Archives For Theology

The last two weeks have witnessed the break out of a civil war between complementarian Trinitarians. One side affirms the eternal functional subordination of the Son (EFS), while the other side affirms only the economic subordination of the son (classical or non-EFS). Put more simply, one side argues that the Son has eternally submitted to the Father, while the other side asserts that the Son only submits to the Father in history.

I chronicle the beginning of the civil war here, providing context for the rest of this article in which I detail the on-going debate during June 11th to June 21st. During this period, the war intensifies. On June 13th Lewis Ayres and Michel Barnes, reputable patristic scholars, weigh-in on the Trinitarian debate, assaulting the position of Ware and Grudem (EFS). The patristic hammer weakens the EFS side, but they counterattack on the 14th and 20th. Continue Reading…

I’ve been asked by several people to explain the current Trinity debate in a way that someone without seminary training can understand. In other words, no Latin allowed.  I want to do that today because I sense a frustration in many people that read blogs but feel left behind. So here is my attempt to simplify the issues (in 200 words!) so that you read the Scriptures with these categories in your mind.

As I understand things, there are basically three views in dispute (with thanks to Dr. Michael Svigel for this chart explaining them):

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Over the last two weeks, Christian blogs have been ablaze with debates about the Trinity. These debates have centered on how the Son relates to the Father. One side argues that how the Son submits to the Father in history is the same way God the Father relates to the God the Son in eternity. The other side argues that the way the Son submits to the Father in history is not the way God the Son relates to the Father in eternity.

The first position goes by at least three names: eternal function subordination (EFS), eternal relational subordination (ERS), or eternal relational authority-submission (ERAS). More specifically, it argues that the way the Son differs from the Father by submitting, while the Father to the Son by exerting authority. This relationship is how these two members of Trinity differ in eternity.

For EFS proponents, the submission of the Son does not indicate any inferiority between two essentially. Actually, submission is an honorable role that does not require an ontological difference between the Father and Son. Further, this analogy between the Father and Son makes sense of human relations, relations between husband (authority) and wife (submission). 1 Corinthians 11:3 provides justification for this position: “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” Continue Reading…

TrinityAs the debate over eternal functional subordination continues in the various corners of the blogosphere, Jesse entered the fray yesterday, responding to Goligher’s (one, two) and Trueman’s original posts. He argued for a functional subordination in eternity past primarily on the basis that the divine plan of salvation takes place before the incarnation. And the Son, in agreeing to come as mankind’s Mediator, necessarily places Himself in subjection to the Father’s will. As I was interacting with Jesse’s post, I began writing a comment in response. Before too long, that comment was blog-post length, so I thought I’d just give it its own post. He graciously agreed.

I still think it’s premature for me to take a hard stance in either direction yet, because I think good questions still need to be answered by both sides, and especially by Grudem and Ware, but also by the non-EFSers as well. (My M.O. has just been to argue with whomever I’m talking to at the moment, no matter which position they take, until somebody satisfies my questions and objections.) Really excellent posts from Darren SumnerMark Jones, and Matthew Barrett have moved the discussion forward in what I think are helpful ways. If we keep pushing one another, respectfully and graciously, as brothers, I think the potential is there for some sort of agreement. As it stands now, I think I’m leaning toward the non-EFS side, while it seems Jesse may be leaning in the other direction. But, for reasons I hope this post will explain, I think what non-EFSers are most concerned to safeguard isn’t so much that we don’t call the Son’s decision to undertake His saving mission “submission” or “obedience,” but rather that we don’t say that there is authority and submission within the inner life (ad intra) of the Trinity. At the very least, those are where my concerns lie.

In this post, Jesse’s words from yesterday are in italics, while my responses follow. It does read less like a regular blog post and more like a long blog comment, because, well, that’s what it is. I hope it’s helpful to you anyway.

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rbmw

In 1991 John Piper and Wayne Grudem edited what is one of the most influential and significant books of that decade: Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. The book’s goal was to show that egalitarianism—the idea that men and women should not have any role differences in marriage or in church—is unbiblical. Instead, Christians should embrace complementarianism–the idea that God designed the sexes to complement each other through different roles in both marriage and church life.

Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood dismantled egalitarianism for a generation of evangelicals. Grudem and Piper used a barrage of arguments, hunted down obscure Greek words, and built an air-tight case that men and women are of equal worth/value/dignity/honor, but have different roles. Continue Reading…

Here is my attempt at a very brief summary of the current debate or discussion surrounding the eternal functional subordination (EFS) of the Son to the Father.

Number 1We all know the incarnate Son submits to the Father, but is His submission something that extends to His eternal role/relationship as Son? Is the Son subordinate to the Father from all eternity? Is there authority and submission within the inner life of the Trinity, even before creation and redemption?

2Proponents of EFS say yes. Opponents say no.

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At the end of his biography of Athanasius (in Contending for Our All), John Piper extracts lessons from the manner in which Athanasius approached the importance of precise trinitarian language. If you remember, Athanasius spent his life defending and articulating the trinity. He was one of the more influential people at the Council of Nicea, and that was before he had even become a pastor. Once he assumed leadership of his church, Athanasius was exiled five times for his stance on the trinity. Piper points out that his third exile was particularly brutal, and that it was accompanied by persecution of those in his church.

All of this must have made Athanasius wonder: “Is precision in trinitarian language worth the division and bloodshed that contending for it obviously elicits?” Piper answers that rhetorical question by drawing these lessons from his life and ministry:

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Church advertisements can be interesting. I’ve seen things like, “Business healing services,” one that advertised a concealed weapons class, and “You have a friend request from Jesus: Accept? Ignore?” But one that confused me the first time I saw it was “Spirit-filled.” What does that mean? And are only some churches Spirit-filled? Or all of them? Or partially filled? What’s the difference between a Spirit-filled and non-Spirit-filled church?

Generally, the advertisement intends to mean that the Holy Spirit’s power and presence are observable in that local church. Praise God if that’s true. But, assuming accurate advertising, what ought we expect from such a church? What will that look like?

Here are 11 evidences of the Spirit’s power and presence in a local church:

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defiant-child

learningworksforkids.com

Parenting is no easy task. Charles Spurgeon once said, “He who thinks it easy to bring up a family never had one of his own. A mother who trains her children aright had need be wiser than Solomon, for his son turned out a fool.”

Thankfully, God has not left parents to grope about for advice in their exalted task. Scripture is full of guidance. However, it seems that one of the most commonly-quoted parenting verses is frequently subjected to misunderstanding.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). (ESV, NASB)

The verse is predominantly understood in a few ways.

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Having grown up in the densely populated state of New Jersey, I learned to drive in one of the more hostile traffic environments in America. Between the New Jersey Turnpike, the Garden State Parkway, and the occasional foray across the George Washington Bridge or the Lincoln Tunnel into some part of New York City—especially Manhattan—I’ve been in my share of close calls and quick decisions. When you add the fact that I now live in Los Angeles and use some of the busiest freeways in the country on a daily basis, it’s rather a miracle that I’m still alive. In fact, there are often times when I consciously thank the Lord while driving that I was spared from this or that potential accident. I certainly know that my passengers have improved their prayer lives while driving with me from time to time.

Because of this absolutely ridiculous vehicular heritage, I often make it a point to observe the different patterns other drivers follow and decisions they make while I’m driving. Sometimes I even think to myself, imagining what I would have done if a driver lost control or decided to change lanes abruptly, or whatever. “If he made a mistake and needed to jump in front of me, could I get out of his way?” Stuff like that.

Now, some people without the NY/NJ/LA driving heritage might think I’m going a little overboard here. And they might be right. But I realize that in certain situations I might have only a fraction of a second to react. I need to be so prepared with a sound way of avoiding an accident that my reactions are just second nature. Because in the moment, I won’t have time to think clearly and dispassionately evaluate my options. The craziness of the moment simply won’t allow it. At least not where I’m driving.

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