Trinitarian Theology Question

Status
Not open for further replies.

Blood-Bought Pilgrim

Puritan Board Freshman
I have a clarifying question about something I heard in a lecture recently. The speaker was laying out what he described as "Classical Christian Theism". When he got to the relations of the persons, he first stoutly defended the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son. When he was making some distinctions, he said that the Son is equal in essence to the Father but subordinate in his person (because the person is what is eternally generated).

Here's my question; is this the same or different from "EFS" which has been so roundly criticized in recent years? I have only barely waded into materials around that debate so I am not super familiar with how proponents of EFS articulate it, though I know until recently most of them denied eternal generation.

Thanks for your help!
 
I have a clarifying question about something I heard in a lecture recently. The speaker was laying out what he described as "Classical Christian Theism". When he got to the relations of the persons, he first stoutly defended the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son. When he was making some distinctions, he said that the Son is equal in essence to the Father but subordinate in his person (because the person is what is eternally generated).

Here's my question; is this the same or different from "EFS" which has been so roundly criticized in recent years? I have only barely waded into materials around that debate so I am not super familiar with how proponents of EFS articulate it, though I know until recently most of them denied eternal generation.

Thanks for your help!
I assume you mean "ESS" (eternal subordination of the Son).
Yes, claiming the person of the Son is inferior to the person of the Father is ESS. Also, semi-Arianism.
As our catechism states, the Son (i.e. the second PERSON of the Godhead) is "the same in substance, equal in power and glory."
I assume the presenter meant well, but he is deeply mistaken.
 
I assume you mean "ESS" (eternal subordination of the Son).
Yes, claiming the person of the Son is inferior to the person of the Father is ESS. Also, semi-Arianism.
As our catechism states, the Son (i.e. the second PERSON of the Godhead) is "the same in substance, equal in power and glory."
I assume the presenter meant well, but he is deeply mistaken.
Thank you for your response.

(I have seen it also referred to as "Eternal Functional Subordination", but I believe we are referring to the same thing). I think his response would be that his statement is consistent with the catechism because he maintains equality of essence or substance and does not teach that subordination in the person in any way diminishes power or glory. He also referred to it as an "order" within the personal relations of the Trinity, if that is clarifying at all.
 
Thank you for your response.

(I have seen it also referred to as "Eternal Functional Subordination", but I believe we are referring to the same thing). I think his response would be that his statement is consistent with the catechism because he maintains equality of essence or substance and does not teach that subordination in the person in any way diminishes power or glory. He also referred to it as an "order" within the personal relations of the Trinity, if that is clarifying at all.
The language of "order" in the Trinity is orthodox.
"Subordination" is less so, since usually when we say one is subordinate to another it means that he disposes of his own will in order to obey the will of another.
 
Taxis or order is legit; this kind of subordination is dangerous. Almost every time it is used it is to justify a particular social view or male-female relation.
 
So would the debate really just be over the appropriateness of the word "subordination"? It does seem that word has been used historically by many orthodox people, but I could see the argument that it is risky in our present environment.

One other distinction he did make with regard to the "will" issue (which he said is drawn from John Owen) is that there is one divine will but it is appropriated distinctly by each person of the Trinity in accordance with the order of the persons.
 
So would the debate really just be over the appropriateness of the word "subordination"? It does seem that word has been used historically by many orthodox people, but I could see the argument that it is risky in our present environment.

Not always. You can sometimes find it in Shedd and Hodge, but they mean "taxis" or order by it. When modern-day ESS proponents use it, it is to justify keeping women from getting too uppity.
 
Unfortunately, it became sort of a mainstream thing to play fast and loose with the Trinity a couple of decades ago. We go as far as we can go when we note that the Father is neither begotten nor proceeding, the Son is eternally begotten of the Father, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. As far as saying anything more about them, we run into major problems.

Neither the Scriptures nor the Church has ever before appealed to the nature of the Persons in order to ground male/female relationships. The Scriptures point to Creation order and marriage is compared to Christ and His Church and not to how the Persons eternally subsist.
 
Last edited:
Neither the Scriptures nor the Church has ever before appealed to the nature of the Persons in order to ground male/female relationships. The Scriptures point to Creation order and marriage is compared to Christ and His Church and not to how the Persons eternally subsist.
That’s a great point! This truth does have me a little confused on the relevance of Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 11:3 that “the head of Christ is God.” There are a couple other verses in 1 Corinthians that I could see ESS proponents using/abusing to support their position (namely, 1 Cor. 3:23 and 1 Cor. 15:28).

1) Are these referring to God being the head of Christ specifically in His mediatorial role?
2) If so, then what is their relevance to Paul’s argumentation in 1 Cor. 3:23 and 11:3?
 
That’s a great point! This truth does have me a little confused on the relevance of Paul’s statement in 1 Cor. 11:3 that “the head of Christ is God.” There are a couple other verses in 1 Corinthians that I could see ESS proponents using/abusing to support their position (namely, 1 Cor. 3:23 and 1 Cor. 15:28).

1) Are these referring to God being the head of Christ specifically in His mediatorial role?
2) If so, then what is their relevance to Paul’s argumentation in 1 Cor. 3:23 and 11:3?
Christ as the God man, seems like. Christ said many things (and many things were said about Christ) which are true according to His humanity. In other words, partitive exegesis.

My two cents
 
This is why I keep the Trinity simple and do not trespass out of bounds. There is Father-Son-Holy Spirit.. 3 distinct persons.. co-equal and co-eternal.. Simple.. clean.. easy.
 
Last edited:
This is why I keep the Trinity simple and do not trespass out of bounds. There is Father-Son-Holy Spirit.. 3 distinct persons.. co-equal and co-eternal.. equal ultimacy. Simple.. clean.. easy.
While I admire your reluctance to get caught up in ‘irreverent babble’ and needless controversy, it is important to know why you confess the Trinity. It is my conviction that the only way to be consistent in your confession is to affirm eternal generation and reject ESS/EFS. This is (or at least has been) the problem of our day and there the truth must be defended.

Especially being new to the faith, and the Reformed expression of the faith at that, now is a good time to get aquatinted with the fundamentals. It will serve you well as you interact with other believers and unbelievers alike.

To put it this way: God (the triune God) and His glory is the center of Reformed theology, not TULIP. I was spiritually/emotionally torn up for many a years because I had exchanged the true Reformed focus for the modern and at times idolatrous focus of election.

Therefore, I encourage you to dive in to the doctrine of God, more so than anything else, except maybe justification.

My two cents
 
While I admire your reluctance to get caught up in ‘irreverent babble’ and needless controversy, it is important to know why you confess the Trinity. It is my conviction that the only way to be consistent in your confession is to affirm eternal generation and reject ESS/EFS. This is (or at least has been) the problem of our day and there the truth must be defended.

Especially being new to the faith, and the Reformed expression of the faith at that, now is a good time to get aquatinted with the fundamentals. It will serve you well as you interact with other believers and unbelievers alike.

To put it this way: God (the triune God) and His glory is the center of Reformed theology, not TULIP. I was spiritually/emotionally torn up for many a years because I had exchanged the true Reformed focus for the modern and at times idolatrous focus of election.

Therefore, I encourage you to dive in to the doctrine of God, more so than anything else, except maybe justification.

My two cents
I appreciate the reply. As I stated "There is Father-Son-Holy Spirit.. 3 distinct persons.. co-equal and co-eternal". I believe this because Scripture makes in very plain. In addition, the Westminster Standards and 3 Forms state so as well and those are my bedrock.. Scripture.. Westminster Standards & 3 Forms.
 
I appreciate the reply. As I stated "There is Father-Son-Holy Spirit.. 3 distinct persons.. co-equal and co-eternal". I believe this because Scripture makes in very plain. In addition, the Westminster Standards and 3 Forms state so as well and those are my bedrock.. Scripture.. Westminster Standards & 3 Forms.
I’m glad you are rooted in the historical creeds (and of course scripture). I did not have such an introduction into reformed theology. John Piper was my introduction
 
I’m glad you are rooted in the historical creeds (and of course scripture). I did not have such an introduction into reformed theology. John Piper was my introduction
When the Lord saved me on 11/2/2022, I initially fell into the KJVO camp with Ruckman and his ilk. It wasnt until 7/4/2023 that the Holy Spirit guided me to study padeobaptism which fell into the study of covenant theology. It was then my eyes opened to the truth. I knew I was a Calvinist the first week I was saved bc irresistible grace was the only thing that described what happened to me. There is so much to learn in so little time as our lives are but a breath.
 
The only context I know of for the term "equal ultimacy" is in discussing double / single predestination. Which doesn't seem to fit the context here.

With reference to the Trinity "equal ultimacy" is a way of saying that we don't need to ask whether the one nature or the three persons are prior or more fundamental in any sense. The question itself is illegitimate.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Back
Top