The Problem of Donald Miller…at Willow Creek

The Storyline Conference of 2014 was held at Willow Creek Community Church. I attended the conference for one reason only: to see how Donald Miller relates to an audience of his tribe compared to a critical audience. I was disappointed, and surprised, to observe Don reflect arrogance toward and among his own tribal fans.

I had heard Don speak before, read some of his articles, and knew enough about him to know what a problem he is for the church and for the countless Millennials who follow him as their model for success from a story of rags to riches and fame.

I am deeply disappointed that he returns to Willow this week (November 5-7, 2015) for a second Storyline Conference and also that Millennials continue to flock to him all the while the problem of Donald Miller continues to grow.

The Voice – Arrogance, Scripture Distortion, Subordinationism & Idolatry

Arrogance is not only the behavior of someone acting or believing he is smarter than he really is, or believing he is better than others. Christians have been desensitized to these reduced definitions of arrogance and easily brush them aside, as when they ignored the arrogance of Mark Driscoll. John Ortberg said it best, “When did arrogance cease to be immoral?”

The source of arrogance is very serious, it is found in idolatry. And that source is visible in Don’s theology. Below I present the details.

Most of us are familiar with the words in Matthew 28:18-20. These are the words of Jesus where he tells us of his authority and from that authority he proceeds to give the Great Commission to his followers.

18 … “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (NIV)

Donald Miller is a contributor of the New Testament translation The Voice. Notice the difference in this translation.

18…”I am here speaking with all the authority of God, who has commanded Me to give you this commission19 Go out and make disciples in all the nations. Ceremonially wash them through baptism in the name of the triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. 20 Then disciple them. Form them in the practices and postures that I have taught you, and show them how to follow the commands I have laid down for you. And I will be with you, day after day, to the end of the age.” (The Voice)

The Voice‘s Preface page defines the italic type as:

“words not directly tied to the dynamic translation of the original language. These words bring out the nuance of the original, assist in completing ideas, and often provide readers with information that would have been obvious to the original audience. These additions are meant to help the modern reader better understand the text without having to stop and read footnotes or a study guide.”

The Voice manipulates scripture and injects interpretation into its translation, which is a strict prohibition in the practice of faithful bible translation. Faithful bible translators avoid interjecting interpretation into the translation in order to provide the readers the opportunity to make the interpretations themselves. The excuse provided by The Voice for such biblical distortion is for the reader to “better understand the text.”

In addition to Donald Miller, other contributors to the voice include, Tremper Longman, Brian McLaren, Chuck Smith, Jr., Phyllis Tickle, among others. McLaren and Tickle are part of the Emergent movement. Smith is the son of Church Smith, Sr. who founded Calvary Chapel, which is a patriarchal denomination. Tremper Longman is professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. Longman at times partners with Dan Allender on writing and teaching projects, including co-teach the Intimate Mystery seminar, which is a patriarchal and gender-essentialist marriage seminar. When Allender taught this seminar at Willow Creek in January of 2012, one of many patriarchalists statement that Allender made was that “a man reveals more of the strength and righteousness of the heart of God than a woman.” Allender’s marriage resources are promoted at Willow Creek.

What is the biblical and theological distortion The Voice makes?

The Voice completely changes who Jesus is. In The Voice, Jesus is no longer one who has authority and who commands his disciples. Instead, God is the one who commandeers Jesus, and Jesus only teaches and shows his disciples. This distortion reflects the heresy of Subordinationism, which makes Jesus subordinate to the Father in eternity. The Voice also presents Jesus as one who holds no authority at all and is only a non-authoritative messenger from God.

To summarize, The Voice purposely makes a distorted translation and deviates from the original text in order to debase Jesus from his position of having all authority and turn him into someone who has no authority and is commandeered by the Father.

One need not be a biblical scholar to recognize the mistranslation that The Voice makes. Below is the text from Green’s The Interlinear Bible (2nd edition, 1986). The Greek text is omitted, only the English words are written for the pertinent section:

18…”was given me all authority in Heaven and upon earth…”

The original Greek and the NIV translation reflect Jesus having all authority in Heaven and on earth. An area of debate and misinterpretation from Subordinationists is in regards to the word “given”. I won’t address that subject in this article. The focus in this article is to show how The Voice demotes Jesus and strips him of all authority in Heaven and on earth by how it distorts the original scriptural text.

Humans have been in the practice of trying to demote Jesus from his position of having all authority since the days of Jesus. The chief priests and religious leaders of his day denied Jesus and his authority. Today, Subordinationists continue those efforts to demote Jesus. Additionally, there is a movement among the young-er generation (Millennials, Postmodern-ists, emerging, Emergent, etc. In an effort to not offend any particular group I will use the term “young-er”. No offence intended to the young-er generation, either.) to demote Jesus from all his authority. Don and The Voice are part of this young-er generation that deny the authority of Jesus.

The Voice is influenced by patriarchalists and gender-essentialists, which provides an explanation to the biblical distortion and injection of Subordinationism in its translation, they have manipulated scripture before. Subordinationism is birthed out of patriarchalism, but not all patriarchalists are subordinationists. I have written before about the [possible] infiltration of Subordinationism into Willow Creek. In that article I list the originators, promoters, and adherents of the heresy of Subordinationism including John Piper, Wayne Grudem, The Gospel Coalition, Southern Baptists and others. Many are affiliated with New Calvinism. New Calvinists do not embrace Donald Miller and his tribe (emerging/Emergent/Postmodern-ist/etc.) However, Subordinationism has managed to infiltrate into this tribe. The link is patriarchy. Patriarchy and Subordinationism exist in both tribes.

What do they do with this authority that they have stripped off from Jesus?

Don and his tribal members don’t necessarily give it to God, they take it for themselves. (New Calvinist do the same but we’re back to addressing Don and his tribe.) That’s what the chief priests and religious leaders did to Jesus. They wanted to keep authority to themselves and not have to submit to Jesus, that is why they denied him and set out to kill him. Similarly today with Subordinationists and some groups from the young-er generation.

Don gave a talk at The Justice Conference 2014. During the talk he said that “God” has given him “agency”, “the authority to do incredible things.” (time 17:40). Don, as a contributor to The Voice, denies Jesus having all authority—actually, having no authority, at all—and at the same time sees himself as the recipient of God’s authority. A few words and ideas come to mind: Chief priests, heresy, blasphemy, arrogance, denial of Jesus, Lucifer falling from grace…idolatry.

The context in which Don made the statement was that in knowing that he has God’s authority Don saw value in himself. So, he strips Jesus of his authority so he may feel better about himself. Also, so that men may feel better about themselves, since patriarchalists deny authority to women. Centralizing power on the men now has a psychotherapy excuse: to make men feel better about themselves. This is consistent with the patriarchalist viewpoints that men lead and women are the supportive assistants, that women step down so that men may step up, that women incessantly praise their men, privately and publicly…so the men may feel better about themselves.

The type of Subordinationism that Don ascribes to, based on the details presented above, is structured different than Papal authority. Roman Catholics are not Subordinationists, they recognize the full, “all”, authority of Jesus. Their error is to take the full authority of Jesus, which belongs to Jesus and only to Jesus, and place it upon the Pope and then have that authority trickle down the pyramid of patriarchal [male] leadership structure in the Roman Catholic Church. In contrast, Don and his Subordinationist comrades deny Jesus having full authority and at the same time they take on for themselves that authority.

Don has had ties to patriarchalists and Subordinationists, such as Focus on the Family, John Eldredge, and Dan Allender…to name a few aside from his colleagues from The Voice. Don met John Eldredge while they both worked for Focus on the Family. Don grew up without a father and made John his mentor and father-figure. John is the author of the book Wild at Heart, a patriarchal and gender-essentialist portrayal of the sexes that is degrading to women and girls. The patriarchal and Subordinationist elements in Don’s articles and speeches reflect his influencers, more on that further below.

Don has stated he is not an auditory learner, that he is not the type to sit down and listed to a sermon, that he is the type who learns by doing. That was his excuse for not attending a [traditional] church service.

Additionally, Don shows disdain toward academia and [biblical] scholars. In the article, Who Should Lead the Church? , published by Relevant Magazine, Don reduces scholars as the culprits for divisions in the church.

Don has set himself up to create a Christian faith as he goes. His main influencers are patriarchalists and Subordinationists. And, he has a list of excuses—which keeps getting longer—as to why he can’t listen or learn from others, including preachers and biblical scholars.

Patriarchy, Gender-Essentialism & The Defenders

In August of 2011, Don wrote two articles, one for the “girls” and one for the “guys” in typical Wild at Heart philosophy he learned from his mentor and father-figure, John Eldredge. The gender-essentialism degrading to women brought heat to Don, even from his friend Rachel Held Evans (RHE). Don offered a non-apology, which included excuses, and he took down the posts from his blog. Below are the links to the articles located on a different website:

How to live a Great Love Story, Vol 1 (For the Girls)

How to Live a Great Love Story Vol. II (For the Guys)

The Defenders

One of Don’s defenses was that he doesn’t believe that women should not lead. Yet, that is exactly what his posts reflect, that women [should] not lead. That teaching is consistent with the gender-essentialist philosophy of his patriarchal and Subordinationist influencers: that men lead and women respond (Eldredge). Patriarchalists believe women may lead other women and children, but not other men. When Don states that he doesn’t believe that women should not lead, that doesn’t mean that he believes that a woman may lead men—that is staunchly prohibited among patriarchalists, specifically in the spiritual sense, however they define spiritual sense, which varies among patriarchalists. From other sources, the way Don relates to his female and male colleagues and to his wife, based on the stories he tells, reflect the philosophy that men lead and women respond to the leadership of men, never the other way around. Unfortunately, his defenders prefer to believe his defenses and excuses above what Don is actually saying and reflecting.

RHE got Don off the hook too easily. Earlier this year, Tony Jones, another member of their tribe, made the news for spousal abuse and adultery. RHE remained silent about the matter and supported Tony. She received criticism as a hypocrite for not addressing patriarchy in Tony Jones’ case. RHE has removed her post supporting Tony but the post is still available on the internet. Twice already RHE has shown that she is lenient or prefers to look the other way when it comes to holding someone accountable in her own tribe.

Don has many defenders. When Don defended himself with excuses for not attending church, he stated, “most of the influential Christian leaders I know (who are not pastors) do not attend church.” A defender came to Don’s rescue via Scot McKnight with a blog on how difficult it is for famous people to attend church. Scot McKnight has in the past defended or remained silent in critiquing members of this tribe (Millennials, Postmodern-ists, emerging, Emergent, etc. …young-er generation). According to this defender via Scott, the difficulty of Don attending church is due to his celebrity status. Like I stated earlier, the list of excuses is getting longer and Don’s friends are helping add excuses to the list.

Bob Goff is another defender.

Don received heat for his uneven labeling between “girls” and “guys.” The term “girl” is a degrading term used against women and young adult females, sometimes it is used deceptively as a term of endearment. The men and young adult males are never referred to as “boys”. That would be too degrading, so they are referred to as “guys”. This uneven and degrading way to refer to women as “girls” was being practiced at Willow from the stage. Steve Carter, Willow’s Teaching Pastor, gave a highly disrespectful and degrading teaching on Miriam, portraying her as a dancing cheerleader and referred to her [dancing worship] accomplishments with, “and she was just a girl!”

Scripture refers to Miriam as “the prophet” and as one of the three leaders of Israel along with her brothers Aaron, “the priest”, and Moses. The name Miriam means “prophetess”, and if memory serves me, she is the first person in Israelite history and in the Old Testament to be referred to as “prophet”. Miriam is the predecessor for the tradition of prophets in the same way that Aaron is the predecessor for the tradition of priests in the newly formed nation of Israel (Old Testament history). Yet, Steve presented Miriam as a dancing cheerleader. Steve’s degradation and patronizing of Miriam’s leadership could not be more obvious. Eventually, Steve gave a corrective teaching on Miriam.

From that and other “girl” uses at Willow, a complaint was raised for the use of “girl” by the senior leaders at Willow. Subsequently, the term was prohibited from all of Willow’s public platforms. The patriarchal men at Willow responded to the prohibition of the use of the word “girl” for adult women by publicly referring to their wives as “girl”—within a term of endearment—on their social media pages. As if a gender degrading label is acceptable if used within a term of endearment.

Steve Carter, an elder, a few worship leaders, other senior leaders, and a few staff members took to social media to refer to their wives as “girl”. Their public and personal display against (a.k.a. rebellion) the “girl” prohibition at Willow r2 ojAigolftantrumeflects their level of immaturity and resistance to Willow’s efforts to rid Willow of patriarchal degradation of women. By the way, Steve Carter’s wife refers to him publicly as “guy”, while he refers to her as “girl”; that speaks volumes about their marital imbalance in stature. Such are many, not all, of our male leaders at Willow…the patriarchal ones.

1 - tantrum finger with roseCredit photo above:

Credit photo side:

The child’s flipped middle finger has been covered up by a red rose.

When Bob Goff came to Willow (4.19.2015) and to The Justice Conference (June 2015) earlier this year, he took the opportunity to support his patriarchal friends. In solidarity with them, Bob referred to his wife as “girl” (something he does often on social media) and to scold the women in the audience publicly. He didn’t scold the men publicly, that would be disrespectful toward the men. Bob practiced a typical patriarchal double standard of respect: men are to be respected, women…not really. Bob has defended Don specifically in other forums. Bob’s message from 4.19.15 at Willow is no longer available, Willow took it down. Thank you, Willow.

Racism, Donald Trump & Lack of Integrity

Don has been trying to infiltrate Willow for some time; he has fans at Willow. He’s given one or two talks at Willow and the Storyline Conference is taking place at Willow for the second year in a row. A few years ago Don went to Israel to learn about the peacemaking process that Willow is in engaged in. Following that trip in the summer of 2012, Don wrote a piece on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The article redirects the conversation away from a religious conflict to a racial conflict. “I would not say religious differences are the problem as much as many from each side seeing the other as beneath them in human value.” Unfortunately, the lessons he learned about the damages resulting from racism have been forgotten.

Don recently tried to give an objective opinion on Donald Trump’s “clear message” for his campaign for U.S. President. The only unreasonable aspect in Trump’s message that Don pointed out was Trump’s desire to deport millions of undocumented residents. Even though Don mentioned that clarifying a complicated idea should be done with “integrity”, he never once addressed Trump’s reductionist, enemy-creating, goat-scaping of Mexican immigrants when calling them drug dealers and rapists. Don was perplexed as to why Trump showed leniency toward Russia and noted Trump’s harshness toward China. Don is clearly not using the racial lens when analyzing Trump’s positions, if he even has that lens in his critical-thinking tool-box. Maybe he used the racial lens only once when writing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the purpose of impressing Willow.

Not calling out crucial information in what seems to be an objective analysis not only lacks integrity but is also deceptive. At the end of the video Don states that he would vote for Trump. That statement clarifies the omission of crucial information and errors in Trump’s ‘clear message’ and confirms that Don’s analysis of Trump’s ‘clear message’ is not objective. I have no choice but to interpret Don’s silence as concurrence with Trump’s racist views toward undocumented residents. Don teaches storytelling with his own version of ‘integrity’ to others, and he does so at Willow Creek. That’s what the Storyline Conference is set up to do this week.

I have mentioned before that I have been impressed by [the founders of Willow Creek] Bill and Lynne Hybels’ position for a compassionate and just resolution regarding undocumented residents. Their position does not include reducing undocumented residents to drug dealers and rapists. Nor does it include pinning the country against a select group by making that select group the enemy of our nation’s success. Hitler did that, and we all know what happened to millions of Jews, disabled, and anybody else Hitler didn’t like. Don has already revealed himself as an enemy-making polarizer within the church, when he reduced scholars as the culprits for the divisions of the church.

Final Thoughts

With the abundance of defenders and excuses to keep Don as a leader in this camp, the young-er generation is communicating to us their desperation over the lack of role-models with integrity. Must we wait for Don to commit plagiarism for us to come to grips with the problem of Donald Miller? (Despite Mark Driscoll’s biblical distortions, character flaws and sexual perversions, plagiarism is what finally gave people the wake-up call for the problem of Mark Driscoll.)

I won’t be attending the Storyline conference this week at Willow. If you attend, feel free to let us know if anything in this article is addressed. Frankly, I’ve had enough of Don’s defenders and excuses.


Subordinationism at Willow Creek

This article addresses the connection between the heresy of Subordinationism and Willow Creek Community Church.

What is Subordinationism?

Subordinationism is a contemporary heresy against the Christian theology of the Trinity. It is similar to the fourth century heresy of Arianism.

Arianism denies that Jesus Christ is God, either that he is not deity at all but a created being or that he is a lesser god. In both, Jesus Christ’s lower status is based on his subordination to God, or Father.

Subordinationism recognizes the equal deity status of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in essence or being but allocates subordination in function or role. The deceptive and ambiguous aspect of such differentiation is that essence and function are directly related. That is, if a person is subordinate in being then that person is also subordinate in role.

Early Christians rejected any form of subordination within the Trinity and recorded their assertion in the Athanasian Creed.

Most of us in the USA are familiar with the Segregationists’ motto, “separate but equal” that was used to justify segregation of colored people from whites in the South. In fact, most of us are aware of the deception of that motto:

separate but equal Elliot Erwitt North Carolina 1950Photo by Elliot Erwitt, North Carolina, 1950

The motto from the Subordinationists is similar and just as deceptive and ambiguous as the motto from the Segregationists, which is, “equal but different”. Wayne Grudem calls it, “ontological equality but economic subordination,” or equal in being but subordinate in role” (Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, Zondervan, 1994, pg. 251).

The origin of the heresy of Subordinationism is traced to George W. Knight, III, “This chain of subordination [between Father and Son in the Trinity] with its implications is apparently given to help with the objection which some would bring to the headship of man in reference to woman.” (see page 6/86, second paragraph of the article from his book, New Testament Teaching on the Role Relationship of Male and Female with Special Reference to the Teaching/Ruling Functions in the Church.)

This statement from Knight also gives clarity as to the reason why the heresy was created, which was to give biblical support for the subordination of woman to man and husband. In order for Patriarchalists to strengthen their position to make women subordinate to men they infused subordination into the Godhead and unintentionally created a heresy. Subordinationists deny that they created a heresy. Egalitarians have been calling out the heresy and even some Patriarchalists oppose it as well. Not all Patriarchalists are Subordinationists, but all Subordinationists are Patriarchalists.

Scripture contains references of Jesus Christ’s equality with God and also references of his human humiliation and submission. His humiliation and submission is viewed as voluntary and temporal, meaning only while he was on earth. However, Subordinationists extrapolate Jesus Christ’s voluntary and temporal submission into the realm of eternity and simultaneously change the relationship into a relationship between Father, the ruler, master and decision-maker, and Jesus Christ, the obedient and sometimes ignorant subordinate—all within the realm of eternity. And here is where the heresy lies: subordination of Jesus Christ in eternity. A term Subordinationists use to describe their position is, “Eternal Son”. Meaning, Jesus Christ has always been subordinate as the Son, not just temporally but also eternally.

The term “eternal Son” is meant to reflects the deity, unity, and equality of the Son to the Father, consistent with the Nicene and Athanasian creeds. Under this connotation, the Son is viewed as an equal extension, or begotten, of the Father, unlike and in contrast to a slave or hired help. However, Subordinationists take the implied secondary and subordinate connotation of sonship and apply it to the Son and carry that subordination into eternity. Simply put, the term “eternal Son” has been sabotaged by the Subordinationists. A term meant to reflect the deity, unity, and equality of Son to Father is being used by Subordinationists to make Son subordinate to Father in eternity. When Subordinationists infuse subordination into the term that acknowledges and provides understanding of the Son’s deity status then they are unknowingly undoing and attacking the deity status of the Son.

Proponents of Eternal Son in Eternal Subordination

Proponents of Subordinationism are distinguished by three common traits. One or more of these traits are usually found in their churches’ or organizations’ statements of faith. Sometimes Subordinationism is even found in their sermons, see example of Andy Stanley below. The combination of the three traits gives a clearer picture of Subordinationism. The three traits are not always found together, but the Subordinationists listed below are linked to all, or most, of the three traits.

The three traits of Subordinationism are:

Trait 1: Father is uniquely described with commandeering words such as “orders“, “disposes“, and/or “Ruler“, and his fatherhood is included within the Trinity, meaning he “Ruler“s and commands the other two persons of the Trinity. Correspondingly, Son’s obedience is described in eternity, not [just] temporally from eternity. Again, this term has been sabotaged by Subordinationists, a term meant to reflect the deity, unity, and equality of Son to Father is used by Subordinationists to apply subordination to Son in eternity. The term with the infused connotation of subordination becomes the venue thru which subordinationist traits 1 and 3 are applied to the Son in eternity. (John MacArthur, James MacDonald, The Gospel Coalition, Andy Stanley, Bryan Lorrits, Albert Tate)

Trait 2: Son is described as having been Son eternally, not [just] temporally. Subordinationists use the term “eternal Son” to reflect this claim. Subordinationists describe that Son was “begotten” within eternity. Again, this term has been sabotaged by Subordinationists, a term meant to reflect the deity, unity, and equality of Son to Father is used by Subordinationists to apply subordination to Son in eternity. The term with the infused connotation of subordination becomes the venue thru which subordinationist traits 1 and 3 are applied to the Son in eternity. (John Piper, John MacArthur, James MacDonald, The Gospel Coalition, Crawford Lorrits, Andy Stanley, Bryan Lorrits, Albert Tate)

Trait 3: Distinct” “office” or “function” is mentioned within the Trinity. This mention is in reference to the economic or functional difference or subordination in Grudem’s definition “ontological equality but economic subordination,” in other words, “equal in being but subordinate in role.” Note: Egalitarians subscribe to the distinction of the three “persons” of the Trinity consistent with traditional and orthodox Trinitarian theology. However, Subordinationists apply distinction to the “office” or “function” of the three persons of the Trinity for the purpose of ascribing subordination between the members of the Trinity. (John Piper’s former church Bethlehem Baptist Church, John MacArthur, James MacDonald, Crawford Lorrits, Andy Stanley, Bryan Lorrits, Albert Tate)

Trait 2, “eternal Son”, and trait 3, “distinct”, by themselves are not necessarily reflective of Subordinationism. However, the combination of all three traits are used to undergird Subordinationism. Combining all three traits among the members of the Trinity leads to the understanding that Father and Son are equal in being but different in function—specifically, that the Son is subordinate. That is, Father functions as ruler so he commands and directs the Son and the Son functions as the subordinate or helper and obeys and assists the Father in all eternity, not just in the temporal. The parallel between husband and wife, or man and woman, is that husband and wife are equal in being but different in function—specifically, that the wife is subordinate. That is, the husband functions as ruler so he commands and directs the wife and household and has ultimate decision-making authority and the wife functions as the subordinate or helper and obeys and assists the husband, perpetually. A similar relationship is applied to men and women in community.

The leading proponents of Subordinationism are listed below with links to references noting the subordinationist traits or defending or promoting their position of Subordinationism, Wayne Grudem and George W. Knight, III have already been mentioned above. Note that all, if not most, of these Subordinationists are linked to all three traits and the combination of the three traits gives the clearest picture of Subordinationism:

Wayne Grudem, Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

George W. Knight, Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, “The Subordination of Christ and the Subordination of Women” (founders and council members include: Wayne Grudem, John Piper, C.J. Mahaney, George W. Knight, III, Mary Kassian, Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, among others)

Southern Baptists, Albert Mohler, Mary Kassian: “gender equality with male headship”; SBC Voices: “The Eternal Subordination of the Son Is the Historic Doctrine of the Church.”

John MacArthur, Reexamining the Eternal Sonship of Christ (Trait 2, Trait 3)

John MacArthur’s church: Grace Church, What We Teach, (Trait 1)

John MacArthur’s college: The Master’s College, Doctrinal Statement, (Trait 1)

John Piper’s former church, Bethlehem Baptist Church: Congregational Affirmation of Faith (Trait 3)

John Piper’s ministry: Desiring God, Affirmation of Faith, (Trait 2)

John Piper’s college: Bethlehem College and Seminary, Affirmation of Faith, (Trait 2)

The Gospel Coalition: Confessional Statement, (Trait 1, Trait 2) (founders and council members include: John Piper, Timothy Keller, Don Carson from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois, Crawford Lorrits, Albert Mohler, among others)

Crawford Lorrits, Speaker at The Gospel Coalition and father of Bryan Lorrits, Fellowship Bible Church, Doctrinal Statement, (Trait 2, Trait 3)

James MacDonald, Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago, Illinois, Doctrinal Statement (Trait 1, Trait 2, Trait 3)

James MacDonald, Walk in the Word, Doctrinal Statement (Trait 1, Trait 2, Trait 3)

Many other Christian groups and denominations are adopting the eternal subordination of the Son, in the comment box below this article feel free to comment on groups you know who hold to Subordinationism. I look forward to your comments to find out who also is a proponent of the eternal subordination of the son.

Subordinationist Guest Speakers at Willow Creek

The following Subordinationists have spoken at Willow Creek Community church and/or Willow Creek Association’s Global Leadership Summit (GLS) in the last two years. The traits of Subordinationism are reflected in either their churches’ statements of faith or sermons.

Andy Stanley, North Point Church, What We Believe, (Trait 1, Trait 2)

Andy Stanley, 2013 GLS message, (Trait 1, Trait 2, Trait 3, from time 18:45 to 23:05)

Bryan Lorrits, Fellowship Memphis, What We Believe, (Trait 1, Trait 2, Trait 3, Bryan is son of Crawford Lorrits who is council member of The Gospel Coalition)

Albert Tate, Fellowship Monrovia, What We Believe, (Trait 1, Trait 2, Trait 3, statement of faith is identical to statement of faith of Bryan Lorrits’ church)

First Connection: Calling out Subordinationism

The first connection between Subordinationism and Willow Creek is Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian, Willow’s founding elder and an Egalitarian, who was the first person to recognize and oppose the heresy by writing against it. Bilezikian includes in his book, Beyond Sex Roles, the essay, “Hermeneutical Bungee-Jumping: Subordination in the Godhead.”

Bilezikian compares Subordinationism to the Arian Controversy, “an ontologically stratified, split-level Trinity leads him [Letham] straight into the trap of Arianism. In a vain attempt to rescue himself from this danger he gives lip service to the coequality of the members of the Trinity while, astoundingly, denying this equality in the same breath….The confusion is flagrant: “coequality” in the form of an “order of subsistence”—which means an ontologically structured hierarchy. It should be either equality and no hierarchy, or hierarchy and no equality.” (pg 8/64).

Additionally, Bilezikian states, “The Scriptures qualify his subjection in the following manner.

“Christ did not take upon himself the task of world redemption because he was number two in the Trinity and his boss told him to do so or because he was demoted to a subordinate rank so that he could accomplish a job that no one else wanted to touch. He volunteered his life out of sacrificial love. Being born in the likeness of man, he also took the form of a servant and as such became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Scripture describes this process in these words: “He humbled himself ” (Phil 2:8). He was not forced to become a servant; he was not compelled to be obedient; he was not dragged to his death against his will. The Bible puts it tersely: “He humbled himself.” Therefore it is much more appropriate, and theologically accurate, to speak of Christ’s self-humiliation rather than of his subordination. Nobody subordinated him, and he was originally subordinated to no one. He humbled himself

“A second qualification pertains to Christ’s humiliation. The Bible also teaches that the humiliation of the Son was an interim or temporary state. It was not, nor shall it be, an eternal condition. Christ’s humiliation was essentially a phase of ministry coincidental with the need of his creatures. From all eternity, and in the beginning, Christ was with God, and Christ was God, and he was in the form of God. He was equal with God, but the time came when he did not consider his equality with God a privilege to clutch as his own. Rather, he let go of it and took the form of a servant. It was something new for him. Being in the form of a servant was not an eternal condition. He took it up. He became obedient unto death. Prior to the incarnation there had been no need for him to be obedient since he was equal with God. But despite the fact that he had the dignity of sonship he learned obedience through what he suffered (Heb 5:8). Obedience was a new experience for him, something he had to learn. It was not an eternal state. When Christ came into the world he said, “Behold, I have come to do your will, O God” (10:5, 7).

“The frame of reference for every term that is found in Scripture to describe Christ’s humiliation pertains to his ministry and not to his eternal state.” (pages 3-4/59-60)

Subordinationism was birthed and is propagated among Patriarchalists and Egalitarians have been the leading opponents in order to preserve historical Trinitarian theology within evangelicalism. Kevin Giles is also an Egalitarian and currently the leading scholar debating and correcting Subordinationists’ claims. Even thought Subordinationists, such as Grudem, claim equality in essence in the Godhead, Giles points out in “The Eternal Subordination of the Son of God and the Permanent Subordination of Women” that, “The problem arises with the word “eternal.” If the Son is eternally subordinated to the Father, and cannot be otherwise, then he does not just function subordinately, he is the subordinated Son. His subordination defines his person or being. Eternal functional subordination implies by necessity ontological subordination. Blustering denials cannot avoid this fact.”

The eternal subordination of the Son is considered heretical in that it changes Christian understating of the Trinity and dismantles the Christian understanding of the process of reconciliation and redemption. In other words, the understanding and process of salvation thru the saving work of Christ is altered and dismantled by Subordinationists.

Grudem’s and Subordinationists’ claim of the eternal subordination of the Son is widely popular in the US and other parts of the world and has “taken over the more conservative side of evangelicalism” (Giles). However, many Christians around the world are baffled as to why a group of evangelicals in the USA are tampering with the Trinity.

According to Giles, “The issue is not really the Trinity at all. What has generated this novel and dangerous doctrine of the Trinity is “a great cause,” the permanent subordination of women. For some evangelicals “the woman question” is the apocalyptic battle of our age. They are convinced that the Bible gives “headship” (“leadership,” in plain speak) to men. If this principle were abandoned because of cultural change the authority of the Bible would be overthrown and the door would be opened to homosexual marriages, the ordination of practicing homosexuals, and believe it or not, the obliteration of sexual differentiation. To bolster support for this “great cause” the doctrine of the Trinity has been redefined and reworded to give the weightiest theological support possible to the permanent subordination of women. Every evangelical who has written in support of the eternal subordination of the Son is committed to the permanent subordination of women in the church and the home. This agenda is what drives them to advocate the eternal subordination of the Son.”

Second Connection: Subordinationists Speaking at Willow Creek

In the last few years several Subordinationists have spoken at Willow Creek Association’s (WCA) Global Leadership Summit (GLS) such as Andy Stanley, Bryan Lorrits, and Albert Tate who is scheduled to speak at the 2015 GLS. A Modalist spoke at the 2010 GLS, T. D. Jakes, The Potter’s House, Belief Statement. Modalism is also a heresy that denies the traditional and orthodox theology of the Trinity.

Technically, WCA is not a church but it is associated with Willow Creek Community Church and serves primarily Christian churches around the world. So its non-church status is not an acceptable explanation for its frequent invitation of heretical Christian preachers. Andy Stanley, at the 2013 GLS, gave a horrific portrayal of Subordinationism. In short, he portrayed Jesus Christ, in the realm of eternity after his Ascension, as an ignorant son who needed Father to correct his mistakes and shortfalls when selecting the “guys,” that is men, not women, to establish the church. (from time 18:45 to 23:05). Stanley’s subordinationist portrayal has been one of the most demeaning and degrading and heretical portrayals of Jesus Christ known in evangelicalism. And this heretical portrayal of Jesus Christ took place on the stage of Willow Creek Community Church where the GLS takes place.

Subordinationist guest preachers are moving from the GLS into Willow Creek Community Church. Albert Tate is scheduled to speak at the 2015 GLS and he recently spoke at the church, Willow Creek Midweek message, March 25, 2015. Tate gave a horrific portrayal of the Samaritan woman, describing and mocking her as a woman who had a “ministry for men” and as a “lady of the night.” Equally disturbing, the audience of Willow Creek Community Church laughed at his degrading jokes. Tate on a few occasions mentioned the importance of cultural context for understanding the passage, specifically regarding the relationship between Jews and Samaritans. Yet, he reflected ignorance on the cultural context of women in patriarchal communities and the effects of patriarchy on women and their livelihood. Tate portrayed the Samaritan woman from the typical patriarchal perspective as a “prostitute,” and completely ignored the cultural context that made her a subordinate and sexual subject in a patriarchal community. The Samaritan woman had one of the longest theological conversations with Jesus recorded in Scripture. She reflected theological knowledge and she was a witness and preacher of the gospel—which is the highest calling given to believers. But to Tate, she was just a prostitute to mock.

The Willow Creek audience showed lack of understating for the severity of Tate’s message and portrayal of the Samaritan woman. This observation points to the need for Willow’s leaders to take on the responsibility of discernment and prudence in whom they invite as guest speakers.

Steve Carter, Teaching Pastor, is the overseer of the Midweek bible study at Willow Creek South Barrington campus. Due to the recent history of Patriarchal and Subordinationist (heretical) guest speakers at Midweek, Steve is not aware of the problem of Subordinationism and its implications, doesn’t view Subordinationists as threats to sound doctrine and biblical community, and/or he agrees with Patriarchalists and Subordinationists (heretics). In the past I have written articles in this blog detailing Steve’s patriarchal tendencies, see “Steve Carter and Patriarchal Gender Essentialism at Willow Creek“, and also “The Great Compromise – Is Willow Creek Community Church Still Egalitarian?” Steve, in the recent past, has made degrading statements about women in the form of patronization. In the three years that he has been overseer of Midweek he has not invited any female preachers or teachers, neither female outside guests or female leaders and church members from within Willow Creek. If Willow Creek’s Teaching Pastor, Steve Carter, who is second only to Bill Hybels in theological oversight and the one who most likely will take on the senior pastorate when Bill retires, is a Patriarchalist and sympathetic to Subordinationists, then Willow Creek is not only compromising with Patriarchalists but is also compromising with Subordinationists.

Third Connection: Willow’s Statement of Faith

The third connection to consider between Subordinationism and Willow Creek is the church’s statement of faith, Willow Creek Community Church: What Willow Believes: Our Core Beliefs. The statement of faith contains one sentence that is similar to one of the traits of Subordinationism, which is the use of the term “eternal Son” (Trait 2). This is what Willow’s statement of faith contains:

God: “We believe there is one true, holy God, eternally existing in three equal persons—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit….”

Jesus Christ: “Jesus Christ, the eternal second person of the Trinity, was fully united with a human nature by a miraculous conception and virgin birth. He lived in perfect obedience to the Father, voluntarily paid the price for the sins of all people by dying on the cross as their substitute….”

The Christian Life (The Holy Spirit): “People in a saving relationship with Jesus Christ are to live in holiness and obedience as they submit to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity….”

Instead of stating “eternal Son”, the term has been changed to “eternal second person.” An important distinction, maybe, but an unnecessary and redundant mention since the eternity of the three persons is already mentioned in an earlier paragraph. Why the redundancy? Under the paragraph of the Holy Spirit there is no redundancy of the Spirit’s eternal nature. So why the redundancy and similarity to the term “eternal Son” under the section of “Jesus Christ” which is a trait of Subordinationists? Again, the term has been sabotaged by Subordinationists, “eternal Son” is meant to reflect Son’s deity, unity, and equality with Father, but to Subordinationists this term contains the connotation of subordination of Son in eternity.

References to Father, Son and Holy Spirit as first, second, and third person have traditionally not contained a hierarchical connotation. In light of the redundancy of the term “eternal” applied to the “second person” in Willow’s statement of faith, does Willow Creek ascribe a hierarchy or secondary connotation or role, specifically in eternity, to Jesus Christ?

Is Willow Creek trying to appeal to and compromise with Subordinationists without completely giving in to the term and theology of “eternal Son”? Has Willow Creek given into Subordinationism and is including its own subordinationist language into their statement of faith with the term “eternal second person”?

Now What?

Willow has already made known to be willing to compromise with Patriarchalists by having a male-only core leadership to have doctrinal and theological oversight of the church, see my article, “The Great Compromise.” As mentioned above, Willow Creek is inviting Subordinationists to speak at both GLS and the church and seems to be willing to be open to Subordinationism with the redundant and unnecessary [and possibly hierarchical] term “eternal second person”. Maybe, Willow Creek has already given into Subordinationism?

Willow Creek has Patriarchalists among our church members, staff, and senior leadership. From those Patriarchalists, we have church members who clearly articulate Subordinationism by quoting Grudem’s “ontological equality but economic subordination” as part of their Trinitarian theology. Our senior leadership is sympathetic to Subordinationists as reflected by the consistent invitation of Subordinationists to the GLS and now also to the church. Who among the Patriarchalists at Willow who are in senior leadership are also Subordinationists?

To what extent is Willow Creek Community Church willing to appeal to and compromise with Subordinationists and how will that appeal and compromise affect Willow’s leadership, staff, community, evangelism, doctrine, and theology?

Recently, an egalitarian at Willow described the Son as “submissive” to the Father in eternity. Submission and obedience are not synonymous. But, they do overlap and Patriarchalists and Subordinationists do not distinguish between the two terms. I strongly advise fellow egalitarians to guard themselves from being dragged by the Subordinationists in conversation to describe or delineate the submission of Son in eternity. Discussion about the submission of the Son in eternity is dangerous talk because to Patriarchalists and Subordinationists submission is equivalent to obedience….and obedience of Son in eternity is the heresy of Subordinationism. Instead, I urge egalitarians to remain anchored to the heart and purpose found in the early Christian creeds (Nicene and Athanasian) which is to emphasize the deity, unity, and equality of the Tri-une God.

no dogs negros mexicans   no women 2

Update: August 10, 2015: Added clarifying statements on the term “eternal Son” and how it is used by Subordinationists to carry subordination of Son into eternally. Added examples of Subordinationism found at Willow Creek.