Will CBMW Refute EFS?
August 24, 2016
On August 22 Christianity Today posted another article on the recent debate over the doctrine of the Trinity. I won’t rehash the details of the debate. However the author of the CT piece does get a few details wrong. Notably she repeats the line that the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) maintains a neutral position regarding ESS/EFS/ERAS (I am sure that is what she was told). She also states that the CBMW website has only one article on ERAS which is by Wayne Grudem, a founder of the organization. Of course, that may now be true (more on that in a bit).
The fact is CBMW has not been neutral regarding the doctrine of the Son’s eternal subordination to the Father. (As a reminder, no orthodox theologian denies that there is a kind of order in the Godhead or that the Son in his incarnate and self-humiliating state submitted his will to that of his Father as part of his identification with mankind. The error of Drs. Grudem and Ware is that they export that subordination of will from something belonging to the economic Trinity into the eternal relations of the Godhead.) It is true that some members of CBMW’s council reject that errant doctrine. However, the fact remains that CBMW has deliberately and repeatedly built its theological support for the complementary roles of men and women upon this deeply flawed doctrine of the Trinity.
I am now troubled by what seems to be an effort to rewrite history. In fact, things seem to be disappearing without any explanation.
The weight of scholarship has spoken on the issue. Even those who stepped into the debate to dismiss as cranks (and worse) the critics of the theology of Ware and Grudem were nevertheless careful to make clear that they did not agree with EFS. One wonders why they don't agree. Obviously it must be because they find EFS to be unbiblical. Now it's one thing to find a pre-tribulation rapture of the church to be unbiblical. It is quite another to conclude that professors in evangelical seminaries hold an unbiblical view of the Trinity!
Let us keep in mind that in his wildly popular Systematic Theology Wayne Grudem writes that the Trinity is analogous to husband (the Father), wife (the Son), and child (the Holy Spirit). It boggles my mind that so many well-known men within the broader reformed(ish) world are unwilling to refute such nonsense. I can only speculate as to why. But I believe that I can say with 100% certainty that if egalitarian theologians and pastors were drawing those same analogies the refutations would come fast and furious.
One of the more peculiar features of the current debate is the men who insist on agreement in the applications of the Bible’s teaching on the roles of men and women but allow great diversity of opinion on the nature of God. As Liam Goligher has recently pointed out, the doctrine of God is not secondary. The doctrine of God is not subordinate (no pun intended) to, for instance, the doctrine of the atonement. The doctrine of God is primary. And yet some of the very men who helped lead worthy battles against attacks on Scriptural authority and substitutionary atonement seem to offer a collective shrug to views about the Trinity they themselves identify as erroneous. How is it that we must agree on women’s roles in society but not on the Son’s role in the Trinity?
It is clear that the leadership of CBMW now desires to distance the organization from the error of EFS. It would be a shame if their approach to dealing with these errors is to merely remove content from their website. What they must do is refute the errors of EFS and its impious speculations and analogies applied to the Godhead. They must also apologize for their lack of discernment and proper oversight in disseminating those errors to the church; errors that local pastors must now clean up. If CBMW refuses to do this then it will be clear that they continue to stand by those errors.
Something is wrong with this picture. Something rotten is behind this wall of protection and it spells impending danger for reformed evangelicalism. A movement which rushes to protect those who advance error but criticizes, marginalizes, and pulls levers of power against those who shine a light on the errors is a movement not worth supporting.
A big tent which gatherers together incompatible doctrines of the Trinity is too big a tent.
Here are a few helpful articles to help you navigate some of the theological categories and implications:
What Would Augustine Say to Evangelicals Who Reject the Eternal Generation of the Son? by Keith Johnson