Running Thoughts on Social Trinitarianism

A recent post by Mike Bird stirred a discussion among colleagues of mine—also see Peter Leithart’s post and Tyler Wittman’s Themelios Book Review. In what follows I provide some running thoughts as to why I do not adhere to Social Trinitarianism or forms of Social Trinitarianism.

My major contention with Social Trinitarianism—Timothy Kleiser has provided a new term of “Relational Trinity” which I need to consider—is something of the following. I find it logically indefensible and the social constructs break down too quickly, unless one holds to a social form of patriarchy.

1. First, social trinitarianism begins with anthropology. That is, they begin by looking at humanity and in order define and structure humanity, the Trinity and its social relations are used to structure humanity. That is, you begin with human social relations, transcend to divine social relations, and then provide categories for humanity.

2. If this is so, then Christ is viewed as a subordinate to the Father. Women then assume the social role of Christ—subordination. I had a women tell me, one time, she didn’t know what submission was until she read a book detailing the subordination of Christ to the Father.

3. A second point related to Christ is social trinitarianism seems to begin with the humanity of Christ as a primary way to talk of his personhood. Subordination is an economic function of the Son’s incarnation. Because the Son was not always incarnate does not necessitate eternal subordination.

4. Next, this then relates men to the Father. Logically, this will perpetuate patriarchy in society (despite patriarchy being right or wrong). If the women correlates to Christ in submission, then the man correlates to the Father and has nothing/no one to submit to.

5. What then of the Spirit? There is no clear social relation of the Spirit to humanity? My thinking is a bit muddled, admittedly, here. And honestly, I’m not too sure what Social theorist do with the Spirit and so I do not want to misrepresent the position here.

6. These social interactions of the Trinity, then, soon become the primary means to describe the essence of the Trinity. Classical Trinitarianism does describe some subordination of the Son to the Father as well as the procession of the Spirit. The primary difference is the weight given to such description. Social interaction, in my estimation, becomes a focal point for Social Trinitarianism—hence economic description becomes primary. Moreover, it is the incarnation of Jesus that becomes central in describing the economic function of Jesus and not the pre-incarnate status.

7. I do offer one exception that both positions need to work with: 1 Cor 11:3. It isn’t that the Trinity cannot move towards social analogy. It cannot be the focal point, starting point, or primary point of describing the Trinity.

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