A theological debate concerning the Trinity that crescendoed this summer has continued in the latest edition of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society and likely will garner “a tremendous amount of additional discussion” at the Evangelical Theological Society’s (ETS) national meeting next month, says the journal’s editor.
Two articles on the Trinity in the September issue of JETS – one by Paul Maxwell of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and one by Ross Hastings of Canada’s Regent College – follow an online summer debate on the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. According to a count by Jack Jeffrey of booksataglance.com, scholars worldwide generated more than 140 blog posts on the topic between June 3 and July 11.
Though the debate seems to have subsided, “the Trinity” is slated as the theme of ETS’s annual meeting in San Antonio, Texas, Nov. 15-17, with three plenary addresses and at least 19 sessions devoted to various facets of the doctrine.
“A debate about the nature of God and the teaching of Scripture is always welcomed, as long as it is conducted on the basis of truth and the merits of the case,” JETS editor Andreas Köstenberger told Baptist Press (BP) in an email. “As editor of the Journal, I certainly hope that articles we publish on this subject will be enlightening and make a positive contribution to the debate. I expect that there will be a tremendous amount of additional discussion generated at the upcoming annual meeting in San Antonio.”
The meeting’s Trinity theme was selected “several years ago,” noted Köstenberger, senior research professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
At issue in this summer’s debate was the argument of theologians like Bruce Ware of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Wayne Grudem of Phoenix Seminary that God the Father and God the Son eternally have been equal in divinity but that the Son has submitted to the Father eternally. Some opponents of that view went as far as suggesting it represents heresy.
Ware, Grudem and others argue the “authority-submission dynamic” within the Trinity illustrates the proper relationship between a husband and a wife, which they label complementarianism. Like the divine persons of the Trinity, they argue, a husband and wife possess different roles but are equal in value.
Those to oppose Ware and Grudem’s Trinity arguments include both complementarians and egalitarians, a group that believes scripture grants equal authority and leadership roles to both sexes in families and churches.
Maxwell, in his JETS article, argues Ware, Grudem and their theological allies do not commit heresy but also articulate a view that is “untenable when placed under biblical and logical scrutiny.”
In Maxwell’s view, “the claim that there is an analogy between the Trinity and marriage emerges as a more seriously strange concept the more the specifics of the claim are measured.”
“Egalitarians and complementarians are not trying to prove” that the husband is uniquely without a source like God the Father or that the wife shares a single essence with the husband like the Son does with the Father, writes Maxwell, a doctor of philosophy student.
The claim of 1 Corinthians 11:3 that “the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God,” Maxwell adds, is not referencing an eternal attribute of the Trinity but a manner in which the Father and Son relate to each other in the world.
Complementarianism is biblical, Maxwell writes, but better supported by Bible passages that address it directly than by an analogy to the Trinity.
Hastings, associate professor of pastoral theology at Regent, discusses in his JETS article 18th-century pastor Jonathan Edwards’s theology of the Trinity without making explicit reference to this summer’s debate.
Among sessions scheduled at the ETS meeting are “submission and subordination in the Trinity,” “Intra-Trinitarian Relations” and “Islam and the Trinity,” according to the program.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – David Roach is chief national correspondent for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention’s news service.)