A good fight...

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Christians should be grateful for the recent debate over order and being in the Trinity. Though the debate brings painful divisions to light, it will eventually prove helpful. Disagreements between Christians reveal where God's approval lies. This will prove the main benefit of the current controversy—though we shouldn't assume that God's knife will entirely avoid us or our own position.

Positive fruits from the debate are already evident. Among these are:

  • Revision of complementarian language. Complementarianism (itself an ambiguous neologism) likes to speak of roles: roles of men and women, roles in the Trinity. But places in the Godhead are not roles, nor are men and women playing charades as men and women. Role language for the Trinity is wrong and misleading. Role language for men and women is only a bit less so. Differences within the Trinity are matters of personhood, not roles. So too with men and women. Role language reduces and dismisses fundamental differences.
  • Correction of complementarian theology. Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware undermine the complementarian movement they claim to speak for by their disregard for historic Biblical orthodoxy. Wayne's rejection of the eternal generation of the Son is of a piece with his rejection of the Apostles' Creed's He descended into Hell.... Years ago, as volunteer webmaster for CBMW I put up a page of fiery Luther and Calvin quotes. Wayne called to ask me to take it down. It would have been one thing if he had objected to the page as unhelpful, but his objection was explicitly that Calvin and Luther were "sinners" to write so vehemently against their opponents. Wayne's denial of the eternal generation of the Son reflects a historical chauvinism common among complementarian leadership that weakens the movement as a whole.
  • Correction of complementarian minimalism. Someone is laughing somewhere over Wayne Grudem being accused all across the internet of being a "thick" complementarian. Wayne is as thin as thin gets. Consistent with CBMW's "role" language, Wayne understands Scriptural teaching on the sexes to apply only in the home and church. In the view of thin complementarians, manhood and womanhood disappear outside church and home. By delving into the nature of the Trinity, the current debate appears likely to widen the gap between thick and thin complementarians, perhaps ending the fragile alliance between the two camps altogether.
  • Correction of complementarian excesses. There's no denying that advocates of male-female order and distinction have sinned in a variety of ways, bringing discredit not only on themselves, but on the entire movement. These sins include sexual immorality, but equally troubling among complementarian leaders and churches has been a legalistic view of sexuality, especially female sexuality. Manhood and womanhood are organic realities, not imposed roles, yet a portion of the complementarian movement seems to view womanhood as a thing to be required while manhood is a thing to be celebrated. The Bible does not command women to be the weaker sex. It simply describes them so. Yet some complementarian leaders have sought to demand what Scripture describes, and in so doing have sinned by impugning the image of God in women. Godly womanhood is not long hair, denim skirts and a grade-school-only education. Some of the excesses of complementarianism referred to by those who deny order in the Trinity are all-too-sadly real.
  • The current controversy further removes the debate over manhood and womanhood from the realm of anthropology to the realm of theology proper where it belongs. Egalitarianism is heresy, a denial of the sovereign Fatherhood of God. When Liam Goligher and Carl Trueman call those who say order is compatible with equality in the Godhead "heretics," both men reveal the chasm between those who think of manhood and womanhood merely as roles, and those who believe Fatherhood is deeper than a role.

Finally, it boggles the mind how those who claim to believe God sovereignly elects some to eternal life can find it unfair that God would make one sex weaker and call on that sex to show deference to the stronger. No egalitarian and few thin complementarians really believe in a fully sovereign God.