Opinions on faith and life

Trinity Debate Assessment, Part 5

2008-10-28

Under “5. Final Comments”, Affirmative

Again the assertion is repeated that since the Bible uses names for God like Father and Son, then it must indicate a hierarchal relationship. And again they insist that permanent subordination does not mean inferiority of being. And yet again, they insist that without hierarchy of roles there is no way to distinguish the Persons of the Trinity. The examples given to claim support for equality of being with inequality of role are fundamentally different from their view of the Trinity. Human authority relationships that are not based upon a person’s essence cannot be compared with those that are. The only possible illustrations that would match would be prejudice on the basis of race, sex, or social class, which make the people underlings for life on the basis of intrinsic qualities of being. And again, they completely ignore the Spirit in this.

Under “5. Final Comments”, Negative

If the Son is subordinate to the Father, then they cannot share an identical essence. The Persons can be differentiated simply because they exist; no hierarchy or roles are needed for this. The fact that the Father says “You are my Son; today I have become your Father” speaks clearly of the incarnation and not a role from eternity past.

My Conclusion

Without knowing the names of the debaters for the Affirmative, one could easily mistake them for apologists for the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other aberrant groups that also see everything, even within the Godhead, in terms of hierarchy and authority. They use the same arguments. Our inability to fully grasp the concept of the Trinity should at least temper the rhetoric of those who insist upon dissecting it. I see no practical difference between a chain of command in the Trinity and that of three levels of deity, or even three gods. This attempt to probe the inner workings of the Godhead has given birth to many cults and been fodder for many critics of Christianity. But there is no danger in teaching that the Persons are all fully equal and fully divine.

And if we were to use the same tactics as the Affirmative in questioning motive, we could easily ask them exactly why this hierarchal view of the Persons of the Trinity is so vital to them. What is the practical necessity of this belief? Truth to tell, there is one sinister motivation: the subordination of women to men. If they can prove that Jesus can be permanently subordinated to the Father’s will while still being equal in essence, then they can claim that women can be made subordinate to men without saying women are inferior in essence.

Yet even then their plan fails, because the relationships between men and women are never, ever compared to that between the Father and the Son. It’s not even remotely implied. Jesus modeled the father/son relationship for all believers; all are to follow him in laying privilege aside to stoop down and help the weak. “Not so among you” is a command for men as well as women. The humility and service of Jesus in his incarnation gives no exceptions to anyone.

Passages that speak of Christ being the head of the church speak of unity of flesh, and the analogy of bride and groom is to represent that between the church and Christ. It is a joining, a picture of unity and sacrificial love. And that is the model for married couples. A man is to leave his parents to join to his wife, just as Christ left his Father to join to his Bride. It is specifically the love of Christ for his Bride that the husband is charged with emulating, never the authority of Christ as God.

So all of this is a wasted effort on the part of the Affirmative, and it is destructive to many believers as well as to our unique view of God. It does much damage for no other purpose than to justify male supremacy. It is a shameful display of pride in the flesh.

(back to Part Four)

13 Comments

Lin

"Without knowing the names of the debaters for the Affirmative, one could easily mistake them for apologists for the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other aberrant groups that also see everything, even within the Godhead, in terms of hierarchy and authority."

Absolutely. This has to be told over and over again and shouted from roof tops to evangelicals. It is the only thing that will make people listen and understand how serious this is.

By the way, did the debaters use 1 Corin 11 and God is the Head of Christ as a foundation verse for this doctrine? Bruce Ware does.

Cheryl Schatz

Good job Paula!

"Without knowing the names of the debaters for the Affirmative, one could easily mistake them for apologists for the Jehovah’s Witnesses and other aberrant groups that also see everything, even within the Godhead, in terms of hierarchy and authority. They use the same arguments."

This is the exact thought I had when I was in one of Bruce Ware’s lectures and listening to him spout what surely could be JW teaching if it had been in a Kingdom hall. When one has to go to the lengths that they have to demote Jesus to a lesser authority than the Father for all of eternity because they want to make sure that their privileged position for "men only", honestly I do not think I would want to be one of these men who stands before the full authority of Jesus on judgment day.

Rachel

Thank you, thank you for all of your hard work. love Rachel Re vis.e re form (revisingreform blogspot)

Lynne

Thank you Paula for all your hard work in putting this together for us.It’s hard to think of an irenic comment to make about the circular and illogical reasoning of those who want to keep Jesus below the Father, because (again illogically) they believe it fixes firm forever their precious doctrines of male privilege. living in Sydney, i see this doctrine played out in the anglican church of the Jensen brothers.

Paula Fether

You’re quite welcome, ladies! I’ve always found that summaries can reach a wider audience, and this was an important debate for people to know about.

Paula Fether

Actually, I don’t think they did. Go figure.

Greg Anderson

Paula,

You’ve done an admirable job of applying the operators of conjunction, disjunction, conditional, and bi-conditional to the operands of scripture in determining the truth value of eternal hierarchy in the Trinity.

It would be interesting to construct a truth table large enough accommodate each variable and all of its possible truth values and see what happens.

Problem is though, many Christians will just accept what their Mullahs and Imams say the scripture says rather than than critically check it out for themselves.

Critical thinking is hard work and not for the faint of heart. Sad but true, let’s just face it, a vast majority of Christians are content to believe whatever their "betters" tell them the scripture says on doctrinal issues. Again, I commend you!

Paula Fether

Tanx Greg!

And so true about the reluctance of most believers to dig into the scriptures. They’ll gold plate them, have them embossed, carry them in designer cases, and even fight to the death for a particular version, but heaven forbid we ask them to do the Berean thing.

But I do hope that even a rather arcane and metaphysical debate such as this one will at least serve to expose the apostasy of those "betters" and their obfuscation of the simple gospel. That Christians are even debating this after all these centuries, while apparently forgetting the Great Commission, is itself a sign of the lateness of the prophetic hour.

Greg Anderson

Paula,

I hope this isn’t too far afield, but I think that the doctrine of total depravity has for too long now held far more currency than it deserves.

I wonder what the result would be if this doctrine of Calvin and Luther (Bondage of the Will) were to be put under the same scrutiny as you’ve done so cogently with the doctrine of eternal hierarchy within the Trinity.

Paula Fether

Well, if you look under the Calvinism category, I’ve got some general critiques. I don’t know if you’ve ever read Vance’s The Other Side of Calvinism, but I think he did a pretty thorough job too. You mean maybe a summary?

Paula Fether

Tanx Cheryl!

Yeah, I keep remembering how when we were kids the boys would say things like "no girls allowed" and "this is man’s work". I think a lot of those men never grew up.

Manuel culwell

Paula, I am non trinitarian who sees Jesus as God because of many passages that Unitarians and trinitarians have never ever sufficiently explained. The passages are as Follows (John 3:34) God giveth not the spirit by measure unto him.Yes I do see one who gives and one who receives w/o measure but to take away in any amount at all is measuring the spirit given to the real human son.

Math 28:18 All power is given unto me in heaven and earth. if Jesus has all in heaven and earth there is none left for anyone else. again to take away any power is not all power in both heaven and earth.

(1st. Cor. 15:45) the last man Adam was made the Life giving Spirit. How many of those are there?

To reply I will not be back but you can follow the link I gave to my debate group.

Paula Fether

Uh... link no workey.

But for anyone reading, the passage of John 3:34 sure looks like support for the Trinity, not an unanswerable question. One person gives a second person to a third. The quote of Mt. 28:18 ignores 1 Cor. 15:27, and 1 Cor. 15:45 doesn’t say THE life giving Spirit but A life giving spirit.