Subordination and the Trinity....

Error message

(Note: this is David, not Tim) Two men I regard as friends recently came out against the subordination of Christ to the Father. Now, Doug Wilson and Liam Goligher say that they oppose only the eternal subordination of the Son, not the economic, yet this distinction presupposes a well-defined line between the economic and the ontological Trinity that doesn't exist. No creed of the Church or passage in Scripture spells out the boundaries of this division, nor is there general agreement on where the ontological ends and the economic begins. In fact, the distinction is fraught with challenges. At what point did the covenant of redemption leave the realm of ontology and enter the realm of economy? No one has answered this question--and no one can when the Son was slain from the foundation of the world. Yet critics of Christ's submission act as though it's a settled issue.

Still more disturbing is their callow accusation that those who believe in the submission of the Son to the Father do so to promote a particular view of "gender." They claim that those who teach the Eternal Son's submission to the Father do so only to promote what critics term a tendentious "social agenda." Liam writes, "The inner life of the Triune God does not support hierarchy, patriarchy, or egalitarianism."

Really? Fatherhood is not a social issue? Is not rooted in the Trinity? The inner life of Father and Son does not support patriarchy? Did Liam think before writing this? It's dangerous to argue from the Trinity to human social relationships, these men argue. Yet Scripture itself tells us all fatherhood derives its name and character from that of the Eternal Father. Does Liam deny this is? Is this not a social implication of the Trinity?  Liam argues that proponents of the Son's subordination verge on tri-theism. But the opposite seems equally the case: Liam denies and flattens the ontological differences of Father and Son in favor of his own social agenda.

Don't be mistaken, Liam has a social agenda. In a telling paragraph in his first blog piece, Liam writes, "But this new teaching ... now presumes to tell women what they can or cannot say to their husbands, and how many inches longer their hair should be than their husbands! They, like the Pharisees of old are going beyond Scripture and heaping up burdens to place on believers' backs, and their arguments are slowly descending into farce." It's hard not to conclude that Liam is equally guilty of arguing from the Trinity against a social agenda he dislikes, and while we may agree with him on the perniciousness of the agenda he opposes, it doesn't justify his own use of trinitarian theology against his foes.

In fact, what these men fail to understand is that the attack today, unlike in the days of Nicea and Chalcedon, is not against the nature and person of the Son, but against the Father, against His nature as Father and His glory. These men, like failed soldiers, are re-fighting yesterday's battles. They're busy constructing a Maginot line against imaginary Christological foes, while their opponents are effecting a blitzkrieg on the Trinity by attacking the Father.

Look, Doug and Liam, it's a new day. If you can't grasp the attack of the enemy, you can at least avoid goring those you call your friends. Egalitarians are attacking the Fatherhood of God. Straight up. Look under "Trinity" in Wikipedia and you'll see the "Priscilla Papers" footnoted in the section on subordination in the Trinity. You probably don't know who the author of the article referenced is, or even what organization publishes the "Priscilla Papers." That's a shame, because whether you like it or not, there are social implications in the Trinity and foes of the Fatherhood of God are making arguments there that aren't going to go away, no matter how much you place your heads in the sand.

Finally, Doug is usually terrific when he writes Biblical theology. It's unfortunate that there always seems to be an echo of Peter Leithart whenever he sets out to write systematically.