Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bruce Ware and the Trinity: Response to John Starke

John Starke has mentioned an article by Bruce Ware ,written in 2006, which pertains to authority and submission within the trinity. My first reaction is that I am relieved to see him clearly differentiate the quality of the relationship which exists between human beings and the Father and the Son in the Trinity. He writes,
    The equality of essence among the members of the Trinity, then, is greater than the equality that exists among human beings or among any other finite reality. For example, my wife, Jodi, and I are equally human, in that each of us possesses a human nature. That is, her nature is of the same kind as my nature, viz., human nature, and so our equality surely is real as an equality of kind. But the equality of the three divine Persons is even more firmly grounded. Here, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each possesses not merely the same kind of nature, viz., divine nature; rather, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each possesses fully and eternally the identically same nature. Their equality, then, is not merely an equality of kind but an equality of identity.
This is much more representative of what Augustine writes in De Trinitate IV,
    In such wise that, whereas four things are to be considered in every sacrifice—to whom it is offered, by whom it is offered, what is offered, for whom it is offered,— the same One and true Mediator Himself, reconciling us to God by the sacrifice of peace, might remain one with Him to whom He offered, might make those one in Himself for whom He offered, Himself might be in one both the offerer and the offering. 8
    He was not sent in respect to any inequality of power, or substance, or anything that in Him was not equal to the Father; but in respect to this, that the Son is from the Father, not the Father from the Son; for the Son is the Word of the Father, which is also called His wisdom. What wonder, therefore, if He is sent, not because He is unequal with the Father, but because He is a pure emanation (manatio) issuing from the glory of the Almighty God? For there, that which issues, and that from which it issues, is of one and the same substance. For it does not issue as water issues from an aperture of earth or of stone, but as light issues from light. For the words, For she is the brightness of the everlasting light, what else are they than, she is light of everlasting light? For what is the brightness of light, except light itself? 20
What I fail to understand is how the relationship between the Father and Son, both masculine, and one an emanation of the other; pertains to the way a husband would treat a wife, who is another distinct human being. As God provides the Son as an emanation of himself, to reveal himself to mankind and to be the offering for sin; does man send woman into the fray as a revelation to the world and an offering for sin?

I persist in viewing this as one of the most inhumane and ungodly teachings on the face of this earth, that the wife is to be sacrificed, willingly or not, at the will of the husband. Or was the Son not sent to be an offering? But Augustine says this was the purpose of his being sent.

My second observation is that Bruce Ware in no way demonstrates that he is dealing with the Latin text of Augustine. Ware writes,
    Finally, Augustine also affirmed that the distinction of persons is constituted precisely by the differing relations among them, in part manifest by the inherent authority of the Father and inherent submission of the Son.
This is directly contradicted by Augustine, when he writes,
    For he was not sent in virtue of some disparity of power or substance or anything in him that was not equal to the Father, but in virtue of the Son being from the Father, not the Father being from the Son.
Ware does not in any way acknowledge or respond to the simple fact that when Augustine wrote this in Latin, using potestas for "power", he was using the Latin word for "authority" in the Greek. That is, potestas is the translation in the Vulgate for exousia - authority. In the trinity, there is no disparity of authority, according to Augustine.

It is difficult to dialogue with an idea that contains such fundamental weaknesses. Ware does not acknowledge that as light is sent by the sun, so is the Son sent by the Father, but the sun has no need of authority over the light, because they are one in substance.


Mike Aubrey said...

Sue, these kinds of posts from you are always so refreshing.

John Starke said...

Rather than working with specific words, I think many look to the entire argument of Augustine. So then, while he starts with unity (ultimate) in book I, he then very quickly in book II shows how we can talk about the differences. So a simple statement from Augustine like this is helpful:

"So the reason for these statements can only be that the life od the Son is unchanging like the Father's, and yet is from the Father; and that the work of Father and Son is indivisible, and yet the Son's working is from the Father just as he himself is from the Father... thus showing that the working od the Father and of the Son is equal and indivisible, and yet the Son's working comes from the Father. That is why the Son cannot o anything of himself except what he sees the Father doing."
(New City Press edition, II, 99)

The unity is found in that Augustine makes a distinction between Creator/creature. There are only two beings - Creator and creature. So, in a very real sense, everything the Father does, the Son does, because they are both Creator or Eimi (in essence). They both have the workings of God. Yet, since Augustine, very importantly, holds to eternal generation, it becomes the foundation for this functional distinction.

So then, Augustine then writes, "And just as the Son is not made less than the Father by this saying, "The Son cannot do anything of himself except what he sees the Father doing" (John 5:19) ( this is not spoken in the form of a servant but in the form of God, as we have already shown, and so these words do not indicate that he is less than the Father, but only that he is from him); so here it does not make the Spirit less to say of him, "he will not speak from himself, but whatever he hears he will speak (John 16:13). This is said in virtue of his proceeding from the Father."
(II, 100)

Augustine develops this into what it means, then, that the Son was sent from the Father, and so forth. For him, there is no hindrance of being or "power" (IV, 172), but that the Son is "from" the Father.

Augustine discussions three categories among the Godhead:
(1) Essence or nature or substance (whatever you want to use)
(2) Work - what they do collectively and distinctly. Augustine would say whatever the Son does, so does the Father because of the unity of being.
(3) Person - while there is ultimate unity in being and essence, Augustine makes a distinction in their function by Person. The Son is the image of the Father, the Father is not the image of the Son.

rambling on....

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Precisely John.

Augustine would say whatever the Son does, so does the Father because of the unity of being.

So the Father only offers of himself. The one who offers and the offering is one.

Now how does this apply to a husband and wife? If the husband offers the wife, has he not committed a crime? He can only offer himself. Only self sacrifice is allowed of humans. They cannot sacrifice someone else. This is beyond all civilized thinking.

This is a bizarre paganism, unless one says "It is not alike." Then, fine, it is not alike. How should it be?

Men ought to treat women as neighbours and fellow human beings. This doesn't somehow drop off the table, just because one gets married. The wife doesn't stop being a separate human being. She still has distinct feelings. If these are denied, she lives a living death. How many years will it take to rehabilitate a woman who has been treated like that?

John Starke said...

"So the Father only offers of himself. The one who offers and the offering is one."

Only in "being," not in Person. You are not making a distinction in Person. That is monism.

"Men ought to treat women as neighbours and fellow human beings. This doesn't somehow drop off the table, just because one gets married. The wife doesn't stop being a separate human being. She still has distinct feelings. If these are denied, she lives a living death. How many years will it take to rehabilitate a woman who has been treated like that?"

This point has nothing to do with complementarianism. This is an exaggerated statement that no one makes who claims to be a complementarian. Just because someone is in error in their understanding of biblical complementarianism, doesn't make complementarianism wrong. It means that those who abuse women, who are made in the image of God and heirs of God, are sick.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Yes, John, that is exactly what I think. I think that anyone who treats his wife as God the Father treated his Son, is sick.

And this is the point made by Piper, when he described the woman who could not go to the bathroom without permission because she was not supposed to have a distinct will from her husband. Piper did not take responsibility for his influence in this matter, and Ware does not either.

It is not good enough for Piper to laugh off the mistreatment of women. Either say that man does not send his wife to suffer and die, or remain complicit. I don't think this is in any way, shape or form, funny. Do you? Why does Piper?

John Starke said...

The "head" isn't synonymous with "send." Submission is synonymous with sent. The relationship of Father and Son to Husband and Wife are not exactly parallel, but analogical. You wouldn't say that a parent's authority over a child is the same as a supervisor's relationship to those under him. The differences are obvious. Christ's headship over the Church is not the same as the Husband's over the Wife.

Yet, the Bible gives these examples. Paul has thought it helpful to make these comparisons. To explain them away doesn't help.

However, my friend, you are ignoring my Augustine arguments that I spent time typing out since I do not have any computer software with these works in them.

Rev R Marszalek said...

This is incredibly helpful. Thank you so much.

Kristen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristen said...

John Starke-- show me one place in the Bible where the relationship of husband and wife is compared to that of Father and Son in the Trinity. You will not find one. In fact, other than the actual words "Father" and "Son," which are analogous of a human father and a human son, there is NO human relationship that is ever made analogous to the Trinity, or the Trinity to it. The names "Father" and "Son" are used, but the analogy is never taken further in the Bible-- human fathers are not told to relate to their sons as the Father God relates to the Son. This is because the essence and nature of God is not like human nature-- and if it were, the relationship of One Uncreated Being in Three Persons is not like the relationship of two created beings.

Husband and wife are compared to Christ and the Church-- not to Father and Son. This whole analogy is nothing more than an invention of fallen humans to justify a particular view of husband-wife relations that is not supported by Scripture. And the doctrine of the Trinity ends up twisted because of it.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


I certainly did not mean to indicate that I had not read your quotes. I noticed this also,

"the work of Father and Son is indivisible"

This cannot be compared to husband and wife. The husband is not physically torn by the birth of his children. He is an onlooker.

I simply cannot understand how a husband, who knows his wife is bearing his children, can in any way think of her as doing this out of submission, but rather out of privilege. A woman offers herself to bear children, but this is not indication that the husband is her authority. This is the ultimate cruelty that she should bear children only to be under permanent authority to the father.

You must realize that I have no budget and no software whatsoever. However, I don't think there is a need to type out Augustine since I have linked back to the online resource many times in my posts and even in this one,

I, on the other hand, must type out Bruce Ware, and I don't think you have any idea what every word costs me.

What do I think that 1 Cor. 11:3 means. This and only this,

As Christ shares his nature with man, so man with woman, and so God with Christ. "Head of" is an indication of intergral unity and likeness of kind. This is found in Chrysostom.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Actually, I didn't have to type out Ware this time, since it was an online article.

And, of course, I don't think that most complementarians do treat their marriage as an authority/submission relationship. I think they do treat wives as human beings, but hold the trump card of final say, for when they feel they need it, although a wife does not ever hold such a card, although her need of it may be equal to that of the husband.

So, none of this is meant to apply to any particular person, but to the teaching. The result, however, is that SOME women are treated as the underside of an authority/submission relationship.

John Starke said...

I Cor. 11:3
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife [1] is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

This is the context to where the relationship of the husband and wife is understood in light of the relationship of the Father and Son. Disagree or agree with this interpretation (as Sue doesn't), you have to do something with how Paul relates the two. "Likeness" doesn't seem to be in the context, though I think Father and Son language can mean that, just no only that.

Also, God revealing himself as Father and Son must mean something. I understand that we are talking about an uncreated being, yet it doesn't, therefore, mean that the words "Father" and "Son" are meaningless.

Again, Sue, you can't take the relationship of Father and Son and Husband and Wife, to be completely exact. This is analogous. Its God revealing himself to us in ways we can understand, They are not exhaustive, but are still true.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


I don't really understand why Ware would depend so heavily on Augustine then. Augustine is clear that the Son is sent to reveal and be an offering. Augustine never says that the Father has authority over the Son.

So, in fact, you are picking out something that no church Father mentions to my knowledge, that is the authority of the Father over the Son, and you reject the very point that the Church Fathers reinforce, that the Father sent the Son to die.

One can propose that the husband has authority over the wife, but one can certainly not prove it from the trinity. Unless the wife is sent to die, it is a dead end.

Since there are myriad verses on how one is to treat a fellow human being, I don't see why a wife can't fit into that paradigm. Is a wife a fellow human being, a neighbour, a fellow Christian?

Is a wife a brother or not? This is the entire problem with gender relations. If a woman is not a brother, a sibling and related in a family relationship, then the Christian community is not for womenm abd narraige is not a Christian relationship.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

PS Ask Ware if he is aware that Augustine says that there is no disparity in authority between Father and Son. I hope this will come up. Its hard to take this discussion as serious theology the way it stands now.

Kristen said...


I Cor. 11:3
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife [1] is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

I have never heard this Scripture used the way you are using it, John. It doesn't say, "The head of every man is Christ, like the head of a wife is her husband, like the head of Christ is God." Aside from the issue of what "head" means here-- the word "and" just doesn't mean the same thing as "like." The inter-relationship of two human beings is not being compared to the relationship of Christ with God-- notice that it is "Christ" and "God" that are being used here, not the relationship words "Son" and "Father." In fact, verse 12 of this chapter, "for as the woman was from the man, so the man also is through the woman," makes it clear that the the context is about origins, not about relationships.

The idea that we are to construe something about husband-wife relationships from this chapter is very problematic. In fact, the NKJV says, not "the head of a wife is her husband," but "the head of woman is man," because the context of the passage is not about wives and husbands at all-- it's about "keeping the traditions" (verse 2) with regards to praying and prophesying in the church. The meaning of portions of the passage is quite obscure (how could Paul, a Jew, say that "nature teaches that having long hair is a disgrace to him" when the vows of the Nazirite included not cutting the hair? When John the Baptist, the greatest prophet born of woman according to Christ, had long hair?)

Is it appropriate to base doctrines such as wifely submission on this complex text-- particularly when the translation of "man" and "woman" as "husband" and "wife" only occurs in some translations?