Subordination of the Son, Ligonier, and the “Economic” Trinity


To those for whom ESS (Eternal Subordination of the Son) or EFS (Eternal Functional Subordination) or ERAS (Eternal Relation of Authority and Submission) or (is that all of them?) does not ring a bell, the following may not be all that interesting. Though debated off and on for at least the last 20 years or so, the popular claim that the Son of God is equal to the Father yet subject to His authority in all eternity, has over the Summer of 2016 come under intense scrutiny; and rightly so. Confessionally Reformed Christians and scholars from many quarters have demonstrated this teaching to plainly run afoul of Nicene Orthodoxy, with the potential to shipwreck some of the very pillars of orthodox Trinitarian doctrine.

So I was (momentarily) delighted when Ligionier Ministries updated their Statement on Christology to include an addition to “Affirmations and Denials” Article 2 (in bold below):

We affirm that in the unity of the Godhead the eternally begotten Son is consubstantial (homoousios), coequal, and coeternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

We deny that the Son is merely like God (homoiousios) or that He was simply adopted by the Father as His Son. We deny the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father in the ontological Trinity.

My delight quickly evaporated, however, when my very next thought was, “So does Wayne Grudem!”, the popularizer-in-chief of ESS/EFS/ERAS. He and most all proponents of the teaching also deny that the subordination or submission to authority is according to the Trinity as ontologically conceived. They point out consistently that such a position would constitute classic, literal, Arianism—to which we must agree.

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