternal Father and eternal Son has no real meaning outside of a beginning. I think that the fathers who wrote this one up were well-meaning but inaccurate.

  33. int3grity,

    If a subordination in function is both permanent and comprehensive, it it becomes an ontological subordination. Difference does not necessarily entail subordination, though

  34. int3grity,

    Those that teach that there is a “different function” of the members of the Trinity explain it by defining the Father’s authority as the superior authority became to a lesser authority/will etc for the Son.

    Because God’s “function” and his nature are so tied together, there cannot be superior function without touching the other person’s nature. i.e. If the Father alone has a superior authority, then the Son and the Holy Spirit have a less than superior authority which means that compared to the Father’s authority, the Son’s authority is less than or inferior. Since function (authority) is part of God’s nature, it is a serious matter to state that only one person alone has a superiority of this function.

  35. If the subordination is both permanent and comprehensive, it is not merely ‘a’ function.
    Essence:
    1. the characteristic or intrinsic feature of a thing, which determines its identity; fundamental nature
    2. the most distinctive element of a thing the essence of a problem
    3. a perfect or complete form of something, esp a person who typifies an abstract quality he was the essence of gentility
    4. Philosophy
    a. the unchanging and unchangeable nature of something which is necessary to its being the thing it is; its necessary properties
    b. the properties in virtue of which something is called by its name
    c. the nature of something as distinct from, and logically prior to, its existence

  36. Cheryl,
    Greetings. My name is Russell Almon. I just recently stumbled onto your blog. My wife and I are both ordained ministers (she is doing her 1st yr chaplaincy residency this year) so women in ministry issues are of concern to us and we went to a seminary (Logsdon Seminary in Abilene, TX) that is favorable to women in ministry. In any case, one of my main academic research areas is in trinitarian theology. I too, am greatly concerned about the doctrine of the “eternal subordination of the Son” that is spread by Ware, Grudem and others in the CBMW. I don’t have time to go into detail but suffice it say that I think their use of the church fathers is spurious at best. While I don’t think that we can all Ware and others total complete Arians (I try to be very careful where I play the heresy card and feel the need to be generous even if they might not be so generous with me) their theology does have some Arian qualities and IMO moves in that direction. I noticed some books listed in a previous post in this thread on helping with understanding the Trinity and subordinationism. I know I’m a late comer here and that this post is a bit old, so I’m not sure who will see it. But I wanted to offer up some other suggestions that may be of use to you or others. First, I recommend anything written by (the now late) Stanley Grenz. Second, I recommend two books by Kevin Giles. The first is called “The Trinity and Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate” and its follow up “Jesus and the Father: Modern Evangelicals Reinvent the Doctrine of the Trinity”. In these two books Giles deals with all the issues brought up in this thread and more. I didn’t see them mentioned here so I wanted to mention them just in case you did not know about them.
    Shalom

  37. I am not sure if this is where you would like this question. Please move it if you have a better spot.
    We have just begun studying John’s Gospel at church and in home groups. I remember a discussion on this Blog recently about whether “God” in 1 Cor 11 means the Trinity (Godhead I think was the term used) or specifically God the Father.
    I may have misunderstood, but someone I think mentioned a bible college lecturer who believed that “God” generally refers to the “Trinity”.
    I was wondering this same question about John1:1. How could “the Word” be “with” the Trinity.
    Also in John 4:24 when Jesus says “God is spirit”- Jesus is God and He has a body.
    Do you think there is a general rule, or should we just look at the context to determine whether “God” means God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit, or the Trinity?

  38. Craig, #52

    Your comment inspired some thinking. Quite mysterious, this concept of 3 individuals-in-one. To try to understand this, we naturally attempt to do so with our minds. As a result, I think we over-intellectualize it, and reduce this totally “other” kind of Existence into nice & neat compartments… imposing such simplistic definition onto something so transcendent.

    I was at a Children’s Discovery Museum yesterday, & my kids spent a good deal of time playing with bubbles. Several different activities. Creating a long, vertical bubble sheet that you could gently blow into and see it metmorphosize into a convex shape out the other side, and then morph back into a sheet shape. Liquid that was completely solid, but when you blew into it, myriad tiny bubbles exploded everywhere, enlivening the place. Tools to create enormous round bubbles as well as giant bubble tubes that you could swirl around youself, encasing you in a doughnut of shimmering, undulating miraculous material. My son caught a large bubble on his hand, then by somehow moving his hands together a second bubble emerged and he suddenly had a large bubble in each hand. The amazing variety of this substance comprised several forms: one solid liquid that could become a shape, 2 shapes, lots of shapes, which stretched, expanded, duplicated, moved slowly, moved quickly, vanished, reappeared…. and then returned to one liquid. Everyone, from the kids playing with bubbles to the parents watching were genuinely intrigued by the beauty and seeming miracle of these changing shapes — giggles, oohs and aahs from all, regardless of age, intellect, or soul condition. I think the intrigue is largely in the fact that the beauty is so elusive: the more a person seeks to touch it so as to see it more, feel it, experience it, enjoy it longer, or understand it, the quicker it goes “poof”. Gone.

    This is certainly overstating the obvious and being long-winded about it. But I suppose this “bubbles word picture” is how I see this mysterious 3-in-oneness of God. The same substance, separating out into individual shapes, moving back into its oneness, moving back out again into its unique parts, an elusive phenomenon so other that you can’t catch so as to dissect the meaning out of it. Not something to seek to break down in the intellectual laboratory (whether to seek to understand it for what it is, or to see if one can wring more truth out of it than is really there in the 1st place). But something to marvel at because it just is.

  39. Thanks Elastigirl. I am just wanting to understand a little more of what can’t be understood. Or find out a bit more so I know what I don’t know?? 🙂
    I found the quote. It was from my Aussie mate Dave!- in #38 in ” A Complementarian view of 1 Cor 11 and the meaning of Head”.
    Dave, in discussing 1 Cor 11 with Mark, you said
    “It was Peter Moore (comp lecturer at the Pressie college in Sydney – a lovely bloke and good friend) who enlightened me to the fact that in the NT Father means Father and God means God! …… we need to accept that God means Father Son and Holy Spirit. ”

    Does everyone agree with this? I am just struggling a bit as I think about it with some passages.

  40. Hi Craig,
    Thanks for your patience. Our office/studio addition has turned my life upside down right now and likely will stay that way until it is finished.

    Your questions are good questions and deserve to be answered.

    I may have misunderstood, but someone I think mentioned a bible college lecturer who believed that “God” generally refers to the “Trinity”.
    I was wondering this same question about John1:1. How could “the Word” be “with” the Trinity.

    When the Bible says “God” we can take that as all of God using the context to set up any limitations. For example if you daughter (if you have one) is “with” the family this evening, we would understand that she is alongside them in fellowship this evening. Yet your daughter is also “family” but the statement is not meant to be taken as if she is “with” herself. We understand that family means all the family and “with” means she is with all excluding herself. Thus John 1:1 with the Word being with God means that He is alongside and in fellowship with the persons who are God excluding Himself since one person is not “with” Himself. So in John 1:1 we would not usually say that the Word is with the Trinity, but that the Word is with God with God here meaning the Father and the Holy Spirit thus showing Him equal in relationship. The context limits the application to two persons as God. The second part of John 1:1 where the Word is said to be God, this part is anarthrous which means that it is without the definite article. This grammar structure shows that the essence of what makes God to be God (His power, His knowledge, etc) is what Jesus has. It does not mean that He is the same person as the Father or the Holy Spirit but He is the same essence and is the same Being as God.

    Also in John 4:24 when Jesus says “God is spirit”- Jesus is God and He has a body.

    While we can say the Word is God, when we say Jesus is God we need to make clear that He isn’t just God. He is the God-man. When the Word became man, God did not change. God overtook the flesh in indwelling and becoming one of us. So while Jesus the God-man became tired, the essence of who God is does not become tired. It was the flesh alone, not His Spirit that was hungry, tired and was bruised and broken.

    I think that the general rule is that the term “God” means all of God unless there is something in the context that would limit the persons. For example if we look at John 20:28 where Thomas calls Jesus “the Lord of me” and “the God of me”, Thomas recognizes that Jesus is in essence the very being of God – so that he can claim that Jesus is his God. But Thomas is not saying that Jesus is the person of the Father or the person of the Holy Spirit. But the term is important because it is the reason for his worship of Jesus as God. All of who God is, is in Jesus who was standing there in the flesh.

    John 20:28 (NAS) Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

    How I would describe this would be to say that Jesus is the “being” of God – the “essence” of God. The Father is also the “being” and “essence” of God, as well as the Holy Spirit is also the “being” and “essence” of God. Thomas would be describing the nature of God rather than how many persons are God. Thomas was not saying that Jesus is the Trinity, but that He has the very nature of God, the being of God, residing in His flesh as the God-man.

    I think that most other references to God would be the entire persons of God and His entire nature.

    I hope this helps a little.

  41. I should add that if we replace “God” with “the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” we can get a good idea of whether or not the passage means that. We will get the sense of whether that is what the passage means. So when Thomas said to Jesus, “My Lord and My Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, we can understand that this is not what He meant. He meant the essence of who God is, but not confusing the persons as all the same as the Son.

  42. Thanks again Cheryl. Very helpful.
    You may want to correct a sentence. I think your brain was ahead of your fingers when you typed “when the Word became God”- I don’t think you think THAT far outside of the square 🙂

  43. Cheryl, in the Trinity DVD you quote Bruce Ware saying that the members of the Trinity do different things in harmony rather than doing the same things in unison. You disagree and stress how the Father, Son and Spirit do the same things.
    I can understand why you would have a problem with Bruce Ware saying that the Father for all eternity is in authority over Jesus and the Holy Spirit. But could it not be possible that they may still do different things in performing a task together without there being a hierarchy? This would then be the same as I think you would believe for a husband and wife- ruling together, working together in unity but not necessarily doing the same things as each other.

  44. Craig,
    The question is what is “different” things? Two people can do the same task differently but that is not “different” things. When people work in unity they do the same things in their own way as they are persons with their own personality. They don’t have to do different things as Bruce Ware teaches. So for husband and wife, they can both lead and both teach, but they may do the job a bit differently because they are individuals with different personalities. But teaching is not withheld from one because only one is male.

    So when I say that the persons that are God do the same things, each one is Savior, each one is Lord, creator, etc, but each person is free to do the same things in their own individual way. Bruce Ware’s view is that only one leads as only one has the highest honor, the highest praise, etc. Does that help to make it clearer?

  45. Cheryl,
    Thanks again for your reply. I hope I am not laboring this question too much but I’d just like to clarify things a bit more if I may.
    You said
    The question is what is “different” things? Two people can do the same task differently but that is not “different” things.
    Are you sure? I may say that when my wife teaches our children she does “different things” to me. She is much more creative, using drawings etc. “Different things” could just refer to the details of how one is involved in getting the task done.
    You would know the context of Bruce’s statements better than me, but he may be referring to the details of the different ways that the persons of the trinity work together on the same task. Bruce may well agree with you that “the persons that are God do the same things, each one is Savior, each one is Lord, creator, etc.” You may be quite happy for his music illustration to describe your own thoughts about the different ways that the three persons of the trinity work together on the same task as our Savior.
    I am just interested in picking the true battle.
    I may be wrong, but the main battle is everywhere else expressed in your last comment. It is not the fact of different persons, same things, different ways, or different things, but what comps do with these things. They always seem to want to stick authority wherever there is difference.
    As you state at the end – ” Bruce Ware’s view is that only one leads as only one has the highest honor, the highest praise, etc. ” Therefore each person of the trinity is NOT FREE to do the same things in their own individual way.
    Feel free to shoot me down in flames if I am on the wrong track.

  46. Craig,
    You said:

    As you state at the end – ” Bruce Ware’s view is that only one leads as only one has the highest honor, the highest praise, etc. ” Therefore each person of the trinity is NOT FREE to do the same things in their own individual way.

    This is exactly the case with Bruce Ware’s point of view and it is very well stated. You have hit the nail on the head. Bravo!

    Ware’s point of view would be that the “harmony” would come into play because in a task each person of the Trinity must be doing different things because by the nature of their “place” in the Trinity only one person of the Trinity is allowed to lead. So when it comes to the “part” that the Father plays in the incarnation, the Father “sends” the Word because that is an expression of His “place” as leader of the Word. Anything the Spirit does is subordinate. Thus no matter what the Word does in the Trinity, according to Ware, by the nature of being a subordinate person He has no ability to express His personhood in the same way as the Father does because He is not the leader. His part in “harmony” is being a follower who expresses His godhood by following the Father’s orders. So the persons of the Trinity are limited in expression of their personhood by their “place” in the Trinity. The Word then could never do exactly as the Father does or He would be in the equal place of highest honor and Ware does not believe this.

    This is not the view of the church councils or the early Christian writers who believed that the persons of the Trinity were equal in their essence. I honestly believe that Ware loves to express his view of the “differences” of the Trinity since he has found a way to justify his own “highest honor” as a male while claiming not to be a misogynist.

    You are on the right track to figure out the unorthodox view of people like Bruce Ware. This view puts a limitation on two persons of the Trinity while giving full freedom of expression to only one. Well actually come to think of it that isn’t quite true. Ware also limits the Father in that the Father is NOT FREE to act in any way that would look like He submits to the Son. Therefore the Father’s limitation is that He must lead and He must receive the highest of everything thus He is not free to “lower” Himself to serve the Son in anyway that would look like submission. That apparently would demean the very position that the Father holds by His nature according to Ware. The Father just has to be on top.

  47. Cheryl,
    Thanks. You have helped me to understand Bruce Ware’s position more clearly.
    My feeling when I read some comments about the Trinity is that there is a tendency among both comps and egals to be too extreme in their position as a reaction against the other side.
    It would seem that the comps push the differences between the persons too far. They have the authority structure very well defined, and the different things that each person does is in neat and tidy little boxes.
    Egals sometimes, when they hear comps talking about differences want to react against this and may go too far the other way. They then seem to see the three persons as all the same.
    Would you mind please explaining how you see them as different to each other? You have said that each person is free to do the same things in their own individual way. Can you give any examples of the “individual ways” ?

  48. Craig,
    You have such interesting questions! I am glad that you keep asking for clarification as it is important to test out each view for consistency.

    Here is what I see as an “individual way” regarding the act of creation. The LORD of Hosts as the Word of God walked with Adam (and later with Eve too) and He expressed His power as Creator to Adam by forming the animals in a way that was visible to the man. The Father is never said to have come to the earth or taken a form to show Himself as Creator. This means that each of the persons of God are free to express themselves as Creator in the individual way that they chose. The Word expressed Himself in a way that the Father is never expressed as Creator, yet the Word did the same things but in different individual ways.

  49. I should add that just because one person of the Trinity chose to reveal Himself to man doesn’t mean that the other persons of the Trinity were not there personally creating. They act together. But each has freedom to express Himself individually.

  50. Cheryl,
    Thanks for your examples.
    You probably know where the following statements come from, but I have left out some sentences that I know you would not agree with. I would like you to pretend that the person writing them is not a comp and he is just describing how he understands that there are three persons in the trinity and they carry out the same things in their individual way.
    “In redemption, the Father sends the Son into the world, and the Son comes and is obedient to the Father and dies to pay for our sins. After the Son has ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit comes to equip and empower the church. The Father did not come to die for our sins, nor did the Holy Spirit. The Father was not poured out on the church at Pentecost in new covenant power, nor was the Son.”
    Would you agree with these sort of statements or not?

  51. Hi Craig,
    The issue of obedience is the sticking point on those words because when I hear them I want to make sure that the time frame of obedience is understood. The obedience comes after the Word becomes flesh. It is not part of who the Son is in the Trinity. He doesn’t need to be obedient to the Father in the Trinity since the will of the Word of God (the LORD of hosts) is exactly the same as the Father’s will. As far as “sending” I have a section in the Trinity DVD that shows that sending is not a sign of authority but a necessary action to show the connection of the human Son with God the Father.

    The part about the Father did not die for our sins is correct. Yet the Father indwelt the human Son and never stopped indwelling Him even when He was dying. The Holy Spirit was the one poured out at Pentecost yet all of them indwell the believer in power.

    So I have agreement with the statements with reservation about the time frame for the obedience of the Son.

  52. It is difficult to fully separate the actions of one person of the Trinity with the supporting actions of the others. No matter what is being done, all are involved to some degree.

  53. TL,

    No matter what is being done, all are involved to some degree.

    Exactly. Yet it seems like the comp camp is intent on dividing actions and setting up an authority structure that excludes one or more of the persons of the Trinity. This comp camp is busy like bees making God into an image of their hierarchical human pyramid. He is being used for a purpose rather than being accepted as the fully equal Trinitarian God as Scripture reveals outside the incarnation.

  54. TL@68
    It seems to me, not only difficult, but impossible. God is not 3 “Beings” the way we comprehend human beings. I think comps get away with a lot of this ESS theology because of the term “God in Three Persons” commonly used (by mere humans) trying to grasp a mystery of God. What comes to mind for most people when we hear “person” is, well, an individual human being. Comps have simply taken that and run amuck with it.

  55. Thanks Cheryl, Kay and TL for your comments. They are helping me to understand and appreciate how you are seeking to uphold the scriptural balance of three different persons united and equal as the one God.
    Pardon my ignorance, but I have seen ESS theology referred to before – what does it mean? I am only a relative newcomer to all this.

  56. Thanks for asking, Craig, as I am sure many others have the same question. ESS stands for the Eternal Subordination of the Son. The view is that the Son has a “role” of subordination that predates the incarnation.

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