The Trinity and Gender Relations
A. The doctrine of the Trinity has profound implications for all reality, and for all social relations.
1. To defend the family against state agendas, we need to make a case that only the biblical drama of Creation, Fall, Redemption gives a realistic; yet humane account of human nature and of the structure and purpose of the family in society.
Along with the tendency of state-ism, is its companion ideology of reducing all social relationships to individual choice. When one denies Creation; divine creation structures that govern our relationships are attacked as well. Relationships become ‘social contracts’ made out of convenience and preference. In Ted Peter’s book, For the Love of Children, he suggests that each parent be required to make a legal contract with his or her children. His proposal is intended to shift from the biological family to choice. This would turn the family into a collection of disconnected, atomistic individuals, bound by no attachments or obligations they do not choose for themselves. This is called ontological individualism. It is based on the idea that individuals are the only reality. Relationships are therefore not ultimate—only derivative; created by individual choice (social contract theory suggests that ALL social relationships are a matter of personal choice).
2. The family is caught in a ‘tug-o-war’ between state-ism and individualism. The Holy Trinity provides the divine basis all for social relations. The human race was created in the image of God (who is three Persons so intimately related as to constitute one Godhead). The balance of unity and diversity in the Trinity gives a model for human social life BECAUSE the Trinity implies that both individuality and relationship exist within the Godhead. God is “Being-in-communion” (Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth, p. 132).
‘Ethics’ divorced from God become vices. Consider examples from Western society which have already been legislated, or are about to be legislated: gay rights (same sex marriage); abortion (the ‘right’ to kill one’s unborn child); hate speech is to speak against homosexuality.
3. The age old tension has been between collectivism (often expressed as state-ism) and individualism. The Trinity is the solution to this tension because the Trinity implies not only unity; but the dignity and uniqueness of the individual. Over against radical individualism; the Trinity implies that relationships are not created by sheer choice but are built into the very essence of human nature that is made in the image of God (who is in communion). We are not atomistic individuals but created for relationships (ibid. p. 132).
4. The Trinity has repercussions not only for all social relations (especially the family) but also for every other discipline. In philosophy the Trinity provides the solution to the question of the one and the many. Since the ancient Greeks, philosophers have asked, does ultimate reality consist of a single being (as in pantheism); or in disconnected particulars (as in atomism)? The two views are played out politically in the two extremes of totalitarianism versus anarchy.
5. Trinitarian Christian worldview is only coherent basis for social theory. The Trinity as the foundation of human sociality is not merely theoretical. In redemption, believers are called to form an actual society—the Church—that demonstrates to the world the balanced interplay between the one and the many; of unity and individuality. In John 17:11, Jesus is saying that the communion of Persons within the Trinity is the model for communion within the Church. It teaches us how to foster richly diverse individuality within ontologically real relationships. Timothy Ware notes, “The Church as a whole is an icon of God the Trinity, reproducing on earth the mystery of unity in diversity” (ibid. p. 133). (Note that the regenerate are literally equipped by God for true community – they are indwelt by God’s Spirit and have His enabling power; they have communion with God; and they have His infallible Word – 1 Pet 1:22, 23). Humans (redeemed) are called upon to reproduce on earth the mystery of mutual love that the Trinity lives in heaven (ibid. pp. 133, 134).
6. The following section on biblical manhood and womanhood is adapted from a course (by that title) taught by Wayne Grudem visiting lecturer at The Master’s Seminary. Gender roles and sexuality have become the focal point in the battle of worldviews. At this ‘ground zero’ battle zone, the forces of secular humanism and feminism have sought to relativize all the ethical mandates of Scripture; especially those which apply to marriage; family; sacredness of life; sacredness of sexual relations; and gender roles. The Trinity is the foundation for male and female being equal in dignity and value; yet having different roles. Relations within the Trinity and relations within marriage have a parallel. Communal relations involve listening, deferring, and trusting. There is headship resident in one of the members. There is a difference in roles; yet equality. The Trinity is the model for headship and submission. The difference in roles within the Trinity will continue for all eternity (1 Cor 15:28). Because of diversity with perfect equality; the Trinity forms the pattern for relationships without inferiority.
The Trinity as unity and diversity) in the Godhead is the model for human social life. (note the unity and diversity in the ‘body’ metaphor in 1 Cor 12; Eph 4; Phil 2; and Col 3). Our defense against radical individualism is as follows: the Trinity implies that relationships are NOT created by sheer choice; but are built into the very essence of human nature that is made in the image of God. Our relationships are designed by God to express the character of our Creator. What is tragic is that the doctrine of the economic Trinity is a threat to the egalitarianism of the Evangelical feminists. As a consequence E.F. writers have penned articles which are modalistic in nature; suggesting that blasphemous notion that any member of the Trinity could have been incarnated as the Son of God! By working in this manner, they show that their feminism is not a peripheral issue; but is hostile to the doctrine of God. When they insist that roles are anchored in capacity; and not gender; they are severing their view of relationships from the Trinity. The Scriptures teach that the roles within the economic Trinity are eternal.
7. (Grudem continued). The differences in male female roles in marriage are part of the created order. See Gen 2 (Adam naming); Gen 3 (Adam responsible for representing the human race); 1 Cor 11:9 (created purpose); 1 Tim 2:13 (order and source of creation). The real issue in gender role is God’s reflected glory on earth. The complementarian view alone preserves the reflected glory of our Triune God in male female relationships (the complementarian view states that in Scripture God has revealed His specific pattern and plan for gender roles).
8. (The following summary is from Building a Christian Worldview, Andrew Hoffecker, Ed.) Each Person in the Trinity eternally and equally possesses the whole substance of the Godhead; yet each is distinct from the others. The members of the Trinity differ from one another by the relations in which they stand to each other. Each has absolute personality. The Son is the self-reproduction of the Father (Heb 1:1-3; 5) of whom He is eternally begotten. The Holy Spirit is the reproduction of the Father and the Son; and the Spirit proceeds from both (Jn 14:16, 17, 26; 16:7) (pp. 86, 87). Christ unifies all reality. Christ does what the Greek philosophers could not do; He unifies all reality. He links visible and invisible reality; He reconciles singularity and plurality He gives harmony, unity, and order to the cosmos. The Son connects the realms of being (permanence) and becoming (change). The Trinity provides the vision for seeking unity among mankind. Plato could not unite the visible and the invisible; the transcendent and the immanent (pp. 88, 95).
9. (From Apologetics, by Cornelius Van Til.) Man made for himself a false ideal of knowledge. It is totally inconsistent with the idea of creatureliness that man should strive for comprehensive knowledge; if it could be obtained it would wipe God out of existence and man would then be God. When man seeks to be his own ultimate reference point; man virtually occupies the place which the ontological Trinity occupies in orthodox theology (p. 10, 11). The ontological Trinity is the foundation concept of a Christian theory of being, of knowledge, and of action. This is the God in whom men must believe lest all meaning should disappear from human words. Apart from the God of Christianity, all possible human predication is non-existent (p.12, 13).
10. (The following is from Apologetics to the Glory of God, by John Frame.) The importance of the Trinity to apologetics is immense: Anti-Trinitarianism always leads to a “wholly other” God, rather than a God who is transcendent in the biblical sense. Paradoxically, it also leads to a God who is relative to the world rather than sovereign Lord of Scripture (a “blank” God without absolute personality). It makes Creator-creature distinction a matter of degree, rather than difference in being. Because of the Trinity (both three and one), God can be described in personalistic terms without being made relative to the world. The Trinity answers philosophy’s religious quest, namely, “Why is there is no absolute unity (devoid of plurality), nor absolute plurality (devoid of unity)?” (pp. 47-49).
The Unitarian god is unknowable (blank oneness or utter uniqueness). The God of Scripture is the only absolute, and that absolute is the one and the many. The Trinity has implications for epistemology. God the Lord interprets everything definitively – so when we want to know something, we must think His thoughts after Him. God is the author/origin of truth, the supreme authority for knowledge. Authority is part of His lordship – He has the right to tell us what to believe. When sinners try to gain knowledge without fear of the Lord, that knowledge is distorted. The sinner may express many facts accurately in a context smaller than worldview. But his worldview is twisted and unreliable. His most serious epistemological mistake is to assert his own autonomous reason (that is self) as the final standard of truth and right (John Frame, pp. 50, 51).
The conventional wisdom, with its impersonalism, cannot do justice to moral values. The world’s wisdom cannot account for the trustworthiness of reason. This inability corrupts impersonalist ideas in every field of human thought: science, philosophy, psychology, sociology, the arts, economics, business, government. It corrupts practical living – after all, in a chance universe why choose moral right instead of self? If we are to go on the offensive against unbelief, we must know more about unbelief from a Biblical viewpoint. The unbeliever attempts to think and live as if the absolute personal God of Scripture does not exist (pp. 191-193).
11. (The following is from a lecture by John Gerstner, The Work of the Trinity in Man’s Redemption.) There is an infinite difference between the ontological Trinity and bare monotheism. We teach that the very nature of God exists in one substance and in three Persons. The tri-personal, or Trinitarian doctrine of God is the only possible monotheism. The way in which ‘monotheism’ is used in the academy is not really describing the God of Scripture; why? BECAUSE there is no such God as a God who is mono-personal (only one person)! Islam and Judaism are committed to the proposition that God is mono-personal (Note the terminology used by the religious leaders who rejected Christ’s divinity – Jn 5:18; 10:33.). So called, ‘monotheists’ are only worshipping the figment of their imagination (in reality they are atheists or idolaters). Christians are the only true worshippers of God on the face of the earth (Judaism is a religious organization based upon the common rejection of Christ’s deity and Messiahship.)
(Gerstner continued.) The ontological Trinity refers to God as three Persons, one substance, equal in power and glory. The economic Trinity refers to God in respect to His relation to us; especially redemption. We must understand the ontological Trinity in order to understand the economic Trinity. Only 20% of professing Christendom believes in the redemptive work of all three members of the economic Trinity: the Father allocating redemption; the Son accomplishing redemption; the Holy Spirit applying redemption. (The other 80% plus of Christendom still places their hope in the sacraments—namely that the sacraments constitute the application of salvation.)
B. Are moral requirements an imposition on our freedom; or are they the expression of our true nature?
1. The ideas of Jean-Jacques Rousseau inspired many of the ‘butchers’ of the 20thCentury. If you grasp Rousseau’s thinking; you will understand much of the modern world. Rousseau described what he designated a “pre-social” condition or “state of nature.” In this ‘pre-social’ condition, all social relations are not real; but choices. He envisioned man in a state of nature stripped of all social relationships, morals, laws, customs, traditions—civilization itself. All that exists are disconnected autonomous individuals whose sole driving force is desire for self motivation. Rousseau’s view of society is that it is oppressive, confining, contrary to our nature (p. 138).
2. For Rousseau, what was oppressing man’s natural freedom was the ‘chains’ of relationships such as marriage, family, church, and workplace. His line of thought represented a radical break from the traditional Christian social theory which regards the Trinity as the model for social life (in Genesis, the original man in nature was blessed with the institution of marriage). The implications of the doctrine of the Trinity is that relationships are just as real and ultimate as individuals. Relationships are part of the created order; thus ontologically good and real. The moral requirements they make upon us are not impositions on our freedom; but expressions of what it means to be human (our true nature). Participating in institutions of family, church, state, and society are part of the Christian’s development of moral virtues that prepare us ultimately to be citizens of the heavenly city (p. 138).
3. Rousseau spelled out a vision in which the state would destroy all social ties; the individual would only have to be loyal to self; since the state was the ‘liberator’, each person would be dependent upon the state (no wonder this inspired so many totalitarian regimes). Thomas Hobbes and John Locke proposed the concept as well (each of these three men wrote before Darwin’s time). Darwin’s creation myth would someday supply the theory that would give credence to the idea of the indeterminate, ‘happy’ beast; namely prehistoric; or early man. These pre-Darwin thinkers suggested that the reason social relationships are bad is because they interfere with the individual’s ‘freedom’ to create himself. Relationships that are not the product of choice are oppressive (biological bonds of family, moral bonds of marriage, spiritual bonds of the church). The only bond which retains autonomous freedom then is the social contract (traditional social ties would be dissolved and then reconstituted on the basis of choice). (pp. 138-140).
C. Every worldview based on faulty views of Creation; the Fall; and Redemption, will ultimately be hostile to true freedom (and instigate rebellion against God). Why was the 20th Century the bloodiest in history? Answer: Whole cultures adopted worldviews based upon faulty definitions of Creation; Fall; and Redemption. The autonomous individual with his false view of freedom is actually the most vulnerable to totalitarian control. Students today who have never read Locke can parrot the atomistic notion of social contract; they have bought into the liberal idea of the ‘unencumbered self’ (marriage, family, and church may be ties they have not ‘chosen’). The core of personhood is our ability to choose our own identity—to create ourselves. This is why relationships and responsibilities are often considered hostile to essential identity (pp. 140, 141).
D. The exchange of the truth about God for a lie has opened the floodgates of immorality (Rom 1:24-32).
The influence of the social contract philosophers is widespread today. We have runaway co-habitation. Marriage among today’s single culture is seen as too risky; not worth giving up their autonomy. Thanks to Sanger, Kinsey, and others, pornography is no longer degrading smut; sexual license is viewed as our ultimate identity and key to personal development. Therefore the ‘moralists’ who teach abstinence, self-denial, suppression, (and fidelity) are exposing their listeners to all sorts of dysfunctions says Sanger. Sexual liberation has become a ‘moral’ crusade with Christian morality as the enemy! Sexual gratification has become a complete ideology with all the elements of worldview (pp. 142-146).
E. Creation is foundational; all hope of unified truth stands or falls with origins. The grid of Creation, Fall, and Redemption provides a powerful tool for comparing and contrasting worldviews. It also explains why biblical creationism is under such relentless attack today. Creation is foundational; it shapes everything that follows. Critics of Christianity know that it stands or falls with the Bible’s teaching of ultimate origins.