The Eternal Subordination of the Son Controversy: 3. Subordination

1. The Debate So Far
2. Survey of Some Relevant Material

The third part of my series on the recent debates about the eternal subordination of the Son has just been published over on Reformation21.

‘Authority’, employed in such a context, is another term whose very definition seems to preclude Trinitarian equality for many minds. It is telling that, in contrast to others like Ware, ‘authority’ doesn’t really feature in Letham’s account of the eternal relation between the Father and Son. A free submission of the Son may be more congruent with a non-subordinationist account of the Triune relations than an authority-submission pairing, which seems to imply rank, although that suggestion may be firmly resisted. There are more benign definitions of ‘authority’ to be found, but within the subordinationist cast of most ESS positions, they don’t seem to invite themselves (by contrast, New Testament teaching concerning the ‘command’ of the Father in relation to the Son are often more suggestive of the Father giving his full authorization to the Son than merely of the Son being under the Father’s authority). At this point I will note in passing that biblical teaching about the relations between the sexes mentions the submission of the wife on several occasions, but lacks a strong corresponding emphasis upon the husband’s authority over her.

Read the whole thing here.

About Alastair Roberts

Alastair Roberts (PhD, Durham University) writes in the areas of biblical theology and ethics, but frequently trespasses beyond these bounds. He participates in the weekly Mere Fidelity podcast, blogs at Alastair’s Adversaria, and tweets at @zugzwanged.
This entry was posted in Bible, Controversies, Doctrine of God, Guest Post, NT, NT Theology, Sex and Sexuality, The Triune God, Theological. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Eternal Subordination of the Son Controversy: 3. Subordination

  1. ali1 says:

    I have been looking forward to these articles, Alastair, but I must confess that waiting long, indeterminate lengths of time between publishing has cooled my adour. I realise it’s not your decision when they are put up. I am disappointed in Reformation21’s editorial decision on this. In the world of internet debates, weeks between articles is unnecessarily long. It breaks up the flow of the discussion and turns a timely word into a word out of sync. I’m sure they’ll be worth reading when they finally get published, just less relevant.

    • Sorry to hear this. As you note, it isn’t my choice. That said, this is a debate that has been developing for a long time and is worth taking time over. The online culture of the hot take is one whose habits many of us have deeply imbibed. However, there are benefits to the ‘cold take’, to the practice of giving ourselves the time and distance from the immediate heat of controversy to look at matters more objectively.

      • ali1 says:

        I agree with the benefits of the ‘cold take’ where the writing is delayed, but a delay between writing and publishing misses out on voices in between. It may be that you would not have changed anything were you to write it now, but I would have loved to see some engagement, for example, with articles like Mark Baddeley’s part 3, 4 and 5 of ‘the Ordered Godhead’ at the Australian Gospel Coalition website, where he argues that subordination language is used – though not in the same manner even between Fathers – in the fight against Arianism, and illustrates how two Fathers explained hierarchy within the One God.

        As an added extra (lucky you :)), I’ll note I find the rejection of subordination language to essentially refuse to seriously entertain the difficulty of comprehending God. My perspective is that, for very many, the avoidance of “subordination” in this debate is due to conflating Trinitarian doctrine with gender rather than a concern with maintaining correct doctrine. The use of the word “subordination” hand in hand with God’s Oneness, even where necessarily heavily qualified, allows us to feel the weight of the otherness and amazingness of God.

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