Tinkering with the Trinity

That is the accusations that some evangelicals are making against other evangelicals.

Scholars Say Evangelicals Tinkering with the Trinity“An Evangelical Statement on the Trinity” says a generation of conservative Christian scholars is promoting “subordinationism,” the notion that God the Father is in charge of the Trinity, while Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit have subordinate roles.

Scholars at the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood often apply Christ’s “eternal submission” to family relationships. Just as the Son is coequal with yet subordinate to the Father, they say, woman is created equal to man but has a subordinate role in the home and church.

Not being a Trinitarian I don’t have a dog in the fight, so to speak, but am quite fascinated by the nature of the argument. Both sides have precedent for their views and both see their side as being “biblical,” whatever that actually means. One sentence really struck me, though:

“Further, the attempt to ignore the Holy Spirit and forge some sort of corresponding relationship to human gender out of the incarnational, metaphorical designations of ‘father’ and ‘son’ is at best logic fault and at worst heterodox.”

“Heterodox” here is clearly as opposed to “orthodox.” Thus, what we really have here is a power struggle to determine who gets to speak definitively about the Trinity. We should also be asking who wins and who loses in this contestation. What is won? What is lost? To be sure, today I am looking at this situation through an academic lens and not a theological one and some will say that I have “missed the point” or that this is not a power struggle but is genuinely only about theology, but that perspective barely scratches the surface.

For the theological debate is, on both sides, grounded in a very real and mundane issue, that of gender roles. One is pushing for equality through their interpretation of the Trinity and the other is pushing for a gender hierarchy through their interpretation of the Trinity. The theological language merely serves as window dressing for what is really at stake.


3 thoughts on “Tinkering with the Trinity

  1. If you’re not a Trinitarian, then what would you call yourself? I know you don’t like to label yourself, but as I said to you earlier, if you don’t, others will. I’m just curious. Usually when someone within the Christian community admits that he or she is not a Trinitarian, it comes with a lot of fallout, so I was a bit amused that you managed to just mention it in passing. I’m not completely sure if I am a Trinitarian in the classical sense either.

    1. Ha. “A lot of fallout” is probably an understatement. There has certainly been a lot of fallout to my non-Trinitarian views. I would consider myself a monotheist, but also a panentheist. I have a handful of problems with Trinitarianism. First, I find no compelling evidence for it in the Bible (not that this is a necessity for me, but many Trinitarian arguments try to show that it’s “biblical”). Second, if I believe that God can manifest God’s self in multiple ways, then why stop at three? Certainly “Father,” “Son,” “Spirit,” etc. are metaphors used to understand God and the work of God. In the same sense, the biblical text uses loads of other metaphors to speak about the divine: rock, fortress, mother, warrior, dry rot, and so on. Because I read the language of “father” and “son” metaphorically, I think three is ridiculously limiting. Third, I tend to agree with some ancients that Trinitarianism is much more akin to tri-theism than monotheism. I do not philosophically have a problem with polytheism (that is, I consider it a “live” option), but Trinitarian theology almost always says that it is monotheistic and I simply find that troublesome at best and outright “double-think” (a la Orwell) at worst.

      1. I marvel at how the religious convention of today so perfectly reflects that of the first century. Jesus was a carpenter, not the pope. He clearly said, of necessity, he did what he was told to do. Not of his own origination, but by directive. The fact that he was exalted for this seems to be in harmony with biblical record.

        My father wants to leave his business to his son as he moves on to other matters in a different dimension (if you will). All things were set in motion by my father, for his son, the first born, from the beginning until now. It was my fathers plan that the brothers would share in an inheritance with the one he foreordained from the beginning.

        Now, as the time draws near, my father will decide who will share in that inheritance before he leaves. The force at his disposal will ensure his will be done in his absence. That same force that caused all these things up until now to exist for his good pleasure and purpose. It is his party and I am but a brother. We are single minded in purpose because I love him and do whatever he tells me to, joyfully fulfilling what was written about me before I was born.

        I will be their God and they will be my people…

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