Today’s post looks at the issue of how the Trinity has historically been tampered with by sects, and un-orthodox theology systems such as the Mormons. Today the trinity is being re-defined by the Neo-Calvinists, and looks at Wayne Grudem and his advocating of Eternal Subordination of the Son theology. It begs the question….should we trust the ESV Bible given that the person deeply involved in the translation has a view of the Trinity which goes against the Nicene Creed?
“I have always declared God to be a distinct personage, Jesus Christ a separate and distinct personage from God the Father, and the Holy Ghost was a distinct personage and a Spirit: and these three constitute three distinct personages and three Gods,”
Joseph Smith on the Trinity
“There are no good reasons for orthodox Christians to hold to the position advocated by Drs. Ware and Grudem, and there are very good reasons for orthodox Christians to reject their account.”
Tom McCall’s rebuttal of Wayne Grudem’s teaching
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.
1 Corinthians 12:4-6 NIV
Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith
Wayne Grudem being worshipped
In 1842 the founder and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, better known as the Mormons sent a letter to the editor of the Chicago Democrat. Joseph Smith’s letter to John Wentworth would be a summary of what the Latter Day Saints believe as a faith system and would become the Articles of Faith. John Wentworth was the main editor of one of Chicago’s newspapers, and he inquired as to what do the Mormons believe? Joseph Smith’s response helped outline and explain what the Mormon church believes on key doctrine. While it emphasized a lot of points I want to focus on one that is crucial. In Smith’s letter he said the following about the Trinity, which is in Article 1.
We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
In that definition Joseph Smith rejected the historical definition of the Trinity. For Smith, God is three personages: God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. Each is distinct but they are not one. From that time in the 1840’s until today the Mormon faith continued to reject the Trinity. In the magazine Ensign which is published by the Mormon church Brigham Young University professors Stephen D. Ricks, and Daniel C. Peterson explained why the LDS reject the Trinity. Here is what they said in their article “Comparing LDS Beliefs with First Century-Christianity.”
The Church’s first Article of Faith is “We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.” This is a straightforward statement of belief that there are three members in the Godhead. However, Latter-day Saints do reject the doctrines of the Trinity as taught by most Christian churches today. For the most part, these creeds—the most famous of which is the Nicene Creed—were canonized in the fourth and fifth centuries A.D. following centuries of debate about the nature of the Godhead. Consequently, it is highly questionable whether these creeds reflect the thinking or beliefs of the New Testament church.
“The exact theological definition of the doctrine of the Trinity,” notes J. R. Dummelow, “was the result of a long process of development, which was not complete until the fifth century, or maybe even later.” 1 As Bill Forrest remarks, “To insist that a belief in the Trinity is requisite to being Christian, is to acknowledge that for centuries after the New Testament was completed thousands of Jesus’ followers were in fact not really ‘Christian.’” 2 Certainly the revelatory manner by which Joseph Smith learned of the doctrine of the Godhead pierces through the centuries-old debate on the subject.
This rejection of the Trinity has been pretty pronounced, with even Donny Osmond explaining on his website why the LDS Church rejects the Trinity. Meanwhile one of the most prominent Christian ministries in Utah which was run by Sandra and Jerald Tanner called Utah Lighthouse Ministry has written extensively on the Mormon view of the Trinity which you can read a sample here.
I write about the Mormons and the Trinity for this one reason. The Trinity is critical to the Christian faith and its orthodox doctrine. Many cults, sects, and some parts of Christianity reject the Trinity or they have tampered with it to support their theology or beliefs. Oneness Pentecostalism also rejects the Trinity. Greg Boyd as I understand it has written about the issues of Oneness Pentecostalism.
Who is Wayne Grudem?
Wayne Grudem was born in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin in 1948. He later attended Harvard where he got a B.A in Economics. He later got a Master of Divinity and Doctor of Divinity from Westminster Theological Seminary outside Philadelphia. He obtained his PH’D in New Testament Studies from the University of Cambridge. For 20 years he taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School which is the main seminary of the Evangelical Free Church of America. In 2001 he went to the Phoenix Seminary where he is a Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies. Wayne helped co-found the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in 1986. Another thing Wayne is known for is serving on the committee that oversaw the translation of the English Standard Version of the Bible (ESV). From 2005 until 2008 he served as the General Editor for the ESV Study Bible. He has published a number of books of which includes a brief sampling below:
- “Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine“
- “Politics – According to the Bible: A Comprehensive Resource for Understanding Modern Political Issues in Light of Scripture“
- “The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today“
- “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism“
- “Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth: An Analysis of More Than 100 Disputed Questions“
- “The Poverty of Nations: A Sustainable Solution“
- “Translating Truth: The Case for Essentially Literal Bible Translation“
Wayne Grudem has been a key person in he Neo-Calvinist movement He also took money form C.J. Mahaney as well when he was finishing up the ESV Study Version I believe. Finally Wayne has three children.
What is Eternal Subordination of the Son?
I am not the best person to discuss the Trinity as it’s a very complex doctrine. In my life as time passed after I pushed back from Mormonism the one thing that bothered me is how the LDS faith rejected the Trinity. Today that is a major red flag. The Trinity as I understand it is three persons in one. The Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) which has been created by the Neo-Calvinistsis is basically subordination. Subordination has its roots in the teachings of Arius of Alexandria. Arianism is the belief that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit are not equal, instead Jesus was created by God and is eternally subordinate to the Father. This dispute over the Trinity led to the opening of the First Council of Nicea in May 20, 325. The council met for a month until June 20, 325 where Arianism was discussed and finally settled. Arianism was eventually declared heresy, and it led to the creation of the Nicean Creed. The Nicean Creed starts out by saying the following:
We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God,] Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;
Eternal Subordination of the Son advocates that Jesus is subordinate to God. While this can be said in regards to Jesus submitting at Calvary some Neo-Calvinists took a more extreme view to further justify complementarism in requiring women to submit to men. About 8 years ago some of the Neo-Calvinists stated that Jesus submitted to God for all eternity. This view of the Trinity is advocated by Bruce Ware of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Owen Strachen, and Wayne Grudem. You can find this view of the Trinity in the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood which is John Piper’s baby, which in itself is another omen. However recently there has been some pushback against this theology, as some are concerned that a heresy is being taught and advocated that was settled at the Council of Nicaea in 325. For more context on ESS and Arianism I am going to promote SBC pastor’s Wade Burleson’s post called “Growing Semi-Arianism in the SBC and the Consequences for Women If Left Unchallenged.”
Wayne Grudem’s Involvment in Re-Defining the Trinity? And some Reformed Pushback
As I stated Wayne Grudem has apparently been involved in redefining the Trinity to further support a more fundamentalist version of complementarism. He is one of the main advoctes of ESS theology. Wayne Grudem engaged in a debate at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 2008 in which he pushed for this view of subordination. This was written about in Christianity Today’s “Anathemas All Around.” I lifted several paragraphs of which you can read below:
Former TEDS systematic theology professors Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware returned to the suburban Chicago seminary and argued the affirmative: relations of authority and submission do indeed exist among the persons of the Godhead. They pointed to a number of biblical texts that show that while the Son dwelt among us, he submitted to his heavenly Father. This was not the point of disagreement, however, so Grudem cited additional passages, arguing that they suggest the Son has submitted from eternity past and will submit for eternity future. He turned to Ephesians 1:3-5, Romans 8:29, and John 1:14 to argue: “The role of planning, purposing, predestining — the entire history of salvation — belongs to the Father, according to Scripture. There is no hint of any such authority for the Son with respect to the Father.”
John 3:16 (“God gave his only Son”) reinforces this view, Grudem said. “If one sends and the other is sent, then one commands and the other obeys,” said the Phoenix Seminary professor. “Yes, the Son represents the Father, but to be sent by the Father is also to be subject to the Father’s authority.” Grudem explained that the very terms for Father and Son would have implied authority and submission in the biblical world. Ware, currently a professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, followed Grudem and marshaled quotes from Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, and numerous other theologians to support their case.
Tom McCall, a current TEDS systematic theology professor, teamed up with Keith Yandell, philosophy professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to offer a different position. “There are no good reasons for orthodox Christians to hold to the position advocated by Drs. Ware and Grudem,” McCall began, ” and there are very good reasons for orthodox Christians to reject their account.” He explained that both sides uphold biblical authority, both sides employ philosophical categories for understanding the Bible, and both sides can quote Bible verses. The key is which side can interpret Scripture correctly.
McCall took issue with a statement from Grudem’s book Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth in which he argues, “If the Father also submitted to the authority of the Son, it would destroy the Trinity, because there would be no Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but only Person A, Person A, and Person A.” That view would be Sabellianism, also known as modalism — the heretical view that the one God appears to humans in three modes, not three distinct persons. Defending himself against possible charges of heresy, McCall said we may affirm that there are distinctions within the Godhead even if we don’t know what they are.
McCall also challenged Grudem and Ware’s interpretation of passages such as 1 Corinthians 15:28, which they believe teach the Son’s eternal subordination. Here Paul states, “When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.” McCall pointed out that Paul does not explain how long this subordination will last. Certainly we may not conclude from this verse, McCall argued, that Christ’s subordination is “timelessly eternal or backwardly everlasting.” More importantly, McCall said, “It only tells us of what is and will be — it does not tell us what must be!”
In the past two weeks Carl Trueman and Dr. Liam Goligher have taken aim of Grudem’s teachings and even suggested that he is creating a new deity. There is a lot that has been written and I will let you read, and examine what is going on.
This is the post that helped create athe most recent stir. Written by Dr. Liam Goligher, “Is it Okay to Teach a Complementarianism Based on Eternal Subordination?” looks at several problems with ESS doctrine in how its tied to complementarianism. Dr. Goligher looks at the danger that occurs when gender roles are extrapolated from the Trinity. Plus he also asks the question…is Wayne Grudem, Owen Strachen and other proponents of ESS creating a new deity? Are they crating a different God?
Dee Parsons does a great job analyzing these issues in this post called “A Reformed Theologian and a Reformed Blogger Take on the Eternal Subordination of the Son as It Relates to Complementarianism.” In that post Dee Parsons looks at the claims and the strong push back by a reformed blogger Dr. Liam Goligher.
Over at Mortification of Spin, Dr. Liam Goligher wrote another article called “Reinventing God.” In this post Dr. Liam Goligher looked at the issue of Primacy of the Father and what is at stake in this debate. This post also led to another post at The Wartburg Watch called “Unorthodox Views on the Trinity – Round Two.” The further debate on this topic led to another post called “The Battle for the Eternal Subordination of Women Disguised as a Disagreement on the Functional Roles of the Trinity.”
On June 9, 2016 Wayne Grudem responded to the article about him by Dr. Liam Goligher. In this article he defends his view of the trinity and responds in a post called, “Whose Position on the Trinity is Really New?” Here is what Wayne Grudem says about him rejecting the Trinity.
(1) Claiming that we deny what we affirm: One would think that when a writer claims that I deny the doctrine of the Trinity as defined in the Nicene Creed he might at least be expected to mention that in my Systematic Theology, which has been in print for 26 years, I emphatically and extensively affirm the doctrine of the Trinity as defined in the Nicene Creed, including the full deity of the Son, who is of the same nature (homoousios) as the Father (see pages 231-257 and 543-563). I believe “in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made.” (Nicene Creed, 325 AD, revised, 381 AD, in the Received Text of the Protestant churches).
In addition, Bruce Ware and I and several others have continued to affirm the full deity of the Son in subsequent writings [see especially One God in Three Persons, edited by Bruce Ware and John Starke (Crossway, 2015)], but these authors fail to mention that. They are saying that we deny what we explicitly affirm, without mentioning that we affirm it.
Also of note is Carl Truman’s article to Wayne Grudem which you can read here.
Wayne Grudem and the ESV Translation
Wayne Grudem despite his un-orthodox view of trinity became deeply involved in the creation of the ESV Study Bible. I remember when Andrew of Redeemer Arlington was trying to get me to read that work. Good God! I can’t believe the celebrity pastors who endorsed it as it was a major red flag for this strong skeptic at the time. I would suggest to you that the ESV is really a knee jerk reaction to the TNIV. Many Neo-Calvinist went ape over the TNIV version which had more gender neutral language. What is gender natural? Instead of calling someone a police man you call them a police officer. In 2002 the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood issued a post in which they critiqued and stated what is wrong with TNIV. In May of 2002 over 100 individuals signed a statement stating that the TNIV is to be rejected and is not trustworthy. You can read that post here.
“The ESV we owe chiefly to one particular scholar who has spent much of his career opposing the idea of women being involved in minstry. I am told that this scholar did everything he could possibly do to scuttle the TNIV, in the main because he abhorred the idea of the use of inclusive language in the translation even where it was fully warranted and did better justice to who was being spoken of in particular cases. A good example would be when the Greek term ‘anthropoi’ (‘human beings’)is used to refer to a mixed group containing both women and men. To translate the term ‘men’ in such a case is in fact to misrepresent the meaning of the word in such a case since there were also women present who were not mere ciphers or appendages of the men who were there. “
That one scholar referred to in that post is Wayne Grudem. Also of interest is a critique of Wayne Grudam by his former student Kermit Titrud who rakes Grudem over the coals for his view of translation. In the following article this stood out for me.
Suffice it to say that Wayne and those who are believers in (essentially) literal translations fail to realize that although “every word” in the Scriptures is inspired, these individual words are found in context. We find meaning in the words when we look at the context. We know what the words “it”, “is”, “up”, “to”, and “you” normally means, but what they normally mean is light years away from what they mean in the context of “it is up to you.” We know what “dog” and “cat” normally means. But again the animal component of “dog” and “cat” is lost with the expression, “It’s raining cats and dogs”. Wayne and those who push essential literal translations fail to understand the basic principles of translating accurately. One needs to translate the words according to their context. Wayne argues from verses such as Matt. 4:4 that “the expression ‘every word’ coupled with the fact that the words proceed from the ‘mouth of God’ places further emphasis on the very words themselves.” If that is the case then David did not die, because the Hebrew word reads “sleeps”, and David is indeed side by side with his fathers, and David has more than one father (maybe referring to his fathers-in-law). Wayne fails to recognize that the words coming out from the mouth of God are found in context. They are not in isolation. I find it strange that my professor for advanced Greek Exegesis, who taught the importance of interpreting Scripture by looking at the context, would suggest that there is some intrinsic value to these words in isolation. And if there is so much value in the individual words, then why does one find so many words in the Greek and Hebrew that were not translated by Wayne and company? Why compromise translating literally with “essentially” literal? They realize that it would not make any sense to the reader if they translated literally. However they fail to realize that the reader is also to a great degree either confused or mislead as well by an “essentially” literal translation. They fear that the more dynamic equivalent type translations distort the Word of God, not realizing that it is these “essentially” literal translations that produce the cults and sects. The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and other cults and sects do not read the dynamic equivalent translations. They prefer the “essentially” literal ones.
I like what Kermit says and I can appreciate it having studied several foreign languages in my lifetime. There are many times you can not do a literal translation as it doesn’t make sense and it backfires. I learned this with French. This is one of the reasons why education is so valuable and needed, as it broadens your horizons. So already we have some translations issues but I think we should all pause and reflect on Wayne’s un-orthodox view of the trinity and ask if his un-orthodox views of the Trinity affected the ESV.
Why you Should Care and Some Thoughts
There is a reason why I started out talking about how Joseph Smith rejected the Trinity. Many questionable organizations and movements have rejected or tinkered with the Trinity. The Book of Ecclesiastes teaches us that there is nothing new under the sun, and no where do we find that more true than with Eternal Subordination of the Son. Many parts of Neo-Calvinism are fads, flashy and highly questionable. It bothers me that I can’t go to some churches which I would prefer because of how they have been theologically hijacked, adversely affected and troubled by these issues. People should care for a number of reasons, let me explain the reasons why.
One is for how it treats and redefines women. It almost makes me want to ask the question, when people go to incredible lengths to redefine core doctrine which flirts with heresy what is the end goal with females? Are women human and is it an over reaction to feminism? What part of feminism is this a reaction to? Is it something like abortion rights or the demand of equal rights and equal pay? I am just throwing this out for your consideration. But here is the other thing that is most troubling. The Trinity has been the foundation for most of orthodox Christianity for centuries. From the Neo-Calvinist crowd you hear the phrase, “sound doctrine” and then you learn that their “sound doctrine” is not so sound after all.
There are many reasons why I reject the ESV translation of the Bible. I could go through a large number of reasons and perhaps will do so in another post. In this case I wanted to write this post in light of my past Mormon background, and what I almost became when I was in college. I felt qualified to take on this topic because I pushed back from an organization that tampered with and rejected the Trinity. But there is another reason why I write this post. At this blog I am tackling issues within the Evangelical Free denomination. I am working through all 17 districts and calculating the rate of growth Neo-Calvinist theology in the Evangelical Free. The ESV Bible is popping up in many parts of the Evangelical Free Church. I would like to focus on the Church at Charlotte, which is an Evangelical Free in Charlotte, North Carolina. In June 2014 this church dumped the NIV and replaced it with the ESV. The Senior Pastors explained the reasons why they were embracing the ESV in this blog post here. Now since the ESV brings a shady past, and a Calvinist agenda to it, plus if Arianism has influenced this translation what are the Senior Pastors of Church at Charlotte exposing their congregation to? What has Jim Kallam and Dave Huber done in the end? The Pastor is supposed to take care of the flock, and protect it from problems, and issues. In this case has that happened? Or has Jim Kallam and Dave Huber promoted a questionable translation and thus adversely affecting the spiritual health of their congregation? Does Jim Kallam and Dave Huber have the discernment needed to do their job? This is a disturbing and heavy topic, I know. But let’s be open and honest, things get in under the radar, and people advocating for questionable or un-ethical theology can be shady. There are many other Evangelical Free and other churches doing the same thing, and in light of the greatly disturbing position of Wayne Grudem’s view on the Trinity, it needs to be addressed and tackled.
For me Wayne Grudem has been a questionable and shady character in many ways. He took money from a highly questionable ministry – Sovereign Grace – to finish the translation of the ESV. He did this and when it was later learned that people in Sovereign Grace were facing church discipline and asked to “give until it hurts” and forsake meat, and eat oatmeal for dinner. (Yes this in the third world country of the United States of America) Despite that Wayne Grudem didn’t do a damn thing when all this information became public. Its like what I wrote about the other day, in the Neo-Calvinist crowd money trumps doctrine. But it begs another question…since the ESV came off the backs of those in SGM who faced spiritual abuse and ate oatmeal for dinner, should churches like Church at Charlotte who promote the ESV repent to those in the D.C. area who suffered in Sovereign Grace? Or in other words is the Church at Charlotte in sin for using the ESV which was created in questionable circumstances? God help us if the church has a collective soul and cares for what is happening one state away right? Maybe at the very least the Church at Charlotte Pastors Jim Kallam and Dave Huber can open up their food pantries to those who gave up meat in SGM? Better yet maybe they can take some of these families to the butcher and buy them some meat.
But here is another thing that troubles me. ESS teaches subordination roles even throughout eternity. When I watch this doctrine creep and grow in the Southern Baptist Convention or the Evangelical Free Church of America it begs the following question from me. Why did I push back from Mormonism? I pushed back and rejected Mormonism because it was another Gospel. Now I am seeing the Neo-Calvinist movement almost embrace a Mormon like theology system. The obsession with gender roles in heaven, reminds me of what the Mormon church teaches about heaven. Its troubling but as I sit back and watch this all happen and I reflect on my Mormon past and ask why I am seeing this disturbing theology grow? Not only that…but did Wayne Grudem teach this when he was at Trinity Evangelical Divinity school? If so does doctrine deeply matter to the Evangelical Free Church of America? Is the Evangelical Free committed to the Nicene Creed?
But there is another concern as well. Look at historic movements, and events they are often driven by a book, manifesto or document. For example Karl Marx and Frederic Engels penned the most famous manifesto in history which was known as the Communist Manifesto. It became an inspiration for tyranny and oppression and communism and was adopted by the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe during the Cold War. The conflict between the eats and west became one of the defining issues of the 20th century. Upton Sinclair in the United States published The Jungle. That book which described sanitary issues in Chicago’s meat packing industry became a catalyst reforming that industry. In China, Mao’s “Little Red Book” became a driving force in the Cultural Revolution. That is how I would suggest the ESV be looked at…it’s a version of the Bible heavily created for the Neo-Calvinist movement. It is not objective instead it has an agenda. After all if you can translate or control the Bible to your flavor you have your end game. You can control the masses, or dictate the theology you so desire. The Bible should not have any agenda behind it. The only goal of the Bible should be to broadcast the message of the Lord. When it is tainted, or stained by controversy then you have some serious concerns that create needless stumbling blocks for the church.
Hopefully by now you should be asking the question in your mind, if Wayne Grudem holds an un-orthodox view of the Trinity that is similar to Arianism, it begs the question. Should he be teaching? Should he be publishing? Should he be employed by a seminary? When I hear disturbing stories coming out of Wheaton, or consider what Westminster Theological Seminary did to Peter Enns, it begs the question. Better yet consider how Wayne Grudem called for Peter Enns to be let go for un-Biblical theology. Why hasn’t Phoenix Seminary taken any action and let Wayne Grudem go for his heretical view of the Trinity? Or here is another question….did Wayne Grudem teach against the Nicene Creed when he was employed at Trinity Evangelical Divinity school? Or does the Phoenix Seminary also embrace a Semi-Arian view of the Trinity? Its my hope by now that you will have more concerns about the ESV translation. With Wayne Grudem overseeing the translation of the Bible, and his un-orthodox view on the trinity it makes this translation highly questionable and flawed.
Up above I led the post with a video that shows how much of the Neo-Calvinist movement is a personality cult. When you have Neo-Calvinists creating celebrity pastors as idols and worshipping them as God it should cause great concern in the church. For many in the Neo-Calvinist movement their sheer devotion of the ESV and individuals like Wayne Grudem inspires this closing video. I expect to find some Neo-Calvinists some day clinging to the ESV even in their death. They can’t let go of the fact that someone like John Piper autographed it. How can they live without Pastor John, or that other celebrity pastor behind it? Somehow the church survived 2,000 years…damn it if we got it wrong for that amount of time! 😛 This was a difficult post to write, I invite pushback and your thoughts on Wayne Grudem, ESS and the ESV. As I spoke about the Church at Charlotte I want to go on the record of stating that this has been emailed to the Pastors and staff of that church, as well as EFCA Southeast led by Glen Schrieber. With that I will read some of my NLT. As always I love you guys!