Pastor Timothy Mills recently submitted a review of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology to our PastorBookshelf Reviews website. His comments were generally positive, but not as positive as I would have hoped for such a fine introduction to biblical doctrine.
One area where he disagreed with Grudem was in his handling of the Trinity.
His choice, however, of the model of the Trinity as a hierarchy setting the pattern for the marriage relationship (454) is problematic. The Trinity is a tri-unity, while a marriage is merely dual-mutual. Yes, the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is head of the church (Eph. 5:23), but that is a relationship between the husband and wife, as between Christ and the church; but not as between the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. No where does the New Testament make that comparison.
I suggested to Pastor Mills that that is precisely the connection Paul makes in 1 Cor 11:3: “But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” Just as a husband is the head of his wife, so the Father is the head of the Son.
Another individual, Tim Manian, commented, ready to pull out the matches.
Isn’t it obvious that Grudem is a heretic? The very idea of a heirarchy [sic] in the Trinity is tritheism. Consubstantiality is destroyed the minute you have one of the persons become inferior to another in authority. This is why the Athanasian Creed says the Son is equal to the Father as regards His Godhead, but inferior to the Father as regards His manhood. This is pure Arianism all over again. How can anyone recommend this book. It should be burned.
This is generally the kind of comment that I ignore, but I decided to respond.
I don’t share your view of Grudem. He is far from a heretic. He is a very solid evangelical scholar, and his Systematic Theology is one of my favorites. I recommend it often and will continue to do so. His view of the Trinity is supported by a long line of evangelical scholars and ecumenical creeds and councils.
Nor do I share your view of the Trinity. I disagree that hierarchy, properly understood and defined, constitutes tritheism—for the simple reason that both hierarchy and monotheism are taught in Scripture.
First, you need to distinguish between essence or nature and function or economy. Father, Son, and Spirit are equal in the former, but not in the latter.
Second, that Jesus during His incarnation was functionally subordinate to the Father is without dispute. If this could take place for a time without constituting tritheism, then it could take place eternally without constituting tritheism.
Third, whether that subordination existed before and continues after the incarnation is less clear, but there are some texts that strongly suggest this.
Deal, please, with 1 Cor 11:3 and 1 Cor 15:28.
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that sGod may be all in all.
The Father is the head of the Son. The Son will finally be subjected to the Father. If this is not functional subordination, then what is it?
A denial of functional subordination is nothing more than egalitarianism wrongfully controlling exegesis and theology.
What are your thoughts? Am I on track? Does Scripture indeed teach an eternal functional subordination among the members of the Godhead? How important is this issue to an orthodox view of the Trinity? Is there room for disagreements on economic trinitarian relations—particularly the presence or absence of eternal functional hierarchy?