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I am writing for clarification on Rev. McGeown’s article regarding the theological error of EFS (“Eternal Functional I am writing for clarification on Rev. McGeown’s article regarding the theological error of EFS (“Eternal Functional Subordination”). Rev. McGeown writes,

Grudem [Wayne Grudem, Phoenix Seminary], for example, presents the Son’s submission to the Father as “the role-model for a woman’s submission to her husband.” (Of course, the pattern for a woman’s submission to her husband is not the Son’s eternal, functional submission or subordination to the Father, but the church’s submission to Christ!)

While I would not use the term “role-model” as Grudem does, I am seeking further explanation on why the pattern of the Son’s submission cannot be used to model the wife’s submission in marriage.

The fact that the Father and Son are co-equal in eternity does not eliminate using the Son’s submission on earth to the Father as a picture of wives’ submission in marriage. Wives always have the calling to submit to their husbands, just as the Father planned in eternity the “fullness of time” at which Christ would become a man, obey, and die willingly. I am trying to understand how one’s belief that the wife’s submission can be modelled by the Son’s submission results in a false doctrine regarding the Father’s relationship to the Son. We should start with God’s being (His perfect love and unity), leading us to confess with Paul that marriage is “a great mystery.”

Many Christians today struggle with male headship, yet the truth of Christ’s perfect submission models beautifully how there can be a seeming “contradiction” involving spiritual equality between husband and wife, yet a difference in authority. The creation of marriage is ultimately to picture Christ and the church, but the church today, especially our young people, need to be equipped to answer the skeptics of God’s design in marriage. They (and all of us) need to be ready to answer the accusation that our churches teach that men are better than women. How appropriate, then, for us to use our Savior as a beautiful example in His finished work on the cross, making it possible for us to have a relationship with Him as members of His church.

Kyle Bruinooge (Jenison, Michigan)

RESPONSE:

I thank Mr. Bruinooge for his letter.

He asks, “Why [cannot] the pattern of the Son’s submission be used to model the wife’s submission in marriage”? The issue in the article, “The Error of Eternal Functional Subordination” is that the Son is not eternally subordinate to the Father. Grudem and others contend that the Son’s being Son implies subordination—that is, since all sons are subordinate to their fathers, the eternal Son is eternally subordinate to His Father. If I had written, “Grudem, for example, presents the Son’s eternal, functional submission to the Father as ‘the role model for a woman’s submission to her husband,’” I might have been clearer.

My point is that the Son’s eternal, functional submission to the Father cannot be a role model for a woman’s submission to her husband because such submission within the Trinity does not exist. The “Son’s submission on earth to the Father” is a separate issue entirely—do not confuse that orthodox teaching with the heterodox teaching of an eternal, functional subordination of the Son to the Father within the being of the triune God.

But Mr. Bruinooge has a different question: can the Son’s voluntary submission in the human nature as the Mediator be considered an analogy for the wife’s submission to her husband in marriage? My answer is that the Bible never presents the truth of the Incarnation, Christ’s voluntary sufferings, and death as an analogy for the wife’s submission in marriage.

While I do not believe that the idea that the wife’s submission can be modelled after the Son’s (voluntary) submission (in the human nature) results in a false doctrine regarding the Father’s relationship to the Son, I believe that it is always better to use Scripture’s analogies in the way that Scripture presents them. In Ephesians 5, for example, Paul compares the wife’s submission to her husband to the church’s submission to Christ, and he compares the husband’s love for his wife to Christ’s love for His church. There is enough instruction in that chapter to satisfy the curiosity of our young people and to answer the objections of the skeptics.

When Paul teaches the church something about Christ’s voluntary submission to the Father in Philippians 2, he does so not to teach wives how to submit to their husbands, but to teach how all believers should display humility toward one another.

We would be wisest, I believe, if we followed Paul’s inspired example on this matter.

Cordially,

Rev. M. McGeown