Book Review: Women, Men, and the Trinity: What Does It Mean to Be Equal? By Nancy Hedberg (Wipf and Stock, 2011) -- By: William David Spencer

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 25:4 (Autumn 2011)
Article: Book Review: Women, Men, and the Trinity: What Does It Mean to Be Equal? By Nancy Hedberg (Wipf and Stock, 2011)
Author: William David Spencer

Book Review: Women, Men, and the Trinity: What Does It Mean to Be Equal?
By Nancy Hedberg (Wipf and Stock, 2011)

Reviewed by

William David Spencer

William David Spencer is editor of Priscilla Papers and a professor of theology and the arts at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary’s Boston Center for Urban Ministerial Education (CUME).

This very accessible book is an excellent place to start one’s exploration into what has come to be called the “New Subordinationism” in current evangelical discussions of the Trinity. Author Nancy Hedberg, who is vice president for student life at Corban University in Salem, Oregon, is accustomed to communicating with young college students and brings that clarity over to her discussion of theology. She is a philosophical thinker who is gifted in understanding what an author is communicating as well as in relaying an accurate description of that position to readers. As a logical scholar, she can also evaluate the content of each argument and communicate clearly why she believes various theological conclusions have failed in their logic. Finally, she has three published novels to her credit, so she has a clear and interesting writing style. She obviously embraces William of Occam’s famous “razor”—she does not use many sentences to say what can be said in fewer, so she pares issues down to what one needs to know without unnecessary verbiage. Her resulting book is compact, a lot like carefully culled notes on a longer discussion. It gets to the point with a clear and careful exposition of the current debate.

After personally contextualizing the problem for herself as a Christian woman called to ministry, she invests her opening section in an analysis of current as well as historical egalitarian versus male hierarchical views on the Trinity, showing how these views are reflected in theories of essential and functional equality or subordination in female/male relationships. She has read widely and carefully and samples key thinkers with pithy summaries of opposing positions on such topics as creation order, submission, power and authority, and the implications of theories of the economic Trinity, unity, and equality. She is also careful to differentiate between historic hierarchical views espousing the essential inferiority of women and present hierarchist views of equality of essence but subordination of function.

Self-identifying as an egalitarian (49), she finds the logic of the hierarchist position faulty with such clearly stated objections as this one to the creation order argument that Adam’s appearance before Eve ensures his functional superiority in their relationship: “would we say that the authority of Jesse was greater than his son David? That the role of Moses’ unnamed father was greater than his? That Abraham remained ...

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