The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A. branch) thought it should revisit the language used in referring to the Trinity. In a 40 page draft report http://www.pcusa.org/theologyandworship/issues/trinityfull.pdf, they discuss their motivation and ideas for deepening the church’s understanding of the eternal mystery of the Trinity. Certainly this activity is commendable. PCUSA is quite right that the Trinity is an essential doctrine of the church and one that is extraordinarily practical for the life of a believer.
But a comment on p. 8 which notes that the traditional language for the Trinity, Father-Son-Holy Spirit, has been used to oppress people, particularly women (p.8) could suggest that the motivation behind this work rests more on feminism than being faithful to Scripture.
Nevertheless, the document does raise an important exegetical issue for Christians, namely how culturally bound is Biblical language? When Scripture speaks of the Father-Son and Holy Spirit is it simply God’s cultural condenscension to believers who didn’t yet realize that men and women are equal in not only nature but social standing as well? Or did God want male terms used because it best represents the way He wants His followers to understand Him?
To be sure, PCUSA is correct in noting that God is neither male or female (but I would add that the Son did come as a male) and that God describes His nature in a variety of ways. Nevertheless, the primary way God spoke of himself was through the use of male pronouns.
I will leave the reader with some questions to ponder:
1. Does God have the right to reveal Himself in the manner of His choosing?
2. Did He do so in Scripture? If He did, was he unduly constrained by the culture of the people He was talking to? If He was, then what other Christian doctrines need to be revisited and substantially rephrased? For example, does Hell exist? If God was constrained, why was He? Couldn’t He plan things out better?
3. Does the Bible teach egalitarianism or complimentarianism as the proper relationship between men and women? See Wayne Grudem for more information on this. If the Bible teaches complimentarianism, then the notion that God being designated as a male is no more oppressive than a Christ-like husband being the head of the home.
4. Why did God use relational language rather than abstract concepts?
5. Is the idea that a term has been misused sufficient reason for jettisoning the term?
6. When does making a doctrine more relevent or adapted to cultural expectations begin to change the doctrine?
I hope you will give some time to think about these issues. Because for Christians, they touch the heart of the way we do theology. I admire college essay writing services simply cause the one turned out to be so good.
Dr. Stephen M. Vantassel is tutor at King’s Evangelical Divinity School