Monday, June 21, 2010

Trinity without Tiers - Graham Cole

Graham Cole teaches Systematics at TEDS and at Anglicans Together he gave a very good lecture on Trinity without Tiers. Basically it's a response to Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware about subordination in the Trinity. Myself and Robert Shillaker get a mention in despatches (@ 34.45 mins). It's easily the best lecture I've heard on the subject in terms of introducing the topic, what the debate is, who are the key players, and what is at stake. Though I'd press Cole on a few things such as whether "Christ" in the 1 Corinthians passages means Jesus' messianic role as opposed to his divine sonship before the Father. Also, I think he's a bit blaise with Rahner's rule. As long as the incarnation tells us something of the eternal life of God, then Rahner's rule (however imprecise in certain details) remains valid.

I stand by the point I've made with Robert Shillaker in a couple of Trinity Journal articles. (1) Ontological equality with functional subordination is biblical and orthodox. (2) The word "subordination" is dangerously flirting with Arianism and we need a better term like "the Son's obedient self-distinction from the Father". (3) This whole debate is being driven by gender issues in North American evangelicalism and I simply doubt whether intra-Trinitarian relationships can be or should be applied to male-female relationships.

7 comments:

Bill said...

It's more than gender issues, Mike. Hierarchy in the Godhead is an excuse for hierarchy in church life. I'm no anarchist, but I don't think the NT writers ever meant to encourage the kind of overlordship we've so commonly seen.

I've a sneaking suspicion those who push female subordination have subconsciously chosen a safe place to draw the line on a larger debate. Once they've alienated all but whoever can stomach 'headship', their own hierarchical position ought to be fairly secure.

Paul said...

Thanks so very much for this as it's been a burning issue for me for some time. I look forward to listening and learning.

I just finished Erickson's Who's Tampering with the Trinity which I found to be fair-minded, if not altogether new territory.

Jeremy said...

It's more than gender issues, Bill. Total equality in the Godhead is an excuse for total equality in in church life. I'm no totalitarian, but I don't think the NT writers ever meant to encourage the kind of anarchy we've so commonly seen.

I've a sneaking suspicion those who push equality have subconsciously chosen a safe place to draw the line on a larger debate. Once they've alienated all but whoever can stomach equality, their own anarchic position ought to be fairly secure.

It can go both ways.

Maybe, just maybe Bill, complementarians and non-complementarians alike think that their view is found in scripture. I think that option has to at least be recognized.

Rod said...

I agree with your third point Mike. What does the Father-Son relationship have to do with men and women? Is it that simple? I don't think so.

Paul said...

Mike:
Just listend to Cole's lecture...TRULY outstanding as you say and a must-listen for introducing the conTROvesy (did I say that right?).

Are the Trinity Journal articles you mention (and that Cole mentions) avail online?

More specifically, is your view, viz., "ontological equality with functional subordination is biblical and orthodox" supporting eternal subordination or temporal?

pennoyer said...

The question of the inner-Trinitarian relationships is just too delicate - and important - a theological issue to tie so closely to contemporary controversies like gender relations. If we do that, we risk "the tail wagging the dog." And besides, aren't there enough explicit texts on gender, that the sides need to seek additional ammunition within the mystery of the Trinity?

Of course, somebody is now going to point out how (say) Barth or Augustine did something similar with the implications of the Trinity. In that case would say, "They were more careful theologians."

BTW, I note that Prof. Cole mentions with approval Millard Erickson. What an outstanding (evangelical) systematic theologian Erickson has proven to be!

Jeremy said...

As always, Dr. Cole is very fair when he presents what the opposition thinks. His specialty is biblical theology as opposed to in depth exegesis, and I think he ran through the actual textual evidence a little too quickly. I just don't like it when you set up the debate for 20 minutes and spend just a couple actually going through the passages.

One other question that Dr. Cole slightly hit on, but I would like to throw around a little more. If Grudem and Ware agree with Rahner's rule, how do we distinguish between the eternal inner life of the trinity and Jesus as human/divine on earth. Did Jesus not know the time of the Second Coming only during the incarnation, or eternally. Grudem and Ware need to explore this question a little more. Maybe they have and I just haven't seen it.