Like a Titanium Slide Rule

So then, by way of preamble, let me say that I am as orthodox as a titanium slide rule. When it comes to the doctrine of the Trinity, everything I’ve got is from the best doctors in the church, and is still under warranty. Our doctrine of God must be grounded in the Scriptures, in the first instance, and we confess that this truth has found expression in the classic creeds of the church, has been repeated in the Reformed confessions, and further explicated by our Reformed fathers—and speaking of the Reformed fathers, the more scholastic the better.

Whether we are talking about one essence/three persons, or the eternal begetting of the Son, or the procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son, or the divine simplicity, or the unity of the divine will, you can’t find a box that I won’t merrily check. I will check those boxes like I was Athanasius on a good day.

So with all this said, let me make just a handful of observations, culminating in the one that I think is the crucial one for our time. And so before anyone sets their hair on fire, I would urge them to read all the way through.

First, as I have said before, because subordinationism is the name for one of the classic Trinitarian heresies, it is not a word you want to use in these discussions. If you choose to do so, however much you qualify it, the misunderstandings that arise will be partly your fault. It would be like arguing that the Son is equally “at home” in the Godhead and in His holy family through the Incarnation, nesting in both places so to speak, and suggesting that your view therefore be called Nestarianism.

But second, subordination is a perfectly fine word to use when talking about a wife’s relation to her husband (Eph. 5:24). The word there is hypotasso, and the lexical rendering into English is subject or subordinate. That word subordinate is only dangerous when it comes to a Christian understanding of marriage if it is detached from a robust understanding of the equality of the sexes. So a responsible complementarian argument from the Trinity is one that depends equally on authority/obedience AND full ontological equality. And if it depends on full ontological equality, it depends also on the theological grounds for affirming that equality; the doctrine requires a foundation. The equality of the persons in the Godhead calls for more than simple assertion—it should be shown.

Last, I deny that authority and obedience are evidences of our brokenness, or that they are simply a result of the Fall. Before we get to the Fall, we have at least two indelible manifestations of the essential goodness of authority. The first is the eternal relationship of the Father to the Son. The second is the nonnegotiable relationship between Creator and created. The Fall has certainly messed up our view of authority, but the Fall did not introduce authority.

Now coming back to the Godhead, to say that there is a species of authority/obedience that exists between equals does not give us warrant for importing our distorted and/or limited experiences of authority into that relation—any more than we have the right to import derelict fathers into the Lord’s Prayer, where we are instructed to address Our Father. The authority of the Father is sacrificial and in no way coercive, and the obedience of the Son was voluntary and glad. There was absolutely no friction in the decision to send the Son into the world—because of the simplicity of the divine will.

Now I grant that we have no human analog for authority/obedience between equals. I also grant we have no human analog for authority/obedience functioning with one divine will. So?

We are not reasoning from our experience to the heavens. We are learning about what God is like from Scripture, and learning to apply that (but only as instructed) to our experience. Further, remember that we also have no human analog for three persons with one will, or with a begetter and begotten who are eternally equal. These things are revealed to us. Our business is to accept and adore.

We therefore know that the simple fact of our being created male and female in some important respect images or portrays what God is essentially like. So long as we hold fast to the orthodox understanding of the Godhead, there is not even the slightest trouble in also maintaining that we bear His image, male and female.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Gen. 1:27).

And in addition, the love that exists within the Godhead (remember that God is love, not that He simply has love) is a communicable attribute. We are commanded to walk in the way of love, treating one another in a particular way, because of the way God is.

“Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love” (1 John 4:7–8).

There is obviously much more to say, and we will probably get to it. But let me finish today by commending an essay by C.S. Lewis, found in Christian Reflections. I commend the whole essay (“The Language of Religion”), and quote just one section of it.

“The theologian will describe it as ‘analogical’, drawing our minds at once away from the subtle and sensitive exploitation of imagination and emotion with which poetry works to the clear-cut but clumsy analogies of the lecture-room. He will even explain in what respect the father-son relationship is not analogical to the reality, hoping by elimination to reach the respects in which it is. He may even supply other analogies of his own—the lamp and the light which flows from it, or the like. It is all unavoidable and necessary for certain purposes. But there is some death in it. The sentence ‘Jesus Christ is the Son of God’ cannot be all got into the form ‘There is between Jesus and God an asymmetrical, social, harmonious relation involving homogeneity.’ Religion takes it differently. A man who is both a good son and a good father, and who is continually urged to become a better son and a better father by meditation on the Divine Fatherhood and Sonship, and who thus comes in the end to make that Divine relation the norm to which his own human sonship and fatherhood are still merely analogical, is best receiving the revelation. It would be idle to tell such a man that the formula ‘is the Son of God’ tells us (what is almost zero) that an unknown X is in an unknown respect ‘like’ the relation of father and son. He has met it halfway. Information has been given him: as far as I can see, in the only way possible” (Essay Collection, pp. 262-263).

It is all there. Worship, orthodoxy, humility, shrewdness, and love.

44
Leave a Reply

avatar
 
8 Comment threads
36 Thread replies
3 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
20 Comment authors
KatechoJaneMeMeArwenbwisdumb Recent comment authors

  Subscribe  
newest oldest
Notify of
FX Turk
Member

I think the biggest problem with this blog post is that there are no people who think that they have a beef with Carl Trueman (or vice versa) who are reasoning like this.

John F. Martin
Guest
John F. Martin

Greetings Centurion! I appreciate the way you think, and have what I would call a layman’s 30,000ft. view question. Where does this discussion/issue fall in with other theological questions? Do you see future church or denominational splits as a result? Is it like paedo- or credo- baptism, or all the milennialism views? Is it Calvinism vs. Arminianism? Speaking for myself, if I see an issue without a clear result and proof (I’m a math guy), then I start asking the “to what end?” question. Which side glorifies God the most? Which position motivates me to fulfill the Great Commission? What… Read more »

Katecho
Member

There’s also 1Corinthians 15:27-28 to consider: For “He (Father) has put all things under His (Son) feet.” But when He (Father) says “all things are put under Him (Son),” it is evident that He (Father) who put all things under Him (Son) is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him (Son), then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him (Father) who put all things under Him (Son), that God may be all in all. Parentheses are mine, but notice that it’s very explicit that the Son will be subjected, as Son (not merely as a… Read more »

insanitybytes22
Member

Okay, I can work with this. However, I’m still going to object to “subordination” in terms of wives and certainly in the Trinity. We’ve already been there and done that heresy. Subordination is indeed the translation in the New American bible and others,but I believe it is a poor one. A far closer translation of hypotasso, is “submission.” Hypo-tasso meaning “under arrangement,” to subdue oneself unto, to yield, to voluntarily surrender to protection. Under arrangement, meaning, who do you belong to? “Subordinate” flat out means lower in rank,value, and status,such as in the military. To declare out of one side… Read more »

Katecho
Member

MeMe wrote: “Subordinate” flat out means lower in rank,value, and status,such as in the military. To declare out of one side of our neck that women are equal in a spiritual sense based on other texts and understanding, and yet “subordinate” meaning lower in rank, status, and value within marriage is incongruent and deceptive. If MeMe objects to the word “subordinate” on the basis argued here, what does she do with the word “head” as it relates to the husband? If subordinate “flat out” means “lower in rank,value, and status”, then why doesn’t headship “flat out” mean “higher rank, value,… Read more »

insanitybytes22
Member

“If subordinate “flat out” means “lower in rank,value, and status”, then why doesn’t headship “flat out” mean “higher rank, value, and status”?” It often does Katecho, and that is the precise nature of the problem. “He who is under authority has authority,” but many men be thinking they are little lords unto themselves. That is not biblical,not what Jesus taught, and one of the dangers of falsely believing you can just use the word subordinate. I’ll mention once again that to put Jesus Christ in a “subordinate” position within the Trinity was actually the heresy that helped give birth to… Read more »

C Herrera
Member

“but many men be thinking they are little lords unto themselves…So along come a bunch of men once again, same old same old, wanting their Trinity to reflect a human hierarchy of authority so they can claim that God Himself wants women to be subordinate to men.”

Well, it’s clear who has the agenda here. And I can assure you the men in this debate, no matter how little you think of them, have a better grasp of the Trinity and previous controversies/heresies than you.

insanitybytes22
Member

“And I can assure you the men in this debate, no matter how little you think of them,…”

In the ultimate twist of irony, it is actually the work and wisdom of many men, over several hundred years, who’s agenda I speak in favor of.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Katecho, I struggle to understand the concept as it relates to marriage. What is odd is that in the workplace I had no problem understanding hierarchy or appreciating that status says nothing about inherent worth. For example, I was once one of a team of copywriters supervised by an administrator who had very good managerial skills but who was not personally creative in her use of the mother tongue. She said managing us was like herding a group of bright but eccentric cats. She could not do what we did, but she was very definitely in charge. But, when many… Read more »

JohnM
Guest
JohnM

Jill,

Not Katecho here, but if a husband micromanages in ways that have the effect of increasing the wife’s sense of inferiority I suspect it has more to do with his native temperament than it does with his understanding of headship. No doubt there are egalitarian control freaks too.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

You are right, of course, John, and often the control freaks are women. I learned early on to bite my tongue about husbandly “help” which was often anything but! “Appreciate the intention, not the results,” I would firmly instruct myself. But when the Snowflake was very little, I did once warn my husband not to jostle her too enthusiastically after she had just swallowed a full bottle of warm soy milk. “I know what I’m doing,” Dear Husband replied. Right before she projectile vomited across the shoulder and back of his best suit.

lndighost
Member

Jill, without wishing to defend for a moment the idea that wives are to be treated like children, I think I can speak to some of your other questions. The reason it is often pointed out that Eve was deceived is that the apostle Paul points it out in 1 Timothy 2 in the context of appropriate behaviour. Whatever we believe the aim or implications of this passage are, we can at least conclude that the facts that Adam was created first and that Eve was deceived first are in some way relevant to the way men and women are… Read more »

bethyada
Member

Don’t confuse population tendencies for individual strengths and weaknesses. Especially if you (female) have some strengths that are more common in males.

It is good to understand a person rightly. The manager is not necessarily better, faster, brighter, stronger. Hierarchy need not relate to being better at a specific thing.

Micromanagement is unhelpful but refusal to submit is also destructive.

Oscar
Member

“… I struggle to understand the concept as it relates to marriage. What is odd is that in the workplace I had no problem understanding hierarchy or appreciating that status says nothing about inherent worth.”

There’s nothing odd about it. Genesis 3 explains why women struggle to submit to their husbands even when they readily submit to others.

Daniel Fisher
Member

For what it’s worth, in the military, subordinate and superior refer strictly to authority. Two people can be of the same military rank and still have a senior/subordinate relationship, this is actually quite common. For instance, both the commanding officer and executive offer of an aircraft carrier hold the rank of “captain”, but there is a defined senior/subordinate relationship between them. And I imagine the XO would take issue with the idea that he was of less rank or value than his CO.

PB1
Guest
PB1

Good point, but I think a better example would be the relationship between the CAG (Commander Air Group) and the ship’s Captain. The CAG commands the Air Wing assets but is subordinate to the ship’s Captain while on board. All the XOs I’ve known were CDRs until taking command of the ship, then became CAPT.

Daniel Fisher
Member

For what it’s worth, “subordinate” and “senior” in the military refer strictly to authority. Two individuals may share the same rank and yet be in a senior/subordinate relationship, this is actually quite common. The commanding officer and executive officer of an aircraft carrier, for instance, both share the rank of “captain, even while they are in a senior/subordinate relationship. No one would suggest that the XO was of less rank or value.

Kaleb Marshall
Member

“we also have no human analog for three persons with one will”

To wit, this is incorrect. The divine wills are three, although in complete unity. It’s very important to make this distinction when debating Oneness Pentecostals.

Katecho
Member

Kaleb Marshall wrote: The divine wills are three, although in complete unity. The monothelite controversy is an area where it seems to me that the door of debate/discussion was shut prematurely. I think there still ought to be some room for discussion about whether will corresponds to being, or to person. If we suppose that the Triune God has only one eternal will, but that the Son has this divine will, and a second created human will, do we suppose that His human will was in conflict with His divine will (even though it was not fallen)? If there was… Read more »

demosthenes1d
Member

Nestarian/Nestorian?

Katecho
Member

Nestarian = referring to a hypothetical view of the Son “nesting”
Nestorian = referring to the doctrines of Nestorius.

As with the word “subordinate”, Wilson is providing another hypothetical example of how not to frame a new idea, so as not to penalize it right out of the gate. Some people just can’t mentally overcome negative word associations.

bethyada
Member

My provisional thoughts on masculine and feminine in marriage and how it may relate to the trinity (or vice versa as the trinity is primary and we are an imitation as noted). It seems that leadership is a masculine quality and that submission is a feminine quality. When a woman runs a household (whether servants or just children) she is exercising masculine qualities. And when a man obeys his boss he is exhibiting feminine qualities. All men and all women have both, but a man has more masculine qualities and should not neglect them, and women have more feminine qualities… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Very true, Bethyada. The average man working for a company has to be more submissive for forty hours a week than the most subjugated woman who is alone with her children all day! Most of my relationships with men involve commercial transactions where I am in charge (no, not that kind, I am far too old); I give orders to the pool man, the gardener, the UPS delivery man, the accountant, and so on. When I was married, this was delegated authority, and my big gun was the suggestion that I would have to speak to my husband about any… Read more »

Daniel Fisher
Member

“…The second is the nonnegotiable relationship between Creator and created.”

One would think this so obvious as to be indisputable. But I found it telling that, among its numerous other faults, “The Shack” went to great lengths to renegotiate this particular nonnegotiable truth.

jared
Member

I’m curious about the distinction between sacrificial authority and coercive authority, as I have always been under the impression that authority is inherently coercive and, consequently, that coercion is not necessarily bad. How does appending the adjective “sacrificial” to the concept of authority oppose it to, or substantially distinguish it from, its seemingly coercive nature?

bethyada
Member

I suggest that the focus of sacrificial authority is not so much coercive or not, but who is benefiting from the authority.

So If I make a decision that is best for my child and it costs me then it is sacrificial, regardless of whether I am also coercive.

If I make a decision for my wife in her best interest and it costs me then it is sacrificial. If her obedience is entirely voluntary then my leadership is not coercive; that is, my sacrifice may be to no end (directly) if she disregards my advice.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I tend to wonder if too much emphasis on sacrifice is the kiss of death for playful give and take, let alone romantic love, between husband and wife. No one wants to see herself as the object of sacrificial love on a human level.

insanitybytes22
Member

Oh come now, Jilly what’s more romantic than mandated subordination, perpetual servitude, and endless duty sex? Obviously God invented marriage in the hopes that two people would figure out how to just make themselves as miserable as possible.

Triple word score if you can just fill your faith with the same kind of joyless shame.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

What one seldom finds is the sense that marriage should be a dance, a duet, a rhapsody, and an adventure. My marriage didn’t make it to the finish line, but it was all those things at different times. Very little of what we read on blogs communicates a vision of marriage as comical, fun, silly, surprising, and lighthearted. It sounds so often like hopeless drudgery and endless negotiations punctuated by wounded feelings on both sides.

bethyada
Member

Possibly Jill, but what a marriage should look like and the attitude to get there may not be the same.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

If a woman can be forced into marriage, then her husband’s authority is coercive. But, when she has freely chosen and freely made vows, the authority is simply part of the package. I didn’t see authority in the workplace as coercive because I had chosen to take the job. When I was married, I assumed that my husband’s protection of me would become sacrificial if the need ever arose. But even that goes both ways. If a husband becomes disabled, a good wife sacrificially takes care of him. And if my husband’s life was being threatened, I would have seen… Read more »

jared
Member

Choice does not negate the fact authority is still coercive.; disobedience still results in punishment whether you have freely chosen to be in such an environment or not.

bethyada
Member

In some situations. Though I am not certain that all authority acts coercively.

Jane
Member

That’s true, but how does defining coercion based on punishment fit into marriage? What does it look like for a husband to punish a wife?

God may punish a wife for disobedience, but if it is not the husband who is tasked with the punishment, then it is not the husband’s authority that is coercive, but God’s — but that’s undisputed.

nathantuggy
Member

It would seem a little silly to argue that a private in the army is not in a coercive relationship with his various officers, just because he signed on the dotted line at recruitment. In particular, supposing that enforcing previously-made agreements is *not* coercive, while imposing new ones unilaterally *is*, is making a valid distinction but calling it by the wrong name.

Coercion is coercion, whether previously agreed to or not.

insanitybytes22
Member

It is a bit tragic to me that we cannot even speak of love outside the context of authority and coercion. That is a huge part of our problem,and so we must redefine the very nature of the Trinity and assign a hierarchy that makes women subordinate,so that we can say, God Himself has granted me control over love.

God has the power and authority to coerce all of us into a relationship with Him and yet He seldom does. We are called to Him through grace,love,and choice, not authority and coercion.

wisdumb
Guest
wisdumb

MeMe,
Just leave out the “…and yet He seldom does” phrase.

insanitybytes22
Member

I cannot because it is the truth and our inability to see that is the root of the problem.

wisdumb
Guest
wisdumb

Ha, MeMe!
This time leave out the “…because it is the truth and our inability to…” part!
We are not able to see or fully understand, but we are truly unable to change who we are.

insanitybytes22
Member

“We are not able to see or fully understand, but we are truly unable to change who we are.”

But then there is th willful blindness and the people who don’t believe in the power of Jesus Christ, not really ,not fully, or these silly things would not even be the subject of debate.

wisdumb
Guest
wisdumb

That willful blindness is the trait of all the sons of Adam, and only Jesus has the ability to overcome it.

insanitybytes22
Member

Well,since Jesus came, died, was resurrected,and is now seated in victory at the right hand of the Father, could we get about the business of overcoming already ?? I mean, it’s been a few thousand years already and here we are still acting as if willful blindness is just our lot in life.

Arwenb
Guest
Arwenb

I have always been under the impression that authority is inherently coercive

That’s a Marxist idea, isn’t it?

Born of envy and sloth?

Best to just junk it.

J Bradley Meagher
Member

I still have a slide rule that looks just like that!