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Millard Erickson and the Trinity (2)

June 13, 2009

Millard Erickson, in Who’s Tampering with the Trinity, begins to describe the “gradational” – need to come up with a better term – side of the debate.  He explains the views of Charles Hodge, Augustus Strong, Louis Berkhof, George Knight, Bruce Ware, Wayne Grudem, and Robert Letham.  Interestingly, Erickson only goes back to the turn of the century.  Much of the arguments “gradationists” use comes from the Church Fathers and the Reformation.  Yet, Erickson decides to start with Hodges.  However, he does start with the turn of the century with the Equivalent view as well in the next chapter, so he doesn’t grant either side the authority of tradition – yet.  Erickson is remarkably fair.  He seems to take pains to use as much of their language as he can.  He doesn’t lump all of the theologians into one group, but emphasizes their nuances and distinctions.

There is one disappointment.  Erickson stresses the development of this view in that later theologians stress the obedience of the Son to the Father, while earlier ones stress the “begetting” of the Son or eternal generation from the Father.  It would take much more room than a blog can provide to expand this point, but I think this is a mistake.  It is certainly true that later theologians do not stress the begetting or eternal generation of the Son, but it is certainly not true that earlier theologians do not express the obedience of the Son to the Father.  If anyone takes a hard look at the sermons at the turn of the centure (and even today), there is much talk of the obedience of the Son being part of the Gospel presentation.  Theologians of the Dutch Reformed tradition pressed this obedience when addressing the Trinity and the Person of Christ.

It is difficult to do a broad, sweeping over-view of every personality within this view.  It is disappointing when Robert Letham’s arguments, who in my view is the most thoughtful, are generalized.  But, it is understandable.

Overall, Erickson’s chapter on the “gradational” view is helpful.

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 13, 2009 5:21 pm


    I cited this from Augustine,

    “the Son was sent to be visible by the invisible Father together with the invisible Son”

    I think this is the orthodox tradition, that the Son is begotten of the Father, but still eternal with him – and that the Son acts with one will with the Father in sending the Son to take on human flesh and the form of a servant. The Son is not, in any orthodox tradition that I know, under the authority of the Father in his eternal being.

    I may be wrong, but I have never seen this anywhere before presented as orthodoxy until recently.

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