Though I’ve not yet read them all, posts in the series by David Congdon entitled “Trinity, Gender, and Subordination”  looks promising.

Regarding social trinitarianism he writes:

Earlier I argued that the social doctrine of the trinity is the hidden assumption behind the complementarian argument. Without this doctrine, none of its claims work, because you can only extrapolate human relations from the divine if the trinitarian persons are three distinct subjects. The irony is that—in the work of theologians like Moltmann, Miroslav Volf, Leonardo Boff, John Zizioulas, and Catherine LaCugna—social trinitarianism makes the same move from trinity to humanity in support of egalitarianism. This, in itself, should give us pause. Whether one side has more arguments in favor or not, the fact remains that it is not at all clear that the argument from the trinity should result in a complementarian social order. Whereas the complementarian argument focuses on the way Father and Son relate within history, the egalitarian argument focuses on the being of Father and Son within eternity. Picking one over the other is hazardous: losing the Son’s subordination to the Father cuts one off from the biblical narrative of Jesus, but losing the eternal co-equality and perichoretic unity lands one in subordinationism.

In the end, both versions of social trinitarianism presuppose the same problematic conception of divine “personhood.” Both employ circular reasoning that construes God in human terms, making God into the image of humanity so that humanity can then find its image in God; both end up confirming what the theologian already believes. Social trinitarianism—whether a social-trinitarian complementarianism or a social-trinitarian egalitarianism—ends up with a quasi-tritheistic conception of God that undermines the single subjectivity of God as Father, Son, and Spirit. For this reason, we cannot appeal to an egalitarian doctrine of the trinity over against a complementarian doctrine of the trinity.

Later he demands (and I heartily agree)…

God is absolutely beyond gender in such a way that no single gender can accurately reflect the trinitarian life of God, and thus both genders can be used to speak faithfully of God—though, in our current state of linguistic confusion, no gender might be the best option. This needs to become axiomatic for Christian faith. Without it, we are easily bewitched by the language found in scripture and the tradition into thinking that Father and Son are somehow comparable to what we call “fathers” and “sons,” that God is somehow more like a man than a woman, or that relations within the trinity share a likeness to relations between men and women. These are all examples of Christianity run amok, and we have to be diligent about extinguishing such ideas whenever they appear. Once this axiom is in place, however, we are free to employ gendered imagery in ways that help to articulate the truth of the gospel. We can speak of God the Father who is, at the same time, God the Mother. This is not an act of departing from scripture or of bringing in pagan notions into our theology. It is precisely out of a true faithfulness to the triune God that such language becomes meaningful, even necessary.

HT: Mike Bird


  1. Paul, I do think this is a serious problem within complementarianism. I’ve noticed that it does in fact seem as though some are modifying the doctrine of the Trinity merely to make room for their own theological perspective. The eternal submission of the son to the father, some complementarians say, shows that beings can be equal in all ways but have different roles; but in fact that notion radically splits the Trinity. I have written on the topic myself here: I’d appreciate your thoughts.

  2. Thanks for the pointer J.W. Am on the road this weekend and will take a look early next week.

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