Does hierarchy in one area logically imply hierarchy in another? Does a hierarchy of function not point to a hierarchy of being? How can an eternally necessary functional hierarchy be compatible with ontological equality between the members of the Trinity?
Erickson believes that if authority and submission are essential and not accidental attributes of
the Father and Son, then this “is equivalent to saying that they are not homoousious with one another.” Erickson finds an internal contradiction in such an articulation of the Trinity.
In spite of protests to the contrary, in the complementarian view of trinitarian relations there is a drift towards something that is akin to ontological inferiority in the Son, surely and doesn't this separate the persons of the trinity too much? Ontological equality and permanent functional subordination is incoherent and in its use as a measure for the relations between the genders, it is clumsy.
We have to either deny eternal functional subordination or we have to deny ontological equality...a combination of the two is just not an option open to us....is it?
Complementarian trinitarian formulations owe more to Aristotelian logic and the Great chain of Being. St Paul challenges immutable distinctions grounded in Greek thought with his counter-cultural teaching regarding people's equality in Christ. The Dalit community is powerfully grasping the gospel for this very reason and Feminist, Dalit theology makes for a particularly fascinating read at the moment.
Defining the Trinity as an eternal hierarchy of authority and submission neccesitates reading the Great Chain of Being back into the biblical text. That the Bible teaches ontological equality has envisioned some of the great liberation movements of our time: democracy over Kingship, civil rights over slavery, women's suffrage over their political and social subordination – these are godly movements, as I am sure you would agree.
It would seem that Ware and Grudem are at one pole in this debate and Kevin Giles at another...I am awaiting a paper by Michael Bird that might be more nuanced. Whilst we must not polarise each other, I suggest that ultimately Complementarian Evangelicals and Egalitarian evangelicals (the labels don't really help...it's more nuanced, but we have to begin somewhere) are going to differ on our understanding of the trinitarian relationship. I hold that my position is not so much a capitulation to contemporary culture as the hierarchalist position which seems to draw much of its breath from pagan, Greek, Aristotelian thought-systems such as the Great Chain of Being. It is argued that the hierarchalist position is not Arianism – Giles believes it is, he goes too far, it is however a very difficult concept to argue from Scripture and reminds me very much of the faith of our childhoods – God the boss and Jesus second and then the Holy Spirit about whom I was taught little as a child. I have very much enjoyed studying the Trinitarian relationship and the perichoretic beauty and how much this has to teach us about 'community' and the way that we should relate to one another – it is the drive behind much of our modern day liberation theology and our attempts to grasp it and live it out is doing much to further God's Kingdom here on earth, particularly amongst those who have often been forced into subordination through human sin.