I am not a theologian. And while I don’t believe that the study of Scripture and doctrine should be reserved for theologians, I also know not to wade into waters that are too deep for me and pretend I can swim. (Pretending to swim never ends well.) However, I am an editor and I thought I’d share some observations on Owen Strachan’s blog post pushing back against criticism of what he calls Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission (ERAS). I noticed some quirks in his writing that I think warrant closer examination.
- Near the start of his post, Strachan says, “Trueman and Goligher did not hold back, God bless ’em.” I want to give Strachan’s choice of words a gracious reading. Perhaps he was just falling into a homey colloquialism and trying to establish a friendly tone. But this phrase also rings a little condescending, something akin to its cousin, “Bless her heart.”
- The next curious bit follows shortly thereafter: “Personally, I think both ERAS proponents and non-ERAS proponents can dwell together in unity and love. But it seems–guessing at random here–Trueman and Goligher disagree. [emphasis mine]” Maybe this was just a careless wording here, but Strachan is not “guessing at random.” Again, I don’t know if he’s just trying to strike a conversational tone or trying to be funny or what. In the same paragraph, Strachan assures us that this is a “friendly reply.”
- Strachan later refers to those who confess a Nicene Trinitarianism along with Trueman and Goligher as the “T-G camp.” This makes it sound like Trueman and Goligher got together and formed the Theologians Against Subordination Club (TASC—or as it is more informally known, the TASC Force). Trueman and Goligher are pointing to an ancient understanding of the Trinity, and to reduce their view to a “camp” strikes me as disingenuous. Clearly, Strachan and the ERAS adherents are the outliers here.
- I’m not a theologian, and even I know how important it is to keep your categories straight. Yet, Strachan veers toward the poetic in his post, and I’m afraid it’s at the cost of his argument. He writes, “If we lose this understanding of Christ, and this God-saturated conception of submission, we lose something very, very close to the beating heart of the Christian faith.” What is a God-saturated conception? I mean, I appreciate poetry. I really do. But I’m supposed to accept his take on submission because it’s “God-saturated.” Owen, you have to work harder than that.
- Strachan continues, “This is the kind of insight that only the Holy Spirit can unveil, for it is so directly unearthly, so rudely contrary to the way the world views servanthood.” So, your argument is that only the Holy Spirit can confirm that your understanding of submission and the Godhead is correct? While I wholeheartedly affirm that it is the Holy Spirit who guides us into all truth, it is a teacher’s responsibility to clearly lay out his lesson. Maybe that’s too much to expect in a single blog post, but I don’t think Strachan should be let off the hook on this point. What I hear is, “If you don’t agree with our teaching of ERAS, then the Holy Spirit has not granted you “this kind of insight.”
This little exercise took longer than I anticipated, and I only made it through Strachan’s first point. Again, this is not primarily a theological critique of Strachan’s blog post (although my final two points creep in that direction). I was struck by the writing choices noted above because they make a noticeable impact on the tone of his piece. I believe there is a mild undercurrent of passive-aggressiveness masked by an attempt to be the more magnanimous soul in the argument. As an outlier who is challenging a doctrinal understanding that has been generally accepted by orthodox Christianity for at least 1700 years, he should feel the heat. I would respect his response more if he had been more openly combative (theologically speaking) and had not tried to present his novel view of the Trinity couched in an appeal to Christian unity.