Trinity Debate Afterthoughts

The debate just ended a few minutes ago and I think it’s safe to say that Grudem and Ware won.  I have a couple of thoughts on the debate, nothing collected, just some scattered reflections. 

  • I found it funny how Dr. McCall began his opening statement by saying that this wasn’t going to be a debate about biblical theology (Ware/Grudem) and philosophical theology (McCall/Yandell) when that’s exactly what it ended up being! 
  • I’ve never actually heard Grudem speak before and after hearing him tonight I must admit that I rather like him.  I guess I’ll never be able to join the Anti-Grudemites International.  Darnit!
  • Ware and Grudem stuck with the Bible.  Their arguments were based upon what Scripture does say and not what it doesn’t.  McCall and Yandell for the most part avoided what the Bible does say and argued from what it doesn’t say.
  • Hearing Grudem quote the Nicene Creed in Greek was about the most gutwrenching thing I’ve ever heard.  I don’t ever, and I mean ever, want to hear that again!
  • Phil Gons asked a question via email that someone in attendance read and it was laughed into oblivion by Dr. Yandell.  It was a good question that undermined Yandell and McCall’s position.  Their position was basically this:

If the Son is essentially (i.e., necessarily) subordinate  and the Father is not, then they are not of the same essence (i.e., being/nature), therefore the Son is of a lesser essence (i.e., being/nature) and the result if basically Arianism.

  • Phil’s question was:

If the Son is necessarily the Son and the Father is necessarily not the Son then the Son is essentially the Son and the Father is essentially not the Son thus the Son is essentially different from the Father. You must deny homoousion on the basis of your own premises.

  • Yandell’s response was to simply keep saying: “Why?” which was met with laughter from the crowd.  But I think what Yandell missed and Ware caught was that Phil’s question (if I understood it correctly) was posed in a way so as to expose the equivocation that was being used by McCall and Yandell.  Ware noted this when he pointed out that the words “necessary” and “essential” were being used interchangeably, but then “essential” was being used also to mean “essence.”  So if something such as the Father having authority over the Son is “necessary” to his being the Father of the Son, then it was “essential” meaning intrinsic to his “essence” as Father which in turn means that Jesus’ “essence” as Son is less than that of the Father.  But Ware and Grudem were very clear in maintaining that the authority/submission structure in the Trinity is with regard to the “personal relations” between Father, Son, and Spirit and not to their “identically same, fully shared, eternal essence.”

In any event, I thought it was a pretty good exchange.  I think that Ware and Grudem were well prepared, well spoken, articulate, and most importantly, correct in their position.  I think McCall and Yandell relied to heavily on syllogistic arguments and speculative theology, I didn’t find either particularly well spoken, although they were funnier than Ware, and about as funny as Grudem.  But most of all, I appreciated that not once did Ware or Grudem use their position as a way to talk about gender!!!  Thank you Jesus!

Update: Andy Naselli was present for the debate (in fact he was the one who asked Phil’s question) and he live blogged the entire thing.  Check it out, it’s worth it for the outlines alone!



75 thoughts on “Trinity Debate Afterthoughts

  1. Thanks for the mention, Nick. You seem to understand my question and the problems it reveals in the McCall–Yandell argument. It’s unfortunate that Dr. Yandell didn’t.

    I interacted with Tom on this exact question prior to the debate, and he had no rebuttal to offer.

    In hindsight, I should have addressed Tom again with the question as he was already familiar with it.

  2. Overall, I enjoyed the debate and think that if I read a transcript of the event that I would be of the opinion that both sides did well. But, watching the debate makes me side with Grudem/Ware:

    1. McCall/Yandell both seemed unprepared to be challenged on their view.

    2. McCall’s intro was terrible…he said he could find Scriptures to support his view, and IMO he should have because it would have strengthened the argument. The argument came across as speculative to the extreme.

    3. Grudem/Ware were so well prepared, came across as knowledgeable and were very fine speakers. I watched a debate a few years back where Ware and Schreiner were arguing for Calvinism against Walls/Dongell. Ware alone won the debate because of his ability to craft an argument and speak it clearly. It’s almost like many of William Lane Craig’s debates. He’s such a master debater that the case of his opponent must be significantly better than Craig’s case for them to win.

    4. I wish I had recorded it, because Yandell was difficult to understand at times (which also hurt their argumentation)…his speaking is one reason why I think their argument would be better if I had simply looked at a transcript of the debate.

  3. Phil: I was glad that you asked the question because it’s similar to my line of thinking with regard to that argument. I basically saw it as a rehash of what Kevin Giles was proposing in his two books on the subject. I wish you would have asked Tom, I think he would have at least tried to answer it, even if he knew he didn’t have a good response.

    Ranger: I agree. I think that Ware and Grudem were extremely well prepared and that alone gave them an advantage. The debate seemed almost like a joke to McCall and Yandell. And I had trouble understanding Yandell as well, but fortunately I can go back and watch it again. McCall was a bit muffled at times too, but I think that was because he was so much taller than everybody else and the mic was positioned too low.

  4. Yeah, I was definitely annoyed by McCall. And I too must admit that I like Grudem more than I did before.

    I think they won the debate. In fact, I’m closer now to their position than I have been.

  5. Mike: McCall’s whole argument basically amounted to saying “there’s no good reasont to believe them.” Not very compelling stuff. And as long as Grudem and Ware stick to the Trinity there’s a lot to commend their position. It’s when they make the jump from the Trinity to men and women that things get sketchy.

  6. I guess for me right now the question that sticks out if the son is necessarily subordinate by the fact that he is the son then how does that not equal an ontological difference between the Father and the Son. I would like to see that fleshed out more.

    Also I think in one of the brief moments I watched the debate I think Yandell talked about how the same passages that are used to speak of Jesus’ subordination could and have also been used to speak of other things that are wrong (I think he referred to the Arian controversy).

    Not only that but Grudem and Ware seemed to have a methodology (which is very common and not necessarily wrong) that looks to make all biblical passages equal one piece of the puzzle, that when put together end up showing the big picture of the nature of God, of the Trinity, and I’m still not convinced that scripture doesn’t sometimes say different things or things that really aren’t meant to be grouped together or fit together into the same picture. It seems like somewhat of a fundamentalist methodology that tries to give every passage equal weight and equal voice in the final picture. But that’s something else I’m working through right now and looking to eventually do more study on: the roll of scripture in the methodology of theology.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    Bryan L

  7. Mike: You and me both.

    Bryan: Check out Phil’s second post, I think he handles the question well. I think Ware’s analogy (flawed as all analogies are) addressed the issue adequately as well. He spoke of a president and a janitor of a company. The janitor as janitor is subordinate to the president yet both are human. The president is no more human than the janitor and vice versa. There’s a functional subordination but not an ontological one. Even if this subordination were conceived of as eternal, that wouldn’t change the basic fact that there is no ontological subordination. Of course this defense is nothing new, and it’s flawed in that the union of nature between the persons of the Trinity is far greater than the generic shared nature of humanity, but that even further illustrates how the subordination in question is one of function via the personal relationship and not one of nature.

    I don’t know that Ware and Grudem were guilty of what you’re saying but I think that the passages of Scripture they referenced were those that carry the most weight in this particular discussion. They focused on the sending/sent passages and passages that show the Son’s obedience to the Father. Scripture may say different things, on that I won’t argue, but one thing it never shows is the Father obeying the Son or the Son sending the Father. In other words, the order is never reversed and because of that Yandell and McCall were forced to move away from Scripture and say “what if” and argue for a somewhat agnostic position saying that we really don’t know what God was like in eternity past.

  8. I’ve never actually heard Grudem speak before and after hearing him tonight I must admit that I rather like him.

    Nick, this is really good to hear.

    I got to hear Dr. Bruce Ware in person at Denton Bible Church where he delivered an excellent sermon on gender roles,

    I haven’t had the opportunity to hear Wayne Grudem in person, or in audio.

  9. I only caught the last half hour (question and answer section) of the debate. I agree that it seemed that Grudem and Ware’s arguments were stronger.

    If you think Yandell was difficult to understand, try sitting through an entire course with him! I really liked what he said in his closing statement, however: the rest of the Philosophy departement at Madison would consider the entire debate to be on the level of debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. His point was that the two sides are not as far apart as they might seem. Personally, I think he inadvertantly made the point that the entire topic was pedantic and pointlessly academic.

  10. I was glad to be present for the debate; Yandell’s speech is hard to understand, and I could not have followed him without the handouts provided. It seemed to me that Grudem/Ware were amazingly well-prepared — to argue a position that wasn’t under debate, that the Son is subordinate because of the Incarnation. Their copious Scriptural references proved this point, but had very little to do with the question as it was presented. McCall/Yarnell addressed the actual question that was up for debate. Grudem/Ware also seemed to use patristic quotes to try to support a position that few if any of the Fathers would have supported. I was glad that McCall called them out on their misquoting Aquinas, where they used an Aquinas sound bite out of context to make it sound like Aquinas supported their position — when in fact Aquinas in the quoted passage was proving the opposite point.

  11. Phil:

    I was reading your main response response and I had a question:

    When you say “If the Son is eternally the Son and the Father is eternally not the Son…”

    are you saying

    1.) If A is necessarily A and B is necessarily not A…

    or are you saying

    2.) If A is necessarily X and B is necessarily not X…”

    Since you capitalize the second “the Son” in “If the Son is eternally the Son…” then it’s hard for me to tell if the second “the Son” is referring to the person “the Son” or the relationship of being son to the Father.

    In other word are you saying:

    1.) If the person “the Son” is eternally the person “the Son” and the person “the Father” is eternally not the person “the Son…

    or are you saying

    2.) If the person “the Son” is eternally son to the person “the Father” and the person “the Father” is eternally not son to the person “the Father”…

    Hope that is clear.



    You said:
    “There’s a functional subordination but not an ontological one. Even if this subordination were conceived of as eternal, that wouldn’t change the basic fact that there is no ontological subordination.”

    What would ontological subordination look like in theory? I’ve heard that the subordination of the Son to the Father, though eternal, is functional and not ontological but it just makes me curious then as to how I would recognize an ontologically subordinate relationship and what makes it different from a functionally subordinate relationship?

    Also if a janitor was eternally subordinate to the president by virtue of him BEING the janitor (and not just because he performs the functions of a janitor) and the president BEING the president (and not just because he performs the functions of a president) why would the janitor not be ontologically subordinate to the president? Again this makes me wonder what ontological subordination looks like if not this.

    Bryan L

  12. Michael: I’ve heard Ware give talks before, but this is the first time I’ve heard him talk on the Trinity (although it was nothing new since I read his book).

    Ryan: That’s an interesting take. I thought he was saying something along the lines of his colleagues would have seen Grudem and Ware as philosophically unsophisticated or something like that.

    Joe: I disagree. I think that Ware and Grudem made a pretty good case for conceiving of subordination in eternity, especially with reference to the Son’s being sent into the world, and also when Ware read from Ephesians 1. And for the record, I’m dismayed that anyone would quote Aquinas at any time and in any place!

    Bryan: It would look like this: Creator/creature. That’s what Arianism was. God was alone the Creator, the Son was the first and most exalted of all his creatures. Within the creation I imagine it’s a little harder to perceive since we’re all creatures. But I think that humans are ontologically superior to slugs.

    Oh, and while I’m on Arianism, I just re-read your original comment and saw the reference to it. I’m not convinced that either Yandell or McCall have a good grasp of the Arian controversy. The texts that Grudem and Ware were citing weren’t the main ammunition of the Arians, Proverbs 8:22-31 was, along with all those texts that speak of the Son being begotten. Their mission was to show the Son was a creature, nor that he was merely subordinate. For them his subordination flowed naturally from his being a creature and not vice versa. So when people argue that folks who believe in subordination in the Trinity are guilty of Arianism or traveling the same road, they’re really reversing the order of things. The Arians didn’t say ‘subordinate therefore creature’ — they said ‘creature therefore subordinate.’

  13. Nick:
    So you’re saying that the only time we would ever find ontological subordination is in the relationship of creator to creature? Since God is the only one who could actual create a living thing (a creature) then you’re saying that there are not other instances that we could think of where ontological subordination shows up and every other instance of subordination that we see is functional?

    Again I guess I’m wondering if we could come up with a definition for ontological subordination and requirements for telling us what makes something ontologically subordinate to something else? So if you say a slug is ontologically subordinate to a person why is that so? What qualities does a slug possess or not possess that make it subordinate to a person? Or does it even need any qualities that make it subordinate? Is it instead subordinate by virtue of it BEING a slug?

    Bryan L

  14. Bryan: No, I’m not saying that’s the ‘only’ time we find it (although it possibly could be), but it’s the clearest example, and it’s what was at the heart of the heresy of subordinationism.

    I suppose the definition you’re looking for is simply that something is ontologically subordinate when it is inferior in its nature/being/essence/substance. It’s easy to see with regard to Creator/creature but I’m not so sure how easy it is to see within the creation itself. Slugs have less cells making up what they are than humans do. Slugs are not nearly as intelligent. Slugs don’t express any emotions that I know of. Slugs are not rational and operate according to instinct so far as we know. I susppose that all of these things contribute to their ontological inferiority. Perhaps a scientist would be better qualified to answer such a question.

  15. I’m now wondering if ontological subordination is really just a theological or philosophical category or if it is something a scientist could answer.

    I mean what does it mean to be inferior in “being”? Being sounds like a theological or philosophical category.

    Earlier I asked about the janitor and the president. If the person is subordinate by the simple fact that he IS a janitor and always has been and always will be and janitors are necessarily subordinate to presidents then it would seem that the person who is a janitor in his BEING is ontologically inferior to the person who is a president in his BEING.

    Hope that’s not to muddled.

    Bryan L

  16. Bryan: No, it’s not muddled. He’s not a janitor by virtue of his being, he’s one by virture of his (what Grudem and Ware would call) role. The janitor and the president both share a common nature (or being) which is humanity. But like I said originally, all analogies like this are necessarily flawed. One thing that Yandell said that I agree with is that analogies fail because God is absolutely unique.

    As far as ‘being’ is concerned, I’m no scientist, but I’d imagine that they’d have to deal with ontology in some form or another, even if only physical and not metaphysical. But I could be completely wrong.

  17. Hearing Grudem quote the Nicene Creed in Greek was about the most gutwrenching thing I’ve ever heard. I don’t ever, and I mean ever, want to hear that again!

    Could you elaborate on this? Do you mean pronunciation?

  18. Jeff: Yes, that horrible, soft sounding, not-anything-like-an-actual-spoken-language Erasmian pronunciation. Horrible, horrible I say!

    If people want to use that for their NTs then fine, whatever, but leave my beloved Nicene Creed out of it! :-P

  19. Jeff: It was a live streaming video. Fortunately I was able to record it on my RealPlayer, but I can’t upload it to either YouTube or because the file is so large. I also can’t email it for the same reason (trust me, I’ve been trying all day). So I don’t have an example of Grudem, but if you’ve heard Mounce speak Greek then you’ve heard the horrid Erasmian pronunciation. If you haven’t heard him then listen to her and cringe.

  20. Esteban: I can’t help it, the guy is likable enough. I haven’t actually read anything that he’s written so I was kind of hating him on the strength of your hatred.

  21. Nick:
    I feel like continuing to press the issue but ultimately you are right that analogies break down and I’m not so sure we can really speak that meaningfully about this anyway since God is unique. Is this debate then a waste of time? Are we unable to know whether the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father or whether he is ontologically subordinate or just functionally subordinate, etc? Do those even really mean anything in reference to God? Are they just human categories for trying to figure out God that ultimately aren’t an accurate reflection of reality which is unknowable (in reference to God). Is it going beyond scripture when we try to figure it out or make sense of it?

    Bryan L

  22. Bryan: I don’t think that we’re unable to know. I believe that God has revealed in Scripture that this subordination has existed prior to the incarnation. I also believe that it has been revealed in Scripture that the Son is not ontologically subordinate to the Father because he is one with the Father in terms of being the same God as the Father. So yes, I think that these categories do mean something with reference to God. I think the major impact of Grudem and Ware’s arguments last night was that they weren’t willing to go beyond Scripture in their presentation, and I think they made a compelling case for their position by sticking to Scripture. Ultimately, we can’t know what God hasn’t revealed, but I think he’s revealed enough to keep us asking and answering questions from now until Jesus returns.

  23. Nick, the president/janitor analogy seem to me to be a false one. But I don’t want to write a comment longer than your post, so I’ll put something up on my blog.

  24. Or at least, I should say that’s it fails when its applied to the Trinity and then subsequently applied to men and women. Whether it fails in reference to the Trinity, I’ll have to think more on…

  25. But Nick one you start using terms like “ontological”, “being”, “essence”, etc. then you have gone beyond the Bible because these are philosophical terms. Even when you begin talking about eternity or before time (or outside of time) these are also terms that go beyond the Bible. How far can Grudem and Ware really go with the Biblical evidence before they are forced to let philosophy take over and then how far do they let philosophy go and how much of a voice does it get?

    Bryan L

  26. Bryan: Your question suggests that the Bible is void of philosophy but it obviously isn’t. I’d say that Ware and Grudem are consistent with what the Bible says about God. Also, for something to be biblical (language wise) it doesn’t necessarily have to appear in the Bible. When disputes arise over what the Bible means and both sides are using the language found in the Bible to say different things, then it is necessary to use language outside of the Bible to clarify each position (hence the formation of the early creeds and confessions of faith).

  27. What philosophy does the Bible have? It has theology but philosophy isn’t something that really sticks out in my mind when I think of the Bible. I think the wisdom writing might be the closest thing we find to philosophy in the Bible but it’s more like natural theology.

    The point is that when you start speaking of abstract concepts like ‘being” then you are moving beyond the Bible, not just in language but in content. Whatever is in the Bible that might seem a bit philosophic (such as the idea that Jesus was in the “form” of God) is so small and it’s never elaborated or discussed in detail.

    I don’t think Grudem and Ware are just sticking with the Bible and not going beyond it. I don’t think they want to admitl how much their views are dependent on philosophical ideas that are not found in the Bible but which they hope to use in order to help make sense of it.

    It’s fine to want to use philosophical concepts and extra biblical ideas to try and make sense of it but ultimately it seems that the Bible will always resist these attempts just as it resists the attempts to use science to make sense of it since it wasn’t written with those in mind.

    Bryan L

  28. Bryan: In as much as there is a metaphysic in the Bible, there is philosophy. The Bible certainly portrays God as the transcendent Creator above and beyond his creation. Claims of the spiritual world are metaphysical claims. I’d also suggest that “being” is no more an abstract concept than God’s saying, “I am.” What is ontology other than the study of being/existence?

    Also, I’m not sure where you’ve gathered this criteria that something must be elaborated or discussed in detail in order for it to be biblical (if I’m understanding you correctly). How much detail must an author go into? What’s the standard by which we judge? Two sentences, three sentces, and entire book?

    I’d like to hear why you think Grudem and Ware aren’t sticking to the Bible and are going beyond it. I know you didn’t see the whole debate, but could you give some examples from what you did see? Or can you think of anything that you’ve read from either of them on the subject that would lead you to believe this?

    And I think you’re begging the question in saying that the Bible resists certain ideas and that they’re extra-biblical. I think we have to first establish that and then proceed from there.

  29. Nick:
    “In as much as there is a metaphysic in the Bible, there is philosophy”

    There is no detailed discussions of those things like there are in philosophical texts. The biblical authors weren’t philosophizing they just happened to reflect some of the beliefs about the world that belong to the questions of philosophy. However I see your point. The thing is even if there are some concepts present in the Bible that were heavily discussed in ancient philosophy, there doesn’t really seem to be a unified view of those concepts or any extended reflection on those concepts. Instead they just reflect whatever they happened to believe (maybe uncritically) and sometimes those beliefs are different depending on the book/author. Take the question of the body. Does it have a tripartite nature, a dualist nature or a is it a single substance? What about time? Is God inside or outside of time? Is time cyclical or does have a beginning and moves towards an end? Does the person survive death in a separate state or do they only exist in a body? What about cosmology a subject that was discussed quite a bit in the ancient world. Does God reside in heaven somewhere above the earth or is he in a completely different realm?

    On top of that if you then say that the Bible does have a single view on any of those topics then it becomes theology and not philosophy since it is based on revelation not on observation, rationality, logic, or mathematics.

    “Also, I’m not sure where you’ve gathered this criteria that something must be elaborated or discussed in detail in order for it to be biblical (if I’m understanding you correctly). How much detail must an author go into? What’s the standard by which we judge? Two sentences, three sentces, and entire book?”

    Let’s look at essence. Is this a biblical concept? What does it mean for something to have an essence? Is this like a form? If it is, do forms exist separately than things or are they part of the things. Is the essence what something truly is? I mean we could go on and on about essence and then begin to discuss the members of the trinity in terms of their essence but essence is not a biblical idea. It is a philosophical idea that we’ve come up with to try and make sense of reality and of things in this world–what separates them and makes them different and what makes them the same. The Bible doesn’t talk about essence though and I don’t even think it really reveals any deep reflection of this concept (if any at all).

    My point about Grudem and Ware going beyond the Bible is that any time someone begins to import these philosophical categories into theology to try and make sense of the Biblical data then it is going beyond the Bible. If they talk about “being” in a philosophical sense (as in persons in the Trinity sharing the same “being” or something like that) or essence (as in the difference between the Son’s essence and the Fathers essence) then they are going beyond the Bible.

    Anyway I could go on and on about this but I’m still thinking through all of it so it would probably be a waste of time for others since I’m sure I’m not being completely consistent nor have I really settled on anything yet.

    Thanks for the discussion.

    Bryan L

  30. The whole thing hinges on the assumption that Father, Son and Spirit are precisely and completely eternally the way they are economically in redemptive history. Grudem-Ware affirm this; McCall-Yandell don’t. Your affirmation or rejection of that tenet necessitates your view of eternal subordination. Without that link, a thousand prooftexts depicting Christ’s redemptive-historical, economic subordination prove nothing regarding eternal economy.
    McCall-Yandell’s argument that “necessity”=”essence” is not as foolish as you might think. It says nothing necessarily of reality, but of potentiality. There is nothing in Scripture that says the Three Persons necessarily have an eternal economy precisely identical to time-space economy. To argue this is to open oneself to a whole host of nonsensical positions, particularly when you press the envelope of the Incarnation to include the development of Jesus over his 33 years of life on earth.

  31. Jeff: You know the address…

    Bryan: Lots to discuss there, I’m sure over time we’ll get to it all…

    Matt: I think on the basis of the sending/sent passages alone the case can be made for a pre-temporal/pre-incarnational obedience on the part of the Son to the Father. There is nothing to suggest any other kind of relationship prior to the incarnation.

    My question has always been on what basis does anyone posit a relationship in eternity that is different than the relationship in time? There’s absolutely nothing to commend this view. If the economic Trinity doesn’t reveal something about the immanent Trinity, then what does it reveal?

    And I don’t think the “necessity = essentially = essence = nature/being” argument foolish, but I do consider it fallacious, namely equivocal. Ware pointed this out and I can’t recall either McCall or Yandell coming back with a response. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    I’m also not sure what nonsensical positions you think that arguing for an eternal authority/submission in the Trinity opens one up for. Could you give me an example or two?

  32. Nick,

    I do think that Philippian 2 provides a clear picture of non-subordination before the incarnation – which is also why I consider other statements regarding subordination to be limited only to redemptive history. I think a reasonable case can be made for that while avoiding McCall & Yandell’s errors.

  33. Mike: I’d argue that we don’t see anything concerning the relationship between Father and Son before the incarnation in Philippians 2, and also that the equality spoken of is ontological i.e. Christ’s existing in the form of God. And if I’m not mistaken I believe that hyparchon is a present, active, participle, so doesn’t that indicate that he was presently existing in the form of God, i.e., still (ontologically) equal to God.

    Update: I discussed this with Bryan L. a while back starting here. You might want to give that exchange a read as well.

  34. I’m cynical that the first century mind would make that distinction between ontology and relationship. Back then you were who you knew.

  35. Mike: I don’t know, I think it’s a stretch to get a relational aspect from “form (morphe) of God, form (morphen) of a servant, human form (schemati)” in Philippians 2. At its heart it’s a passage about humility, but also one that gave rise to the doctrine of the hypostatic union because of the ontological import of it.

    And also, we don’t see Father/Son language used which would certainly help in making a case for Paul having in mind their relationship prior to the incarnation. Food for thought…

  36. “And also, we don’t see Father/Son language used which would certainly help in making a case for Paul having in mind their relationship prior to the incarnation.”

    That’s a valid point, though I would argue that we don’t seen Father/Son language simply because the central issue is humility.

    I have a feeling we’re likely to just go back and forth on this one. So let me say this instead:

    If I were to conclude you are correct on Phil 2, I would also concede preincarnate subordination. And I should also say that I have little against the view of preincarnate subordination as long as its not used in the gender debate, which is lame.

    I’m not dogmatic on my dogmas. I try to stick with the text.

  37. Mike:

    I would argue that we don’t seen Father/Son language simply because the central issue is humility.

    Very possible, but then that begs the question, if the central issue is humility (which we both agree on) then is it also the preincarnate relationship between Father and Son? Doubtful in my mind.

    And you know where I stand about using the Trinity as a trump card in the gender debate. That’s why I was so impressed with Grudem and Ware last night, they didn’t bring up gender once that I can recall.

  38. “then is it also the preincarnate relationship between Father and Son? Doubtful in my mind.”

    No, you’re correct, it isn’t the issue, but I consider it implicit background for Paul’s statement – just like I consider Greco-Roman views on relationship and being as implicit.

    Theology, in many cases – if not the majority of cases, is rarely explicitly stated in the text. That’s why we have people who don’t believe in the Trinity or don’t believe that Jesus was God. But you know this already.

    I think that perhaps we’ll have to wait until heaven/the new earth to have this discussion settled then we can ask God what’s going on in/among himself and ask Paul what he believed.

  39. Mike: I like to believe that we’ll still be learning in the coming kingdom. I sometimes imagine all the great prophets and apostles holding Bible studies and if such were the case I’d definitely sit in on Isaiah, John, Paul’s classes. :)

  40. Nick,

    I know you will appreciate this, but Tertullian’s Trinitarian apologetic: Against Praxeas (Adversus Praxean) is well worth reading!

    Also Eric Osborn’s work: Tertullian, first theologian of the West is classic to me. A must read certainly! It is out now in paperback (Cambridge).

    Keep up the good work and the Trinitarian revelation, in faith and desire. Here center stage is the famous formulation of Tertullian: “tres personae, una substantia (three persons, one substance).

    Fr. Robert

  41. Indeed, Osborn is an Aussie Emeritus professor, Queens College University, Melbourne. His forte is second-century Christian thought. I feel he is one of our best here. But this his book on Tertullian, is the best overall read of him. As I said, nothing but a classic in my mind!


  42. Andrew: Good to know, thanks. Generally when I think of Osborne I think og Grant, the author of The Hermeneutical Spiral.

    Fr. Robert: I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a copy at a good price.

  43. Nick,

    It is sad to me that the Trinity of God, is often but given lip service to in the Western Church. There are certainly exceptions, but rather rare really.

    Certainly this profound reality of God must fit into a doctrinal deveopment, but a revelational one. And in the west Tertullian is one of our first Fathers who thought deeply on this grand profundity of our One God but Triune. As our Anglican Collect says: “to acknowledge the glory of the eternal trinity, and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the unity.” This prayer captures the concept within two infinitives!

    It is really all about worship, but worship that is true and God given!

    I would personally see and follow the Eastern thought, that God the Father is the regal and the cause or origin of the Godhead, from whom the Son is begotten eternally and also from whom the Holy Spirit proceeds eternally. But Augustine’s idea, as Tertullian in part, that the conception of the Holy Spirit as the mutual love of the Father and the Son, is an analogical process, and moves us to a sort of psychological theory of the Trinity, in the reality of God is Love. Also, any economic Trinity is always emphasized in the immanent or ontological reality of the Trinity of God! We simply must think about God’s being and nature. His being or reality is always One Triune Unity! (See St. John 14:23;26 / 16:27-28)


  44. Nick,

    You also might want to check out a few older Grant’s…Frederick C. Grant. At one time a member of the Revised Standard Bible Revision committee. He had a long distinguished career, in America to his last, at Oxford University, 1959-60.

    And then there was Robert M. Grant, one time professor of the University of Chicago.


  45. Fr. Robert: I tend toward Eastern Trinitarianism as well, and see the monarchy of the Father as decidedly biblical. My problem with Augustine’s conception of the Spirit as the “bond of love” is that of many of his critics: it tends to depersonalize the Spirit.

  46. Nick,

    Great to hear mate, we are on the same page.

    I know the argument against Augustine’s Trinitarian ideas, but I feel that he still has some merit here, as the Trinity of God is quite large enough, and still must always be a mystery!

    Like St. John, God is ‘Life, Light and Love’…in the persons of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit! And always for Augustine, grace is itself a trinity, and we cannot isolate the Love of God from the Life and the Light which are its fulfillment.
    Again, here is ontology…God’s!


    PS.. There is a great older book: AMOR DEI, A study of St. Augustine’s teaching on the Love of God as the motive of Christian life, by John Burnaby. They are the Hulsean Lectures for 1938. I have the reprint 1947…London, Hodder & Stoughton.

  47. Nick, I am in my late 50’s! So I have been around awhile, lol. My also Irish father lived into his 90’s (RIP). For me? God’s will be done!

    Fr. Robert
    D.Phil., Th.D.

    PS Stay on the cutting edge of grace & glory!

  48. Nick,
    I just ordered a new St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press book: Orthodox Readings of Augustine, edited by George E. Demacopoulos & Aristotle Papanikolaou. Have you seen this yet?

    They were papers originally given and delivered at the “Orthodox Readings of Augustine Conference” in June of 2007, at Fordham, USA.


  49. Fr. Robert: My problems with Augustine are many but I can still appreciate much of his insight into the Trinity.

    Thanks for all of the book recommendations, you’re are seriously increasing my “to read” list! I have not heard of the one you just picked up but it sounds like a good read.

  50. Yes Nick,
    I have been reading Augustine since I was a young teen, I too have had my ups and downs with him. But overall he has so much to offer to the Church and the doctrine of God! My feelings at least.

    If you have, ‘Augustine through the Ages, An Encyclopedia’, General Editor Allan D. Fitzgerald, O.S.A. (Eerdmans, 1999)? This is a good tool in my mind!

    God Bless mate,
    Fr. Robert

  51. Nick,

    I just posted a complete response to Phil Gons’ objection to the McCall/Yandell position here. Basically, I argue that the McCall/Yandell position is nuanced enough to escape the objections raised by Gons.

    God bless,

    James Gordon

  52. No study of the Trinity of God without reading something from Hans Urs von Balthasar would be lasting in todays theology. The book by my Irish mate: Gerard O’Hanlon – The Immutability of God in the theology of Hans Urs Von Balthasar (Cambridge University Press) is well worth reading!

    Fr. Robert

  53. Fr. Robert: Then sadly my study of the Trinity will not last long for quite some time as von Balthassar is at the bottom of my “to read” pile. I hear good things but there’s so much to get to before him.

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