Trinitarian Controversy: Necessary Sharpening or Unnecessary Strife?

By Kyle Borg - Posted at Gentle Reformation:

Sometimes the unfortunate idiomatic expression: “Boys will be boys,” is used to excuse turning a blind eye to the irresponsible behavior of some. After all, what more can you expect from boys? Well, if I can borrow that phrase and adjust it slightly, I suppose one might excuse their deaf ear when it comes to certain theological controversies determining that: “Theologians will be theologians.” There seems to be a certain expectation that theologians will raise mountains out of molehills, create crises out of theological thin air, and make every point of doctrine and endless potential for dilemma. I understand and am not completely unsympathetic toward those who see many theological controversies as a hopeless labyrinth of details lacking practical value.

But not every controversy is a mere “quarrel of words.” The history of the church testifies that out of our greatest strife we have been most sharpened. While those who engage in the debates might do a better job communicating to observers the value and worth of their discussions, so too those who tend to be disinclined shouldn’t be quick to dismiss all arguments as an “unhealthy craving for controversy” (1 Timothy 6:4). Perhaps we can all do better at learning how to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3).

I write this because if you keep your eyes on the recent theological happenings of social media you’ve probably noticed there’s been a topic that has been getting a lot of attention from evangelicals, Reformed, and even a couple Roman Catholics. It’s been a pretty extensive and intensive brawl over the doctrine of the Trinity. While it would be impossible to digest all that has been written in the short span of ten days, let me try to give the uninformed a fly-by overview.

For some time certain evangelicals associated with the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) have sought to support their complementarianism by a certain understanding of the Trinity. Complementarianism–which stands opposed to egalitarianism–teaches that men and women are created equal but have different and complementing roles. While there are particular passages that speak clearly to this, it has become fairly widespread to correlate it with the Triunity of God. Namely, there are those who find a pattern for male-female relationships in the eternal relationship between the Father and Son. They reason that the Father and Son are eternally distinguished from each other by a relationship of authority and submission–the Son eternally submitting to the authority of the Father. This has often been called “Eternal Submission of the Son” (ESS), “Eternal Functional Submission” (EFS), or “Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission” (ERAS).


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