An “Evangelical” Trinity: Differentiation or Subordination?

What follows is an excerpt from a paper presented by Dr Kevin Giles at the 68th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society during the panel discussion titled “The Trinity: Submission and Subordination in the Trinity”. I was fortunate to attend, but did not show up until well into Dr. Gile’s presentation. The four presenters were Dr Bruce Ware, Dr Millard Erickson, and Dr Wayne Grudem, with Dr Sam Storms presiding. (Incidentally, Millard Erickson’s presentation titled “Language, Logic, and Trinity – An Analysis of Recent Subordination Arguments” was brilliant. You can download the audio here.)

Gile’s paper is so important on so many levels that I wish to provide a taste that I hope will whet your theological appetite and give you reason to download and read it in toto (see below). A special thanks to Ian Paul for providing the content on his blog.

…human language used of God is not to be taken literally, “univocally”, but analogically.

To argue that human language can define God is possibly the most serious theological error any one can make. It leads to idolatry; making God in our own image. We evangelicals should not define divine fatherhood and divine sonship by appeal to human experience as liberal theologians are wont to do. We should define divine fathership and sonship in the light of scriptural revelation.

In the New Testament Jesus Christ is called the Son/Son of God to speak of his kingly status, not his subordination. The Reformed theologian and “complementarian”, John Frame, says,

There is a considerable overlap between the concepts of Lord and Son. … Both [titles] indicate Jesus’ powers and prerogatives as God, especially over God’s people: in other words, [the title Son speaks of his] divine control, authority, and presence.

I agree completely with Dr Frame. I believe the NT calls Jesus Christ “the Son of God” to speak of his kingly status NOT his subordinate status.

Dr Grudem and Dr Ware again in stark contrast to the Nicene Creed’s confession that Jesus is the Son in a unique way, constantly and consistently argue that Jesus Christ is to be understood like any human son and as such is subordinate and necessarily obedient to his father. Note very carefully their theological methodology; they define God in creaturely terms, not by what is revealed in Scripture.


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