Person and Nature in Gospel Coalition

This is a thought experiment based on reading a report on the Gospel Coalition‘s use of Trinitarian theology to undergird a certain view of husband-wife relations and authority.  For starters, let’s say that egalitarianism or complementarianism is true or false based on the respective merits of the case.

As I understand it, the Gospel Coalition-type guys (Ware, Grudem, maybe Piper) say that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father.  But equal in essence.  This means women are subordinate to men yet still fully human.

While one likes to make fun of the Gospel Coalition, and I probably will, they aren’t entirely off–well, yes they are but they almost made a very good argument.  So here is where they run into problems:

“Eternal” denotes relation, which is a category of essence. Therefore, to say that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father as a relation is to say that the Son is essentially subordinate to the Father, which is a no-go.  But of course, they want to say that the Son and Father are equal in essence–their complementarianism demands it.

They need a more robust hypostatic theology.  Person and Nature aren’t the same thing, as St John of Damascus said.  Therefore, the hypostasis of the Son can derive from the monarchia of the Father without a dimunition of essence.  (Note I didn’t say subordinate to, just because that has bad connotations).

Of course, if pressed these guys will say they believe in the hypostases as the three persons of the Trinity.  Maybe so, but they don’t let this correct insight help the rest of their theology from going off the rails.

About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
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3 Responses to Person and Nature in Gospel Coalition

  1. cal says:

    Protestants, in general, tend to be bad at maintaining this division. And TGC tend to ignore metaphysical questions, thus what might be important discussion of immanent/economic Trinity are usually placed on the backburner as obscure, while firm doctrinal formulations about justification and election are made deal-breakers. And on top of this, they neglect St. Paul’s language on gender for heretical foolishness.

    It’s a shame that popular engines of discussion seem to lack much nuance or understanding of their own history. But of course it seems that theology many times only justifies social formation, ethics, and psychology, but couched in traditional forms. In someways, we’re not much beyond Ritschl.


    • If they would just stick to preaching the gospel then I wouldn’t have a problem. But now that TGC is an amalgamation of identity politics and inside jokes. That’s just immaturity and no real harm is done to the faith. Now they are redefining the faith.


      • cal says:

        I’ve seen Carl Trueman lament the clique-ishness, insularity, and generally arrogant attitude that organizations TGC have become. Sadly, even the heavy Reformed emphasis on Human fallibility and institutional corruption fails to create self-awareness and internal critique.

        The foibles and sins of TGC ought to warn us that ideas do not necessarily, or actually, create ricochets into enacted life. Such is James’ warning to his fellow Christians.


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