Gender and the Trinity: From Proxy War to Civil War

An explainer: the latest complementarian debate isn't over women’s subordination—but Christ's.
Gender and the Trinity: From Proxy War to Civil War
Image: Pieter de Grebber (c.1600-1653), "God Inviting Christ to Sit on the Throne at His Right Hand "

Last week, a group of evangelical theologians who normally agree on many controversial issues began a heated debate, prompting claims that scholars are getting God’s nature so wrong that they should quit their jobs.

The topic: the Trinity. The group: Reformed complementarians, i.e. Christian thinkers who affirm a broadly Calvinist view of theology and are also committed to the view that men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life, and religious leadership.

Debates about the Trinity and how to understand it are not exactly new in the history of Christian theology. But in recent years, such disagreements among evangelicals have usually been divided along the lines of other hot-button theological issues—namely gender roles in the church. So what makes this latest discussion significant—beyond the increasingly fiery rhetoric on blogs and Twitter—is the surprise of seeing theologians who agree on so much (including gender roles) breaking ranks with each other around such a core component of Christian belief.

What’s more, the opposing sides are calling into question each other’s commitment to historic Christianity. Accusations of “constructing a new deity” and “reinventing the doctrine of God,” are flying fast and thick, along with calls to “exclude such people from holding office in the church of God.” Likewise, protests that such accusations “do not represent our view fairly” and “suggest that Scripture itself is outside the bounds of orthodox Christianity” in turn call into question the critics’ commitment to gospel-centered theology.

Those are big accusations.

So, why are Christian ...

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