Wednesday, June 08, 2016

Eternal Subordination of the Son? (Frame & Letham)

John Frame argues for what he says might be called "an eternal subordination of role" amongst members of the Trinity. "Both Eastern and Western thinkers have regularly affirmed that God the Father has some sort of primacy over the other two persons." (The Doctrine of God, P&R, 2002 p719) as fons deitatis (fountain of deity) or fons trinitatis (fountain of the Trinity) citing this as a central point in the theology of the Cappadocian fathers. (See Fortman, The Triune God, p76 and Ursinus, Commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism, p135).

Frame argues that the economic activities of the persons are analogous to their eternal relationships and that the forms of economic subordination suggest this pattern. "The Son and the Spirit are voluntarily subordinate to the commands of the Father, because that kind of subordination is appropriate to their eternal nature as persons." (p720)

See also John V. Dahmns, 'The Subordination of the Son', JETS 37 (1994): 351-64 and Stephen Kovack and Peter Schemm, 'A Defence of the Eternal Subordination of the Son' JETS 42 (1999): 461-76 and the bibliography in Grudem, ST, p251.

Frame also points to Gilbert Bilezikian, making the opposite egalitarian case in 'Hermeneutical Bungee-Jumping: Subordination in the Godhead' JETS 40 (1997):57-68

Responding to criticisms of him in Bilezikian's article, Robert Letham also argues for an order or taxis amongst the persons of the Trinity though he thinks the words hierarchy and subordination unhelpful (The Holy Trinity, P&R, 2004, p480). On p483 he describes it as an orderly disposition, rather than a matter of rank. It is akin to "a well-arranged constitution" (p491, citing Lampe, Patristic Greek Lexicon, 1372-3). "As Barth indicated, we can argue - with caution - that the submission displayed by the Son while securing our redemption reflects realities in God." (p483)

On p492, Letham points to Barth CD IV/1:192-205 for Christ's incarnate obedience suggesting an obedience in eternity.

Letham says that in On The Trinity 2.5.7-9, Augustine "expressly teaches that the Father sent the Son prior to the task about which the sending is concerned" (p483). "Eternal relations" are revealed here (p494)

Letham also points to Phil 2:5-11 as referring to "Christ's determination not to exploit his equality with God to his own advantage" as referring "to the situation prior to his incarnation." (p483).

Letham also cites Paul Rainbow, 'Orthodox Trinitarianism and Evangelical Feminism' -

Reviewing the work of Kevin Giles (The Trinity and Subordinationism), Letham agrees that "the phrase "the eternal subordination of the Son" is outside the boundaries of the tradition." (p490)

Letham also recommends Paul Molnar's "fine volume on the immanent Trinity", Divine Freedom and the Doctrine of the Immanent Trinity: In Dialogue with Karl Barth and Contemporary Theology (T&T Clark, 2002)


Thomas Renz said...

The reference to On The Trinity 2.5.7-9 is maybe better written with a comma as On The Trinity 2.5,7-9 which is to say Book 2, sections 5 (in chap. 1) and 7-9 (in chap. 2). It's a fascinating passage.

Thomas Renz said...

O, and you may be interested in

Marc Lloyd said...

Thank you, Thomas, for both of those comments. Do you want to email Dr Letham, or shall I?!

Thomas Renz said...

So you faithfully copied Dr Letham? Well, then he is to blame but as the work is published, there is nothing to be done.