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How Does A Trinitarian Understanding of God Shape Eccelsiology (5)

November 19, 2007

Defense of Position

In response to the use of gender-diverse images of God it is helpful to acknowledge that there is not a biblical claim that God is male, he is only referred to in masculine terms. He is not referred to as a man, but set apart from not only men, but all of humanity. God is also metaphorically referred to be one like a “mother” and a “hen” or other feminine images. Therefore, I would argue that there should be inclusive terms when referring to God within a biblical tradition. We should worship God as a comforter, gatherer, and creator. There is, however, no biblical precedence to go further and call God “Mother” or any other feminine name. For God does not refer to himself as “Mother”, but “Father”. He does refer to himself as “Queen”, but “King”. Our God-talk should be guided by Scripture in that we may use metaphorical images when referring to God’s work and action, but the witness of Scripture leads us away from naming God anything other than what he names himself.

A popular response to the masculine use within Scripture is to refer the problem to the patriarchal society of ancient Palestine. Yet, if this were the reason for the masculine use it is hard to explain how most surrounding nations spoke of their deities as feminine. The significance of Israel referring to God as masculine would have been uncommon, rather than common. Also, God’s disclosure of himself in Scripture is the way in which he chose to disclose himself to the world in Biblical language and through his Son Jesus Christ. This should supersede any social implications.[1]

The other opposing position is that there is no functional subordination within the community of the Trinity. In beginning the argument, the obvious relational terms of “Father” and “Son” within the Trinity seem to prompt some reflection of authority and subordination. This does not, however, reflect a relationship that has superiority and inferiority.

The biblical witness is that the Father’s will is to choose us, adopt us, glorify us through the work of his Son, who does all things according to the will of the Father. This is eternally pictured in I Corinthians 15, where death is finally defeated at the resurrection of the dead and all things are put in subjection under the Father. Yet the very person, Jesus Christ, who put all things in subjection under the Father, will also be put in subjection to him (I Cor. 15:28). This subjection is not only in the incarnation, but throughout eternity. Certainly, if the Son is the eternal Son, and if the Father is the eternal Father, then this relationship of functional authority and submission is from all eternity. Therefore, this implies that practicing the role of authority and submission in marriage and in the community of the Church is godly and properly images our Creator.

Within the framework of knowing and communing with God, a Trinitarian understanding of God shapes evangelical ecclesiology in how it fellowships, worships, and communicates the gospel effectively and biblically. A Trinitarian understanding of God should prompt reflection of a God that is diverse in person, role, and operation, yet completely glorious in essence together as one God.

[1] Both of these responses are attributed to Bruce Ware “Tampering with the Trinity”: 6.

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