The Trinity, the Local Church, the Para-Church and Women

I don’t know how many readers are following the online “conversation” regarding the doctrine of the Trinity and whether understanding the Son as eternally submitting to the Father has implications for the way women are treated in the church (and if it’s heresy!), but I want to make two small observations.

I’ll start by simply affirming what I believe, from my church’s affirmation of faith: “We believe in one living, sovereign, and all-glorious God, eternally existing in three infinitely excellent and admirable Persons: God the Father, fountain of all being; God the Son, eternally begotten, not made, without beginning, being of one essence with the Father; and God the Holy Spirit, proceeding in the full, divine essence, as a Person, eternally from the Father and the Son. Thus each Person in the Godhead is fully and completely God.”

I’m not a theologian or even a super sharp gal. I am a sleep-deprived Christian; I’ve been a Christian for most of my life. I’ve served and loved and been served by God’s people for that long and longer through gut-wrenchingly hard times. I know the church is full of amazing people, smart people, compassionate people, dedicated people, hard people, messy people, foolish people and more. I’m numbered among those ordinary folks and I have a lot of confidence in God’s work in us.

Observation 1) This Trinity “conversation” (code word for feather-ruffling oft-heated exchanges, punctuated with occasional smugness) is nothing that the local church can’t handle. The local church is equipped to think this through, give wise counsel to its members, and continue un-kerfuffled by it all. Not every reformed church will end up in the same place. Not every church will think it’s as big of a deal as other churches. Not every church will need to have read every article and book about it in order to come to terms with it. Not every church will care whether or not all its members agree on it. Isn’t that good? Aren’t we thankful to be Protestants and not have these edicts come down from on high? Aren’t we thankful for our local church, our actual people, our flesh and blood leaders who will account for our souls? Isn’t agreement with them more important than duking it out with virtual folks? I know that plenty of virtual contributors have met in real life, so they’re not faceless, but how many attend the same local body?

And if your local church is not equipped to walk wisely through this, but is a place of unkind or unhelpful “dialogue” or bullying without godly leadership, then praise God that we are free to find a church that more closely aligns with our beliefs.

Observation 2) From what I’ve seen, the women speaking into this seem to have strong feelings against those who hold to the eternal submission of the Son to the Father. I cannot say why the negative reaction is there, if there is a personal element of hurt, or if there is a more general sense of discerning what could be or has been harmful to women in their view. But if you are a woman who feels strongly that teaching the eternal submission of the Son is harmful because it leads to a devaluing or dehumanizing of women in the church and their ontological worth; if you think it leads to viewing them as their role rather than as a person, and that they aren’t meant to have submission be such a core identity, then live that out. You need not submit to or be ruffled by men who are not in leadership at your church or who are not your husband.

There seems to be on the one hand, a clear delineation on whom we must and must not submit to, but then a disappointment or even a calling on the carpet that men (of the inter webs–not from our church or our husband) aren’t standing in the gap. From my limited perspective, it seems there is a desire to have para-church organizations change their collective minds and come to agree with the women who’ve started the ripple. But why should women need this? Our influence is much greater than the internet. Our orbit of influence always pulls strongest right where we live, for good or ill. We have an ear with our men, teaching our women and children at church and home and school about the Trinity and a woman’s worth which is of more value than any online argument.

Even if books have been published, even if conferences have been spoken at, every person’s actual lasting influence is strongest closest to home. That holds true no matter your view on the Trinity.

CBMW and MoS don’t have to agree with each other. Would it be good if they agreed? Yes, if it is genuine and founded on the Word. But when we disagree with them or they with us it is of tertiary importance, because we don’t submit to them, nor they to us. If they are your employer, then this doesn’t apply, but assuming they aren’t, then we have the privilege of living our actual lives in our actual churches with our actual husbands, friends, pastors and parishioners. As someone who gives my opinion “quite decidedly” in the words of Lady Catherine de Burgh, I’m still averse to airing it out on the nets of the inter where there can be no tone of voice, no back and forth, no quick apology or clarification or drilling down until you can state another’s view in a way they recognize.

I realize there is a large influence that comes out of the parachurch organizations like DG, TGC and CBMW that may impact the teaching at your church, and if you have a significant point of disagreement with one that likely feels hard, but the place to sort that out is in your local church. We can’t force a para-church organization to align with a particular view. We have the duty of bringing our concerns to our local churches and affecting far greater impact than a blog post could, no matter how many hits or shares or likes or high fives from other women and men across the country it may garner. Real life churches with real life people are always where the real action will be.

I’m thankful that the Lord inspired the apostles to write to churches at Rome, Ephesus, Colossae, and Galatia. I’m thankful he knows us all by name, intimately; he knows our frame and knows what word is apt for us in every season because he actually knows us. Oh that we would know the people in the church he has placed us in like that and put more priority on common understanding and reasoning together under the infallible Word with our own people than with those we barely know online.

P.S. I love para-church organizations like DG. God works through them in wonderful global ways for the Gospel. They are made up of people: brothers and sisters in Christ. This isn’t meant to belittle that or the ministry of the men of God who started them like Pastor John (to whom I owe more than can be calculated in terms of my spiritual growth and understanding of the Scriptures), but simply to point to the primacy of the local church and that the para-church is meant to serve the church, not the other way around.