We Are Not Merely Discussing Economic Subordination

So Burk argues that Christ’s not grasping for equality with God belongs not only to the economic but to the ontological Trinity. That is an extraordinary claim! He is asserting far more than a simple acknowledgement that the Father and Son are not identical. We all affirm that point. Burk is arguing for an eternal state of functional inequality between the Father and Son. I suppose that fits nicely with Bruce Ware’s contention that the Son receives less glory than the Father (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships Roles and Relevance pp 50, 51, 55, 57).

Todd Pruitt, Is The Son Equal To The Father?

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  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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  1. It is sad that Tood has felt the necessity to remove that post now, to prevent further personal attacks from the ‘gang’ (not Denny Burk himself who as Todd has said has dealt graciously with the disagreement). This a vital issue and cannot be swept under the carpet because the powerful para-church organisations need to maintain their support and power.

  2. I agree with Keith Giles’s comment above. This whole situation has me disturbed and angry. Reading Trueman’s “In the end, it all comes down to this” post of Sept. 9 and his posts of a similar vein, I am reminded of my college years when I was part of an authoritarian, abusive ministry that planted churches on college campuses across the nation (and world).

    Many of those who were involved (including me) survived relatively intact. For many of the others, including those on staff and in leadership at the churches, their faith was shipwrecked.

    I keep the faith, but the abuse by leadership has left its mark.

    So I am particularly sensitive to authoritarianism, abuse, cultic leadership, etc. And from my perspective, that is the type of stuff that Trueman is describing. And it pisses me off. I thought I left that behind when I left broader evangelicalism for the Reformation.

    What can someone like me, a lay member of a PCA church, do about this?

    Am I overreacting?

    Also, do you know where I can find more info on these current issues surrounding the Trinity, including who promotes which views, etc.?

    • RL,

      1. Those of us who confess the Reformed faith, who receive the holy ecumenical (catholic or universal) faith as summarized in the ecumenical creeds and who subscribe and adhere to Reformed confessions should be reminded by this how easy it is to lose basic Christian truths and how important it is, as I said to the Ancient Church class this AM for us to live in the ecumenical faith and for it to live in us. It must not be a place we merely visit as strangers but our relationship must be more familiar and intimate. I am convinced that were it so among the New Calvinists, who dominate positions of leadership in the “complementarian” movement, we would not be having this discussion about whether the Son is subordinates himself to the Father in the economy of redemption, for our sake, or whether, as some are implying (at least) that the Son is subordinate to the Father in his nature or being. There is little question whether the Son voluntarily, freely subordinated himself to the Father. If one holds the pactum salutis (the pre-temporal covenant of redemption between the Father and the Son), that voluntary subordination may even be said to be pre-temporal but that’s rather different from an ontological, essential subordination of the Son to the Father.

      2. Yes, any monkeying about with ecumenical doctrines (or the Reformed confession) is cause for concern.

      3. Here is a library of posts on the doctrine of God and the doctrine of the Trinity. This will get you started. Many of the more recent posts reflect on this controversy and will link you to the original posts and will clue you in to the players in this debate.


  3. Dr. Clark, do you find Pruitt’s criticism fair and accurate? What do you make of the angry responses his post generated? I don’t think I’ve ever seen Pruitt take down a post that he stood by.

    • Scott,

      I think Todd was essentially correct. What I see is ambivalence and ambiguity among those who want to draw a tight analogy between male/female relations and the intra-trinitarian relations. Sometimes they seem to be speaking in merely economic categories but then, as one continues reading, one finds them slipping into or even arguing openly for an ontological subordination.

      As I wrote to RLK, this ambiguity is, in part, due to the fact that the ancient and long-accepted categories by which we have spoken about the Trinity are being called into question at the same time there seems to be a lack of familiarity and sympathy with those categories.

      As to the responses, I don’t know any of the particulars.

  4. Here’s a link with articles published by various people through the end of June. Btw, Todd Pruitt’s article can still be found, having been reproduced on at least one other blog.

    I agree with the above comment by RL Keener, these behind-the-scenes power plays of intimidation are sadly nothing new. In a church with discipline, this might otherwise be brought to light in via presbytery oversight. But even then, churches sometimes err.

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