Monday, November 2, 2009

The Trinity: Good News For Women, Part I-A (Creative Absence, Continued)

Yesterday, I posted on the opposing categories of “essence” and “function” and how both of these can’t exist as absolutes side-by-side because they are both opposite phrases of “equal in essence” and “subordinate in function.” I then took you, the reader, through the ridiculousness of the subordinationists’logic—which is demonstrated when they add the word “eternally” in front of both opposing statements (as if this actually helps the problem). Now what they’ve done is affirmed that these two OPPOSING STATEMENTS can exist AT THE SAME TIME IN THE SAME WAY throughout infinity! This is like saying that a person can be both tall and short at the same time throughout all eternity. When subordinationists accept this contradiction, however, they are going against rules of common logic.

Tonight, though, I’m back to deal with the words of Gregg Allison, who is a professor of Christian Theology at Southern Seminary. Allison was asked by Randy Stinson, who chaired the event, to explain “the discrepancy in the debate” over the church fathers and the Trinity. According to Courtney Reissig, Allison responded as such:

“Because the early church did not specifically discuss authority and submission in their teaching on the Trinity, Erickson takes this as the early church fathers not holding to authority and submission. Allison said that the church fathers saw authority and submission as so natural that they did not have to make it explicit in their writings.”

For those who wanna see the article for themselves, go to the following site:

What amazed me most about Allison’s quote is that he advocates the subordinationist position, but does so for a poor reason: “the church fathers saw authority and submission AS SO NATURAL that they did not have to make it explicit in their writings.”

He is, however, incredibly wrong on this point. There is a reference to Jesus as “subordinate” (with the word “subordinate” mentioned) in a few of the church fathers, but not all. I will cover in this post the church fathers who reference the “subordination” or “inferiority” of Jesus in relation to God the Father.

First, we have the ante-Nicene (before the Nicene Creed) father Novatian:

“He [Jesus] is therefore the Son, not the Father: for He would have confessed that He was the Father had He considered Himself to be the Father; and He declares that He was sanctified by His Father. In receiving, then, sanctification from the Father, HE IS INFERIOR TO THE FATHER” (quoted by Millard Erickson in “Who’s Tampering With the Trinity?” page 143).

Next is the church father Athanasius:

“For we acknowledge, that though HE BE SUBORDINATE TO HIS FATHER AND GOD, yet, being before ages begotten of God, He is God perfect according to nature and true, and not first man and then God, but first God and then becoming man for us, and never having been deprived of being” (“Who’s Tampering With the Trinity?” page 148).

“And no one is ignorant, that it is Catholic doctrine, that there are two Persons of Father and Son, and that the Father is greater, and the Son SUBORDINATED TO THE FATHER together with all things which the Father has subordinated to Him” (148).

Erickson writes regarding Athanasius:

“Whether he saw the full implications of his view and would have applied them to these statements is not completely clear, but the principle of the double account, if carried through thoroughly, might have resolved these APPARENTLY CONTRADICTORY STATEMENTS” (149).

As I stated in my blog post from yesterday called “Creative Absence,” one cannot hold to “equal essence” and “unequal function” at the same time without qualifying these two opposing statements. Athanasius, however, leaves them “in tandem” without qualifying the terms. Even though he mentions “subordination,” we still don’t know whether he would’ve qualified the subordination as “temporary” or “eternal.”

Hilary of Poitiers is another church father who writes about the subordination of the Son in his work, “On the Councils”:

“There is no question that THE FATHER IS GREATER. No one can doubt that THE FATHER IS GREATER THAN THE SON IN HONOR, DIGNITY, SPLENDOR, MAJESTY, AND IN THE VERY NAME OF FATHER, the Son Himself testifying, ‘He that sent Me is greater than I.’ And no one is ignorant that it is Catholic doctrine that there are two Persons of Father and Son; and that THE FATHER IS GREATER, AND THAT THE SON IS SUBORDINATED TO THE FATHER...” (Hilary of Poitiers; quoted by Millard Erickson in “Who’s Tampering,” page 151).

These three church fathers (Novatian, Athanasius, and Hilary of Poitiers) are the only three that mention “subordination” in their discussion of the Son’s relation to the Father.

Back to Allison’s quote: the church fathers did mention submission and authority, and some even labeled Jesus as “subordinated” in function. However, only three do so. And the fact that they mention “subordination” of any sort demonstrates that the church fathers felt the need to explicitly, in detail, set forth their theological convictions in writing. However, the “subordination” of Jesus is never qualified (we are just told that Christ is subordinate). So the question then becomes, if Jesus’ “functional subordination” was not qualified, then was His essence? Are there any clues about His essence and its eternality? That will be the subject of my next post...


  1. If the quote you give by Athanasius makes him an Arian, then there is no meaning in language. If I have to choose between someone of the stature of Athanasius to know what he meant by his own words and Millard Erickson, I will gladly pick Athanasius. He did not see his statements as contradictory at all.

  2. Mark,

    Athanasius probably didn't see his statement as contradictory. But as I've shown via other posts at the site, you cannot hold to an eternal functional subordination without making the person (in this case, Christ) subordinate in essence as well. Essence and function are opposing terms, and as such, they cannot be held in tandem without qualification. It would be the same as me saying that someone is "short" and "tall," without qualifying that the person is "shorter than her aunt and taller than her grandmother." Please go back and read my post on "Creative Absence" (The Trinity: Good News for Women, Part I). In that post I deal with the logical inconsistency of eternal essence and eternal subordination.

    Thanks for writing and responding. Feel free to comment in the future.

  3. Thanks for the invitation to comment again. I am going to spread my response over several comments. I read the other post to which you referred, and several others that seemed to be on the same topic. I have several problems with the position you are taking and hopefully I can explain myself. But first, I recommend we disconnect the issue of the relationship between husband and wife (or man and woman) from the issue of the relationships in the Trinity. It seems to me that multiple scenarios could be logically possible. In other words, we could have functional equality between men and women, but still have eternal subordination of the Son to the Father. After all, you probably would still like to see children obey their parents, and the Trinitarian metaphor is between Father and Son, not Husband and Wife. On the other hand, we could have eternal functional equality between Father and Son, and still have a functional subordination of a wife to her husband. The OT and Paul use the marriage relationship to describe the relationship between God and his people (God and Israel, Christ and the church), not between the Father and the Son. So let's simply talk about the Trinity.

    As for some of the quotes from Allison and Ware, I agree that some of their responses are pretty lame. So I will discuss the issues as I see them in your presentation rather than try to defend their quotes. I would want to defend the quote you gave from Athanasius (in a different post, from Erickson's book). Both you and Erickson claim that Athanasius is saying something contradictory when he says the Son could be both eternally equal and eternally subordinate to the Father. However, I see this as perfectly reasonable and Biblical. I also see it as the more or less majority view in church history. I certainly find it ironic to talk of "Tampering with the Trinity" when Athanasius himself is one of the people you quote to represent the view you oppose. So how am I to explain this apparent contradiction?

    Any time I have a disagreement with someone, I immediately question the definitions I and the other person are using for our words. I do not know how Erickson defines his terms because I do not have his new book (I have his old one, "God in Three Persons," which lays out the same arguments), but you have chosen to use Webster's definitions. Without quoting you again, I will just say that you highlighted the contrast between 'temporary' and 'permanent' as the difference between what makes something 'essence' and what makes something simply a 'function'. However, I feel like you have narrowed the range of how one can describe someone whether they be God or a human. To have only two terms and to define them so narrowly is to decide the results of the disagreement ahead of time.

    It seems to me that you use the word 'equality' to almost mean 'identity'. You seem to want to make the Father and Son so equal that one cannot see any difference between them. Any difference in the one could be immediately be seen as a deficiency in the other. Could the two of them switch name tags and still be accurate in their names? I have always understood the names 'Father'and 'Son' to signify something beyond the fact that they are simply two different persons who happen to be related in some way. And I don't think I am unique in this. What difference would it have made in our understanding of the relationships in the Trinity if the Father and the Son had been called the Two Brothers, or the Two Sisters, or the Aunt and her Nephew. It is logical to understand the two terms 'Father' and 'Son' to be referring not only to a relationship, but to a certain kind of relationship. It they were simply Two Brothers, then to me things would be very different. The two terms in relation to each other indicate, among other things, the elements of authority and subordination.

  4. Continuing on:
    Warfield, Erickson and you all say that the order of the names as they appear listed in the NT varies. Sometimes we see the 'Father, Son and Holy Spirit', and sometimes either the Son or the Spirit is listed first. This demonstrates to you that the order must not indicate any priority in their relationships. On the one hand I agree with you because I think the words themselves are sufficient to show the meaning of priority. But the variation also cannot be used to indicate equality. Is there no sense in which the context of a passage might play a role in how the names are listed? In the OT, Saul and his son Jonathan are listed 14 times as a pair. 13 times we read 'Saul and Jonathan' and 1 time we read 'Jonathan and Saul'. What does this mean? Should we believe that Saul the king and his son Jonathan had equal authority in relation to each other because the order of their names varies? The context of the one variation is significant to the meaning of the story. But even if the numbers were reversed and Jonathan were usually listed first, I don't see how that would change our understanding of their relationship.

    In one of your posts you mention that "there is a reference to Jesus as 'subordinate' (with the word 'subordinate' mentioned) in a few of the church fathers, but not all." That is an easy argument to make, especially to people who don't understand what we have of the church fathers. The book of James in the Bible does not mention the death of Christ, but that by no means makes the atonement heretical or insignificant. And a person could be talking about being 'subordinate' without mentioning the term. If I say that the quarterback scored a touchdown and the crowd went crazy, am I not talking about football simply because I did not use the word 'football'? There are semantic domains which are filled with words related to and indicative of each other. James Barr taught us not to make an absolute link between words and ideas.

    You mention that if Jesus is not equal in authority to the Father, then he is less than God. Athanasius saw that Jesus could have less authority in his relationship with his Father, and thus have less authority than his Father, but not less deity. Authority is an attribute of deity, but is not equivalent to deity. Both Father and Son have supreme dominion over creation, but in the relationships within the Trinity, the Father has authority over the Son. Thus Jesus says in John 8:42, ". . . I came from God and now am here. I have not come on my own; but he sent me. The Son's subordination to the Father does not make him less than God, it makes him other than his Father.

  5. You see a contradiction in the terms equal and subordinate. You use the example of how a person can be both shorter and taller, but that a person cannot be both shorter and taller than the same person. As far as that goes I agree. But a person can be both faster and slower than the same person, if they are are faster and slower in different things. The child could be a faster runner than her father, but be a slower typist than him. Thus opposite or contradictory adjectives can be used for the same people if they are applied to different aspects of each of those people. So, with Athanasius, who I don't believe was a heretic, I say that the Son and the Father are eternally equal in the fact that are both God, but that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father in his relationship with him. In other words, Jesus is eternally, not just temporarily, the Son. The contradictory terms apply to different things about the two persons. They are not contradictory at all.

    In the post "Father Alone?", you point out how Ware says that the Father is the "Grand Architect and Wose Designer of everything in the created order." And then you respond by saying that the Bible, on the other hand, says that everything was made through Christ, and that "Christ was just as essential to the creation of the world as God the Father was." How are the two statements contradictory? Just because the Father has authority over the Son does not mean that the Son's work is unimportant, unnecessary, or non-existent. The Father and the Son are necessary to each other. Augustine said that the Father could not be the Father without the Son. 'Father' is a relative term and one is a father only when there is a child. I would certainly never deny that the Father needs the Son, and that the Son and the Spirit are active, necessary and significant. There is nothing about subordination that necessarily implies anything about worth or significance. In Biblical language, when the activity of the three persons is mentioned, very often we seethe Father doing something 'through the Son' 'by the Spirit'. All are necessary and have a role, none is less or more important. The consistency in the Biblical language to me paints a pretty clear picture.

  6. Last bit:
    Your example about slavery is interesting, but not necessarily applicable.For one thing there were many people, including many 'Evangelicals' who were saying that black people were not actually human, or that they are descendants of a mixture of people and something else. The sins of racism in the US and elsewhere are overwhelming, real and terrible, and not simply a thing of the past. But I don't see their necessary relevance to a discussion of the Trinity. Even if we take the 'man / woman' issue off the table, there are many relationships which the Bible describes that include an element of authority and submission. Parents and children, government, and church leadership are three areas where the Bible speaks about authority and commands our obedience. Surely you can't be saying that abuse is present by definition in hierarchical relationships. Even where human relationships exhibit sinful patterns we are called to the kind of love that characterizes the Trinity. Perfect love rules out abuse, but I don't see how it rules out hierarchy simply by definition.

    Well, these are some of my thoughts on your posts.

  7. I only have a few comments. First, thank you for commenting and reading what has been written. It’s good to know that someone’s out there reading the material.

    Next, you assert that I mistake equality and identity. Humanness, our essence, is part of our identity, without which we would not be “human,” but “animals.” It is how we are “IDENTIFIED” in the world. It is what separates us from the rest of God’s creation. It is “the distinguishing mark of our human race.”

    Secondly, in response to your claim that I want to erase distinction between the Father and the Son...let me say that those distinctions are not erased by their equality. Jesus came and died on the cross for the sins of the whole world, and His role as Savior is one that He and the Father do not share. God loved the world so much that He gave His Son (John 3:16), but the Father Himself did not come and die for the human race. This is why it is at the name of Jesus that every knee is to bow and confess His Lordship (Philippians 2). The Father remained in Heaven, vindicating the Son and confirming the Deity of Christ as God. They did not fulfill the same functions. The problem with your perspective is that you attempt to make “function” the identity of the Father and Son, when the truth is, that if function is identity, the Father and Son are no longer both fully God, but one is subordinate, that being Christ. If His function is subordinate, and this is what separates them (in your view), then it seems that you want to label them by what they “do,” not who they “are.” The problem with this is that John 5 tells us otherwise. After Jesus has healed on the Sabbath, He states, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.” And why do the Jews seek to kill Him? Contra your stance, they do not leave Him alone because they presume He is subordinate; rather, “the Jews sought to kill Him...because He said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18, NKJV). It is the fact that Jesus is doing what the Father is doing that shows His identity as being equal to the Father in essence. This is why the Jews get angry. In fact, His whole time on earth, His claim to be equal to the Father is what angered the Jews the most. Complementarians want to spend time emphasizing Jesus’ function, but His work on earth is what gave Him the right to claim equality with His Father.

  8. Continuing on...

    Next, regarding Athanasius...let me just say that Athanasius, as you and I, was a fallible human being. This might get me labeled as a heretic, but the truth is that Athanasius, while a brilliant man (I’ve read quite a few works of his), was also subject to error and misinterpretation as you and I are. I say this because complementarians attempt to resort to the church fathers to prove their outlandish claims...when the truth of the matter is, they should start with the Bible and then use the fathers. Feel free to disagree with my view of the fathers, but they were no more divine than you and me. The truth of the matter is that there were those who did have contradictions in things they said, or thoughts they had, and they did not figure out all mysteries while they were alive. I am thankful that the church had such wonderful men, but I will not elevate them above the status that every other believer holds. They were great men, but men nonetheless...

    You wrote, “thus opposite or contradictory adjectives can be used for the same people if they are applied to different aspects of each of those people.” Yes, but all you’ve said here is that two people can be strong or weak in different functions. Do their functions make one “more human” or “less human” than the other? And, because one is a better sports player or swimmer than the other, is this the defining factor when it comes to the law? Is the lawyer given more rights than the college janitor, because his function is “more important” than the janitor’s? You should think about what you’re saying when you elevate function so highly. In your view, someone who is handicapped and in a coma-like state should be viewed as “less than human” compared to me, someone who is young and not handicapped in the slightest. And that’s a problem. After all, when the Declaration of Independence stated that “we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...”, these men were following that which is written in Scripture—that everyone is made in the image and likeness of God. It is our humanness that defines us, not what we do. And you fail to see the difference between those. That seems to be a major problem in this debate.

  9. I want to say that in regards to the “Father-Son” label, you have to remember that we are given an analogy similar to our earthly one. But “similarity” is not the same thing as “equivalence.” The Father-Son analogy of God and Jesus is far different than our earthly father-son analogy. For instance, the Son is not treated as an equal in the Father’s house because He is a child. Secondly, the Son cannot do everything the Father does. In contrast, when Jesus was on earth, He was able to not only heal the sick and cast out demons, but even forgive sins (Mark 2:7) and claim His equality with the Father (John 5). Here Jesus was able to do what the Father does. So, to continue to use the “Father-Son” label and claim it as a distinction in authority is to do injustice to the God-Jesus relationship. It is far above our human analogy of father and son, and should be treated as such.

    In addition, I want to recommend that you buy Erickson’s book, “Who’s Tampering With the Trinity?” I think that you are injured in some way by not having read it. Whether or not you agree with the conclusions is one thing, but it’s hard for you to weigh the arguments until you’ve read them. I suggest that you come back with further questions then.

    I was a little surprised at your several comments which included very little Scripture at all. Why is this? After all, this is a debate regarding the Bible, is it not? You and I can debate on this blog with rational argument all day long, but that isn’t going to do justice to what God reveals in His Word. This debate is not about our reasoning, but Scripture. I suggest that if I will be proven wrong on this subject, that I will be proven wrong only because the Bible says something other than what I say...not because my logic does/does not add up.

  10. Continuing forward...

    Your only reference to Scripture was John 8:42, but you forget that Jesus was on earth at the time He made this statement.

    You may wonder why I make such a claim about Christ on earth, but it has to do with Erickson’s book. Gilbert Bilezikian uses Hebrews 5:8 to make his claim about Jesus: “though He was a Son, ye He learned obedience by the things which He suffered” (NKJV). In response to this passage, Bilezikian writes the following:

    “(1) the fact that he learned obedience ‘although’ he was a Son indicates that the nature of his Sonship excluded the necessity of obedience. (2) the fact that he ‘learned’ obedience indicates that it was something new in his experience as Son. Obedience was not a mark of his eternal relation to the Father. (3) the fact that he learned obedience ‘through’ what he suffered indicates that obedience was required in relation to his suffering and that it was not an eternal condition” (quoted by Millard Erickson, “Who’s Tampering With the Trinity?” Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2009, page 70).

    Hebrews 5:8 shows us that obedience was not native to Christ’s residence in Heaven. To respond to you, I will use a quote from Bilezikian regarding Wayne Grudem’s claims (which are the same as yours):

    “Since according to Grudem there was no functional parity to begin with, the only structure of equality left for the Son’s ‘emptying’ [in Phil. 2”6] was his ontological equality with the Father. Inevitably, Grudem’s theory of the Son’s eternal functional subordination leads to an incarnate Christ who was fully divine neither in function nor in essence” (quoted by Millard Erickson, “Who’s Tampering?” page 71).

    If the Son was functionally subordinate in Heaven, then He gave up His essence to come to earth. Once again, you have the old ancient Arian heresy, where Jesus is “less Deity” than the Father. If Hebrews 5:8 is correct, then your citation of John 8:42 shows Jesus as having taken on human flesh...and His subordination is therefore temporary, not eternal.

  11. more thing...

    The issue of subordination is one that, by nature, can only be temporary. Look at marriage, for example. In Luke 20, the Sadducees come to Jesus and ask Him about a wife who married seven brothers. They said, “Whose wife will she be in the resurrection?” Jesus answered, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage...” (Luke 20:35, NKJV) The subordination of wives in marriage is temporary, for it will not exist in the age to come. If the subordination of women is temporary, and Christ as God is above human women, then what makes you think that Christ will be “eternally subordinate?”

  12. I am completely confused about your comment on the adjectives. You ask, "Do their functions make them 'more human' or 'less human' than the other?" My whole point was that the differing functions in the Trinity do not make one less God or more God. The whole point is to say that the question of deity is not an issue. How in the world do you have me believing that sick people are less human than other people? I can see nothing in my words that would lead to that conclusion. When I used the word 'identity' I meant that it seems to me like there is not simply that the Father and the Son are equal, but there is no difference between them. You seem to confirm this by arguing that the only difference is in their function. However, you have already said that you believe in the eternal generation of the Son. Thus, the Father begets and is unbegotten. The Son is begotten not made. These are statements about essence, not just function. The Son from eternity is begotten, the Father unbegotten.

    As far as Athanasius, I never claimed that he was perfect or that his opinion is equal to or more important than the Bible. I merely was saying that he was the one who defined the deity of the Son against the Arians. This is the achievement he is most remembered for, the thing he worked most on. I am simply saying that in the definitions of the terms essence, persons, and equality, he defined the terms such that the subordination of the Son was eternal and that the Father and Son were equally God, and that there was no contradiction in the way he was speaking. He defined his terms. His terms were not contradictory. If the same terms are contradictory to you, it is because you define them differently than him. Terms must be defined. Your definitions are clear to you. He was using different definitions. It is not simply that he could not see the obvious contradictions.

  13. Mark,

    Did u even read my comment on Bilezikian and Hebrews 5:8? The point with your argument is that you're spending time debating my view of the church fathers and logic, when you haven't even examined the scriptural proof on the other side. This is a debate about the Bible. If you want to continue to debate logic and Athanasius, fine...but I will only engage in further argumentation IF you are gonna examine the biblical evidence. If Christ had to learn obedience on earth, then He did not have it in Heaven...which means that His subordination was temporary. Examine Hebrews 5:8 and the rest of my comments, and we'll continue from there. if not, then I have nothing further to say.

  14. As far as the comment about getting arguments from the Bible instead of focusing on logic, etc., I am simply responding to the arguments you made. Your prior posts were about how the subordination and equality of the Son were illogical. Most of your arguments were about logic, so that was what I was responding to. If none of that was important I could have saved myself a lot of time. The quote from John 8:42 it seems to me is significant because it points to a time before his coming to earth. Because we disagree on hermeneutical method, quoting passages would not be very persuasive. Every passage I could quote that would indicate subordination, you would probably take as simply applying to Christ's time on earth. Jesus wrestling in the garden, praying not my will but yours be done, even knowing that he was on earth instead of in eternity past, I find it difficult not to understand this as a reflection of their actual relationship. It amazes me that you find no significance to the 'Father / Son' language whatsoever. You did not comment on what the difference would be if the Bible had used different familial terms.

  15. I would agree about Hebrews 5:8, that Jesus' learning obedience on earth was a consequence of his uniting with a human person. He was true God and true man. And as that new being, he learned obedience, he experienced the normal growh process as a human being. In all this he remained true God. But the other passages I mentioned appear to me to go beyond the incarnational event. In my opinion, it does not do to simply say about every passage where he is 'obeying' his Father, that that verse in no reflects their eternal relationship. I think we need a reading of each passage that is more attentive to context. Interpretation cannot be as mechanical as you seem to want to make it.

  16. As to Heb 5:8, I said that the learning obedience was a result of the union of deity and humanity. It was a human that he learned obedience, not as a temporarily subordinate deity. Only his humanity could have learned obedience.

    Regarding 'obedience in heaven', remember my discussion about semantic domains? In other words, does the word 'obedience' actually have to occur? The John 8:42 passage tells me that the Father sent the Son while they were in heaven. To me this implies obedience. I notice you did not actually comment on the verse, you simply said, "But what about this other verse." Well, comment on the passage. They wer still in heaven.

    I agree, Jesus says that he is "I AM". No debate, Jesus is fully God. God the Father is not more God than Jesus. They are equally God. Jesus is not less than God. Jesus and the Father are one, one God.

    As far as John 10:18, Jesus' laying down his own life (in this context, always look at the context) is in contrast not to the Father, but to other human beings. Jesus says that no man takes his life from him, but that he lays it down himself. Is this an argument against subordination? Only if subordination meant inactivity. It doesn't. You still have not dealt with the eternal generation of the Son as an issue of essence, not just function.

  17. Mark,

    You want me to deal with "the eternal generation of the Son as an issue of essence..." If I didn't know any better, I'd think you were implying that Jesus is "less Deity" than God. Do you understand what you're saying, that Christ would be (in this case) "less God" than the Father? There is no issue of essence-- Christ WAS and IS equal with the Father in His essence. there is no essential subordination, for to do so would lead to "tritheism," three gods instead of one.

    The idea of eternal generation is one embraced by the church fathers. However, the word for "only-begotten" in John 3:16, "monogenes" in the Greek, can also mean "unique" or "only." I grew up reading the KJV, so I used to read that without question. Now, however, I've come to understand that the idea of generation refers to "human" analogy-- which is why the fathers used "eternal" in front of it. This is to say that, unlike Arianism, there never was a time when the Son was not.

    As far as John 10:18, I was referring to the fact that Jesus does say in John 8:42 that He was "sent" and that He "proceeded" from the Father. Subordination as you espouse it does refer to inactivity. Complementarians claim that the woman cannot preach in church over a congregation, pastor, or teach a mixed Sunday school class because they are "subordinate." if subordination does not mean this, then I expect conservative Baptists to start allowing women to ascend to the pulpit. You and I both know that isn't going to happen...why? because subordination and inactivity are tied together.

    However, if the Son gave up His own life, not just having received a commandment, then this implies equality with the Father.

    This debate goes back to the issue of men and women, whether you want to deal with it or not. If subordination does not mean inactivity, then why are complementarians and egalitarians debating it so much? Why aren't there more women in church leadership? You may not see the connection, but the rest of the evangelical world does. And that's where doctrines like what you're advocating will do the most harm-- in our churches.

  18. In your understanding, the eternal generation of the Son would imply that the Son is less deity than the Father. You have asserted that many times. But you offer no proof, Scriptural or otherwise to show that that is true. Athanasius and I affirm the eternal generation of the Son ("God from God" in the Nicene creed) and assert that this in no way means he was less God than the Father. The Bible affirms both and there is no contradiction. Earlier you asserted the eternal generation of the Son also, I don't know why you have trouble with it now. Also, simply asserting that subordination means activity simply because women in your churches can't preach is not an argument from a Biblical text. I am sorry if you have been hurt by bad people, but I don't understand how that relates to a Biblical argument about the Trinity. I am subordinate, even as a man, in many different relationships, and I am very active. No I am not a pastor. Jesus was subordinate (even if only temporarily) and he was not inactive.

  19. Mark,

    Jesus was temporarily subordinate. That is what I've been arguing in this entire back-and-forth dialogue.

    I don't have a problem with eternal generation, except to say that the fathers put "eternal" in front of it for a reason: to stress Christ's essence OVER His function (which was that He proceeded from the Father).

    My only problem with "eternal generation" was that you used it earlier in this conversation and called it "an issue of essence." I don't see essence here as the issue. What I see as the problem, however, is the fact that you would like to make Christ "eternally subordinate," which DOES infringe on Christ's essence-- since He is "eternal."

    You talk about Christ learning obedience in His "humanity," but His deity was involved as well-- to fail to see this is to "divide" Christ; and Christ is not divided (1 Corinthians 1).

    Christ "emptied Himself," according to Philippians 2. What did He empty Himself of? He was still deity, still fully God, but He "emptied" Himself, gave up something. What was it? You need to deal with this as well. You can't say that He tackled it in His "humanity," but He wasn't a "temporarily subordinate deity." Both humanity and deity co-exist peacefully in the person of Christ.

    This dialogue has not been conducted on the basis of what you labeled as "hurt feelings" by other men. At the church where I serve, I teach a mixed sunday school class and I preach sermons as an aid to my Pastor. I serve in a denomination where I am allowed to exercise my God-given abilities, so this blog (and even this discussion) has nothing to do with me feeling hurt by people. This blog has been designed to reach out to women in denominations where they are being told what they can and cannot do.

    Since you seem to wanna reach out on this whole subject, explain to me how complementarians can overlook 1 Corinthians 12, where the Spirit gives gifts "as He wills," in their interpretations of Scripture?

  20. I understand that you have been arguing that Christ was temporarily subordinate. You have stated it many times. And you have stated that you have a problem in more than one comment with my believing that Christ is eternally subordinate. You stated it then and you have now stated it again in your last comment. I simply don't see restating it is helping your case. I asked for proof, not restatement. John 8:42 refers to Christ's obedience in coming to earth, not to some decision after he got here.

    I dont understand your paragraphs 2 and 3. They seem contradictory to me. I probably am just missing your point, but you seem to say that the Fathers (you are bringing them in, not me) used the word eternal in this context to talk about his essence (a good thing?), and then in paragraph 3 you seem to be saying that I made a mistake to associate Christ's eternal generation with his essence.

    As far as Christ emptying himself, I can't really see any reason for us to disagree on this point. I would say that 'emptying himself' meant that in his incarnation he limited the use of his divine attributes, but that at no moment did he cease to be God, nor did he ever become less than God. Perhaps you would disagree with that, but if you did I can't see how it would be because of our disagreement over his eternal subordination.

    As to 1 Corinthians 12, I really don't see the problem. The Spirit gives as he wills. Praise the Lord. This seems to be another allusion to the idea that one who is subordinate is inactive and unimportant. I don't see it that way. As I said, you can repeat and restate, as you did above, that the ideas are contradictory, but words do not exist without definitions. You define them in such a way that they are contradictory. The verses I quoted to me show authority and submission in the Trinitarian relationship and that all three members are active and equally God. This is no more contradictory to me than the idea that there is one God existing eternally in three persons. The Bible teaches all of these statements.

  21. By the way, quoting 1 Corinthians 1 to say that Christ is not divided, wow, that is really taking things out of context. I agree with you that Christ is one person. I agree with the Chalcedonian explanation of the Biblical facts. He is one person. But there are experiences that more particularly relate to at one time his deity and at one time his humanity.

  22. Mark,

    The problem is that you seem to have no issue at all with stating that Christ is eternally equal and eternally subordinate. That violates the Law of Non-Contradiction. Since you seem to be the "expert" on logic, surely you've heard of it, have you not? The reason why I employ the Law itself is to show you that, if Christ can be both eternally equal in essence and eternally subordinate in function, all at the same time, in the same way, then the Law of Non-Contradiction is violated...and, finally, what are we saying about Christ, since the Word reflects the character and nature of God? You seem to be content with saying that Christ is "inconsistent," and that He is "contradictory."

    Back to 1 Corinthians 12...the Spirit does give gifts "as He wills." But this contradicts the statement made by complementarians, that God gives gifts "according to gender." If by "as He wills" the Spirit meant "according to gender," then why do we not see that in the Bible? Surely, if it was as important of an issue as complementarians make it out to be, why isn't it there? In their eyes, the subordination of women is as important as Jesus being "the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Funny though, the Scriptures don't emphasize it as much as they do.

    If the Spirit gives gifts according to His own good pleasure, He cannot turn around and assign women certain gifts according to gender. You seem to be rather contradictory in your remarks on this as well...just as you have been in your statements regarding eternal equality and eternal subordination.

    You seem to be able to live with the idea that the Bible contains contradictions; I, on the other hand, do not. All I want you to see is that, by so saying, you are content with living with the idea of God as being "conflicted" and "contradictory" within Himself. And that is something that I cannot live with...for, by so doing, I too, would be staining the name of the Lord Jesus.

  23. Mark,

    You have conceded to me that I was right about Hebrews 5:8. As I've stated some comments back, if you can find one verse that tells me Christ was eternally subordinate in heaven or that He was "obedient" (w/out using verses that show eternal generation, like John 8:42) then I'll listen. If not, then you have confirmed my interpretation of Hebrews 5:8.

  24. You have restated your point without proof. You are too kind to call me an expert on logic. I wish I were, but I am familiar with the law of non-contradiction. Read my words. I do not believe that ideas I am supporting are contradictory. Therefore I don't feel I am violating that law. I am not comfortable with the idea of contradiction. In your last paragraph you say that, in contrast to you, that I am comfortable with contradiction. But that is not what I ever said and am not saying now. You are not able to see that your definitions of the terms are not the only way to define things. All you can do is restate your position.

    As to the Spirit distributing the gifts, you say that if the Spirit distributes according to his will, then he could not distribute them according to gender. Let's leave aside the fact that I have made no statement about the Spirit's distributing gifts according to gender (you are stereotyping what you think I believe without actually knowing). But simply from a logical point of view, how are those two statements contradictory? Saying simply that he distributes gifts according to his will does not say anything about what that will is. It simply says that the giving is according to his choice. It doesn't say what he chooses. But Paul's main points in 1 Corinthians 12 is that 1) God does not give all the gifts to each person; and 2) that no matter what gifts a person does or does not have, they are all equally members of the church and important. One person with one gift cannot say that they are more important and don't need another person with a different gift.Al are human, all are redeemed, all are significant. But the first point I mentioned is that the Holy Spirit does not give the same gifts to everybody. Now the text does not say that he distributes them according to gender and I am not claiming that. I simply am saying that once again, in your statement about theHoly Spirit giving to whom he wills and gifts according to gender, I don't see the contradiction.

  25. I never said that John 8:42 refers to eternal generation. I honestly don't think it does. Raymond Brown in his commentary agrees that this does not refer to eternal generation, and I agree with him. I agree that Hebrews 5:8 refers to Jesus in his incarnation, but that does not negate my interpretation that Jesus obeyed the Father in coming to earth in the first place (John 8:42). How does John 8:42 show eternal generation?

  26. Mark,

    You don't see the contradiction? You stated it yourself in your latest response:

    "Saying simply that he distributes gifts according to his will does not say anything about what that will is. It simply says that the giving is according to his choice."

    You say it yourself-- we don't know what His will is regarding gifts. However, complementarians claim that they can KNOW what His will is...and so they give leadership in the church not based on gifts, but on gender. That is why there is a contradiction. They claim to know what God's will is, but 1 Corinthians 12 doesn't tell us what His will is...except to say that God has a plan behind the giving of spiritual gifts. In other words, complementarians are claiming to KNOW something that Paul leaves as a mystery. In short, they are defining a mystery. That is what makes it a contradiction, for how can we, being human, claim to know God's will for every person (particularly in the area of spiritual gifts)?

    I hope that this clarifies what I claim is a contradiction.

  27. Mark,

    Regarding your last statement above, you have to show me a verse that states that Christ was obedient BEFORE coming to earth. You have failed to do this. Therefore, your position is without Biblical warrant.

  28. We have been talking about several different contradictions. This is first time you have mentioned this particular one. If this is the contradiction you have been talking about all this time, I am lost.

    This passage does not give any criteria for how the Spirit distributes his gifts. But I think you are selling the comp's short by saying that they are claiming to know something that God has not revealed. In their minds, certain functions are given to certain genders, and therefore, they reason that God gives gifts in accordance with his commands. In their minds the commands help clarify the distribution. You may disagree with their interpretation of the commands, but it is not right to claim that they are simply claiming to know something God has not revealed. I still don't see the contradiction.

  29. ". . .I came from God and am now here. I did not come on my own; but he sent me." John 8:42. Jesus obeyed.

  30. "For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will but to do the will of him who sent me." John 6:38. Jesus came in obedience.

  31. "Last of all, he (the owner of the vineyard) sent his son to them. 'They will will respect my son,' he said." Matthew 21:37. This sending was in heaven prior to his appearance on earth, not during the incarnation.

  32. 1 Corinthians 15:27-28 "For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. 28 When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all." Scriptural warrant. For eternity.

  33. Thanks for the conversation. It has helped me to understand the issues better. I am not writing from the States. I am on the other side of the planet and it is time for me to go to sleep. So good night. I'll check back in the morning to see if you have responded.

  34. Mark,

    My point regarding 1 Corinthians 12 was to show that the theology of complementarians is wrong on a lot of fronts, particularly when it comes to Scripture.

    You wrote: "But I think you are selling the comp's short by saying that they are claiming to know something that God has not revealed. In their minds, certain functions are given to certain genders, and therefore, they reason that God gives gifts in accordance with his commands." You have to show me what the commands are that they have. Anything can exist "in their minds." however, you are now contradicting yourself, since you seem to have no biblical warrant for your statement. I don't see how "in their minds" is an accurate biblical statement about why they claim to know something that God has not revealed.

    Secondly, you are now endorsing the contradiction. How can God say in one place that "He has not revealed how gifts are distributed," but then, in another place, "here's how the gifts are distributed"? What commands are you speaking of? This goes back to all the work I've done on 1 Timothy 2. Please read there and respond to each of those posts if you'd like, rather than providing one long, tedious response that will take hours to weed through. Each post has a section, and if you'd like, you can comment there.

    If you wanna speak further, contact me via e-mail at I would prefer space be saved here at the site for those who have not already responded regarding this issue.

  35. Mark,

    Regarding your citation of passages from John, quoting them is futile. You have failed to see that those who exercise proper hermeneutics engage the passages of John (for instance) with other passages in Scripture. The church fathers did this, and, since you know them really well, you would understand that they had to wrestle with not just the Gospel of John, but the rest of Scripture. this means that you still have to deal with Hebrews 5:8 as well as John 5, Philippians 2, and the book of Revelation where Jesus will sit with the Father on His Throne.

    Lastly, with regards to 1 Corinthians 15, Notice that God "put everything under Christ." What this shows is that the Father honored the Son, and at the end of time, the Son will honor the Father. This, however, implies mutual honor between Father and Son, not the eternal subordination of Christ.

    Lastly, what about passages such as Isaiah 9:6-7?
    "For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder; and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, mighty God, EVERLASTING FATHER, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace THERE WILL BE NO END."
    What do you do with the fact that Christ is labeled here as "Everlasting Father?"

    Calvin struggled with 1 Corinthians 15, considering that there are numerous texts that stated that Christ's kingdom would be eternal (Dan. 7:13, 27; Luke 1:33; 2 Peter 1:11). This is what he wrote:
    "But Christ will then restore the kingdom which he has received, that we may cleave wholly to God. Nor will he in this way resign the kingdom, but will transfer it in a manner FROM HIS HUMANITY TO HIS GLORIOUS DIVINITY, because a way of approach will then be opened up, from which our infirmity now keeps us back" (cited by Erickson, 136).

    The bottom line is that, if Christ's kingdom and rule is eternal, then He can't literally hand the kingdom over. So 1 Corinthians has to be reconciled with all the other passages of Scripture as well. This still doesn't solve the problem.


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