June 21, 2016

The Trinitarian Beat Goes On

by Mike Riccardi

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.

He argued that submission in marriage is no sign of inferiority because, after all, isn’t the second person of the Trinity eternally submissive to the first? And one member of the Trinity is obviously not greater than the other, because that would be heretical. Thus in the Trinity we have a model of two persons of equal ontology, but submissive in differing roles.

My question is: Why should the eternality of the submission matter for this argument? Why can’t we just look at the Son in His incarnation — fully God and fully man — and see His functional subordination, which is as clear as day in Scripture (John 14:28; 1 Cor 11:3), and make the very same argument? The Father and the incarnate Son are two persons of equal ontology, but submissive in differing roles. We don’t need the eternal submissiveness (and therefore complex commentary on whether and how to read the economic Trinity back into the immanent Trinity) to make the complementarian point stick, even from 1 Corinthians 11:3. We only need to prove that functional subordination does not necessarily imply ontological inferiority. Whether the Son eternally submits or not, He definitely submits in His incarnation, and so proves the point that complementarians need to make.

Shorter version: far from being degrading, submission is actually a high calling, because the eternal Son has always submitted to his Father.

Right. So my shorter version is, Why can’t that just be: “Far from being degrading, submission is actually a high calling, because the incarnate Son, while still fully God, always submitted to His Father”?

Fast-forward 24 years, and last week Carl Trueman and Liam Goligher have sounded the alarm . . .

It certainly is curious why they picked this time to all of a sudden sound a very loud alarm. I’d love if they could answer the timing question. One hopes it’s not to undermine the complementarian position in any way.

A better way to say it would be that there are three persons that subsist distinctly, and act differently, and that apply the will of the Triune God with regard to their peculiar nature.

It’s probably better to say “. . . with regard to their peculiar personhood.” They share a single nature.

AthanasiusThis kind of precise language allows for a concept of submission within the Godhead without the implication that the three persons of the Godhead have wills which are in tension.

Well, first, the issue is not that one would imply that the wills were “in tension.” Everyone in this discussion agrees that what the Son wills is never different than what the Father wills, even if they were to have two distinct wills. That’s why someone (I forget who) quoted Owen (I think) as distinguishing “will” (i.e., what one wants, the content of a will) and the manner, or faculty, of willing. Everyone agrees that all Persons always want the same thing (i.e., the content is the same), but the question is whether they have their separate faculties of willing by virtue of their personhood (i.e., will is a predicate of personhood), or if they have a single faculty of willing by virtue of their nature (i.e., will is a predicate of nature). I think the latter is the case, and because you do too, I won’t argue for it here.

But it’s the claim that “this language” allows for submission without multiple wills that I’m not sure is as clear to me. Basically the claim is: the three distinct Persons “apply” the single will of God “differently.” I’m not quite sure what that means. Do you mean what Owen says when he says:

“The will of God as to the peculiar Actings of the Father in this matter, is the Will of the Father; And the Will of God, with regard unto the peculiar Actings of the Son, is the Will of the Son; not by a distinction of sundry Wills, but by the distinct Application of the same Will unto its distinct Acts, in the Persons of the Father and the Son.”

So, does “applying the will” differently means the Persons act on the will differently? Interestingly, Mark Jones quotes the above quote to argue against EFS, while you use it to argue for it. This makes me suspect that if Grudem and Ware really hashed this out with Trueman and Goligher, they’d wind up saying closer to the same thing. The more I read, the more I think this issue is boiling down to: How do we distinguish the Persons of the Trinity from one another? The creedal answer has been: Paternity (unbegottenness), filiation (generation), and spiration (procession). Grudem and Ware reject those categories, and thus distinguish the Persons by means of an authority-submission paradigm.

Look—I share Trueman’s concerns about The Gospel Coalition, but Grudem, Schriener, and Ware’s views of the Trinity are certainly not to blame.

This is probably true. Mark Driscoll and James MacDonald running interference for an outspoken modalist has done more damage in that area. Which makes you wonder, again, why they decided to bring this up now.

But I’m reminded of a warning in these discussions: when you hear Ralph say, “If Fred believes X, then Fred must also in turn believe Y,” and then along comes Fred, who convincingly states X and denies Y, the problem is most likely with Ralph’s logic.

Maybe, but not necessarily. The problem could also be with Fred’s logic, because he doesn’t see the logical implications of his position, whereas Ralph does. This means that the discussion needs to take place on the level of whether X leads to Y, not just shouting back and forth between one another: “Y is wrong!” “I don’t believe Y!” “Yes you do!” Rather: “This is why, Fred, I think you can’t escape Y once you believe X.” Trueman and Goligher didn’t do a good job of this originally, but I think some of the posts coming after it have done better. I’d like to see Ware’s and Grudem’s responses to the more nuanced critique.

Old BibleSchreiner: The point is not that the Son is essentially inferior to the Father. Rather, the Son willingly submits Himself to the Father’s authority. The difference between the members of the Trinity is a functional one, not an essential one.

We all get this is the claim, but what the non-EFS guys are disputing is whether this can be logically and theologically coherent. Given what the Trinity is, can we speak of functional distinctions ad intra that are not also ontological distinctions? This is a question that needs careful answering. Everyone agrees there’s authority and submission “in the economy of redemption,” as you quote Goligher saying in the next paragraph (i.e., ad extra). But it seems Grudem and Ware are saying that the Trinity functions that way ad extra because it’s reflecting something in His inner life (i.e., ad intra). How can we say that there is authority and submission between Persons of the Trinity if His inner life is egalitarian and not hierarchical? That’s another question I think it would be helpful for them to answer.

The three persons share the will to enact salvation, and this action entails the submission of the Son to be the one who will go to his creation and bear sin.

Amen. But the non-EFS guys would say that the Son’s decision to become submissive is not necessarily submission itself, but only the free and voluntary decision to eventually be submissive, when He has the “hardware” to do so (i.e., a human nature with a human will). I bet the players in this discussion could come to an agreement on how to best speak of this phenomenon in a way that preserves orthodoxy. But even so, that would still only apply to the ad extra works of the Trinity, in the economy of redemption. Even in the “covenant of redemption” (or, Trinitarian plan of salvation, if you’re wary of calling things covenants that the Bible doesn’t), we’re speaking of the economy of redemption. The question is: Is it right to read the works of the economic Trinity into the inner life of the immanent Trinity? You’re saying, “Yes,  you have to, or you make the error of separating God’s works from His nature.”

I think that’s right (and I really like the way Matthew Barrett makes that point). But the next question is: What is that theological/conceptual bridge that’s going to link the works of the Trinity (ad extra) to the life of the Trinity (ad intra)? The way orthodox Christianity has answered that question since Nicea is to say: the Father’s sending the Son, the Son’s going and accomplishing, and the Spirit’s applying reflects the order (taxis) which distinguishes the persons by virtue of Paternity, filiation, and spiration. The Father sends the Son because the Father is unbegotten while the Son is begotten. The Spirit applies the Son’s work because He eternally proceeds forth from the Father and the Son.

But again, what Grudem and Ware are doing is setting aside the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds’ commitment to eternal generation and procession, and proposing an innovation — namely, that we answer the question of how the economic Trinity relates to the immanent Trinity by postulating a framework of authority and submission ad intra, as opposed to answering it via an appeal to eternal generation and procession. Now, I don’t begrudge them the opportunity to make their case from Scripture. I think we’re all obligated to hear them out as long as we believe in sola Scriptura. But we’ve all got to admit that it’s pretty scary to jettison the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds with respect to Trinitarianism. That should give us a world of pause, and cause us to ensure that we be certain of what is and is not being claimed before coming down hard on one side of the discussion.

Mike Riccardi

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Mike is the Pastor of Local Outreach Ministries at Grace Community Church in Los Angeles. He also teaches Evangelism at The Master's Seminary.
  • Andrew

    Mike, this is really exemplary (as was your facebook discussion a few days back…it really helped me identify key aspects of the discussion). Thanks for posting.

  • Hi Mike, I appreciate your effort to accurately present the argument and help us think through it carefully. Thank you for this post that continues to do just that. However, in the interest of accurately presenting the arguments I found your presentation of Grudem’s position regarding “eternal generation” and the Nicene and Athanasian creeds a bit inconsistent with what I’ve read from Grudem himself. (Granted that the recent Grudem acticle which gives more clarity to his position has come after you wrote this)

    You say:

    How do we distinguish the Persons of the Trinity from one another? The creedal answer has been: Paternity (unbegottenness), filiation (generation), and spiration (procession). Grudem and Ware reject those categories, and thus distinguish the Persons by means of an authority-submission paradigm.

    However Grudem writes:

    But just what is meant by “eternal generation”? In what they have written, I cannot discover what they mean. To substitute the words “paternity” and “filiation” provides some Latinized terminology but those terms simply mean “existing as a father” and “existing as a son,” which tells us nothing more. Quite honestly, I find it impossible to say whether or not I agree with “eternal generation” until someone explains, in ordinary English, what he means by it (not just what it does not mean). (If “eternal generation” simply means “an eternal Father-Son relationship,” then I am happy to affirm it.) (http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2016/06/another-thirteen-evangelical-t.php)

    So I wouldn’t exactly say that Grudem and Ware reject those categories. Now here I may be misreading them but it appears to me that they are happy to affirm “the creedal answer” of eternal generation (and this seems to be the crux): they just don’t see it though as conflicting with an eternal relation of authority and submission in the Trinity (ERAS). In other words, the “creedal answer” does not (to them) negate their view of ERAS.

    In fact in the first article (response) Grudem wrote, he quotes the historian Schaff on this point:

    “Eternal generation …. is the phrase used to denote the inter-Trinitarian relationship between the Father and the Son as is taught by the Bible. “Generation” makes it plain that there is a divine sonship prior to the incarnation (cf. John 1:18; 1 John 4:9), that there is thus a distinction of persons within the one Godhead (John 5:26), and that between these persons there is a superiority and subordination of order (cf. John 5:19; 8:28). (http://cbmw.org/public-square/whose-position-on-the-trinity-is-really-new/)

    You say:

    But again, what Grudem and Ware are doing is setting aside the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds’ commitment to eternal generation and procession, and proposing an innovation — namely, that we answer the question of how the economic Trinity relates to the immanent Trinity by postulating a framework of authority and submission ad intra, as opposed to answering it via an appeal to eternal generation and procession.

    However, Grudem writes:

    I emphatically and extensively affirm the doctrine of the Trinity as defined in the Nicene Creed, including the full deity of the Son, who is of the same nature (homoousios) as the Father (see pages 231-257 and 543-563). I believe “in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made.” (Nicene Creed, 325 AD, revised, 381 AD, in the Received Text of the Protestant churches). (http://cbmw.org/public-square/whose-position-on-the-trinity-is-really-new/)

    Grudem also makes this affirmation in his recent article in the opening paragraph(http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2016/06/another-thirteen-evangelical-t.php). He also goes on in that article to talk about how the issue had to do with an interpretation of the Nicene creed not an affirmation (or rejection) of the creed . His aim it appears in his most recent article is to contest the charge that his position is novel and a charge I think is echoed when you say that Grudem “proposes an innovation”. In his mind (correctly or not) it isn’t so much as setting aside the Nicene and Athanasian creeds for an innovative ERAS position so much as it is him understanding the creeds to actually lend itself to such conclusions.

    I appreciate your work to help us think clearly and precisely about the actual arguments and I look forward to see the interaction from the trusted voices of this blogsite on these issue.

    • Jon45Solas

      Excellent comment. I was thinking the same thing about Grudem’s claims vs. what non-EFS proponents are claiming on his behalf. Nice work in mining the relevant quotes.

      I found Grudem’s response yesterday to be very good, with all the quotes from various theologians who certainly appear to be in agreement with his views. It’ll be interesting to see how the non-EFS guys respond, although if Todd Pruitt’s Twitter feed from yesterday is any indication, it may have fallen on deaf ears.

      A lot of talking past each other going on. Could be a winding road toward resolution yet.

      • After reading Jones and Trueman’s responses I have to take back my previous comment. I think Jones convincingly showed Grudem’s a-historical approach to the creeds, the quotes and the terms related to this present debate.

        • Jon45Solas

          Interesting. I didn’t find Jones’ arguments compelling, but I definitely have some reservations that I believe require more meaningful debate to settle.

          Standby mode for me. 🙂

  • Mike:

    Thank you for this response – pretty much what I was thinking, too. Before this unfurled online, I was more on the fence on the issue.

    With respect to the “timing,” I have spoken with and taken courses from theologians on both sides and I know that a couple of non-EFS theologians have personally shared their concerns with Ware, Grudem, et al for years, but have not felt that they’ve been listened to. My hunch is that with Strachan’s more strident representation (his posts remind me of Rehoboam), they’ve decided to air the debate publicly. Whatever the reason, I would suggest dropping any concerns over their complementarianism – there is no evidence of egalitarianism from Trueman, Jones, et al. It’s really a red herring and somewhat ad hominem.

    And that may be one of the things that’s tipped me over to the non-EFS side with greater conviction. The response from Strachan, others has been underwhelming to say the least. And I was really hoping for more from Grudem yesterday, but honestly his post struck me as sophomoric – he just took quotes out of context and read his own view back into historical sources without any explanation as to the validity (see Mark Jone’s post from today for further explanation).

    That would be my desire from the EFS / ERAS guys – actually explain your position. You know, do theology. Indignation, name-calling, and cut-and-paste quotes from Logos is not a theological argument. My growing concern is that they do not actually understand what they’re talking about – or dismissing – and it only grows with each response.

    To say the least, this has been helpful for us. Jones has offered to debate Strachan, I really hope he’d take him up on it. I doubt it, but it’d be great. Thanks, again, brother.

    • Jason

      “My growing concern is that they do not actually understand what they’re
      talking about – or dismissing – and it only grows with each response.”

      Riaan points out above that Grudem has requested to hear the working definitions for eternally generation. There could be a nearly endless number of such requests in most theological discussions, and it’s common for the “answers” to be pleas to acknowledge that there are just some things we need to accept that we can never comprehend.

      To me, such pleas seem intellectually dishonest. It is true that there are some things that we accept on faith for which we have no basis in this life that we could use to completely understand. However, when you’re having a debate, that reality is no comfort for those who do not accept at face value what you are attempting to prove with terms you cannot, yourself, define.

      Because of this, I think your concerns are well founded, but I also don’t know if it can ever really be avoided when discussing things like this.

    • Jon45Solas

      “My growing concern is that they do not actually understand what they’re talking about – or dismissing – and it only grows with each response.”

      That’s a pretty serious charge, IMO. You really think that Grudem/Ware et. al. are displaying some sort of ignorance in their Theology proper?

      • Yes. For example, see today’s post by Mark Jones. He shows that Grudem clearly does not understand the original context or use of certain language by theologians in church history.

        • Jon45Solas

          I was just reading Jones’ piece when I saw your comment. I understand that Jones charged Grudem with misunderstanding the usage of terms, but I’m far from convinced that he proved any such thing. I’d like to see more careful and thorough responses on both sides of this argument, to be sure – but to dismiss the likes of Grudem off-hand as stunted in his Theology proper seems like a mighty hard pill to swallow.

          That said, I’m listening, and trying to keep an open mind. The way the debate has gone thus far has made this difficult at times. I feel like I’m wading through a wreckage.

      • That post is here: http://newcitytimes.com/news/story/wayne-grudems-historical-theology

        Though Jones can be more snarky than necessary, I’d counsel those seeking wisdom to wade through whatever tone you don’t like and grab onto the substance.

        When I read Grudem’s post yesterday, I had the very same thought: “I don’t think he understands quite what the issue is.” Which is a crazy thing for me even to think, because of Grudem’s stature as a theologian and how helpful his work has been in so many areas. But I read through those quotes, particularly the older ones like Edwards, and thought, “That’s saying the opposite of what he claims it to be saying.”

        Some helpful bits from Jones’ post (redacted to sound a bit nicer):

        He offers an a-historical definition of “generation,” which leads him to think all sides are in agreement on that point. But we aren’t. Grudem simply redefines “generation” and expects us to be okay with that. [This is why] he reads “subordination” in the sources he provides[. He’s using] his own meaning and not the meaning of the authors.
        In one instance, Grudem remarks, “To substitute the words ‘paternity’ and ‘filiation’ provides some Latinized terminology but those terms simply mean ‘existing as a father’ and ‘existing as a son,’ which tells us nothing more.” […]

        [The way Grudem speaks here makes me think he’s not quite sure] of how the tradition has historically defined paternity, filiation, generation, etc. Our best authors didn’t just use those words, they explained what they meant, as best they could. He cannot redefine “generation” and then say that he is in fact creedal, followed by quickly moving to authority-submission. […]

        Modes of origin (i.e., trinitarian relations involving eternal generation and eternal procession) should not be read as essentially synonymous with the authority-submission model being proposed by those who hold to ESS (ERAS). It seems as though Grudem wants to do that, as if they are synonymous concepts.

        Though he could have stated them a bit more gently, as I’ve tried to do with my brackets here, Jones is right in what he affirms here. In my opinion, Grudem’s post really demonstrated a misunderstanding of the key points of contention. I hope to say more about that soon.

        • Jon45Solas

          Thanks for the reply and the link. I was just reading it, actually. 🙂

          I hope you do say more about this soon. I’ve enjoyed reading the various viewpoints, and I appreciate ones like your offerings, where the snark is absent. On a matter of such importance, there’s no room for that.

    • Josh

      Actually, Trueman has no problem with women teaching verse by verse to a mixed-gender Sunday School class, indicating that there is a lack of complementarian understanding. I say this as one who greatly respects Trueman, but the non-EFS side would be better served with a frontman who properly understands the explicit teachings of Scripture before extrapolating to the more systematic issues.

  • Jason

    I don’t think this necessarily proves anything one way or another, but I personally find the EFS position less at odds with my view of scripture for the following reasons:

    Both citizens of a nation and women in a family are said to behave righteously regardless of the qualifications of the governments, fathers, and husbands who have authority in their lives when they submit.

    First, based upon that fact, there is really no reason to believe that humility depends upon being of lesser value or significance. Further, it seems that righteousness depends (in part) upon recognizing authority.

    Without any hierarchy within God, the characteristic of humility would either have not been present in Him (I.E. our standard of righteousness is not God) or would only have functioned for a time when Christ humbled himself (I.E. may only need to be practiced when a person is made “lesser” in some way, as when Christ emptied himself). Neither, of these really seem to deal with how authority and submission are represented in scripture (I.E. roles and structure independent from virtue, based upon God’s sovereign will).

    Note: I put “may” in the second case since it’s also possible that God chose for his humility to only function when Christ took the form of man for a reason other than that it is only an appropriate trait for the humanity of Christ.

  • Mike, brother, this gets to the heart of it so well.

    Re: the matter of timing, I think I can offer up one leading reason. For the last six months or so, Reformed women bloggers (e.g. Aimee Byrd, Wendy Alsup, Hannah Anderson, and even myself) had grown increasingly concerned with what seemed to be eisegetical overreach in extending the common categories of complementarian practice (marriage and church) into all of life e.g. Piper’s comments about women police officers somehow diluting a man’s masculinity, comments at the most recent CBMW conference about the church needing “sanctified testosterone”, etc. The qualities of headship and submission were being attached to the ontological categories of maleness and femaleness, instead of to the functional categories of husband/wife or the church. Beginning at the Mortification of Spin blog, and extending to others, we began to try to call an audible on the flaws in these arguments, their roots in the historically questionable doctrine of ESS, and on the real pastoral implications, and asked CBMW leaders to respond. But we got nothing. It wasn’t until Aimee deployed Liam Goligher at MoS that we finally got the conversation we were hoping for. Our goal all along has not been to challenge complementarianism as it has basically been defined at all, because, as you lay out here, it’s a functional reflection of the work of the Trinity in the plan of salvation and it is, in fact, beautiful. But we have felt the need to challenge a growing *distortion* of complementarianism, which is rooted in, we believe, an erroneous understanding of the relationship between the Trinity, and we appreciate that the issue is now being given the consideration of which it is worthy. The pastoral implications on everything from how we train our children to see themselves and one another, to how we live as a body and as faithful bearers of God’s image as men and women are significant.

    • Interesting. That’s helpful to know. I wanted to believe the very best of Trueman and Goligher, but it was starting to sound like, “I wanted to broaden the bounds of complementarianism by suggesting that adult women can teach adult men in Sunday school, so I’m going to insinuate that respected teachers deny orthodox trinitarianism.” Glad to know the genesis of the conversation isn’t that, but rather the recent remarks from CMBW conference.

      • And others, in many places at CBMW, and now by their leaders in many influential places all over the Reformed internet, which is why we have been trying to call the issue out. And FWIW, your internal framing/pondering of T/G’s thinking is identical to what we believe the leaders ofCBMW are doing. “We want to extend the boundaries of complementarianism to encompass the ontological categories of maleness and femaleness and so we’re going to mess with orthodox trinitarianism to do it.”

        • I hear you. But I genuinely don’t think that’s what’s motivated Grudem’s and Ware’s positions on the EFS issue. I think they came to the Trinitarian position independently, and yet saw a lot of interplay in the complementarian/egalitarian discussion, and so appealed to it quite often. But I really don’t think they modified their Trinitarianism because of the manhood/womanhood debate. And at this point, they’ve also denied that as well, and so I think we have a duty to believe the best and take them at their word on it.

          • I hear you back and agree, even if it’s hard. 🙂

          • chrisleduc1

            “But I really don’t think they modified their Trinitarianism because of the manhood/womanhood debate.”

            Problem is, there seems to already be precedent for doing just that (modifying theological definitions), as his redefinition of prophets and prophecy in the NT in order to fit with his continuationist theology demonstrates.

            I might be being extremely unfair, but my initial reaction to this whole thing is that it is no surprise, in light of reading the ways he defends some of his odd positions, especially some of the ones in which we disagree with him. Shifting and redefining in order to support his odd conclusions seems to be not uncommon. Maybe I’m being uncharitable though…

          • Jon45Solas

            That’s a fair minded response that facilitates a far better platform for open dialogue. Just wanted to say that it doesn’t go unnoticed or unappreciated.

            Dr. James White went so far as to rebuke some of the non-EFS guys on the Dividing Line yesterday for their approach, even though he sympathizes with their views on the Trinity.

  • Still Waters

    I’ve been following and reading the posts since the beginning of this debate. In fact, although I’m of Baptist conviction, I’ve been reading Trueman’s work for while now (I read a good many Christian blogs from many different denominations). I would caution against assigning sinister motives to him. He is firmly against women preaching and his light-hearted disagreement with his fellow blogger Todd Pruitt over whether women could teach Sunday School was based on their differing views of what Sunday School was – in fact, each made concessions to the other’s position in given situations. If Wayne and Grudem should have the benefit of the doubt as regards their motivations for teaching EFS, then surely Trueman and Goligher should also get the benefit of the doubt as regards their motivations for questioning the teaching.

  • Still Waters

    Perhaps the most helpful thing those seeking to understand the issues of this debate, after searching the Scriptures, could do is to read the words of those who helped form the Nicene Creed, which all branches of the Church affirm. The works of those such as Athanasius and Augustine are now mostly available, through translations now in public domain, online at places like wikisource.org and can be downloaded to ereaders. Augustine’s treatise ‘On the Holy Trinity’ is a good place to start.

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  • Ryan Cerbus

    Mr. Riccardi,

    Thank you for this comment-turned-blog-post. I found it very helpful.

    Would you mind explaining this statement a bit more?

    > Grudem and Ware reject those categories, and thus distinguish the Persons by means of an authority-submission paradigm.

    I searched Ware’s book, Grudem’s paper, and a couple of their articles, but I couldn’t find the terms “ad intra” or “ad extra.” This certainly seems to be an important distinction that only one side is using, and I’m curious as to why Ware and Grudem are not.

    I don’t expect you have special insight into their thinking, but I’m hoping you might have a link to a source where one or both of them discuss ad intra/extra.

    Best regards,

    • “It would seem more helpful if the language of ‘eternal begetting of the Son’ (also called the ‘eternal generation of the Son’) were not retained in any modern theological formulations.” – Grudem, Systematic Theology, 1234.

      “The conceptions of both the ‘eternal begetting of the Son’ and ‘eternal procession of the Spirit’ seem to me highly speculative and not grounded in biblical teaching.” – Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 162n3.

      • Ryan Cerbus


  • Gary Good

    I’m not completely understanding all of this, but: it seems to me that if the three persons of the Trinity are in perfect agreement (and they are), then in what way can the preincanate Son be in submission to the Father? The Son’s obedience to the Father is what he desires to do. Now, with regards to the Son incarnate, obedience makes sense. Especially since no other man has perfectly obeyed the Father.

    AM I missing something?

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