I have been crying out to complementarians for nearly twenty years, 'Go back, you are going the wrong way on the Trinity. What you are teaching in the light of the creeds and confessions is heresy.' ”
Kevin Giles (from his book pictured below)
It's been said, "Give someone an inch and they'll take a mile." It appears that is exactly what happened with those who advocate for ESS — the Eternal Subordination of the Son (Jesus Christ) to God the Father.
Dee and I first learned about ESS nine years ago when we began educating ourselves about what was happening in Christendom. We were shocked to discover that some Reformed theologians were advocating that Jesus Christ was not only subordinate to God the Father while He was on earth but for all of eternity.
One of the first places we read about ESS was on Wade Burleson's blog. In September 2008 he published a post entitled: Growing Semi-Arianism in the SBC and the Consequences for Women If Left Unchallenged. In that post Wade provided the following background information about the Arian Controversy.
Arius was a Christian who lived and taught in Alexandria, Egypt (250-336 AD). He became the leading proponent of a heretical teaching that would later be identified with his name. Arianism is the belief that God the Father and the Son did not exist together equally and eternally, but that Jesus was created by God the Father and is eternally subordinate to the Father. In plain English, Arianism teaches Jesus is inherently inferior to God the Father.
Wade further explained:
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is composed of many Southern Baptists who are introducing to evangelicalism a novel, if not peculiar, view of Christ which has more in common with Arianism than the historic, orthodox view of Christ’s person. The theologians and teachers who write for the CBMW are teaching what they call “the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father” as a basis for their hierarchal view that the female is to be subordinate to the male. Women’s subordination to man, according to the teachings of CBMW, is not a consequence of sin or a reflection of cultural values, but is built upon the heirachical order God established before the fall as a reflection of the Trinity.
In other words, the man can be equated to God the Father. The woman can be equated to God the Son. Just as the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father, so the woman is to be eternally subordinate to the man. For this reason, the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood proposes that God’s unchanging ideal is the permanent subordination of women.
While there is no denial that there are differences between men and women, to base the “subordination” of women to men on the alleged eternal subordination of the Son to God the Father borders on an Arian view of the nature of Christ.
Here is how Wade Burleson concluded his post:
Arius lost the debate in 325 AD, and I predict semi-Arianism will eventually be on the losing side of this current debate.
According to Kevin Giles, the debate concerning the hierarchical ordering fo the Trinity reached a fevered pitch over the last year, and it has been summarily rejected by well-respected theologians. Although there has been an ongoing debate regarding ESS over the last two decades, it seems a set of posts by Dr. Liam Goligher that were featured on the Mortification fo Spin blog last summer brought the controversy to a head. Aimee Byrd posted Dr. Goligher's article in two installments (see below).
According to his bio, Dr. Goligher is a native of Scotland who holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi. He has been serving as Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia since 2011.
As the debate heated up, there were a number of related posts on the Mortification of Spin website, which you can access below.
According to the listing of articles above, Rachel Miller appears to have been the one who re-ignited the Trinity Debate with her posts entitled:
*** We hope you will take the time to read some of the above articles because they will help you understand the seriousness of this controversy.
It is certainly noteworthy that Owen Strachan (son-in-law of Dr. Bruce Ware) announced his resignation as president of CBMW on July 12, 2016.
Dr. Bruce Ware, along with Dr. Wayne Grudem, partipated in a debate on this topic with Dr. Thomas McCall and Dr. Keith Yandell and another colleague some years ago at the Henry Center at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Should you wish to watch the lengthy debate (over 2-1/2 hours!), click this link.
Fast forward to mid-November 2016… It must have been divine providence that the theme of the Evangelical Theological Society's annual meeting was "The Trinity". (see our post below)
I had planned to write a follow-up post regarding what was discussed at this annual meeting of these Bible scholars. I remember waiting and waiting, but no information seemed to be forthcoming. Does anyone remember reading about what the ETS concluded regarding The Trinity Debate?
Finally, Kevin Giles, an Australian pastor and theologian who has consistently been against ESS, has written a book entitled The Rise and Fall of the Complementarian Doctrine of the Trinity (pictured above).
The Wikipedia article on Giles provides this important information regarding the Trinity Debate:
In June 2016, Giles found unexpected support when a number of well-respected, confessional Reformed theologians of gender complementarian conviction came out publicly, accusing the leaders of the complementarian movement, notably Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware, of leading the evangelical world into “heresy” with their doctrine of a hierarchically ordered Trinity. “Civil war” then broke out among complementarians and in a very short period of time they capitulated. They agreed the complementarian doctrine of a hierarchically ordered Trinity was not the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity as spelt out in the creeds and confessions of the church, and that no longer would complementarians be bound to this now discredited construal of the Trinity. Giles documents and comments on this debate in his book, The Rise and fall of the Complementarian Doctrine of the Trinity. More than anyone else, Giles is to be credited with re-establishing evangelical and Reformed commitment to creedal and confessional trinitarian orthodoxy and excluding any appeal to the Trinity in support for the subordination of women.
There is so much more to discuss regarding this controversial topic, so please stay tuned… In our upcoming post we will share some excerpts from Kevin Giles' book and take a look at the Christian news coverage that discusses it.