Knowing the Self-Revealed God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – Guest Post by Bruce Ware

The following is a guest post by Dr. Bruce Ware, T. Rupert and Lucille Coleman Professor of Christian Theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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Knowing the Self-Revealed God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:
Clarifications and Declarations in a Humble Endeavor to Know the Trinitarian God Rightly

Bruce A. Ware

“. . . Let him who boasts, boast in this, that he understands and knows Me . . .” (Jer 9:24)

I’m grateful to Matthew Emerson, Luke Stamps, and Luke Wisley for allowing this guest posting on their blog site. While the discussion of Trinity of recent weeks has been productive in many ways, there remains for me one distressing element. Much of the discussion has been made within the context of charges of unorthodoxy regarding myself and others committed to the position that we see the Bible indicating eternal relations of authority and submission within the Trinity. Several issues have been raised by a number of writers, and I wish here to clarify just how I see our position as consistent with the pro-Nicene tradition and with Scripture. While much more can be said, I am hopeful of providing enough to see the lines of thought that could be developed further in another context. I’ll address five main issues raised, as I have seen them discussed over these past weeks.

  1. Issue: How can one uphold the inseparable operations the pro-Nicene theologians found indispensable along with the notion that the Father, Son, and Spirit each acts in distinct ways as indicated repeatedly in Scripture (e.g., Father sending, Son going, Spirit empowering)?

Response: I gladly affirm my commitment to the doctrine of the inseparable operations of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Because each person of the Trinity possesses the identically same divine nature, each uses the same power and relies on the same knowledge and wisdom in conducting the various works that each does. So, there cannot be a separation or division in the work of the One God since each person participates fully in the One nature of God. But this does not preclude each person accessing, as it were, those qualities of the divine nature (e.g., power, knowledge, wisdom) distinctively yet harmoniously, according to their own hypostatic identities as Father, and as Son, and as the Holy Spirit, such that they bring to pass one unified result accomplishing the one work of God. In this way, the personal works of the Father, Son, and Spirit may be distinctive but never divided; each may focus on particular aspects of the divine work yet only together accomplish the one, harmonious, unified work of God. Each work of the Trinitarian persons, then, is inseparable, while aspects of that one work are hypostatically distinguishable. Inseparable, but not indistinguishable—this accounts for the full biblical record of the works of God which are unified works done by the one God, yet always carried out in hypostatically distinguishable ways.

Khaled Anatolios offers assistance on this issue when discussing the position on divine agency advanced by Gregory of Nyssa. Anatolios writes that Gregory ruled out the notion of the Trinitarian persons functioning as separate agents, working independent of one another. But, he continues,

the notion of an altogether undifferentiated agency in which each of the persons partakes in exactly the same manner is also implicitly but very clearly ruled out by Gregory’s consistent strategy of using three different verbs to distribute the common action distinctly to the three persons. . . . [T]he typical pattern for that distribution is that every action issues from the Father, is actualized through the Son, and is completed by the Spirit. There is thus an ineffable distinction within unity in divine co-activity such that the one divine activity is completely effected by each of the persons and yet is distinctly inflected between them. Every activity that is originated by the Father is equally yet distinctly owned by Son and Spirit [Retrieving Nicaea: The Development and Meaning of Trinitarian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2011) 231].

I affirm what Anatolios suggests, that we can understand Trinitarian co-agency neither as “altogether undifferentiated” nor as divided and independent. Rather, all divine action is performed by the Father, Son, and Spirit in an undivided yet distinct manner, as inseparable while also being hypostatically distinguishable.

  1. Issue: Closely related is the next question, regarding the will of God as this pertains to the one and undivided divine nature and the three distinct persons. Can there be a will of authority (from the Father) and a will of submission (from the Son) without conceiving of separate and separable divine wills?

Response: In short, my answer is yes. But the issue is anything but simple. I would suggest that we affirm what the church Fathers did, that “will” as a volitional capacity is a property of the divine nature. So, in this sense, each of the three persons possesses the identically same will, just as each of them possesses the identically same power, and knowledge, and holiness, and love, etc. Yet, while each possesses the same volitional capacity, each also is able to activate that volitional capacity in exercising the one will in distinct yet unified ways according to their distinct hypostatic identities and modes of subsistence. So, while the Father may activate the common divine will to initiate, the Son may activate the divine will to carry out, e.g., “from” the Father, “through” the Son—as has often been affirmed in Trinitarian doctrine following the pattern in Scripture itself (e.g., 1 Cor 8:6). Given this, one might even speak of one unified will of God, as the volitional capacity common to all three, along with three “inflections” of the unified divine will (borrowing Anatolios’s wording), or three hypostatically distinct expressions of that one divine will, or even three distinguishable acts of willing which together bring to light the fullness of that one unified will—all of which express the particular ways each divine person activates that common will as expressive of their particular personhood and distinctive yet undivided personal action. This way of understanding the will of God—one will that is the volitional capacity of nature, along with distinct activations or inflections of willing from each of the three divine persons—is akin, then, to how we should understand, for example, the love of God. Love is a quality or attribute of the divine nature and as such is common to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Yet the Father’s expression of love for the Son is distinctly the Father’s, as the Son’s expression of love for the Father is distinctly the Son’s, and the Holy Spirit’s expression of love for Father and Son is distinctly his—one common attribute of love with three expressions or inflections of that capacity of love through each of the three Trinitarian persons.

Apart from such a perspective, it is difficult to imagine how the three Trinitarian persons share in intimate fellowship, love, communication, and mutual support. While there is one divine will, there must also be what Anatolios refers to as “distinct inflections of the one divine will belonging distinctly to the three hypostaseis” [Retrieving Nicaea, 220, fn. 234] lest we propose, even unwittingly, some form of modalism or unitarianism. Terminology here is difficult, but if we are to undergird the genuineness of shared love and fellowship in the Trinity, and if we are to acknowledge the Trinitarian grammar of divine willing that is expressed from the Father, through the Son, and completed by the Spirit, then something along the lines of one unified divine will of volitional capacity along with three distinct yet undivided inflections or activations of willing by the three persons needs to be upheld. As a result, we can conceive, for example, how the Father can plan, purpose and will to send the Son (John 6:38; Eph 1:9; 1 John 4:10), and the Son accept and embrace the will of the Father (John 4:34). These are “distinct inflections” of the one and unified divine will, as seen from the particular hypostatic perspectives of the Father and the Son.

  1. Issue: Is the Son free in his willing to obey the will of the Father? Some might think that if the Son must embrace the Father’s will, then he cannot truly be free in accepting to do the Father’s will. This issue is raised by D. Glenn Butner, Jr., in which he dismisses the notion that the Father could genuinely will in an authoritative way and the Son in a submissive way since the Son cannot will other than the Father has willed. As he writes, “. . . the Son cannot submit to the Father because such submission requires freedom [“Eternal Functional Subordination and the Problem of the Divine Will,” JETS 58.1 (March 2015) 147].”

Response: But this objection only stands if the kind of freedom one is considering is libertarian freedom, i.e., the so-called power of contrary choice. That is, Butner’s criticism only works if the freedom by which the Son is said to “freely obey” the Father is one in which he can equally obey or disobey the Father, i.e., the Son has libertarian freedom which requires the power of contrary choice. But I have argued elsewhere that libertarian freedom is a failed conception that neither explains why moral agents choose precisely what they do, nor does it accord with the strong sovereignty of God we see throughout the Scriptures [God’s Greater Glory: the Exalted God of Scripture and the Christian Faith (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004) 85-95; and “The Compatibility of Determinism and Human Freedom,” in Whomever He Wills: A Surprising Display of Sovereign Mercy, eds. Matthew M. Barrett and Thomas J. Nettles (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2012) 212-230]. If we adopt instead the conception of freedom in which our freedom consists in our unconstrained ability to do what we most want, or to act according to our highest inclination—sometimes referred to as a “freedom of inclination”—then this problem is removed. The Son’s willing submission is his free and unconstrained expression of what he most wants to do when he receives the authoritative will of the Father, which is always, without exception, to embrace and carry out precisely what the Father gives him to do.

  1. Issue: Have the proponents of ERAS (eternal relations of authority and submission among the Trinitarian persons) denied the Nicene doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son?

Response: The answer emphatically, and for all proponents of our view whom I know, is no. We have never denied this doctrine, and indeed we affirm it as declaring very important truths about the eternal relation between the Father and the Son, the eternal deity and unity of both the Father and the Son, and the eternal Fatherhood of the Father and eternal Sonship of the Son. Although I believe I could speak for all proponents of ERAS, it would be best here to speak for myself alone. For my 30+ years of teaching, I have believed and taught with great conviction that the Father is the eternal Father of the Son, the Son the eternal Son of the Father, and that the Son, in possessing the identically same and eternal divine nature as the Father possesses, is homoousios with the Father. Where I have always hesitated is with biblical support put forth by others for the twin doctrines of eternal generation (Son) and eternal procession (Spirit), sometimes called the doctrine of the eternal modes of subsistence. Because of this, though I have never denied this doctrine, I have been reluctant to embrace it. I have craved biblical support and yet have not been convinced by what has been offered. John 5:26, for example, perhaps the most-frequently cited text in support of eternal generation, does not, in my judgment, teach this doctrine. The verse begins with “for” (gar) indicating it is explaining what was said in 5:24-25. There, those who believe in the Father are granted eternal life (5:24), and those likewise who believe in the Son are granted resurrection life (5:25). How is this? The explanation comes in 5:26 where the Father has life in himself, presumably to give to those who believe, and he has given the Son also life in himself, again presumably to give to those who believe. The subject is the gift of eternal life, not the ontological life of the Father and Son in the immanent Trinity. Well, this is not the place to conduct more exegetical commentary, but just to say that I have not been persuaded of this doctrine from the biblical texts cited in its support (yet, in light of what you’ll read below, I would be happy to be so persuaded!).

Doesn’t this mean you reject the doctrine of the eternal modes of subsistence, then? No, it does not, for reasons that have pressed more heavily upon me in recent years. Allow me to offer these two reasons for why I have come to accept it: 1) I have great respect for the history of this doctrine, knowing its near universal acceptance through the history of the church, and this provides strong reason to accept it as the heritage of the church to us now in the 21st century. 2) Also important to me is my long-standing commitment to what I see very clearly in the Bible, and that is the eternal Fatherhood of the Father, and the eternal Sonship of the Son. But then, if you ask the question, “just how is the One who is called ‘Father” in fact eternal Father? And just how is the One who is called ‘Son’ in fact eternal Son?” it is here that the doctrine of the eternal modes of subsistence offers the only real accounting or grounding available. While the Father is eternal Father, and the Son the eternal Son, the best way to account for these truths is by affirming what the church has taught, viz., that the Father eternally begets the Son, and the Son is eternally begotten of the Father. So, while I remain unconvinced at present that specific texts in Scripture teach this doctrine, I accept and embrace it as the “church’s doctrine” and the only genuine explanation that grounds the Father as eternal Father, and the Son as eternal Son.

Now, does affirming the eternal modes of subsistence cause problems for our commitment to an eternal relation of authority and submission in the Godhead? Absolutely not! In fact, it only strengthens our view. Precisely because the Father eternally begets the Son, the Father, as eternal Father of the Son, has the intrinsic paternal hypostatic position of having authority over his Son; and precisely because the Son is eternally begotten from the Father, the Son, as eternal Son of the Father, has the intrinsic filial hypostatic position of being in submission to his Father. The eternal modes of subsistence, then, ground the eternal distinction between Father and Son (and Spirit), while the eternal relations of authority and submission then flow out from and are expressive of those eternal modes of subsistence. Honestly, eternal (ontological) modes of subsistence, and the eternal (functional and hypostatic) relations of authority and submission work like hand and glove.

  1. Issue: Finally, is it not the case that affirming the eternal authority of the Father over the Son, and the eternal submission of the Son to the Father, indicate both the superiority of the Father over the Son, and that the Father has a different nature than the Son?

Response: No, neither of these problems follows. Allow me to address each separately. First, the Father’s authority over the Son does not indicate he is superior to the Son because 1) the Father and the Son each possesses the identically same nature and hence they are absolutely co-eternal and co-equal in nature, and 2) authority and submission describe merely the manner by which these persons relate to one another, not what is true of the nature of the Father or the Son. In other words, authority and submission are functional and hypostatic, not essential (i.e., of the divine essence) or ontological categories, and hence they cannot rightly be invoked as a basis of declaring one’s ontology (nature) greater and the other’s lesser. Ontologically, the Father and Son are fully equal, but as persons, they function in an eternal Father-Son relationship, in which the Father always acts in a way that befits who he is as Father, and Son always acts in a way that befits who he is as Son. Their Father-Son manner of relating (functioning) is seen (in part) in the authority of the Father and submission of the Son, as is evidenced by the vast array of the biblical self-revelation of the Trinitarian persons. And, since the Father is eternal Father, and the Son eternal Son, this manner of relating is likewise eternal.

Second, but can the Father truly have the same nature as the Son when the Father has eternal authority over the Son? Yes, indeed, because “authority” and “submission” do not define or characterize the one and undivided nature that the Father and Son (and Spirit) share fully together, nor should they be thought of as attributes of God, per se. Holiness, wisdom, and power, of course, are attributes of God, and these (and all other) divine attributes are possessed equally by the Father and the Son, since each possesses the same eternal and undivided divine nature. But authority and submission are ways of relating, not attributes of one’s being. Put differently, authority and submission are hypostatic and functional properties pertaining to the persons in relation to one another, not ontological attributes attaching to the one commonly shared divine nature. So, while the Father and Son are fully equal in nature, as each possesses the identically same and eternal divine nature, the Father and Son are also distinctive persons, with person-specific properties that express the ways in which they eternally relate as Father to Son, and Son to Father, including hypostatically distinct paternal authority and hypostatically distinct filial submission.

One caution is needed here. To say that a property of the person of the Son, qua Son before his Father, is to express a hypostatically distinct filial submission to his Father, is not to suggest in the least that his authority over all that is created is any less than the authority of the Father. Since the Persons of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit are equally infinite, uncreated, self-existent, and eternal, while all things otherwise are by nature finite, created, dependent, and temporal, there is no division of authority among the Trinitarian persons over creation. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have equal divine authority over creation, while they also exhibit within the Trinitarian relations the authority and submission appropriate to their mode of subsistence and hypostatic identities.

To conclude, I wish to cite a statement of our position that for decades seems not to have caused quite the stir as we’ve seen in recent weeks. I affirm what I end with, and am grateful for the wisdom, insight, beauty, and biblical fidelity expressed here. May God grant all of us humility and tenacity to seek to know God as he has revealed himself to be.

Part of the revealed mystery of the Godhead is that the three persons stand in a fixed relation to each other. The Son appears in the gospels, not as an independent divine person, but as a dependent one, who thinks and acts only and wholly as the Father directs. . . . It is the nature of the second person of the Trinity to acknowledge the authority and submit to the good pleasure of the first. That is why He declares Himself to be the Son, and the first person to be His Father. Though co-equal with the Father in eternity, power, and glory, it is natural to Him to play the Son’s part, and find all His joy in doing His Father’s will, just as it is natural to the first person of the Trinity to plan and initiate the works of the Godhead and natural to the third person to proceed from the Father and the Son to do their joint bidding. Thus the obedience of the God-man to the Father while He was on earth was not a new relationship occasioned by the incarnation, but the continuation in time of the eternal relationship between the Son and the Father in heaven. As in heaven, so on earth, the Son was utterly dependent upon the Father’s will [J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1973), 54-55].

Amen.

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39 thoughts on “Knowing the Self-Revealed God who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – Guest Post by Bruce Ware

  1. Pingback: Blogstorms, digital teacups: New Calvinists and Nicene Trinitarianism « The Patrologist

  2. Thank you Dr. Ware for your “humility and tenacity” to love Jesus with all your mind. Our quest to know Him fully requires us to assess and re-assess our theological statements and interpretations in light of the Scriptures and ensure our fealty to the Word. Your work helps me in my own journey towards Him.

  3. Dr. Ware,

    Thank you for your time and thoughtfulness in responding. I and many others have longed to hear your thoughts on these issues.

    For reference, I am a graduate of TEDS and now a professor of theology at Northern Seminary. I am very committed to Scripture and proper doctrine, and I’m not overly squeamish about people having authority.

    With that said, I don’t think you have responded adequately with the heart of the criticisms placed against you. Let me indicate why as I move through the 5 issues you listed.

    1) The first issue is that some claim you don’t support the doctrine of inseparable operations and you respond that you do. Along the way you also reiterate the doctrine of appropriations (that some actions seem particularly connected to one member of the Trinity). The REAL ISSUES that you haven’t addressed is the relationship between “inseparable operations” (which speak of eternal relationships) and “appropriations” (which speaks of the economy for our salvation). “Inseparable operations” was the doctrine that created theological speed bumps on the highway of human (even biblical) speach of God, slowing down heretical statements found in Scripture that referred to the economy (incarnation) from being hastily applied to eternity (“inseparable operations” was to buffer against Arian and semi-Arian exegesis). You don’t mention how the two pro-Nicene doctrines relate to each other and what difference it would make for you predication of God in eternity. All subordinating statements about the Son, excluding “sending” language in John, are language of the economy, not of eternity (I’ll get to John below, and yes, 1 Cor. 15).

    So, for you to affirm inseparable operations is fine and good, but this affirmation doesn’t seem to do any work in your system. And the work it was meant to do for pro-Nicenes was generally to keep people from affirm what you are affirming.

    2) The second issue is that some claim that you deny the one will of God and posit three wills connected to the three persons. You deny this and affirm one will and 3 “inflections” of will. Again this is very helpful as an affirmation, but your overlaying of “inflection” of will with “authority” on the one hand and “submission” on the other never seems warranted by your claim, and you never explain why “authority/submission” is a non-contradictory way of parcing out “inflection”. The use of “authority/submission” requires separate wills, and you have not shown how those words would retain their meaning once understood as only “inflections”. You often, in this post, slip into speaking of the “Father’s will” as if it were different than the “Son’s will”, but would those sentences still make sense if you said “Father’s inflection of will” and the “Son’s inflection of will”? Clear meaning would quickly recede I think.

    A better use of your “inflections” would be the model of brain, nervous system, and muscles for the one will of moving an arm. The brain initiates the action, the nervous system relays (speaks) the actions, and the muscles complete the action. The brain initiates the will to act, the nerves relay the will to act, and the muscle completes the will to act (one action/will, three inflections of action/will). This fits much better with the quote you offered by Anatolios concerning inseparable action than your application of it by using the terms “authority/submission” (Also see this on the Son obeying the will of the Father: http://www.missioalliance.org/eternal-submission-thinking-way-issue/)

    3) The third issue you mention I’m in complete agreement with. The freedom of the will is not merely the freedom of choice, but the freedom to choose and will the GOOD. For human beings this freedom would indeed be a submission or obedience to the GOOD they see or know. But since the GOOD is none other than God as a nature of divinity and not just one person of the Trinity, then the Son cannot will the GOOD that is other than himself for he, like the Father and Spirit, are GOOD. So the Son indeed freely wills the GOOD, but not in submission/obedience to the GOOD, but because he is GOOD. So in this affirmation of freedom, in eternity, authority and submission are inadequate to the greater glory of God.

    4) The third issue you mention is that people claim you deny the Nicene creed and eternal generation/procession. You seem to clearly affirm Nicene and the “homoousios” but are hesitant in regard to eternal generation/procession. That is fine and I won’t press you on that.

    However, here and elsewhere you wonder on what basis is the Father the Father and the Son the Son, and on what basis does the Father send the Son and is the Son sent by the Father except because the Father has authority and the Son submits. However, it is exactly eternal generation that supplies the reason: As the Son is (in eternity) from the Father, so the Son is sent (in the economy) from the Father. That is the reason. Authority and Submission need not be inserted into the equation except when our Western imagination inserts it based on our need for affirm freedom and will. It is a very Western, and especially Modern, idea that will, rather than goodness, beauty or truth, would be placed at the center of God’s actions.

    However, at the end of that section you state that “eternal (ontological) modes of subsistence, and the eternal (functional and hypostatic) relations of authority and submission work like hand and glove.” This, in regard to the tradition, is patently false, and in regard to what you have actually proven, unsubstantiated. For pro-Nicenes, eternal generation (that the Father is FROM no one, that the Son is FROM the Father, and (in the West) the Spirit is FROM the Father and Son), was 1) the only way the persons were distinguished, 2) and was preferred to the model you are offering regarding wills (and for now you haven’t really applied you “inflection of will” so your model falls at best on the border of pro-Nicene theology).

    It is a fairly OUTRAGEOUS and MISLEADING for people who do not know the tradition for you to say they fit like hand and glove.

    5) Here you basically reaffirm the terms of the entire debate and how they are indeed plausible. I don’t need to engage that here as the above points indicate that you still haven’t addressed the core issues involved in this debate.

    To reiterate, it is good to hear your responses and affirmations of traditional (and by that I mean biblical) positions, but you still haven’t show how these responses/affirmation do any real work within ERAS, and I suggested that if they did, the framework of ERAS would become unstable at best.

    Thank you again for you time. We all hope to continue to hear more from you and your colleagues on this very important issue. As I’ve said before, I don’t think you a necessarily heretical, but I do think you are currently sub-biblical and sub-Nicene (http://www.missioalliance.org/eternal-submission-thinking-way-issue/).

  4. I am very grateful to hear that Professor Ware has come to affirm and embrace the doctrine of eternal generation. When this particular trinitarian debate resurfaced several weeks ago, I was under the impression that he still viewed it with some measure of skepticism. If for no other reason than the fact that it has led Professor Ware to set the record straight about where he stands on this crucial doctrine, I am grateful that the debate has continued!*

    That notwithstanding, I am troubled by some of the language used in this post regarding the divine will. Specifically, the language of the divine will as a “capacity,” and as something that is “activated” by the divine persons. The problem is that such language undermines if not denies the equally essential doctrines of divine simplicity and immutability.

    According to divine simplicity, God simply is Godself. The divine will is not something that God has, but is identical to who God eternally is. Corollary to this is divine immutability. God is eternally and unchangingly who he simply is. And essential to upholding divine immutability is the doctrine that God is pure act (or actus purus). In other words, who God simply and eternally is he is in pure actuality. There are no potencies in God. For there to be potential in God, rather than pure actuality, then God would indeed be mutable.

    Some have sought exegetical support for this in the divine name revealed in Exodus 3:14, but whether or not that passage bears that meaning, it is certainly entailed in the doctrine of creation ex nihilo (Genesis 1; John 1). God eternally exists as Godself and freely creates the universe. God alone is necessary, while the universe is purely contingent. If this is the case, then God is also unchanging and pure act, because God must eternally always be who God is (i.e., God’s life must be eternally complete) with or without the universe (aseity). If any of these doctrines are denied we run into very serious metaphysical and moral trouble (but that’s an argument for a different context).

    The point is this, I do not think that Professor Ware in any way means to undermine divine immutability. He has written quite strongly against movements such as Open Theism in the past. I’m not sure where he stands on simplicity, but I will extend charity and assume that he believes it should be upheld. Nevertheless, the language that he uses to uphold ERAS winds up undermining theolegoumena that the tradition has deemed necessary to consistently maintain this doctrine.

    And this, of course, is to be expected. If God truly is the eternally unchanging God that he always and eternally has simply been, then to make a revision in one area of our doctrine of God will cause reverberations all throughout it.

    *Whether or not others share this assessment is will probably vary with the degree to which they think eternal generation is a sine qua non of orthodox trinitarian theology

    • “I am very grateful to hear that Professor Ware has come to affirm and embrace the doctrine of eternal generation.” –eugenerschlesinger

      Unfortunately, while he MAY have affirmed eternal generation, you seemed to have glossed over the fact that he has NOT embraced it:

      “Where I have always hesitated is with biblical support put forth by others for the twin doctrines of eternal generation (Son) and eternal procession (Spirit), sometimes called the doctrine of the eternal modes of subsistence. Because of this, though I have never denied this doctrine, I have been reluctant to embrace it.” –Ware, Section 4 “ERAS”

      • I was going to raise a similar point in my comment, but when I re-read Ware’s post, I found this: ‘I accept and embrace it as the “church’s doctrine” and the only genuine explanation that grounds the Father as eternal Father, and the Son as eternal Son.’

        My other points re: simplicity and immutability stand, but give credit where it’s due, he has embraced it.

        That said, a shift this major demands a revision or repudiation of his earlier published works, in which he denies EG. But this is a start

      • @eugenerschlesinger

        Yes, thanks for the clarification from your statement below.
        Upon closer inspection, I would agree with you.
        My argument is that his apportioning the unified will of the Godhead into authority / submission categories collapses into a form of modalism. Thus, his reluctance to embrace generation and procession (regardless of whether he capitulates and embraces anyway) is the result of the ERAS model shoehorned to a position of greater importance than pro-Nicene doctrine. His claim that generation and procession lack biblical support seems forced and tenuous.
        But see my point below, if you are interested further …

  5. It seems like it would be helpful to distinguish what is per se and what is per accidens with respect to the relationship of authority and submission. At least one reason why your position seems to be problematic is that it seems to be per se of authority/submission that there are two wills–one oriented toward the good of ruling, the other oriented to the good of obeying. If this result is per accidens (i.e. only pertaining to some authority/submission relations), then we need an account of what is per se in this relation. Merely saying that both Father and Son still share in the divine nature is not an adequate response to this worry because it does not seem to be consistent with the abovementioned problem.

  6. Dr. Ware,

    I agree with the important issues that Geoff has raised above, and I think that all of us who in some way have registered concerns with your position would appreciate further clarification on them. Having said that, I would like to add a few points of my own that I also find problematic. I do so not with the ultimate goal of being critical, but with the purpose spurning us all forward to greater knowledge, faith and maturity.

    1) I find it perplexing, to say the least, that you cite Khaled Anatolios and his book “Retrieving Nicaea” in order to support your position. Regardless of what he might say with regard to “inflections”, he is most decidedly not arguing for ERAS but actually quite the opposite. On page 4 he states: “One can hold that the eternal Trinity is the subject of the economy of salvation without holding that the features of the ‘economic Trinity’ are exactly those of the eternal Trinity. In fact, the development of Nicene orthodoxy hinges on the insistence that, at least in one crucial respect, the ‘form’ or appearance of the economic Trinity does not correspond to that of the immanent Trinity. A strict and unqualified conflation of the economic Trinity with the immanent Trinity would entail that the subordination of the incarnate Son to the Father reflects the same order of subordination in the immanent Trinity. But a large part of the logic of Nicene theology consists precisely in overcoming this inference.”

    Anatolios is not alone in opposing eternal subordination in the Trinity; both Lewis Ayres and Michel Barnes have also weighed in decidedly against the ERAS position. Now these scholars represent the latest and the best of patristic scholarship, particularly on the pro-Nicene tradition. This, of course, does not offer the final word on the merits of ERAS itself, for only Scripture can do that. However, it does seem to indicate that claims that ERAS conforms to the pro-Nicene tradition should be immediately abandoned. The debate can and probably should continue on other grounds. However, as to the full orthodoxy of ERAS with respect to pro-Nicene theology, there should be no question: it is not. As Stephen Holmes has convincingly argued in “The Quest for the Trinity” (p.200), the only legitimate distinction that can be made in orthodox Trinitarian theology between the three hypostases of the Trinity is their mode of origin.

    2) Anatolios’s quote raises another point that Geoff alluded to in his response, namely the issue of the relation of the immanent to the economic Trinity. In the quote above, Anatolios, in context, is countering certain versions of the so-called “Rahner’s rule” in which the economic Trinity is collapsed without remainder into the immanent, such that whatever is displayed in the economy can simply be projected back in an unqualified way onto the immanent Trinity. This is the theological move that you seem to make, one that is absolutely critical to your overall argument, for without it, the attribution of the Son’s submission to the Father in eternity cannot be made from any of relevant biblical texts without falling into pure speculation.

    Once again, the pro-Nicene tradition was keen to preserve an appropriate distinction between the two. I think of Athanasius who in his tracts against the Arians (3.28-29) argued that the “scope” of Scripture and thus the proper “rule” for correctly interpreting it was the “double account” of Christ as the consubstantial Son of the Father and the incarnate Son of Mary. One of the significant errors of the anti-Nicene theologians, as Athanasius understood, was that they collapsed this “double account” into one such that when they observed the creaturely properties of Christ in the Gospel narratives, they projected them back onto the Son’s eternal being and inferred that he must have therefore been created. Now I realize that this is not the argument that ERAS makes. But I do want to draw attention to the fact that there appear to be some similarities in the modes of argumentation adopted by both the anti-Nicene theologians and the proponents of ERAS, viz., that there is an unqualified projection of the economy back onto the immanent Trinity. I say unqualified because, at least in regard to what you offer in this post, I do not see any justification for making this move without which your position does seem capable of survival.

    3) I also find it perplexing that you cite Butner’s essay without adequately dealing with the argument that he makes vis-à-vis dyothelitism. On page 132, Butner articulates the heart of his argument as follows: “EFS is more in the line of what might be called polytheistic homoiousianism, whereby the Father and the Son have distinct natures, but each is still eternally divine. This problem is only clear when the metaphysics of dyothelite Christology are applied to the trinitarianism promoted by EFS. Many advocates of EFS affirm dyothelitism, the belief that Jesus Christ has both a human will and a divine will. Because Chalcedonian Christology insists that Jesus has two natures but only one hypostasis, dyothelitism as a development of Chalcedonian Christology necessitates the recognition that a will must be a property of nature in order for there to be two wills in Christ. To posit such terms as ‘obedience’ and ‘submission’ that imply a distinction of wills between the Father and the Son while affirming dyothelite Christology entails a distinction of natures between the Father and Son (and Spirit) resulting in tritheism. This ‘dyothelite problem’ leads me to conclude that EFS must be strongly opposed by evangelical systematicians in order to avoid the risk of tritheism.”

    Butner raises a significant problem here that cannot be swept aside. If ERAS accepts the orthodox Christology of the church as pertains to the two wills of Christ, then it seems to fall into incoherency, for on the one hand it claims to affirm that the nature of God is one rather than three and thus avoid tritheism, yet it must affirm, along with dyotheletism, that wills are properties of natures. Yet it does not make sense to say that a single will can be both authoritative and submissive with respect to itself, and thus ERAS seems to require two wills (or at least two distinct centers of consciousness) and this unavoidably requires two natures on a dyothelite view. Your recourse to the concept of “inflections” of the single divine will does not seem capable of doing the heavy conceptual lifting that is necessary in order to avoid Butner’s charge, for it is difficult to conceive, in any meaningful way (rather than simply just asserting that it is so), how the the single divine will, even in hypostatic inflections, can be authoritative over and submissive to itself at the same time.

    4) Even if we grant for the sake of argument that the respective hypostases of the Father and the Son manifest their modes of origin in functional ways, it is not clear to me why these ways should be characterized primarily in terms of authority and submission. Why should paternity and filiality be associated primarily with authority and submission respectively? Why not love? “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). A conception of eternal relations grounded more in relationships of mutual love rather than in authority/submission also has the advantage of greater harmony with Augustine’s influential position. To frame the relations of Father and Son in terms of authority and submission seems to me somewhat arbitrary and calculated to bolster a particular view of human interrelations (see below). It could of course be argued that relations of authority and submission do not necessarily exclude the possibility of love, but then again, neither do they demand it. From my perspective, this betrays a deficient view of God that conceives him primarily in legal rather than relation terms, precisely the kind of notion that God’s self-revelation as Father and Son (and Spirit) undermines.

    5) Finally, I think that another significant issue lurking in the background that remains unstated throughout this entire post is the role that ERAS plays in supporting a complementarian view of male headship and female submission. I do not wish to enter into a debate about this particular topic, for I think that the merits of this view should be assessed in other ways. I merely want to address the fact that from what I know, ERAS seems driven, at least in part, by the desire to ground male/female complementarity in the eternal relations of the Godhead. Although purely analogical, this move further bespeaks a kind of ‘social Trinitarianism’ (see once again Stephen Holmes) that would appear once again to require a distinction of wills between the Father and the Son in order to make the analogy stick. If ERAS truly desires to affirm a single divine will as you say, then it would seem illegitimate, even by way of analogy, to use it as a means of defending complementarianism.

    Once again, I write these things not in the interests of being unnecessarily critical, but rather because I believe that it is important for members of the body of Christ to hold each other accountable, especially with regard to essential doctrine such as the Trinity. Blessings.

    • It sounds as if Anatolios has been mischaracterized by Ware.
      I should have read the source texts instead of lumping him with Packer.
      Thanks for providing some context.

    • Hi,

      did you actually read the interview? It seems that Dr. Ware is grounding ERAS on the economic trinity, but you continue to claim he holds to ontological subordination AFTER he plainly denies it in the interview?

    • Hi,

      it seems you continue to misrepresent Dr. Ware. In the interview, he clearly puts ERAS firmly in the economic sphere, yet you continue to claim that ERAS holds to ontological subordination, and then assert that Anatolios is against ERAS because he [Anatolios] is against ontological subordination. BUT Dr. Ware just said that ERAS is economic, not ontological!

      It would be MUCH more helpful if you can stop thinking a priori that you know what ERAS means, more than what its proponents think it means.

      • Contrary to what you may think, I did take the time to carefully read what Dr. Ware wrote. It seems to me that you are one who is actually misreading Ware and misunderstanding ERAS. You argue that ERAS belongs “firmly in the economic sphere”, but this is just false. This would mean that ERAS holds only to subordination of the Son to the Father after the time of the former’s incarnation. If this were the case, then I would have no quibble, because the gospel accounts clearly indicate that Jesus was submissive to his Father. The main contention of the debate, however, hinges on the fact that ERAS proponents project the economic submission of Jesus to the Father back onto the eternal, ontological relations between the Son and the Father in unqualified way (this is Anatolios’ point). That such relations of authority and submission are merely ‘functional’ in ERAS is irrelevant, because (as I say below), ERAS does understand these relations to be eternal, and this has the consequence of devolving into a view of the Trinity that is sub-Nicene. It is highly ironic that the wedge that you want to drive between the economic and immanent relations would actually undermine the view of Ware that you seem to want to defend.

        As for thinking that I know a priori what ERAS means better than its proponents, I do not make this claim. Like I said, I carefully read what Ware wrote prior to responding. Moreover, it is not illegitimate to critique a view on the basis of its implications which may not be immediately apparent to those who hold it. This is what I did when I argued that despite Ware’s claims to the contrary, his view necessitates distinct wills (in the Father and the Son (a view that smacks of tritheism) if he holds to the orthodox logic of dyothelitism. If we could not argue this way, showing incoherencies that obtain where the proponents do not think that they do, then it would be difficult if not impossible to critique any view, because this is one of the primary ways in which critiques operate (your own attempt is a case in point).

        I would therefore appreciate it if you did not misconstrue the issues at stake before making your critique.

      • Hi Reformissionary,

        you said, “This would mean that ERAS holds only to subordination of the Son to the Father after the time of the former’s incarnation.” Actually, economic subordination also refers to the submission of the Son in the pactum salutis that occurs in eternity past, before the incarnation of the Son.

        I do believe you are trying to understand what Ware is saying. But I also don’t think you are actually getting what he is saying. Now, I am not saying Ware et al are fully orthodox in form, since they seem to be rather ignorant of historical theology. But I think that they are, however flawed, trying to express a true view of the Trinity. And charity demands that we shouldn’t take what Ware says in the worst possible construction. Since Ware here explicitly denies ontological subordination, then we should take his denial at face value. You can call on him to repudiate earlier statements that seem to be teaching ontological subordination, but I don’t think telling him he lies in his denial here is something anyone should be doing.

        Also, even if his position IMPLIES ontological subordination, the critique should be that his view necessitates ontological subordination, not that he IS teaching ontological subordination. And as I have hinted at concerning the pactum salutis, having the word “eternal” does not imply ontological subordination at all.

      • puritanreformed,

        Once again I find the need to ask you to properly understand my critique because you have misconstrued what I said in my original comment. Nowhere did I accuse Ware of holding to ontological subordination in the sense that you mean. What I said, quoting Butner (who as it turns out is actually mentioned by Ware in his post) was that if ERAS proponents hold to a dyothelite Christology that views wills as properties of natures, and if ERAS (contrary to Ware’s claim) necessitates two distinct wills in the Father and the Son in order to speak meaningfully of authority and submission, then the ERAS position falls into either into incoherency as risks falling into tritheism. Notice the two conditionals statements in the preceding sentence: if… and if… then… As I hope you can see here, this is a far cry from simply accusing Ware of ontological subordination. My argument sought merely to set up a series of conditions the outcome of which obtains only if said conditions are met. This is why my argument falls squarely in the category of “implying” a problem rather than “necessitating” the problem.

        As for the pactum salutis, I reject that concept entirely because of similar issues related to the problem of authority/submission in the God vis-à-vis the single divine will.

      • Hi Reformissionary,

        I looked back at your original comment, and you did mention ontological subordination in your 1st and 2nd points. If your main point is the 3rd, then I apologize for not realizing that earlier.

        As for the issue of wills, your third point, I don’t think the issue is as clear cut as you would like it to be. Since we can hold to God being both one and three, I do not see any reasons why we cannot apply the same formula to God’s will. We can hold to one will of God and three subsistent wills for example, and that is not a denial of the one will of God which we equally affirm.

        So I see you deny the pactum salutis. But if you deny the pactum, how would you understand the many places in Scripture that seem to talk about the Son covenanting with the Father, including Psalms 2, Psalms 110, John 5 and John. 17? Are these speaking of a real covenant between the Father and the Son? What is it referring to?

      • puritan reformed,

        I am at a complete loss as to see where you are getting that from in points 1 and 2. Again it seems you are misreading my intent. Perhaps it is a confusion in terminology. In any case, I think getting into the pactum here is too far afield from the original intent of Ware’s post. If you’d like to engage with me more you can do so at my blog: https://reformissio.wordpress.com

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  8. “But this does not preclude each person accessing, as it were, those qualities of the divine nature (e.g., power, knowledge, wisdom) distinctively yet harmoniously, according to their own hypostatic identities as Father, and as Son, and as the Holy Spirit, such that they bring to pass one unified result accomplishing the one work of God.”

    This particular way of wording it made me uncomfortable.

    I think like many others I probably worry about reading submission and creating hierarchy within the divine life. Or creating concrete ways of viewing something that is wholly beyond our understanding and ability to know.

    This is a subject though I have been watching with wide eyes. It is one of the most interesting dialogues and drawing out of content we have had in a while in the western sphere of Theology.

    I will say this, I am incredibly proud for how so many have carried themselves in this dialogue.

    There has been a lot of character and respect shown for view points and really delving into the positions put forward rather than misrepresenting narratives and ideas.

    Makes you proud to be able to see that within our Tradition 🙂 and I think it builds well for more ecumenical work in the future with other theological traditions within greater Christianity 🙂

    – The Smiling Pilgrim
    https://thesmilingpilgrim.wordpress.com/

    • “I think like many others I probably worry about reading submission and creating hierarchy within the divine life”
      Dr Ware stands by ESS because he teaches that wives must submit to their husbands and he uses the submission of Christ to God as an example. Charles Stanley, a leading Southern Baptist pastor who also supports the subordination of women says in his book, A Man’s Touch, “If there is no submission within the Godhead, then there is no basis for complementarianism.” Complementarian’s agenda for female subordination is what drives the Eternal Son Subordination theory.
      You are right to worry about Dr. Ware’s teaching because Ware also says that men are the channels of salvation for women. “she is marked as a Christian by her submission to God and in that her acceptance of God’s design for her as a woman.”
      According to complementarians, Godly womanhood is totally dependent upon human males. It is solely a woman’s relationship to a man that determines whether or not she is exhibiting Godly womanhood. Depending upon which complementarian you believe, 1) women are saved by having a baby and denouncing their desire to be men; or, 2) women have a chance to redeem all mankind by having sex and giving birth to babies and not usurping authority from males (or at least have the desire to have sex with a man).
      It appears that Ware and other well-known complementarians believe that a woman’s salvation is dependent upon the sex act by a man inserting his seed into the woman. If this is the case, then it is as if he has inserted his godliness (giver of salvation) into her; or if she has no male to have sex with (marriage does not come into the picture), she must be willing to have sex with a man (because sex is the way children are conceived), and it is only then that she, or mankind, can be saved.
      And that, my friends, is why we must look carefully at everything Dr Ware says. In his words, Ware changes salvation for married women and makes marriage (or sex) her instrument of salvation. Ware’s plan of salvation for women becomes one of works. It also makes men and women unequal in salvation because men do not have to make such a decision as Ware claims women have to make. This contradicts their own teaching because being equal in salvation is one thing complementarians claim women have in common with men. However, from this statement by Ware, women do not even have that.

  9. Pingback: Response to Bruce Ware: Khaled Anatolios in Context and Lewis Ayres | The Evangelical Calvinist

  10. Pingback: Response to Bruce Ware concerning ERAS | reformissio

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  12. Your position of ERAS demands that authority and submission are outworkings of the intrinsic nature of the Father and Son, due to necessarily and eternally-fixed concepts of authority and submission. Because the Father precedes the Son’s eternal generation, the Father’s authority must also precede. Thus, the Son’s submission is a response to the Father.

    The potential paradox is when Jesus declares, “Not my will but yours be done.” This gets to the dual nature of Christ. Does the Son acknowledge that his will is not his, but the Father’s through him? Or does the submission to the Father originate with the Son’s declaration of submission? Is it submission because either the Father or Son originates it? What if the properties of authority and submission were not the “inflections” of either the Father or the Son? Rather, they were mutually-realized properties? Origination of authority / submission neither being in the Father nor the Son.

    Because you are viewing the relation as a one-way power dynamic (authority over submission), you fail to consider the possibility that it may be conditioned upon the relationship of Christ to the Father at the given moment of potential submission. Christ does not submit because every given moment of eternal generation requires it. He submits because it is particular to the need of his servanthood, as servanthood manifests through the outworkings of Christ’s nature. This occurs simultaneously as Christ actualizes the Father’s creation, not processionally (after it or before it).

    Christ could just as easily manifest authority in terms of the relationship in the same statement, commanding the Father to remove the need for this death, while also submitting to the Father’s will (the quote from Matt. 26:39 is not simply a hypothetical abstract): “My Father, if it is possible, take this cup from me [imperative verb]. Yet not as I will but as you will.” I think this is what Gregory of Nyssa meant: not that these are “inflections” (or some sorts of modes of relationship of the Godhead to itself), but that these are verbs of inter-relationship between the persons of the trinity that change relationally according to the unified will of the Godhead. Regardless of whether one takes the perspective of either the Father or the Son in Matthew’s statement, these verbs are qualia not propositional.

    I would be leery of appealing to either Anatolios’ or Packer’s thoughts on these matters. In your very quote of Packer, he seemed to indicate that he saw Christ as a mode of the Godhead’s manifestation: “Though co-equal with the Father in eternity, power, and glory, it is natural to Him to play the Son’s part …” (Packer, 54-55) Whether or not Packer was using this expression colloquially or not, it is imprecise and misleading. The Son of God does not “play a part,” as if in some sort of modal theater. The fact that it was overlooked by others of the Reformed tradition doesn’t make it acceptable. In fact, a history of erroneous thought would simply proves a problem with the beliefs of the adherents, not to the merits of the theology.

    More contemporaneously, the Orthodox church specifically condemns this concept of God as nominally modalistic:

    “A third wrong doctrine is that God is one, and that the Son and the Spirit are merely names for relations which God has with Himself. Thus, [for example] the Thought and Speech of God is called the Son, while the Life and Action of God is called the Spirit; but in fact—in genuine actuality—there are no such “realities in themselves” as the Son of God and the Spirit of God. Both are just metaphors for mere aspects of God. Again, however, in such a doctrine the Son and the Spirit have no existence and no life of their own. They are not real, but are mere illusions.”

    I don’t think you can hold to a weakened Patristic position and then claim that the context for your understanding is purely in accord with historic faith. Your discomfort with pro-Nicene claims demonstrates this. While you’ve changed the terms to those of authority and submission, exclusive propositions about God relating to himself tend to collapse, as the Orthodox statement above attests. If you hold the terms as co-eternal to the intrinsic relationships of the persons of God to each other (and I can’t see how that’s not possible), then the ERAS paradigm must fail.

    PERSONAL ASIDE: I’m sorry, but I’m having a lot of trouble respecting this revision of Nicene theology. It points to a trend of thought in Reformed doctrine that favors propositional theology as equal to truth itself (rather than being an analogy of truth as Christ embodies it). After all, if Calvin was right, one cannot help but be predestined to become a Calvinist, in the end. Thus, Reformed thought which adheres to Calvinism will more-likely get a pass regardless of its friction with the faith traditions of the larger Christian community outside its walls. Especially, if it abstracts history enough (that’s safe), or abstracts God enough (that’s safe, too). Except maybe New Calvinists and this ERAS-nonsense will brought to its inexorable end.

  13. Pingback: A Response to James Dolezal’s Critique of ‘Theistic Personalism’ juxtaposed with Classical Theism | The Evangelical Calvinist

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  16. Dr. Ware, you say in your article here that you affirm the doctrine of the inseparable operations of the Trinity. However, in your book Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you state, “…though the Father is supreme, he OFTEN provides and works through his Son and Spirit to accomplish His work and fulfill His will. I am amazed when I consider here the humility of the Father. For, though the Father is supreme, though he has in the trinitarian order the place of highest authority, the place of highest honor, yet he CHOOSES to do his work IN MANY CASES through the Son and through the Spirit RATHER THAN UNILATERALLY” (p. 55, emphasis mine). Do you stand by these words you wrote in 2005? And if so, how do you harmonize a passage like this with the claim that Father, Son, and Spirit always act inseparably?

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  19. Dr. Ware:

    Thank you for taking the time to consider one of my arguments. I appreciate that amid all the voices in this debate, that a noted figure such as yourself would consider an article written by an unknown recent graduate who is about to assume his first teaching post. It is Christlike to listen to the nobodies and not just the somebodies.

    At the same time, I am puzzled as to why you responded to the part of my article that you chose to respond to. My claim is made specifically against Roberth Letham, not against you, but your summary does not disclose this fact. Letham, in a discussion with Kevin Giles, argues that the word subordination is not appropriate but the word submission is because the latter entails a choice. I read Letham’s emphasis on “choice” and not “desire” or “willingness” as an endorsement of libertarian notions of freedom, at least within the Godhead, and I argue against him (much as you do against me for some reason) that such choice is not possible in many of the divine acts, because both Son and Father are constrained by the divine character and do not possess libertarian freedom. I do not argue that “. . . the Son cannot submit to the Father because such submission requires freedom” as the incomplete quote you use suggests, but rather that “If the Son is not free to differ from the Father [due to the divine character], then by Robert Letham’s definition of submission (noted above), the Son cannot submit to the Father because such submission requires freedom.” This is a very different argument, one against a particular variety of EFS, not against all. If you deny libertarian notions of free will in the Godhead, I do not see why you need respond. I, too, doubt the extent of libertarian freedom in the Godhead, though I will not deny it as you do in its entirety, because God must at least have the possibility to not create and remain God to preserve the divine aseity, and to not redeem and remain God in order to preserve the gratuity of grace.

    What you miss in addressing an argument I did not make is the argument that I do make. The reason I engage Letham’s definition of submission is that I cannot understand a use of the word that would be fitting to describe the relationship between the Father and the Son. Consider your own explanation in this post. You argue that “each of the three persons possesses the identically same will… [yet] each also is able to activate that volitional capacity in exercising the one will in distinct yet unified ways.” (By the way, note that this sounds very different than your earlier common use of P.T. Forsyth’s notion of the Father’s “exigent will” and the Son’s “yielding will,” which sounds like two distinct wills. You can hopefully understand why you have been misunderstood.) You add, ““while the Father may activate the common divine will to initiate, the Son may activate the divine will to carry out, e.g., ‘from’ the Father, ‘through’ the Son—as has often been affirmed in Trinitarian doctrine following the pattern in Scripture itself.” What I cannot understand is why you prefer to use the terms submission, authority, and obedience, instead of the terms “from” and “through,” or “initiate” and “carry out.” I also do not see how this is at all helpful in illuminating human relationships of submission and obedience. This was the point of the section of the article where I addressed Letham’s definition, but now let me address your own.

    If by submission and authority you mean that the Father and Son share a single will, that the Father initiates any movement of this singular will and the Son carries out what is initiated in this same will, and that therefore any movement of the will is “from” the Father “through” the Son, then I do not see how these same words of submission and authority apply to husband and wife. After all, both do not share a singular will. A husband can initiate and carry out the movements of his own will, and when a wife obeys her husband it is because he has initiated a volitional impulse to command his wife, which he carries out, and she has responded by initiating her will to do as instructed, which she too carries out. The resulting action can only be described as metaphorically “from” the husband and “through” the wife, whereas in the Godhead any volitional act must be treated as ontologically “from” the Father and “through” the Son – this is the way that the divine being acts. Compound this disanalogy with the fact that the Father and Son are both omniscient, knowing what each other wants perfectly, omnibenevolent, so that both only will good things, and omnipotent, so that both are able to do any act, and you have a wide chasm indeed between purported “submission” in the Godhead and anything going under the same name between husband and wife. It is equally confusing how a process within an eternal, immutable God correlates to a process between temporal, mutable spouses, who lack foreknowledge to know the best outcome, who are capable of commanding sinful or mistaken acts, and who can change their minds mid-act. In short, where I find Letham’s definition of submission problematic when applied to the Godhead, I find what you call submission problematic when applied to human relationships. It simply does not fit, and the analogy EFS or ERAS advocates are attempting to make breaks down entirely, as far as I can tell. It certainly does not help me understand how to relate to my wife.

    So I keep asking myself the question why there is such a strong defense of this terminology instead of more traditional language. I don’t see that it is scriptural, for “hupotasso” is only used once in the New Testament when it is not clearly speaking of the incarnate life of Christ and hence of his human will. Here, in 1 Corinthians 15, the humanity of the Son is still very likely in view due to contextual cues of second Adam terminology and the content of the OT passages cited. I don’t see that it is traditional, for despite all the isolated quotations you provide that mention obedience or submission in the Godhead, I am unaware of any extended treatment of divine action in the patristic, medieval, or reformation era that explains such action in these terms in a way comparable to Cappadocian extended treatments of divine action as from the Father, in the Son, through the Spirit (to cite a single set of examples). I can only conclude that the driving force is in fact the ability to preserve your argument that egalitarianism has “chafed at… the very nature of God himself.” But I am not egalitarian, and I fear it is you who are chafing at the very nature of God. For this reason I respond, not to accuse of heresy, but to warn a brother of a dangerous path he is walking.

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