Dr. Wayne Grudem – The Interpersonal Relationship among the Members of the Trinity

This lecture is from an Academic Conference at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Grudem’s presentation is the 5th lecture of this series and it is titled:

Troubling Doctrinal Deviations in Evangelical Feminist arguments about the Trinity.

Several recent evangelical feminist authors have denied that the Son is eternally subject to the authority of the Father within the Trinity. These authors include Gilbert Bilezikian, Rebecca M. Groothuis, Kevin Giles, Millard Erickson, Phillip Carey, Linda Belleville, and Dennis W. Jowers.

In reading these arguments, I noticed that they contained important doctrinal deviation either in what is said, or what is implied in the form of the argument. The argument deviated from the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, in some cases and they rejected the authority of Scriptures, it seems to me, in other cases. So, those are going to be 2 parts of my paper:

  1. Evangelical feminist arguments that deviate from the orthodox  doctrine of the Trinity,
  2. And, Evangelical feminist arguments that reject the authority of Scripture.

Arguments that deviate from the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity

1. Denying the Trinity by denying any eternal distinctions
between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit

Essential to the doctrine of the Trinity, as affirmed by all four previous speakers, and is taught in the Bible is the idea that the distinctions between the persons of the Trinity- the Father is not the Son. Father is not the Holy Spirit, and the Son is not the Holy Spirit. They are 3 distinct persons. They’re equal in deity, and there’s only one God. But, within the being of God Himself, there are three distinct persons. Several recent evangelical authors are unwilling to specify any distinction between the persons. For example, rather than agreeing that the names Father, and Son indicate a distinction between the persons , a number of evangelical feminist authors argue that the names only show that the Son is like the Father, not that He is distinct from the Father in any way.

And sadly, the most prominent writer in this regard is Millard Erickson, whom I respect in many ways for much of what he has written. Erickson says, „There is considerable biblical evidence that the primary meaning of the biblical term Son as applied to Jesus is likeness, rather than subordinate authority. So, for example, he says the jews saw Jesus’s self designation as the Son of God as a claim to deity or equality with God. I should say in parenthesis- I agree that Sonship does imply equality of Being, because, just as a human son is human and the father is human; so, in the Trinity, the Father is divine, therefore, the Son of God is divine. That’s true. But, the question is whether that is all that is affirmed.

Similarly, Kevin Giles objects: ‘The name Father and Son are not used in the New Testament to suggest the divine Father always has authority over the Son. He said, these names speak, rather, of an eternal correlated relationship, by intimacy, unity, equality, and identical authority.

My response: If intimacy and identical authority were all that Jesus wanted to indicate by calling Himself a Son, calling God His Father, He could have spoken of ‘My friend in heaven‘, or ‘my brother in heaven‘, or even ‘my twin in heaven‘. These images were ready at hand. But, He did not. He spoke of ‘My Father in heaven‘. Emphasizing likeness in deity only, while failing to specify the distinctions between the persons of the Trinity is a failure to affirm the distinctions between the 3 persons, which is one important aspect of the doctrine of the Trinity. It seems to me that is a significant doctrinal deviation.(6:00)

2. Denying the Trinity by claiming an act of any one person
is actually an act of all three persons

Even more troubling is the tendency of evangelical feminists to claim that any action, taken by any person in the Trinity is an action of all three persons of the Trinity, when faced with many biblical texts that show that the Son is always subject to the Father (I have over 30 texts that I will allude to, later), and that the Father is not subject to the Son. When faced with many of these texts, Millard Erickson produces a different solution to suggest that the act of any one person in the Trinity is actually an act of all three persons. Here is what Erickson says is an overall principle. I’m quoting from his book ‘Who’s Tampering With The Trinity‘, pp 137-138. Erickson says this, „Although one person of the Trinity may occupy a more prominent part in a given divine action, the action is actually that of the entire Godhead‘- I would agree with him, up to that point. Then he says, ‘and the one person is acting on behalf of the three,” I would agree with him to that point. But then, listen, „This means that those passages that speak of the Father predestining, sending, commanding, and so on, should not be taken as applying to the Father only, but to all members of the Trinity. Thus, they do not count as evidence in support of eternal supremacy of the Father and eternal subordination of the Son.’

How does Erickson argue for this? The way he argues for it is to point out that some of the actions of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are done by more than one person. For instance, the Father and Son are involved in sending the Spirit into the world. The Father and Son are both involved in judging the world. Both the Son and the Holy Spirit intercede before the Father. The Father  and the Son both love the world. Both the Father and the Son receive prayer. Erickson concludes, „The various works attributed to the various persons of the Trinity are in fact works of the Triune God. One member of the Godhead may in fact do this on behalf of the three, and be mentioned as the one who does that work; but, all participate in what is done.’

But, these verses that he quotes, hardly prove Erickson’s point. Yes, it is true that both the Father and the Son sent the Spirit into the world. But, the Holy Spirit does not send the Holy Spirit into the world. And yes, both the Son and the Holy Spirit intercede before the Father. But, the Father does not intercede before the Father. As for actions that are directed toward people in the world, such as loving, judging, indwelling people, it is true that all three persons are involved in a way in these activities, but, that does not prove Erickson’s point because the real issue is the relationship between the Father and the Son in the Trinity. In that issue, the testimony of the Scripture is clear: The Son continuously, throughout eternity, submits to the will of the Father. This is clear, even in some of the passages that Erickson appeals to. At one point, he says, „It is not only the Father who predestined some to be saved, but Jesus also elects some to salvation. As Jesus said in John 5:21 ‘Even so, the Son gives life to whom He is pleased to give it and  no one knows the Father except the Son. And those to whom the Son chooses, reveal Him (John 5:21 and Matthew 11:27). Erickson concludes, „It appears that Jesus chooses those whom He reveals to the Father.” What he is saying, is, „The Father predestines. Yes, but the Son also predestines. They both do this action.”

It is remarkable that  Erickson mentions John 5:21 and Matthew 11:27, because the very context of both of them, Jesus attributes supreme authority to the Father. In John 5:21, he says, „Yes, He gives life to whom He is pleased to give it, but 2 verses earlier, Jesus says, „The Son can do nothing of His own accord. But only what He sees the Father doing. For, whatever the Father does, so the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and show Him all that He is doing.” Nine verses after this, Jesus says, „I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge. Judgment is just cause I seek not my own will, but the will of Him who sent me.” Erickson did not mention these verses, although they occur in the very same context. Therefore, the Son only chooses, in conjunction with what has been shown of the will of the Father.

As for Erickson’s other verse, Matthew 11:27, the beginning of the verse, which Erickson does not quote, says, „All things have been handed over to Me by My Father.” And then Jesus goes on to say, „No one knows the Father, except through the Son, and those whom the Son chooses to reveal Him.” The testimony of Scripture on this matter is consistent. When the Son chooses people for salvation, He is simply following  the directives of the Father. He’s not acting independently of the authority of the Father, yet, both the Father and the Son participate in their choosing, yet their actions are not identical, but distinct. The Father chooses, the Father shows the Son who has been chosen, the Son chooses those who have been given Him by the Father.

What is even more troubling about Erickson’s argument is he seems to be denying that there is any difference between the persons of the Trinity. He’s arguing against the idea that we can say that the Son has eternally been subject to the authority of the Father. Erickson is trying to nullify that idea, by denying that we can say anything that is done by the Son is not also done by the Father and the Spirit. Erickson wants to make that kind of discussion impossible. But, in order to make his point, he is apparently saying that the actions of any one person of the Trinity are the actions of not just the whole being of God, but of every person in the Trinity. And to say that is to deny what is taught by really hundreds of passages of Scriptures that speak of different actions, carried out by different members of the Trinity.

For example: At the baptism of Jesus, God the Father was speaking from heaven, „This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.” God the Son was not speaking from heaven in those words, nor was the Holy Spirit speaking from heaven and saying those words. God the Son was being baptized, the Holy Spirit was descending like a dove coming to rest upon Him. God the Father was not being baptized, nor was the Holy Spirit being baptized. The Father was not descending like a dove, nor was the Son descending like a dove. It simply confuses the teaching of Scripture to say or imply that all three persons of the Trinity are doing any one action. But that is what Erickson seems to be saying.  (12:35 min mark – with 44 minutes remaining)

Reclame

Paul Tripp – Five „benefits” of unforgiveness (via) Desiring God. Cinci „beneficii” a neiertarii

Ca sa cititi in Limba Romana, faceti click pe Romanian la translatorul din partea dreapta a blogului si Google translate v-a traduce textul.

You can read the entire article here-Five benefits of unforgiveness-on the Desiring God website. If the above title sounded confusing, it’s because the benefits of unforgiveness are „dark” . You can read more from Paul Tripp on his blog here.

Paul Tripp:

Why don’t people just forgive? That is a very good question. If forgiveness is easier and more beneficial, why isn’t it more popular? The sad reality is that there is short-term, relationally destructive power in refusing to forgive. Holding onto the other’s wrongs gives us the upper hand in our relationship. We keep a record of wrongs because we are not motivated by what honors God and is best for others but by what is expedient for ourselves.

Five Dark „Benefits” of Unforgiveness

  1. Debt is power. There is power in having something to hold over another’s head. There is power in using a person’s weakness and failure against him or her. In moments when we want our own way, we pull out some wrong against us as our relational trump card.
  2. Debt is identity. Holding onto another’s sin, weakness, and failure makes us feel superior to them. It allows us to believe that we are more righteous and mature than they are. We fall into the pattern of getting our sense of self not by the comfort and call of the gospel but by comparing ourselves to another. This pattern plays into the self-righteousness that is the struggle of every sinner.
  3. Debt is entitlement. Because of all the other person’s wrongs against us, he or she owes us. Carrying these wrongs makes us feel deserving and therefore comfortable with being self-focused and demanding. “After all I have had to endure in relationship with you, don’t I deserve . . . ?”
  4. Debt is weaponry. The sins and failures that another has done against us become like a loaded gun that we carry around. It is very tempting to pull them out and use them when we are angry. When someone has hurt us in some way, it is very tempting to hurt them back by throwing in their face just how evil and immature they are.
  5. Debt puts us in God’s position. It is the one place that we must never be, but it is also a position that all of us have put ourselves in. We are not the judge of others. We are not the one who should dispense consequences for other’s sin. It is not our job to make sure they feel the appropriate amount of guilt for what they have done. But it is very tempting to ascend to God’s throne and to make ourselves judge.

The Ugly Lifestyle of SelfishnessThis is nasty stuff. It is a relational lifestyle driven by ugly selfishness. It is motivated by what we want, what we think we need, and by what we feel. It has nothing to do with a desire to please God with the way we live with one another, and it surely has nothing to do with what it means to love others in the midst of their struggle to live God’s way in this broken world.

It’s also scarily blind. We are so focused on the failures of others that we are blind to ourselves. We forget how often we fail, how much sin mars everything we do, and how desperately we need the grace that we are daily given but unwilling to offer to others. This way of living turns the people in our lives into our adversaries and turns the locations where we live into a war zone.

Yet, we have all been seduced by the power of unforgiveness. We have all used the sin of another against him or her. We have all acted as judges. We have all thought we are more righteous than the people around us. We have all used the power of guilt to get what we want when we want it and in so doing have not only done serious damage to the fine china of our relationships, but have demonstrated how much we need forgiveness.

Forgiveness Is a Much Better Way

It seems almost too obvious to say, but forgiveness is a much better way. The grace of our salvation is the ultimate argument for this truth. Forgiveness is the only way to live in an intimate, long-term relationship with another sinner. Forgiveness is the only way to negotiate through the weakness and failure that will daily mark your relationships. It is the only way to deal with hurt and disappointment. Forgiveness is the only way to have hope and confidence restored. It is the only way to protect your love and reinforce the unity that you have built. Forgiveness is the only way not to be kidnapped by the past. It is the only way to give your relationships the blessing of fresh starts and new beginnings.

Grace, forgiving grace, really is a much, much better way. So, isn’t it wonderful to know that you have not only been called to forgive, but you have also been graced with everything you need to answer this call?

© 2011 Desiring God

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