eternal subordination in Barth

Many complementarians ground their belief in male headship in the authority-submission structure of the Trinity.  As Paul writes, “the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3).  A growing number of egalitarians (e.g., Kevin Giles, Scot McKnight) accuse these complementarians of pushing some novel view which borders on Arianism.  They suggest that if the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father in any way—even if it is only in role or function—then the Son must be inferior to the Father—in an important way less than God, which cashes out as Arianism.  Even Millard Erickson, in his newly released Who’s Tampering with the Trinity?, alleges that these complementarians have started down the wrong road which may end badly.

I have never understood this claim.  If the Son is subordinate to the Father during his time on earth (which everyone admits), then why in principle could he not be eternally subordinate?  Why can’t the Son-Father relationship which we see in time be a reflection of the Son-Father relationship in eternity?  Doesn’t Paul say that in the eternal future that “the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all”? (1 Cor. 15:28).  If subordination exists in eternity future, then why not in eternity past?  Besides, Arius taught that the Son was a creature, less than God in his being, and no complementarian is saying that.

With that as background, last week my Barth class came upon his argument for the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father.  Understand that Barth has issues of his own when it comes to the Trinity—he is reasonably accused of modalism and he clearly denies the logos asarkos—but the presence of an eternal subordination in his writings at least proves that this view was not invented by evangelicals desperate to ground their belief in male headship.

Here is Barth’s argument:

1. Jesus is subordinate to the Father in the economic Trinity (the revealed Trinity).

2. There is no difference between the economic and immanent Trinity (the hidden, transcendent Trinity).  Barth says this because any distinction between the immanent and economic Trinity would separate God himself from his revelation and open the door to the possibility of natural theology, which Barth hates more than anything.  If God differs from his revelation, then we might be tempted to do an end around his revelation and attempt to know God in some other, natural way.

3.  So Barth reads the Son’s subordination to the Father in the economic Trinity straight into the immanent Trinity.  Barth says that we should not be surprised to learn that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father, because God is humble.  A humble Son does not fight about rights but gladly submits to his Father’s will.

Here is what Barth says (Church Dogmatics IV/1, p. 200-2):

“Is it a fact that in relation to Jesus Christ we can speak of an obedience of the one true God Himself in His proper being?  …We have…to affirm and understand as essential to the being of God the offensive fact that there is in God Himself an above and a below, a prius and a posterius, a superiority and a subordination.  And our present concern is with what is apparently the most offensive fact of all, that there is a below, a posterius, a subordination, that it belongs to the inner life of God that there should take place within it obedience.”

“…It cannot be explained away either as an event in some higher or supreme creaturely sphere or as a mere appearance of God.  Therefore we have to state firmly that, far from preventing this possibility, His divine unity consists in the fact that in Himself He is both One who is obeyed and Another who obeys.”

“…The second idea we have to abandon is that—even supposing we have corrected that unsatisfactory conception of unity—there is necessarily something unworthy of God and incompatible with His being as God in supposing that there is in God a first and a second, an above and a below, since this includes a gradation, a degradation and an inferiority in God, which if conceded excludes the homoousia of the different modes of divine being.  That all sounds very illuminating.  But is it not an all too human—and therefore not a genuinely human—way of thinking?  For what is the measure by which it measures and judges?  Has there really to be something mean in God for Him to be the second, below?  Does subordination in God necessarily involve an inferiority, and therefore a deprivation, a lack?  Why not rather a particular being in the glory of the one equal Godhead, in whose inner order there is also, in fact, this dimension, the direction downwards, which has its own dignity?  Why should not our way of finding a lesser dignity and significance in what takes the second and subordinate place (the wife to her husband) need to be corrected in the light of the homoousia of the modes of divine being?”

“As we look at Jesus Christ we cannot avoid the astounding conclusion of a divine obedience.  Therefore we have to draw the no less astounding deduction that in equal Godhead the one God is, in fact, the One and also Another, that He is indeed a First and a Second, One who rules and commands in majesty and One who obeys in humility.  The one God is both the one and the other.”

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  1. Thanks for this post – intriguing reading! I’m co-leading Barbara Mouser’s Five Aspects of Woman at the moment, and this is very applicable. Thanks for sharing.

  2. “Does subordination in God necessarily involve an inferiority, and therefore a deprivation, a lack?”

    Absolutely not, as Barth points out. As the one who loves in freedom, God, in his Triune nature, is free to lovingly submit to himself without disrupting the equality of the three persons. Jesus, who is eternally begotten of the Father, can also be eternally submissive to the Father as an act of love and unity within the Godhead, which is, I think, the basis for the wife to submit to her husband. It is not a statement of ontological disparity, but rather it is an act of love and unity. And just like the Father glorifies the Son for his submission, the husband honors his wife as a cherished gift from God (Proverbs 31, anyone? And doesn’t Peter have something to say about this, too? And isn’t that the point of Gen 2, that God creates woman to make man whole?) Thus, the mystery of the eternal submission and service among the three persons of the Godhead is the true image of love, the model for marriage, family, and the commandment to love your neighbor as yourself. If you lose this mystery, you lose the biblical model of love, which strips the Gospel of its power.

  3. Mike,

    It seems to me you raise some excellent points, and I’m hopeful that egalitarian theologians and thinkers will reply (or direct us to possible replies already written in their works).

    Doug

  4. Is it proper to speak of God the Son’s “obedience” prior to his Incarnation? In other words, Jesus’ obedience is tied necessarily to a Jesus qua man, not ontologically to a Jesus qua God.
    Just thinking…

  5. Paul:

    Why would you limit obedience to the humanity of Jesus? Is there something about being a divine person that prevents one from obedience? I hope not, because then Jesus would not have obeyed during his incarnation either, as he was still a divine person then.

  6. I really don’t know enough about Rahner, I need to read a good explanation of his whole discussion of “being” and natural theology….

    Nevertheless, do you know if his own adherence to natural theology and his own rule prevented him from making the same conclusions as Barth does here? Is the issue really about the analogia entis? It would be ironic, considering egalitarian accusations against men like Ware of reading into the Trinity.

  7. Mike:
    Thanks for the prodding here. I wonder, do we have instances in Scripture where Jesus qua God the Son obeyed prior to the Incarnation? Or is this imported from our theological presuppositions? Clearly there are examples of Christ obeying as Jesus qua man, but do we have some examples in Holy Writ to substantiate that Jesus qua God “obeyed” or “subordinated” himself to the Father?

    Also, were Calvin, Berkhof, Edwards eternal subordinationists? I’m thinking Kevin Giles’ contribution “The Subordination of Christ and the Subordination of Women” has much to commend to us. While Giles may “overstate” his case (see here, his findings are not to be ignored altogether.

    P.S. Don’t mean to answer your question with more questions, nor am I merely shifting the burden. Really do want to know. I started reading Steve Cowan’s The Metaphysics of Subordination: A Response to Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, but got sidetracked.

  8. Paul:

    Your question hinges on the relationship between the economic (revealed) and immanent (concealed) Trinity. And since no one has access to the immanent Trinity, no one can say for sure whether the subordination we see in the economic Trinity should be read into the immanent Trinity. But I don’t see in principle why not, and 1 Cor. 11:3 and 15:28 give biblical support for this.

    I would challenge your statement “Christ obeying as Jesus qua man.” It’s not exactly your fault, as there is no simple way to say it right, but we’re not allowed to separate the two natures of Christ, saying now he acted as a man and now he is behaving as God. The divine person of the Son is the subject of everything he did as man, so we must not artificially divide these activities.

    Regarding Calvin, Berkhof, and Edwards, I believe that the precise question which we are asking wasn’t addressed in their day. As Erickson demonstrates, there are tantalizing comments in the tradition, but we can’t make a clear case either way since they weren’t commenting on our question.

  9. Thanks, Mike. Appreciate your thoughts here and will invest more thought of my own. Understand your admonition here about the two natures of Christ and absolutely agree that “the divine person of the Son is the subject of everything he did,” or in Chalcedon’s terms “the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union.” Yet, one person, two natures = orthodoxy. Nevertheless, I will look more closely at 1 Cor 11:3 particularly and see if it supports an ontological subordination, which is the crux it seems.

    As for the Son obeying the Father: If by “obey” we mean the will of the Son is perfectly aligned with the will of the Father throughout all eternity, then I see no difficulty. But if by “obey” we mean some notion of the Father being in authority over the Son prior to the Incarnation, then I struggle.

    Just thinking….again.

  10. Paul:

    Have you also considered the hymn in Philippians 2? It seems there that the Incarnation itself is an act of obedience to the Father. If that is true, then the “decision” to be become Incarnate, and hence the acquiescense to the Father, is logically (if not temporally, since God is outside of time), prior to the actual act. Plus, I think the biblical (and creedal) language of begottenness in relation to the Son (and the designation of “Son” itself) necessitates an eternal subordination unless you are willing to argue for a change within the Godhead. As you and Mike have already indicated, we can’t prooftext the Trinity or aspects of God qua God, but I think we can deduce from the biblical narrative that the economic subordination is indicative of the true relationship within the immanent Trinity. If we divorce the two, we run the risk of falling into some form of process or open theology, making God malleable and/or temporal.

    That being said, I always try to keep in mind, when pondering these heavy theological questions, that the secret things belong to the Lord, but the things he has revealed belong to us and our children. In that sense, I humbly hope that my thoughts are of benefit to you, just as your questions have benefitted me by causing me to contemplate my own position.

  11. PS – Mike, I am incredibly jealous of your Barth class today – covering IV/1 paragraph 59. I missed your presentation on this 2 years ago because you were in San Diego, and I’ve always wanted to hear you present on the judge judged in our place. I know I didn’t do justice to your chiasm on judge and judged. Darn, I miss all the good stuff!

  12. Jonathan:
    Thanks for chiming in. The move you make with Phil 2 works only if God is atemporal. The jury’s still out for me on that one. So, chronologically speaking a “decision” was rendered to become Incarnate prior to the actual Incarnation. I get that. But I see no reason to make it chronologically necessary for the decision to be rendered “before” any event, given that God’s knowledge and decrees are within his cognition without respect to time.

    As for the economic vs immanent Trinity, I understand Mike and you, Jonathan, to be saying that there is no ontological distinction between the members of the Godhead with respect to their being and intra-personal relations. Thus, there is no ontological inferiority. However, in the economic Trinity, being the three Person’s relationship to their work in the world, there is a functional subordination. Scripture shows clearly there are distinct roles among the members (e.g., the Son is the world’s Savior, the Spirit the Scripture’s inspirer). A kind of functional subordination does come into play in the economic Trinity, but this in no way suggests that a functional subordination occurred or was going on prior to creation. Yet, the assertion is that it did/does, hence “eternal subordination.” And yet I do not find compelling evidence to show the Son has “eternally” subordinated himself to the Father, but only temporarily during the Incarnation until the resurrected state. Where’s the evidence of an “eternal subordination?”

    As for 1 Cor 11:3, I don’t see evidence for “eternal” subordination. Instead, I see temporal subordination. The weight of the pericope shows Paul admonishing the Corinthian believers to exercise restraint and exemplify some order. Thus, Paul can appeal to a functional subordination of Christ to God as an example of restraint during his Incarnation. Just as what females put on their heads (or males take off = hair) in public is a sign of submission (veil/covering for women), so too Christ put on human flesh (I hear echos of Phil 2 that Paul may be importing from the hymn) as a sign of his temporary submission to God the Father. [Incidentally, I’m unconvinced that all arguments removing all notions of “authority” from kephale are successful.]

  13. Paul:

    I think the key here is your statement that you are undecided whether God is atemporal. If God is “in” time, then a temporary subordination is possible and probably necessary. As I noted, though, and I’m sure you are aware, this skirts issues of process and open theism, but I’ll leave that to your own theological development to work out. As you can tell, Mike and I both side with the traditional view of God as atemporal.

    From your summary, I think you are getting our points fairly well (I might take issue with your statement that there is no “ontological distinction” in the “intra-personal relationships” – I would need you to clarify that a bit more), and I appreciate how seriously you are struggling with these questions. I wrestled with these same issues when I took a seminar on the doctrine of the Trinity. I think these are important questions and I am thankful for the opportunity to engage in an intelligent, nuanced discussion on this topic.

    From an exegetical standpoint, I appreciate the points you are making about 1 Cor and Phil, since Paul is obviously not trying to make a theological statement on the Trinity in these passages. But when we read these passages in light of Paul’s usual references to God as both “the God and Father of Jesus Christ” (Eph 1:3), I think we are justified in reading a deeper meaning into these texts, the sensus plenior that theologians love so much. However, I realize that this argument works for the immanent Trinity only if one believes God is atemporal.

    So far as I can tell from your statements, I think you are in line with the Latin tradition on the Trinity, which stressed the economic Trinity. Mike can correct me here if I am wrong, but I think Tertullian and many of the other Latin Fathers (before Augustine) would be comfortable with your position, even if they wouldn’t outright endorse it. I think you might also find support for your thoughts in the social Trinitarianism that Neil Plantinga developed, so you are in good company with your current thoughts.

  14. Thanks, Jonathan, for your thoughtful responses.
    For the record: open/process theism(ology) is anathema! No working out here for me to do. I’m thorough-going traditional, historic, orthodox, classic (fill in more appositives if you like) Christian theist.

  15. There was a series of papers on this at ETS last week. Rather than comment on this thread, I will refer you to my paper, which raises some problems for you to consider. You can access it here: http://www.myatts.net/papers/
    Just download the first paper in the list.

    Thanks.

  16. Dr. Myatt,
    Welcome to the discussion and thank you for sharing your paper. I’d like to push back on a few points, if I may.
    1) I fail to see why functional subordination and ontological equality are mutually exclusive. In the scenario you describe, where the attributes of “Fatherness” and “Sonness” affect the unity of the essence, it seems that this is an ontological subordination and not a relational subordination as imaged in the Trinity and modeled by humanity. It is the relationship of “Fatherness” and “Sonness” that eternally distinguishes between the two in the Trinity, according to the Athanasian Creed; why can two equal beings not enjoy an eternal relationship of subordination?
    2) You reject the analogy of a child being subordinate to a parent based on the temporary legal and social definitions of childhood, but I think this misses the point. The commandment to honor our parents is not tied to a social classification based on contemporary legal rights. Rather, the subordination is based on the perpetual relationship of a parent over child. This subordination, biblically speaking, does not terminate when one reaches majority (whatever age that is according to the culture) but is tied to the unchanging familial relationship, which seems to be ordained by God as an analogy of the Trinity.
    3) You critique complementarians for appealing to bare Scripture as sufficient proof for their position without demonstrating the necessity or logical coherence of their position. What else can we do, when discussing the Trinity, but to take God’s Word at face value? The very concept of a triune being is an offense to reason; why should our explanation of it be any less offensive?
    4) I struggle to see how your position is not repackaged modalism. If, as you suggest, the attributes of “Sonness” and “Fatherness” disrupt the unity of the essence of God and therefore cannot be eternal and real distinctions within the Godhead, how then do we differentiate the three persons? Is the Trinity something that God affects for redemptive purposes but is not truly indicative of who he is per se? If God is truly Triune, what then is the relationship between the economic Trinity and the immanent Trinity?
    Perhaps, though, we are speaking at cross purposes. You make several good points about the necessity of a logically cohesive worldview, but I do not believe that complementarians and egalitarians are operating from a shared worldview. Both sides seem to be arguing for what they see as the clear, consistent, and cohesive interpretation of Scripture, but these views are based on different hermeneutical and philosophical presuppositions. Complementarians seem to be arguing from the actuality of the Trinity to the analogy of human relationships, whereas egalitarians seem to be moving from the analogy of human relationships to understanding the mystery of the Trinity. This divergence of viewpoint is as old as the debate on the Trinity itself, which further complicates the issue since both sides can appeal to respected authorities to defend their positions. Until we can settle these undergirding assumptions, it seems like we will continue to go in circles on this issue.

    Again, thank you for sharing your paper with us. As I previously discussed on this post, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to debate this issue with other believers. As rock sharpens rock….

  17. In this dialogue of rock and rock, I am but a poor pair of scissors…

    But I sure am enjoying the dialogue. I wish a fun and peaceful Thanksgiving time to everyone here.

  18. Thanks for alerting me to your paper, Alan. I look forward to reading it. I pulled a George W. Bush and skipped New Orleans, but I’m already regretting it!

  19. Jonathan:
    I read Alan’s paper and found it intriguing and well reasoned. I especially appreciated that he interacted with Cowan’s response to Rebecca Groothuis.

    As for your points, allow me a moment.

    Re: 1) you say that functional subordination and ontological equality are not mutually exclusive. What is the function of functional subordination? What purpose, outside the Incarnation, does subordination serve? Moreover, if the Son is subordinate to the Father, then does this make the Spirit subordinate to the Son? Is the Spirit then super-subordinate to the Father? To argue for the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father begs the question of the Spirit’s status and I think it unwise to go in that direction.

    Re: 2) You speak of “the perpetual relationship of a parent over child” and the “unchanging familial relationship,” but how can this be reconciled with Mark 12:25? If there is no marriage in heaven, then the husband/wife or parent/child relationship is necessarily temporal.

    Re: 3) “The very concept of a triune being is an offense to reason; why should our explanation of it be any less offensive?” Unless I misunderstand you, you’re saying that since the Trinity is an offense to reason, then so is complementarianism. Did I hear you rightly? One incoherent notion justifies another! Good grief! I would never argue that historic, biblical Christianity maintains the Trinity is an offense to reason (a.k.a. incoherent). Contradictions and incoherencies are offenses to reason; complexities and subcontraries are not.

    I’ll leave Alan to speak to your 4), if not all of your points.

  20. Paul:

    In response to 1) Anselm argued that it was the eternal subordination of the Son – the quality of Sonness – that made it fitting for the Logos to become Incarnate, so the Incarnation is actually a function of the subordination, not the other way around. In other words, the subordination of the Son logically preceded the Incarnation. This idea was developed even further by our Greek-speaking brothers, who believed that the Incarnation was a necessary component of Creation from the very beginning, so that the Son was eternally destined to be Incarnate to perfect the fellowship between God and man, even if Adam and Eve had not sinned. As to the role of the Spirit, it seems that Scripture is quite clear that the Spirit is subordinate to the Father, and (depending on whether you speak Greek or Latin) also subordinate to the Son. These questions have already been addressed at some length by the Creeds and Fathers, particularly the Cappodecians and Augustine.

    In response to 2) I would direct you to Mike’s first book and point out that Heaven is not the end of the story. Beyond that, though, the fact that there will not be marriage in heaven does not negate the familial relationships of persons from their “earthly” lives. Your argument, if taken to its conclusion, would mean that if my parents ceased to be married (say got a divorce or one of them died) they would no longer be my parents. That would have some interesting social and legal ramifications, don’t you think?

    In response to 3) there are plenty enough examples from science of things that logically don’t make sense yet are demonstrably true. For example, the fact that light waves have properties of both energy and matter boggles the mind yet has been demonstrated in experiment after experiment. Therefore, logically offensive does not necessarily mean incoherent, as you suggest. As to whether historic Christianity would consider the Trinity an offense to reason, I’d recommend that you read, well, virtually any pre-Reformation writer on the Trinity, especially as knowledge of the Trinity relates to natural revelation. The doctrine of the Trinity, just like the Incarnation, the virgin birth, and a host of other mysteries of God, are necessarily doctrines of faith since reason precludes these doctrines. According to reason, a being cannot be three and one any more than a circle can be a square or a bachelor could be married. We have no corresponding experience in all of Creation on which to base this concept, yet we preach it as truth – despite the fact that it contradicts common sense and everyday experience – because God says it is so. This position is both impossible and coherent, insofar as we accept that God’s being transcends our finite mental capabilities and the rules he has freely established for his own Creation.

    Once again, though, we are speaking past each other. My arguments are predicated on a belief in the atemporality of God, which you do not necessarily accept. And frankly, even if you did believe that God was atemporal, you could still disagree with me. I hope that Alan replies to my points as well.

    Also, Paul, I wanted to recommend to you Richard Muller’s Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, volume 4, where he discusses the Reformation-era writings on the eternal subordination of the Son. I believe that discussion begins on p 178. It is rather short, but since you had previously asked about Reformation-era writings on the topic, I thought I would pass that along.

  21. YOU KNOW WHAT? I can actually PROVE that such an eternal subordination as complementarians propose is actually essential ontological subordination.

    Everyone knows God is sovereign. What does that mean? This means having the supreme authority without control and without the obligation to be under the authority of another.

    Now if the Son is by virtue of His eternal ‘essence’ QUA the Son {i.e., the sum total of essential properties that define the Son peculiarly QUA the Son properly and so-called}, subordinate to the FATHER by virtue of His eternal ‘essence’ QUA the FATHER {i.e., the sum total of essential properties that define the Fater peculiarly QUA the Father properly and so-called}, then there exists a Sovereignty of the FATHER (essential to his “essence” as FATHER) that either the SON lacks (by virtue of his “essence” as SON), or the SON has NO lawful RIGHT to do anything whatever except with the express or tacit consent or complicity of the FATHER. Whatever the SON does {even in His eternal Divine State} without the express or tacit consent or complicity of the FATHER is void AB INITIO under God’s Higher Law.

    But this very sovereignty is essential to the very identity to the Divine Nature as God. Therefore whatever is not sovereign is not God.

    But if the Son is by virtue of His eternal ‘essence’ QUA the Son {i.e., the sum total of essential properties that define the Son peculiarly QUA the Son properly and so-called}, subordinate to the FATHER by virtue of His eternal ‘essence’ QUA the FATHER {i.e., the sum total of essential properties that define the Fater peculiarly QUA the Father properly and so-called}, then the eternal SON is not Sovereign, and therefore not GOD!

    You cannot make the Son by virtue of His eternal ‘essence’ QUA the Son {i.e., the sum total of essential properties that define the Son peculiarly QUA the Son properly and so-called}, subordinate to the FATHER by virtue of His eternal ‘essence’ QUA the FATHER {by this I only mean the sum total of essential properties that define the Fater peculiarly QUA the Father properly and so-called} without denying the FULL Deity of the Son.

    Whatever is not God is ontologically INFERIOR to God, because God is sovereign without superiors or even an equal.

    Therefore the Complementarian argument that the Son is by virtue of His eternal ‘essence’ QUA the Son {i.e., the sum total of essential properties that define the Son peculiarly QUA the Son properly and so-called}, subordinate to the FATHER by virtue of His eternal ‘essence’ QUA the FATHER {i.e., the sum total of essential properties that define the Fater peculiarly QUA the Father properly and so-called}, logically implies ontoloigical inferiority. QUOD ERAT DEMONSTRANDUM.

  22. Juan:
    Well said.
    “Oh to logic how great a debtor, \
    Daily I’m constrained to be.”

  23. Jonathan Shelley January 19, 2010 — 9:10 am

    Juan,

    Welcome to the conversation! I’ll give you bonus points for style – the writing of proofs is a lost art.

    Sadly, my current work load does not afford me the time to give your argument the response it deserves. I will summarize as follows:

    1) Your argument that the Father and the Son are identical in all essential characteristics is classic modalism. Your position leaves no distinguishing characteristic between the persons of the Trinity.

    2) You assume that sovereignty is both a characteristic and a necessary characteristic of God. Is it not possible that God’s sovereignty is a result of God’s being not a necessary condition for his being (if it is a necessary condition, then God’s sovereignty is conditioned by his sovereignty, which seems to be a contradiction).

    3) Subordination, particularly a voluntary subordination, does not necessitate a limiting of power. Just because the Son is under the Father’s authority does not necessitate that the Son’s authority is in any way diminished. Christ himself stated that the Father has given him all authority under heaven and earth. I would argue that this idea of degree of sovereignty (if I may call it that) is a western, post-Enlightenment intrusion on Greek and Hebrew thought.

    4) Function and ontology, while related, are not mutually determinative. That is, just because the Son has a different function than the Father, that does not necessitate that the Son is somehow ontologically less than the Father. It makes them distinct in their persons, but that is not the same as ontological greatness.

  24. Jonathan:
    Can you elaborate (as time permits) on #4 re: “mutually determinative?” While I understand your explanation as far as it goes, it seems to me that if the Son functions in all the ways as the Father functions, they share in the same attributes.

    PaceJesus’ divine nature, he possesses all the essential attributes of deity, including omnipotence, which empowers (every pun intended) sovereignty.

  25. Jonathan Shelley January 19, 2010 — 3:10 pm

    Paul,

    I think you may have misunderstood. My statement, “just because the Son has a different function than the Father, that does not necessitate that the Son is somehow ontologically less than the Father.” My point is that the Son and the Father perform different functions within the Godhead, i.e., the Father is the one who wills and sends the Son and the Spirit, and the Son is the Word and reveals the Father. But just because the Father sends and the Son reveals does not make the Father greater than the Son. In fact, for the Son to truly and completely know the Father so that he can reveal him requires that they be ontologically equal, for only God knows God truly and completely.

    I hope this helps. If not, I’ll try to provide any further clarification you want.

  26. Juan,

    In your argument you make the roles of Son and Father to be matters of essence. If this were the case, you would be correct that any difference in essence would imply ontological subordination. Unfortunately, your argument also proves too much. If the Father and the Son are different in essence, then there is an ontological difference between them even if there is no difference in authority or obedience.

    Instead, we should view ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ as distinctions of relation rather than essence. There is a relational subordination of the Son to the Father that preserves their equal essence. The relation between the Son and the Father is eternal and not accidental, but it is not a difference of ontology. The functional subordination of the Son to the Father is based on an eternal relational subordination, not an eternal ontological subordination.

  27. Jonathan Shelley January 20, 2010 — 9:28 am

    Nate:

    Well said. In the future, I am going to quote you, although I’m not sure how to footnote a blog post!

  28. By ‘T… by virtue of its eternal ‘essence’ QUA T {i.e., the sum total of essential properties that define T peculiarly QUA T properly and so-called}’ what I really meant the sum total of INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC properties necessary (i.e. absolutely CRUCIAL, i.e. to say a SINE QUA NON) and sufficient (i.e. inherently GUARANTEED to succeed without need of any assistance from anything else) to DEFINE T as T properly and distinctly so-called.

  29. Here is my NEW and IMPROVED argument:

    I can actually PROVE that such an eternal subordination as complementarians propose is actually essential ontological subordination.

    Everyone knows God is sovereign. What does that mean? This means having the supreme authority without control and without the obligation to be under the authority of another.

    Now if the Son is by virtue of His eternal PERSON* (you see, not really essence but rather his inherent and intrinsic PERSON* for lack of a better word) QUA the Son {the sum total of INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC properties necessary (i.e. absolutely CRUCIAL, i.e. to say a SINE QUA NON) and sufficient (i.e. inherently GUARANTEED to succeed without need of any assistance from anything else) to DEFINE the SON as the SON properly and distinctly so-called}, subordinate to the FATHER by virtue of His eternal PERSON* QUA the FATHER {the sum total of INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC properties necessary (i.e. absolutely CRUCIAL, i.e. to say a SINE QUA NON) and sufficient (i.e. inherently GUARANTEED to succeed without need of any assistance from anything else) to DEFINE the FATHER as the FATHER properly and distinctly so-called}, then there exists a Sovereignty of the FATHER (inherent, intrinsic, and absolutely CRUCIAL and NECESSARY (I.E. TO SAY A SINE QUA NON!) to his PERSON* as FATHER) that either the SON lacks (by virtue of all the INHERENT INTRINSIC AND CRUCIAL SINE QUA NON properties of his eternal PERSON* as SON), or the SON has NO lawful RIGHT to do anything whatever except with the express or tacit consent or complicity of the FATHER. Whatever the SON does {even in His eternal Divine State} without the express or tacit consent or complicity of the FATHER is void AB INITIO under God’s Higher Law.

    But this very sovereignty is essential to the very identity to the Divine Nature as God. Therefore whatever is not sovereign is not God.

    But if the Son is by virtue of His eternal PERSON* {the sum total of INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC properties necessary (i.e. absolutely CRUCIAL, i.e. to say a SINE QUA NON) and sufficient (i.e. inherently GUARANTEED to succeed without need of any assistance from anything else) to DEFINE the SON as the SON properly and distinctly so-called}QUA the Son, subordinate to the FATHER by virtue of His eternal PERSON* {the sum total of INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC properties necessary (i.e. absolutely CRUCIAL, i.e. to say a SINE QUA NON) and sufficient (i.e. inherently GUARANTEED to succeed without need of any assistance from anything else) to DEFINE the FATHER as the FATHER properly and distinctly so-called}QUA the FATHER, then the eternal SON is not Sovereign, and therefore not GOD!

    You cannot make the Son by virtue of His eternal PERSON* QUA the Son {i.e., the sum total of INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC properties necessary (i.e. absolutely CRUCIAL, i.e. to say a SINE QUA NON) and sufficient (i.e. inherently GUARANTEED to succeed without need of any assistance from anything else) to DEFINE the SON as the SON properly and distinctly so-called}QUA the Son, subordinate to the FATHER by virtue of His eternal PERSON* {the sum total of INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC properties necessary (i.e. absolutely CRUCIAL, i.e. to say a SINE QUA NON) and sufficient (i.e. inherently GUARANTEED to succeed without need of any assistance from anything else) to DEFINE the FATHER as the FATHER properly and distinctly so-called}, subordinate to the FATHER by virtue of His eternal PERSON* QUA the FATHER {the sum total of INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC properties necessary (i.e. absolutely CRUCIAL, i.e. to say a SINE QUA NON) and sufficient (i.e. inherently GUARANTEED to succeed without need of any assistance from anything else) to DEFINE the FATHER as the FATHER properly and distinctly so-called} without denying the FULL Deity of the Son.

    Whatever is not God is ontologically INFERIOR to God, because God is sovereign without superiors or even an equal.

    Therefore the Complementarian argument that the Son is by virtue of His eternal PERSON* QUA the Son {i.e., the sum total of INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC properties necessary (i.e. absolutely CRUCIAL, i.e. to say a SINE QUA NON) and sufficient (i.e. inherently GUARANTEED to succeed without need of any assistance from anything else) to DEFINE the SON as the SON properly and distinctly so-called}, subordinate to the FATHER by virtue of His eternal PERSON* QUA the FATHER {i.e., the sum total of INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC properties necessary (i.e. absolutely CRUCIAL, i.e. to say a SINE QUA NON) and sufficient (i.e. inherently GUARANTEED to succeed without need of any assistance from anything else) to DEFINE the FATHER as the FATHER properly and distinctly so-called}, logically implies ontoloigical inferiority. QUOD ERAT DEMONSTRANDUM.

  30. That is to say, this would require the Sovereignty of the Father to constitute an INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC property ESSENTIAL to His PERSON* qua FATHER, and yet this is precisely an INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC property that the PERSON* of the Son LACKS!

    But no PERSON* at all can by virtue of his INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC properties lack this sovereignty or have by virtue of his INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC properties (absolutely CRITICAL and CRUCIAL and NECESSARY to characterize him as what PERSON* he is) the property of being necessarily not-sovereign and still be God!!

    Since Jesus IS God, I cannot accept even the LEAST part of this sort of Complementarian flattery anbd velvet gloved “Chivalry” towards the ladies without denying the full and essential Deity of Christ!!

  31. Oops! I inadvertently used ESSENTIAL when I should have said ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL, CRUCIAL, and SINE-QUA-NON in order for the Father to BE the FATHER!! Now I have corrected it!

    That is to say, this would require the Sovereignty of the Father to constitute an INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC property CRITICAL, NECESSARY CRUCIAL SINE QUA NON for the FATHER to be the FATHER, and yet this is precisely an INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC property that the PERSON* of the Son LACKS!

    But no PERSON* at all can by virtue of his INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC properties lack this sovereignty or have by virtue of his INHERENT and FUNDAMENTAL and INTRINSIC properties (absolutely CRITICAL and CRUCIAL and NECESSARY to characterize him as what PERSON* he is) the property of being necessarily not-sovereign and still be God!!

    Since Jesus IS God, I cannot accept even the LEAST part of this sort of Complementarian flattery and velvet gloved “Chivalry” towards the ladies without denying the full and essential Deity of Christ!!

    May the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. AMEN.

  32. Now the sexes (as well as the races) are ONTOLOGICALLY and not just RELATIONALLY different. Because HUSBAND and WIFE are not ONTOLOGICAL terms but only relational. You cannot be a husband without having a wife. No woman can be a wife without having a husband. Even if all the men in the world DIED a woman would still be a woman. Even if all the women in the world died a man would still be a man. The complementarians, whenever they use the “chivalrous” flattery that woman’s subordination is really a question of “DIFFERENT” being not inferior being, then they are admitting that the sexes are different in ESSENCE, and therefore it is this ESSENCE of the female that IMPLIES her subordination as an ESSENTIAL and INHERENT property of that essence! Therefore this would imply that she is ESSENTIALLY inferior in being, and that her subordination is ontological.

    Even the most extreme of these complementarians who routinely argue that 1 Corinthians 14:34/35 only applies to the formal worship service use these flatteries all the time!

    http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/framewor.htm#21:

    ‘Moreover, Frame caricatures the Puritan position, by accusing it of drawing a sharp distinction between formal services and other meetings at which worship takes place (such as family worship). Certainly some modern churches have drawn that distinction, but we challenge Frame to find this as a general teaching of either Puritans or Scottish Presbyterians. To Puritans and Scots alike, the elements of worship used in corporate worship were the same elements employed in the home, except for the public ordinances (the sacraments). (See the Westminster Directory for Family Worship.)[21]

    21. I dare say that Frame’s own church is more likely to draw a false dichotomy between “formal” worship and other Christian meetings. For example, his book is designed to be used for Sunday schools. When those Sunday schools convene, and instruction is undertaken in the setting of a church meeting, Frame encourages open discussion (p. xiv).’

    Note: Fundamentalism often holds that the Sunday / Sabbath school is not a “formal” worship service; therefore the women can participate freely and audibly and vocally.

    Can women participate out loud with the men in Adult Sabbath/Sunday School Classes as learners and/or teachers? The common traditional ultrafundamentalist answer is Yes, because such classes are not the “church meeting” properly and distinctly so-called!

    But sometimes, especially in the Haitian Seventh Day Adventist churches, I have seen many of the School teachers and monitors unable to attend or do the lesson, so the whole assembly on those cases had to do the lesson in the sanctuary as ONE SINGLE CLASS –with all sexes (and ages?) participating promiscuously (and publicly?). Assuming that the statute (1 Corinthians 14:34/35) is still in full force exactly as written at face value, can women still publicly and vocally participate out loud with the men in this sort of Sabbath School class?

    The prevailing ultrafundamentalist neo-Victorianist neo-Confederate Southern Partisan conventional wisdom holds that the prohibition against women speaking out in church at all only applies to the formal worship service. Contrary to this conventional wisdom, the true and correct Biblical answer to this question is NO! Why is that?

    ‘ Need we ask: Are the women present for these discussions to be regulated by the apostolic injunction which governs the “public worship” services? “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church” (1 Cor. 14:34-35).

    The usual answer given is that since a Sunday school is not a “worship” service, then women may freely participate with comments and inquiry, an outlook which Frame seems to share (cf. p. 75, note 6). THE DIVISION BETWEEN “FORMAL” WORSHIP SERVICES AND OTHER “INFORMAL” PUBLIC MEETINGS FOR INSTRUCTION IS NOT A PURITAN, SCOTTISH, OR CONFESSIONAL DISTINCTION AT ALL. It is a modern accommodation to feminism in churches which are soft on biblical authority. So we ask Mr. Frame not to blame the Puritans for the errors of our times; for they are not the origin of such sophistries.’

    Here is why.

    If the Sabbath School isn’t part of the formal worship service, then by what authority did they presume to require faithful attendance thereto on pain of excommunication – and take the money which should ONLY be used to support the formal worship service (and the ministers) and use it to support the Sabbath School? Of course this Sabbath School assembly as nowadays usually conducted in such special cases like these IS by construction and by convention a de facto bonafide church meeting.

    What is a church meeting? Thayer’s Lexicon shows that it is (Definitions 1.d.1 and 1.d.2):

    ‘1. an assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting
    2. a company of Christians, or of those who, hoping for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order’s sake’

    This species of Sabbath School class (where the WHOLE congregation would have to do it as one SINGLE class instead of dividing it up into SMALLER
    classes) meets these two definitions EXACTLY.

    Definition 1.d.1 is simply any ‘assembly of Christians gathered for worship in a religious meeting’ – yet even this species of Sabbath School class is nowadays enjoined on the congregants just as if it had been a divinely ordained essential element of the formal worship service!!

    But definition 1.d.2 puts emphasis not on one particular session of the assembly – but on the DISTINCTIVE regular ordinary function of a congregation or a parish. The DISTINCTIVE regular ordinary function of a congregation or a parish – on the presumption that the members thereof hope for eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, is to ‘observe their own religious rites, hold their own religious meetings, and manage their own affairs, according to regulations prescribed for the body for order’s sake’ – but the Sabbath School is ordinarily nowadays enjoined on the congregants just as if it had been ESSENTIAL to performing this DISTINCTIVE regular ordinary function of a congregation or a parish duly and acceptably and profitably.

    These two definitions have always remained stable and constant. They have the distinctive marks of catholicity (viz. universality, indefectibility, infallibility, etc.) that the Roman Catholic Church has always proudly arrogated to herself. Therefore any and all species of Sabbath School classes where the WHOLE congregation does it as a SINGLE class instead of dividing up into smaller classes is a church meeting under the authority of this precept and under the authority of the laws of Greek grammar and syntax. The thing that is being forbidden to women _de jure_ is now being allowed _de facto_ by such complementarians who allow women to openly, publicly, and vocally participate in this gigantic Sabbath School class big enough to constitute an entire parish!! My brethren, this thing shouldn’t even happen to a DOG!!

    This cowardly dishonest flattery euphemistically called “Chivalry” must stop!

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