Neo-Orthodox II

The subject of the nature of the trinity is something that continues to interest me.  I believe that it is becoming more and more important in conversations about the nature of the church.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is something the Spirit of God is impressing upon the church today.

You can read my earlier thoughts in the original Neo-Orthodox post.

I was first introduced to the discussion of hierarchy in the trinity in this post by BWIII in which he presented Kevin Giles’ thoughts on The Eternal Subordination of Christ and Women.  Since then, I have read arguments on both sides of this issue.  Arguments for hierarchy are typically used to support patriarchy and/or authoritarian structures.

When BWIII reviewed Pagan Christianity and Re-Imagining Church, he argued for functional subordination.   I was actually surprised at this because it seemed a switch from his previous position.  In my opinion, functional subordination is a semantic game used to veil what is actually permanent subordination.

As I said in the original post, hierarchy within the trinity is actually the more unorthodox position.  It is really too bad that it has been re-introduced as doctrine in the church.

What difference does it make?

There are a lot of doctrinal issues where difference of opinion really does not matter.  However, I do not think that this is one of them (not that I expect the differences will be resolved).  The reason that I believe that this issue matters is because the church is to reflect the nature of relationship modeled in the trinity.  If our image of those relationships is skewed, our reflection becomes skewed.

One of the strengths of Frank Viola’s latest book, Reimagining Church, is the emphasis on trinitarian themes throughout the book.  It makes sense that this would influence so many aspects of being the church – community, leadership, mutuality, participation.  The nature of the trinity and our invitation to join in their relationship is fundamental to our identity as the people of God.

From The Becoming of G-d by Ian Mobsby:

“The Holy Trinity is beckoning the emerging Church to model a way of being a spiritual community that reflects the very nature of the Trinitarian Godhead.  The Holy Spirit is drawing those seeking missional and contemporary expressions of church for our postmodern consumerist context, to experiment with forms of church drawing on a perichoretic model.

I love the idea that this may be the Holy Spirit beckoning us on, transforming our imaginations, and helping us re-imagine another way of being.”

Both of these books have remarkably similar thoughts concerning the church being re-imagined in ways that reflect the nature of relationship and community in the trinity.  They also both heavily quote Stanley Grenz and Miroslav Volf.

In my opinion, both the emerging and missional movements reflect aspects of adapting the church to become a more accurate reflection of the image of God.


9 thoughts on “Neo-Orthodox II

  1. Agreed, Grace…and this is one of the reasons the Abbess resonates with images of perichoresis as eternal dance breaking into human existence.

    Have you read Patrick Oden’s book, “It’s A Dance”?

    Hope your visit is going well….

  2. The idea that God runs a military dictatorship is pretty repulsive to me. What decision did the Father ever make that Jesus disagreed with – or when did the Spirit ever speak on His own? Or are these two just brainless entities that have no thoughts of their own – they are just the Father’s little toys to play with?

    If you believe in the Trinity at all – then you have to believe that the three are in prefect relationship.

    It’s way easier to just appoint a leader – and pretend like he’s the one that hears from God – and overlook all of his obvious flaws (publicly) – while you yourself become mindless and subordinate – his little toy to satisfy his eros love.

    How long can a marriage like that last?

    Much better to pursue things relationally – where the flaws are out in the open and the body’s functioning together. Much harder though – most would rather hide in the darkness and pretend everything is ok.

  3. Hi Grace. Thanks for the kind words on “Reimagining” :-)

    I’ve never heard of Mobsby’s book, but judging from the quote, he speaks my language. I appreciate you mentioning it.

    Incidentally, for those wishing to explore BWIII’s review more deeply, below is my three-part response in one document. Ben was gracious enough to post it on his blog as the main feature.

    The last section is quite theological, but to my mind, it’s the most important part.

    Thanks again for mentioning Mosby’s book. I’ve put it on my list.

  4. Jerry
    Have to agree with you that bad theology leads to bad practice within faith community.Wrong theology of Trinity as a hierarchy leads to wrong practice of ‘leadership’ (authoritarian).It also leads to bad theology of the Atonement (Penal Substitution) which leads to all sorts of dysfunctional relationships within the faith community and beyond.


  5. The entire idea of the Trinity and what it means seems to be under complete reconsideration. I am in dialogue with a friend who is essentially unitarian, not the denomination.

    Getting the essence of God right seems to be one of the most important, if not the most fundamental, issues we followers of Jesus can decide.

  6. Grace, this is wonderful stuff, I think we are all coming from the same thinking. I am glad you like the book, and yes it does resonate with Frank Viola’s book….

    For me perichoresis, theosis and panentheism are concepts we must wrestle with, and for this, Trinitarianism is a key foundation.

  7. Grace,

    I spent a couple of evenings last week reading BWIII’s critique of Reimagining and Franks responses. (btw Frank—EXCEPTIONAL [yes, I’m YELLIN’!!)

    It became evident that BWIII’s view of unilateral subordination in the Trinity makes a whoppin’ world of difference in how you understand (and subsequently practice) ecclesiology–not to mention gender roles and relationships–and not forgetting to mention how that affects your perspective about relationship with the Father.

    Glad that you re-visited this issue. I have been also.


  8. I’m sorry that I didn’t have time to interact with your comments earlier. This is one of my favorite topics.

    I haven’t read Patrick’s book yet. I’m sure that I would enjoy it. I’ve always appreciated his perspective.

    I believe that this issue will continue to be a prominent topic in the church.

    Thanks for the link. I would like to read that again. Here are a couple of quotes from BW when he posted Kevin Gile’s article in March 2006:

    1 Cor. 11.3 provides no justification at all for the notion that Christ is eternally subordinate to the Father

    Jude vss. 24-25: “This summary bestows coequal and coeternal glory and the kingdom both on the Father and the Son through all and before all ages and refutes the error of those who believe that the Son is less or later than the Father

    This is why I was surprised to see his arguments for functional subordination in his reviews of your books.

    Good thoughts charlie!

    Yes, I believe it is part of our process of being formed in His image.

    I really enjoyed your book, even though I had to read it twice to fully digest what you were saying. :)
    I hope you find my review to be an accurate reflection of your thoughts.

    In spite of the massive volume of words in BW’s posts, I felt that he missed the beauty and heart of the message of Reimagining.

  9. tom,
    In spite of the massive volume of words in BW’s posts, I felt that he missed the beauty and heart of the message of Reimagining.


    And, Ben’s favorite phrase seemed to be, “That’s just WRONG!” I don’t think Ben could see the forest outside of his ecclesiological stockade.


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