Trinity and women in ministry

Some influential conservative evangelicals have tried to make a case for subordination of women in the church based on a subordination of the Son to the Father.  Some very popular evangelical intellectuals like Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware seem to have re-structured their Trinitarian position so that it aligns with their personal view of women in ministry.  Their justification goes something like this.  If women are somehow subordinate to men in ministry, then our idea of the Trinity should also reflect the Son’s subordination to the Father.  The thing that would bother most classical fourth-century Trinitarian thinkers is that Grudem and Ware are misled and have tied their view of women in ministry so closely to a false view of the Trinity in such a way that if one goes against their view of women in ministry they may also be accused of going against orthodoxy. God forbid.

This is far from the truth according to classical Trinitarian theologians like T.F. Torrance, and Stephen R. Holmes of St. Andrew’s University.

All though the Son is begotten by the Father, we have hierarchically re-ordered the Trinity in such a way that the Son is now subordinated by the Father.  In other words, the Father is somehow supposed to be hierarchically above the Son in every way. This thinking is not orthodox Trinitarianism.  Actually the Trinity was never meant to inform any social hierarchies in the church. They’re completely separate issues.  This violation breaks away from the earliest Trinitarian idea established by the early Church Fathers like Augustine and the Cappadocian Fathers.  This new idea of an ontological subordination of the Son is misused in order to draw a parallel to how men and women should function in church ministry. No, God does not change, but we have somehow changed God. It seems like we’ve committed an error like Arius and it opens a new door to false doctrine… (hence, JWs).  Thus, the question for us is: “Have we conveniently misused and abused the original doctrine of the Trinity for our own purposes?”

A feminized Trinity–a heresy?

Trinity logo FINAL COLWhen we think of the Trinity, most people feel it’s “blah…boring” or useless.  I recently was surprised by how interesting and useful this topic can be.  It was debated in the first four centuries over what’s true and what’s false. These debates over heresies have come up again in the twentieth-century taking new forms. Trinitarian expert, T.F. Torrance, says there are no new heresies, just old heresies dressed up in new clothes.

Elizabeth Johnson, a feminist theologian, has attempted to totally and utterly reconstruct a femininized Trinity.  She came up with this formula: Spirit-Sophia, Jesus-Sophia, and Mother-Sophia.  In  her understanding, God cannot be understood by finite minds, therefore, a person must use analogy in order to bridge human unknowingness and the mystery of God.  She states, “The only building blocks near to hand are creaturely experiences, relationships, qualities, names, and functions.” (She Who Is, 1992). In other words, it’s okay to use our human thoughts to reconstruct “God” according to our own image, experience, or understanding.

I do not want to discredit human experience but I respectfully disagree.  Without a proper revelation and God’s speech, no human being would be able to see the likeness of the Triune God, let alone, to speak of him. Human experience must have its source from God’s revelation. Personally, I haven’t experienced God as a female. Furthermore, I am not God and God is not like me. Far from it.