A discussion broke out yesterday over The Nashville Statement Fortified, and that discussion promptly headed straight back to the doctrine of the Trinity—the same debate that broke out a year or so ago. In the course of an extended back and forth yesterday, Tim Bayly said this:
“Until these guys and gal publicly affirm the eternal asymmetry of the Godhead flowing from God’s Archetypal Fatherhood, they have no standing to say anything about sexuality. Everything they’ve said would indicate their prior commitment to authority being a broken thing which somehow escapes being broken when Christ our Lord is in His incarnate state.”
I think we need to take these words at face value, and not lump them in with admittedly confused and confusing statements made by Wayne Grudem or Bruce Ware. There is nothing unorthodox about “eternal asymmetry.” Fathers and sons are certainly asymmetrical, and the Father and the Son are eternally Father and Son. Asymmetrical is not synonymous with unequal.
For those just joining us, I would refer you to my previous comments and qualifications on this debate found here, here, and here. Remember that this is a complex debate, and there are more than two positions in it.
Talking with some colleagues yesterday, one objected to Boyer’s statement that “authority and obedience” could possibly be an ad intra Trinitarian reality. How is authority/obedience consistent with one divine will? In this world, I have never seen an exercise of authority and an obedient response that was the result of “one will.” Granted. This is quite true, but neither have I ever seen a father and son with one will, a begetter and a begotten with one will, a covenant of redemption struck by parties with just one will, or a lover and a beloved with one will. And yet this is how the Bible teaches us to talk about God.
We know less about the trajectories of language than we think we do.
If I might, let me take an example from the other side of the fence, from Mark Jones’ (outstanding) book Knowing Christ:
“The actual decision to assume a human nature, however, belonged to the Son. All that Jesus did for his people needed to be voluntary, not forced. This included the decision to take into union with himself a true human nature (body and soul). This decision may be termed ‘the decision’ in terms of its temporal, and ultimately eternal, significance for humanity” (Knowing Christ, p. 27).
As mentioned, Jones’ book is excellent, and I am not here criticizing it in any way. If anybody believes in the simplicity of the divine will, Mark Jones does. But for all his admirable orthodoxy, he is still a finite being talking about triune immensities.
So I do want to point out the virtual impossibility of talking about these things without “sounding like” we might be drifting toward a problem. If the Son is the one who made the actual decision, where did the unified divine will (that which makes decisions) go? If Jesus made this as a voluntary decision, does this mean He was a volunteer? Did the Father think of it first? Did Jesus come up with the same idea independently? Of course not, and I know that Jones is fully orthodox. But what does “the actual decision belonged to the Son” sound like? It sounds like dat old debbel tritheism. Or what could it easily be made to sound like by an uncharitable reader? I am not such an uncharitable reader, incidentally.
That being the case, we ought to stick with scriptural, creedal, and confessional language, in that order, and cut one another some slack as we work through these thorny problems. This means recognizing that in every worthwhile discussion, everyone is going to sound like a heretic at some point. This includes, incidentally, the heretics.
And so this is why I would like to call upon Carl Trueman to organize a summit, a symposium, where these issues could be debated and hammered out. I call on him because he is somebody who could actually pull it off. He should be careful to include all the actual players in this debate, all the responsible voices, and not just put together a collection of the approved ecclesiastical celebrities. I mention these celebrities because this is a group that Trueman mysteriously denies belonging to. But he is the one member who might be able to put that membership to good use—instead of wrapping it in a napkin and burying it.