One Essence, One Goodness, One Power -- By: Nancy Hedberg

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 25:4 (Autumn 2011)
Article: One Essence, One Goodness, One Power
Author: Nancy Hedberg

One Essence, One Goodness, One Power

Nancy Hedberg

Nancy Hedberg, D.Min., is Vice President for Student Life at Corban University in Salem, Oregon. Her books include Hear Me With Your Heart, A Rooted Sorrow, Rings of Grass, and Women, Men, and the Trinity. She and her husband, LeRoy, have three grown children and five grandchildren.

In the late 1970s, I first came across the claim that within the Trinity the Son is functionally subordinate to the Father.1 I had been taught—and still believe—that the Father and the Son are equal. Period. This counterclaim challenged that assumption and planted a question in my mind. For the most part, I put the question aside for many years. I had my hands full as a stay-at-home mom, freelance writer, and part-time student at our community college. My general attitude toward the doctrine of the Trinity during those years could be summed up in Carl Henry’s rhetorical question: “Is the doctrine of the Trinity a futile intellectual effort to resolve inherently contradictory notions of divine unity and divine plurality? Are orthodox evangelicals driven to say that anyone who rejects this doctrine may lose his soul whereas anyone who tries to explain it will lose his mind?”2 I did not get it, and I did not have time to think about it. Nevertheless, a question had been planted, and although it went underground for many years, it never quite went away. As is often true in such cases, when the question reappeared later, it was not with a vengeance exactly, but certainly with renewed urgency. It became the focus of my doctoral dissertation and the topic of my book, Women, Men, and the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity is one of the core distinctives of the Christian faith—some would say the core distinction of Christianity. Although it is impossible to grasp completely, it is important and worthy of exploration. In addition, in 1 Corinthians 11:3, Paul links the relationships between God as the head of Christ, and man as the head of woman, in a way that suggests that a better understanding of the relationship within the Trinity can impact our understanding of human relations, especially the male/female relationship.

Our primary source for understanding the nature of the Trinity, and for obtaining God’s perspective on the relationship between men and women, is the Bible. Although less important than the Bible, the historical, orthodox Christian view is also important. That is what we will be exploring in this article. The orthodox Christian view is the conventional set of beliefs held by Christians down through the ages. Among t...

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