ETS, the trinity and basic literacy
Amanda has mentioned that Leslie, here and here, is blogging on the trinity and ETS. Both women would like to see more women attend ETS. I probably won’t attend partly because I am not in academia. However, I would like to outline my major difficulty with attending ETS. It is simply this. Many members of ETS appear to be unaware of the meaning of the doctrinal statement of ETS. They do not hold to the statement in any real way. That just irks me.
Here is the ETS doctrinal basis,
The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory.
However, Bruce Ware, former president of ETS has written a book on the teaching that the Father has eternal authority over the Son, and the Son is eternally under the authority of the Father.
My problem with this is that “power” and “authority” have been used indiscriminately throughout church history until very recently to mean the same thing. Within historic Christianity, the Son cannot be both “equal in power to” and “eternally under the authority of” the Father.
The way this came about is that the Greek exousia was translated into Latin in the Vulgate as potestas, and by Erasmus as autoritatis. In early English translations, Tyndale and following, exousia was translated into English with the word “power” and in the KJV, exousia was sometimes translated into English as “power” and sometimes as “authority.” In the English Revised Version and the Revised Standard Version, the there is a continuing transition toward translating exousia as “authority” and dunamis as “power.” Then in the ESV exousia is translated only as “authority.” The transition is now complete.
However, the creeds are supposed to represent Christian belief dating back to the early church era. If the early church fathers used the word potestas for the Greek exousia and that was later translated into English as “power,” then we can have the equivalency of exousia > potestas > power, and we also have the equivalency of exousia > autoritatis > authority.
So, once again, how can a group of contemporary Christians hold passionately to the belief that the Son is equal to the Father in power, but eternally subordinate in authority? To our minds these may seem to be two different things, but historically, they are not.
When Augustine wrote,
He was not sent in respect to any inequality of power, or substance, or anything that in Him was not equal to the Father; but in respect to this, that the Son is from the Father, not the Father from the Son; for the Son is the Word of the Father, which is also called His wisdom.
the Latin says,
non secundum imparem potestatem uel substantiam uel aliquid quod in eo patri non sit aequale missus est, sed secundum id quod filius a patre est, non pater a filio. Verbum enim patris est filius, quod est sapientia eius dicitur.
Since potestas translates exousia in the Vulgate, we must assume that Augustine meant that the Son was not in any inequality of exousia/authority. Here is one author who got it right, writing about the Reformers views on authority,
There is one thing I do know for sure. You cannot convince any man who wants to use his beliefs about the trinity to shore up his belief in male authority over the female, that Augustine said that the Son was not unequal to the Father in authority. Its impossible.
It is impossible to explain to many that the difference between power and authority is a modern nuance. Since I haven’t been in dialogue with anyone associated with these doctrines who is prepared to discuss the Latin, the conversation is over before it begins.