Are Complementarians Subordinationists?

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Two Three blogs I read have been dealing with issues related to complementarianism and egalitarianism about gender roles. Jollyblogger has four posts: Oppression of Women???, More on the Oppression of Women, Women's Roles in the Church and the Gospel, and Bruce Ware on the Women Issue. Ilona has a number of posts at Intellectuelle as well, A Woman's Place, A Woman's Place,continued, Do We Change Or Do They Change?, A Woman's Place, In The Church, Are We Serious About This?, and The Trinity: How Important Is That Idea To You? It seemed a good time to bring out a post I've been sitting on for a while (though most of that material will be appearing in subsequent posts, since this one deals with one crucial preliminary issue). Update: This is what I get for getting behind on Rebecca Writes. She's got Functional Subordination Discussion and Functional Subordination Again. I need to read these when I'm more coherent. Perhaps I'll say something about them in or before my next post, which is already pretty much written but may need to be adjusted.

The Jollyblogger and Rebecca Writes posts above reflect a complementarian position. Ilona's posts seem to me to seeking some middle ground between complementarianism and egalitarianism, sometimes endorsing complementarian theses and sometimes endorsing egalitarian claims. Complementarians hold that divinely assigned differences in gender roles reflect differences in roles among the members of the Trinity. Ilona's last post in the list above presents an argument that egalitarians often give against complementarianism. Egalitarians see no such role differences in scripture for human men and women (which I have to say Ilona disagrees with, judging by her first few posts) and then accuse complementarians of reflecting the heresy of subordinationism in order to generate the parallel (which Ilona does seem to me to be endorsing). Subordinationism is the view that the three persons of the Trinity are not equal. I think this charge either (1) is completely out of step with the history of Trinitarian thought, or (2) simply misunderstands complementarianism.

First off, complementarians do not hold that the members of the Trinity are not equal (and thus do not hold that men and women are in any way unequal. Complementarians do hold that there are differences in roles within the Trinity, and there are then divinely-instituted differences in roles to reflect the Trinitarian unity in diversity. But these roles are not superior or inferior. They're simply different. The Father has some sort of authoritative role with respect to the Son and the Spirit. The Father sends the Son and the Spirit. The Son submits to the will of the Father. The Son does everything the Father tells him. When you look at the Son, it's as if you're seeing what the Father is really like, and so the Son is somehow a representative of the Father. The Son is never in a parental relation to Christians but is said to be a brother to those who elsewhere are described as in him. The Son is the bridegroom of the gathering of all believers (what has traditionally been translated as the church), not a parent. There's a relation between Christ and the church that Paul in Ephesians says is parallel to a husband-wife relationship. Yet Jesus tells us to pray to the Father as Father, not husband. Believers are heirs with Christ of the eternal kingdom that the Father gives. There's no question that there is very different language with respect to how the Father and Son relate to believers, and much of this has something to do with authority, and it would do injustice to the scriptures to reverse these relationships with the Father in the Son's roles and vice versa.

I think what's going on here is a confusion between two different things that people have classically called the ontological Trinity and the economic Trinity. (See the Wikipedia entry on the Trinity for a fuller exposition of this.)

So how does this relate to classic Trinitarianism? Orthodox Trinitarians hold that the Father, Son, and Spirit are equal in their being but have different roles. There's a classic heresy called subordinationism that denies the equality of the members of the Trinity by saying that the Son and/or Spirit are/is not equal in being with the Father. At some point a name got attached to the orthodox view. It refers to the view that the Father, Son, and Spirit are in their very being equal as the Ontological Trinity.

Some egalitarians make the claim that complementarianism's commitment to superior and inferior roles in the Trinity commits them to subordinationism. I suppose that depends on what is meant by calling them inferior and superior. If it means some difference in nature, then it would commit the complementarian to subordinationism. But the complementarian does not admit to differences in nature, just difference in roles. This came to be called the Economic Trinity, which says that the different persons of the Trinity are different in how they relate to each other but without any difference in nature.

So if this language about superior and inferior roles simply refers to the Economic Trinity, then complementarians do admit to it, but it doesn't commit them to subordinationism. If it refers to differences in the Ontological Trinity, then it would commit them to subordinationism, but complementarians do not hold such a view. So, whatever these terms about inferior and superior roles are supposed to mean, complementarians simply are not committed to the heresy of subordinationism.

I do wonder what these egalitarians who accuse complementarianism of subordinationism are committed to, however. They seem to me to be upset at complementarians for holding to the Economic Trinity. If so, then they are opposed to the classic, orthodox formulation of the Trinity and are thus holding to an official heresy. I don't know if this is the best way to read them, however. Maybe they just misunderstand complementarianism as holding to something that complementarians do not hold. From the discussion at Ilona's post, I'm sure that's what she's doing, and I suspect it's much more widespread than those who actually believe that there are no role distinctions whatsoever in the Trinity. How anyone could hold that view I just don't understand, because you'd have to say that the Father died on the cross, the Father and Spirit were separated when the Son died on the cross, and the Son and the Spirit sent the Father into the world after the Spirit's ascension into heaven. Since that sort of view would make nonsense of all the distinctions in the Trinity, I have to assume that these egalitarians who are making this charge are just uncharitably reading complementarians to be saying something that the complementarian view explicitly denies.

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Jeremy Pierce (Parableman) rounds up a multi-blog discussion of Complementarianism, subordination, Doctrines of Trinity, and egalitarianism. Whew. It's easier to read than to say, eh? Check it out.... Read More


Jeremy - thanks for this. Surely, you would think that egalitarians can't be ignorant of the economic trinity, can they? This ontological/economic trinity holds it all together nicely - equality and differentiation.

You would think that someone like Rebecca Merril Groothius and some other well informed egalitarians would be familiar with this - have you heard or read what they do with the economic trinity.

My next post is going to deal with some of her arguments, but I haven't read what she says about the Trinity explicitly, and my books on these issues are in the baby's room and thus inaccessible when she's asleep (which includes right now and I hope the rest of the evening), so I can't check. But my impression of her view is that there are role distinctions in the Trinity, just not ones of inequality. Of course, isn't that all complementarians are saying?

From my long and usually frustrating discussions with egalitarians + doing some reading, they (and I think I can include Rebecca Merril Groothius in this) equate the economic trinity to temporary sunbordination eg. a person who is subordinate to their boss.

Their argument goes that a person who is subordinate to their boss is not permanently subordinate (they won't work all their lives), nor does their subordination cover their entire life (ie. in their homes they are not subordinate to their boss) and such subordination does not come from anything innate within that person.

In the same way, they see Jesus as only temporarily subordinate to the Father (they don't like the idea that the Son is eternally subordinate - in eternity He will not be subordinate), subordinate only in relation to salvation (ie. in relation to each other outside of salvation there is no subordination) and Jesus' subordination has nothing to do with Who Jesus is.

When it comes to men and women, they accuse complementarians of placing women in subordination permanently (they can't ever teach or be an elder over men), wholistically (it applies to every area of their lives) and ontologically (it is just because she is a woman).

In consequence, their argument is this:

Complementarianism = ontological subordination
Egalitarianism = economic subordination

Does that help? (Of course, I'm open to being corrected).

Ali, it's Groothuis, not Groothius. I got that wrong for years until I tried to find her on Amazon and couldn't.

I'm going to deal with some of her fallacious arguments in the next post. It's amazing how badly she misrepresents complementarianism. Very few complementarians think it applies to every area of women's lives. Most take it to apply only to wives with respect to their husbands' authority and to ordinary members of a congregation (including men) to the elders of that congregation. That's it.

The other things you're attributing to her are also seriously unfair to the complementarian position (and I'll be getting to several of them in the next post), but that one's just so obviously inaccurate that I have to wonder if she's even read any work by complementarians on this issue.

Jeremy, I have a post that touches on your puzzle in the last paragraph here. The basic point is that a traditional reading of the economic Trinity sees the subordination as due to the Word's taken on the form of a servant -- human nature -- and therefore is based on the deliberate assumption of a natural inequality. If this is so, however, the economic Trinity can't be a good example of purely functional subordination, like complementarians seem to want to claim, because it involves a natural subordination as well.

Further (although I don't go into this in the post), many complementarian arguments sound a lot like old Arian arguments. The most common argument of this kind is the claim that 'Father', 'Son', etc., imply subordination; the Cappadocians had to deal with this one from the Arians all the time, and go all out against it. If complementarians are going to use this argument they need to do two things:

(1) Make very explicit how these arguments, as they understand them, don't lead to Arianism;
(2) Deal with the violation of the Cappadocian claim that these labels imply no subordination at all, only order, by showing explicitly that it is only verbal.

Similar things could be said of other arguments.

Ali: Some who oppose the complementarian view here hold that the subordination of the economic Trinity is only a temporary, but not all. This is fortunate, because to try to avoid subordinationism by claiming that the Word will cease to be Incarnate -- which is what it requires -- is to jump from one frying pan into another frying pan. But you are right that they usually hold that it is the complementarians who are treating the economic Trinity as if it were the ontological Trinity, rather than as involving the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

Brandon, I think you give one reason why temporary role differences won't work. One of the role differences is that the Son is incarnate, and that will never end. It's temporary in the sense of having a beginning in time, but of course it's not temporary in that it was always in God's plan, and it's not temporary in that it will not have an end. Also, I Cor 15 doesn't allow for the temporary view. Even after all history is over and his prior glory is fully returned to him, Christ is still submitted to the Father.

Arianism can't follow. Even eternal subordinationists of the clearly heretical sort don't think the Son is a created being, as Arianism holds.

As for the order vs. subordination issue, I thought it was pretty clear that the kind of subordination that complementarians have in mind is merely one of order. It's what complementarians explicitly say over and over.

It's not necessary for Arianism to follow; not all subordinationists are Arians, but all Arians are subordinationists, and some of the arguments of the Arians (like the one from the labels 'Father', etc.) are chiefly about subordination -- the Arians just draw a further conclusion from this subordination. The chief problem with subordinationism, though, is that it seems that any consistent subordinationism of the sort the Arians argued for seems to commit you to the claim that the Word is an inferior God; and that's the real sticking point. So there's a need to differentiate any sense of subordination from that used by the Arians, particularly given that some of the arguments look similar on first sight. I recall my shock at my first reading some of Grudem's arguments, because they looked exactly like Arian arguments, and, despite the claim that they were not arguments for an inferior deity in the Son, there was nothing to indicate how this could be consistent, given that the Arians (no slouches logically) had used (apparently) the same arguments for precisely that conclusion. Naturally the arguments had to be understood a different way, but I never had any inkling of how until I read something by Rebecca Stark.

Complementarians are not clear that by 'subordination' they simply mean what was once called 'ordination' (which is usually opposed to the term 'subordination'), i.e., order; and I have never seen a complementarian make this qualification until your comment. And the claim that the Trinitarian relations are relations of authority cuts against this qualification unless we are using the term 'authority' in the archaic sense of 'principle' -- in which case we are certainly not being clear. Likewise, complementarians typically move very quickly from talking about 'subordination' qua order to talking about subordination in the ordinary sense involving obedience, etc.; too quickly for it to be clear that they are not conflating the two. No, I don't think it's at all clear what complementarians are saying, although I'm immensely relieved by your comment.

However, it is perhaps worth saying that egalitarians are not very clear about what they mean either, and some of them have been saying some very weird things.

Sup Jeremy,

Hey ! You ought also to take a look at this BTW:

You started teaching at LMN College as yet ?

God Bless,

Having discovered your post at this late hour, I will have to come back. I would say you have a fairly articulated breakdown of where I am at this time. My Trinity post was mainly to introduce Giles book and some of the ideas on the Trinity as it relates to Church policy on women. At a late point in the Trinity part of the book Giles defines a hierarchal complementarian as a category of complementarian. I think this clarifies how it is not the entire category.

Interested in carefully going over your thoughts here for better understanding.

I am concerned about the disconnect (hypocrisy) that is between the reading of scriptures which restrict( and I use that word deliberately) women and the actual practice. If there is a type of egalitarianism that is de facto in the Church then there should be an official reason(theological), which then should be found in the understanding of the scripture upon re-examination. That is my theory, anyway.

I do hold a view between the two, and am working out how to reconcile these things.

I can use all the input from wise minds that is provided. Rebecca is a great help in the thinking process.

Jeremy, I have had a little look at Discovering Biblical Equality and have to qualify my post. Groothuis does believe what I wrote except she does not believe it applies to the Trinity (which sort of goes off track when it comes to your intention to look at the Trinity in relation to gender). She does not think the Trinity is a good analogy for gender relations, so if you change "economic subordination" to "functional subordination" and restrict it to relationships within creation, you've got Groothuis' framework of argumentation. Other egalitarians do apply it to the Trinity, though.

Brandon. Thanks for responding to my comment. You are right, not every egalitarian believes everything I state above (take Craig Keener for instance) - many do.

Happy discussing. I'll be reading with interest.

I think it's worth including some of the quotes from the discussion Raj linked to:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. (Nicene Creed)
the Son too says not, 'My Father is better than I,' lest we should conceive Him to he foreign to His Nature, but 'greater,' not indeed in greatness, nor in time, but because of His generation from the Father Himself[12], nay, in saying 'greater 'He again shows that He is proper to His essence. (Athanasius, Orations against the Arians 1.58)
...His own will is connected in indissoluble union with the Father. Do not then let us understand by what is called a "commandment" a peremptory mandate delivered by organs of speech, and giving orders to the Son, as to a subordinate, concerning what He ought to do. Let us rather, in a sense befitting the Godhead, perceive a transmission of will, like the reflexion of an object in a mirror, passing without note of time from Father to Son. He shines forth from the Father, and does all things according to the likeness of Him that begat Him. (Basil, On the Holy Spirit Chapter 8)
The Father is made of none, neither created nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made nor created, but begotten. The Holy Spirit is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. (Athanasian Creed)
If any one say that the Father is greater, inasmuch as He is the cause of the Son, we will not contradict this. But this doth not by any means make the Son to be of a different Essence. (Chrysostom, Hom LXX)

It seems to me that all of these affirm the exact thing complementarians have been saying. The persons of the Trinity are different in role in a way that is clearly hierarchical, but that hierarchy is not one of being better or superior in nature. In the light of all this, I just can't figure out what you're saying, Brandon. I wouldn't endorse everything all these people are saying in the details (because I think some of these things are underdetermined by scriptural teaching), but it's clearly the sort of thing I've been describing, and it's right along the same path as many contemporary commentators on John 13-17.

I like what Rebecca has to say in the following quotes:

Christ submits to the father not as somone who owes submission as someone unequal as a person, or in his diety, but as one who has a different role. Just like a boss is not an authority over his/her employees because he/she is of more worth or value or better or more human than his employees, but because his role gives him authority over them.
The Son forever intercedes on our behalf to the Father. We can have confidence because the Father always gives the Son what he asks on our behalf. Nevertheless, this picture of Christ as eternal intercessor (or eternal high priest) makes God the Father the one with supreme authority within the Trinity.
And I don’t see dominance either, but rather directing by the Father and willing effecting of the Father’s will by the Son. It’s not mutuality of roles, because the roles are different. The persons of the Godhead do different things, but there is is unity of purpose, and that’s the way they work in union.

I should say also that Craig Keener, an egalitarian, is happy to read statements in John and I Corinthians in a way that involves eternal subordination of the Son to the Father. He doesn't think this guarantees gender distinctions, but he thinks it shows that there's no inconsistency in the complementarian view, and he doesn't think it involves the heresy of subordinationism. See his article. The most telling part is this page.

One issue Rebecca raises is also worth paying heed to. If you hold to God's eternality (as opposed to everlastingness), or if you hold to any important sense of immutability or changelessness within the Godhead (as opposed to how God relates to creation, which of course isn't the same at every place or time), then you can't think the role relations within the Trinity change. That means that there's no possibility of this idea that role distinctions are only with respect to the working out of the plan of salvation, as several egalitarians claim. Now some will deny eternity, and some might even deny any important sense of immutability, but I don't think that's an option biblically. Even if you think immutability is just God's character not changing, you would then have to say that the submissive character of the Son doesn't change.

Not every ordering is hierarchical. Most forms of ordering don't involve any subordination, in fact; the only ones that do are those in which things are greater or lesser, superior or inferior, depending on their place in the order. The Cappadocians (among others) are very clear that the ordering of the Trinity in itself is not hierarchical at all. As Basil says, the Son and the Spirit are not subnumerated in any way. (Real hierarchy is only involved when we consider the Trinity as expressed in the economy of salvation; and then only because of the Incarnation. John 13-17, 1 Cor 15, and the like, all very clearly involve the Incarnation, in which the Son, while still equal as person and in His divine nature, has also assumed an inferior nature -- the first is about what is involved in the Son's being sent, the second about the effects of Christ's resurrection, etc. This inferiority of nature is the ground of the submissive obedience of Christ to the Father.)

If someone wants to use hierarchical terminology to describe the ordering itself, that's fine, but it's a figure of speech for something that already has a name -- the monarchy, i.e., the claim that the Father is the Principle or Origin of the Godhead, the first in order, and that the Son and Spirit are God by following in order from Him. Nothing about this implies subordination unless the sort of ordering required is an ordering that actually involves subordination. And the Church Fathers seem pretty clear that the ordering is one that does not involve any subordination; in fact, as they are pretty unanimous in saying, the doctrine of the monarchy tends in exactly the opposite direction: it is implies that the persons are equal and not related to each other as subordinate and superordinate in any way.

Brandon, I'm not sure what you're saying unless you simply treat the complementarian claim as something other than what it is. The kind of role subordination in complementarian gender relationships isn't supposed to be anything more than the kind of subordination you call mere ordering. What some people in this debate are calling functional subordination is something that you don't seem to want to call subordination. I'm fine with that. I don't think the term is apt myself.

It's important to keep in mind that the Father and Son's agreement for the Son to be sent is one made from eternity. There's nothing temporal about that submission. I don't want to call it subordination if subordination means inferiority, but that doesn't mean it's not eternal submission. I still think this counts as hierarchical, but I don't think you need to see it as the kind of subordination that you think is worthy of the name.

Jeremy, I'm not claiming anything about the complementarian position on this point; I'm willing to accept your characterization of the position. I'm merely pointing out one reason why the complementarian position as you have given is not immediately clear to a lot of people: it uses the term 'subordination' to indicate something that has traditionally been opposed to something else called 'subordination'. It's inevitable that this would be confusing; and it really isn't surprising, given this, that complementarians have found themselves accused of positions that tend Arian.

I don't see any clear way in which the decision for the Word to be sent is a submission; whereas becoming man in being sent clearly is. If you and I get together on something and we agree that you'll take the lead, I'm not submitting in deciding this with you, I'm submitting in actually letting you take the lead. Likewise, in the Trinity no one need be submitting in deciding that there will be certain sort of submission or subordination of a certain sort (like being made flesh), but only in actually submitting in that way. And by nature it's not hierarchical: it's a mutual agreement. It could be called submission, of course, but this seems to me to be a metonymy, so I don't think any serious conclusions could be drawn from it.

I think the distinction between functional subordination and ontological subordination is supposed to clear up the confusion, but I think it would be better just not to use the word at all.

If the decision for the Word to be sent is the Father's decision, and the Son's concurring will is not the originating will, then it's a submission. It's true that it's mutual, but it makes no sense for the Son to say that he does everything the Father wills as if the Father's will is prior unless there's some sort of hierarchy to the willing, in which case it's a kind of submission.

If by serious conclusions you mean ontological ones, then I agree. If by serious conclusions you would include similar kinds of submission among humans, I wouldn't. Those could indeed parallel in some sense the Son's submission.

But the Son doesn't have a concurring will in the matter; His will is the originating will, because it's exactly the same will as the Father's. Gregory of Nyssa has a good discussion of it in Not Three Gods (he's developing a point already developed by Basil). If the Son's will were merely concurring, this would imply a stronger distinction between Father and Son than Trinitarians want to concede, since it would effectively make them two Gods, however closely connected. So the Son does not merely concur in the Father's willing, His willing and the Father's willing are one and the same. It's just that this willing is attributable to the Father as Principle, the Son as being directly from the Principle, and the Spirit as being indirectly from the Principle by way of what is directly from the Principle. Or, in other words, the single willing that the Son should become Incarnate is held in common by the Persons in exactly the way the nature is: the Father has it as Father, the Son has it as Son, the Spirit has it as Spirit; but nobody's is separate from, concurring with, or subordinate to, anyone else's, because it is identically one and the same, just shared three ways; and the order of the sharing is just the order of the Persons. (The claim about the Son doing everything the Father wills, taken straight, is perfectly consistent with this, of course, as I think Nyssa notes; but it's usually read as a claim about the Son as Incarnate, in which case He does, of course, have a concurring will -- His human will.) The decision is as much the Son's as the Father's, because you can't pry apart the Father's deciding from the Son's deciding -- indeed, you can't even distinguish the Father's deciding and the Son's deciding, although you can distinguish the Father and the Son. So there appears to be no sort of submission here except by metonymy.

I'm curious why you think it would be metonymy rather than metaphor, but that's not an important issue.

To avoid modalism, you have to say there needs to be some way that the three persons are distinct in eternity apart from simply the incarnational issues. Otherwise God doesn't exist in Trinity except with respect to creation, and I think that would be pretty much modalism. Whatever way the persons are distinct is going to have role differences, since it won't involve nature differences. Those roles have an order and thus a hierarchy, with some being first logically and others being later logically. What other ordering could there be?

Brandon, I took a look around and found something by Hilary of Poitiers, who says both that the Son's will is an act of the Father's will and that the Son and Father have wills that are of the same nature as each other. He speaks of them as if they're two wills that are of the same nature, but then he speaks as if the Son's willing is an act of the Father. I'm having trouble putting these things together.

My thought as I've been thinking through this has been that you've been assuming one will per nature. Do the creeds require that? It sounds very strange to me that you could have three persons who share a nature yet who only have one will. I would have thought that what makes them different persons is that they have three coinciding wills. I know this is the official Roman Catholic view, but is there anything in the creeds that requires it?

If there is more than one power of willing per nature, all such powers of willing would have to be shared by all the persons, because the power of will is one of the things that pertains to the nature, and the whole nature is shared by all.

It would be possible, though, to hold the view that you are suggesting, if you held that 'will' here meant something other than a will taken as a natural property (i.e., as a principle of action one has by nature), i.e., to treat it as a personal property, something necessary for being the subject of a nature at all. It's not the traditional view, and I'm not sure what to make of it, but it does seem fairly common in our post-Cartesian world to treat the intellect in ways that seems vaguely suggestive of this sort of thing, so one could perhaps have a coherent view of the will along those lines that would be more or less consistent with the creeds. The tricky part would be to say how this is distinguished from a natural will. The Third Council of Constantinople, in the defense of Chalcedon against Monothelitism, is very clear that there is a divine natural will and a human natural will in Christ. As natural, the divine will would be shared like every other natural property. This doesn't rule out a different sense of will, i.e., a personal will. It would have to be definitely distinguished from the natural will, since it would have to be distinctive to one person, and not a feature of the divine nature. But I don't see anything suggesting that it is impossible --whether in the creeds, the definitions, or the documents accepted as definitive (Tome of Leo, letters of Cyril, etc.) by any of the Councils.

I'm having trouble grasping the notion of a natural will at all if it's supposed to be contrasted with a personal will. That's really what's driving this for me.

Well, I'm not sure what a personal will would be, so I don't know how a natural will contrasts with it. However, 'will' in the natural sense is a power for acting, and like every power for acting it is a feature of a nature -- a natural property. That's really all that's meant by it. If the will of the Father is natural in this way -- i.e., as being a feature of the divine nature -- then it must be shared by all the persons, because all the persons share the whole divine nature. There can't be any part of the Father's divine nature not shared by the Son, or there would be division in the Godhead. (Another way to go at it. We know that at least some wills are natural wills, because we know that the Word in assuming human nature thereby assumed a human will. This will, however, is distinct from the will He has as God, in virtue of his divine nature -- which is another natural will. Presumably if there is any other type of will it would have to be something that pertains to the Son simply in virtue of being the single personal subject of the divine and human natures; but this would have to be different from the wills had in virtue of sharing Godhead and sharing humanity.)

This just sounds like medieval metaphysics, though, ontologizing the will and such. Should we have a creed based on something that tendentious?

Rebecca pointed out to me that one will in the Trinity is compatible with the Father having authority over the Son and the Spirit. After all, if the one will agrees that the sending of the Son and the Spirit involves a difference in authority, then the one will is doing something that counts as some kind of hierarchy that isn't one of divine nature but one of roles. That would mean the one will is different in its effects in each person. The Father chooses the Son to be the redeemer, and the Son accepts that role. The Father and Son will the same thing, that the Son be sent. But the Father wills that the Son be sent, and the Son wills to be sent. This would still be of one will, but it manifests itself differently in each person because of the different role each has in what is willed. This is a hierarchy of roles and authority, and in that sense there's a kind of role subordination without nature subordination (because there's one nature).

Another thing Rebecca mentioned is that the Spirit is sent and is never incarnated, so there's no human will. But it still involves the authority of sender and submission of sent. This is a hierarchy of the different persons' actions stemming from one will. She suggested referring to the Son and Spirit's acknowledgement of the Father's authority rather than submission if that helps make it less confusing.

I don't see how it involves 'ontologizing the will'. It seems to me to be a basic point: Jesus has a human will in virtue of having a human nature. Thus, there is some sense in which will is a feature of human nature. Likewise, Jesus has a divine will in virtue of having a divine nature. Thus, there is some sense in which will is a feature of divine nature. But features of divine nature are shared. In both cases all that's meant by will is a capability for action. Unless one denies that there are any capabilities, I don't see how this can be accused of 'ontologizing' -- it's just the recognition that having a will is not independent of the sort of thing you are. If we deny the natural wills in the case of Christ, we seem to be denying the whole point of Chalcedon (which is precisely why Third Constantinople took the trouble to define it), since it would be to claim that Jesus did not take up a human capability for action in taking on human nature. And I don't think Chalcedon is really negotiable, even if we prefer to express the point in other ways than the Council.

If the missions as such are considered to be hierarchy, then Rebecca is exactly right. I'm OK with such a claim, since I think some case can be made for it, although I don't think there are strong arguments for it, and I don't think it wholly plausible. But what involves the hierarchy here is what is willed (namely the mission or sending); the willing of what is willed does not. Or in other words: it is the Son's being sent that involves subordination, not the willing that the Son be sent. But, as I said, I'm not really convinced that being sent implies subordination in all cases -- in some cases it just implies that an order of willing, not a subordination of one will to another. To take a very simple example, if you and I get together and decide that I should go to the store to get chips, nothing about this implies that my will was subordinated to yours. What definitely does involve subordination is the Son's taking the form of a servant. Indeed, this seems to be the only case in which we have clear and definite Scriptural warrant for positing functional subordination in the Trinity.

Jeremy's clarifications above about the problem of three persons with one will are helpful. Just a few thoughts...

  • There is a spectrum of opinion even among the Cappadocians on the degree to which the Son concurs or merely channels/reflects the Father's will. G. Nyssa is the least "social" in this sense.
  • The (orthodox) two wills of the incarnate Christ are not two volitional centres but two (conflicting at Gethsemene) desires.
  • The idea that the Father and Son have one volitional centre (or really consciousness) preserves a strong sense of unity but makes things like love inconceivable. For persons to love each other they need to be able to have a will for action and expression toward each other.
  • There is a difference between the incarnate/pre-incarnate experience of obedience for the Son. Otherwise he wouldn't have learned obedience by what he suffered (cf Heb 5:8). But this does not mean he wasn't obedient in other senses before this (and obviously he was "obedient" before the cross as a human).
  • There is in many of the Father's Augustine a hesitant sense that the incarnation and eternal begetting of the Son are congruent in some sense in that both reveal the Father in and through the Son. Here is a quote form Augustine to show the idea...

"For the Father is greater than I;"(1) and, "The head of the woman is the man, the Head of the man is Christ, and the Head of Christ is God;"(2)... Now all these have had a place given them, [certainly] not with the object of signifying an inequality of nature and substance; But these statements have had a place given them, partly with a view to that administration of His assumption of human nature...and partly it was with a view to the consideration that the Son owes to the Father that which He is, - thereby also certainly owing this in particular to the Father, to wit, that He is equal to the same Father, or that He is His Peer (eidem Patri aequalis aut par est), whereas the Father owes whatsoever He is to no one. (De Fide et Symbolo 9.18)

er sorry about the yucky layout - my html tags obviously didn't help!

Bruce Ware has tackled Giles's misrepresentation of the history of theology on this issue. In particular, Giles selectively quotes Augustine to give the impression that Augustine does not support eternal subordination of the Son. See here for the quotes in question, which do seem to me to demonstrate without a doubt that Augustine considered eternal subordination of the Son to be part of the very doctrine of the Trinity. Giles even quotes from the very section that makes this clear, but he leaves out everything that would count against his thesis. The more detailed paper where Ware makes this case is here. The last page of the PDF shows the Augustine text, with a line drawn around the section quoted by Giles and another line drawn around the immediately following section that disproves Giles's seemingly disingenuous use of Augustine to make a point that contradict's Augustine's own view.

[hat tip on this: Andreas Kostenberger]

It seems to me that if anyone's using Augustine disingenuously, it's clearly Ware. The claim that the Son is from the Father is not the claim that the Son is subordinate to the Father, and Ware consistently insists, without serious argument, on reading it as such. Virtually everyone holds that the Son is from the Father, i.e., begotten by Him; that's what makes him distinct from the Father, that He is Light of Light. It does not mean that he is subordinate, ordered under, the Father, unless you add additional assumptions -- assumptions Ware takes no trouble to show that Augustine made.

Further, Ware's prize text here is clearly being misread. Augustine says that the Son is not just said to be sent because he became flesh; he was sent in order to be made flesh. Ware interprets this as a denial that all subordination "rests with the Son's incarnate state"; despite the fact that all that Augustine actually says here is that we don't just say that the Son was sent because the Word became flesh, but we say that He was sent in order to become flesh. Which is exactly right; and there's nothing here that anyone would deny as far as I can see -- to deny it would be to deny that the Son is really sent, rather than just said to be so. The only way you can read the text as subordinationist is by assuming that the Son's being from the Father, i.e., being begotten by the Father, is a form of subordination, which non-subordinationists will deny is consistent with equality and moreover looks very Arian. What Ware overlooks, as well, is that in this portion of the De Trinitate Augustine is arguing fiercely against Arian views that the Son's being from the Father means he was subordinate to the Father; so Ware can't just go about assuming from the statement that this Son is from the Father that Augustine means to suggest any sort of subordination at all -- he needs to argue it, which he does not. The most natural reading of Augustine in these first few books of the De Trinitate is that the Son is not less than or subordinate to the Father in any sense except that which follows on the decision for the Son to become incarnate; and that the Arian attempts to argue that 'the Son is begotten by the Father' in any sense implies that the Son is less than or subordinate to the Father is illegitimate.

So this seems to me to be yet another case of subordinationists reading texts with subordinationist assumptions that lead to strained interpretations. If, in fact, Augustine were saying that the Son is subordinate to the Father simply by being begotten by Him, all his argument against the Arians would have crashed to the ground, because it is all predicated on the Arians being wrong in thinking that being begotten implies any inequality whatsoever.

Brandon, I think you're just restating the same problematic line you were using before. You want to read subordination so strictly that nothing counts as subordination unless it's the kind of thing contemporary complementarians don't believe in. What Augustine is saying here is that there is a clear role distinction between begetter and begotten and between sender and sent one, and that role distinction does not interfere with the full equality of Father and Son. Thus it's the same thing complementarians are saying and some egalitarians are denying is logically possible.

You keep making this claim about subordination that uses the term in a way very different from the contemporary egalitarian and complementarian debate. They are not using in the way that would constitute the heretical view Augustine is confronting. The fact that he's confronting that view is why he doesn't use subordination language in describing a view that is very obviously the same view complementarians have long held.

But what's most important about this is that Ware points out the fallacy in Giles's argument. Giles argues that Augustine is on the side of contemporary egalitarians simply because he says that the Father and Son are equal. But of course he said that, and complementarians and egalitarians both agree on that. So why should those statements show what Giles concludes? The point is that egalitarianism does not follow from statements about the Father and Son being equal. The point about Augustine going on to say something contradicting the egalitarian claim is really icing on the cake.

Well, let's just take Ware's own characterization of it in terms of an 'authority-submission' structure. What Ware's argument requires saying is that, in the midst of an elaborate and lengthy argument against the Arians, an argument that defends at great length the claim (among others) that the Son is equal in authority to the Father, that Augustine is claiming that there is some sort of (non-Arian) authority the Father has that the Son does not. OK, but this requires a serious argument, one that shows that the basic structure to which Augustine is appealing is really an authority-submission structure and not, as it arguably has usually been read, as exactly the reverse, an argument that the Son shares every authority the Father has precisely because He is from the Father. And without that, the passage that Ware cites so triumphantly as being a case of Giles's truncating and selectively quoting Augustine does not even appear to add anything to the discussion.

So there's no need to go so far as to say that the subordinationists are being Arian here. Given that Augustine was fighting against the Arians, and given that one of the keystones in his fight against the Arians was the claim that the Son is equal in authority to the Father, the claim that Augustine is explicitly affirming some difference in authority has to be carefully and closely argued. Ware doesn't do this; and, in fact, in his paraphrase of Augustine uses phrases like 'in eternity past' which would be virtually nonsense on a genuinely Augustinian position. If nothing else, this has the reverse effect Ware intends: instead of showing that Augustine is a subordinationist, it makes it seem like subordinationists are just engaging in eisegesis. And that's not the impression a subordinationist wants to give in a case like this, because the natural conclusion is that if they do it here, they're likely to be doing it everywhere.

Plus, I don't think Ware can get out of the worry about equality quite so easily. On subordinationist lines the equality tends to be qualified by 'in nature' or 'in substance' or 'in divinity'; you're absolutely right that this enough to make the position non-Arian. But the position, according to Ware himself, requires that the difference between Father and Son be seen not merely as a difference of ordering -- God begetting God and God begotten by God -- but also as an 'authority-submission structure'; and this requires introducing a thing that the Father and Son do not share that seems to go well beyond the purely originative sense in which the Trinitarian claims are usually taken. And it is, in fact, very difficult to see how this does not implicitly introduce an inequality into the Trinity by giving the Father an authority the Son does not have, since the begetter-begotten relation, as found in the Trinity, and certainly as understood by the Church Fathers, isn't itself obviously an authority-submission relation. That there may be some way of allowing functional submission in which there is no inequality introduced at all, only a difference, I concede completely. But subordinationists need to stop pretending that it's somehow obvious when in fact their claims seem paradoxical, and when most of the arguments they use seem to rely on dubious assumptions (e.g., the common one of conflating processions with authority/submission structures which, at the very least, is not an obvious way to read them).

What does Augustine say that implies the Son has authority equal to the Father in such a way that the Father has no authority over the Son? If anything, he is arguing that the Son has authority over us in a way equal to the Father's authority over us. I wouldn't have thought Augustine was reaching for heresy in order to respond to Arianism. But even if that is Augustine's view, it doesn't do to appeal to a heretical view of a respected figure to show that the church has historically held that view. I'll have to look more carefully at the passages in question in their context, but I have trouble seeing how this could help Giles.

I'm not sure what you mean by 'reaching for heresy in order to respond to Arianism', since the position is completely orthodox. For instance, Gregory of Nyssa's famous argument in On Not Three Gods seems to collpase if Father and Son have distinct intra-Trinitarian roles; while Damascene in De Fide allows one sense in which we might say that the Father is greater than the Son, this sense just is the fact that the Father begets the Son, and he explicitly denies that this involves serving the Father's ends, and his argument for why the Trinity does not involve three Gods would likewise seem to collapse if the subordinationist position that the Father and Son have different roles or functions were right; and Nazianzen likewise says that the Father has nothing that the Son does not, except the fact that He begets the Son.

Augustine says several times that the Son and Father are equal in authority in every way, and explicitly denies that the Son's being from the Father suggests that there is any inequality in authority between them. (Book 4 of the De Trin., one of Ware's favorites, is a good example.) Thus, for instance, he says that the Son is sent by the Father not because He is in any way unequal to or less than the Father but because He is from the Father, Light from Light, God from God. To read this in a subordinationist way as Ware does, you have to read the procession itself as a form of subordination. But Augustine never claims this, and is very clear that the procession is ontological: the Father is not sent, for instance, because the Father has no one from whom to be, from whom to proceed; whereas the Son does have someone from whom to be. Since one of the chief arguments of the Arians was that that the procession was a form of subordination, and all of Augustine's talk about equality is a response to this type of argument, any claim that Augustine was a subordinationist about the processions would require an argument that Augustine is genuinely admitting the processions to be a form of subordination, particularly since he never claims this -- in fact, he seems always to insist that the processions show that the Son is equal to the Father in every way. Thus, Augustine is very explicit in Book 4 that the Trinity works wholly indivisibly, which is hard to reconcile with subordinationist claims of different roles and functions, which requires that they work divisibly at least to the extent that the roles or functions can be distinguished. And in Book 6, he says that if the Son is not equal to the Father in everything, He is equal to the Father in nothing. Now, it's possible that these claims don't mean what on the surface they seem to mean, and that there are some qualifications that Augustine is not explicitly making, just as one might say of the Caesareans or of Damascene. But this would need to be argued by close examination of the text, which Ware certainly does not give; and if nothing else it is suspicious that all of them are more naturally read in a non-subordinationist way.

Book V of De Trinitate makes exactly the distinction that complementarians are making. Augustine distinguishes between a substance-wise distinction and a modification-wise distinction. A substance-wise distinction has to do with ontology or nature. A modification-wise distinction is merely relational in roles. The Father and Son are said to be Father and Son, but that is true only modification-wise. They do have those roles but only in terms of relational properties not to do with their single essence. If you are speaking of their essence, it is actually false to say that one is Father and the other Son. Thus the role distinctions of Father and Son are not true of the divine essence but merely of a relation between the persons not grounded in the divine essence shared by both persons. This is exactly the view Ware is defending.

The reason I say it would be heresy for Augustine to deny this is that it goes against both the creeds and scripture. To deny this is to assert that there is no difference between persons of the Trinity. It amounts to saying the divine essence makes the Father and Son identical in every way. Thus it goes against the creeds. It also goes against scripture by denying the Son's willingness to submit to the Father's will (throughout John and in all the synoptic gospels in Gethsemane), to lay all glory at the Father's feet once it has been given to him at the end (I Cor 15), and the Son's representation of the Father in a way that never goes the other way (especially in the Johannine literature).

[Update 11:03 am]: I think the other problem is that you are taking the authority complementarians are speaking of as being some kind of rule over someone. That's not at all what complementarians have in mind. The kind of authority complementarians mean is simply like that of the Father to the Son, where the Father sends the Son who is equal to him and the Son voluntarily and not out of his nature submits to the Father. Keep in mind that this is supposed to be analogous to complementarian views on gender roles, which are much less authoritarian than Augustine's views on that issue (see here). I think it's partly because he had more extreme views on that issue than the biblical statements allow for that Augustine didn't want to draw the analogy that contemporary complementarians are drawing. He knew that would have been heresy, and his statements that you are referring to seem to me to make exactly that point.


I don't think the relation-wise distinction can be interpreted in terms of 'roles', at least not unless we are using the term in an unusual technical sense. Roles would suggest accidents, in the Aristotelian sense, and Augustine denies that; and, as you suggest, would seem to contrast with the ontological, which Augustine also seems to deny (see, for example, V.6). Augustine, in fact, is using the terms in the sense used in the Aristotelian categories, when they are read logically, as is suggested in V.8; the reason the distinction needs to be made is that the relatedness of Father to Son is not one substance and the relatedness of Son to Father another substance -- relatively the Father is distinct from the Son, and the Son from the Father, even though they are one substance. And that, I think, is all that can be attributed to Augustine here: some of the terms we use of the Trinity are substance-wise, and others are relation-wise; and the relation-wise distinctions don't imply any substance-wise distinction. I don't think there's anything controversial here, nor even any particular account of the relation between the Persons and the Essence, just the problem Augustine had at the time -- finding the right vocabulary to articulate this sort of thing.

Nothing about this implies any sort of 'authority-submission structure' as Ware suggests it does. What it does mean is that Father and Son are distinguished as to origin -- taking that term in a very broad sense -- much as we find in (say) the Cappadocians. If that were the complementarian view, it isn't clear what conclusion could be drawn from it. In particular, it isn't clear why it's supposed to be such a serious blow to the egalitarian, since it seems entirely consistent with it. The bite comes from reading it as requiring us to say (in Ware's words) that "the Father is eternally in authority over the Son, and the Son eternally in submission to the Father," that "the Father is supreme over all and, in particular, is supreme within the Godhead". When we turn to the marriage analogy, it does indeed begin to look disturbing: if Person A is over Person B in such a way that Person B is to submit to Person A's will, that is nothing other than for A to rule B, and such a 'complementarianism' is also a subordinationism -- it holds that the complementary roles of man and wife are such that the husband rules his wife. But there are many different sorts of complementary roles one could have in mind; and not all of them need to be understood in this way. Thus it is possible to have a complementarianism that is not just a weak subordinationism but is in fact what we might call a weak egalitarianism, in which one is not over the other (except perhaps in a way completely incidental to Christian life, e.g., if one is recognized by worldly law or custom as being over the other), but their relation to the whole set of responsibilities in the marriage is perspectivally different: they all share all the responsibilities equally, but one as man and one as woman. An egalitarianism that allows for differences in style, so to speak. This really would have some at least vague analogy to the sort of distinction Augustine makes in Book 5. There are probably other ways to do it as well.

So I still allow that one can have a reasonable complementarianism. But Ware's account, as it comes out in his arguments for it, looks nothing at all like such a complementarianism would be.

I don't like the language about ruling or being supreme within the Godhead. I don't think that's the standard complementarian view, though. Ware is sometimes over-the-top in his rhetoric, so it doesn't surprise me that he's like that here.

I do think that if Augustine is in any way remotely faithful to the statements about sending and being sent in John that he has to be thinking in terms of an authority relation that is exactly not a relation of rule and ruled but one of the Son's voluntary submission and representation of one who is simultaneously equal and yet in authority over him. That's the only way I can read those statements in John in context, and it's that language that Augustine is using in this section.

if Person A is over Person B in such a way that Person B is to submit to Person A's will, that is nothing other than for A to rule B, and such a 'complementarianism' is also a subordinationism

That seems to me to be flatly fallacious. Elders in the church are not ruling and are in fact equals with the rest of their congregation, and yet believers are commanded in scripture to submit to them. Whether you call it subordinationism depends on what you mean by the term, but I don't think any sense it which it is subordinationism is a bad sense of the term.

Elders in a church, to the extent that they are genuinely seen as over the others in the church and that submission is expected to them, are obviously ruling; I don't see how one can avoid that conclusion. Of course, we don't generally think of elders in a church in such a way that we are to submit to them, rather than, at most, just take their views under advisement as we make our own decisions. But if elders were seen as being in a position more like that of a Catholic bishop, who has authority over his flock in such a sense that submission to his will is (to some extent) follows from that authority as a requirement, rule is precisely what it would be, and rule is precisely what it has generally been treated as. Of course, some people may, in fact, consider elders to have such authority; in their case, to use Milton's phrase, their 'new presbyter is but old priest writ large' -- they are attributing to elders exactly the same features that make bishops 'lords spiritual'.

I don't think Augustine would have any problem with the Johannine points; they all involve the Incarnation, the Word made flesh. Given that Christ is both God and Man it isn't really very surprising that he is simultaneously both equal to the Father (since He is God) and subordinate to Him (since He is Man). Thus he models for us, as a human being Himself, the extent to which all human submission to God should reach, and mediates for us as one who is both equal to the Father and a man like as we are.

There are certain things elders don't have any authority over, but insofar as I am to serve in the local church I ought to submit to my elders in terms of my ministry within the local body. But I don't think that counts as them ruling unless they're dictatorial about it. If they give freedom to people to pursue ministry in various ways but oversee and have to end up reigning people in on some things, I think that counts as submission without being ruled.

I'm not sure your last paragraph is consistent with what you've been arguing all along, though. Haven't you been saying that Augustine wouldn't see Christ as subordinate to the Father? As far as I can tell, that's all I take complementarianism to be claiming as the ground for human gender role differences.

Sorry -- I hadn't intended to suggest that Augustine denies that Christ is subordinate to the Father; he just seems to me to be very careful to identify that role with his humanity -- i.e., with his taking the form of a servant. And a view like that is going to make virtually impossible the attempt to argue that, as far as the Godhead is concerned, the Son is both equal to and subordinate to the Father.

I'm still not convinced on the rule & elders thing; rule is just the authority to govern. Your distinction between rule and non-rule seems to me more like a distinction between dictatorial rule and constitutional rule (or rule with delegation of authority). And in any case, such an authority appears to be a declaration of inequality with regard to local ministry, such that the elder is my superior, even if in other domains the elder and I are equal; so I don't see how equality is preserved under such a system.

As a side issue, I was thinking about all the big passages on marriage roles in the New Testament, and it struck me that while women are several times told to submit in certain ways, men are never told to exercise authority over women (and certainly never told to make them submit) -- and what the men are told to do is not the sort of thing that would change whether the women submit or not (in whatever sense we take 'submission'). The only way to read it that way is to place a lot of emphasis on a particular interpretation of the headship passages, and the headship passages, however understood, involve no commands or counsels for husbands. It occurs to me that one way to run the sort of authority-submission complementarianism you are suggesting, in a way that might work is to say that, while there are strong reasons for wives to submit (however that is understood) the husbands are never given the authority to make them submit -- the authority of the husband consists entirely in the wife's submission, which is between her, Scripture, and God, while the husband's responsibilities (to love her as himself, as Christ loved the Church, for example) remain the same whether she submits or not, or in whatever way she decides to submit. As I said, something like this might work, although I still have my doubts. There are perhaps variations of it that would be equally promising.

Ah, I think I remember that now from the last discussion we had. Do you know where he connects the subordination with Jesus' humanity?

On elders and authority, there is of course one sense in which it's not equality. Whenever there's difference, there's something that isn't equal. If two people are differently gifted, they aren't equal in every sense, because one has the gift of teaching, and the other doesn't, which the other has the gift of administration, which the first doesn't have. But that kind of denial of equality isn't problematic because it's consistent with the kind of equality insisted upon in Galatians 3:28. It's exactly the same kind of inequality that I think complementarians mean when they say that there are role differences between husband and wife and between elders (who are restricted to men) and the rest of the congregation.

As a side issue, I was thinking about all the big passages on marriage roles in the New Testament, and it struck me that while women are several times told to submit in certain ways, men are never told to exercise authority over women (and certainly never told to make them submit) -- and what the men are told to do is not the sort of thing that would change whether the women submit or not (in whatever sense we take 'submission').

Exactly. That's why I don't think ruling is an appropriate analogy if it's to match up with the passages on submission in marriage.

Husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church (Eph 5), to love their wives and not be embittered toward them (Col 4), and to treat their wives with consideration as weaker vessels and show them honor as fellow heirs of the grace of life (I Pet 3). There is also that obscure stuff in I Corinthians 11 about men (the same word as for husbands) not praying with their heads covered, following immediately after the passage that does make the analogy between Father and Son and husband and wife.

The thing that you say might work is exactly the thing that I think complementarians have in mind, and I think that's in fact the biblical teaching.

I don't think he discusses it at great length, but he tends to insist on equality when talking about the Word as God and on humility when talking about the Word as man; the first nine chapters of this work are a good example, as are the fifth and sixth sections of his sermon on the creed. Some of Augustine's comments in the Tractates on John on some of the important submission passages in the gospel are suggestive as well (see here for a good example). But I fully concede that most of this is just strongly suggestive rather than definitive; because of Arianism, he sometimes tends to read the submission passages in the opposite direction one would expect -- as texts proving the perfect equality of the Father and the Son -- so statements about Christ's submission, while they exist, seem to me to be fairly rare in Augustine.

On the thing you think complementarians have in mind: While I am still a bit skeptical about how the particular details would work, I think we are both agreed that such a complementarianism is reasonable, and that it has a lot to be said for it Scripturally. I would have much less of a problem with complementarian arguments if they focused on this.

I think there *is* a connection in Augustine between the subordination of the "human" Jesus and the eternally begotten Son. Look at what he says here:

"For the Father is greater than I;"(1) and, "The head of the woman is the man, the Head of the man is Christ, and the Head of Christ is God;"(2) and, "Then shall He Himself be subject unto Him that put all things under Him;"(3) and, "I go to my Father and your Father, my God and your God,"(4) together with some others of like tenor. Now all these have had a place given them, [certainly] not with the object of signifying an inequality of nature and substance;·But these statements have had a place given them, partly with a view to that administration of His assumption of human nature (administrationem suscepti hominis), in accordance with which it is said that "He emptied Himself:" not that that Wisdom was changed, since it is absolutely unchangeable; but that it was His will to make Himself known in such humble fashion to men. Partly then, I repeat, it is with a view to this administration that those things have been thus written which the heretics make the ground of their false allegations; and partly it was with a view to the consideration that the Son owes to the Father that which He is, - thereby also certainly owing this in particular to the Father, to wit, that He is equal to the same Father, or that He is His Peer (eidem Patri aequalis aut par est), whereas the Father owes whatsoever He is to no one. (De Fide et Symbolo 9.18)

I think that passage has a lot of value for this discussion!

So he owes his equality with the Father to the Father, whereas the Father owes nothing to the Son. Yes, that's the sort of thing I have in mind as the kind of claim the complementarian needs to make to justify saying full equality in nature but difference in role. That does seem to be the sort of thing that didn't begin at the incarnation but is simply true of the Son simpliciter, even if some of the other manifestations of difference in role begin only at the incarnation.

zactly! There is something added in the incarnation but *also* a congruence between humanity and (divine) filiality.
I think this opens vast vistas in our understanding and suggests a reflexive relationship between humanity and sonship. This is the real value in thinking hard about eternal relational subordination.

I'm not sure what you mean by "a reflexive relationship between humanity and sonship". A reflexive relationship is between something and itself. How do you have a reflexive relationship between two non-identical things? Or are you saying that the Son's humanity and the Son's Sonship are the same thing? If so, then his humanity isn't the same humanity that all humans have, so I'd resist that.

Thankyou that's a helpful query - my language is unclear. On one level all I mean is mutually illuminating - humanity and Sonship are two different things that reveal one another in a similar way that Jesus and the Old Testament reveal each other.

But there is also a sense in which they *are* the same thing. The Son in his final exalted state simultaneously realises both his own destiny and the destiny of humanity. The final relationship he has by virtue of his redeeming death cf Rev 5 - *fulfills* humanity (Heb 2 cf Ps 8). And of course he draws us into that fulfillment too.

I am of course talking relationships here rather than ontology.

The above is still unclear so here is another go...

What I think is important is that the Son can be human and remain himself: that the doctrine of the two natures should not mean that he has two incompatible relationships with his Father (one subordinate, the other other equal).

Rather his humanity *fits* with his Sonship. So as humans are functionally the image of God so the Son is the true image both naturally *and* functionally (Jn 5, 1Cor 8). In him the Father is reiterated (ek tes ousias patrou) and in his rule and action the Father is recapitulated (John 5).

I want to suggest that this has significance not just for us but for the Son himself: that through the incarnation and atonement he achieves - not simply salvation for us - but becomes manifest as an object of worship in his own right. His ontology doesn't change yet his death creates a new relationship between him and the cosmos - hence the *new song* of Rev 5.

And this reveals the final meaning of "human". Human is a functional title for the One through whom God the Father presents as ruler of this creation and through whom he achieves his redeeming purpose. We in our present state are shadows of Him and one day will be caught up in His Humanity (1Jn 3; Rev 5; 1Cor 15 etc etc).

All of this relies on a sense of order and the priority of the Father.

Is this clearer? I realise I am imprecise in my mode of expression.

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