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Posts Tagged ‘economic Trinity’


I want to start with a story or two. Two.

Saturday a friend of mine died. Years ago he attended a PCA church in Orlando where a friend of mine was a pastor on staff. This friend raised concerns to me about this PCA pastor based on some lectures he gave on women in the church. At the time I didn’t share his concerns about my other friend. I didn’t think he was moving toward egalitarianism. A few years later this pastor friend moved cross country to serve on the staff of a church that would eventually leave the PCA and fully embrace egalitarianism. My friend did “slide” into egalitarianism, but may have hid it since he credited one of our professors. My late friend was right, and I missed it.

In my first pastorate one of the influential women gave me a book to read. She was on the search committee that called me. She had been auditing courses at RTS Orlando. She led our women’s ministry. The book was Sarah Sumner’s Men and Women in the Church, which is clearly egalitarian. Earlier she’d given me insightful articles from Kenneth Bailey. This book was less than insightful contrary to the positive blurbs by respected men, but it was insightful into this friend’s trajectory. It broke my heart when she and her husband left the church and began to attend a PC(USA) church (now ECO).

Sometimes you can see it coming, and sometimes it is more subtle. Some people claim they see Aimee Byrd well on the road to egalitarian. I’m not so sure. My foresight, obviously, is not perfect including in this area. But the issue may be their adherence to the CBMW formulation of complementarianism.

Cognitive Dissonance

Today we’ll look at the beginning of the Part 2: Recovering Our Mission. The first chapter in this section is Why Our Aim Is Not Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. She begins this with part of her story. She was married a month after graduating from college and began to read books to help her become “the perfect Christian wife.” This was when she read Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood aka the Big Blue Book. She was seeking a “biblical understanding of the sexes.” There were parts that were hard for her to accept, but she trusted the radio shows that spoke well of the book. “That’s what I wanted to be: good and conservative.” She was not comfortable with “some” of the teachings in the book. Not all. Not most. Some. She assumed she’d understand them better as she matured.

“I do want to note that there are plenty of helpful teachings in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, written by authors who have benefited the church in numerous ways.”

Over time, however, “more and more strange teachings on femininity and masculinity have emerged under the rubric of biblical manhood and womanhood.” She is not alone in thinking this. She mentions some of them earlier in this book, and they concerned me when I read them years ago. I thought they were aberrations but now realize my understanding of complementarianism is not on the same side of the spectrum as theirs. I was concerned when Piper thought women shouldn’t be police officers because that involves authority over men (“Should Women Be Police Officers?” August 13, 2015). In that article he mentioned teaching in colleges as well. Byrd also notes a place where Piper discusses a woman being careful in giving a lost man directions lest we undermine his sense of masculinity. Sorry, I don’t get it. I simply want to get to my destination, and apart from verbal abuse I’m not guarding my sense of masculinity.

Eternal Submission of the Son

Where she goes here is more fundamental, however. She came across a CBMW document expressing ESS (Eternal Submission of the Son). This view states that in the ontological Trinity, the Son submits to the Father. This view is not expressed in any of the major creeds and confessions. We do recognize that in the economic Trinity, the Son as Messiah submits to the Father on our behalf. The first speaks to the Son in his essence, the second to the Son in his office as Redeemer.

She pursued conversations with representatives of CBMW including the president at the time. In books, members of the CBMW continued to assert this view. It shows up in the ESV Study Bible as well. This view is used as the basis for their version of complementarianism: men and women are both human (equal in essence) but women submit to men (different in role/function).

I don’t believe in ESS nor agree with its use by CBMW to defend an erroneous view of men and women. In Ephesians 5, wives submit to their own husbands, not men in general. Women are not inferior to men due to their gender, not to submit to men in general. In the 10 commandments, we are to honor our parents meaning that sons (even as adults) are to honor their mothers. Mothers don’t submit to adult sons.

Back to Byrd’s book from that aside. She tried to address this publicly as well. As she tells it no one was listening. Then Liam Goligher did a guest post on her blog on this subject and the can of worms was opened. ESS became a big internet controversy.

Okay. At this point I wondered if she wants credit for exposing this heterodoxy, simply wants to say no one took her seriously or both. Goligher was more than a “housewife theologian” and had more gravitas. That he was a man can also play into it. But there seem to be some sour grapes at work in this too.

She then brings it back to the Big, Blue Book. Once again she notes there is good material in there, but also some disconcerting material as well. There is a big problem when the differences between men and women are reduced to “one of ontological authority and submission.” I’ve always understood this as patriarchy, not complementarianism. While she mentions Denny Burke, Owen Strachan and others, her focus is on Wayne Grudem who has been a big advocate for this deviant view of the Trinity, including in his work on the ESV Study Bible notes. I was disappointed to see Ligon Duncan so earnestly affirming the updated version of the Big, Blue Book such that communicating the doctrines and applications taught in it were essential to Christian discipleship.

“While I wholeheartedly affirm distinction between sexes, I am convinced that our choices are not between CBMW complementarianism and vague androgynous discipleship.”

She is raising serious issues here. In my opinion she is right. I’ll let her speak for herself:

“Nowhere does Scripture state that all women submit to all men. … And it is difficult for a laywoman like me, who does see some theological teaching for God outfitting qualified men for an office to see this kind of reductive teaching and call it complementarianism. … My femininity is not defined by how I look for and nurture male leadership in my neighbors, coworkers, or mail carriers. I am not denying the order needed in both my personal household and in the household of God, but I do not reduce the rights and obligations in a household to mere authority and submission roles. … I uphold distinction between the sexes without reduction, as Scripture does.”

She affirms that church office is reserved for qualified men. She refers to Genesis 2 in the footnote, but overlooks 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. That is puzzling, frankly.

In the next section she’s wondering if we’ve baptized “chivalry” and made it biblical manhood. I think she is onto something with this. Like the Pharisees added to the laws regarding the Sabbath and used the corban principle to avoid caring for parents, we can add cultural understandings to our biblical understanding in a way that is inappropriate and confusing. She quotes Sarah Coakley as noting that the point of headship “is not executive dictatorship but responsibility for the “well-being of the whole.”” She uses John McKinley’s “necessary ally”, though I prefer Allender and Longman’s “intimate ally”.

To be fair, in What’s the Difference?, Piper’s contribution to the Big, Blue Book, he mentions men listening to their wives to gain input. The “definition” expresses “benevolent responsibility”. But we do need to emphasize, I think, the partnership of marriage. Headship in Ephesians 5 is sacrificial and for the well-being of the wife. Back to Genesis 2, she is an ally in our God-given mission. Being a man or woman can not be reduced to authority/submission. There is a bit of overlap in their expression of this relationship, but their foundation is quite different.

Restoring the Imago Dei

I think she takes too much time expressing the fact that our goal in discipleship is not masculinity or femininity but conformance to Christ (Romans 8). At a few points that will be different. But the goal is being a mature human being, restoration of the image of God (Ephesians 4 and Colossians 3).

“Christian men and women don’t strive for so-called biblical masculinity or femininity, but Christlikeness. Rather than striving to prove our sexuality, the tone of our sexuality will express itself as we do this. … I do not need to do something in a certain way to be feminine. I simply am feminine because I am female.”

She sees some benefit to exclusive studies for men and women. There are “shared experiences and responsibilities within our sex.” (She probably should use “gender” in these instances.) Her concern is that we take this too far too often, as though we can only be discipled separately. Drawing on Phillip Payne’s material she asserts (rightly) that both men and women received authority over earth and creatures. Unlike in the pagan cultures around them, men were supposed to leave their family of origin to cleave to his spouse. In pagan countries she shifted from her family to his.

In Mark David Walton’s article for the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood these gender distinctions (authority & submission) remain for all eternity since they are ontological. Women, in this view, would eternally submit to men even though both are made in the image of God.

Peel and Reveal

She goes off her on “role”. She does this, in my opinion, in a reductionistic way. She focuses on the definition derived from the playhouse. As a result she wants us to stop using this in discussing men and women. She’ll also do this in chapter 6. But according to dictionary.com the 2nd definition is “proper or customary function” and the third is the sociological use (pertinent here!) “the rights, obligations, and expected behavior patterns associated with a particular social status.” That status should not be “woman” but “wife”. Not “man” but “husband” and “church officer”.

She seems to be going after both ESS and expressions of complementarianism at the same time. She does not clearly delineate between the two but goes back and forth between them. They are related, but distinct. This is a weakness of hers or at least this chapter.

And then she returns to norms. “I agree with Mark Cortez that we can still affirm some cultural norms associated with gender without holding that these must be essential to our sexuality.” But in this section she seeks to get metaphysical and philosophical. She depends on Sister Prudence Allen in pp. 124-30, and frankly I’m lost. Philosophy is not my strong point, and I’m not familiar with this philosopher. I got “fractional complementarity” and “integral complementarity”. She brings in Pope John Paul II, as well as Paul Zanacanaro and Julian Marias. In all this I couldn’t tell if she was using them positively (she does say they think more thoroughly and biblically) or negatively (since their conclusion sounds remarkably like Piper and Grudem). Just call me Vinnie because “I’m soooo confused.”

The peel and reveal section seems to waste the good and important material she covered in the body of the chapter. There are serious problems in the theological basis for the CBMW version of complementarianism, and therefore serious problems in how they understand masculinity and femininity in relationship to one another. She could have done a better job delineating her points of agreement with CBMW since there are some.

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At this year’s General Assembly they decided to have a study committee on women in the church. This was met with mixed reviews. Some were glad. I was glad, but I will not impute the reason for my joy to others. I want to better understand the Scriptures, in particular one text of Scripture, and for our church life to be more fully conformed to those Scriptures. In other words, I believe that notion of Reformed and reforming.

Some were upset seeing this as a move toward liberalism. They believe they fully understand the Scriptures and haven’t imported any erroneous cultural notions into our understanding of the Scriptures.

I don’t see this as the on ramp to women elders. This is especially true when I look at the people on the study committee. We’re talking Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt for Pete’s sake.

Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in Ministry (Fresh Perspectives on Women in Ministry)Our Session decided we wanted to study this subject for ourselves so we can better evaluate any majority and minority reports. In fact, our men’s ministry has decided to look at this too. So I’ve done some shopping to add to the books I own and have read on this subject. One of the books I added was Jesus, Justice, & Gender Roles by Kathy Keller. Kathy is also on this study committee and this was a book I wanted to read anyway.

In addition to being the wife of Tim Keller, Kathy has an MA in Theological Studies from Gordon-Conwell and spent some time as an editor for Great Commission Publications.

To call this a book is generous. It is more like a booklet, being 39 pages (plus a few pages of end notes). This increases the likelihood of it being read by my very busy elders. It also means that it won’t cover everything I might want it to cover or as in depth as I might want it covered.

Let’s lay the card on the table first. She is a complementarian. This is a broad term, and there are a few differences of opinion within this movement. Many want to claim their version as the only version. This, in fact, is one of the reasons for this book. She tries to nail down the essential point of complementarianism.

She divides the book into two chapters. The first focuses on hermeneutical issues and two key texts. The second focuses on how this plays out as she feels pressure from both egalitarians and more “conservative” complementarians (or those who may actually hold to a view of patriarchy).

She begins by describing how she arrived at these conclusions (and to hold to the inspiration, infallibility and authority of the Scriptures) though she didn’t grow up believing them and they threatened her career ambitions. Hermeneutically she affirms  the analogy of Scripture (clear texts interpret unclear texts) and that each text has a context (historical, cultural, social, and I might add theological) that affects its meaning. The two texts she focuses on are 1 Corinthians 14:33b-38 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12. In some ways she views the first as less clear and the second as more clear such that 1 Timothy helps us understand 1 Corinthians.

We cannot isolate 1 Corinthians 14 from the rest of 1 Corinthians. This means that we cannot use it to mean that women must be absolutely silent in a worship service. For instance, 1 Corinthians 11:5 mentions women praying and prophesying in the public worship service. While we might claim the prayer is silent, clearly the prophesying is not. As a result she notes “Paul in 1 Corinthians is not condemning the public ministry of women, but regulating it.” In other words, public exercise of spiritual gifts is to retain “divinely ordained gender roles.”

She does mention Miriam, Deborah and Huldah as women leaders. She, unfortunately, just mentions this in passing. Since these women are used by egalitarians like Sarah Sumner to justify their views, I think this bore more attention. Miriam, for instance, while publicly leading, was publicly leading women in the chorus of the song.

In its context, she understands (quite reasonably) this text to be about the elders evaluating and judging the content of prophecy in the worship service. They were discussing it and speaking authoritatively upon it. Women were not to be interjecting and disrupting this process which involved only the elders. This happened prior to the completion of the canon and the elders were to guard the deposit of truth they had (and were still receiving). We do this less formally now that the canon is complete by holding pastors to confessional standards. If I begin to preach deviant views, the elders are charged with admonishing me, and presbytery will be involved if I persist.

This view is supported by what we find in 1 Timothy 2. Debate has raged over whether “teach or have authority” (NIV), “teach or exercise authority” (ESV),  refers to two separate functions or one function (teaching in a position of authority). She, following James Hurley (who used to teach at RTS Jackson), Craig Blomberg and Philip Payne believes this is a hendiadys in which the conjunction connects the two verbs so they are mutually defining.

“So what is being forbidden to women in 1 Timothy 2 (and by extension in 1 Corinthians 14) is authoritative teaching- some kind of teaching that carried with it an authority not found in other, allowable forms of oral discourse.”

In her understanding there are times when a teacher doesn’t have authority. You can disagree with a SS teacher or small group leader but it isn’t a problem. The problem is if we disagree with the elders on an important issue (it may be prompted by the disagreement with the SS teacher). The SS teacher can’t excommunicate you, but the Session can!

The main tenant of complementarianism is male headship in the church (and home). In the church it is male elders (there is disagreement on the question of deacons which means we have disagreements on the nature of a deacon or “ordination” behind the scenes).

Keller then briefly mentions the common reasons why people think we don’t have to obey these instructions by Paul: misogyny by Paul, only binding on the church then, and outdated commands. She notes how unconventional Paul was in his relationships with women and how the charge of misogyny really doesn’t have any legs. The second charge is based on a fallacy since every part of Scripture is written to a specific group at a specific time for a specific reason. We do distinguish between descriptive and prescriptive passages however. Scripture describes polygamous marriages, for instance, but never prescribes or affirms them. This second excuse also denies Paul’s instruction about Scripture in 2 Timothy 3. The third excuse essentially is that we have more light now. Another version of this would be the trajectory hermeneutic of some progressives like Rob Bell where we try to project what Paul might think & say today.

“Consider the enormous hubris in appointing our present cultural moment as the yardstick against which God’s Word must be measured.”

We should not give into the impulse to fall back onto “love” since the issue is so “complicated and confusing.” She reminds us that the great creeds and confessions of the church were the products of (often) vigorous debate. It is better to dig deeper into the Scriptures and submit ourselves to what they say. This is not simply a personal project but a community project (regarding both time and space).

“I have found it fruitless, leading only to self-pity and anger in my own life, to question God’s disposition of things when I do not understand. Confidence in his goodness has been a better choice.”

The second section is really about trying to address those who disagree with her, both the women who are egalitarian and the men who are more patriarchical (my term) or those who have a more restrictive view of women in the church. She distinguishes between gifts and roles. We tend to conflate them. A woman can have a shepherding gift and she can exercise it, but not in the role of pastor. She brings up her now deceased professor Elizabeth Elliot in discussing this. We should want women to fully exercise their gifts even as we recognize that there is a role (or two?) they cannot fulfill. She puts forward a common formulation that a woman can do anything an unordained man do.

This is a SHORT book, as I mentioned. As a result there are a number of things I thought went unaddressed. I would have preferred some discussion about deacons. That was beyond her scope and is really not an egalitarian vs. complementarian question.

She does affirm the voluntary submission of the Son as Mediator in the economic Trinity. In the footnote in that paragraph she clearly denies Eternal Submission of the Son, which is proposed by some complementarians or at least seems to be. She rightly calls this, in my opinion, a heresy. Some people, like Wayne Grudem, keep doubling down on their ESS views (which are also found in the ESV Study Bible). Frame’s comments are quite tentative on this issue.

Anyway, this was a helpful booklet to read even though its scope was limited. Reading this I see no reason for my more “conservative” brothers (I am a conservative, by the way) to fear the PCA sliding into liberalism with Kathy’s inclusion on the study committee.

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The same caveat exist for as for my post on Scripture.  This is meant to summarize the doctrine found in the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Chapter II: Of God, and The Holy Trinity

20. List some incommunicable attributes of God. List some communicable attributes of God. Distinguish between the two. Omniscience & omnipotence.  Goodness & love.  Incommunicable attributes are those God does not share with his creatures.  He shares communicable attributes with us, and we are guilty of sin in as much as we do not manifest these attributes.

21. Distinguish between the Transcendence and Immanence of God.  Transcendence is God apart and above creation.  He is not to be confused with creation, and he is sovereign over creation.  Immanence describes God’s involvement in creation, how He draws near to accomplish His purposes in creation.

22. How many persons are there in the Godhead? 3

23. What is meant that the Son is “eternally begotten”? What is being preserved by this statement?  The Son has no beginning but has always been God the Son.  It preserves his unique personhood and divinity.

24. Support from Scripture the full deity of Christ. John 1, Philippians 2

25. Does the Holy Spirit proceed from both the Father and the Son? Why is this teaching important? What does it safeguard against?  Yes.  It is important because Jesus teaches it in His High Priestly prayer (John 17).  It was one of the matters of controversy between the Eastern and Western Church prior to the Great Schism.  It maintains the eternal fellowship of the Godhead and the equality of the Son with the Father.

26. Do you believe in the deity of the Holy Spirit? On what basis?  Yes.  In Hebrews “God said” and “the Spirit said” are used interchangeably.  Jesus calls Him “another Counselor”, placing Him on equal footing.  In His instruction on baptism (Mt. 28) Jesus says “the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” indicating their unity. 

27. Support from Scripture the full deity of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit was present and active in creation (Gen. 1), the Spirit raised Jesus from the dead (Rom. 1), Jesus performed his earthly ministry in the power of the Spirit (Luke), and the Spirit works in our salvation (1 Peter 1).  Acts 5 says they lied to God, then in a parallel statement that they lied to the Spirit.

28. What works are assigned to the Holy Spirit in Scripture?  Creation, giving of prophecy, sustaining the ministry of Christ, regeneration, granting of spiritual gifts, sanctification, bearing witness that we are sons of God, leading us into obedience, bringing us into the Father’s presence in prayer.

29. What is the difference between the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament and in the New Testament?  The ministry of the Spirit, apart from regeneration and illumination of the Scriptures,  was primarily related to the offices of prophet, priest and king.  Now all Christians enjoy the ministry of the Spirit.

30. What is the baptism of the Holy Spirit and when does it occur?  It is the initial & permanent indwelling of the Spirit which occurs at conversion.

31. What is the filling of the Holy Spirit and when does it occur?  The filling of the Spirit refers to our submission to the influence of the Spirit by faith. 

32. What are the evidences of being baptized with the Holy Spirit? Of being filled with the Spirit?  The evidences of being baptized with the Spirit are faith and repentance (Acts 2).  As we mature, the Spirit also bears the fruit of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5).  The evidences of being filled with the Spirit are worship, gratitude and submission to proper authorities in the Lord (Eph. 5).

33. What is your view of the gifts of the Holy Spirit? In His sovereignty, the Father gives each Christian spiritual gifts for the building up of the Body.  The sign gifts have ceased.

34. Are you personally committed to the doctrine of the trinity?  Yes.

35. What does it mean for God to be “without passions” (II.1)?  God is not subject to fleeting emotions such as man.

36. Describe the work of each member of the trinity in the economy of salvation.  The Father elects some to salvation, the Son purchases their redemption thru his Incarnation, Identification, active obedience, passive obedience, resurrection and ascension.  The Spirit applies the redemption that Christ has purchased to those the Father elected.

37. Do tongues have any place in the church today? How would you describe the modern day phenomenon?  I don’t see a place for tongues in the church today.  I think they are a learned behavior, therefore a counterfeit- not a spiritual gift.

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