Questions and Answers about the Trinity

The average person sitting in the pew doesn’t have any idea of what is going on regarding the theology of women’s submission and where it came from.  They listen to their preacher and they tell me “my pastor doesn’t say those kind of things.”  And they are right.  But these Southern Baptist pastors believe those things that the Council on Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood (CBMW) and others are putting out.

The Letter I’ve printed several times is from a woman in the church where I had attended for 11 years and sat just a few feet away from each Sunday.  I didn’t really know her as she was involved with a different SS class.  Our pastor never preached the Danvers Statement message that she was spouting about harmony in the marriage.  So where did she get it?  In fact, our pastor is for women, but he can’t admit it because when he did mention it, people left the church.
 
I posed the following questions to Cindy Kunsman and below is her answer to the first question.   Wednesday you will find her answer to the second question.

  • Is it as big a deal as I think it is – that most SBC pastors think this way – or is it just a small offbeat group that believe in the Eternal Son Submission theory (the Trinity) and this strange theology about the husbands being the representative of Christ and male headship? 
  • And another question – If the pastors aren’t preaching it in the pulpits, where are they getting it?

  
Cindy Kunsman answers the first question.

I’ve been giving it some thought.  I don’t think that it’s quite that simple of a question but it more insidious.

First, consider the backdrop of Biblical Illiteracy.  Churches are full of people who can’t tell you much of anything about basic doctrine, and they go just because it’s what they’re supposed to do or because Church is a country club.  If they know any doctrine, it’s probably not terribly complicated stuff.

Move on to the Trinity.  It’s essentially inscrutable, because in our mortal state or even in our state as God’s creation, we can’t see things clearly.  We see through a glass darkly, and much about God we have to take by faith.  People generally don’t like faith and want to be able to comprehend things easily without having to think very much.  What Eternal Son Submission (ESS) provides, even though it doesn’t make much sense to me, is that it offers easier answers to the complexity of the doctrine.  It does recreate God in terms of who man is, and it doesn’t require as much faith in God.

Some choose to put their faith in Wayne Grudem,  co-founder and past president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood  (Systematic Theology, 1994) and Bruce Ware, Professor of Christian Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (See Trinity; and Father, Son and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance, 2005) instead

But doing so gives an individual the illusion that they are not responsible for any errors made in the belief.  If the teaching was wrong, it provides the illusion that it’s someone else’s fault and not their own error.  So not only is it much easier, it’s pre-packaged and makes people feel less responsible.   People love to pass on responsibility when it comes to these complicated things, because it’s very hard to come face to face with the realization that you are just human and limited.

In addition, in many Evangelical churches, people are taught that the Father is mean and tough, always looking to smite someone.  They don’t understand God as Holy God, because that again means that they have to face their own true nature.  For most people, the Father is not separate from us because He is holy.  They think it is because He is just mean and rough and demanding, like an authoritarian. 

Jesus is seen as the nice guy who likes us, and even He has to go to this mean Father and beg and plead on our behalf.  They don’t see intercession as making a way for us or standing in the gap, satisfying the law and the demands of God’s quality of holiness.  They see Jesus as someone who has to try to beg the Father to be forgiving and to put up with us, as if Father God had some gross lack of a forgiving spirit. 

It is easier for us to understand God as three separate people with three very different personalities instead of the complex and inscrutable Creator. 

There are some things about God that are a mystery that even Paul could not explain to us with greater clarity, and I believe that he certainly would if he could have done so.  So when Bruce Ware comes along with his and Wayne Grudem’s perverse twist on that approach to the Trinity which strips the Mystery of mystery, I think that for most people, the surface of the doctrine makes more sense.

To sum up the answer.  It seems on the surface to solve a lot of mystery, it’s easier, and someone else seems responsible so you can pass the buck if it’s wrong.

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About bwebaptistwomenforequality

Shirley Taylor writes with humor and common sense, challenging the church body to reclaim equality for Christian women.
This entry was posted in Do Baptists Really Believe That?, Male Headship fallacy, The Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to Questions and Answers about the Trinity

  1. Michelle says:

    Thank you for sharing this.

    I’m sorry about the church where the pastor has to be “undercover” about his support for women: It’s just more evidence of the way this doctrine, though unstated on many PCA and “nondenominational” websites, has become central to some denominations/churches.

    All of Kunsman’s here rings true. I’d like to say something that I think is more of a re-wording than it is adding an entirely new idea: Generally speaking, people are more comfortable with answers than they are with questions. They’ll rush to give an answer, more so with answers that are rote things they’ve been taught, rather than to sit in and with, to consider, to converse about, and to hold in faith, the question(s).

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    • I am trying to unseat the comfortable. I had another letter printed in our large city newspaper in which I compared our ideas about women in church and home with Muslims, this time. I ended it with “Countries and religions should be judged on how they treat women.” Thank you all for your help and encouragement.

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      • Michelle says:

        You are very welcome! I forgot to mention that you touch on some very important points in the beginning of this post. When you talk about the way that people don’t know what’s behind the theology of women’s submission, you’re hitting on something important. Folks in the pew are trusting what they hear or read from sources they’ve heard mentioned by someone else in their church, or maybe the source is someone who is from the same denomination they are, and then studying scripture using materials by these “trusted sources”. And then the folks in the pew are understanding these scriptures in the same way their trusted sources are, so…that must be the correct understanding. And they don’t have a problem with this, either intellectually or empathetically. They just figure that God must have created women to be “helpers” in some sort of always submissive way.

        Also, you’re touching on the way that culture can be such a subtle and strong force. The first pastor at our old church never (that I heard) talked about gender from the pulpit, and rarely elsewhere. Yet gender roles were surprisingly strong in the culture of the church. So strong that for years I was afraid to even question them publicly (after having been shut down a couple of times by various folks–not the pastor–privately).

        Unseating the comfortable is an overwhelming goal when I start to think about it too long. I think it’s great that you are addressing these issues through such general venues as your newspaper. Thanks again!

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      • My ministry is to work for women’s equality. When I felt called to this, I wasn’t given a handbook, just an enormous desire to right a wrong. I’ve made many mistakes along the way – and many times I look behind me and don’t see any followers. But this is not my problem. I surrendered to this ministry and where God leads it is His concern. So, yes, I do try to unseat the comfortable. It is a formidable task. But all I have to do is my part. However, I can’t wait for my part to come knocking at the door. I have to go find it. Thanks for your support. Shirley

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  2. Lydia says:

    “It does recreate God in terms of who man is, and it doesn’t require as much faith in God.”

    Cindy has excellent thoughts in her answer. And she is so right with the above. They explain God in human terms. He is mapped to the hierarchies on earth. But let us go one step further, when did we see this doctrine so promoted? It is an old heresy but it has been revamped and revised for today. And there is only ONE reason it has been promoted over the last 20 years or so: Because Egal is making too much sense in light of Biblical Interpretation. Too many people are studying and coming to a different conclusion about women. And this doctrine was needed to put more strength behind their interpretations of “equal but different”. Which is an oxymoron.

    Their own Danvers statement has come back to bite them. It is not supported by the entire pericope of the Word.

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  3. Lydia says:

    “It is easier for us to understand God as three separate people with three very different personalities instead of the complex and inscrutable Creator. ”

    And here is the rub. Cindy, this is so true but what will happen is that by your daring to write such a thing you will be declared either a modalist or an open theist. That is how they operate. And by doing this they put people on the defensive instead of allowing the full truth to be debated. They have even been known to edit the words of church fathers such as Athenasus in order to promote their doctrine as orthodox.

    But let’s look at this from another angle. If Jesus Christ was not completely God in the flesh (who gave up His Glory in heaven to come here (Phil 2) then His Sacrifice was not that big of a deal. He was “ordered” to do it by the mean Father.

    This doctine does ONE very insidious thing: It LESSENS our Savior, Jesus Christ, Lord of Hosts and God in the Flesh. It make Him LESS than. (And who does the Holy Spirit report to, btw?)

    Beware friends, Cults always tamper with the Trinity. And this is very subtle tampering. In fact, they use the same language with this heresy they use with comp doctrine: Equal but different.

    This heresy is being promoted by those who are very trusted in Christendom which makes it even more insidious. Now is the time to be a Berean like you have never before. Lots of people are being led astray about our Savior and they are believing things about the Incarnation for eternity past and future that are not true.

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  4. Cindy says:

    Shirley,

    Thank you for your kind words and for posting this. I still am in wonder that anyone believes this stuff about the Trinity. I would think that if you’d spent any kind of real time in the trenches in witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses which I believe involves lovingly listening to them talk about what they’ve been taught before you explain who Jesus really is, you would see right through this teaching. I don’t think you could rightfully talk to a JW without egg on your face, if your Jesus is the Jesus of ESS. I also know a former Mormon who always encouraged me to stay focused on who Jesus and who the Word tells us He is. He says that it was really the identity of Jesus that convicted Him and haunted him as he laid his head on his pillow at night that turned him away from the Mormon teachings. He said that his heart ran from his convictions about Jesus in the Word like a criminal who is being pursued by a bloodhound who would never stop. The rest of the holes in Mormonism just made it easier for him when he stopped and considered Jesus Himself.

    We need to know and think about what we believe. And then we need to be able to do what Jesus commanded all of us to do — not just the missionaries, as though we pay them to do our work for us. We need to go and to make disciples by knowing who He is and what the Word teaches.

    There were no gender qualifications there in the Upper Room that day, and I believe that the Church was birthed officially that day (not by God through Abraham as Covenant Theology teaches about the assembly in the Old Testament). The Abrahamic and Mosaic Covenants are old and I follow only the New One — the one that reconciles me unto God and writes His Law on my heart and in my spirit by the Spirit of God. The others are condemnation and death. The New Covenant is about eternal and abundant life. I need to learn more about that abundant life in Christ and what it means, more and more, to make my enemy a footstool for my feet. None of that is withheld from women, and I see it as my duty as one who can go right up to Abba Father and the Throne of Grace (with no mortal male required but the Lamb who made the Way for me). There is “no, not one” sinless earthly man who can begin to make intercession for me, save the One who poured out His Blood for me at Calvary and took the keys to death, hell, and the grave. Hallelujah. Praise God that I can crawl up on Abba’s lap and can kiss the Son — with no overseer or mediator required.

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    • Thank you, Cindy. One of these persons had a Jehovah’s Witness background, didn’t they? I looked at so many websites and I am away from my computer now to check it out.

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      • Cindy says:

        I’d not heard this before.

        According to Kevin Giles, the idea really originated with George Knight III.
        In Covenant Theology, there is a doctrine of several different covenants. Adam was created and was under a Covenant of Works, then after original sin, they teach that it ushered in a Covenant of Grace.

        Before creation, I guess, they also teach that there was a Covenant of Redemption wherein the Father, Son and Spirit got together to sort out which person would do what. The Father appointed the Son to be the one to serve as man’s propitiation at this meeting when this Covenant was made among the Divine Persons. Phil 2 somehow is said to be evidence, and Psalm 110 (“The Lord said to my Lord, sit at my right hand…You are a priest forever…”). Those passages do not really talk about God sitting down with God to rough out how God was going to show Himself to humanity as God. In that Psalm 110 passage, I guess they say that the Father told the Son how things were going to be. Somehow, from all that, they extrapolate that there was an official Covenant among them, and a certain “role” fell to Jesus because He was the second in command partner in the group.

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  5. Cindy says:

    Lydia,

    If you reject Covenant Theology, most of the zealous ones who embrace it will call you anti-nomian, that you opposed God’s Law and rejected. They will not listen when you argue that you only believe that Jesus changed our standing in terms of it.

    I have no problem with those who best understand God from the “social Trinitarian” view, having more of an affinity for an emphasis on the diversity of Persons of the Divine Three. Some of us understand the world and make sense of information through sight, and some through sound, and some through thought, and some through felt sense. Not one is better than the other. That view has a great appreciation for the inner-penetration of the identity of God and the mutual indwelling of each person in the other.

    So long as that person remains committed to what the Word teaches us about God and where we stand in relation to Him — that there are some questions to which we only see an answer through a veil and with some degree of obscurity, then that is okay. Job put his hand over his mouth, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, Isaiah, and John were all temporarily bereft of words when they saw a little glimpse of God. Moses’ hair turned white, and his face glowed, and he was covered by God’s hand and only saw Him as He departed. So long as we remember and honor the Creator more than the insights of His creatures, we should be fine. And then we should know that we are brethren by the love for which we are known. The rest of it is vanity and emptiness without the factor of love and charity, for we should be changed enough to desire to give to others what has been so freely shared with us.

    I am more comfortable with the anti-social Trintiarian perspective, primarily because I best understand God by God’s love and power as the foremost qualities possessed by all three Divine Persons as is taught to us in the Word. Authority belongs to all Three, and it is something that for One to hold in greater measure or even in priority as a function of identity seems to attest that God Himself cannot be fully God. Authority, love, patience, lovingkindness, and power define the Spirit and the Son, just as much as they define the Father. Constraint of one would diminish all. God cannot deny or become less than God, or that makes Him no longer God.

    That doesn’t mean that each Divine Person is not exactly who and how and about the very things taught to us in the Word or that I diminish any of them. It means that, even as Paul says, these things are the great mystery of the Church. God is not a thing with three heads, and He’s not a schizophrenic person who has three competing identities that war against one another. He is also not water at room temp, ice below freezing, and vapor when He boils. He is not unknowable as our Savior and Creator and Holy God and Judge. He is all the things that we are told that He is in the Word, and with so much to KNOW and learn of Him as Father, Son and as the Holy Spirit, we can be sure of Him and who He is. He’s not four people, having qualities as each Person and then what is almost like a fourth when He’s congealed. He just is, and I have faith in who He is, though I do not understand exactly how. And I don’t know that I exactly agree that He can only be spoken of in terms of analogy, though He certainly does do that to help us understand more deeply about His character.

    I look forward to the day when I do see Him as He is, when I am changed. But in the meanwhile, I will not be, as Van Til once said, the child who crawls up into God’s lap, only to slap Him in the face. (We probably all do that in our human nature, but in the discussion of understanding and stripping down the mystery, I’m not going to willfully do so.)

    If the evangelists for ESS want to call me a modalist for that, claim that I’m relating to God via the magiterium or that I’m the new Martin Buber by pushing God as some Holy Other… coming from them, I’ll take that as a compliment. I’d rather say that there are things that I don’t get, and if that is a cop-out or some argument of infinite regress, I’d rather lean that way than lean to the side of putting God in man’s arrogant box, all written out like something in an engineer’s text. I’d rather fall over like Isaiah and say, “Woe is me.”

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  6. Lydia says:

    btw: For those who want to educate themselves on the heresy of ESS and how prevalent it has become you will want to buy Cheryl Schatz’ DVD: The Trinity: Eternity Past and Future.

    She does an excellent job. In fact, her ministry partner is a former JW and came to Christ because she was challenged abut the Trinity by a believer and did some serious study. Eventually, her and her husband (the one who challenged her) formed a ministry to JW’s and Mormons.

    If you study JW or Mormon doctrine, it becomes even clearer where some well known leaders in Christendom are heading. First about women and now about the Trinity.

    http://www.mmoutreach.org/trinity.htm
    there are some links to youtube previews

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  7. Lydia says:

    Cindy, What is even more astonishing is that Dispensationalists are falling into this error. McArthur being one. And it all goes back to them mapping hierarchy in the Trinity to human hierarchies on earth. It is all about “roles”.

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  8. Cindy says:

    It sounds more like half-rate religious science fiction to me.

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