Sunday, July 17, 2016

Is there hierarchy in the Trinity?

I don't necessarily agree with all this, but it's one of the more intelligent analyses in a debate that's suffered from too much conceptual confusion and crudity:


  1. I agree with the author that we shouldn't be speaking in terms of anything that's an attribute applying to one over another lest we deny the divine substance which all three persons share fully and without remainder. I reject sovereignty language as it pertains only to the Father. It's an attribute of God and consequently a matter of essence not personal subsistence I'd say.

    I prefer to speak in terms of relational disposition with respect to roles among equal persons, but I guess you know that...

    I was hssty in my first private remarks.

  2. I also dislike authority language. Loving and full agreement submission I prefer.

  3. I respectfully have to disagree with this blog post you link to.

    1. The idea that having authority is a "great making property" is completely antithetical to New Testament ethics. Jesus taught that whoever wanted to be great, should become the servant (i.e. in submission) to all. A person who has authority is not in any way morally superior because of that, neither is a person who lacks authority morally less. Submission expresses divine goodness and greatness just as much as authority. I think, though, that this idea hits the nail on the head as to what the real objection to eternal submission is. Those who hold to the egalitarian Trinity position have absorbed from modern Western culture the idea that submission is a negative thing that must imply inferiority of being. But that just isn't true. It is the modern Western cultural assumption that needs to be challenged, the doctrine of the Trinity doesn't need to be reworked.

    2. The author's suggestion that the roles of Father, Son and Holy Spirit are roles chosen as part of a covenant cannot be sustained. Briefly:
    (a) The author misinterprets the eternal subordination/gender position by taking the eternal Father/Son relation as being tightly analogous to the husband/wife relation. But that isn't what is being asserted. All that is being asserted is that both involve a similar kind of submission. In fact, the best and most precise analogy to the eternal Father/Son relation is the human father/son relation, and that doesn't involve a covenant.
    (b) The author fails to recognize that in a marriage covenant (unless one believes in gay marriage), then what roles can be chosen is strictly determined by the person's nature. A man can only choose to be a husband (of a woman), and a woman can only choose to be the wife (of a man). A man cannot choose to be a wife or marry a man. Similarly, the roles of the persons in the Trinity is determined by their hypostatic character (I won't use the term nature to avoid confusion).
    (c) The idea is incoherent. If the persons of the Trinity were simply three identical repeats (which couldn't be anyway due to the principle of the identity of indiscernibles), there would never be any reason for any one of them to adopt any particular role. Why would person 1 choose to be Father and person 2 choose to be Son, or vice-versa? You can't say one "liked" the role more, because that implies a difference of character that results in the decision. There would just be no reason for them to choose any particular role as opposed to any other. The final decision would be essentially arbitary and random.
    (d) If being Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are just chosen roles like this, then all scriptural evidence that there are three different persons in the immanent Trinity disappears, because all the scriptural differentiation of persons is based on differentiation of Father from Son from Spirit. That is, you are left with an economic Trinity only. This leaves absolutely no scriptural defence against modalism, of the kind espoused by Oneness Pentecostalism. So if there is no scriptural reason to prefer this version of the Trinity over modalism, why not choose modalism? If persons 1, 2 and 3 are playing roles Father, Son, and Spirit, why not say just person 1 plays all these three?

    3. The really basic problem with this view is his thorough-going nominalist assumption that will has priority over nature. In actual fact, nature has priority over will; what a thing does is determined by what that thing is. God acts in a good way because he is the Form of the Good. The Father acts as a Father because he is a Father. The Son acts as a Son because he is a Son. The nominalist idea that will has priority over nature underlies the whole modern gender confusion - after all, if will has priority over nature, why can't a man just choose to be a woman? Why can't I choose to be a dog? The reality is that God has a nature, and we have a nature, and will simply expresses that nature.