Book Review: Who’s Tampering with the Trinity? Millard J. Erickson (Kregel Academic, 2009) -- By: John Jefferson Davis

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 25:4 (Autumn 2011)
Article: Book Review: Who’s Tampering with the Trinity? Millard J. Erickson (Kregel Academic, 2009)
Author: John Jefferson Davis

Book Review: Who’s Tampering with the Trinity?
Millard J. Erickson (Kregel Academic, 2009)

Reviewed by

John Jefferson Davis

John Jefferson Davis is Professor of Systematic Theology and Christian Ethics and Chair of the Division of Christian Thought at Gordon- Conwell Theological Seminary in Hamilton, Massachusetts. His most recent book is Worship and the Reality of God: An Evangelical Theology of Real Presence (IVP Academic, 2010).

I am very happy to have this opportunity to recommend strongly Millard Erickson’s Who’s Tampering with the Trinity? An Assessment of the Subordination Debate to the readers of Priscilla Papers and to the wider evangelical community in general. Erickson’s book addresses two areas of vital importance to the church: the doctrine of the Trinity and the role of women in the church and family. Erickson tackles the arguments of the “new evangelical subordinationists”1 who have been arguing that the Son is eternally functionally subordinate to the Father within the Trinity in order to bolster their arguments by way of analogy for the functional subordination of women in the church and in the family.

In eight very balanced and carefully argued chapters, Erickson (1) considers the “gradational authority” view; (2) the historic, mainstream “equivalent authority” view in which the Son is not eternally subordinate to the Father, but only (willingly) subordinate to the Father during his earthly ministry; (3) the criteria for evaluating these views; (4) the biblical evidence; (5) church history, creeds, and tradition; (6) philosophical issues; (7) theological dimensions; and (8) practical implications for the Christian life and church ministry.

The author’s overall conclusion (257) is that the historic view of equivalent authority of the Father and the Son is “considerably the stronger of the two views and thus to be accepted over the gradational view.” While Erickson allows that, while the “eternal functional subordination of the Son” view might be technically still within the bounds of historic, orthodox Trinitarian doctrine, he is concerned that, in the longer run, the idea of the eternal and necessary supremacy of the authority of the Father over the Son and the Holy Spirit will undermine historic Nicene orthodoxy (homoousios, “of the same essence”) and ultimately lead to heterodoxy. Eternal and necessary subordination in function logically implies an eternal difference of nature in which function is grounded, and so undermines equality of nature in the Father and the Son. Erickson closes with a plea to the new evangelical subordinationists to reconsider their views, a...

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