Monday, July 23, 2012

Trinity & Subordinationism

It's a trend in contemporary theology to (a) claim that the doctrine of the Trinity supports complementarianism, (b) claim that the doctrine of the Trinity supports egalitarianism, (c) claim that the doctrine of the Trinity can't be used for either of these claims.


I've lately been reading Kevin Giles, The Eternal Generation of the Son, which for the most part is a solid defence of the doctrine of EGS. He's quite right, in my opinion, to tackle head-on evangelical scholars who reject this doctrine. The quality of evangelical scholarship in understanding this doctrine is half the problem. For example, Giles references Grudem, and Grudem treats the topic in an appendix (6) to his Systematic Theology, in which Grudem stunningly shows a degree of historical and doctrinal ignorance that is appalling.


However, Giles has a second agenda, which sits less comfortably. He regularly points out that the Father and Son are co-equal in essence and in authority. Now, this is quite true, but the second half of that statement hinges upon the Father and Son sharing all things, so this includes them sharing all works, all glory, all power, all knowledge, etc.. Giles, in singling out authority, is leading up to a claim that to assert the position of "eternal functional subordination" is to be neo-Arian.


The problem with Giles' argument is that it shares an Arian assumption. Among anti-Nicene proponents of the Fourth century a major presupposition was that if Jesus is inferior in any way, he cannot be God. The counter argument of pro-Nicenes at this point is that Jesus' apparent inferiority is distinctly related to the Economy, that is to the incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection. Jesus is the sent Christ, the one who gives up the form of God and takes Humanity, and in his Humanity is subject to the Father.


But, the Nicene defence sets an important precedent - differentiation of role is no bar to equality of status. Christ submits to the Father but is equal and one with the Father.


Now, whether that holds in an eternal, not just an economic sense, is the debated point. But Giles' argument hinges upon the Arian presupposition, that inferiority of role cannot coincide with equality of status. This, of course, is the presupposition that many egalitarians hold - if there is real equality of status between men and women, then there cannot exist any inferiority of role. That is simply not a justifiable proposition based on the Nicene defense of the Son's self-humiliation.


I'm unconvinced by a doctrine of eternal functional subordination of the Son to the Father, but I don't think complementarianism needs such a doctrine to support itself. I do think the doctrine of the Trinity sheds important light on how we may think about status, role, and ontology, which sheds indirect light on how we think about gender roles. Without the Dispensation of the Son's self-humiliation, we could never expect humans to accept inferiority of role, without acknowledging inferiority of being. Christ makes possible submission, since it is of God to humble oneself.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Strategising for multiple language learning

Most people, probably myself included, should not tackle multiple languages at once. But that is not always practical, and sometimes we just can't be convinced otherwise. Here is my strategy on dealing with this.

Firstly, you have finite time. It may not be possible to do all that you want.

My own situation is that I have 4 languages 'on the boil': Latin, Greek, Gaelic, and Mongolian. Each of these has a different context, which shapes my approach. Latin and Greek I have studied a lot, but have little spoken opportunities. My need in these languages is more of an 'upkeep/slow progression' type. Mongolian is conditioned by having 3hrs of class, 5 days a week, and living in a country where it is the everyday language. Gaelic is a language I am passionate about, somewhat independent in learning, and aiming for more and more input.

One phenomenon I am seeking to avoid, and cultivate its converse, is that of having a space in the brain that is 'foreign language', where all L2s get dumped. That just leads to a lot of codeswitching problems. Instead, when working on a language, I want it to be its own discrete system, and I want to learn in that language and function in it as much as possible.

For this reason, I subdivide my day to transition from one language to another. I spend some time each morning with Greek and Latin, just reading and sometimes listening. Before Mongolian class I transition, by going over vocabulary, doing homework, etc. By the time I get to class I want spontaneous Mongolian bubbling in my head. When I come home from class, I try to transition to Gaelic, and actually expunge Mongolian from my active mental space. Again, some vocabulary, some reading, exercises, listening, etc., to work on that language.

This approach provides bigger segments of a day functioning or focusing on individual languages, rather than a more chop-and-change approach. It also tries to avoid moving from one language to another too 'quickly', but sets up more definite transition times.

All in all I am finding this more helpful than my previous approaches, which involved alternate days for some languages, or a little bit of everything in the morning.

Hilary, De Trinitate, X.71


The Father is besought for us, He speaks for us: may all this lead us to believe and confess! The answer of the Glorifier is granted not to the prayer for glory, but to the ignorance of the bystanders: must we not then regard the complaint of suffering, when He found His greatest joy in suffering, as intended for the building up of our faith? Christ prayed for His persecutors, because they knew not what they did. He promised Paradise from the cross, because He is God the King. He rejoiced upon the cross, that all was finished when He drank the vinegar, because He had fulfilled all prophecy before He died. He was born for us, suffered for us, died for us, rose again for us. This alone is necessary for our salvation, to confess the Son of God risen from the dead: why then should we die in this state of godless unbelief? If Christ, ever secure of His divinity, made clear to us His death, Himself indifferent to death, yet dying to assure that it was true humanity that He had assumed: why should we use this very confession of the Son of God that for us He became Son of Man and died as the chief weapon to deny His divinity?

- Hilary of Poitiers, "On the Trinity", trans. E. W. Watson et al., in , vol. 9a, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series, Volume IX: St. Hilary of Poitiers, John of Damascus ( ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace;New York: Christian Literature Company, 1899), 202.