Language, Logic, And Trinity: A Critical Examination Of The Eternal Subordinationist View Of The Trinity -- By: Millard J. Erickson

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 31:3 (Summer 2017)
Article: Language, Logic, And Trinity: A Critical Examination Of The Eternal Subordinationist View Of The Trinity
Author: Millard J. Erickson


Language, Logic, And Trinity: A Critical Examination Of The Eternal Subordinationist View Of The Trinity

Millard J. Erickson

Millard J. Erickson (PhD, Northwestern University) has served as a pastor and seminary dean and has taught at several schools, including Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Western Seminary (Portland and San Jose), and Baylor University. He has written over thirty books. Dr. Erickson is a highly regarded Christian scholar, and CBE is blessed to count him as a friend.

For the past two decades, evangelical theologians have debated over one specific aspect of the relationship between members of the Trinity. One group insists that the Father is eternally the supreme member of the Trinity, necessarily and always possessing authority over the Son and the Holy Spirit, who are thus subordinate to him. The other view contends that the Son eternally possesses equal authority with the Father, but that for the period of his earthly ministry, he voluntarily became subject to the Father’s will. Similarly differing views are held regarding the authority of the Holy Spirit, although the discussion has not dealt extensively with the status of the third person. Both parties agree that all three persons are fully deity, and thus equal in what they are. Biblical, historical, philosophical and theological arguments have been presented on both sides, without reaching agreement. Whether or not the subordination itself is eternal, some have begun to wonder whether the debate over it might be.

Perhaps what is needed to cut the Gordian knot is a different approach. In their book, That Used to Be Us, Thomas Friedman and Michael Mandelbaum argue that one of the skills that will be necessary in the global environment into which we are increasingly moving is critical thinking.1 Paradoxically, the wave of postmodernism makes critical thinking unpopular, but it has seldom been more needed. Although popular postmodernism is rampant on college campuses and in general culture, objective thinking is gaining influence not just in the natural sciences but also in the humanities.2 The aim in this article is to apply the methods of critical thinking to the view that the second person of the Trinity is eternally functionally subordinated to the Father. The intention here is not to be neutral, but to be as fair and objective as possible.3 I will focus primarily on the writings of Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem, and especially their most recent contributions to the debate.

A. A Rhetorical Issue

It is common practice in politics to attempt to gain an advantage in an argument by the w...

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