The first half of this post is about Math and the Trinity. Don't quit reading! Near the bottom, it's all about Jesus Christ and His Father. Wait for it...
In Mathematics, "equal" means "exactly the same as". Strictly speaking, no two things (or persons) on the earth are equal because they would have to be exactly the same. One. Not two. Down to the last physical atom and neural pathway, I am precisely and absolutely the same as no one else, except for me. Even if I had an "identical" twin, we would be different in many ways. Two. Not one.
In total contrast, however, numbers can actually be "equal". Two plus Two actually does equal Four, because numbers are abstract. There are not two "fours". Two plus Two is just another way to think about what is - actually - "four". If you didn't get that, here's two more simple examples...
Fourth Graders learn that "point-five equals one-half". Those don't look the same, but they are. Tenth Graders learn that two angles can be "congruent" (same shape and size) but not "equal". While the measurements of two angles might be equal in degrees, we cannot ever say two angles are "equal". They are two angles. Not one. They are not absolutely the same. (Not even in the Euclidean plane.)
However, God in his spiritual realm breaks all of these rules. He is One. He is Three. All of our earthly experience says this ought to be incomprehensible. And it is... if we'll only admit it!
Officially, I’ll stand with those who say Augustine got as close as any human being is likely to get on understanding the Trinity. Actually, that’s probably true. Pragmatically, I’ll stand with people like Suzanne McCarthy and Frank Viola (both “laymen” like me, who also happen to stand with Augustine) who say the nature of the Godhead does NOT justify male domination of women OR ministerial hierarchy over the church. (That’s what my heart says, too.) But that’s not the point of this post.
Since Nicaea, and on through today, people have debated HOW God and Jesus are "equal". Equal in substance. Equal in essence. Of one being and substance. Begotten not made. I've never studied Augustine, but any time I see someone writing about the Trinity a part of me just checks out. You can't nuance precisely what no human being can comprehend. You can't explain how they are equal. You simply cannot wriggle around or away from the implicit impossibility of the word "equal" itself.
Only two New Testament passages use this word [in English] about Jesus and God. Neither man tried to explain. John tells us: He said that God was his Father, making himself equal with God. It doesn't say HOW they were equal. Just that they were. Two. Yet one. It doesn't say "kind of the same". The Jerusalem Jews didn't try to kill him because he was arguing homoousion versus homoiousion. Equality in essence or being was not his crime. It was simple equality.
Now consider Paul’s tumultuous saga of the Godhead's equality in Philippians 2. Jesus Christ, in the form of God, had equality with God, but lowered himself to live as a man and die, in obedience. Then God raised Him up with a name that is higher than any other name. (Did you catch all that?)
Jesus Christ was equal to God. He became lower. He followed in subjection. Then the Father raised him. At the end, Jesus Christ had a name higher than all other names. Higher than Yahweh. Higher than Jehovah. Higher than Adonai. Equal. Lower. Still Equal. Higher. Yet still giving up all the Glory. Yet still Equal. Two. Yet One. Utterly Incomprehensible.
So throw out your hierarchies and anti-hierarchies. Admit you're as bad as I am at living up to Philippians 2. Pray that some of us can remember in living and active ways that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. And most of all, pray for a people who remembers that simple fact as a group, together! If we find such a people, they may only shrug and say, Glory to God!
Such a body would be just like Him who cannot have an Equal. Incomprehensible!
Glory to God.
**For a more academic conclusion, here's one last bit of Math. It's common for many Fourth Grade Teachers to teach that "anything divided by zero equals infinity". Actually, that's false. "Infinity" is a concept. It's just an idea. Valueless and limitless, "Infinity" cannot "equal" anything. So Ninth Grade Teachers teach that "anything divided by zero gives an answer that is undefined". So Ninth Graders learn to write down that the answer is actually "Undefined".
Remember that, all you who seek to define the undefinable. Limitless in every aspect, Equal to no one but Himself, God breaks all rules of human thought. Academically, does Jesus = God? Scholars venture to say yes, then they glide into "yes-and-no". There's a beautiful dance, if you look with your spirit, but with your brain it's truly incomprehensible. Therefore, once again, see my first conclusion, above the asterisks.