The nature of the trinity is at the center of the debate and discussion of a couple of topics of interest to me. It is an area of disagreement between egalitarians and complementarians. It is also the source of the controversy and claims of heresy surrounding the book, The Shack.
Admittedly I stand on the side of an egalitarian relationship among the trinity. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are our example of unity in relationships. They model perfect mutual submission and deference to one another.
As Papa said in The Shack, “Hierarchy would make no sense among us.”
In regard to the portrayal of the trinity in the book, Wayne Jacobsen said this:
One of the concerns expressed about The Shack is that it presents the Trinity outside of a hierarchy. To look at the Trinity as a relationship without the need for command and control is one of the intriguing parts of this story. If they walk in complete unity, why would a hierarchy be needed? While in the flesh Jesus did walk in obedience to the Father as our example, elsewhere Scripture speaks of their complete unity, love and glory in relating to each other.
So many of the accusations of heresy that are thrown around – scary sounding words like modalism, arianism, monarchianism, and tritheism – are all rooted in misunderstanding and differences of opinion about the trinity.
The orthodox idea of the Trinity, as established in the early councils and creeds during the fourth century, is that God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, and the Holy Spirit are simultaneously three distinct beings, and all the same being, none subserviant to another, all three with complete equality and a single will.
Until recently subordinationism was also considered a heresy of the trinity. It is only within the last few decades that the idea of hierarchy within the trinity has been promoted by complementarians within evangelical circles. Their teaching “equal in being, unequal in role” states that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father.
I attempted to explain my theology of the trinity on the earlier post about Driscoll’s Doctrine Versus The Shack:
Most of my understanding of the trinity is from John 14-17. The 3 are too distinct to not be acknowledged in being, yet too interrelated and united to be completely dissected.
The Spirit is both the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Christ. Jesus is the Son, yet He is the being of God in flesh. God is the Father, yet he chooses to reveal Himself in Flesh and in Spirit. It is all beyond my understanding, yet a real part of fully knowing God through my relationship with Him.
I am united with the Father and Jesus through the Spirit living in me, revealing to me the Father’s love and His will. By the Spirit, I am in Christ and He is in me, and usually, I don’t try to separate it all out.
It doesn’t seem too far off from the position of Athanasius. Maybe I’m not a heretic.
Athanasius declared that it was acceptable to refer to the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as “one substance” as long as this was not understood to mean an obliteration of distinction between the three persons, and it was acceptable to speak of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost as “three substances” as long as this was not understood to separate the three as three individual gods.
It is really interesting to me that conservative christians have taken the more unorthodox position on this particular issue.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this.