Irenic and Unpersuasive -- By: Stephen J. Wellum

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 15:2 (Fall 2010)
Article: Irenic and Unpersuasive
Author: Stephen J. Wellum

Irenic and Unpersuasive

A Review of Millard J. Erickson, Who’s Tampering with the Trinity?

An Assessment of the Subordination Debate (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2009).

Stephen J. Wellum

Professor of Christian Theology
Editor, The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky

In this work, renowned theologian Millard Erickson weighs in on the important yet heated debate taking place within evangelical theology on whether there are eternal authority role relations among the persons of the Godhead. The genesis of the book arose out of discussions at the Evangelical Theological Society where Erickson presented a paper on the Trinity to the Gender Studies study group in November 2006. There discussions between “complementarians” and “egalitarians” were taking place, and it was suggested to Erickson that one of the main differences between the two groups was rooted in one’s understanding on whether the Son (and the Holy Spirit) are eternally or temporarily subordinated to the Father. If one resolved that theological issue, then one would understand better the differences between the two groups on gender issues. In light of that discussion, Erickson researched and delivered another paper the following year on that subject from which this book was born.

Similar to many of Erickson’s other works, this book attempts to evaluate the debate by laying out the strengths and weaknesses of each position before weighing in on the issue. However, as one reads each chapter it becomes obvious where his sympathies lie. But overall, he does a fine job presenting the arguments of each view, and the book is helpful in introducing readers to the current debate. I will approach this review in two steps. First, I will briefly summarize the work in terms of its basic argument and presentation. Second, following Erickson’s example, I will evaluate it by laying out five critical reflections which include both strengths and weaknesses of the book. Obviously on such a vast, complicated, and important subject much could and should be said, but hopefully my interaction with Erickson will serve as an exercise of “iron sharpening iron” with the goal of producing a bit more light than heat.

Basic Presentation and Argument of the Book

In terms of the organization of the book, after an opening introduction that sets the stage to the discussion—e.g., setting the current debate within church history and then describing each position—eight chapters follow that discuss each view in detail (chapters 1-2), lay out criteria for evaluating the positions (chapter 3), and then turn to the specific biblical (chapter 4) and historical (chapter 5) argu...

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