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Home / Essays / Kovach on Subordinationism ...



The Eternal Subordination of the Son:
An Apologetic Against Evangelical Feminism
Stephen D. Kovach

Gilbert Bilezikian states that nowhere in the Bible is there a reference to a chain of command in the Trinity. Such subordinationist theories were propounded in the fourth century and were rejected as heretical. [1] In 1994, Dr. Bilezikian presented a paper dealing with the issue of the eternal subordination of the Son. Bilezikian stated that current discussion of the doctrine by certain evangelical writers was based upon a theological innovation for the purpose of advancing an ideological agenda that makes women subordinate to men. The ministry of Christ on earth, according to Dr. Bilezikian, was only a temporary self-humiliation that has no bearing on his eternal status of complete equality of function and authority. Both Scripture and the Church Councils exclude any form of hierarchy or ranking that would pertain to the eternal state of the Trinity. Dr. Bilezikian concluded his comments at the 1994 ETS meeting by warning that people who teach the eternal subordination of the Son should quit messing with the Trinity. He also advised people who believed in the doctrine to quit talking about subordination, and don't use God to push your ideological agenda. [2]

This paper ignores the advice of Dr. Bilezikian, and comes to a different conclusion on the historical and biblical data. I will examine the meaning of the heresy of subordinationism that appeared in early church history and show how Dr. Bilezikian's understanding is different from the reality in the early church. The misunderstanding of Dr. Bilezikian is based on an improper and overly negative definition of subordination as understood by the early Church and orthodox Christianity in general. In fact, the early Church Councils and the Church Fathers adopted the doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son, and this doctrine continues in the Church as orthodoxy to this day. The biblical record also confirms the eternal subordination of the Son.

A final section will look at a recent trend in Trinitarian thought that denies the eternal subordination of the Son by implication.[3] The basis of this trend is that human beings are unable to discuss the interrelationships between the three Persons of the Godhead. These relations are a mystery and, therefore, one can only affirm the unity of God. Our sole basis for understanding the Trinity is the experience of being saved by God through Christ and the activity of the Holy Spirit. This idea prohibits any ideas of subordination that are rooted in patriarchy because our personal experience of salvation promotes the full humanity of women. As such, feminists such as LaCugna want to read the relations between the Trinity as supportive of a relational view of human beings with the values of mutuality, equality and community.[4] A brief analysis and critique will be offered on this revision of orthodox Christianity. The question becomes: Who is revising Christian orthodoxy and which view is ideologically motivated and argued?

The Heresy of Subordinationism: What is it?

Dr. Bilezikian assumes that any view that confers an order or hierarchy among the Persons of the Trinity is a subordinationist heresy. In their article in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology dealing with the heresy of subordinationism, R.C. and C.C. Kroeger state that the heresy of subordinationism assigns an inferiority in being, status or role to the Son or the Holy Spirit within the Trinity.[5] While these leading proponents of evangelical feminism see subordinationism as heresy, the historical facts of the controversies lead to the opposite conclusion. Eternal subordination is the view propounded by the creeds and traditions as reflective of the truths of Scripture.

The assumption by these leading evangelical feminists is that subordination of any type (including role) within the Trinity is automatically heresy. In fact, subordination as seen within the context of the early Church Councils and creeds can be potentially orthodox or heretical. It depends on who or what is being subordinated and to what extent.

Michael Bauman has discussed the different kinds of subordinationism during the Arian controversy.[6] He draws a distinction between what he calls emphatic and economic subordination. The Arian heresy was an emphatic subordination which is inequality of nature and being. Arians asserted a natural inequality existed between the Persons of the Trinity by virtue of their essential differentiation and the temporal derivative character of the Second and Third. [7] This is heretical because it is a subordination of essence or nature. Economic subordination, adopted by the Council of Nicea, means that while all three divine persons are identical in essence, the Son is economically subordinate to the Father with respect to his eternal mission and function. The Son voluntarily has submitted himself eternally to the will of the Father. The Son is no less than the Father, but has voluntarily submitted himself.[8]

Unlike many who see subordination as always negative and abhorrent, in fact there are different kinds of subordination.[9] In his book on men and women's roles, Stephen Clark asserts that subordination is difficult to understand in our modern society because it is an expression of social culture foreign to modern Western society.[10] Subordination simply refers to a relationship on which one person, the subordinate, depends upon another for direction.[11] Clark identifies three types of subordination (domination, mercenary and voluntary) and three different ways in which subordination is conducted (oppression, care and unity).[12] Clark also notes that subordination and inferiority have no necessary conceptual link. The head and subordinate can be of equal worth, and in fact the subordinate can hold a greater rank or dignity.[13]

From this discussion of the concept of subordination, it should be apparent that the idea of subordination does not always denote an inferiority. As applied to the Trinity, the term subordination does not always mean a heretical distinction of worth and dignity between the Father and the Son. While evangelical feminists may believe that an eternal difference in role between the Father and Son is heretical, the plain meaning of the word and its use in church history shows that the Son can be voluntarily subordinate for the purpose of a higher cause without being inferior in being or essence.[14] Voluntary subordination is always necessary to the establishment of genuine community. This is true for the Godhead as well as people.

Eternal Subordination and Church History

It cannot be legitimately denied that the eternal subordination of the Son is an orthodox doctrine and believed from the history of the early church to the present day. The following statement by a twentieth century theologian expresses well the meaning of the doctrine and its pervasiveness in church history:

From the second century onward a concept of the Son's subordination to the Father has been combined with a concept of the full equality among the Three. Each is seen to be fully, equally and eternally divine, although in their relationship to one another, the Father assumes supremacy and the others a subordinate role.[15]
This section of the paper will present a representative sample of councils, creeds and theologians that mirrors the quotation shown above. While not exhaustive, it will establish that the eternal subordination of the Son has been the orthodox teaching throughout church history.

Early Church

Following the Arian controversy, the Church for the first time had to deal specifically with the issue of whether the Son was a created being or God. To deal with this issue, the Nicene Creed added to the earlier Apostles Creed. Whereas the Apostles Creed declared only that Jesus Christ is the only Savior as Lord, the Nicene Creed added the following declaration dealing with eternal subordination: and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten from the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father, through whom all things came into being . . . [16] As Schaff makes clear, these statements reflected a belief in the eternal subordination of the Son. The Nicene Fathers believed that the Father, Son and Spirit have the same divine dignity, but in an order of subordination. The idea that the Son is begotten and the Father unbegotten means that the Father is primary and Son secondary. The dependence of the Son on the Father is reflected in the statements of the Creed that call the Son God of God, light of light, very God of very God in the Nicene Creed and the writing of Athanasius.[17] Schaff declares that all important scholars since Petavius admit subordination in the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity. [18]

There are differing views on whether Augustine's writing reflects a belief of the eternal subordination of the Son. It is clear from DeTrinitate that Augustine emphasized the unity of the Trinity, and this unity is reflected in the works of the Trinity are seen as works of the other members of the Trinity as well.[19] A good example of this view of the unity of the Trinity is the following passage from DeTrinitate:

All the Catholic interpreters of the divine books ... wrote about the Trinity which is God had his purpose in view; to teach in accordance with the scriptures the Father, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit constitute a divine unity of one and the same substance in an indivisible quality ... The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit as they are inseparable, so they work inseparably.[20]
While all the above facts are true, this does not mean that Augustine did not teach the eternal subordination of the Son. Charles Hodge stated that Augustine did teach the numerical sameness of the essence in person to the Godhead, which excludes all priority as to being and perfection. However, this teaching does not exclude subordination as to mode of subsistence and operation.[21] This subordination of subsistence and operation is indeed, according to Hodge, taught by Scripture and by Augustine.[22] Philip Schaff admits that Augustine taught that the Father stood above the Son and that he alone is unbegotten. Augustine declares, according to Schaff, that the Son is begotten from the Father and proceeds from the Father so that the Father is higher than the Son.[23] Therefore, a more accurate view, as reflected in the writings of Augustine is that while Augustine did emphasize the unity of the works of the Trinity, he affirmed the Nicene view of the eternal subordination of the Son by teaching that the Son is subordinate to the Father as to the person and relationship (not essence or dignity).[24] Two representative quotes from Augustine that support this assertion follow: In a further section, (Book VI), commenting on the Arian heresy and reaffirming the Nicene Creed (God of God, Light of Light) Augustine states:
For both together are not God of God, and Light of Light, but that the Son alone is of God, that is of the Father, nor are both Light of Light, but the Son alone is of light that is of the Father . . . For it was said, `We are one' (John 10:30) and the meaning is that which He (Father is), I also am according to essence, not according to the relation.[27]
It is clear from the overall context that Augustine, in affirming the Nicene Creed and the eternal begottenness of the Son, is offering the doctrine of eternal subordination held as orthodoxy at the time and ever since.

The Athanasian Creed, formulated as late as the Fifth or Sixth Century affirms the eternal subordination of the Son. It affirmed the begottenness of the Son from the Father alone. This final ecumenical symbol affirms, as all other ecumenical creeds, the Son's subordination to the Father.[28]

The Reformation Period: John Calvin

John Calvin, as Martin Luther, did not comment on the doctrine of the Trinity except as the Scripture expresses these truths.[29] John Calvin specifically adopted Augustine's interpretation of the Trinity. In comments on the unity of God and in reconfirming what he believes to be the teaching of the early Church Fathers, Calvin states that the Father is the beginning of the Son. He offers Augustine's statements that in relationship within the Trinity, the Father is eternally the Father and the Son eternally the Son: Christ, as to himself, is called God, as to the Father he is called Son. And again, The Father, as to himself, is called God, as to the Son he is called Father. [30]

Charles Hodge stated that in Calvin's writings he affirmed as scriptural the three essential facts of the Trinity: unbegottenness, distinction of persons, and subordination. [31] For example, Calvin specifically holds that the beginning of divinity of the Father and the Son is Jesus in subordination to the Father.[32]

Scriptural Witness to the Eternal Subordination of the Son

The basis of Christian orthodoxy's affirmation of the eternal subordination of the Son is none other than Scripture. Modern objections to the doctrine are based on the argument that the role of Christ on earth was only temporary. As Dr. Bilezikian states, it was a temporary self-humiliation. Christ temporarily made himself subject to the Father and returned to full equality with the Father.[33] The fact that it was temporary is confirmed, according to Bilezikian, by the fact that Christ had to learn obedience (Heb. 10:5-8). While Bilezikian claims Scripture denies eternal subordination, the Church Fathers and councils in history used Scripture to confirm this doctrine. As Carl Henry states it, The biblical data put beyond doubt the subordination of the Son. [34]

The biblical data that put beyond doubt the eternal subordination of the Son are defined into many categories. However, for the purposes of this chapter, the biblical categories show that the Son is eternally the Son in relation to the Father, and that the work of Christ in his office as the Son of God demonstrates that Jesus is eternally subordinate to God the Father.

The Eternality of the Son

There is no argument that Jesus always is called the Son. The question is whether this term refers to the eternal relationship of the Godhead, or if it refers to the sameness of nature or essence alone. The Scripture provides the answer. The answer is that in the mutual relations within the Godhead, and not in essence or in relation to the creature, that Jesus is eternally the Son of God.

First, Jesus is referred to as the one and only Son. Not only does this refer to the fact that Jesus is a Son eternally distinct in his relationship to the Father (as opposed to angels and humans), but also that the Father is before the Son. For example, God sent his one and only Son (John 3:16) who has made him known (John 1:18). As the only begotten Son of God (John 3:16), he was sent (John 3:17). As God the only Son (John 1:18), there is a tension between the subordination and unity of God. He is God, but also a Son.[35]

Second, Jesus is eternally the Son. As the Son of God, Galatians 4:4 tells us that God sent his Son in the fullness of time. As Timothy George comments:

The coming of Jesus Christ ... was the culmination of a plan devised within the eternal counsel of the Triune God before the creation of the world ... seen in the context of Paul's other statements concerning the pre-existence of Christ (cf. I Cor. 8:6, 12:4; Gal. 1:15-17, Rom. 8:3; Phil. 2:5-9). The confession God sent his Son can only mean that Jesus Christ is the eternally divine Son of God sent forth from heaven. This perspective was certainly not unique with Paul. Jesus himself described God as he who sent me (Mark 12:11). [36]
Thus, the Son is seen as eternally the Son of God who was sent by the Father. Jesus was God's eternal Son who was sent (by God the Father) into the world.[37]

A third example of the eternality of the relationship of the Father to the Son is the reference to God's work of election in Ephesians 1:3-4. The Scripture tells us that he (God the Father) chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world. As Wayne Grudem explains, the initiatory act of choosing by God the Father was that believers are united to Christ before they ever existed. The Bible speaks of the foreknowledge of God the Father in distinction from the other members of the Trinity (1 Peter 1:2).[38] God the Father eternally planned the sending of his only begotten son (John 3:16,17) from eternity because he was eternally the Son.

While it may seem that establishing the eternity of the Sonship of Jesus Christ is not determinative, it serves an important function in the biblical understanding of Jesus as eternally subordinate. It establishes that among the others within the Trinity, the Son as second person in the Trinity establishes his office as the agent of God the Father from eternity in the relations of the Trinity. In his role as agent of creation, redemption and restoration within the Godhead, the Scripture reveals Jesus as eternally the Son.

The Divine Agency of Jesus

There are three major agency or eternal roles of Jesus according to the Scriptures. First, Jesus is the agent of creation. The Bible specifically declares that Jesus is the originator or agent of creation. John 1:3 states Jesus is the one through whom all things were created. Colossians 1:16 provides that by Jesus all things were created. Finally, 1 Cor. 8:6 states that while God the Father is the originator of all things, Jesus is the great agent through whom all things came into being. The writer of Hebrews speaks of the Son as the one through whom God made the universe (Heb.1:2). Jesus, the pre-existent Christ, is thus clearly defined as the person of the Godhead who created everything.[39]

The second divine agency of Jesus as eternally the Son is that of redemption. Jesus, not God the Father or the Holy Spirit, was sent by God the Father to die on the cross for our sins that we might be redeemed (John 3:16; Eph.1:9-10). The Son obeyed the Father and accomplished redemption for us (Hebrews 10:5-7). Early in this paper, I mentioned Dr. Bilezikian's argument that Jesus could not be eternally subordinate to the Father because he had to learn obedience (Heb.5:8). While it is true that Jesus learned obedience, he had to learn obedience to God in the conditions of human life on earth.[40] While Jesus had an eternal role as the agent of God, he had never experienced human nature until he came to earth. In this new experience, not in a changed eternal position, Jesus learned obedience.

The third eternal function of Jesus is as agent of the restoration of creation to the Father at the end of time. In 1 Cor. 15:28, the Apostle Paul clearly tells us that after Christ returns a second time to judge the world and put everything under His (God the Father's) feet, he will once again voluntarily subordinate himself to God the Father. This element of subjective subordination should be viewed in relation to 1 Cor. 15:24. Having brought all powers under his domain, the Son will voluntarily surrender his authority, power and prerogative as Lord to God the Father.[41] The purpose is that God may be all in all (1 Cor.l5:28). This does not mean that Christ and mankind will be absorbed into God, but that the unchallenged reign remains with God the Father alone.[42]

All of this scriptural evidence provides a backdrop for 1 Cor.11:3, which states that God is the head of Christ. While there have been many arguments about the meaning of the word head , its meaning of authority is not only based on the natural meaning of the word kephal , but also the scriptural principle of God as the origin of all things eternally with Christ as the agent (I Cor. 8:6).[43] Jesus is eternally subordinate to God the Father as established by Scripture and the history of the Church.

The best Scripture upon which to challenge the eternal subordination of the Son is Acts 13:32-34, which uses Psalm 2:7 in stating:

We tell you good news: What God has promised our fathers, he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the Second Psalm: You are my Son, today I have become your Father. The fact that God raised him up from the dead . . . .[44]
A possible reading might be to state that Christ became the Son of God when he rose from the dead. F.F. Bruce and R.C. H. Lenski state that the term raising up is the proper use of anast sas (raising up) in this verse. In being raised up by the Father, Jesus did not enter a new relation of Sonship to the Father, but in his anointing on earth as the Messiah.[45]

Conclusion

The bulk of this paper did not deal with contemporary theological discussions on the issue of the doctrine of eternal subordination. The major purpose of this paper was designed to show, contrary to the view of Dr. Bilezikian and many evangelical feminists, that this doctrine is both scriptural and based on the tradition of church history. However, it would be improper for this writer not to discuss recent theological discussions on this issue.

Since the historical position of Christian orthodoxy is to accept the doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son, it is not surprising that most evangelical systematic theologians in the twentieth century have also adopted this position as reflecting both Scripture and church history.[46] The only exceptions that this writer could find were J. Oliver Buswell and Millard Erickson.[47] Since most theologians have honestly found this doctrine in church history, recent attempts to refute the doctrine of eternal subordination by non-evangelical feminists and liberals (who dislike the implications of the doctrine) have shifted the way the Trinity is discussed.

In a recent book by Catharine Mowry LaCugna, professor of theology of Notre Dame, entitled God For Us: The Trinity and the Christian Life, [48] this shift in approach to Trinitarian doctrine is clearly enunciated. Dr. LaCugna begins her book by stating that the doctrine of the Trinity should not be about the abstract nature of God. Dr. LaCugna states that early Christian history and dogma took an improper approach by defining God's inner life, the self-relatedness of the Father, Son and Spirit.[49] Instead, Dr. LaCugna wants to take an entirely different approach that looks only to making statements about God in relation to our experience of salvation: that is, since Christian theology must begin with the premise of the mystery of God as revealed in the mystery of salvation, statements about the nature of God can only be revealed in the reality of salvation history, which she defines as our experience of being saved by God through Christ in the power of the Spirit.[50]

One of the major reasons given for this approach by Dr. LaCugna is her desire to make the doctrine of the Trinity more relevant to modern life. In particular, Dr. LaCugna believes that valid criticisms have been made by liberation and feminist theologians about the Christian doctrine of God as sexist and oppressive. To respond to these concerns, the Christian doctrine of God must not discuss the metaphysics of substance or what God is in himself, but only in our experience of being saved.[51] Therefore, we should reject the doctrine of the Nicene Fathers and scholastic theology as it relates to God's relations within himself.[52]

In the place of even discussing the inner relatedness of God, LaCugna believes that Christians should adopt Karl Rahner's view of the Trinity that makes soteriology decisive in the doctrine of God and the Trinity. Only God's action in salvation history through Jesus Christ and the Spirit fully expresses what God is in the Godself. This view of Rahner is partially summarized in this section of P. Schoenenberg's article.

  1. All our thinking moves from the world to God, and can never move in the opposite direction.
  2. Revelation in no way suspends this law. Revelation is the experienced self-communication of God in human history, which thereby becomes the history of salvation.
  3. With reference to God's Trinity, this means that the Trinity can never be a point of departure. There is no way that we can draw conclusions from the Trinity to Christ and to the Spirit given to us. Only the opposite direction is possible.[53]
In a later portion of the book, Dr. LaCugna states that defining the Trinity based on our experience of salvation will allow the oppressed persons (women and the poor) to be able to restructure the human community as they can properly define the doctrine of the Trinity according to their own experience of salvation. That experience is one of human community characterized by equality, mutuality and reciprocity among persons. Instead of women being subordinate to men, redefining the Trinity based on experience will allow women's experiences to be integrated into theological reflection and to deconstruct traditions that have contributed to the subjugation of women through the use of ideas like subordination traditionally used in the doctrine of the Trinity.[54] In particular, the doctrine of monotheism and the idea of ruler that begins with the Father as a principle of divinity must be discarded and replaced with a Trinitarian ethos of inclusiveness, community and freedom. The idea of interrelationship must become the ruling idea of the Trinity.[55]

LaCugna closes with these thoughts about her Trinitarian doctrine of mutuality:

The Trinitarian arche of God emerges as the thesis for mutuality among persons, rather than the sexist theology of complementarity or the racist theology of superiority or the clerical theology of privilege, or the political theology of exploitation, or the patriarchal theology of male dominance and control, the reign of God promises true communion among all human beings and creatures.[56]

Only a brief synopsis of this recent trend in Trinitarian theology is possible.[57] There are certain important criticisms to be made of these new directions in Trinitarian discussion. First, the concept of revelation is diminished to such an extent that God can only reveal to people what they experience. This implies that truth outside of experience cannot be given to people and/or is of no value. In an article about her Trinitarian view, LaCugna makes the following statement: To talk only about the immanent Trinity is misleading, because it creates the illusion that one can know God independent of the experience of God. [58]

LaCugna also states, in agreement with Karl Rahner, that there is no independent insight about God outside of salvation history.[59] This existential approach to God is ultimately subjective and totally contrary to orthodox Christian belief about the revelatory nature of the Bible. It does not take into account that the Bible reveals things outside of our own experience. Feminists and other deconstructors of the Christian faith are thus left free to redefine and dismantle the faith according to how one feels about God. For example, if God is identified in revelation as Father, and this is contrary to our experience of God, then God as Father can be rejected and renamed.

This new approach not only ignores the doctrine of revelation as irrelevant outside of experience, it ignores the fact that the Bible, as the revealed Word of God, was the driving force behind the theology of the Nicene Fathers and the early ecumenical creeds. A good summary of the issue is provided by Carl F.H. Henry:

Nonevangelical scholars often scorn the early ecumenical creeds as a translation of Christianity into Greek metaphysics. But the decisive question is whether the creeds affirm what is true. The fact is that early Christianity opposed much of Greek metaphysics ... What decided the formulation of the ecumenical creeds was not Greek philosophy or Christian consciousness but only the biblical data. The creeds resist reducing New Testament statements about the persons of the Trinity to merely functional significance.[60]
The creeds are based on biblical revelation, not Greek philosophy. The Bible clearly speaks of the inner relation between the Trinity that the Son is subordinate to the Father as to his subsistence (the Son is of the Father) and operation (The Father works through the Son). It is interesting to note that Dr. LaCugna's discussion provides almost no biblical reference to support her Trinitarian approach.

A final comment about this recent approach to the Trinity regards the feminist culture underlying the suggested new approach. Colin Gunton, in his recent book on the doctrine of revelation, states that the Church has been mistaken in the past in its understanding of the Trinity and women. While maintaining a belief in the concept of revelation, he goes on to note that dogma and theology are revisable, Scripture in certain respects is open to question, but revelation mediated through Scripture is not open to question.[61] What is found here is a subjective view of revelation. Our progressive understanding of women (and the Trinity) as determined by culture can obviously change the content of revelation. Trinitarian names are ontological symbols based on divine revelation, not personal metaphors having their origin in cultural experience.[62] Underlying these new ideas on the Trinity, as suggested by LaCugna's book, is an agenda that wants to redefine women's roles outside of biblical revelation and church history. If the Trinity can be redefined to exclude the Son as subordinate to the Father in any way, then evangelical and other feminists can continue their dogmatic assertion that subordination of function always means subordination of dignity or essence of a person. Therefore, in response to Dr. Bilezikian, I would respectfully suggest that the ideological agenda to change church tradition and Scripture is being carried out by the feminists and not by those who affirm with the entire church throughout history the doctrine of eternal subordination in role.
 


Footnotes

1 Gilbert Bilezikian, Beyond Sex Roles: A Guide for the Study of Female Roles in the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985), 241.

2 Notes taken from oral presentation. Gilbert Bilezikian, Hermeneutical Bungee Jumping: Subordination in the Godhead, Evangelical Theological Society Meeting, November 18, 1994.

3 See, Catharine Mowry LaCugna, God for Us: The Trinity and the Christian Life (New York: HarperCollins, 1991).

4 Ibid.

5 R.C. and C.C. Kroeger, Subordinationism, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter Ewell (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 1058. The Kroegers further stated that anyone who held this view of the Trinity (including role subordination) was condemned as a heretic by the Second Helvetic Confession.

6 Michael E. Bauman, Milton, Subordinationism and the Two Stage Logos, Westminster Theological Journal 48 (1986): 177-182.

7 Ibid., 177.

8 Ibid.

9 For example, Bilezikian refers to Christ's stay on earth as a humiliation (Citing John 5:30 and John 14:2). Bilezikian, ETS Meeting.

10 Stephen Clark, Man and Woman in Christ: An Examination of the Roles of Man and Woman in the Light of Scripture and the Social Sciences (Ann Arbor, Mich: Servant Books, 1980).

11 Ibid., 23-24.

12 Ibid., 41.

13 The following references of evangelical feminists automatically assume subordination equals inferiority. Subordination equals inferiority. Virginia Molenkott, Foreword in Paul K. Jewett, Man as Male and Female (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 8. Equality and subordination are contradictions. Letha Scanzoni and Nancy Hardesty, All We're Meant to Be: A Biblical Approach to Women's Liberation (Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1974), 110.

14 Clark, 44.

15 Jack Cottrell, What the Bible Says About God the Redeemer (Joplin, Mo.: College Press, 1987), 146.

16 John Norman Davidson, Early Christian Creeds (London: Longman, Green and Co., 1950), 215-216.

17 Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. III (311-600) (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1950), 687.

18 Ibid., 683.

19 Ibid., 685.

20 St. Augustine, The Trinity, I, 4, (7), trans. Stephen McKenna, in The Fathers of the Church, Vol. 45, ed. Joseph Deferrari (Washington, D.C.: Catholic University Press, 1963), 10-11.

21 Ibid.

22 Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Vol. I (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 462.

23 Schaff, 685.

24 William Shedd, Introductory Essay, Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III (Buffalo, N.Y.: The Christian Literature Group), 4.

25 Augustine, IV, 20, (29), 167-168.

26 Ibid., V, 14, (15), 193.

27 Ibid., VI, 2, (3), 202-203.

28 Henry, 205.

29 Hodge, 466.

30 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, I, XIII, 19 trans. Henry Beveridge (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 127.

31 Hodge, 467.

32 Calvin, I, XIII, 24 For though we admit that, in respect of order and gradation, the beginning of divinity is in the Father, we hold it a detestable fiction to maintain that essence is proper to the Father alone, as if he were a deifier of the Son.. If they grant that the Son is God, but only in subordination to the Father, the essence which is in the Father is unformed and unbegotten will in him be formed and begotten. pp. 133-134.

33 Bilezikian, ETS Meeting, notes.

34 Henry, 207.

35 Donald A. Johns, Subordination of the Son to the Father, M.A. Thesis, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 1977, 77.

36 Timothy George, Galatians, New American Commentary, ed. E. Ray Clendenin, Vol. 30 (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1994), 301.

37 Ibid., 302.

38 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 250.

39 While God is clearly stated as the Creator in Genesis 1, this is before the revelation of Jesus Christ as part of the Triune God. There is never any reference in the biblical text to the Holy Spirit as the agent of creation. Jesus is not only the agent of creation, but also sustainer of the universe (Col. 1:17).

40 F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. F.F. Bruce (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1964), 103.

41 C.K. Barrett, A Commentary on the First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, Harper New Testament Commentaries, ed. C.K. Barrett (New York: Harper and Row, 1968), 361. Contra, Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Commentary on the New Testament, ed. F.F. Bruce (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 759-760 (functional subordination only in the work of redemption).

42 Ibid.

43 For an extended discussion of this issue, see Grudem, 459-460.

[44] Acts 13:32-34a.

45 Jesus entered into no new relation of sonship towards Jehovah; but on the day God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and power (Acts 10:38) and... with messianic dignity, it was in the words of Psalm 2:7... F.F. Bruce, Commentary on the Book of the Acts, New International Commentary of the New Testament, ed. F.F. Bruce (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1954), 276. Lenski states in his commentary that the use of d (moreover) in verse 34 shows that anast sas is meant in a different sense in verse 32 (raise up) than verse 34 (resurrection). R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Acts of the Apostles (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1961), 536.

46 E.g., Frances Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. I, Trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1992), 292-301; John Gill, Body of Divinity, Vol. I Reprint (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1978), 146. E.Y. Mullins, The Christian Religion in Doctrinal Expression (Philadelphia: Judson Press, 1917), 181; Carl F.H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority, Vol. V, The God Who Stays (Waco, Tex.: Word Books, 1982), 207-210; Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 248-252; James Leo Garrett, Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical and Evangelical (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1990), 583. L. Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1941), 93-95; Thomas C. Oden, The Word of Life: Systematic Theology, Vol. II (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989), 57-71; G. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology: God, the World and Redemption (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 323; F. Pieper, Christian Dogmatics, Vol. I (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing, 1950), 390-391, 404.

47 Oliver Buswell, A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1962), 1.112; Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985), 338, 698.

48 Catharine Mowry LaCugna, God For Us: The Trinity and the Christian Life (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1991).

49 Ibid., 1.

50 Ibid., 3-4.

51 Ibid.

52 Ibid., 209-210.

53 P. Schoonenberg, Trinity The Consummated Covenant: Theses on the Doctrine of a Trinitarian God, Stud Rel. 5 (1976), 111. Quoted in LaCugna, God For Us, 218. Emphasis mine.

54 LaCugna, God For Us, 266-268.

55 Ibid.

56 Ibid., 399.

57 For others with similar Trinitarian models, see Colin Gunton, The Promise of Trinitarian Theology (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1991); Robert W. Jenson, The Triune Identity: God According to the Gospel (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1992).

58 C.M. LaCugna and K. McDonnell, Returning from the Far Country: Theses for a Contemporary Trinitarian Theology, Scottish Journal of Theology 41 (1990), 205.

59 LaCugna, God For Us, 218.

60 Henry, 202.

61 Colin Gunton, A Brief Theology of Revelation (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1995), 81.

62 Donald G. Bloesch, The Battle for the Trinity: The Debate over Inclusive God Language (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Servant Books, 1985), 36. Mary Kassian quotes Bloesch in this context and states that the inclusive Trinitarian language of feminism obscures the intratrinitarian relation between the Son and the Father. Kassian states The Son was obedient to the Father. The Father, in love, sacrificed the Son. The Son, who had a 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. Furthermore, it would have been easy for a Creator to sacrifice a Redeemer, but it was not so easy for a Father to sacrifice his Son. Understanding God Father/Son/Holy Spirit as being in relationship to himself is essential to understanding God. In denying this relationship, feminists deny who God is. Mary A. Kassian, The Feminist Gospel: The Movement to Unite Feminism with the Church (Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 1992), 145-146.
 


Stephen D. Kovach is a doctoral candidate at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. This paper was originally delivered at the 1995 Evangelical Theological Society.
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