Hermeneutical Bungee-Jumping: Subordination In The Godhead -- By: Gilbert Bilezikian
JETS 40:1 (March 1997) p. 57
Subordination In The Godhead
Students of the history of Christian thought generally believe that hermeneutical deviations from what evangelicals consider to be orthodox doctrine do not appear as the result of premeditated conspiracies to create new heresies. Such aberrations creep into the belief systems of the Church imperceptibly carried by degrees into the corporate religious consciousness through concerns that often appear legitimate. The purpose of this presentation is to bring to the attention of evangelical scholars a hermeneutical approach to the doctrine of the Trinity that is being developed in our midst and that, I believe, stretches our tolerance for theological innovation beyond the limits of orthodoxy.
Ever since the formulation of the Nicene and Chalcedonian affirmations the Church, at least in its post-Augustinian expression, has rested securely in its understanding of the Trinity as it was interpreted by the councils and defined in the creeds. Occasionally some aspect of the doctrine of the Trinity comes under attack at the hands of sectarians. But Biblical Christians have been quick to rise to its defense and to guard it against redefinitions and new interpretations.
The Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) provides a striking contemporary example of this conservative reflex. Since its inception, the ETS had been content to maintain the following sentence as its doctrinal basis: “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs.” For decades this one-sentence creed served the Society satisfactorily. In recent years, however, it became necessary to expand it in order to protect the Society from infiltration by deviant views of the Trinity. To the existing sentence was added another: “God is a Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory.” With this addendum the ETS resoundingly affirmed the historic view of the Trinity. It recognized the oneness of the Godhead along with the eternity, the ontological identity and the equality in authority or sovereignty (“power”) and honor or status (“glory”) among the three persons of the Trinity.
At this point, one wishes it were possible to be assured that all is well with the doctrine of the Trinity and that this theological legacy is scrupulously protected inside the evangelical camp. Unfortunately this is not so. From within our own ranks a potentially destructive redefinition of the
* Gilbert Bilezikian is professor emeritus at Wheaton College, 501 East College Avenue, Wheaton, IL 60187.
JETS 40:1 (March 1997) p. 58
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