June 24, 2016

The Complementarian Trinity Debate: A Chronological Summary (Pt II)

by Wyatt Graham

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.

Although the battle rages on, the metaphor of the civil war becomes less and less appropriate during this period of the debate.  Many non-EFS proponents lack the aggressive tone of Goligher and Trueman, causing the debate to become less like a civil war and more like an intramural debate. Another significant development involves Reformed persons, citing the covenant of redemption as another argument against EFS: How can Christ agree with God the Father to redeem humanity, if the eternal relationship is one of submission and authority? In this case, Christ redeems out of duty rather than a willing love.

Such developments provide welcome additions to debate, which I aim to chronicle now.

The Bellum Period (June 11-21)

On the 11th, Scot McKnight highlights the recent battles. This marks the ends of the inaugural battles of the antebellum period of the civil war and the start of the bellum period.

Mike Ovey reposts his June 10th article at Credomag on June 11th, defending his EFS position. Importantly, Ovey argues that different wills between the Son and Father do not entail a distinction of being; rather, the differing wills of the Father and Son relationally distinguishes them: “The eternal subordination of the Son does not divide the will of God at the level of nature, because the issue here is one of relations between the persons.”

On June 11th, Mark Jones becomes more alarmed about EFS, and he highlights important issues surrounding the debate. Against Ovey, Jones asserts that EFS necessarily divides the will of God into two, whereas Scripture and tradition teach that God’s internal and external will are one: “Eternal submission necessarily posits two wills in God. Simplicity goes out of the window; and, furthermore, the oneness of God (una essentia) is compromised.”

On June 12th, Mike Bird provides a summary of the debate, at one point linking to a fascinating article by Darren O. Sumner, who writes on Karth Barth’s view of the eternal subordination of the Son. Sumner concludes: “To identify Barth’s version of divine subordination as “functional” and not “ontological” is a concession to the contemporary conversation, and it is worth reminding ourselves that Barth does not use these categories. Whatever term we use to describe Barth’s view, it is clear that he does not fall neatly under either one. Therefore, with respect to the debate currently taking place in evangelical circles, he cannot readily be appropriated by either side” (p. 19).

Owen Strachan, the president of CBMW, responds to Trueman and Goligher on June 13th, defending ERAS. He advocates the beauty of submission, the rightness of making complementarian connections, and warns that we should affirm Scripture as our authority, so as not to fall into a New-scholasticism.

The Patristic Hammer

On June 13, Mike Bird quotes at length patristic scholar, Michel R. Barnes‘ take on the debate. After Barnes reads posts by Ware and Trueman, he notes: “I now feel deeply misled by Ware.” He also corrects Trueman’s claim that Nicene Orthodoxy means being an homoousian, a development that arises in 357 as a term of debate:Simply claiming the homoousion is not enough to make one a Nicene Trinitarian.”

Mike Bird also hosts Lewis Ayres’ response to Bruce Ware (and mentions Grudem). Ayres is a foremost patristic scholar and particular expert in Nicene Trinitarian theology. Ayres dismisses Grudem: “what Wayne Grudem says about eternal generation is just plain daft.” As for Ware, he spends more time thinking through Ware’s position. In the end, he rejects Ware’s position: “I think Bruce’s theology is just a bit too simplistic.” Instead, Ayres highlights the classical Trinitarian expressions of generation to explain the fullness and unity of the Trinity and underscores the frailty of the human mind when considering the Trinity.

Concerning Michel Barnes and Lewis Ayres’ public disagreement with Ware and others, Mike Bird comments:

To be honest, I mean Bruce Ware and friends no ill, I think they are sincere, they’re trying their best to be faithful theologians and readers of Scripture, and wanting to pursue practical applications. But I just don’t know if it is possible to salvage the subordinationist argument for marital submission after Lewis Ayres and Michel R. Barnes have left nothing but debris in their wake. Let me add- and this was not at my behest or invitation – that when two of the biggest names in fourth century trinitarian theology graciously dismantle your theological argument for basing human relationships on a subordinationist trinitarianism, the game is over. Time to abandon the SS Subordinationism, man the life boats, look for a nice Nicene Island for refuge to land on, and find less complicated ways of arguing for complementarianism.

D. Glenn Butner summarizes his 2015 JETS article on the 13th of June. One of the more clarifying articles during the whole debate, Butner carefully articulates the conciliar and biblical background to the doctrine of the Trinity, showing why Christ has both a human and divine will and how assigning will to a property of personhood does not work (against Ware).

On the 13th, Fred Sanders lists 18 theses on the Father and Son, as a way to wade into the debate, though he does not clearly take a position. Andrew Wilson writes a quick guide to the debate. Hannah Anderson and Wendy Alsup on the 13th push back against EFS, specifically of the CBMW flavour. Notably, Anderson and Alsup are not the first women to enter into the (e.g., here and here).

EFS Strikes Back

On June 14, Mike Ovey defends himself against Mike Bird’s accusation that EFS proponents are homoian and outside the bounds of Nicea: “The root of the problem is that some Complementarians are willing to ditch Nicene christology for Homoian christology if it will give them a bigger stick to use to keep women out of the pulpit! (Mike Bird).” Ovey denies both accusations and challenges his opponents: “The issue for those denying eternal submission is how they know either explicitly from the Scriptures or by good and necessary consequence that this and similar passages do not reveal the eternal relations.”

June 14th: Liam Goligher takes Ovey and the rest to task by reaffirming the Biblical argument for non-eternal subordination and highlighting how the EFS group rejects eternal generation, the one will of God, and (implicitly) divine simplicity.

June 15: Andrew Moody (and Mark Baddeley?) commends the doctrine of eternal generation. On the same day, Matt Emerson asks, What makes a doctrine Biblical? His goal is to provide Protestant evangelicals a theological method to formulate and articulate doctrine.

On the 15th of June, Mark Jones writes 12 propositions relevant to the debate and interacts with Fred Sanders. He concludes with this question: “How can the Son eternally submit to the Father if the simplicity of God is true, which means therefore that God has one essence and one will which is identical with his essence?”

On June 16th, Matthew Barrett (an EFS proponent) relates the Trinitarian debate to the covenant a redemption, a point particularly important for Reformed persons. Yet he surprisingly argues that the covenant of redemption, eternal as it is, suggests the Son’s eternal subordination. If the sons obeys the eternal covenant in history, he has obeyed it in eternity, suggesting a kind of EFS. Resourcing John Owen, Barrett also explains how eternal obedience allows for a unified will in God in relation to the covenant of redemption: ‘there is a new habitude of will in the Father and Son towards each other that is not in them essentially. I call it new, as being in God freely, not naturally.’ (emphasis mine; quote from Mark Jones’s article, though he does not want to use “obedience” language as I do.).”

Still on the 16th, Caleb Lindgren overviews the complementarian civil war on the Trinity, providing an entryway into the debate for newcomers. Michael Svigel supplies a taxis of different views on Christ’s subordination, defining 5 distinct positions. If someone would want to see how different people understand subordination, Svigel’s post is a good starting point.

Fred Sanders writes on the Trinity and gender on the 17th, reviewing his contributions to Trinitarian theology over the years and staying out of the debate directly, though he states: “In the course of these years I have become more deeply convinced that the doctrine of eternal generation is the key to understanding the Trinity biblically –precisely biblically, and not only traditionally– and less inclined to search for alternatives or even supplements.”

Scott Harrower on June 17th shows why the Trinitarian debate is important, describing “the tragic story of 17th century Anglicanism where there was a gradual decline from Nicene orthodoxy to Arianism to Unitarianism” (Mike Bird’s words). Harrower concludes with a harrowing question: “So ask yourself: ‘What kind of theological culture do I want to commend to future Christians with respect to the divinity of Christ?’ I know I want commend God the Son ‘true God from true God… of one being with the Father,’ and nothing short of that.”

June 20th: Andrew Moody and Mark Baddeley write part 2 of their discussion on the current Trinitarian debate. Trying to keep their head above the debate, Moody and Baddeley claim an aesthetic prejudice for their formulation of Trinitarian theology. In their post, they highlights issues surrounding the will of the Trinity, during which he brings up, again, the covenant of redemption (CoR). CoR begins to become another ground of contention this week because CoR is a jewel in the crown of Reformed Trinitarian theology.

On June 20th, Wayne Grudem defends his position (EFS) by challenging Goligher and Trueman to account for a series of Biblical verses and by listing 18 (or 19 including himself) theologians who teach the eternal subordination of the Son. He responds to the notion that EFS is a novel (I presume) and non-orthodox position, but Grudem believes otherwise: “…the accusations of unorthodoxy stated by Goligher and Trueman still seem to me to be unjustified, intemperate, and unprecedented in the history of the church.

Owen Stachan on June 20th endorses Grudem’s prior post with no uncertain terms: “[Goligher’s] bold claims regarding evangelical history now appear malnourished, for Grudem’s piece is the equivalent of theological nitroglycerine.” He further concludes: “While the witness of the theologians cited in Grudem’s post in no way proves the doctrine (this Scripture alone can do), we can know with certainty that ERAS is the very opposite of a “novel” perspective.”

Matt Emerson adds that the early church spoke of the order, taxis, and modes and subsistence as a way to relate persons, using language like generation and spiration: There is no sense in which these terms historically meant subordination related to authority or submission ad intra.” Hence, when Grudem cites pre-twentieth century theologians who hold to EFS, it seems unlikely that all these theologians meant subordination in such a way as it relates to authority-submission in God’s being (ad intra)

Mark Jones critiques Grudem’s writing on historical theology earlier that same day (June 20th). Jones strongly challenges Grudem’s use of historical sources and dismisses Strachan endorsement of Grudem’s post as immature. While one can lament the tone of Jones’ post (snarky), he adds to the discussion by poking holes into Grudem’s historical argument, which aims to justify the historical orthodoxy of EFS. He finishes by challenging EFS proponents to account for God’s simplicity and single will (“Submission only works with two wills”).

Liam Goligher responds on June 20th to Ware and Grudem, both of which affirm the homoousia of God, and counters: “It is impossible to affirm the homoousian without affirming eternal generation.” Concerning the creeds, Goligher notes,”More time is spent expressing this specific shape of personal differentiation among equals then expressing same substance.” Against Ware and Grudem who read Trinitarian roles into eternity, Goligher writes: “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.” He underscores the importance of the covenant of redemption, locating the subordination of Christ in the work of his redemption and mediation, not in the being of God.

Mark Thompson answers the “theological question of whether this doctrine inevitably involves a drift into the subordinationist heresy associated with Arius.” Thompson answers in the negative, showing that EFS does not necessitate the heresy of Arius (making Christ inferior in being to God the Father). One significant exegetical argument involves Paul’s use of Son in 1 Cor 15:28, which leads Thompson to see the Son’s final act of submission as indicative of eternal relations between Father and Son: “There is something about the final act of the eschaton, all put under the feet of Christ and then brought to the Father by the Son, that is indicative of their eternal relationship as Father and Son.”

On June 21st Mike Bird updates readers of recent developments in of the debate, asking of Goligher: “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?”


One can expect further discussion surrounding the eternal subordination of the Son, but I expect the blitzkrieg of posts from either side will slow down and both sides will (have to) learn to live together. I’m hopeful that further dialogue between two two sides will bring consensus.

At this stage, the EFS group requires more precise language to describe their Trinitarian model, since the classical or non-EFS group can draw draw on about two millennia worth of biblical and theological reflection on the Trinity. This arms the non-EFS side with a huge arsenal of dogmatic description, while the EFS side is still inventing their weapons of theological debate.

The EFS group must develop these dogmatic tools soon, since, as challengers of the classical view of the Trinity, the onus is on them to biblically and dogmatically justify the EFS position. If they do so, it will only happen when they can prove their position from Scripture, using adequate theological language to describe the text. The Bible is the final arbiter of truth in such matters, as the Spirit guides Christians through Scripture into a mature knowledge of the truth, of God.

In my last post, I identify five areas of disagreement in the complementarian Trinity debate:

  1. Does eternal subordination necessitate an ontological hierarchy in the Trinity or not?
  2. Does eternal subordination mean being Biblically faithful or not?
  3. Does eternal subordination mean being outside of Nicene orthodoxy or not?
  4. Do proponents of EFS/ERAS structure their view of the Trinity based on their complementarian view of men and women or not?
  5. Does the Son’s submission to the Father in eternity mean that the Son and Father have two wills, not one?

To this list of five, I add two more:

  • Does the covenant of redemption require only an economical subordination of the Son or not?
  • Does it make sense to assign will to personhood or not?

Wyatt Graham

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Wyatt is the Executive Director of The Gospel Coalition Canada. He also blogs at www.wyattgraham.com. Follow him at @wagraham.
  • Jon45Solas

    Thanks again for taking the time to prepare these helpful chronicles. Keep them coming!

  • Dave

    I’m wondering whether the role of the Holy Spirit has influence on the subject of the relationship of the Father and the Son. I say this because “THE” debate about the Trinity — you know, the one between bloggers over the last two weeks — and most other discussions/ sermons/ theology books/ statements/ blogs/ etc. strongly emphasize God the Father and God the Son, with very, very little discussion of God the Holy Spirit. Of course, most of these are accompanied by the obligatory Trinity diagram, but generally include only passing mention of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps more can be done to rectify that in, say, a Trinitarian discussion.

    • The debate focuses on how the Son and Father relate to each other. So I think that’s why the Spirit is left out, not an intentional swipe at him

  • Mike Yonce

    Perhaps Dave’s post got me to thinking, and then something came to my mind driving down the road. I would like everyone consider the following as just food for thought. You can check out the following websites for their definition and discussion of who/what the Holy Spirit is. I tried to pick a variety across the spectrum of orthodox Christianity:


    This is just a sampling I found just by doing a search, and I could have went on forever. But if you peruse each of these you will find every one of them speaks of the Holy Spirit as having a WILL, and that as a PERSON of the Trinity, unless I am mistaken. Did the Holy Spirit get His own WILL at creation, or is it eternal in nature? Or has our doctrine of the Holy Spirit been flawed all along, and we just didn’t realize it?

    I bring all this up because the discussion of the possibility of each of the three persons of the Trinity each having their own eternal will has stirred up some dust. But it appears we have long accepted the Holy Spirit as having His own will, but have not indicated it started at creation, but rather is eternal? I’m like everyone else, just trying to study these things out, and hopefully for a better understanding of our Thrice Holy God. Blessings

    • Since (a) will is a predicate of nature, essence, or being, and since (b) the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share the same divine nature/essence/being, the three Persons share the single divine will, rather than having distinct wills, which would divide the divine essence.

      But that isn’t at odds with speaking of “the Spirit’s will.” As God, the Spirit shares in the divine nature and therefore the divine will. It’s reasonable to speak of His will. But it does not necessarily follow that the Spirit’s will must be distinct from the Father’s will, or the Son’s will with respect to His divine nature.

      • Mike Yonce

        Thanks Mike. In light of what you have written above, then would I be safe to presume that these quotes taken from the links I gave, do not have the best wording in regard to the will of the Holy Spirit? That was what I was driving at in my previous post, the ascribing of an individual will to the person of the Holy Spirit, as well as the other two persons of the Godhead. I know there is a delicate balance between modalism and tritheism when describing persons of the Trinity.

        “In the 12th chapter, 11th verse of the same Epistle, you will find a will ascribed to the Holy Spirit. “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.” So it is clear that the Spirit has a will. He does not come from God the Father simply at God the Father’s will, but he has a will of his own, which is always in keeping with the will of the infinite Jehovah, but is, nevertheless, distinct and separate; therefore, I say he is a person.”

        “The Scriptures explicitly affirm that the Holy Spirit exercises a moral and sovereign will comparable to that of the other Persons of the Trinity. In connection with the sovereign bestowal of spiritual gifts on men, the Spirit is said to accomplish this “as he will” (1 Cor 12:11).”

        “One of the characteristics of personal existence is will. Few would argue the point in relationship to the Father, as He obviously has a will. So too, the Son has a will, for he says to the Father in the Garden, “not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) The ascription of will to the Persons indicates the ability to reason, to think, to act, to desire – all those things we associate with self-consciousness. As we shall see later, there is a difference between nature and person, and one of those differences is the will. Inanimate objects do not will; neither do animals. Part of the imago dei is the will itself.”

        Thanks, I am trying to learn and sharpen my theological understanding. Blessings, Mike Y.

  • Matthew Barrett’s post (linked above on June 16, but here it is again: http://www.credomag.com/2016/06/16/better-late-than-never-the-covenant-of-redemption-and-the-trinity-debates-matthew-barrett/ ) has certainly been the most helpful to me.

    Wyatt, thanks for putting all this together. This is a very good resource. Thanks man.

  • Corey Fleig

    Wyatt, I’ve never met you, but I’d like to now! My name is Corey Fleig, a non-professional theologian! I’ve never set foot in a seminary, but I do work with seminary students every day,and I love to study as much as I can. Having said all that, I have a comment about the trinity “debate” that I hope isn’t just a redundant rehash.

    I recently finished reading O’Malley’s book on Trent, and I was struck that professional theologians can really be a bunch of jerks (note my non-seminary vocab!). What Riccardi calls “average believers” in my opinion is really a group of Christians who want to witness apape love in the study halls. We’re looking for unity and love to prevail, so we don’t start looking like 16th Century Roman Catholic theologians.

    Apparently Andy Snider has his sensitivities, and because of his convictions, he’s concerned about the related issues of harmony and edification. Others, like Jesse, don’t share the same past, so he’s more able to thrive on robust research and interesting debates. I’ve never met Carl Trueman, but I’d guess he brings a lot of 4th Century baggage to the table, and the likes of Grudem,et. al. bring their own brand of contemporary theology. None of it is bad, but it’s all biased, and that’s all fine!

    But, those of us who are not trained in these things just stand there with mouths a-gape, wondering in the words of Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

    There’s a lot of incendiary words in these blogs – “strikes back” and other phrases, where I get the impression that swords are drawn among brothers. I think that’s a part of what Snider was trying to say.

    I also appreciate what Jesse was saying, but that’s because he never drew his sword – he might even think this is stimulating.

    In conclusion, what Jesse and Mike said is good and true – this type of study will prepare us for better worship. But at the very same time, I hope each one of us notices that there’s a brother next door who is in a different stage in his journey, and some of the rhetoric may be decidedly *un*helpful.

    Romans 14:19 is also a worthy goal, along with the clarification of what Scripture teaches about the Trinity. In other words, there’s no possible way that I can absorb all this in a short time. Years from now I’ll come back to this to learn more.

    But I can tell you this: years from now I will most definitely remember how we treated each other in times of disagreement.

    (I’m not referring to you personally, I just wanted to represent those of us who
    read all this and respond with “Huh?”) You get the point. Anyway, Lord bless you richly. I wish I could say “hi” to Jim Stitzinger Jr and Dan Dumas!

    On a more personal note, I used to play music with Jim’s sister Rachel, an excellent violinist AND fiddler! WOW!

    • I thought about warish analogies above. I actually don’t love my titles like the patriotic hammer. I could wish to God that both sides engaged each other with charity and a spirit of unity.

    • Still Waters

      Perhaps some of the rhetoric is unhelpful – theologians are humans after all, and no different than the rest of us in struggling to control the tongue – but I do not think that the use of strong terms is un-Biblical. Recall the way Paul reamed out Peter in Galatians 2 for his hypocritical and legalistic return to Judaism. Paul and Peter clearly respected one another, but they were not afraid to use strong language to correct their fellow believers when they went wrong. Sometimes, it is necessary to state a warning in no uncertain terms, or it will not be listened to.

  • Fibber MaGee

    Wyatt, you must have one heck of a spreadsheet going to keep all that straight. Thanks to you, Jesse and Mike. Two questions; any thoughts on the economic position’s impact on the doctrine of immutability and has MacArthur weighed in on this? His notes seem to support EFS, but I’d rather hear it from him.

    • With regards to immutability, I think that we have to recognize that eternity past is not a succession of events. We’re not saying that, first, God was only an immanent Trinity, and then after some time passed and He decided to create and redeem, He became an economic Trinity. Talking about different “events” or “stages” taking place in eternity past is just the way our finite minds, bound to think in terms of time, speak of the various aspects of God’s person, mind, and plan.

      So, for those who say that the Son doesn’t submit to the Father ad intra but only ad extra, we’ve got to recognize that those aren’t time distinctions, but conceptual/relational distinctions as to the person and work of the Triune God.

      Also, it should be noted that everyone agrees that the Son was not incarnate from all eternity. In the incarnation, the Son became what He wasn’t while never ceasing to be what He was — adding a human nature to His divine nature. That raises some questions with respect to immutability too, but we seem to handle that pretty well. In the same way that the Son can become human and not be said to change, so also can He take on a human will and subject it to the Father, and not be said to change.

      Regarding MacArthur’s position, some insight can be gained from his retraction of incarnational sonship: http://www.gty.org/resources/Articles/A235/Reexamining-the-Eternal-Sonship-of-Christ. I would say that he doesn’t hold to eternal functional subordination as Grudem and Ware do..

      Speaking of why he once held to incarnational sonship, he says,

      “Sonship, I [once] concluded, bespeaks the place of voluntary submission to which Christ condescended at His incarnation (cf. Phil. 2:5-8; John 5:19). My aim was to defend, not in any way to undermine, Christ’s absolute deity and eternality. And I endeavored from the beginning to make that as clear as possible. 1. I am now convinced that the title “Son of God” when applied to Christ in Scripture always speaks of His essential deity and absolute equality with God, not His voluntary subordination.” This means MacArthur believes that what the Bible intends by identifying Jesus as “Son” is not submission, but equality of essence. He cites John 5:18 in support.

      So the whole reason he believed in incarnational sonship in the first place is because he thought sonship implied submission, which, in his mind, threatened Christ’s deity. But he says he is now convinced that sonship does not necessarily entail subordination, but rather speaks of the “like produces like” principle of eternal generation (which he comments on approvingly later in the article). This would seem to be inconsistent with Grudem’s and Ware’s conceptions of eternal functional subordination — i.e., that what “Father” and “Son” mean to communicate is a relationship of authority and submission.

      He continues:

      “Most theologians recognize this, and when dealing with the sonship of Christ, they employ the term ‘eternal generation.’ I’m not fond of the expression. In Spurgeon’s words, it is “a term that does not convey to us any great meaning; it simply covers up our ignorance.” And yet the concept itself, I am now convinced, is biblical. Scripture refers to Christ as “the only begotten of the Father” (John 1:14; cf. v. 18; 3:16, 18; Heb. 11:17). The Greek word translated “only begotten” is monogenes. The thrust of its meaning has to do with Christ’s utter uniqueness. Literally, it may be rendered “one of a kind”—and yet it also clearly signifies that He is of the very same essence as the Father. This, I believe, is the very heart of what is meant by the expression “only begotten.””

      He goes onto explain eternal generation, noting the difficulty of language but accepting the truth:

      “The offspring bear the exact likeness of the parent. The fact that a son is generated by the father guarantees that the son shares the same essence as the father. I believe this is the sense Scripture aims to convey when it speaks of the begetting of Christ by the Father. Christ is not a created being (John 1:1-3). He had no beginning but is as timeless as God Himself. Therefore, the “begetting” mentioned in Psalm 2 and its cross-references has nothing to do with His origin. But it has everything to do with the fact that He is of the same essence as the Father.
      Expressions like “eternal generation,” “only begotten Son,” and others pertaining to the filiation of Christ must all be understood in this sense: Scripture employs them to underscore the absolute oneness of essence between Father and Son. In other words, such expressions aren’t intended to evoke the idea of procreation; they are meant to convey the truth about the essential oneness shared by the Members of the Trinity.”

      Then he even goes onto say how the reason he once saw sonship entailing submission was because he wrongly read human experiences back into the divine relationships (the very thing Ware and Grudem do in their writings as they defend the EFS doctrine):

      “My previous view was that Scripture employed Father-Son terminology anthropomorphically—accommodating unfathomable heavenly truths to our finite minds by casting them in human terms. Now I am inclined to think that the opposite is true: Human father-son relationships are merely earthly pictures of an infinitely greater heavenly reality. The one true, archetypical Father-Son relationship exists eternally within the Trinity. All others are merely earthly replicas, imperfect because they are bound up in our finiteness, yet illustrating a vital eternal reality.”

      Then he affirms the classical distinctions of paternity, filiation, and spiration, which Ware and Grudem reject:

      “The three Persons are co-equal, but they are still distinct Persons. And the chief characteristics that distinguish between the Persons are wrapped up in the properties suggested by the names Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Theologians have labeled these properties paternity, filiation, and spiration. That such distinctions are vital to our understanding of the Trinity is clear from Scripture. How to explain them fully remains something of a mystery.”

  • Boris Bear

    The Trinity is a mystery indeed that our finite minds can hardly wrap around. One God in three persons. One essence, one will, one love. How about this way of satisfying our little limited comprehension about the Trinity: Think of God as the surname, or the family’s last name. Then the three separate individuals–God the Father, God the Son,
    and God the Holy Spirit are under the umbrella of God. I hope I’m not being heretical or in any way disrespectful; nevertheless, I’m satisfying my little brain to comprehend this deep and profound mystery.

  • Mike Halpin

    Wyatt, and other Cripplegate Gentlemen, many thanks for such helpful synopsis of this ongoing debate. I’ve been on a trip for over a week (not online) and am just now catching up on email and these posts. Didn’t know we could lose orthodoxy and assign so many to heretic status in such a short time. Your work and articles are much appreciated by many, I’m sure. Thanks much, Yours, Mike Halpin

  • calebkolstad

    Some of my criticisms of Trueman/Goligher were blown off the past few weeks. I suggested that these brothers were right in doctrine but wrong in practice. That the differences that exist are not massive departures. In view of this I contended that Trueman and co. owe these men a public apology (since their strong criticism were public).

    Today Dr. Al Mohler made many of the same statements I have made- except his argumentation and presentation skills are far superior to mine. I hope his article will reach a broad audience.

    Mohler wrote today, “Recent charges of violating the Nicene Creed made against respected evangelical theologians like Grudem and Ware are NOT JUST NONSENSE- they are precisely the kind of nonsense that undermines orthodoxy and obscures REAL heresy. Their teachings do not in any way contradict the words of the Nicene Creed, and both theologians eagerly affirm it. I do not share their proposals concerning the eternal submission of the Son to the Father, but I am well aware that nothing they have taught even resembles the heresy of the Arians. To the contrary, both theologians affirm the full scope of orthodox Christianity and have proved themselves faithful teachers of the church. These charges are BASELESS, RECKLESS, and UNWORTHY of those who have made them.”



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