Why I Am Not Mortified
June 17, 2016
John Stevens has posted an article expressing dismay over the current debate concerning the doctrine of the Trinity. I do not know John Stevens. I’m sure he’s a fine fellow. But there is more wrong with his post than I possibly have time to critique. My response then will be fairly narrow.
In his post Stevens asks the question, “Why now?” But of course the concerns raised on Mortification of Spin are nothing new. For years there have been criticisms of the doctrine of Eternal Functional Subordination (EFS) advanced by Drs. Ware and Grudem. But because these criticisms have been expressed primarily in a corner of the academic world they have gone largely unnoticed by the church. Last week brought the debate out of the corner into the public eye. And it was time. The theology of EFS is being popularized by some complementarian leaders. A new popular level book advancing the doctrine has recently been published. So, in answer to Stevens' question: It is long overdue.
Stevens expresses concern that those of us who have defended historic Nicene Trinitarianism are accusing those who hold EFS of being heretics. What I have read so far does not bear that out. Error? Yes. A departure from orthodoxy? Yes. But heresy is a very particular category of damning error established by church courts. Interestingly, in 2008 a debate held at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School pitted Drs. Ware and Grudem against Drs. McCall and Yandell (critics of EFS). During that debate Dr. Grudem said that the views of McCall and Yandell (the historic Nicene position!) sounded like modalism, a heresy. Let that sink in.
It is unfortunate that Stevens saw fit to cast suspicions upon the motives of those who raised the concerns. Of course he is not the only one to assume upon motives. Others have openly wondered on social media that those who object to EFS do so out of some secret egalitarian/feminist agenda. That shows just how successful the proponents of EFS have been. The fact is the ugliness of the current debate does not reside in the objections against EFS. Rather it has come from those who have impugned the motives of those who raised the objections.
These debates are necessary. We are sinful and deeply flawed individuals. Therefore it should not shock us when (not if) we err. Nor should we be shocked when brothers and sisters disagree with our conclusions. When objections are raised concerning our doctrine then rather than take it personally we ought to listen and carefully consider the critique.
In his piece for Christianity Today Caleb Lingren reached a very different conclusion than Stevens:
[Up] to this point, the argument has stayed within the realm of doctrine for the most part, and has not strayed into the sorts of personal attacks and sniping that we have come to expect from public discourse these days.In a social media–driven age when most arguments produce more heat than light, the way this one has been carried out could be seen as an encouraging sign.