If you’ve been following my facebook or tweets, you know that I have been viewing a small group curriculum called the Truth Project. This is a 12 session dvd-based curriculum to defend a “Christian worldview”. Like any curriculum, it has its ups and downs. Being published by Focus on the Family should tell you a lot about its agenda. Primarily, that only conservative (esp. politically) Christians have a true Christian worldview. If you aren’t with them, you are against them. Sadly, the curriculum does little to dialog with postmodernism in general, postmodern Christianity in particular. In fact, postmodernism is only referred to negatively by the primary speaker.
I could live with all of this. In fact, I expected as much when I opened the package. One major problem with the Truth Project, though, is that the speaker, Del Tackett, claims to be speaking un-assumptively. That is, he claims that debating with presuppositions is invalid (never mind that he himself does it the entire time). As a result, the program comes off as a group of Christians attacking the culture rather than critically engaging with the postmodern world with gentleness and respect.
So I thought it was ok. That is, until Dr. Del (whose doctorate is a D.M. [management] in Homeland Security) chose to remake the Trinity in his image to support his entire argument for a certain style of social systems.
You see, he uses this diagram to explain the relationship of the Trinity while allegedly maintaining the nicene position of each member being an ontological (in their essence) unity:
So what’s the big deal? Primarily, this diagram leads the reader to believe that God the Father is somehow the bossman over the other two. God the Son is the boss of the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit has nothing to contribute to the equation logistically. If we believe that somehow the individual persons of the Trinity are ontologically subordinate, we destroy the idea that each member is of one essence. In a modern relationship, can we claim that a worker is essentially equal to his boss (at his workplace) if we diagram the relationship thusly? no.
This diagram implies inequality.
It is true that the Trinity submits to itself, but that must also include the Father and Son submitting to the Spirit when necessary (think of Jesus’ miracles, he didn’t do them, the Spirit did). Further, the Godhead can choose to be functionally subordinate to each member (that is, in how they act they submit to each other’s will, which is one unified will), but functional submission is not the same as ontological inequality.
Del needs this view, though, because otherwise his whole view of social systems is ruined.
here’s his view of the family. Clearly he doesn’t expect the children to be equal with the husband and wife, as his only Scriptures relating to children are those that say children should obey. Should the Holy Spirit just obey? become the prisoner of the other two? This diagram also demonstrates the wife as subordinate to the husband. But what about the structure of the church (sorry for cutting off the image)?
Here it is. With this diagram, Dr. Del plays rhetorical pinball, bouncing from one verse to another to support his argument, completely denying any historical context (of course he did that with the above charts too, but this is the most blatant). He substitutes placeholder for placeholder misusing verses until it fits his paradigm. The only problem is that in so doing, his substitution tactic, when taken to its logical conclusion, makes every member of the church ontologically and functionally equal to the Godhead even though Del rejects the New Age notion of becoming God.
Now this could all be fixed by claiming that the first chart is one of functional subordination rather than ontological position. But then, children would have to be equal to their parents, the flock ontologically equal to Jesus, and the state and her leaders ontologically equal to each one of these positions (via substitution). And the very next lesson he argues that there can be no bleedover between spheres of influence.
On the other hand, The Shack, which is a fictional book (rife with its own errors, but fictional) and is incredibly controversial for evangelicals, is far more accurate in depicting the relational aspects of the Trinity in my opinion.
The Trinity is a perfectly equal set of relationships where each member lovingly submits to each other member. Sometimes this causes a functional subordination (i.e. Jesus gave up his divine attributes to become human, or pericoresis) for a specific task. There is not inequality, nor can there be, because
God is like Aquafresh.
One substance, three persons.
Though made of the same God stuff,
Individuals don’t bleed into one goo,
They each have their place.
White red and blue.