Scot McKnight just posted on a brewing controversy apparently taking place among so called “conservative Calvinists.” The issue, as McKnight explains it:
I speak here of the eternal subordination of the Son, of a teaching that some Reformed theologians are saying fellow Reformed types are not only not consistent with the Reformed tradition but are flirting with idolatry if not heresy. (source)
These posts are aimed at Wayne Grudem, Bruce Ware and Owen Strachan. I have been in communication this week with a bundle of theologians who (1) are deeply concerned about these theologians and what they are teaching the church and (2) know that it is an uphill battle to get the principals to listen. But the voices from within the complementarian crowd that is self-critical on this issue of Trinitarian relations as a template for hierarchical complementarianism may move more and more to a position that sees the folly of this new theology. (source)
When McKnight says “These posts,” he is referring to some blog posts that Carl Trueman, and a guy by the name of Liam Goligher have written contra Grudem, Ware, and Strachan; the latter three are the primary voices promoting eternal subordination in the Trinity in order to argue by analogy that there is a similar hierarchical subordination between men and women (which is consistent with their hard complementarian beliefs juxtaposed with the egalitarian position).
The issue as I see it is that so called social Trinitarianism, which Grudem, Ware, and Strachan are all proponents of is being coupled with another social issue, i.e. the relations of the sexes, creating an unnecessary dilemma. There is no reason to collapse God into a social analogy just so we can justify our pet-beliefs about complementarianism and/or egalitarianism, etc. In fact this is a backward way for doing genuinely Christian Dogmatic theology. Genuine Christian Dogmatics, by way of taxis or order always starts with God and His Self-revelation in Jesus Christ; it does not alternatively attempt to read social analogies back into God’s life. Khaled Anatolios says it this way when commenting on the patristic church and its understanding of God and revelation:
As Creator, God is both radically other than his creation and positively related to it. The difference between God and world is such that creatures can only know God through his free self-revelation. Any attempt by creatures simply to infer the nature of the divine on the basis of creaturely realities will inevitably amount to a projection of created features onto the divine and will thus amount to a mythology (Athanasius). Divine self-disclosure is available through its inspired witness in the Scriptures, as interpreted by acts of ecclesial communion (synodal councils) and as appropriated and performed in worship and discipleship. The combination of these three elements constitutes what fourth-century theologians referred to as eusebeia. That the elasticity of that term combined these elements is evidenced by the range of translated meanings, all of them appropriate in distinct contexts, which are alloted to it: “piety,” “orthodoxy,” “religion,” and so on. An authentic retrieval of Nicene trinitarian theology should endeavor to reappropriate trinitarian eusebeia in this global sense: as appropriating determinate ways of reading Scripture through interpretations gleaned from acts of ecclesial communion and ways of celebrating and suffering this divine self-disclosure in worship and discipleship. However, even as integral reception of God’s self-revelation does not eradicate divine infinity and incomprehensibility and the incommensurability between the divine and the human. The infinite God cannot be contained by finite human knowing. Yet, human knowing and human existence in its entirety can be so contained and determined by the divine self-disclosure as to be suffused with knowledge and love and union with the divine. Christian eschatological hope looks forward to a consummation of this process in the eternal enjoyment of the sight of the Father, Son, and holy Spirit. In the meantime, Christian existence consists in the project of referring one’s existence toward this sight such that every internal and external act becomes oriented to the love and knowledge of the Triune God.
Grudem’s, Ware’s, and Strachan’s Errors
1) All three are attempting, as we refer to Anatolios’ language, “to infer the nature of the divine on the basis of creaturely realities,” which “realities will inevitably amount to a projection of created features onto the divine and will thus amount to a mythology (Athanasius).” This is the problem that underlies so called social Trinitarianism where we end up with three distinct wills in the hypostaseis of the Divine Monarxia (Godhead). And in the case of these three conservative theologians, they are motivated to do what they do by what I consider, in the least, to be heterodoxy, relative to a doctrine of God, by a social issue (i.e. their brand of complementarianism); the very thing that the early church and Anatolios warns against, and for good reason!
2) On a more formal level, as we already touched upon, they are failing to engage in actual Christian Dogmatics. Meaning that they are at some level repudiating the confessional position of the historic orthodox church, provided voice, in particular, in the ecuemincal councils of Nicaea-Constantinople-Chalcedon, and attempting to innovate in a way that violates the very mind of the church. It is one thing to work constructively within the boundaries of the ecumenical grammar on the Trinity, as Karl Barth does, which Hunsinger labels the ‘chalcedonian pattern’; but it is altogether another thing to work outside of those norms in order to bolster one’s position on a social issue such as complentarianism. Indeed it is even that much more heinous to use God’s name in order to sanction one’s pet-belief about male/female relations; I would suggest it is to use God’s name in vain.
I think if someone wants to argue for complementarianism they should avoid appealing to God’s ousia or being in order to do so. It creates a false dilemma for people, making them think that if they affirm complentarianism that they must also now affirm social Trinitarianism and eternal subordination in the Godhead. I think this is a serious issue for those placing this dilemma before church leaders and the laity, and as such they should tread much more lightly and circumspectly than they are. This isn’t just an academic debate; my guess is that God is paying attention, and most likely is not happy with having his name tied to a social program that he never prescribed or mandated in the first place (at least as far as I can tell from His Self Revelation in Christ).
 Khaled Anatolios, Retrieving Nicaea, 282.