In this post, I intend to move beyond the theologia/oikonomia distinction of use Class 1 and begin to piece together the developments that led to our current usage of the distinction (Classes 2 and 3), at each step assessing the orthodoxy of the claim that the Son is economically subordinate to the Father in eternity. I will focus largely on the works of Herman Witsius and John Owen due to their popular work on the Pactum Salutis and the corresponding expansion of the oikonomia beyond the use of the Fathers. Also, an important contrast between these two great theologians will prove polemically valuable to our study as they differ on the implications of their shared doctrine re: the subordination of the Son to the Father.
“Economic” Subordination of the Son? Part 2: the Pactum Salutis
We began this study by considering the revised Ligonier Statement on Christology’s inclusion of the clause, “We deny the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father in the ontological Trinity,” noting the debilitating ambiguity of the denial. There are simply too many ways that theologians define the ontological/economical distinction such that the most ardent opponents of the Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) as well as its most ardent proponents can affirm the Statement’s denial. I went on to identify three different use classes of the distinction as found most commonly among those discussing ESS:
Class 1. The “economy” as in the oikonomia employed by the Church Fathers in contrast to the theologia.
Class 2. The “economy” as in the Economic Trinity, “the activity of God and the roles of the three persons with regard to creation and redemption,” as contrasted with the Immanent Trinity, “the Trinity in itself, without regard to God’s works of creation and redemption” (via Ligionier). The former is the Trinity considered in se, as God is in His inner most life and being and the latter as He is considered ad extra in His works and operations revealed in history.
Class 3. The ESS usage of “economy,” which includes all of Class 2 Economic Trinity, but also illicitly includes the internal, interpersonal, relations of the Trinity.
(I say “use classes” because the defining edges of these groupings are admittedly rough.)