Sunday, March 30, 2008

Having the Mind of Christ

Note: This message was preached on 3/30/2008 at Bible Baptist Church, Beaver Dam, WI. This message was the second part of two messages, with the first part being preached by Chris Finch (who preached Phil. 2:1-4 the same evening; and did a good job, you want my personal opinion).

Having the Mind of Christ
Phil. 2:5-11

Unity comes through humility. That was Chris’s point. This whole point is developed- as Chris stated- from the concept of our Heavenly citizenship (1:27-30). Paul is going to continue this thought in verses 5-11. He does this through theology. You see this passage is an application of theology so that these believers will be able to live rightly. Paul makes the point here that right theology leads to right living. Wrong theology leads to wrong living. You have to think rightly about God in order to live rightly for Him.

God wants us to see much from this passage. Ultimately, God wants us to have the mind of Christ (v. 5- mind = attitude or thought pattern). Two thoughts we will explore from this passage is that we can only have the mind of Christ when we are humble. We can also only have the mind of Christ when we are honest.

First, we have the mind of Christ when we have humility. This is Paul’s first exhortation to the Philippian believers in this passage. Not only does he encourage them here, but we must realize that this is a command, also. "Let this mind be in you..." is an imperative statement. We must do this, Paul says. How do we do this? He shows us through the ultimate example of humility- Jesus Christ.
As Paul begins this discussion in verse 6, we see Jesus Christ- who was God- and “thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” This phrase here is sometimes misunderstood, so let me tell you what it means, and then I'll illustrate it for you. The idea here, a better way to word this in modern english would be- "He thought equality with God was not something to be grasped." Two illustrations for you that help us to understand this. Say, ladies, that you are walking down the street in Manhatten, NY. Some jerk decides he's going to take your purse. So, what you do? You wrestle him for it! You don't just let him take it; you make the wanna'-be thief fight for it, like a wide receiver trying to make that big play with the ball in his hands. That's the idea here. So often, we have menial tasks that we think our beyond us. Like scrubbing toilets. We're above that. But, we're not, in reality. You see, Christ didn't just leave heaven and come as God to this earth to bring salvation. He came as a human being, just like you or I; though He was still 100% God, He was also 100% man. In other words, Christ was not so proud that He was willing to redeem us, but unwilling to do it by becoming a human like us. We know that because that's exactly what this passage tells us He did.

Verse 7 continues the thought further. Not only was He humble by simply becoming a man, but He was humble in how He chose to be born. Let’s not forget, Jesus SHOULD have been born with a King’s birth! Joseph was the rightful heir to the throne of David! Jesus could have chosen to have been born to any parent on earth, and He chose parents who were so poor that when it was time for Mary to give her sacrifice for purification 40 days after Jesus’ birth, two turtle doves was the best they could do. Last I checked, that wasn't exactly the way I pictured kings living. Yet, that's exactly what Christ did. He could have picked any parents on earth, and He chose them, knowing full well that He would work long hours and days as a carpenter and that He would sweat and stink just like the rest of us.
Then, as if that wasn’t enough, in verse 8 we see that Jesus Christ- The Messiah, King of kings, Lord of lords, Heaven’s Promised Hope for All Mankind- died my death, taking my shame and my blame on my cross.
Perhaps you've been there, maybe you haven't. But, if you've seen any pictures or watched The History Channel or anything like that on Arlington Cemetery, you can picture what I'm talking about. The cemetery is an interesting place. It was originally the plantation home of General Robert Lee before he defected to The South during The Civil War. His house, when you stand on the porch, looks down a hill right into the heart of Washington D.C. It's a beautiful sight. Unfortunately, how it became a cemetery was due to some bitter northern troops (on this, I don't know specifics; could have been some generals, not sure) deciding that- to get back at Lee for defecting- they buried on his land the bodies of northern soliders who died fighting The Civil War. They knew that even if The South won, they would have their vengeance as Robert Lee- being a Christian- would have respect for the dead there and would be unable to disturb those bodies once they were given a soldier's burial. The sight there is amazing. Apart from the Kennedy graves and a few other odds and ends, the sight is something else. It's very beautiful. It's also awe inspiring- and convicting. As you stand on the porch, looking out from the house towards D.C., you can see line, after line, after line of white crosses- the graves of all men since the Civil War who have been buried while in the service of our military. You see, the freedom that we have in this nation has come at a high cost. The lives of a lot of soldiers. However, though their sacrifice has insured our freedom in America, what they have done pales in comparison to the work of Christ on the Cross of Calvary. Freedom is never free, ladies and gentlemen. Our freedom through salvation came at a great and high cost- the price of Christ's precious blood being shed as He took the full brunt of God's Infinite Wrath during that finite amount of time on the Cross. I'll never fully understand it- not in this life, at least- but I'm greatly thankful it. So, how can we- who know that we are saved by grace, live so proudly- knowing that we have nothing to be proud of save the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? How can we sit here in sin and do nothing about it? Why would we wait to take care of it when we can have the blessing and joy of walking with Christ now?

That leads us to our second point. Having the mind of Christ also requires honesty. We see this in verse 9. We see as we continue in the text that Christ- after being raised from the dead- has been given a name which is above every name. Not just some names, but all of them. The point Paul is making is that Jesus Christ is to be the supreme importance in our lives. We are to love Him with all of our hearts, with all of our souls, with all of our minds, and with all of our might. So, if we’re going to have a relationship with Him now, we have to be honest. You can’t have humility without honesty. Though you can have honesty without humility- recognizing a problem exists, but not doing anything about it- you can’t recognize you’re nothing and act like it, unless you’re honest about your condition.
As we read verses 10-11, I want to take a just as a small side note here. The side note does relate to the passage, but it will take a second to explain. A thought comes to my mind as I consider how there is a day coming in which every knee will bow and all tongues will confess that He is God to the glory of God The Father. I can’t help but ask, why am I here? Why am I in church? Why am I preaching? Why do I shake someone’s hand and make it a point to ask them how they’re doing? Why do I read my Bible? Why do I take notes while someone’s preaching? Why do I do what I do? Do I do it simply because I must, or do I do it because I love God and my love for Him and for other people motivates me to do these things? There are three stages of Christianity- disobedience, duty, delight (stage 1, self explanatory; stage 2- isn’t found in Scripture- though not wrong, it’s still dead worship; stage 3- where God desires us to be- Psalm 37:4, Psalm 40:8, Phil. 3:1, Phil. 4:4, 1 Thess. 5:17). Let me illustrate it this way: Wives or husbands- your spouse comes in the door, they've been at work, or maybe they've been away on a business trip for a couple of days, or maybe they just got back from a run to the grocery store and they come in, and hug you and kiss you first thing seeing you after walking in. Then you ask, "What was that for?" Now, if your spouse responded with, "I did that because that's what I'm supposed to do," how would that make you feel? Wouldn't you suddenly feel very cheap and unimportant? Ladies and gentlemen, when we obey God's commands simply because it's our duty to do so, how much more do we cheapen Christ's death and resurrection?
Now, this all connects together back to verses 10-11 because Paul tells us we must have the mind of Christ; we must delight in Him above all else as one day we will delight in Him perfectly. There is a day coming in which every knee will bow regardless of how we've lived this life. Why would you wait to bow the knee when you could do it now and have the joy of obeying God because it's your delight, rather than another chore on your list?

In closing, I’d like to use a biblical illustration. So, turn with me if you would to John 21:15-17. We all know the scene, but let’s turn there, anyways. Using our sanctified imagination a bit, we know that Peter- after John whispers to him that the man standing on the shore who just helped them to make the largest catch of fish in their lives is the resurrected Jesus- takes off his outer garment and jumps in the water swimming to shore in his normal zealous fashion, wanting to be where Christ is. The other apostles, thinking a bit more practically, haul in the fish and bring the boat into shore. What they find when they get on shore is that Jesus already has breakfast prepared for them. As Charles Swindoll said when preaching on this passage, we can almost imagine that Jesus called the fish to come onto the shore and on they did come and jumped right into the coals of the fire to cook- cause He's their Creator, so He could do that and they would listen to Him. What we find in verse 15 is amazing, though. Often, we're really quick to pick on Peter here- I'm just as guilty of it- but Christ wants us to see something else. We see The Apostle with the Footshaped Mouth (as John MacArthur calls him) for once not making a perfect circle between his foot and his mouth. Christ asks him, "Do you love me?" The word used is agape. It means to make someone else the supreme object of your affection without any consideration for what you might get in return. Peter responds with, "Lord, you know that I love You." The word Peter uses is phileo. In other words, Peter said, "I'm fond of you." Now, before you go ripping on Peter for that, don't forget that this is the Peter who- when Christ told him he would deny him and forsake him- told Christ that he would forever love Christ above all else and would never leave Christ's side. We're looking at a different Peter now. We're looking at a Peter who understands his human weakness. He understands now that though it is his desire to have agape love for Christ, he knows that apart from Christ's help, the best he can do is phileo love. But notice that Christ didn't rebuke Peter for his response; He gave Peter a job to do. You see, God wants to use us, just like He used that broken Apostle as he was humble and recognized his frailties before God. But, you have to be willing to be humble and honest.

Do you have the mind of Christ? Maybe, you got something you need to take care of tonight. One person put it this way, “The invitation is open to every heart that has been broken.” What are we doing? If we choose not to get right with God, we sure aren’t fooling God. We’re only fooling ourselves. Let God break your heart. Let God break up your fallow ground. Bust your pride on God’s altar tonight and let Him have everything so that you can live the mind of Christ.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Why Wait?

Why would we wait, Lord?

As special meetings are coming
Right around the bend
I cannot help but ask, “Why wait, Lord?”
“Wait for what,” You ask
Though the response is known
All too well to You, already.

Why would we wait
To make things right with You?
Though I know how special it is
the gift You’ve given to the man coming
I cannot help but wonder,
“Is Your man for our churches simply not good enough
to weekly shake us from our apathy and spiritual lethargy
or are we so deceived and blinded by our sin
that You must send a man
we’ve probably never known and never met
to shake us out of spiritual slumber?”
Why would we wait
when we can know the blessed joy
of walking close beside You;
having our feet washed from sin
and our consciences clean
so that we might come to these meetings
remembering Your great love
instead of remembering our great sin?

Why would we wait, Lord?

Why would we wait
to make things right with one another?
Is Your body so weak
that though we might grow individually
we don't know how to grow together in unity?
Is your Word not clear enough
that we must go to one another
regardless the size of the problem?
Is Your Word not clear
that problems, when ignored,
don’t go away, but only get worse?
Is Your grace so insufficient
that we can’t do the hard thing
of asking forgiveness
or giving forgiveness?
Is Your Love so shallow
that we’ve forgotten how to help
and come along side each other
so that we might grow together through our problems
instead of throwing the Bible
at one another in condemnation
like a 2-Ton brick?

Why would we wait, Lord?

Why would we wait
to love You with every fiber of our being
and each other as You loved us?
Why would we wait
to be renewed in the spirit of our minds?
Why would we wait
to renew our hearts and minds in you, Christ Jesus?
Why would we wait, O God
to be renewed in our minds
so that we can show the world
what is Your good, acceptable, and perfect will?
Why would we wait until the meetings
to hear such a man preach
when we can come boldly before You
to the Throne Room of Grace right now
to return in walking in newness of life
And fighting the good fight of faith?
Why would we wait
when we can do all of these things
this very moment?

Why would we wait, Lord?
Why would we wait?

Monday, March 10, 2008

New Link Added

I've added a link to "Jonathan's Library" to our link bar on the right. Previously we had an RSS feed of the latest updates to Jonathan's library. The RSS feed is still located just below our links, but my Library updates will be slowing down once I get all my books entered into Google Books. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Volcanic Dust Cooling?

Scientists Run Simulations on Geoengineering Project

According to this article, scientists apparently feel that the best way to keep global warming down is to simulate the cooling that volcanic eruptions create (Baumgardner's "Catastrophic Plate Tectonics Theory"- a theory for what physically happened to our earth during The Biblical World Wide Flood- proposes that volcanic ash and earth dust from the sudden moving of our earth's crust is what caused our planet's Ice Age). The article talks about using sulfate dust particles, similar to volcanic eruptions, as the means to do this. They admit that (assuming global warming does actually exist) not reducing CO2 levels in the air would still be a problem as they say it still creates more acidic oceans (that's a new one to me, and need to do some research on it).

My concern: last I checked, following volcanic eruptions tends to be what has been called "acid rain." In other words, the rain fall is not a near neutral 6.7 ph (ideally, water would be 7 ph, being completely neutral in acidic or base content). It is at least .1 ph more acidic than normal water. Now, in reality, this doesn't mean anything, but last I heard, scientists were saying that acid rain was to blame for more acidic oceans, more acidic fresh water supplies, building and historic monument erosion, etc. So, wouldn't this geoengineering project only make things worse, in the end game? Sure, it's not going to be so acidic that our flesh is melting off (thank you "Captain Planet" cartoon writers for that picture), but it's still bad, despite that our earth could be cooler. Of course, doing so could usher in the next Ice Age, too. Like the one we've been experiencing here in the Mid-West since just after Christmas, just a lot longer....

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Extent of the Subordination within the Trinity


***This paper was originally submitted for the course Systematic Theology 1 at Central Seminary in Minneapolis, MN. The footnotes for this paper are not available online. Information within the footnotes is, however, valuable to the argument proposed within this paper. If you would like a copy of the original paper in PDF, including footnotes, please email the author.***

Few doctrines, within all of theology, are as difficult to understand as the doctrine of the Trinity; however, the doctrine of the Trinity, within the minds of most theologians and believers, is one which has been settled for centuries. A number of Evangelicals have come to question whether the orthodox understanding of the Trinity is truly orthodox. Does Scripture allow and support for the Trinity to be subordinate in order and function? Does subordination of order and function necessarily mean that the equality among the godhead is not true equality? The questions regarding the relationship of the Trinity, asked within modern theology, could stretch for pages upon pages. However, one question and its answer far outweigh the thought and concern poured into the debate: what is the temporal extent of the subordination within the Trinity?

The answer to the question of the extent of the subordination within the Trinity is a debate which has generated a great deal of discussion within modern Evangelicalism. This debate has called into question the orthodoxy of both views of subordinationism: eternal and temporal. Furthermore, neither party shows any clear interaction with the opposing view's arguments. In the pages to follow, these opposing viewpoints will be examined, and their most significant arguments will be tested according to the Scriptures.

One area of differentiation between the two arguments, especially the argument of the most prominent debater, Kevin Giles, asserts that theologians most turn to the authority of tradition because of the stalemate that has developed from the differing interpretations of Scripture. As certain as this stalemate may be, no substitution can be made for the authority of Scripture within this argument. The historical understanding of the church in relationship to the subordination of the Trinity is significant and will be examined; yet the traditional understanding of the church cannot be the final arbiter in this debate. Scripture, and its careful interpretation, must be the primary basis upon which we answer this question.

The arguments to follow must be limited in their discussion to a collection of texts which contain the most significant statements regarding the Trinity. While one could incorporate numerous passages into the debate, the study to follow will only consider the Johanine references to subordination. The historical arguments must also be limited. While a historical understanding of the subordination within the Trinity must be developed, the development will not provide a complete analysis of every stage of church history, but rather those which had the greatest bearing upon the debate. In the study to follow, the context of the debate will be established by an examination of the essential views of each author, the most significant Scriptural passages pertaining to the doctrine of the subordination within the Trinity, and an explanation of the historical position of the church. A conclusion regarding the nature of the subordination within the Trinity will also be asserted.

Much of the debate between eternal and temporal subordinationists is empowered by the egalitarian debate. The conclusions made by the proponents of the various views will be examined; however, the egalitarian conclusions made by some temporal subordinationists will be assumed false on the basis of other Scriptures and studies outside of the scope of this paper. The author of this paper, though seeking to understand the nature of the subordination within the Trinity, rejects the egalitarian claims and will not support such conclusions on the basis of the overwhelming evidence against such conclusions found within the whole of Scripture.

The Views and Assertions of Orthodoxy

Eternal and temporal are the two prominent positions which are held by theologians regarding the subordination within the Trinity. A third position has been propounded and explained within an article by Michael Svigel which contains a number of valid observations which also ought to be studied.

Eternal Subordinationism

The first, and most widely held view, is the view which holds to the eternal subordination of the Son and Holy Spirit to the Father. This view, held by systematic theologians such as Augustus H. Strong, Charles Hodge, and Wayne Grudem, asserts that the Trinity is ontologically equal. Ontological equality means that each member of the godhead is equal in being and that all the members of the godhead possess all the attributes and nature that makes each member God. The view of the eternal subordinationist is best summarized by Wayne Grudem when he states, "If we do not have economic subordination, then there is no inherent difference in the way the three persons relate to one another, and consequently we do not have the three distinct persons existing … for all eternity."

The eternal subordinationists believe, however, that there is an inherent difference between ontological equality and economic equality. The Trinity is, therefore, believed to exist and function in various roles consistent with the functionality of each person of the Trinity. Furthermore, the eternal subordinationist believes that these differences in role and function have existed for all of eternity. It is further asserted that this economic subordination and difference in role is what in fact differentiates the members of the Trinity. This is made clear within an article by Kovach and Schemm when they state, "Economic subordination… means that while all three divine Persons are identical in essence, the Son is economically subordinate to the Father with respect to his eternal mission and function. The Son is no less than the Father, but has voluntarily submitted himself to the will of the Father."

Those who hold to the eternal subordination viewpoint believe that Christ and the Holy Spirit are eternally subordinate to God the Father. Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are seen as beings which are obedient to the Father's commands; yet, they still function as equal members of the Trinity. The Son, therefore, was the member who gave of Himself to die on earth at the command of the Father. One important contention, held by those who hold to the eternal subordinationist view, is that this economic subordination is not equal to inferiority, or a view that Christ is somehow less important than God the Father. This view clearly claims that God the Son is equal in being, person, and importance with God the Father.

Temporal Subordinationism

The temporal subordinationist is one who believes that Christ is the only member of the Trinity who has ever existed in a subordinate role to the Father, and this subordinate role was limited to the period of the incarnation. The temporal view has only recently come to fruition within modern Evangelical theology; yet, most within the temporal subordinationist viewpoint boldly proclaim themselves as being true Evangelical orthodoxy. The temporal subordinationist typically claims that the eternal subordinationist view is a response to the feminist movement. Kevin Giles asserts this in his book stating that, "the truth is that no one before 1970 had ever spoken of eternal subordination, and orthodoxy has never endorsed the eternal subordination of the Son of God in work, operations, functions or authority that can somehow be accepted without compromising ontological equality." Furthermore, some holding this view assert that the eternal subordinationist view is actually supporting the Arian subordinationist heresy. Giles clearly makes such assertions within his book; yet, he ultimately backs down from such bold assertions within his conclusion. "Giles states, "The way Gregg and Groh described the essence of Arianism is almost identical to how contemporary evangelicals depict the divine Father-Son relationship."

The key contention between the eternal and temporal subordinationist is the understanding of the concept of role and function. The temporal subordinationist believes that to be subordinate functionally, or subordinate in role, necessitates that a being also be subordinate in being and nature. It is upon this perceived inability for God to be different in role yet equal in being that the temporal subordinationist labels much of evangelical theology heretical.

Furthermore, the conclusions of the temporal and eternal subordinationist are in constant tension because the temporal subordinationist views eternal subordinationism as the cause and reason for the subordination between men and women. The temporal subordinationism holds that no being can be both subordinate and of equal importance; therefore, the temporal subordinationist views eternal subordinationism as holding to a view which asserts that Christ is somehow less-than God. Temporal subordinationism holds that the subordination of Christ in the incarnation has typically been read back into the eternal Trinity, and therefore, the temporal has been used to define the eternal.

Created Order Subordinationism

Another view has been proposed which asserts that the Trinity must have at least existed in subordination to one another during created time. Michael Svigel argues within his article that some within the early church understood and defined the relationship of subordination within the Trinity as it relates to the created order. The created order view of the subordination asserts that each member of the Trinity is equal and eternal, but the created order view recognizes that in relationship to the created world, the Father is the head of the Trinity, and the Son and Holy Spirit act in submission to the Father's will.

The created order view, therefore, holds that the concept of "eternal functional subordination" among the members of the Trinity is a poor definition of the relationship of the Trinity. Furthermore, the created order view asserts that the common temporal view of the subordination has not accounted for the information provided within the Scripture regarding how Christ and the Spirit acted subordinately to the Father preceding the incarnation.

Orthodoxy Defined Biblically

The only means through which orthodoxy can be identified is through a study and examination of Scripture. Each of the two prominent views of the subordination within the Trinity claim that they hold true orthodoxy; yet, there has been little interaction among the two concerning their differing interpretations of Scripture. Since Scripture is the only means of identifying true orthodoxy, each group ought to identify why the opposing view has strayed from orthodoxy. While historic orthodoxy is important to the debate and will be examined below, actual, Biblical orthodoxy is of far greater importance.

The greatest amount of information regarding the relationship of the Trinity is found within the Gospel of John. The Gospel of John is, therefore, one of the most studied books in the debate over the subordination of the Trinity.

Necessity of Difference in Function (John 1:1, 18)

Christ is Equal to the Father in Being

John 1 begins John's description and explanation of Jesus' person and purpose upon earth. John, therefore, from the very outset of his book sets out to define Jesus. John is noted by every orthodox commentator to be defining Jesus, not in opposition to the monotheism of Jews but rather ascribing that Jesus is monotheistic deity. The phrase "kai. qeo.j h=n o` lo,goj" at the end of John 1:1 identifies that Jesus was God. Barrett notes that the absence of the article preceding the word qeo.j is important because it identifies that Jesus was not the only being who could be described as being fully God. Jesus is, therefore, by John ascribed equal deity among the Trinity; yet, He is not the sole possessor of the deity. It should be established that according to God's attributes, being, eternality, and equality, Christ is equal to the other members of the Trinity. Barrett thus asserts that it is upon this understanding of Christ that John desires his audience to understand the rest of his gospel.Christ's equality of being and essence is supported throughout John in John 1:1; 10:30; 17:11, 21; 20:28. It must also be recognized that orthodoxy includes an understanding of Christ as equal to the Father in being, essence, and nature. One cannot assert that Jesus is anything less than wholly God and be considered orthodox.

The three views of subordination all hold to this basic premise regarding Christ; yet, the eternal subordinationist asserts that the temporal subordinationist should not differentiate between function (or role) and being. Therefore, it is asserted by the temporal subordinationist that the eternal subordinationist does not uphold the orthodox view. This assertion that Christ cannot be in anyway differentiated by role or function is not supported by the text of John. John asserts that Jesus is equal to God and is God Himself; yet, Christ is not identified as the whole Trinity. John carefully notes Jesus, as God, allowing for the including of the other members of the Trinity. The temporal subordinationist desires to identify the different persons of the Godhead; yet, the temporal subordinationist seeks to deny that they can be identified according to what they do. If the members of the Trinity are noted by John's Gospel to be equal in being to God, how are they different persons apart from their function?

Christ is Differentiated from the Father

This differentiation between the persons of the Trinity is further understood by John to involve a differentiation in relationship to the Trinity's revelation to men. John 1:18 identifies that "no one has seen God" and John 6:46 explains that "no one has seen the Father." The Father is, therefore, identified as one whom has never before been revealed to mankind. Jesus, within these passages, is noted as being the perfect revelation of the Father. No picture or description of God is more complete than that of Jesus Christ. John 1:18, 6:46, and Christ's identification as "the Word" in John, identifies Christ as the member of the Trinity who reveals God to mankind. Christ clearly is the member of the Trinity through which God has chosen to reveal Himself. While this revelation of Him is clearly portrayed in the incarnation, the incarnation is not the first revelation of God through Christ. The preincarnate appearances of Christ further identify Christ as the primary means through which God has revealed Himself.

Furthermore, it must be asserted that Christ is identified as the Word throughout eternity. Christ is identified in John 1:1 to be one who has always been the Word, and hence, the revelation of God. Christ did not become the Word at the incarnation nor did Christ take upon Himself a new function in this regard at the incarnation. Christ has always been the person of the Godhead through which God has revealed Himself. Therefore, the Trinity can be, and must be, identified in terms of its function from man's perspective. God the Father is noted within Scripture as being one whom sinful men could not look upon; it is through Christ's differing function that humanity can now look upon and have a relationship with God.

Jesus was Sent by the Father (John 3:16-17; John 7:28-29)

Another significant point of contention between the views on the subordination of the Trinity relates to the sending of Jesus by the Father. Giles, supporting his temporal subordinationist view, asserts that the sending language found in John's Gospel reflects the Jewish Shaliach principle. Meaning that "the one sent (the Shaliach) has the same authority as the one who sends him: he is as the sender himself." Giles, therefore, states that the sending terminology stresses the unity of the Father and Son in their work. Giles believes that Jesus could not be subordinate to the Father because He was sent with the same authority. However, Giles cites this idea from the work of Kruse who uses the concept to explain how Christ was "commissioned" by God to carry out a specific task with the authority of the Father himself. Giles, therefore, uses the terminology to emphasize the equality of God the Father and Jesus in function and role. However, this concept far from proves that Christ was not subordinate to God. This concept is used to emphasize that the sent one comes with the authority of the sender, but it does not mean that the sent one is equal in role and function to the sender. The message of the Shaliach principle is a message to the receiver. The receiver of the message is to view the sent one as having the complete authority of the sender; yet, the sent one remains obedient to the sender. As Christopher Cowan states, "Dealing with the agent was considered the same as dealing with the sender;" "the sending in rabbinical agency implies subordination."

However, it should be noted that there is some debate regarding whether or not the Shaliach principle is applicable to the references of Jesus' sending. Should the Shaliach principle not be applicable, the case for Christ's subordinate role to the Father in relationship to mankind remains true. Within the passages of John 3:16-17 and John 7:28-29, the idea of being sent is clearly portrayed as an act of obedience to the will of another. Although Christ came willingly into the world, He did so in complete accordance with the Father's will. The sending language throughout John requires that Christ came at the command of the Father just as the sending of John the Baptist in John 1:6, 33 requires that John the Baptist be subordinate to God. Some temporal subordinationists desire to interpret the sending principle in multiple ways throughout the text of John, and such interpretations are not warranted by the context of the passages.

Jesus was Equal in Authority yet Subordinate to God (John 10:17-18)

Christ is Equal to the Father in Authority and Role in Relationship to Man

Furthermore John 10:17-18 describes how Jesus Christ has a unique love with the Father because of His submission and obedience in death. John 10:18 proclaims that it is not by the will of men that Jesus died, but He died in submission to His Father's will and, yet, his own choice and power. The emphasis within this chapter is placed not upon man, nor upon the authority of Christ, but rather this passage emphasizes that Christ willingly submitted to God of His own accord. In relationship to mankind, Jesus is here stated to have the authority of God; yet, in relationship to the Father, Jesus is proclaimed to be obedient. Christ is equal in authority to God; yet, Scripture clearly proclaims that Christ acts in accordance and subordinately to the Father's will.

Christ is Subordinate and Obedient to the Will of the Father

While John's Gospel is specifically referencing the Incarnation period of time, these concepts about God and Jesus Christ are clearly not bound to the Incarnation. Christ has always been the member of the Trinity who is proclaimed to be the Word. Christ existed from before the foundation of the world and was proclaimed to be the Word during all of eternity. Christ also was sent into the world by God. Although Christ freely became incarnate; He did so in obedience and in harmony with the will of God that was established before the creation of the earth. Christ gave of His life of His own accord; yet it was given in obedience to the Father. In all of these areas Christ's authority is never portrayed by John to have changed. While both in heaven and upon earth Christ has the authority of God, He yet exercises this authority in submission to the Father's will. The authority, which Christ possesses throughout the book of John, is in no way a fluctuating authority. Christ's authority is portrayed as a constant before, during, and after Christ's incarnation. Christ had the authority of God while in heaven, He possessed the authority of God while on earth, and He continues to possess the authority of God. The authority of Jesus Christ has, however, always been an authority which involved Christ's submission to become man and to die for men.

Orthodoxy Defended Historically

Scriptures are the primary means of determining true orthodoxy. Among the debate over the subordination of the Trinity, an overemphasis has been placed upon the church's beliefs in relationship to church history. Some have even asserted that the debate is so vast that Scripture alone cannot bring a solution to the debate. Such confidence in the authority of church history is both dangerous and futile. In the paragraphs to follow, church history will be used merely to provide for believers a balancing check, whereby one may weigh an interpretation in contrast to the church's stance throughout history.

Temporal subordinationists claim that the vast amount of church history supports their claims; yet, they dismiss the majority of the writings of the early church and the writing of those who predate Irenaeus stating that they "naively" held to eternal subordinationism. If church history is an important avenue of study; one must be honest with the data and proclaim the exact nature of the view of the church throughout history.


Within the early church writings, a great deal of support is given to the idea that there was subordination within the Trinity, and it is likely that they believed that this subordination existed throughout eternity. Within the early church, it was often noted that God the Father was the member of the Trinity who gave primary direction to the will, while Jesus Christ and the Spirit acted upon the will of the Father. This is noted within the Didache, a writing on the handling and ethics of the church, where it repeatedly mentions that Christ was a servant of God (Didache 9:2; 9:3; 10.2; 10.3). The Didache teaches that the early church understood there to be at least some form of subordination within the Trinity, at least in relationship to the Incarnation.

1 Clement and Ignatius of Antioch repeatedly reference the primary will of God and the action of the Son and the Holy Spirit. 1 Clement noted God to be the chief builder, while Christ and the Holy Spirit were the chief actors. Within these writings, God the Father is referenced as being the monarch within the Trinity. The early church not only supported subordination, some even an eternal subordination, within the Trinity, but they also commented on the differing roles of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The difference between the will and the action of the Father and Son mentioned above indicates the difference of role and function, as does Polycarp who notes, within his prologue, the Father as "God Almighty" and Jesus Christ as "our Savior" (Polycarp to the Philippians, 1:1).

Hermas, again notes Jesus Christ in a role of functional subordination to the Father, and the Father is once again noted as being the one who's will is primary. Hermas further explains that the Father acts through the Son, who is in submission to the Father's will. Justin Martyr similarly believed that the Son acts as a mediator between God and man in all things including, but not limited to, salvation. Justin Martyr developed a view of God that asserted that the Father was the highest being and He was the begetter of all. In Justin Martyr's belief, Jesus Christ was the bridge between God's transcendence and immanence. Justin Martyr also considered Jesus Christ to be equal to God, and Justin Martyr makes constant mention of this equality throughout his works. Justin viewed Christ and the Holy Spirit as occupying a second place; yet, they are both viewed by Justin as equal to God.

The Council of Nicaea

Charles Hodge, Augustus Strong, and Wayne Grudem all assert that the Nicene Creed, and the majority of church decisions following the Council of Nicaea, have ascribed to the functional subordination of Christ. The assertions regarding the Trinity produced at the council of Nicaea were largely a responsive movement to the Arian heresy that introduced that Christ was not equal to God in being, essence, and authority. The temporal subordinationist wrongly ascribes the label of heresy to the eternal subordinationists' view when he misunderstands that the Trinity can possess, and indeed is prescribed within Scripture as possessing, subordination in function.

Temporal subordinationists misinterpret the statements of the Council of Nicaea and ascribe that the council delineated that there can be no subordination within the Godhead, but rather the members of the Trinity are fully and completely equal in function. Giles states this repeatedly throughout his book on temporal subordination in statements such as, "the Council of Nicaea intentionally excluded all expressions of subordinationism known at that time... In both creeds the Son of God is confessed as 'of one substance of being (homoousious) with the Father,' and as coming down from heaven 'for us and our salvation.'" Furthermore, Giles proclaims that "if the Father and the Son are one in being and act, then the idea that the Son is eternally set under the Father, ontologically or functionally, is categorically excluded." In reference to the Council of Nicaea, Bilezikian remarks, "After the Arian controversy and its settlement at the councils, the western church affirmed the consubstantiality…, the coeternality, and the essential oneness of the persons of the Trinity, thus excluding any form of ontological hierarchy, order or ranking among them that would pertain to their eternal state."

However, the Nicene Creed clearly states that the Son was begotten of God from all eternity, and that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Nicene Creed is, therefore, a carefully worded statement whereby the Arian heresy of ontological subordination among the Godhead was deposed. The concept of functional subordination of the roles of the Trinity was never explicitly stated nor denied. However, the terminology clearly conveys the concept of a functional subordination or hierarchy within the Trinity, as is evidenced by the comments of Strong and Hodge.


The assertions of heresy made by the temporal subordinationists are striking and bold assertions made against serious Bible scholars and theologians. The writings of John's Gospel explain to the reader that Jesus Christ is equal to God and wholly God. John, however, does not limit the Godhead to only Christ. John seeks to establish that Jesus Christ is one among three who are all equally one God. This equality entails that each member possesses the same attributes, essence, nature, and being. The heresy, which is proclaimed against the eternal subordinationist, is said to be a heresy which denies these claims. Yet, all eternal subordinationists uphold these fundamental tenants of the doctrine of the Trinity.

John's Gospel also identified Jesus Christ as the Word and the member of the Trinity who has always been the revelation of God to mankind. God the Father and the Holy Spirit have never manifested themselves before mankind as did Jesus Christ. John's message teaches us that this distinct characteristic of Christ is part of the very person of Jesus Christ. Christ, therefore, is eternally the Word.

Jesus Christ is also identified within John's Gospel as one who was sent into the world at the command of the Father. This command of God upon the Son does not limit the authority of Jesus Christ in relationship to any created being or object. Christ has been given the very authority of God because He is God and was sent by God the Father. Therefore, in relationship to mankind, the authority of the Son is equal to the authority of the Father. However, Jesus Christ willfully submits to the will of God the Father because Christ is subordinate to God the Father eternally. One may assert that such subordination is only evidenced within Scripture in relationship to the created time, but the very eternal nature of Christ's role as the Word seems to suggest that this function of Christ surpasses time. Furthermore, the promise and plan of redemption is one which took place in eternity past; therefore, it would seem that Christ's subordination was at least planned, and in some way active, during eternity past.

The history of the church supports the idea that Christ was likely eternally subordinate to God. The early church, though unclear at times, with one voice ascribed varying roles and function to Christ and the Holy Spirit. The early church also consistently viewed the Father as the monarch among the Trinity and viewed His will as a will of primacy that is obeyed by the Son and Spirit. The Council of Nicaea carefully ascribed to a similar view as well in response to the Arian heresy. It is, therefore, incorrect, for theologians to name eternal subordinationists of partaking in heresy.

The eternal subordination of the Son is clearly ascribed to in Scripture. Furthermore, the church has widely accepted this view from its founding. The eternal, functional subordination of the Trinity is upon this basis the most accurate representation of the relationship among the Trinity.


Sources Cited

Barrett, C. K. The Gospel According to St. John An Introduction with Commentary and Notes on the Greek Text. London: S.P.C.K., 1978.

Bauman, Michael. "Milton, Subordination, and the Two-Stage Logos." Westminster Theological Journal 48 (1986): 173-182. This work examines the various ways subordination can be understood. It explains when one's view of subordination becomes heresy and describes why John Milton's acceptance of the theory of the Two-Stage Logos is unorthodox. The Two-Stage Logos theory is referring to the belief that there is an "Immanent Word" and there is an "Expressed Word."

Beasley-Murray, George Raymond. John. Word Biblical Commentary, ed. David A Hubbard and Glen W. Barker. vol. 36. Waco, Tex: Word Books, 1987.

Bilezikian, Gilbert. "Hermeneutical Bungee-Jumping: Subordination in the Godhead." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 40 (March 1997): 57-68. This article, in many ways, agrees with Kevin Giles' book. It explains the importance of the doctrine and also proposes problems present in the ideas of the authors of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

Carson, D. A. The Gospel According to John. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1991.

Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology. Vol. 1. Dallas, Tex.: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947.

Cowan, Christopher. "The Father and Son in the Fourth Gospel: Johanine Subordination Revisited." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49 (2006): 115-135. Is a clear exegetical and theological examination of the data contained in John's Gospel relative to the debate concerning the subordination within the Trinity. This paper proposes that John's Gospel contains a tension between the Son's obedience, the hierarchical authority of the Father, and the equality within the Godhead.

Dahms, John V. "The Subordination of the Son" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 37 (1994): 351–364.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1998. Erickson's theology is one of the few conservative systematic theologians who support the temporal subordination of the Trinity. However, his discussion of the topic is brief.

Giles, Kevin. Jesus and the Father: Modern Evangelicals Reinvent the Doctrine of the Trinity. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2006. This book covers the history and exegesis of the discussion of whether the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father. The book proposes that the view that asserts that there is an eternal subordination of the Son to the Father is similar to the Arian heresy.

--------. The Trinity & Subordination: The Doctrine of God and the Contemporary Gender Debate. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2002.

Green, Joel B., Scot McKnight, and I. Howard Marshall. Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1992.

Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994. Grudem's theology is the theology which provides the clearest statements regarding the subordination of the Trinity. Grudem provides clear support for his claims, and he shows where other systematic theologians have agreed with him.

Hodge, Charles. Systematic Theology. Vol. 1. New York: Scribner, Armstrong, and Co., 1873.

Hornell, J. Scott. "Toward a Biblical Model of the Social Trinity: Avoiding Equivocation of Nature and Order" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47 (2004): 399-421.

Keener, Craig S. "Is Subordination Within the Trinity Really Heresy? A Study of John 5:18 in Context." Trinity Journal 20 (1999): 39-51. This article proposes that the condemnation and use of the term "heresy" in relationship to the subordination within the Trinity should be used extremely carefully. The author believes that the labels, which are used on both sides of the gender and subordination debate, are "inappropriate." This work contains a section which exegetes and interacts with 1 Cor. 15:28 and its role in the subordination debate.

--------. The Gospel of John A Commentary. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003.

Kovach, Stephen D., and Peter R. Schemm, Jr. "A Defense of the Doctrine of the Eternal Subordination of the Son." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42 (1999): 461-476. This is an article in response to Gilbert Bilezikian's article "Hermeneutical Bungee-Jumping: Subordination in the Godhead." This article contains a good number of references to the works which debate the Subordination of the Trinity. The article also contains a response to the historical data offered by Bilezikian, and Kovach provides historical information in support of his view.

Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel. Columbus, Ohio: Lutheran Book Concern, 1942.

Sanders, Fred. "The State of the Doctrine of the Trinity in Evangelical Theology." A paper presented at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, San Antonio, Tex., November 18, 2004. This paper explains the various discussions concerning the modern theology of the Trinity. This paper gives information and some implications concerning "early high Christology," "eternal generation," and "gender relations" as it relates to the Trinity.

Strong, Augustus Hopkins. Systematic Theology. Vol. 1. Philadelphia: The Griffith & Rowland Press, 1907.

Svigel, Michael J. "Power in Unity, Diversity in Rank: Subordination and the Trinity in the Fathers of the Early Church." Paper presented at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, San Antonio, TX, November 18, 2004. The paper discusses, in great detail, the writings of the early church fathers concerning their understanding of the Trinity. Svigel proposes that there was "no clear Arian ontological subordination," "no functional egalitarianism," "ontological equality and functional subordinationism," and "possible drift towards ontological subordinationism" within the early church fathers.

Tenney, Merrill C. "John." In The Expositor's Bible Commentary. ed. Frank Gaebelein, vol. 9, 3-206. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981.

Sources Consulted

Boring, M. Eugene. "John 5:19-24." Interpretation 45 (April 1991): 176-181. This is an exegetical work on the passage indicated in its title. The author gives special attention to the "Father/Son language" of the passage, which is beneficial in the study of the nature of the subordination within the Trinity.

Bickersteth, Edward Henry. The Trinity. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1957.

Carey, Philip. "The New Evangelical Subordinationism: Reading Inequality into the Trinity." Priscilla Papers 20 (Autumn 2006): 42-45. This is an egalitarian's review and summary of Kevin Giles' books with special emphasis upon the book Jesus and the Father. This is somewhat less technical that Giles, but it provides a decent, "at-a-glance" discussion of the Giles' proposal.

Erickson, Millard J. Making sense of the Trinity: 3 Crucial Questions. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000.

Franks, Robert S. Doctrine of the Trinity. London: Duckworth, 1953.

Grenz, Stanley. Rediscovering the Triune God: the Trinity in Contemporary Theology. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004.

Howard, Wilbert Francis. "Father and the Son: and Exposition of John 5:19-29." Interpretation 4 (1950): 3-11.

Letham, Robert. "The Man-Woman Debate: Theological Comment." Westminster Theological Journal 52 (1990): 65-78.

McGrath, Alister E. Understanding the Trinity. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1988.

Wainwright, Arthur W. The Trinity in the New Testament. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1962.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Obama and abortion

I don't normally get into politics, but I believe that people need to see this. A lot of people are very concerned about Hillary making president, but we should be just as concerned about Obama and McCain.

It doesn't surprise me to hear that the current center stage spotlight of the Democratic party is pro-choice, though he CLAIMS to be a Christian (I won't even get into the whole fact that The Church of Christ which Obama claims to be tied to preaches faith + baptism = salvation, when the Bible clearly teaches faith in Christ alone = salvation). What surprised me in reading this article was to what extent his voting record shows his support for pro-choice. How anyone claiming to be born again could support such a man, knowing this issue is at stake, is beyond me. I know some of my friends have decided that- due to not wanting McCain in and knowing that Huckabee can't win at the current numbers (have to wonder what it might look like if people had voted their consciouses instead of voting for the guy most likely to win, though) have decided that Obama is their guy. If you believe what the Bible teaches regarding the sanctity of human life, you must reconsider what you're doing in voting for him. I have to wonder who- if anyone- can be supported with my vote since Huckabee is the only pro-life guy out there and is almost 900 delegates behind....

Obama Supports Infanticide