The Doctrine of the Trinity and Subordination -- By: Kevin Giles

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 18:3 (Summer 2004)
Article: The Doctrine of the Trinity and Subordination
Author: Kevin Giles

The Doctrine of the Trinity and Subordination

Kevin Giles

Kevin Giles will be speaking at CBE’s conference in the United Kingdom this fall. He is the Vicar of St. Michael’s, North Carlton in the Anglican Diocese of Melbourne, Australia. He has been in parish ministry for over thirty years, and holds a doctorate in New Testament studies; he served as a theological consultant for World Vision, Australia, in the mid-1990s. He has published widely; his books include The Trinity and Subordinationism: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate (InterVarsity, 2002); Making Good Churches Better (Melbourne: Acorn, 2001); What on Earth is the Church? (IVP, 1995); and Patterns of Ministry among the First Christians, (Collins-Dove, 1989).

“Evangelicals both in support of the eternal subordination of the Son and those vehemently opposed to the eternal subordination of the Son are in complete agreement that ‘tradition’—under-stood as how the scriptures have been understood by the best of theologians across the centuries—is a good guide to the proper interpretation of scripture: it is a secondary authority.”

In the latter part of the twentieth century the doctrine of the Trinity captured the attention of theologians more than any other doctrine.1 At no time in history since the theologically stormy days of the fourth century has there been so much discussion on this topic, and the discussion does not seem to be ending! Books on the Trinity by Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox theologians continue to be published as I write. No longer is it thought that the Trinity is an obtuse, secondary, and impractical dogma. Today theologians are generally agreed that this doctrine is foundational to the Christian faith because it articulates what is most distinctive in the biblical revelation of God—he is triune.

The discussion in the last thirty years has ranged far and wide, but it may be said with some confidence that conceptualising the Trinity as a perichoretic (interpenetrating) community of three “persons”2 who work in perfect unity and harmony has been to the fore. This “model” of the Trinity highlights the profound unity and the personal distinction within the Trinity without using abstract philosophical terms. It also excludes tritheism, modalism, and subordinationism, the three great trinitarian heresies. The last of these, subordinationism, has been particularly under assault. Ted Peters says that if anything, contemporary mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic trinitarian thinking is “antisubordinationist.”

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