Posted on Wednesday, July 13, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
The following open letter was written by the Children's Ministry Director at the church I serve. She is a wife and mother in an interracial family. She is understandably grieved by the damaging and counterproductive "guiding principles" of the Black Lives Matter organization. I found her letter to be gracious and truthful. 
Dear brothers and sisters at Black Lives Matter,
As the mother in an interracial family, I applaud you on many of your goals. Yes! Black lives do indeed matter, as do the lives of white people, Asian people, those with Down Syndrome, Learning Disabilities, etc. In general, life matters. That is why I am so concerned, friends, when I clicked on the "Black Villages” square on your web-site to see that you are committed to "disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and villages that collectively care for one another, etc."  Oh, dear ones, the nuclear family is neither white, nor Western, but healthy and universal for centuries. How I long to see black men rise up as excellent husbands and fathers. What greater impact can the black man have on society than to lead in kindness, and to protect as he interacts with his own family? That does not go to say that the broader community is not important, but it is primarily in the context of healthy families that children and adults thrive. My husband and I have worked hard to teach our own sons that to love a child well, you must love the mother well. Sadly, they tell us that among their friends they find few examples where this is happening. TEACH THE MEN to be HUSBANDS and the community will thrive! TEACH THE MEN to be HUSBANDS and we will see strong, compassionate, wise, bold, grace-filled black leadership emerge.  Abandon, or worse yet, seek to disrupt, the nuclear family, and we will continue to see the heartbreak of our boys lacking in self- awareness, seeking identity in temporal and even dangerous things.
I am no fool to think that my one e-mail will change what many impassioned people have thoughtfully constructed, but I would find myself being a poor community member indeed, if I did not share this deep concern with you, hoping that somehow you might reconsider the wisdom of your stand.
Lisa Updike
Posted on Saturday, July 09, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
"It is very shameful, and not only shameful, but very foolish, to take from things below and guess at things above, and from a fluctuating nature at the things that are unchanging..."
Gregory of Nazianzus
I have truly tried to be as charitable as possible to Drs. Ware and Grudem during this debate over their theology of the Trinity. But when I read passages like the one below from Dr. Grudem's wildly popular Systematic Theology I can barely keep my head from spinning.
The husband's role is parallel to God the Father and the wife's role is parallel to that of God the Son. ... And, although it is not explicitly mentioned in Scripture, the gift of children within marriage, coming from both the father and the mother, and subject to the authority of both father and mother is analogous to the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the Father and Son in the Trinity. (pp. 256-257)
Come let us reason together!
This goes far beyond reasonable speculation. In an effort to be charitable I want to call it exotic. But that will not do. It is worse than exotic. It may well be blasphemous. 
I chose that word with no small amount of thought and sobriety.
The stubborn insistence of Drs. Ware and Grudem to force a parallel between the Father and the Son to a husband and wife is worse than troubling. And, as we can see from the passage cited above, it leads to the inevitable comparison of the Holy Spirit to the child of the divine husband (Father) and wife (Son). These parallels have far more in common with pagan mythology than Biblical theology. 
I am angry about this. This is a distortion of the Godhead and there is nothing helpful or beautiful about it.
Can the defenders of Drs. Ware and Grudem offer ANY justification for such off the rails speculation as the above passage embodies? 
I saw last night that Dr. Bruce Ware wrote an open letter to Liam, Carl and me. All I can say is that at this point Dr. Ware's friends are not serving him well. He continues to parse the language beyond recognition. I would direct the interested reader to read Stefan Linblad's devastating critique of Dr. Ware's misuse of the creedal language and orthodox categories. 
Posted on Friday, July 08, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517


The following article by Stefan Linblad* is a response to Dr. Bruce Ware's answers to those who have criticized his doctrine of the Trinity. It is an important contribution to the current debate.

The Glove Doesn't Fit


Stefan Lindblad

A few days ago, Bruce Ware offered a substantial reply to the recent criticisms voiced against the doctrine of eternal relational authority-submission (ERAS). Others, including Mark Jones, have penned thoughtful rejoinders to the post as a whole. I wish to concentrate on Ware’s comments about the doctrine of eternal generation (EG) – not because Ware tells the reading public for the first time that he affirms this as the “church’s doctrine,” nor because he does so having once labeled the doctrine with the shibboleths of speculative and unbiblical (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, 162, fn. 3). No, rather, because Ware contends that ERAS fits hand in glove with EG. This glove, however, doesn’t fit. ERAS is not only inconsistent with EG, but Ware’s suggestion to the contrary also highlights (again) the questions and concerns about ERAS’s understanding of the homoousian, the divine unity, and related doctrines. 
Ware says that he embraces EG as “the only explanation that grounds the Father as the eternal Father, and the Son as the eternal Son.” Though he remains concerned about biblical support, he is happy to affirm the church’s doctrine of the eternal modes of subsistence: the Father is the Father because he begets the Son, and the Son is the Son because he is begotten of the Father. Regretfully, however, he undoes these affirmations by positing that EG entails the idea that the Father “has the intrinsic paternal hypostatic position of having authority over his Son,” and the Son “has the intrinsic filial hypostatic position of being in submission to his Father.” EG entails nothing of the sort. 
EG is concerned with how the Son can be said to have the whole divine essence, as does the Father and the Spirit, but in such a way as the essence remains undivided (avoiding tritheism) and the persons not confounded (avoiding modalism, Sabellianism, etc.). Francis Cheynell states the doctrine succinctly: “The divine persons are distinguished by their inward and personal actions. The Father did from all Eternity communicate the living essence of God to the Son, in a most wonderfull and glorious way” (The Divine Trinunity, 188-89). Because each person subsists ad intra, within the divine essence, the modes of subsistence are necessary, eternal, and immutable. The communication of essence from the Father to the Son thus precludes any division of essence, as well as the idea that any of the three persons are “before or after the others in time, dignity, or degree” (Zacharias Ursinus, Corpus doctrinae, 136). EG rules out any distinction of “degree, state, or dignity” among the persons subsisting in the essence (Lucas Trelcatius, Scholastica et methodica, 22). 
To be in an intrinsic position of hypostatic submission seems to entail more than the Son’s subsistent relation to the Father, which is what EG propounds, but instead a degree or state of subsistence under the Father. If not, what does sub mean in submission? If I am reading Ware correctly, he wants to say that the Father and the Son subsist in these relative positions, states, or degrees within the Godhead. Yet, if Ursinus and Trelcatius are correct (and we could cite others saying much the same), the Son’s mode of subsistence as eternally begotten of the Father, as the consubstantial and co-equal Son of the Father, can in no way allow for a graded, ranked, or hierarchical relation under the Father ad intra. To suggest otherwise is to divide that which is indivisible, the divine essence. 
What, however, of Ware’s suggestion that “the eternal relations of authority and submission…flow out from and are expressive of those eternal modes of subsistence”? This seems to be saying something different than that EG entails the Son’s intrinsic position of hypostatic submission. Maybe I’m parsing too much, and Ware intends the same thing by both statements. In any case, this presents us with another quandary, since the modes of subsistence are, according to Muller, the personal works of God ad intra, in themselves immanent, “since they do not issue forth from the Godhead” (Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, 212). If authority and submission are the intrinsic outworking or expressions of the modes of subsistence, Ware is attributing to the divine persons an ad intra egress that would necessitate that the Father and the Son undergo movement from unbegotten and begotten to authoritative and submissive, respectively. If, however, authority and submission are subsistent relations in themselves, that which makes the Father the Father and the Son the Son as to their personal subsistence in the divine essence, then, again, Ware has attributed to EG the very thing EG precludes.  
The waters become murkier with Ware’s further claim that the Son’s mode of subsistence, and thus his position of submission, is functional and personal as opposed to essential and ontological. Although he is correct to say that the modes of subsistence are not essential divine attributes, he is incorrect to say they are not ontological. Cheynell warns, “When we describe the Divine nature, we should not abstract it from the three Persons; and when we describe a Divine Person we should not abstract him from the Divine Nature” (Divine Trinunity, 80). The Son’s mode of subsistence is concrete. He has the whole divine essence or nature, and he subsists within that essence, not outside of it. It is true that what is said of each person, concerning mode of subsistence, cannot be predicated of the essence. EG, for example, cannot be predicated of the divine essence, only of the Son. But EG is predicated of the Son concretely, in his subsistent relation to the Father within the essence. Muller explains that EG “is not…a movement of the Son from potency to actuality or from nonbeing…into existence, but an eternal and perpetual relation in the Godhead, an unchanging activity or motion that is in the divine essence according to its very nature” (Dictionary, 127, emphasis added). 
Both the unity of the divine essence and the distinction of the persons within that essence are matters of ontology, of the divine being. Some, like Wollebius, define the divine persons as “the essence of God, with a certain manner of subsisting” (Christianae theologiae compendium  20-21). Modes of subsistence, therefore, are not functional relations at all. They are subsistent relations in the divine nature: the Father is relative to the Son as unbegotten, and the Son is relative to the Father as begotten. Functional categories cannot be introduced into the modes of subsistence without simultaneously redefining the classical doctrines of divine simplicity, actuality, unity, omnipotence, immutability, impassibility, and the like. If the Father and the Son “function in an eternal Father-Son relationship, in which the Father always acts in a way that befits who he is as Father, and Son always acts in a way that befits who he is as Son,” does that not require some kind of change in the Godhead? If immutability is redefined only as constancy then Ware may be able to avoid incoherence, but on the terms of classical theism, the introduction of function into modes of subsistence ad intra is no small problem. 
This very problem rears its ugly head when Ware insists that authority and submission are personal properties of the Father and the Son, respectively. In addition to the difficulty this raises for the unity of the divine will, it poses a broader dilemma regarding the Son’s consubstantiality with the Father. If divine unity is substantial and singular, then whatever is predicated of the divine essence is necessarily predicated of all three persons. If omnipotence is an essential attribute, then the Father is omnipotent, the Son is omnipotent, and the Spirit is omnipotent; and this omnipotence is independent of any ad extra relation to creation. But if the Son subsists eternally in a position or state of submission to the Father, is he omnipotent as is the Father? Ware clarifies that the Son’s authority over creation is in no way diminished by ERAS, but what of his authority, his power, his omnipotence, as self-existent, independent God? How can the Son have authority ad extra but not ad intra? More to the point, if the Father is supreme in the Godhead (see Ware, Father, Son, and Spirit, 50-51) does the Son really have the same fully actualized divine essence as does the Father? Is there but one simple divine essence? Perhaps Ware conceives of the unity of the divine essence as generic; the three persons share in the genus God. But that raises a host of questions about Ware’s conception of the essential attributes, not the least of which is divine simplicity and pure actuality. Nevertheless, as his explanation stands, the supposition of intrinsic positions or functions of authority and submission undermines the Son’s full consubstantiality with the Father. 
EG, on the other hand, does nothing of the sort. EG, when left free of Ware’s entailments or expressions, upholds the homoousian. The Son is of the same essence as the Father because the Father necessarily, eternally, immutably begets the Son within the divine essence, without division of the divine essence. By virtue of this generation the Son personally possess the whole, undivided divine essence. He, therefore, subsists in the divine essence, not as submissive or subordinate, but as the fully divine Son of the Father. For which reason, despite his affirmations, despite his attempt at clarification, Ware’s version of ERAS not only remains shrouded in a cloud of theological incoherence, but contradicts the biblical and classical doctrine of EG. The novel glove (ERAS) does not fit the classical hand (EG). 
*Stefan Lindblad is a Pastor of Trinity Reformed Baptist Church (Kirkland, WA), and a PhD candidate in Historical and Systematic Theology at Calvin Theological Seminary. He co-edited and contributed to Confessing the Impassible God: (RBAP, 2015), and his essay “‘Eternally Begotten of the Father’: An Analysis of the Second London Confession of Faith’s Doctrine of the Eternal Generation of the Son,” has been published in By Common Confession: Essays in Honor of James M. Renihan (RBAP, 2015). Stefan and his wife Jo have three children (Emily, Grace, and Owen).
Posted on Thursday, July 07, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
The following are passages from Bruce Ware’s book Father Son and Holy Spirit: Relationships Roles and Relevance.
“God the Father receives the ultimate and supreme glory, for the Father sent the Son to accomplish redemption in his humiliation, and the Father exalted the Son to his place over all creation; in all these things, the Father alone stands supreme over all – including supreme over his very Son. All praise of the Son ultimately and rightly redounds to the glory of the Father. It is the Father, then who is supreme in the Godhead – in the triune relationships of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and supreme over all of the very creation over which the Son reigns as its Lord.” – p. 50
"The Father is supreme over all, and in particular, he is supreme within the Godhead as the highest in authority and the one deserving of ultimate praise." – p. 51
"...though the Father is supreme, he often provides and works through his Son and Spirit to accomplish his work and fulfill his will. I am amazed when I consider here the humility of the Father. For, though the Father is supreme, though he has in the trinitarian order the place of highest authority, the place of highest honor, yet he chooses to do his work in many cases through the Son and through the Spirit rather than unilaterally." – p. 55 
"In many ways, what we see here of the Father choosing not to work unilaterally but to accomplish his work through the Son, or through the Spirit, extends into his relationship to us. Does God need us to do his work? Does God need us to help others grow in Christ? Does God need us to proclaim the gospel so that others hear the good news and are saved? The answer is an emphatic no. He doesn't need any of us to do any of this. Being the omnipotent and sovereign Ruler over all, he would merely have to speak, and whatever he willed would be done.... No, the humbling fact is that God doesn't need any of those whom he calls into his service." – p. 57
"It is not as though the Father is unable to work unilaterally, but rather, he chooses to involve the Son and the Spirit." – p. 57
Here at Mortification of Spin we have been careful to not label Dr. Ware a heretic. Church courts make those determinations. But whatever else the above statements from Dr. Ware’s book are they are most certainly not historic Christian orthodoxy. The passages are not taken out of a context that actually shapes them into orthodoxy. Indeed, reading the entire chapter only drives home the point that Dr. Ware’s views on the Trinity veer far afield from what the church catholic has professed since at least the 4th century. 
At this point it is clear to me that the “tone” of those first posts by Liam Goligher and Carl Trueman which kicked off this debate were actually quite measured considering the seriousness of the errors; even restrained. I wonder if those who accused Goligher and Trueman of slander, of being stealth egalitarians, and “accusers of the brethren” will now publicly apologize?
I will not speculate about motives. Neither will I draw conclusions about anyone’s love for Jesus. But I need help from those who would defend the above passages. If words mean anything at all, if there are any limits to nuancing and massaging statements to death then what else can those words be but profound departures from historic trinitarian orthodoxy? 
I have no interest in engaging in a debate about the character or sincerity of Dr. Ware. I have no reason to doubt that he is anything other than a good and decent man. But that has nothing to do with whether or not his views are orthodox. I don’t know how Southern Baptists handle these sorts of things. Perhaps they don’t. But I can say this for sure: No man who wrote those words would be considered for ordination in my presbytery. His words would be identified as nothing better than old fashioned Arianism. Keep in mind, the way we judge a theologian and preacher is not by what we imagine he must mean but by what he actually writes and proclaims. 
This is not nitpicking over esoteric minutiae. This is about the nature of our glorious God and Savior. Men were tortured and exiled for the sake of such truth. In an excellent address on Athanasius delivered by Dr. Al Mohler at a pastor’s conference some years ago he made a statement which I have never forgotten. He said that “Athanasius went to war over an iota.” Indeed he did. I cannot think of a single major heresy the roots of which are not traced to an undermining of the doctrine of the Trinity. 
I am a pastor. I hate error. I see the damage bad theology does every day. So when serious error about the nature of God is advanced by an influential theologian published by a major publisher and promoted by a ministry that purports to advance the biblical truth of manhood and womanhood I cannot simply say, “No foul. He’s a good man.” Nor will I be satisfied any longer with the “that’s not what he meant” line. Words mean things. It is upon certain words that we stand. And I can think of no possible way that Dr. Ware’s words can be nuanced to be consistent with Nicene orthodoxy.
Now, we are all sinners and therefore deeply flawed. That means we all make errors that we need to later correct. But this responsibility to correct errors is exponentially more important for those who train pastors and write for the church. Therefore, if Dr. Ware no longer holds the views espoused in his book Father, Son, and Holy Spirit then it is vital that he publicly repudiate those views and pull the copies of his book. I am sure this would be a difficult thing to do. But is this not the right thing to do? 
Theologians and church historians have been pushing back against the subbordinationism espoused by Drs. Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem for years. Entire books have been written on the topic. Papers have been published. Moderated debates have been held. But all these efforts have taken place almost exclusively in a corner of the academic world rarely accessed by lay persons. We chose to speak up when we noticed how these errant views on the Trinity were being actively advanced to the laity in order to justify a view of authority and submission among men and women for which there is no biblical warrant. The fact is Drs. Ware and Grudem have for years resisted challenges to their views. The debate is nothing new. We simply decided to not sit idly by while these views were peddled to the pews. 
Posted on Tuesday, July 05, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517


Dr. James Dolezal is, in my mind, quickly becoming one of the handful of indespinsible voices in the current debate over the doctrine of God. The following are a series of lectures from Dr. Dolezal on such doctrines as Divine simplicity, the unity of the Trinity, impassibility, immutibility, etc. I strongly encourage you to watch or listen to these excellent lectures. This is no dry esoteric rambling but clear and doxological theology.

I also highly recommend Dr. Dolezal's excellent book God Without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God's absoluteness


Posted on Monday, June 27, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
Last week I attended the 44th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). It was my third since transferring my ordination to the PCA three years ago. It was held in Mobile, Alabama which was lovely apart from the gulf coast humidity. I had the privilege of serving on the Committee of Commissioners of the Administrative Committee (more on that in the next post). That means I showed up on Monday morning and spent two full days in meetings. 
As always I enjoyed the fellowship of like-minded brothers over meals, coffee, and several formal gatherings. On Monday evening I attended “An Evening of Confessional Concern and Prayer.” We heard two addresses: Dr. David Garner on the doctrine of the spirituality of the church and Rev. Rick Phillips on the biblical prescription for the roles of men and women within the church. On Wednesday I attended the luncheon hosted by the Gospel Reformation Network. The GRN is an open fraternal dedicated to advancing pastoral piety and a robust doctrine of sanctification within the PCA. On Wednesday evening I attended a dinner hosted by Westminster Theological Seminary and heard some encouraging reports about the Lord’s work in that institution. 
One of the most significant things that occurred last week was the overwhelming passage of Overture 43 on racial reconciliation
Southern Presbyterianism has, like most denominations in the south, a troubling history of racism. It is ridiculous to either deny or seek to justify this. I think many Presbyterians today who have not read the relevant history would be shocked by the open racism advocated from pulpits in the south during the battle over civil rights in the mid-twentieth century. Sadly, that racism did not magically disappear with the passing away of Jim Crow laws and segregation. Even today one still hears stories of Presbyterian churches which retain at least some vestiges of their racist past. Treasured sins die hard. So it is appropriate, indeed commanded that we repent of our racism just as surely was we should repent of any other sin. 
However, I am not convinced that an overture of corporate repentance was the best way to address sins of racism in some of our churches. I am doubtful about the theological justification for corporate repentance – that sin is generational and therefore those who were not even born during the era of Jim Crow and segregation bear the taint of guilt. I do not see evidence of this sort of generational guilt in the Bible. Certainly Adam’s sin nature is imputed to all his progeny – the entire human race. And the sins of God’s elect were imputed to Christ as he died in our place. But I see no evidence of specific sins being imputed from one generation to another. I see evidence of sons taking up the sins of their fathers but this is imitation not imputation. My sons may well bear some of the consequences of my sins but they will certainly not bear the guilt of my sins. 
We must remember that the PCA was not even a denomination during the civil rights debates of the 1960’s. Most of our churches have been founded in recent decades. It is certainly true that some of the first PCA churches were originally part of the Southern PCUS which did indeed have a history of racism. Some of those newly minted PCA churches continued in their racist attitudes and acts of exclusion. For that there certainly ought to be repentance. And I trust that the Lord will grant repentance to those churches which have continued to hold on to their racist sins. 
But if the PCA is going to corporately repent for sins committed by PCUS churches in the south during the battles over civil rights then let us also as a denomination repent for the northeastern PCUSA’s sins of rejecting the authority of Scripture and de-gospeling missions. Is not the PCUSA our parent denomination? Under this approach to generational sins do we not bear guilt for the PCUSA’s sins of gross biblical compromise? Something tells me that an overture to repent of the sins of the PCUSA would not go very far. 
That said, I voted for Overture 43. I voted for it because I believe I understand the intention behind it. I understand that I have brothers and sisters in the PCA whose parents and other family members suffered under the sins of the Jim Crow era. I have brother and sisters in the PCA whose parents and grandparents were dehumanized through segregation and the violence so often accompanied with racism. So I was happy to stand in solidarity with these brothers and sisters as much as my vote allowed me to. 
I trust that the approval of Overture 43 will provide encouragement for racial minorities in the PCA. I trust also that it will serve as a means to remind us that racism is a sin which we must always confront just as we would any other sin that angers our God and harms his image-bearers. 
Oh, I almost forgot. We have a new logo. 
Posted on Thursday, June 16, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
John Stevens has posted an article expressing dismay over the current debate concerning the doctrine of the Trinity. I do not know John Stevens. I’m sure he’s a fine fellow. But there is more wrong with his post than I possibly have time to critique. My response then will be fairly narrow. 
In his post Stevens asks the question, “Why now?” But of course the concerns raised on Mortification of Spin are nothing new. For years there have been criticisms of the doctrine of Eternal Functional Subordination (EFS) advanced by Drs. Ware and Grudem. But because these criticisms have been expressed primarily in a corner of the academic world they have gone largely unnoticed by the church. Last week brought the debate out of the corner into the public eye. And it was time. The theology of EFS is being popularized by some complementarian leaders. A new popular level book advancing the doctrine has recently been published. So, in answer to Stevens' question: It is long overdue. 
Stevens expresses concern that those of us who have defended historic Nicene Trinitarianism are accusing those who hold EFS of being heretics. What I have read so far does not bear that out. Error? Yes. A departure from orthodoxy? Yes. But heresy is a very particular category of damning error established by church courts. Interestingly, in 2008 a debate held at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School pitted Drs. Ware and Grudem against Drs. McCall and Yandell (critics of EFS). During that debate Dr. Grudem said that the views of McCall and Yandell (the historic Nicene position!) sounded like modalism, a heresy. Let that sink in. 
It is unfortunate that Stevens saw fit to cast suspicions upon the motives of those who raised the concerns. Of course he is not the only one to assume upon motives. Others have openly wondered on social media that those who object to EFS do so out of some secret egalitarian/feminist agenda. That shows just how successful the proponents of EFS have been. The fact is the ugliness of the current debate does not reside in the objections against EFS. Rather it has come from those who have impugned the motives of those who raised the objections.
These debates are necessary. We are sinful and deeply flawed individuals. Therefore it should not shock us when (not if) we err. Nor should we be shocked when brothers and sisters disagree with our conclusions. When objections are raised concerning our doctrine then rather than take it personally we ought to listen and carefully consider the critique. 
In his piece for Christianity Today Caleb Lingren reached a very different conclusion than Stevens:
[Up] to this point, the argument has stayed within the realm of doctrine for the most part, and has not strayed into the sorts of personal attacks and sniping that we have come to expect from public discourse these days. 
In a social media–driven age when most arguments produce more heat than light, the way this one has been carried out could be seen as an encouraging sign.
Posted on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517


* Update - Jonathan has since posted a few gracious clarifications. 

In case you have not seen it Jonathan Leeman of Nine Marks Minstries recently Tweeted the following:

I can't help but wonder if unspoken assumptions about the goodness of authority/submission are animating recent arguments over the Trinity.

When challenged his response was equally odd:

Call it a pastoral hunch.

I do not know Jonathan. I have however benefitted from his books. I have found The Church and the Surprising Offense of God's Love and Reverberation particularly helpful. I was therefore quite surprised by his odd Tweet calling into question the motives of those who have challenged the innovative doctrine of the eternal submission of the Son. I suppose if one cannot marshal the necessary theological, biblical, and historical evidence then impugning motives is the next best thing. 

Of course as a Presbyterian I struggle a bit when someone who champions church autonomy suggests that I have a problem with authority. 


Posted on Wednesday, June 15, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517
Since 1 Corinthians 11:3 is a text to which those who uphold the Eternal Subordination of the Son point I offer the following small sampling of how others have interpreted the apostle’s words. Understand that it is the minority position to interpret 1 Corinthians 11:3 as suggesting that there is an eternally functioning subordination of Son to Father. That alone does not make the advocates wrong. But it does suggest that there may indeed be a problem with their exegesis of the text. 
Not surprisingly the majority of scholars and theologians in the Nicene tradition have affirmed that “Christ” refers to Jesus in his mediatorial role. That is, texts such as 1 Corinthians 11:3 are to be understood as making reference to the incarnate Christ in which he did indeed humble himself and take upon himself the form of a servant (Phil 2:6ff). But to suggest that I Corinthians 11:3 teaches eternal subordination is to read into the text something that is not there.
Thomas Aquinas:
The third comparison he makes is of God to the Lord, when he says: The head of Christ is God. Here it should be noted that this name, “Christ,” signifies the person mentioned by reason of His human nature: and so this name, “God,” does not refer only to the person of the Father but the whole Trinity, from which as from the more perfect all goods in the humanity of Christ are derived and to which the humanity of Christ is subjected. It can be understood in another way, so that this name, “Christ,” stands for that person by reason of his divine nature; then this name, “God,” stands only for the person of the Father, Who is called the head of the Son not by reason of a greater perfection or by reason of any supposition, but only according to origin and conformity of nature; as it says in Ps 2 (v. 7): “The Lord said to me: you are my Son; today I have begotten you.”
Referring to the use of “head” to describe the relationships between husband and wife and the Father and the Christ – “Thus one expression has different meanings, according to the difference of person and substantive relationship.”
- From his Commentary on Paul’s Epistles (81.120-21). 
John Chrysostom:
But dost thou understand the term "head" differently in the case of the man and the woman, from what thou dost in the case of Christ? Therefore in the case of the Father and the Son, must we understand it differently also. "How understand it differently?" saith the objector. According to the occasion [136] . For had Paul meant to speak of rule and subjection, as thou sayest, he would not have brought forward the instance of a wife, but rather of a slave and a master. For what if the wife be under subjection to us? it is as a wife, as free, as equal in honor. And the Son also, though He did become obedient to the Father, it was as the Son of God, it was as God. For as the obedience of the Son to the Father is greater than we find in men towards the authors of their being, so also His liberty is greater. Since it will not of course be said that the circumstances of the Son's relation to the Father are greater and more intimate than among men, and of the Father's to the Son, less. For if we admire the Son that He was obedient so as to come even unto death, and the death of the cross, and reckon this the great wonder concerning Him; we ought to admire the Father also, that He begat such a son, not as a slave under command, but as free, yielding obedience and giving counsel. For the counsellor is no slave. But again, when thou hearest of a counsellor, do not understand it as though the Father were in need, but that the Son hath the same honor with Him that begat Him. Do not therefore strain the example of the man and the woman to all particulars…
To account for which; it was likely that this sin would have thrown our race into a state of warfare; (for her having been made out of him would not have contributed any thing to peace, when this had happened, nay, rather this very thing would have made the man even the harsher, that she made as she was out of him should not have spared even him who was a member of herself:) wherefore God, considering the malice of the Devil, raised up the bulwark of this word and what enmity was likely to arise from his evil device, He took away by means of this sentence and by the desire implanted in us: thus pulling down the partition-wall, i.e., the resentment caused by that sin of hers. But in God and in that undefiled Essence, one must not suppose any such thing.
Do not therefore apply the examples to all, since elsewhere also from this source many grievous errors will occur. For so in the beginning of this very Epistle, he said, (1 Corinthians 3:22, 23.) "All are yours, and ye are Christ's, and Christ is God's." What then? Are all in like manner ours, as "we are Christ's, and Christ is God's?" In no wise, but even to the very simple the difference is evident, although the same expression is used of God, and Christ, and us. And elsewhere also having called the husband "head of the wife," he added, (Ephesians 5:23.) "Even as Christ is Head and Saviour and Defender of the Church, so also ought the man to be of his own wife." Are we then to understand in like manner the saying in the text, both this, and all that after this is written to the Ephesians concerning this subject? Far from it. It is impossible. For although the same words are spoken of God and of men, they do not have the same force in respect to God and to men, but in one way those must be understood, and in another these. Not however on the other hand all things diversely: since contrariwise they will seem to have been introduced at random and in vain, we reaping no benefit from them. But as we must not receive all things alike, so neither must we absolutely reject all.
John Calvin:
He says that as Christ is subject to God as his head, so is the man subject to Christ, and the woman to the man. We shall afterwards see how he comes to infer from this, that women ought to have their heads covered. Let us, for the present, take notice of those four gradations which he points out. God, then, occupies the first place: Christ holds the second place. How so? Inasmuch as he has in our flesh made himself subject to the Father, for, apart from this, being of one essence with the Father, he is his equal. Let us, therefore, bear it in mind, that this is spoken of Christ as mediator. He is, I say, inferior to the Father, inasmuch as he assumed our nature, that he might be the first-born among many brethren. 
- From his commentary on I Corinthians
John Gill:
And the head of Christ is God; that is, the Father, not as to his divine nature, for in respect to that they are one: Christ, as God, is equal to his Father, and is possessed of the same divine perfections with him; nor is his Father the head of him, in that sense; but as to his human nature, which he formed, prepared, anointed, upheld, and glorified; and in which nature Christ exercised grace on him, he hoped in him, he believed and trusted in him, and loved him, and yielded obedience to him; he always did the things that pleased him in life; he prayed to him; he was obedient to him, even unto death, and committed his soul or spirit into his hands: and all this he did as to his superior, considered in the human nature, and also in his office capacity as Mediator, who as such was his servant; and whose service he diligently and faithfully performed, and had the character from him of a righteous one; so that God is the head of Christ, as he is man and Mediator, and as such only. 
Charles Hodge:
The head of the man is Christ; the head of woman is the man; the head of Christ is God. If this concatenation be disturbed in any of its parts, ruin must be the result. The head is that on which the body is dependent, and to which it is subordinate. The obvious meaning of this passage is, that the woman is subordinate to the man, the man is subordinate to Christ and Christ is subordinate to God. It is further evident, that this subordination is very different in its nature in the several cases mentioned. The subordination of the woman to the man is something entirely different from that of the man to Christ; and that again is at an infinite degree more complete than the subordination of Christ to God. And still further, as the subordination of the woman to the man is perfectly consistent with their identity as to nature, so is the subordination of Christ to God consistent with his being of the same nature with the Father. There is nothing, therefore, in this passage, at all inconsistent with the true and proper divinity of our blessed Lord. For a brief statement of the scriptural doctrine of the relation of Christ to God, see the comments on 1 Corinthians 3:23. It need here be only further remarked, that the word Christ is the designation, not of the Logos or second person of the Trinity as such, nor of the human nature of Christ as such, but of the Theanthropos, the God-man. It is the incarnate Son of God, who, in the great work of redemption, is said to be subordinate to the Father, whose will he came into the world to do. When Christ is said to be the head of every man, the meaning is of every believer; because it is the relation of Christ to the church, and not to the human family, that it is characteristically expressed by this term. He is the head of that body which is the church, Colossians 1:18. Ephesians 1:22, Ephesians 1:23.
Posted on Monday, June 13, 2016 by Todd Pruitt on 1517


Michel R. Barnes and Lewis Ayres have weighed in on the current debate over the eternal generation and eternal subordination of the Son. Drs. Barnes and Ayres are considered by many to be among the most significant Patristic scholars in the world today. Their verdict is quite clear and it does not speak well of those who are seeking to advance the etneral subordination of the Son and apply it to human social relationships.

You can read Dr. Barnes input HERE.

Eternal generation is indeed sine qua non of orthodoxy in 381 and thereafter.  - Michel R. Barnes

You can read Dr. Ayres intput HERE.

Along the same lines, we should not forget texts such as John 5:26 “as the father as life in himself, so he has granted the son to have life in himself.” The Son has been given an equality in power to the Father: theologians from Augustine to Aquinas have recognized that we must say both that the Son is sent, and that the Son sends himself – rather as the Spirit is sent by Father and by Son and yet blows where it pleases. It is true enough I think to say that, risking saying far too much given the state of our knowledge this side of the beatific vision, the Son’s mission is founded in his procession, but one of the fascinating things about the processions is the gift of the fullness of divinity and the eternal maintenance of the unity of God through the generation of the Son and spiration of the Spirit. This has consequences that I don’t think Bruce’s theology has even begun to tap – consequences for what our thought may accomplish and where it may be certain that it misses.  - Lewis Ayres

Carl Trueman has made a brief concession to one point HERE

Michael Bird offers the following timely counsel that I hope will be heeded:

To be honest, I mean Bruce Ware and friends no ill, I think they are sincere, they’re trying their best to be faithful theologians and readers of Scripture, and wanting to pursue practical applications. But I just don’t know if it is possible to salvage the subordinationist argument for marital submission after Lewis Ayres and Michel R. Barnes have left nothing but debris in their wake. Let me add- and this was not at my behest or invitation – that when two of the biggest names in fourth century trinitarian theology graciously dismantle your theological argument for basing human relationships on a subordinationist trinitarianism, the game is over. Time to abandon the SS Subordinationism, man the life boats, look for a nice Nicene Island for refuge to land on, and find less complicated ways of arguing for complementarianism.