I would love to see CBMW clean house and actually be the leaders they write about sometimes, I really would. But I am not going to accept a veneer of concern without real change. At this point it appears that all the proponents of ESS will still be people of influence there. No one from CBMW has made a statement retracting the teaching on ESS/ERAS/EFS, rather they continue even in Strachan’s resignation announcement to promote his book that teaches it. They continue to assure us that it is orthodox. And none of Ware or Grudem’s writings on it have been retracted either. They are all leaders there still.
Denny Burk, the new president of CBMW, has posted an update on his take-aways from the Trinity debate. I am encouraged to see some of the statements he made in that update, particularly how he affirms Nicene Trinitarianism, identifying with it “all the more fervently (and with greater clarity),” saying, “I believe in eternal generation, a single divine will, inseparable operations, and the whole Nicene package.” This is great to hear from the president of CBMW. I also affirm with Burk that Scott Swain and Michael Allen’s works have offered much help to clarify teaching.
And yet, I am still uncertain about what he means in some of his explaining on Eternal Functional Subordination of the Son. And I am especially perplexed by his conclusion that CBMW has only existed to promote the Danvers Statement, and for that reason CBMW can remain silent when it comes to the Trinity controversy (starting after this post by their president, I presume). So I would like to briefly question those two claims,and then offer an alternative for what Denny Burk could do as president of CBMW.
Before this debate, I understood the “eternal” submission of the Son as a mere affirmation that the Bible teaches that the Son submits to the Father in some sense in eternity. It is called “eternal” not because of any ontological inequality of essence or being, but merely because the Bible indicates that the Son submits to the Father in some sort of economic/functional sense in eternity (i.e., before the incarnation and after the consummation). I would have understood it as nothing more nor less than that.
This perplexes me. From the beginning, critics of ESS have affirmed an economic submission of the Son, particularly making a point to explain the context for how that applies in the covenant of redemption, while firmly insisting that there is no eternal subordination in the ontological relationship within the Trinity. From the beginning, we have been providing very specific quotes from ESS proponents that teach otherwise, asking for a retraction of this unorthodox teaching on the Trinity and affirmation of confessional Nicene Trinitarianism. And yet, Burk was among the first to take to Twitter accusing us of being closet feminists and accusers of the brethren for this important distinction. So it was a bit strange to read this explanation of how he understood ESS “from the beginning” and square that with how he reacted in the beginning of this debate.
While it is good to see Burk distance himself from the EFS of Ware and Grudem, he still wants the big umbrella that would affirm the orthodoxy of their teaching on the Trinity. This is very troublesome, and I will comment more on its impact in my conclusion.
Burk concludes that there is no need for CBMW to get involved in this Trinity stuff anymore and paints a picture as if CBMW’s teaching has nothing to do with all this controversy: