Against Eternal Submission: Changing The Doctrine Of The Trinity Endangers The Doctrine Of Salvation And Women -- By: D. Glenn Butner, Jr.

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 31:1 (Winter 2017)
Article: Against Eternal Submission: Changing The Doctrine Of The Trinity Endangers The Doctrine Of Salvation And Women
Author: D. Glenn Butner, Jr.


Against Eternal Submission: Changing The Doctrine Of The Trinity Endangers The Doctrine Of Salvation And Women

D. Glenn Butner Jr.

Etienne Gilson spoke of medieval theology as an attempt to build great “cathedrals of the mind,” mental constructions meant to bring glory to God and to inspire worship as soaring stone cathedrals across Europe have since the same time period. Like any architectural achievement, these mental cathedrals brought together the many pieces of Christian doctrine into coherent and often beautiful structures of thought, building idea upon idea until great theological and philosophical systems emerged from scriptural foundations. This architectural analogy implies something important—it is rarely possible to shift the ground floor of a building without the entirety of the construct tumbling down. Only with great caution and preparation, whereby new supports are carefully constructed before the old are removed, can such a change go smoothly. Unfortunately, evangelical theology finds itself today in a situation where a great shift in a foundational doctrine of Christian theology has occurred—in the doctrine of the Trinity. This shift threatens several important Christian teachings and compromises the basic orientation of Christian ethics. As complementarian theologians increasingly speak of the eternal functional subordination of the Son (hereafter EFS), they move a central pillar of the cathedral of Christian doctrine, unaware that such a change could bring down the entire edifice of Christian theology.

With this situation in mind, this article will not focus on direct reasons why EFS is a destructive articulation of the doctrine of the Trinity, though I believe it certainly is, nor will it primarily explain why the Trinity is a poor analogy for human or gender relationships, though again I believe that it is. Rather, I will seek to explain how moving the foundational doctrine of the Trinity leaves the doctrine of salvation (atonement) without structural integrity—to continue the cathedral metaphor. But the problem does not stop here. When noted complementarians shift the doctrine of the Trinity by teaching the eternal submission of the Son, they foster a basic ethical orientation that is contrary to the biblical perspective and potentially harmful to Christian women. To put the matter as clearly as I know how, EFS eliminates the theological understanding preserved in traditional understandings of salvation (specifically what I will call transactional atonement theory), and it undermines the moral perspective within which such traditional theories are properly rooted in the goodness of God as revealed in the Bible.

Theories On The Atonement And The Trinity

Several key terms must be explained before the argument can unfold. First, EFS ...

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