This is a sequel to my previous post:
1. There are some interesting patterns to this debate, in terms how to classify the way people line up on different sides of the issue:
i) To some extent it looks like a debate between Baptists and Presbyterians. Baptists like Denny Burke, Bruce Ware, Wayne Grudem et al. v. Presbyterians like Carl Trueman, Scott Clark, Mark Jones, and Liam Goligher.
However, that's complicated by the fact that you have Baptists on the other side of the issue, viz. Richard Barcellos, Stefan Lindblad, Tom Chantry, Sam Waldron.
Likewise, Arminians (e.g. Fred Sanders, Tom McCall), Barthians (e.g. Bobby Grow), and Anglicans (e.g. Robert Letham, Roger Beckwith, Michael Bird) have weighed in on this debate.
ii) Some commentators have framed the issue as an intra-Calvinist debate. But that's questionable. For instance, Bruce Ware is an Amyraldian Molinist who denies divine impassibility. Likewise, I don't know if all the various contributors to One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life are Calvinists. By the same token, I don't know if Denny Burke is a Calvinist.
iii) In addition, I suspect many or most contemporary NT scholars reject eternal generation (and eternal procession) because they reject the traditional interpretation of the standard prooftexts for eternal generation (and eternal procession). If so, Calvinism is not the differential factor.
iv) One common denominator seems to be that many opponents of Grudem et al. fall into the Confessional Calvinist camp. They object to the position of Grudem et al. because it rejects the eternal generation of the Son, pace historic creeds and confessions.
2. Part of the appeal of the traditional paradigm is to supply a unifying principle for the Trinity. The persons of the Trinity are said to be one God because they share one nature, and they share one nature because the Father is the common source of the Son and the Spirit.
However, a basic problem with that argument is that it's consistent with tritheism. To take a comparison, all men share a common human nature. That's what makes us human. But each of us is a property instance of a generic human nature. Separate exemplifications of the same nature. So that argument doesn't even work on its own terms.
3. To my knowledge, it's common in Reformed theology to say the Son became incarnate rather than the Father because it was "fitting" for the Son to become incarnate rather than the Father. It was "fitting" for the Father to send the Son, rather than vice versa, because the Father generates the Son.
If, however, you're going to argue that it would be unfitting for the Father to become incarnate, that there's no possible world in which the Father became incarnate, then that seems to commit you to a necessitarian principle of intra-Trinitarian subordination. A metaphysical hierarchy in which the Father must be the sender while the Son must be the sent.
With that in mind, I don't see that critics of Grudem et al. who subscribe to eternal generation (and eternal procession) are in any position to denouce the notion of eternal subordination. If they think there's an order in the Trinity which requires the Son rather than the Father to be sent, then what is that if not eternal subordination? I think their Confessionalism blinds them to the parallel.
4. Perhaps part of the objection is to the connotations of "eternal" subordination. Maybe, when some people see that adjective, they think that means the Son qua Son is constantly submitting to the Father qua Father, whereas they allow for a one-time economic submission. If, however, God is timeless, then eternal subordination doesn't mean the Son is always submitting to the Father. That "one-time" economic submission is eternal or timeless.
5. As someone who's debating many Catholic apologists and not a few Orthodox apologists, I'm struck by the unguarded way that Confessional Calvinists default to the Nicene creed as an unquestionable benchmark. I wonder how their appeal to patristic authority and conciliar authority would fare if they ever got into a debate with a Catholic or Orthodox apologist. Where do they draw the line? Their selective deference to church councils represents an unstable mediating position. It paves the way to Rome or Constantinople.
6. Apropos (5), Barthian Bobby Grow unwittingly illustrates the dilemma when he says:
...they are at some level repudiating the confessional position of the historic orthodox church, provided voice, in particular, in the ecumenical councils of Nicaea-Constantinople-Chalcedon, and attempting to innovate in a way that violates the very mind of the church. It is one thing to work constructively within the boundaries of the ecumenical grammar on the Trinity, as Karl Barth does, which Hunsinger labels the ‘chalcedonian pattern’; but it is altogether another thing to work outside of those norms in order to bolster one’s position on a social issue such as complementarianism.
But that's special pleading. Although I don't agree with Grudem's position, the "mind of the church" didn't terminate with the church fathers or Greek Orthodox councils. Modern-day Baptists like Wayne Grudem, Denny Burke, Jim Hamilton et al. have at least as much claim to represent the "mind of the church" as our distant theological forebears. There's no magic cutoff, as if pre-Reformation theology represents the mind of the church while post-Reformation theology does not.
7. In the same post, Grow supplies this quote:
Khaled Anatolios says it this way when commenting on the patristic church and its understanding of God and revelation:
As Creator, God is both radically other than his creation and positively related to it. The difference between God and world is such that creatures can only know God through his free self-revelation. Any attempt by creatures simply to infer the nature of the divine on the basis of creaturely realities will inevitably amount to a projection of created features onto the divine and will thus amount to a mythology (Athanasius).
i) That does address a genuine danger. When we extrapolate from creatures to God, there's a serious risk of failing to make due allowance for the disanalogies between God and creatures. Indeed, I think Grudem et al. are guilty of that. By the same token, I think Christians who infer eternal generation from fatherhood/sonship metaphors are equally guilty of the same error.
ii) That said, the Bible uses many theological models and metaphors for God that are drawn from creation. This presumes some degree of analogy between God and creatures. Although, in the order of being, God is prior–in the order of knowing, analogues drawn from the created order are a necessary bridge to forming concepts about God. Scripture itself does that all the time.
iii) So this becomes a question of theological method. Scripture makes statements about God's transcendent nature that delimit the boundaries of these theological metaphors.