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Millard Erickson and the Trinity – Gradational? (1)

June 11, 2009

Millard Erickson has recently published Who’s Tampering with the Trinity through Kregel (interesting to me that Kregel published this).  Erickson has written this book to “assess the subordination (of the Son) debate”.  He is one who holds that there is no relationship of submission and authority between the Father and Son. 

In his introduction, he outlines the contents of his book and puts forward and defines his terms.  Erickson rightly observes that is no good label for each side of the debate.  He does not agree that one side should be called complementarian and one side egalitarian.  In one sense, I understand his dislike for these terms when concerning this debate.  He does not want to mix gender concerns with Godhead concerns.  I am sympathetic to this.  However, it is no coincidence that most complementarians who hold this view think it does certainly inform how we should think about the relationship of men and women in the home and in the Church.  Yet, that view is not at the center of the debate, so I can grant Erickson this objection to the use of those terms.

However, I’m not as comfortable with his suggestions as to what terms to call each side.  His own side, he labels Equivalent Authority View (contra authority submission) and the opposing side the Gradational Authority View (pro authority/submission).  The problem is that gradational has historically been a label for heretics who believe Jesus was a grade lower in divinity – he may be God, but not the same level as the Father-God.  Origen was labeled a gradationist, and others.  Those who hold to the view of authority/submission in authority within the Godhead myself and others – (Ware, Grudem, Carson, etc), hold that each Person is equally God – equal in nature and essence.  When it comes to matters of the Trinity, I don’t know of anyone who has been labeled gradational  has not held to a sub-Christian doctrine of the Person of Christ.  I am certainly open to being corrected on this subject.

I do not believe this is a helpful term to use and I think those who enter into this debate should reject it as a viable option.  It seems to me these terms have a mischievous intention.

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