"As a Trinitarian scholar, where do you stand on this doctrine of Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission?"In various forms, this is a question I have repeatedly faced in hallways, conference rooms, and classrooms in diverse venues. The question typically comes from academic theologians, students, and church leaders. Usually, I have to pause the conversation and first explain the way one should go about trying to provide an answer to such a question. This is why I contributed two essays to a recent publication that functions as a "three-views" book.
Our new book considers why and how one should approach the doctrine of the Trinity, particularly in relation to the doctrine of humanity. Since Scripture maintains in its very first chapter that human beings are created in the image of God, a connection is firmly established for Christian theologians. The debated issue today is how exactly should one perceive the connection between God and humanity, especially with regard to gender relations. It was a privilege to work with Matthew Emerson and Luke Stamps, as well as Bruce Ware, as well as with our editor, Keith Whitfield, who conceived the idea for this book. Each of the contributors are both Trinitarian and complementarian, but there is still great diversity between us.
The title of the text is Trinitarian Theology: Theological Models and Doctrinal Application. Immediately below is my concluding paragraph. However, if you want to know how this claim was argued, and you really should want to know that, then you will need to read both of my essays first. These two chapters may be helpful to theologians in other ways, too, since they focus on theological method, divine attributes, and theological anthropology. From an historical perspective, the two pieces interact with the Ecumenical Creeds as well as with more recent theologians, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Stanley Grenz, and Scott Swain, among others.
Of course, you will definitely want to read the contributions from the other writers to this volume so that you might see things in different ways. Finally, review again the biblical passages under consideration, pray for the Spirit to guide you in your interpretation, and come to your own conclusion. But, since you asked a definitive question, here is my definitive answer:
Based on the above scriptural exposition of divine perfection, buttressed by these creeds, I can only conclude that there is no “eternal relation of authority and submission” between the Father and the Son if that claim requires us to diminish in any way the fully and eternally perfect possession of authority and power by the perfect Son and the perfect Spirit as well as the perfect Father. While my theology of perfection and the creeds’ theology of power may not convince, because admittedly all creaturely theologies lack perfection, the One God the Lord remains nevertheless simply, eternally, and immutably perfect.The book is currently available for electronic purchase through Amazon Kindle and Wordsearch Bible. The publisher, B&H Academic, will have print copies available in the new year, for which the other authors and I are grateful.
While we are speaking of Trinity, gender, and theological method, please check out the excellent new book by one of my brilliant PhD supervisees and a revered colleague at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Hongyi Yang. Her work is A Development, Not a Departure: The Lacunae in the Debate of the Doctrine of the Trinity and Gender Roles and has been widely and properly lauded as a major contribution to the debate. I find it particularly delightful that it was a Chinese woman, converted from atheism to faith in Christ, whom God used to bring together a gaggle of male Christian theologians in order to demonstrate kindly yet soundly where the holes in their arguments reside.