Finding Eternal Subordination of the Son in the Oddest Places

As I’ve written before, there are many, many books that teach eternal subordination of the Son (ESS). Books for women, books for children, even notes in a very popular study Bible teach ESS. Most of the time, I’m not surprised when ESS shows up in a book, especially if the author has connections to CBMW, Wayne Grudem, or SBTS (where Bruce Ware teaches).

But every now and then, I’m truly surprised to find ESS being taught. Recently I read Through His Eyes: God’s Perspective on Women in the Bible by Jerram Barrs. Barrs is a professor at Covenant Seminary in St. Louis. In the introduction, Barrs writes about the purpose of the book:

What does God think about women, and how does he treat them? My passionate desire and prayer is that the book will be an encouragement to women and a challenge to men to treat women with the same honor that the Lord himself shows. (9)

Each chapter focuses on a different woman from the Bible and attempts to correct misunderstandings that have gotten in the way of our understanding of what the Bible teaches about women. I was intrigued by the premise and interested to see how Barrs dealt with the topic.

The first three chapters deal with Eve. One of the first things Barrs’ emphasizes is Adam and Eve’s equality in creation. I was pleased that he did. However, when he tries to explain how Adam has a position of authority or leadership over Eve, he introduces classic ESS teaching:

In addition, it is Adam who gives Eve her name, and as we mentioned earlier, this implies a particular significance or authority in the one who does the naming. … This leadership of Adam in relationship with Eve, and her corresponding commitment to him, does not mean that their equality is undermined, for Eve and Adam are like the Trinity in which there is a headship of the Father over the Son, and yet there is also a full equality of Godhead (1 Corinthians 11:, Colossians 1:19; 2:9). (22)

It’s not until the appendix at the end of the book that Barrs develops the ESS theme. The appendix is apparently a wedding sermon that Barrs preached where the couple asked him to speak about headship and submission. Barrs uses the names “Adam” and “Eve” in place of the couple’s actual names.

Interestingly, Barrs brings a twist to ESS that I’ve never seen before. In his formulation, the Father, Son, and Spirit are equal in authority, but there’s still a hierarchy of headship:

This pattern of headship comes from creation itself, or perhaps we should say from God himself. The Lord who made us, the Lord we worship, is a triune God. God is the three persons of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who have loved and delighted in each other from all eternity. Within the Trinity there is full equalitythe Son and Spirit are just as fully God as is the Father. The Son and the Spirit have just as much authority, are just as powerful, just as holy, just as wise, just as good just as loving, just as glorious as the Father. To deny this full equality of the persons of the Godhead is heresy, a serious departure from the truth. Yet, within the Trinity there is also a hierarchythe Father is over the Son and the Spirit, and the western churches have taught that the Son is over the Spirit. The Son and the Spirit delight to submit themselves always to the Father’s will; and the Spirit delights to submit to the Son and to do his will. (324, emphasis original)

Barrs points out that the hierarchy isn’t demeaning at all. God the Father gives God the Son the “most significant tasks imaginable”!

This headship of the Father is not demeaning to the Son in any way. The Father is pleased to honor the Son always by giving him the most significant tasks imaginable … The Son, for his part, is ever gladly submissive to the Father. He is always eager to do his Father’s will, committed to obeying his Father’s every word, ready to speak whatever the Father wants him to say, pleased to respect and honor his Father in everything he does, devoted to bringing glory to his Father. We look at this eternal relationship of headship and submission, and it is no vision of miseryrather it is an eternally shared glory! (324-325, emphasis added)

So, in addition to ESS (eternal subordination of the Son), EFS (eternal functional submission), and ERAS (eternal relations of authority and submission), we now have ERHS (eternal relationship of headship and submission).

Having explained the origin of headship and submission in the eternal relationships within the Trinity, Barrs applies this equal but hierarchical relationship to marriage. Instead of the Biblical example for marriage, Christ and the church, Barrs focuses on the Father/Son relationship in the “family of the Trinity.”

Adam and Eve, your relationship is to mirror the relationship between the Father and the Son, for the apostle Paul teaches us that your family, just like every other family on earth or in heaven, is named and patterned after the family of our heavenly Father, the family of the Trinity … Eve and Adam, you are to show to the world the beauty of the eternal love between the Son and the Father. (325-326)

In the study questions at the end of the appendix, Barrs asks:

Have you considered before reading this chapter the reality of equality and headship that exists within the Trinity? As you think about this, how would you express the beauty of the relationship between the Father and the Son as it is described for us in the Scriptures? (328)

To answer his questions, no such “reality of equality and headship exists within the Trinity.” And I would describe such a relationship of authority and submission as heretical. Barrs is right that to deny full equality within the Trinity is heretical. But sadly, he doesn’t recognize that he’s doing so here.

When I read the first paragraph in the Eve chapter that taught ESS, I was really surprised, and I honestly hoped that it was somehow a poorly worded section. Maybe something the publisher (Crossway) wanted to include. But give the fully developed ESS (ERHS?) in the appendix, and given that Barrs preached ESS at a wedding, it seems that Barrs is another who teaches and promotes ESS (at least at the time).

Barrs ends his introduction by calling for men to treat women better. Ironically, he says:

Many women experience discrimination and poor treatment in their churches and in their homes. In conservative circles this is sometimes defended and justified by specious appeals to Scripture. (11)

ESS and its application to marriage are part of the “discrimination and poor treatment” that many women experience in the home and in churches. As a popular author and teacher, many men and women have read and will read his book. I hope that in the intervening years, and given the Trinity debate of 2016, that Barrs has changed his mind about ESS. If so, I hope he’ll clarify his position publicly.

Eternal Subordination of the Son and Biblical Patriarchy

Continuing the series on ESS/EFS/ERAS in various books and articles, today I want to look at a different set of authors. Each of the authors quoted here has self-identified with the Biblical Patriarchy movement. Unfortunately, this is one of the overlaps between the Biblical Patriarchy movement and mainstream complementarianism.

Debi Pearl, and her husband, Michael, have been popular authors within homeschooling and patriarchal circles for some time. There have been many articles written responding to various aspects of their teaching.

In her book, Created to Be His Help Meet, Debi Pearl makes several troubling statements about the Trinity. She believes that there are three type of men and that this reflects the differences between the persons of the Godhead. According to her, each type of man is made in the Father’s image, the Son’s image, or the Spirit’s image:

I have become aware that there are basically three types of men. The different types are just as marked in one-year-olds as they are in adult men. It seems that God made each male to express one side of his triad nature. No single man completely expresses the well-rounded image of God.(p. 75, Kindle Edition)

A little later in the book, Debi Pearl explains that the pattern of women submitting to men reflects the “heavenly pattern” of the Son’s submission to the Father:

God is focusing our attention on the heavenly pattern. the emphasis is not on women submitting to men, but rather on women showing, here on earth, the heavenly pattern of the Son submitting to the Father. (p. 117, Kindle Edition)

As noted in the article on Eternal Subordination of the Son in books for youth, Jasmine Baucham wrote about ESS in her book for stay-at-home-daughters, Joyfully at Home. She gives Wayne Grudem’s explanation for 1 Cor. 11:3

In one section of his book, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, Dr. Wayne Grudem gives ten arguments that prove male headship in a marriage before the fall: … The parallel with the Trinity: The equality, differences, and unity between men and women reflect the equality, difference, and unity in the Trinity (1 Corinthians 11:3). (24)

Jasmine Baucham’s father, Voddie Baucham, also wrote defending ESS in his book, What He Must Be: … If He Wants to Marry My Daughter:

One of the things that grieve Kunsman is the insistence by “Complementarians” that the Son is somehow subordinate to the Father in the Trinity. Kunsman says that this heterodox teaching “emerged in the 1970s in response to feminism, but only gained popularity recently through the publication of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology in 1994.” And here I thought the apostle Paul taught this doctrine in 1 Corinthians 11! (p. 88, Kindle Edition)

In Voddie Baucham’s book, Family Shepherds, he wrote that the Bible is clear in teaching headship within the Trinity:

The Bible makes it clear that Christ is equal to the Father in every way (John 1:1; 5:18; 10:33; 2 Cor. 4:4; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:15, 19; 2:9), and yet there is headship even in the Trinity—a point that Paul brings in as he also discusses the headship of husbands in the home (Kindle Locations 1570-1572)

Bill Gothard’s organization, Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), has many online resources to explain their teaching on different topics. One of them addresses “What are God-ordained authority structures“. IBLP’s answer explains the authority structure they see in the Trinity:

The orderliness we find in structures of authority reflects the order of God’s own nature. God is a Trinity: the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The Father sent the Son into the world as Savior and Redeemer. (See I John 4:9.) Jesus was obedient to God the Father.

Each member of the Trinity works within the structure of authority and fulfills a specific role, perfectly complementing the others and demonstrating God’s glory. The members are not independent of one another, but God the Father is recognized as the authority Who directs and empowers the Son and Holy Spirit to carry out His will.

R.C. Sproul, Jr., who helped write Vision Forum’s Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy, wrote about the authority of the Father and the subordination of the Son in his book, Bound for Glory. According to Sproul, Jr, the Father gave the orders to the Son and Spirit and explained their roles to them:

We affirm that in His counsels before all time the Father spoke to the Son something like this: “This is the plan; this is what we’re going to do. I’m going to elect a people for you, a bride. Son, you’re going to take on flesh and you’re going to tabernacle among them. You will obey all of my revealed will, keeping my law. But, you will receive the wrath due to the sons of disobedience. I will curse you, forsake you, such that those whom I have chosen will have their sins covered. Your righteousness will be deemed their righteousness.” The Father then explained to the Spirit His role (Kindle Locations 720-721)

He also wrote that in this way, the Son is subordinate to the Father in the covenant of redemption:

Who is giving the orders here? In the covenant of redemption it is clearly God the Father. The Son is in a subordinate role to the Father. (Kindle Locations 721-725)

He explains that the subordination doesn’t mean the Son and Spirit are lesser:

In like manner, the Spirit is subordinate to the Father and the Son. Both the Father and the Son send forth the Spirit. Should we then conclude that somehow the second person of the Trinity is less than the Father in terms of dignity, power, and glory, or that God the Holy Spirit is somewhat lacking, at least in comparison to the Father and the Son, in holiness, in graciousness, or in sovereignty? Of course not. (Kindle Locations 728-729)

He believes the Father made the assignments in the covenant of redemption:

We need to understand that as the Father is making these assignments in the covenant of redemption, He is not doing so on the basis of particular strengths or weaknesses. … No, the roles are not assigned on the basis of differences among the members of the Trinity, simply because there aren’t any differences. (Kindle Locations 731-733)

Lastly, Sproul Jr, connects the authority and subordination in the Trinity with the husband/wife relationship:

Just as with the members of the Trinity, while there is an equality of value, and a distinction of authority, there is also a distinction in calling. While husbands and wives work together in the building of the kingdom, their work is not identical. (Kindle Locations 776-778)

David Bayly of the Bayly brothers’ blog wrote during the Trinity debate this summer to voice his support of ESS and patriarchy:

Two men I regard as friends recently came out against the subordination of Christ to the Father. Now, Doug Wilson and Liam Goligher say that they oppose only the eternal subordination of the Son, not the economic, yet this distinction presupposes a well-defined line between the economic and the ontological Trinity that doesn’t exist. No creed of the Church or passage in Scripture spells out the boundaries of this division, nor is there general agreement on where the ontological ends and the economic begins. In fact, the distinction is fraught with challenges. At what point did the covenant of redemption leave the realm of ontology and enter the realm of economy? No one has answered this question–and no one can when the Son was slain from the foundation of the world. Yet critics of Christ’s submission act as though it’s a settled issue.

Really? Fatherhood is not a social issue? Is not rooted in the Trinity? The inner life of Father and Son does not support patriarchy?

Interestingly, Doug Wilson is on record as both for and against ESS. In his first post, he seemed to deny it. That’s the post referenced by David Bayly above. In his later post, Wilson states his agreement with Grudem regarding authority and submission in the Godhead. He also explains that the Son’s “existence is obedience” and the Father’s “existence is authority”:

I agree that true and ultimate authority/submission must be grounded within the Godhead. I agree with Grudem there.

Now someone will point out that they don’t see how it is possible to have “authority and submission within the Godhead coupled with complete ontological equality” without that position logically entailing three wills, which would then be heterodox. I frankly confess that it would be heterodox, and that I don’t know how there can be anything resembling authority and submission with only one will. I get the problem. But I also don’t see, and on exactly the same grounds, how there can be anything like a Father and a Son with only one will. If I could do the math on this kind of thing, I would be a good deal richer than I am.

So Fatherhood is ultimate, and Fatherhood is ad intra. The Fatherhood of the Father did not come into existence after the decision to create the world. It is not in any way dependent upon the decision to create the world. And so there should be no more difficulty in saying that the Son is eternally obedient than there is in saying that He is eternally begotten. His existence is obedience — eternal obedience, obedience that could not be otherwise. The Father’s existence is authority.

One of my concerns about complementarianism is the overlap it has with the Biblical Patriarchy movement. The ESS/EFS/ERAS debate is an example of why such concern is valid. There are relatively few confessional Christians who have come out in support of ESS/EFS/ERAS. For those who have, many are part of the Biblical Patriarchy movement. Not all of the authors quoted here claim to be Reformed and Confessional but several do.

As with all of the articles in this series, it is my hope that this will be a resource for those who are interested in how widespread the ESS/EFS/ERAS teaching is.

Eternal Subordination of the Son and CBMW

Continuing the series on books and resources where ESS/EFS/ERAS appear, this article focuses on the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). In a recent article, CBMW’s new president, Denny Burk, attempts to distance himself and CBMW from the Trinity debate. While I appreciate the effort, the evidence shows that ESS/EFS/ERAS has been embraced and taught by many who represent CBMW from the beginning. To date there has been no statement by CBMW to reject ESS/EFS/ERAS.

John Piper and Wayne Grudem’s Recovering Biblical  Manhood and Womanhood was published in 1991 for CBMW as a collection of essays explaining their view of biblical manhood and womanhood. ESS appears in a couple of essays.

In Raymond Ortlund’s essay “Male-Female Equality and Male Headship Genesis 1-3,” he gives a more orthodox explanation of authority and submission in the Trinity, but the focus is still there:

After all, God exists as one Godhead in three Persons, equal in glory but unequal in role. Within the Holy Trinity the Father leads, the Son submits to Him, and the Spirit submits to both (the Economic Trinity). But it is also true that the three Persons are fully equal in divinity, power, and glory (the Ontological Trinity). The Son submits, but not because He is God, Jr., an inferior deity. The ranking within the Godhead is a part of the sublime beauty and logic of true deity. (92-93)

The fact that a line of authority exists from one person to another in both slavery and marriage, and, for that matter, in the Holy Trinity, in the Body of Christ, in the local church, in the parent-child relationship-the fact that a line of authority exists from one person to another in all of these relationships does not reduce them all to the logic of slavery. (94)

Dorothy Patterson, a CBMW council member, in her essay “The High Calling of Wife and Mother in Biblical Perspective,” compares the relationship between husband and wife to the Father and Son:

But subordination is also possible among equals: Christ is equal to God the Father and yet subject to Him (Philippians 2:6-8); believers are equal to one another and yet are admonished to “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21). In fact, one can be called to subordinate himself to someone who is inferior, as Christ submitted to Pontius Pilate, making “no reply, not even to a single charge” (Matthew 27:11-14). The mere fact that wives are told to be subject to their husbands tells us nothing about their status. It is the comparison of the relationship between husband and wife to the relationship of God the Father with God the Son that settles the matter of status forever. (379)

Wayne Grudem’s “The Meaning of Kephale (“Head”): A Response to Recent Studies” gives the clearest statement of ESS. It’s included as an appendix in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood:

The orthodox doctrine has always been that there is equality in essence and subordination in role and that these two are consistent with each other. Certainly this is consistent with Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 11:3 that “the head of Christ is God,” thus indicating a distinction in role in which primary authority and leadership among the persons of the Trinity has always been and will always be the possession of God the Father.6 (458)

Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:3 simply sets up three distinct relationships: the headship of God the Father in the Trinity, the headship of Christ over every man, and the headship of a man over a woman. (463)

At this point we must object and insist that authority and submission to authority are not pagan concepts. They are truly divine concepts, rooted in the eternal nature of the Trinity for all eternity and represented in the eternal submission of the Son to the Father and of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son. (464)

Such an attempt to shift the understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity as it has been held through the history of the church does not appear to be accidental, however, for the fact that God the Son can be eternally equal to God the Father in deity and in essence, but subordinate to the Father in authority, cuts at the heart of the feminist claim that a subordinate role necessarily implies lesser importance or lesser personhood. (475)

In 2004, Wayne Grudem, who is on both the board and council for CBMW, wrote Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth as a supplement to Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He explains his understanding of the authority/submission relationship in the Trinity:

The idea of authority and submission in an interpersonal relationship did not begin with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in 1987. … No, the idea of authority and submission has always existed in the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son in the Trinity. And this means that the idea of authority and submission in interpersonal relationships never began – it has always existed in the eternal relationship between the Father and Son. The doctrine of the Trinity thus indicates that equality of being together with authority and submission to authority are perhaps the most fundamental aspects of interpersonal relationship in the entire universe. (429)

Bruce Ware, a CBMW council member, wrote a 2002 article “Tampering with the Trinity,” which is available on CBMW. Ware wrote:

The authority-obedience relation of Father and Son in the immanent Trinity is mandatory if we are to account for God the Father’s eternal purpose to elect and save His people through His beloved Son.

Aimee Byrd quotes from the same article in her post, “What Denny Burk Could Do“:

These arguments will be weighed and support and will be offered for the church’s long-standing commitment to the trinitarian persons’ full equality of essence and differentiation of persons, the latter of which includes and entails the eternal functional subordination of the Son to the Father, and of the Spirit to both Father and Son.

Because the structure of authority and obedience is not only established by God, but it is, even more, possessed in God’s own inner trinitarian life, as the Father establishes his will and the Son joyfully obeys, therefore we should not despise, but should embrace proper lines of authority and obedience. In the home, believing community, and society, rightful lines of authority are good, wise, and beautiful reflections of the reality that is God himself. This applies to those in positions of God-ordained submission and obedience who need, then, to accept joyfully these proper roles of submission.

We more readily associate God with authority, but since the Son is the eternal Son of the Father, and since the Son is eternally God, then it follows that the inner trinitarian nature of God honors both authority and submission. Just as it is God-like to lead responsibly and well, so it is God-like to submit in human relationships where this is required. It is God-like for wives to submit to their husbands; it is God-like for children to obey their parents;… We honor God as we model both sides of the authority-submission relationship that characterizes the trinitarian persons themselves.

Former CBMW President, Owen Strachan, and CBMW council member, Gavin Peacock, wrote The Grand Design this year. In it they wrote:

This relationship of love is expressed through relationships of authority and submission. There is order. The Father is the Father because he sends the Son. The Son is the Son because he submits to the Father’s will. The Spirit is the Spirit because the Father and the Son send him. There is no Holy Trinity without the order of authority and submission. (89)

Mary Kassian, CBMW council member, has written several books that promote ESS. Here is a selection. From True Woman 101:

The discussion about creating man and woman took place among members of the Godhead. It may have been among all three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But at the very least, it involved the Father and His Son, as Scripture draws parallels between that relationship and the relationship of the man and the woman (see 1 Cor. 11:13). We’ll talk more about that later, but for now, just think about this: When God created male and female, He had the dynamic of His own relationship in mind. The Lord created the two sexes to reflect something about God. He patterned the male-female relationship (“them”) after the “us/our” relationship that exists within God. (24-25)

From True Woman 201:

Submission is a concept that goes hand in hand with authority. Both concepts find their origin and meaning in the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. They can’t be properly understood apart from that context. (223)

From The Feminist Mistake:

The feminist practice of inclusive Trinitarian language obscures the intra-Trinitarian relation between the Son and the Father. The Son was obedient to the Father though He is equal to the Father. The Father, in love, sacrificed the Son. The Son, who had the right to refuse, submitted to the Father. Denial of the Trinitarian relationship denies the concept of equality and hierarchy that is evident in the Godhead and throughout Scripture. (171)

From Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild:

The discussion about the creation of man in His own image – male and female He created them. The discussion about creation of male and female took place between members of the Godhead. It may have been between all three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But at the very least, it involved the Father and the Son, as Scripture draws parallels between that relationship and the relationship of a husband and wife. When God created man and woman, He had the dynamic of His own relationship in mind. God created the two sexes to reflect something about God. He patterned the male-female relationship (“them”) after the “us/our” relationship that exists within the Godhead. He used His own relationship structure as the pattern. Paul confirms, in 1 Corinthians 11:3, that the relationship between a husband and wife is patterned after the relationship between God the Father and His Son. … God purposefully created marriage to reflect the headship structure that exists within the Godhead. But He also created marriage and sex to reflect some other truths about the Trinity. … the Father and Son experience a divine intimacy. Their relationship is one of closest communion. Communion in marriage bears witness to the spiritual, divine intimacy between the members of the Trinity. (139-140)

Denny Burk, the new President of CBMW, has defended the ESS proponents from the beginning of this debate and claimed to hold to ERAS. Back in June, he wrote:

Recently, Carl Trueman and Liam Goligher have published a series of very serious accusations against those who affirm an eternal relation of authority and submission among the Trinitarian persons. Goligher in particular says that the view is heresy and idolatry. He identifies Wayne Grudem by name as guilty of this supposed error, but of course the accusation implicates Bruce Ware and a host of others who hold to this view as well (including yours truly).

Today, both Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware have issued very helpful responses to these “false” and “intemperate accusations” of heterodoxy. I recommend that you read both of them. They prove that the accusations leveled by Trueman and Goligher are unwarranted and misleading. They also show that Trueman and Goligher have misrepresented the view held by Grudem and Ware.

I have very little to add to what Grudem and Ware have written. Their essays are very well done. Nevertheless, I thought a handful of additional remarks might be in order:
1. The idea that Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware are promoting an idolatrous, heterodox view of God is absurd. Grudem’s and Ware’s articles show that as do their many years of published works.
2. Trueman acts as if the eternal submission of the Son to the Father view is some new teaching that has been sneaked into the back door of the church while no one was looking. This too is absurd. These conversations have been going on in public for over two decades now. The conversation among evanglicals long predates the so-called “new Calvinist” movement that Trueman seems so alarmed about. And if Grudem is correct, the eternal submission of the Son to the Father view itself is no historical novelty.

While I appreciate Denny Burk’s recent statement regarding Nicene orthodoxy, he continues to defend ESS proponents as being orthodox:

This debate started with sharp charges of heresy against my friends and colleagues Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem. As I mentioned above, I do not agree with all of their Trinitarian views, but I think the heresy accusations were and are false. I hold out hope for greater clarity and unity on these issues. The heresy accusations—in addition to being false—haven’t helped toward that end.

And within the Nicene:

I do not view Grudem and Ware as outside Nicaea, but neither do I agree with some of their particular formulations.

Burk also states that CBMW doesn’t need to take part in the Trinity debate:

CBMW exists to promote the Danvers vision, which is silent on this current controversy. For that reason, my view is that CBMW does not need to be adjudicating the Trinity debate.

I can appreciate his desire to distance the work of CBMW from the ESS debate, however, CBMW has been part of the debate, promoting ESS and ESS proponents from the very beginning. Unless and until CBMW makes a statement rejecting ESS and those who hold to it, they will continue to be associated with ESS and those who teach it. My hope is that CBMW would speak clearly regarding their commitment to Nicene orthodoxy, but my concern is that their approach will continue to be hoping that we can just agree to disagree on our doctrine of the Trinity.

As Denny Burk said in his last article:

I would also add that there is room for all Nicene evangelicals in the complementarian coalition, regardless of one’s views on the current controversy. If you can affirm Danvers, we welcome you to be a part of what we are trying to do. For more on that, read my vision statement here. We need all hands on deck to meet the current challenges facing the church with respect to gender and sexuality. That is the vision we will be working on, and I am eager to build a coalition toward that end.

It seems that the tie that binds is Danvers. That’s disappointing.

Jane Austen’s Faith

A little over a year ago, I read a blog post, “What Churches Can Learn From Jane Austen“, that began:

Don’t worry – it’s not soteriology or anything. There is no evidence that Jane Austen possessed saving faith, so taking theological tips from her doesn’t make sense.

I was disturbed by the statement “there is no evidence that Jane Austen possessed saving faith.” It seemed a harsh assessment. Of course, it’s impossible for us to know for certain the status of anyone else’s faith, but there are usually indications, or fruit, if someone is saved.

As a fan of Austen’s work, I was disappointed that her faith would be dismissed so quickly. While her books aren’t theological treatises, I’ve always believed that Austen’s faith in God and her trust in Christ as her Savior were evident in her writing. Along those lines, I was pleased to see a review of a new book, Eight Women of Faithon Tim Challies’ blog last week. The book, by Michael Haykin, explores the faith of eight women who are known historical figures. These include Lady Jane Grey, Anne Steele, and Jane Austen.

In his introduction, Haykin writes:

and, finally, there is a chapter on Jane Austen, far and away the most famous of all the women in this book, who was also a serious Christian, though this is not often remembered.

In a second blog post, Challies shares a prayer written by Jane Austen that Haykin includes in his book. In it she writes:

Above all other blessings Oh! God, for ourselves, and our fellow-creatures, we implore thee to quicken our sense of thy mercy in the redemption of the world, of the value of that holy religion in which we have been brought up, that we may not, by our own neglect, throw away the salvation thou hast given us, nor be Christians only in name. Hear us Almighty God, for his sake who has redeemed us, and taught us thus to pray.

I haven’t yet read Haykin’s book, but I’m hoping to soon. And while this is not an endorsement of the book as a whole, I’m thankful for Haykin’s work to shed light on Jane Austen’s faith. I hope those who have judged her harshly will reconsider.

Eternal Subordination of the Son and Books for Women

Continuing to look at the influence of the Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS/EFS/ERAS) doctrine in evangelical publications, today the focus is on books and articles geared towards women. These books are mainly practical theology for women. These are not academic or theoretical books. These are examples of how ESS is used to teach a particular view of authority and submission in male/female relationships.

This is a good reminder that doctrine has a profound effect on daily life. What we believe about the Trinity matters. As my RUF campus minister used to say, “You are what you believe about God.”

In some of these quotes, the authors are quoting directly from Wayne Grudem. For example, Carolyn Mahaney in her book, Feminine Appeal, quotes Grudem on the origin of headship and submission:

The idea of headship and submission never began! It has always existed in the eternal nature of God Himself. And in this most basic of all authority relationships, authority is not based on gifts or ability, it is just there… [The relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] is one of leadership and authority on the one hand and voluntary, willing, joyful submission to that authority on the other hand. We can learn from this that submission to a rightful authority is a noble virtue. It is a privilege. It is something good and desirable. It is the virtue that has been demonstrated by the eternal Son of God forever. It is His glory, the glory of the Son as He relates to His Father. (138, emphasis added)

The website, Revive Our Hearts, is a web and radio ministry by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. The following is a quote from a message Wayne Grudem gave that was published Revive Our Hearts (emphasis added):

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: As we pick up with today’s segment of Dr. Grudem’s message, he is going to help us understand that this thing of headship and submission in the marriage relationship is not a negative concept. This is not a concept that changes with the culture. This is something that is rooted in the very nature of God. It’s rooted in the Trinity, and the relationship that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have with each other. If we dislike or reject the concept of authority and submission, we are actually rejecting something very precious that’s a reflection of God Himself.

Dr. Wayne Grudem: The idea of headship and submission began before creation in the relationship between the Father and Son in the Trinity.

The Father has a leadership role and authority to initiate and direct that the Son does not have.

That means the Father was Father and the Son was Son before the world was created. When did the idea of headship and submission begin? The idea of headship and submission never began. The idea of headship and submission never began. It has existed eternally in the relationship between the Father and Son in the Trinity. It exists in the eternal nature of God himself.

And in this most basic of all relationships, authority is not based on gifts or ability. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in all attributes and perfections, but authority is just there. Authority belongs to the Father, not because He is wiser or a more skillful leader, but just because He is Father. Authority and submission is the fundamental difference between the persons of the Trinity.

Leslie Basham: That’s Dr. Wayne Grudem, helping us understand that biblical marriages are important. When you accept your role in marriage, you are reflecting the nature of the Trinity.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth also wrote about the eternal submission of the Son in her book, Brokenness, Surrender, Holiness: A Revive Our Hearts Trilogy:

From eternity past, through all of time, and through all of eternity future, Jesus’ life was, is, and always will be, one of absolute surrender. Before there was time, the Lord Jesus, though co-equal with the Father, willingly placed Himself under the authority of the Father. At the creation and throughout the unfolding of the Old Testament era, He was by the Father’s side, delighting to join the Father in His work. He existed in perfect oneness with His Father, never willing anything contrary to the Father’s will. (219, emphasis added)

In eternity past, He had surrendered Himself to the will of God – to become the Sin-bearer for all mankind. (222)

When all is said and done, the conquering King will turn over to His Father all the kingdoms He has overcome – all the spoils of war. And then, once again, as time gives way to eternity, the Son of God, the Almighty, sovereign Creator and Redeemer, the Lord of heaven and earth, will bow His head in a final, magnificent act of surrender. (226, emphasis added)

Some of the places where I’ve found ESS have truly been surprising to me. This quote is one of those. In Elisabeth Elliot’s book, Let Me Be a Woman, she quotes a definition of masculinity and femininity by Kathy Kristy as a good example. Notice the description of the Holy Spirit:

We know that this order of rule and submission is descended from the nature of God Himself. Within the Godhead there is both the just and legitimate authority of the Father and the willing and joyful submission of the Son. From the union of the Father and the Son proceeds a third personality, the Holy Spirit. He proceeds from them not as a child proceeds from the union of a man and a woman, but rather as the personality of a marriage proceeds from the one flesh which is established from the union of two separate personalities. Here, in the reflection of the nature of the Trinity in the institution of marriage is the key to the definition of masculinity and femininity. The image of God could not be fully reflected without the elements of rule, submission, and union. (51, emphasis added)

Mary Kassian has several books that mention ESS. The last article quoted from Girls Gone Wise. These quotes come from The Feminist Mistake: The Radical Impact of Feminism on Church and Culture. 

The feminist practice of inclusive Trinitarian language obscures the intra-Trinitarian relation between the Son and the Father. The Son was obedient to the Father though He is equal to the Father. The Father, in love, sacrificed the Son. The Son, who had the right to refuse, submitted to the Father. Denial of the Trinitarian relationship denies the concept of equality and hierarchy that is evident in the Godhead and throughout Scripture. (171, emphasis added)

Male-female relationships also teach us something of the inter-Trinitarian relationship within the Godhead itself: Christ submits to and yet is equal to the Father. A wife submits to and yet is equal to her husband. When the male-female relationship functions according to God’s design, it illustrates inherent truths about God. Remember the creation account in Genesis? In the beginning God said, “Let us …” Note the plural “us” – this is a conversation between members of the Godhead: “Let us make man in our image. … So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:26-27, emphasis added.) Ultimately, therefore, who God created us to be as male and female has very little to do with who we are – and very much to do with who God is. That’s why it’s so important that we honor His design. (298, emphasis added)

Mary Kassian and Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth have co-written two popular books for women, True Woman 101 and True Woman 201. Both of these books rely on ESS to ground their teaching on men and women. From True Woman 101: Divine Design:

The discussion about creating man and woman took place among members of the Godhead. It may have been among all three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But at the very least, it involved the Father and His Son, as Scripture draws parallels between that relationship and the relationship of the man and the woman (see 1 Cor. 11:13). We’ll talk more about that later, but for now, just think about this: When God created male and female, He had the dynamic of His own relationship in mind. The Lord created the two sexes to reflect something about God. He patterned the male-female relationship (“them”) after the “us/our” relationship that exists within God. (24-25, emphasis added)

Kassian and Wolgemuth teach that humanity was created in order to reflect the intra-Trinitarian relationships:

Mankind was created as male and female – in relationship – to display something about the divine relationship that exists within the triune God. Our relationships were created to tell the incredible story of God. (26, emphasis added)

Drawing a parallel between the Father/Son relationship in the Trinity and the husband/wife relationship:

God is the head of Christ. Christ is the head of the church, and the husband is the head of the wife. There’s a clear and corresponding pattern evident in all three relationships. (27, emphasis added)

This demonstrates continued confusion about the Trinity. The Trinity is not three beings in a “collective whole”:

The first relationship mirrored the image of God. In the Trinity, individual and distinct beings are joined in an inseparable unity. The individual members (Father, Son, and Spirit) are joined as part of the collective whole (God). (93, emphasis added)

It also produces some very odd statements, with Christ as the “wife” in the Father/Son relationship:

Because Christ is definitely the serving, submitting, helping type! And He doesn’t consider this to be a demeaning role (Phil. 2:6-8). You could even argue that Christ is also the cooking, cleaning, baby type. It was His submissive obedience to the Father that cooks up the ingredients of redemption, cleans us up, and produces spiritual babies for the family of God. (168, emphasis added)

True Woman 201: Interior Design – Ten Elements of Biblical Womanhood makes many of the same points, connecting the Father/Son relationship to the husband/wife relationship:

God is the head of Christ. Christ is the head of the church, and the husband is the head of his wife (1 Cor. 11:3). The husband-wife relationship is a physical, earthly symbol that helps us grasp the nature of Jesus’ spiritual and eternal relationships. (71, emphasis added)

And,

The willing submission of a wife to her husband’s loving authority mirrors the willing submission of Jesus Christ to the authority of God the Father. (232, emphasis added)

Kassian and Wolgemuth explain that, in their view, authority and submission are rooted in the Trinity. They teach that without an authority/submission relationship between God the Father and God the Son, authority and submission are meaningless:

Submission is a concept that goes hand in hand with authority. Like two sides of a coin, the two are inseparable. Both find their origin and meaning in the Godhead – in the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. The concepts cannot be properly understood apart from each other, nor apart from the context of this divine relationship. (227, emphasis added)

As I said in my last article about ESS and books for youth, it is very important to consider what is being taught in our churches. My hope is that the current debate over the Trinity would encourage us to consider carefully all of the books we use, whether for men, women, or children.

Thanks to Persis Lorenti for finding the Carolyn Mahaney quote. 

Eternal Subordination of the Son and Books for Youth

In continuing to look at the Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS/EFS/ERAS) teaching and the unexpected places it shows up, I want to consider some books that are geared towards young readers (children through teens). In these books, the relationships of authority and submission that ESS proponents teach as fundamental in the Trinity are used to ground authority and submission in relationships between men and women.

In Jasmine Baucham’s book, Joyfully at Home: A Book for Young Ladies on Vision and Hope, she quotes from Wayne Grudem’s book and his teaching on ESS:

In one section of his book, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, Dr. Wayne Grudem gives ten arguments that prove male headship in a marriage before the fall: … The parallel with the Trinity: The equality, differences, and unity between men and women reflect the equality, difference, and unity in the Trinity (1Corinthians 11:3). (24, emphasis added)

In Mary Kassian’s book, Girls Gone Wise in a World Gone Wild, she writes of the “divine intimacy” the Father and Son share that is reflected in married sex:

The discussion about the creation of man in His own image – male and female He created them. The discussion about creation of male and female took place between members of the Godhead. It may have been between all three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But at the very least, it involved the Father and the Son, as Scripture draws parallels between that relationship and the relationship of a husband and wife. When God created man and woman, He had the dynamic of His own relationship in mind. God created the two sexes to reflect something about God. He patterned the male-female relationship (“them”) after the “us/our” relationship that exists within the Godhead. He used His own relationship structure as the pattern. Paul confirms, in 1 Corinthians 11:3, that the relationship between a husband and wife is patterned after the relationship between God the Father and His Son. … God purposefully created marriage to reflect the headship structure that exists within the Godhead. But He also created marriage and sex to reflect some other truths about the Trinity. … the Father and Son experience a divine intimacy. Their relationship is one of closest communion. Communion in marriage bears witness to the spiritual, divine intimacy between the members of the Trinity. (139-140, emphasis added)

In Bruce Ware’s book for children, Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God, he writes about authority and submission in the definition of who God is, how God works, and how that applies to men and women.

First, defining who God the Father is (the One with the highest authority):

The Father is the One who planned our salvation and chose to send his Son into the world to save us from our sin (John. 3:16-17). … So we learn here that the Father is the wise and gracious Giver of all the blessings that God give us. … Another passage that helps us see that the Father is the One who rightly receives the final praise and honor for all the work of our salvation is Philippians 2:8-11: “[Christ] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God [the Father] has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” … The day will come when every single person who has ever lived will bow his or her knee before Christ and say with his or her own lips, “Jesus Christ is Lord.” But when all human beings do this, they then will also give final praise beyond the Son “to the glory of God the Father.” (46, emphasis added)

And,

Seeing the Father as the One highest in charge and having authority over all is important for many reasons. One way it helps is in how we think of prayer. … Why would Jesus instruct us to pray to the Father? Simply because the Father is the One who has the highest authority of all. Even the Son right now, who is over everything created, sits at the “right hand’ of the Father (Ephesians 1:20), indicating that the Father is highest of all. So, prayers in the New Testament most often are made to the Father. (46, emphasis added)

And,

So, praise be to the Father, who through his Son’s death and resurrection and by the work of the Spirit makes the way for us to be brought into right relationship with him. What a privilege to pray to and to praise the One who has highest authority over all. (47, emphasis added)

Then, explaining how the Father, Son, and Spirit work (incorporating authority and submission), the Father is the One in charge, the Son and Spirit do His will:

As we saw earlier, the Father stands atop this work as the One who designs and plans what the work shall be. Because of this, the Father is also the one who is praised most highly in the end. … So the Father contributes both the goal and plan of the work that should take place, and he designs just how the Son and Spirit should join him in carrying out this work. After all, the Father has highest authority, and so he chooses the ways in which the Son and Spirit contribute so that the Father’s perfect will and work is done just right. (54, emphasis added)

The Son was, is, and shall be always under the authority of the Father:

The Son, for his part, is completely committed to doing the will of the Father. … Jesus says that he does nothing on his own authority, that he speaks just as the Father has taught him, and that he always does what is pleasing to his Father. (54-55, emphasis added)

And,

One more thing this means is this: As the Son of the Father, Jesus lives always under the authority of his Father– in all times past and now and in all times future. … [I]t is clear that Jesus, as the Son of the Father, was always under his Father’s authority, and he will always be under his Father’s authority. Think, for example, how often we read about God “sending” his Son into the world and of the Son coming to do the “will” of his Father. If the Father sends the Son (John 3:17), and if the Son comes into the world to do the Father’s will (John 6:38), then it follows that the Father had authority over the Son before he came into the world to become also a man. And does this relationship continue in the future? Yes, for according to 1 Corinthians 15:25-28, when all things are put under the authority of the Son, the Son will put himself under the Father’s authority along with all of creation, in order for God the Father to be shown as supreme. So the Son always stands under his Father and does the will of the Father. And in this, Jesus takes great joy in doing exactly what the Father wants him to do. The Son is not upset about this: he doesn’t wish to be the one in charge instead. (55, emphasis added)

And,

Jesus loves being under the authority of his Father, and the Father loves to lift up his Son to show how great and glorious his Son truly is. (56, emphasis added)

The Holy Spirit is in 3rd place and submits both to the authority of the Father and the Son:

For his part, the Holy Spirit truly is third among the Persons of the Trinity. As the Son is under the authority of the Father, the Spirit is under the authority of the Father and of the Son. … Just as the Son did not speak his own words but taught what the Father told him, so the Spirit does not speak what he thinks but speaks what he hears from Jesus. And just as the Son glorified the Father by doing the Father’s will, so the Spirit glorifies the Son by taking from the Son what he then passes on to others. The Spirit delights, then, in showing Jesus off, in shining the spotlight on Jesus, and in helping people see just how wonderful Jesus is. (56, emphasis added)

Altogether the authority/submission that Ware sees in the Trinity is summarized and used as a guideline for authority/submission structures in human relationships:

The relation of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then, is one of glorious harmony. Each has his work to contribute, and each does this in recognition of the authority and submission order that is true among these Persons. The Father is highest in authority, the Son is under the Father, and the Spirit is under the Father and the Son. But there is not the slightest hint of discontent in this order. Rather, there is joy and fulfillment both in each being fully God and in each working in the proper lines of authority that exist forever in God. A lesson we can learn from this is that lines of authority and submission are true in our human relationships because they are a reflection of what is true in God (see 1 Corinthians 11:3). The Father, Son, and Spirit are fully equal as God, yet they live gladly within lines of authority. So, too, we humans should live both as equals of each other, yet gladly in God-given lines of authority. (56, emphasis added)

Lastly, Ware explains how the authority/submission of the Trinity applies to the authority/submission of men and women:

Notice that God created the woman after the man (Genesis 2:7, 21-23) in order for the woman to be a helper to the man (Genesis 2:18). This means that while the man and the woman are completely equal in value before God (Genesis 1:27), the woman is under the man’s leadership and authority since she was created after him, to be of help to him. (90-91, emphasis added)

And,

To be faithful to the Bible’s teaching, then, means accepting two very important ideas: 1) men and women are completely equal in their common human natures, both being made in the image of God, but 2) God gives men and women different roles in the home and in the church. The woman should accept the God-given authority of the man in these settings, and the man should use his authority in God-honoring ways. We are equal and different at the same time, and in this we reflect something of how the Persons of the Trinity relate. The Father, Son, and Spirit are equally God, yet they have different roles to play marked by lines of authority and submission in their relationships. So God created men and women in his image fully equal in their human nature, but different in certain roles in which they also have differences in authority and submission. This is part of the beauty of male-female relationships as God has designed them. What a privilege to reflect God’s own ways of relating in our human relationships. (91, emphasis added)

It is concerning to me to see how widespread the ESS teaching has become. I am becoming much more vigilant in what I buy for my children to read. As the next generation of the church, it really matters what they are taught.

If you have further examples or books you’d like me to check out, please let me know. The examples from Ware’s book were brought to my attention by a reader. Thank you, Elizabeth Hankins.

The NIV Zondervan Study Bible: A Comparison of Study Notes

After my post on the ESV Study Bible notes and the Eternal Subordination of the Son, several people asked me about how other study Bibles compare. I was asked about the study notes in the NIV Zondervan Study Bible. The NIV Zondervan Study Bible was edited by Dr. D.A. Carson. Below are the same Bible passages as in the previous article followed by the study notes from the 2015 NIV Zondervan Study Bible. I used an online version, so there are no page numbers. Eternal functional subordination (EFS) does appear in the notes.

Matthew 11:27: All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Cf. John 14:6. Jesus is the only way to the Father, and God reveals himself to his chosen people through Jesus.

Matthew 28:18: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

As a result of his faithfulness to his mission, Jesus once again has returned to his exalted position as divine Son of God with “all authority in heaven and on earth”

Mark 10: 40: but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared

Though James and John will follow Jesus in the ultimate expression of cross-bearing discipleship (8:34-38), this will not earn them the places they seek.

John 1:3: All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Jesus was God’s agent in creating all that exists (v. 10; Col 1:16-17; Heb 1:2; Rev 3:14).

John 3:35: The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.

The Father loves the Son. See 5:20; 10:17; 15:9; 17:23-24,26. placed everything in his hands. See Matt 11:27; Luke 10:22. (emphasis original)

John 5:18-19: This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

by himself. On his own initiative. The Son cannot act independently of the Father. can do only what he sees his Father doing. Their Father-Son relationship is not reciprocal; Scripture never says that the Father does only what he sees the Son doing. They have distinct roles: the Father initiates, sends, commands, commissions, grants; the Son responds, obeys, performs his Father’s will, receives authority. The Son is the Father’s agent, though much more than an agent. whatever the Father does the Son also does. This is why (“because”) it is impossible for the Son to act independently and set himself over against the Father as another God. It is also another claim that Jesus is God (see note on 1:1). (emphasis original)

John 12:49: For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment—what to say and what to speak.

See notes on 5:16-30; 8:28b-29.

5:16-30 The Authority of the Son. Jesus’ healing on the Sabbath (vv. 1-15) triggers some opposition that he quickly transforms into a teaching about the nature of his sonship to the Father (see “Sonship,” p. 2664). The Father has granted the Son authority to raise the dead (see “Death and Resurrection,” p. 2670) and to judge (see “Wrath,” p. 2681).

8:28b-29 Restates Jesus’ argument in v. 16; 3:34; 5:19-30; 6:38.

John 14:28: You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

The Father in his undiminished glory is greater than the Son in his incarnate state. That is the primary thought here, for the context shows that Jesus anticipates his departure precisely because it means he will return to that glory (17:5). This does not imply that Jesus is less than fully God because “greater than” does not refer to their being and essence (see notes on 1:1; 5:17-19,23; 8:24; 12:41). Yet “the Father is greater than I” also echoes 3:17; 5:19-30. The difference in roles between the Father and the Son means the Father sends his Son into the world and the Son obeys (v. 31); the Father “shows” him what to do and the Son performs it (5:20). The functional submission of the Son reaches back into eternity. (emphasis added)

Acts 1:7: He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.

In line with Jewish expectations of their day, the disciples are thinking of the kingdom of Israel in nationalistic terms. While Jesus does not deny the future consummation of the kingdom, the “times or dates” are not to be their concern (cf. Mark 13:32; 1 Thess 5:1). Their role is to complete Jesus’ mission (v. 1) by taking the message of salvation to the ends of the earth (v. 8).

Acts 2:33: Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.

Jesus’ faithfulness to his Messianic role resulted in his exaltation “to the right hand of God” and a return to the glory he had before the incarnation (Phil 2:6-11). The Spirit guided and empowered Jesus during his earthly ministry (Luke 3:21-22;4:1,14,18), and now Jesus directs the Spirit.

Ephesians 1:4: even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

In vv. 3-14 Paul emphasizes God’s eternal decision to grant salvation to believers in the following ways: “he chose us” (v. 4), “he predestined us” (v. 5), and “we were also chosen, having been predestined” (v. 11). Since this divine election of believers occurred “before the creation of the world” (v. 4), it is based solely on God’s gracious decision and not on any human merit (cf. God’s choosing Israel to be his treasured possession in Deut 7:6-8, or God’s choosing of Jacob over Esau before they “were born or had done anything good or bad” in Rom 9:11).

1 Corinthians 11:3: But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Figuratively, what is most prominent, preeminent. Every person has a relationship to another person who has a preeminent status: for men (and women) this is Jesus Christ; for wives it is their husband; for Christ it is God the Father. The first pair references only men because the following discussion (vv. 4-16) gives separate directions for men and women. Paul is concerned about the proper relationship between husbands and wives in the church, not between men and women more generally.

1 Corinthians 15:28: When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all.

The subordination of the Son to the Father is not one of divinity or dignity but one of function: God the Father is supreme, not subject to anyone; Jesus the Son, fully divine, carries out the Father’s will; the Spirit (not mentioned here) communicates the reality of God’s presence, truth, and salvation. (emphasis added)

Eternal Subordination of the Son and Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology

After I posted my article on Eternal Subordination of the Son and the ESV Study Bible notes, a few friends sent me quotes by Drs. Ware and Grudem from other books. Today I’m looking at what Dr. Wayne Grudem has written in his Systematic Theology. First published in 1994, Dr. Grudem’s Systematic Theology has sold over 300,000 copies. It is a frequently recommended resource.

All quotations from “Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine” Wayne Grudem, Zondervan, 1994. HT: Persis Lorenti 

Dr. Grudem teaches in his Systematic Theology that eternal subordination is necessary in the Trinity and is part of Nicene doctrine since the 4th century:

If we do not have ontological equality, not all the persons are fully God. But if we do not have economic subordination, then there is no inherent difference in the way the three persons relate to one another, and consequently we do not have the three distinct persons existing as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for all eternity. For example, if the Son is not eternally subordinate to the Father in role, then the Father is not eternally “Father” and the Son is not eternally “Son.” This would mean that the Trinity has not eternally existed.

This is why the idea of eternal equality in being but subordination in role has been essential to the church’s doctrine of the Trinity since it was first affirmed in the Nicene Creed, which said that the Son was “begotten of the Father before all ages” and that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Surprisingly, some recent evangelical writings have denied an eternal subordination in role among the members of the Trinity, but it has clearly been part of the church’s doctrine of the Trinity (in Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox expressions), a least since Nicea (A.D 325). (251.)

At first glance, it would seem that Dr. Grudem is affirming the orthodox teaching of ontological equality and economic submission. However, when he explains that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father because He is the Son, Dr .Grudem is making a statement about the nature (or ontology) of the Son and the Father. The Nicene teachings of eternal generation of the Son and eternal procession of the Spirit are not about subordination or hierarchy. That is a misrepresentation of Nicea and a misunderstanding of the definition of the terms.

Dr. Grudem demonstrates his misunderstanding of the terms eternal generation and eternal procession in the following quotes:

Some systematic theologies give names to these different relationships: “paternity” (or “generation”) for the Father, “begottenness” (or “filiation”) for the Son and “procession” (or “spiration”) for the Holy Spirit, but the names do not mean anything more than “relating as a Father,” and “relating as a Son,” and “relating as Spirit.” (254)

And,

eternal begetting of the Son: Description of the eternal relationship that has existed with the Trinity between the Father and the Son in which the Son has eternally related to the Father as a Son. (1241, emphasis original)

Eternal generation is not simply the Son “eternally related to the Father as a Son.” And eternal procession is more than “relating as a Spirit.”

A.A. Hodge defines eternal generation this way:

an eternal personal act of the Father, wherein, by necessity of nature, not by choice of will, He generates the person (not the essence) of the Son, by communicating to Him the whole indivisible substance of the Godhead, without division, alienation, or change, so that the Son is the express image of His Father’s person, and eternally continues, not from the Father, but in the Father, and the Father in the Son. (Outlines of Theology, 182.)

And eternal procession as:

the relation which the third person sustains to the first and second, wherein by an eternal and necessary, i.e., not voluntary, act of the Father and the Son, their whole identical divine essence, without alienation, division, or change, is communicated to the Holy Ghost. (Outlines in Theology, 189)

The terms speak to the unity of the Godhead and also the distinctions, but this is not about authority and submission or hierarchy. The Westminster Confession of Faith says:

In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, not proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son. (WCF II.3)

The Athanasian Creed explains:

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.

So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Spirit, not three Holy Spirits.

And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.

But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal.

So that in all things, as aforesaid, the Unity in Trinity and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped.

He therefore that will be saved must thus think of the Trinity.

Dr. Grudem’s reduction of eternal generation to Father and Son relating eternally as Father and Son is related to his view of eternal subordination in the Trinity. He teaches that just as a human father has authority over his son, God the Father has eternal authority over God the Son. From his article,  “Biblical Evidence for the Eternal Submission of the Son to the Father”:

Therefore, what is everywhere true of a father-son relationship in the biblical world, and is not contradicted by any other passages of Scripture, surely should be applied to the relationship between the Father and Son in the Trinity. The names “Father” and “Son” represent an eternal difference in the roles of the Father and the Son. The Father has a leadership and authority role that the Son does not have, and the Son submits to the Father’s leadership in a way that the Father does not submit to the Son. The eternal names “Father” and “Son” therefore give a significant indication of eternal authority and submission among the members of the Trinity.

This understanding of authority and submission in the Trinity also appears in Dr. Grudem’s Systematic Theology:

Between the members of the Trinity there has been equality in importance, personhood, and deity throughout all eternity. But there have also been differences in roles between the members of the Trinity. God the Father has always been the Father and has always related to the Son as a Father relates to his Son. Though all three members of the Trinity are equal in power and in all other attributes, the Father has a greater authority. He has a leadership role among all the members of the Trinity that the Son and Holy Spirit do not have. In creation, the Father speaks and initiates, but the work of creation is carried out through the Son and sustained by the continuing presence of the Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:1-2; John 1:1-3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Hebr. 1:2). In redemption, the Father sends the Son into the world and the Son comes and is obedient to the Father and dies to pay for our sins (Luke 22:42; Phil. 2:6-8). After the Son has ascended into heaven, the Holy Spirit comes to equip and empower the church (John 16:7; Acts 1:8; 2:1-36). The Father did not come to die for our sins, nor did the Holy Spirit. The Father was not poured out on the church at Pentecost in new covenant power, nor was the Son. Each member of the Trinity has distinct roles or functions. Differences in roles and authority between the members of the Trinity are thus completely consistent with equal importance, personhood, and deity. (459)

Eternal generation and eternal procession are not about authority and submission. They are statements about the unity and distinctions within the Trinity.

One of the applications of the Eternal Subordination of the Son doctrine is to explain the relationship between husband and wife. Dr. Grudem teaches that the relationship between God the Father and God the Son mirrors the relationship between husband and wife:

In fact, in the relationship between man and woman in marriage we see also a picture of the relationship between the Father and Son in Trinity. Paul says, “but I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). Here, just as the Father has authority over the Son in the Trinity, so the husband has authority over the wife in marriage. The husband’s role is parallel to God the Father and the wife’s role is parallel to that of God the Son. Moreover, just as Father and Son are equal in deity and importance and personhood, so the husband and wife are equal in humanity and importance and personhood. (256-257)

When I first started reading about Eternal Subordination of the Son and the parallels being drawn between Father/Son and husband/wife, I wondered what those who teach ESS did with the Holy Spirit. It seemed to me that He was left out of the analogy. I jokingly wondered if the husband is the Father and wife is the Son in the analogy, then were the kids like the Holy Spirit? It seemed so farfetched to me, but that is exactly what Dr. Grudem teaches in his Systematic Theology. Continuing on from the last quote:

And, although it is not explicitly mentioned in Scripture, the gift of children within marriage, coming from both the father and the mother, and subject to the authority of both father and mother is analogous to the relationship of the Holy Spirit to the Father and Son in the Trinity. (257.)

This last quote is perhaps the most troubling of all that I’ve read. Todd Pruitt at Mortification of Spin has done an excellent job of explaining the danger here:

This goes far beyond reasonable speculation. In an effort to be charitable I want to call it exotic. But that will not do. It is worse than exotic. It may well be blasphemous.
I chose that word with no small amount of thought and sobriety.
The stubborn insistence of Drs. Ware and Grudem to force a parallel between the Father and the Son to a husband and wife is worse than troubling. And, as we can see from the passage cited above, it leads to the inevitable comparison of the Holy Spirit to the child of the divine husband (Father) and wife (Son). These parallels have far more in common with pagan mythology than Biblical theology.
I hope that those who have read and recommend Dr. Grudem’s Systematic Theology will go back and reconsider what is being taught. The doctrine of the Trinity is key. It’s not adiaphora. We really can’t agree to disagree on this one.

Which is it?

Today, in the continuing discussion over the Trinity,  Dr. Albert Mohler has weighed in to defend the orthodoxy of Drs. Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware.

Recent charges of violating the Nicene Creed made against respected evangelical theologians like Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware are not just nonsense — they are precisely the kind of nonsense that undermines orthodoxy and obscures real heresy. Their teachings do not in any way contradict the words of the Nicene Creed, and both theologians eagerly affirm it. I do not share their proposals concerning the eternal submission of the Son to the Father, but I am well aware that nothing they have taught even resembles the heresy of the Arians. To the contrary, both theologians affirm the full scope of orthodox Christianity and have proved themselves faithful teachers of the church. These charges are baseless, reckless, and unworthy of those who have made them.

While I respect Dr. Mohler and I appreciate his desire to defend both orthodoxy and his associates,  I have to wonder if he’s aware of statements by Dr. Ware that deny the Nicene creed on eternal generation and eternal procession:

The Western church adapted the Nicene Creed to say, in its third article, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father “and the son” (filioque) and not merely that he proceeds from the Father (alone). While I agree fully with this additional language, I believe that this biblical way of speaking, as found in John 15:26, (But when that Comforter shall come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth of the Father, he shall testify of me.), refers to the historical sending of the Spirit at Pentecost and does not refer to any supposed “eternal procession” of the Spirit from the Father and the Son. The conceptions of both the “eternal begetting of the Son” and “eternal procession of the Spirit” seem to me highly speculative and not grounded in biblical teaching. Both the Son as only-begotten and the Spirit as proceeding from the Father (and the Son) refer, in my judgment, to the historical realities of the incarnation and Pentecost respectfully.

(Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, pg 162, footnote 3, emphasis added)

I agree with Dr. Mohler that Nicene doctrine is extremely important and that charges of being outside Nicene orthodoxy are equally serious.  Those who have made the charge that Drs. Grudem and Ware are outside Nicene orthodoxy have not done so lightly.  I believe their own words are strong evidence to support the charges.

In addition,  the charge is not that Drs. Ware and Grudem are Arian. The charge is that they are subordinationists. In his book Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, Dr. Grudem writes:

For all eternity there has been a difference in authority, whereby the Father has authority over the Son that the Son doesn’t have over the Father, and the Father and Son both have authority over the Holy Spirit that the Holy Spirit doesn’t have over the Father and Son. (p. 433)

And,

If we didn’t have such differences in authority in the relationships among the members of the Trinity, then we would not know of any differences at all. (p. 433)

All Arians were subordinationists, but not all subordinationists are Arian. To teach,  as they do, that there is an eternal subordination structure in the very nature of God is the very definition of subordinationism. While the Nicene Creed was specific in addressing the Arian version of subordinationism, all forms of subordinationism are denied as well.

“Rules for Thee and Not for Me”

A few years ago Mark Driscoll got into trouble over plagiarism in his books. One of the books, Trial: 8 Witnesses from 1-2 Peter, had paragraphs taken from New Bible Commentary, edited by Gordon J. Wenham, J. Alec Motyer, Donald A. Carson, and R. T. France . The book was eventually pulled because of the plagiarism. 

After the plagiarism was discovered and before the book was taken off the market, Doug Wilson wrote a blog post with his thoughts on the controversy. Wilson said:

All that said, at an objective minimum, there is a gross citation problem in Driscoll’s book Trial, which needs to be acknowledged, owned and corrected. Looking at the two relevant sections, side by side, we know that there is a citation problem. What we don’t know is why or how it got there, about which more in a little bit. But regardless, however it got there, it needs to get out of there. The problem should be owned and corrected, in public, by the author and the publisher. The same goes for anything comparable. (emphasis added)

He also said:

The production of a book involves numerous people who handle the words prior to publication, unlike a term paper. How could something bad get in? Well, think about research assistants, copy editors, copy editors who think they should have been the author, copy editors who think they should have been the fuehrer, content editors, politically correct content editors, and so on. Just a few weeks ago I had the experience of opening a book I wrote only to have my eyes light upon something that I could never have possibly written, and which some helpful editor (or gnome in the printing press) had inserted for me. It was quite embarrassing, but I didn’t do it, although this leads to the next point. I am nevertheless responsible for it. My name is on the cover.

And:

This is a good argument for only using researchers who are extremely honest, competent, and reliable, and with a system of cross checks in place. But with all said and done, the person whose name is on the cover of the book is responsible to put things completely right if a problem surfaces.  (emphasis added)

Given the nature of his comments one could easily suppose he was talking about the plagiarism in the Omnibus. Unfortunately, these quotes are considerably different from his current response to the plagiarism in the Omnibus volumes.

But maybe the examples from Driscoll’s book, Trial, were more extensive or different in some way? Well, here are the examples of the plagiarism that I could find.

MD2

MD1

These are certainly strong examples of plagiarism. You can see that the examples are mostly word for word, but with some modifications. In fact, these examples are very similar to many of the examples of plagiarism from the Omnibus volumes. Consider these:

Volume I page 526

James, pg 526 (Bruce Etter) This is from the text of the Omnibus essay on James. The material is from the commentary in the NKJV, The Open Bible’s introduction to James, page 1269.

Volume II, page 113

The Rule of St. Benedict, pg 113 (Gregg Strawbridge) This example is from the text of the essay on The Rule of St. Benedict. The original source is an entry in the Catholic encyclopedia, New Advent.

Volume III, page 155

Reflections on the Revolution in France, pg 155 (Douglas Wilson, Natali H. Miller) This example comes from the text of a session following the essay “Reflections on the Revolution in France.” The material was taken from the Internet Modern History Sourcebook. The French text of La Marseillaise is public domain, but the history here and the English translation are copyrighted. The copyright information says, “No permission is granted for commercial use of the Sourcebook. © Paul Halsall Aug 1997.”

Volume IV, page 366

Gospel of Mark, pg 366 (Bruce Etter) This example comes from the text of the essay on Mark. The source is from an article, “The Use of εὐθύς (“immediately”) in Mark,” by Professor Rodney J. Decker. It was published in the Journal for Ministry and Theology in 1997.

Volume V, page 17

The City of God, pg 17 (Douglas Wilson, Graham Dennis) This example is from an image caption. The image and the text come from a book, Light at Ground Zero: St. Paul’s Chapel After 9/11, by Krystyna Sanderson. The Omnibus volume gives image credit to Sanderson as the photographer.

Volume VI, page 342

The Sun Also Rises, pg 342 (Nathan Tillman) This is from the text of a session after the essay on The Sun Also Rises. The English translation of the German text is by Mimmi Fulmer and Ric Merritt and is copyrighted. Neither author was cited in the Omnibus text. The copyright says, “To reprint and distribute this author’s work for concert programs, CD booklets, etc., you must ask the copyright-holder(s) directly for permission. If you receive no response, you must consider it a refusal.”

These are merely six examples, one from each volume. Each of these examples is mostly word for word. None of these are from open sources like Wikipedia. The only difference between the Omnibus examples and the Driscoll ones is that there are more of them from the Omnibus. I’m honestly not sure why the “rules” that applied to the Driscoll plagiarism don’t apply to the Omnibus.

I’ll close with a quote from Wilson regarding the plagiarism from A Justice Primer:

In such circumstances, when plagiarism is detected, the one who finds it has every right to look at the cover and decide right on the spot who is responsible. The names on the cover are the ones with the authorial responsibility, which is the primary responsibility according to contract, and the editorial imprint is the one with the publisher’s responsibility, also specified by contract. Further investigation might reveal where particular culpability lies, but the responsibility for the project flows (according to God’s design) to the names on the cover.