In reaction to the article “The Error of Eternal Functional Subordination” of Rev. McGeown in the SB of 1 February 2017, page. 201, I think that the problem is not with “eternal” or “functional” or “ontological,” but with something different.
From the Canons of Dordt is the clear fact of God’s sovereignty in predestination as well the fact that man remains responsible. In our human minds, these two facts are mutually exclusive. When we try to reason out how these two facts can stand together, we invariably will emphasize the human responsibility at the expense of the God’s sovereignty in predestination, and will get into Pelagian/Arminian heresies.
Similarly, when looking at the Son of God, there is the fact of His divinity and the fact of His humanity. In our human minds, these two facts are mutually exclusive. When we try to reason out how these two natures can be in one Person, we invariably will emphasize the humanity of the Son of God at the expense of His divinity, and will get into all kinds of heresies. Thus it is best to confess the facts as the Bible presents them, and to forego prying into the how.
So also we are faced with the fact that the Son of God is co-equal with the Father, as well as with the fact that the Son is subordinate to the Father. In our human minds, these facts are mutually exclusive. When we try to reason out how these two facts can stand together, we invariably will emphasize the subordination at the expense of the co-equality, and will get into all kinds of heresies. Therefore, let us simply confess that the Bible teaches both.
There is no denial that the emancipation of women has generated marriages filled with apprehension, distrust, insecurity, and tension, has caused massive marital breakdowns, and has led to common-law partnerships. Therefore, let us simply agree with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood that, in contrast to humanistic wisdom, the Bible teaches headship in, and exemplifies subordination in .
Aylmer, Ontario, Canada
I thank Mr. Reckman for his letter.
My fundamental disagreement is with the brother’s premise: “So also we are faced with the fact that the Son of God is co-equal with the Father, as well as with the fact that the Son is subordinate to the Father.”
We are not faced with the “fact” that the Son is subordinate to the Father, for the Son is not subordinate to the Father. The Son became subordinate to the Father when He willingly entered our humanity in the Incarnation, but he is not eternally subordinate to the Father. Those who teach Eternal Functional Subordinationism, against whose teachings I wrote the original article, teach that the Second Person is subordinate to the First Person in the eternal Trinity. They teach that the Son is subordinate to the Father because He is the Son, and that sons are by definition subordinate to their fathers. While it is true that human sons are by definition subordinate to their fathers, it does not follow that the Son of God is eternally, functionally, although supposedly not ontologically, subordinate to His Father. It is also true that by definition human sons are younger than their fathers. Shall we start modifying the doctrine of the Trinity to deny the eternal Sonship of Jesus or to deny that the three Persons of the Godhead are co-eternal? (I understand that Mr. Reckman does not advocate such a position, nor do men like Wayne Grudem or Bruce Ware, but I am simply pointing out where such speculations and a misuse of analogies could lead).
Mr. Reckman mentions two texts, to which I briefly turn.
First, it is true that the Bible teaches male headship in I Corinthians 11. In verse 3, we read, “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” That verse does not mean that the head of the Son within the Trinity is the Father. The name “Christ” in the Bible refers to the Son of God as the Incarnate Mediator.
Second, it is also true that the Bible teaches (“exemplifies” is the brother’s term) subordination in Philippians 2:3-8. Nevertheless, that chapter does not teach the Eternal Functional Subordinationism of Grudem and Ware. The Son was not eternally subordinate to the Father, for Paul clearly differentiates between what the Son essentially is in the Trinity and what He became in the Incarnation. The passage teaches (1) that Christ Jesus was (although the participle “being” is a timeless present, so “was” would be a poor translation) “in the form of God” (that is, fully divine); (2) that Christ is “equal with God;” but (3) that He (the eternal Son of God) willingly humbled himself (“thought it not robbery;” “made himself of no reputation;” “humbled himself ” and “became obedient”) in order to become a man, suffer, and die for our sins on the cross. That is the greatest example of humility that the world has ever seen or known.
To teach that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father is not to confess two truths of the Bible while being unable to reconcile them fully in one’s mind (which is the case with the first two examples that the brother offers), but it is to compromise the very doctrine of the Trinity. Such teaching is confusing, contradictory, and dangerous. Therefore, I cannot “simply agree with” the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood on this matter.
—Rev. M. McGeown