To what extent does the Son submit to the Father? How does that relate to marriage roles?

Thanks for your reply and gracious pushback, Daniel. Good observations as always. I’m not sure I’ll get time to respond in full over the weekend.

So here areA couple of quick clarifications:

No on both counts. My issue is more with the implications and the issue of going beyond scriptural images and teaching.

My understanding is that it is more than an analogy or illustration. But rather than that the marriage relationship is patterned on trinitarian relationships. This is an issue for me on two levels:

  1. I believe the Son is only subordinate to the father in redemption not from eternity.
  2. It upends biblical images. Eg. The church is always describe as the bride. Yet gender roles based on ESS makes Christ analogous to the bride. Nowhere in the Bible is that connection ever made.

I ask have no issue with human relationships pointing to trinitarian qualities per say (see my previous post’s reference to Bavinck). What I take issue with is the implication that gender relationships between men and woman are grounded in Trinitarian hierarchy predicated on ESS. I see no biblical basis for this.

As to parents and children I have no issues with parents taking their queue from the relationship between the father and the son and trying to emulate those qualities. I do and have taught the same. But nowhere in the Bible is it said “Children should Submit to their parents as Son always submits to the Father”. Again, the bible’s teaching is that wives submit to their husbands not because they are acting like the Father, but because they are acting like Christ.

Again, analogies and illustrations are one thing, saying that things must be a certain way because ESS is quite another. I believe that it very, very, very bad to teach men that they operate in their marriages like God the Father and not like Jesus.

Finally, I do apologise if I over stepped in my use of the word toxic. Not my intention. There is so much popular misunderstanding about complimentarianism already, that I get frustrated that people like Wayne Grudem are not helping.

If you want to know more of the nuts about bolts, a lot of this stuff broke on the Mortification of Spin blog a few years back. Imagine many of the posts can still be found with a quick Google.

Hope that helps clarify a bit.

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Very helpful clarifications. i am largely sympathetic, then, with what you wrote here. And given clarifications i would largely agree, except a few things give me still some pause… the most significant…

I see where you’re going, i think… and am sympathetic, and would be extremely cautious about making any kind of simplistic direct application… but i simply can’t agree based on the data…

“The head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.”

This is about as direct a formally structured analogy (A:B as C:D) as the Bible comes close to making… comparable to similar the one in Ephesians with Christ and the Church, and yet there it is…

God : Husband :: Christ : Wife

So i simply can’t agree that “nowhere in the Bible is that connection ever made.” Christ’s head is God just as the wife’s head is her Husband, and this is presented as the basis, or at minimum an illustration, for teaching about at least some dynamics of proper husband/wife gender roles and conduct.

Now again, i’m unfamiliar with where Grudem and others take this, and i may well find significant disagreement if i read him directly (which wouldn’t surprise me… as much as i respect John Piper in many topics i do take serious issue with at least some things he’s said on this topic.)

But that said, i simply can’t agree that the idea of analogizing wives/husbands to Christ/God, and applying at least something from that to gender roles, is something entirely foreign to the Bible, and invented out of whole cloth by the likes of Grudem or others.

C.S. Lewis at least recognized this analogy in 1Cor long before Grudem or Piper had tried to propagate the idea…

Now in verse 3 he has given us a very remarkable proportion sum: that God is to Christ as Christ is to man and man is to woman, and the relation between each term and the next is that of Head… What is perhaps most startling in this picture is the apparent equivalence of the woman-man and man-God relation with the relation between Christ and God, or in Trinitarian language, with the relation between the First and Second Persons of the Trinity… It is legitimate to notice what kinds of metaphor the New Testament uses; more especially when what we are in search of is not dogma but a kind of flavour or atmosphere. And there is no doubt that this kind of proportion sum—A:B / B:C—is quite freely used in the New Testament where A and B represent the First and Second Persons of the Trinity.


Secondly, i certainly could not disagree with the above. That seems beyond self-evident from the relevant texts.

But are you actually suggesting that anyone is actually teaching this? I have a very hard time believing that any evangelical theologian, Grudem, Piper, or any other complementarian would possibly teach such a thing. You know of men actually teaching husbands that they should emulate God the Father in their marriages and not Jesus?

Some scholars may or may not be in error by adding an exhortation to emulate God the Father to the exhortation to emulate Christ… but i fear i’m extremely dubious that anyone is actually teaching that we emulate God the Father instead of Jesus. Are you sure you aren’t unwittingly battling a straw man on this point?

As i said, i am not well read on this topic, so I certainly remain open to correction. But you’d have to show me some quotes or references that demonstrate that anyone is actually teaching this. Until then please forgive me if I remain skeptical on that point.

Think that might be ‘cue’.

BTW for those who want to follow it up, there is also the The ERAS/EFS Controversy which covers similar ground and also goes into what has become known as ‘Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission’ ERAS and ‘Eternal Functional Subordination’ EFS.

This is from 2016.

I’d be extremely cautious, and my thoughts here are entirely speculative, but one analogy i’ve considered from the realm of geometry piques my interest in these topics…

Atheists and skeptics have challenged me at times on my trinitarian beliefs… and one critique is that you can’t have multiple beings (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) that are all omnipotent, as what would happen if their wills ever conflicted? you can’t have two conflicting “absolutes”…

(like the riddle about “What happens when an unstoppable ball strikes an immovable wall?”… the question is nonsense, because such a state of affairs is logically contradictory. You can’t have an existence or reality where two “unstoppable balls” strike each other.")

So, leaving aside the issue about whether this would be tritheism vs trinitarianism… I have observed that there is no conflict in a hypothetical universe or reality with two unstoppable balls so long as there is no possibility of them striking each other… they could be fired in opposite directions, or in exactly parallel courses, or on the same path at the same speed but at different times, or simply askew from each other never to intersect.

So purely tossing out thought… i would observe that the idea of tritheism, wherein you have three separate, distinct omnipotent persons, with three independent, distinct, separate wills, is indeed logically contradictory.

But for what it is worth, i see no inherent conflict in a trinity of persons wherein the relationship / perichoresis is such that, even were there in some sense three distinct wills, they would be such wills as could not ever conflict, and hence luke still not be wrong to speak of one “will of God”.

i don’t share this to “answer” the question one way or the other, just a general observation.

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Notable proximity of subject and timing:

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As a geometry teacher, I really like the pictoral clarity of your image there. Skew … parallel … or coincidental (but at different times) lines indeed! Will have to ponder these possibilities of consistent absolutes co-existing.

I think that makes incarnational sense. … to me anyway.

Absolutely not! In fact, when I spoke of “agonizing submission” of wills, I was not wanting to imply that the son was the only one in agony. I think it was God’s will in the situation that Christ not be conquered by evil (i.e. to do what all the rest of us usually want to do: preserve our own lives by responding in kind). It was God’s will that the son stay true and faithful, even if that meant wickedness would then nail him to the cross.

Willful submission to another’s is still ultimately my will, even if difficult?

I don’t understand your response - but am not worried about it since I was just thinking outloud myself. You don’t need to clariy unless you want to. I think it’s mostly just me being dense. Maybe my morning brain will make more sense of it another time.


Notable proximity of subject and timing:

    Don’t be a tritheist.<

I don’t know what you mean.

That was in the preview thumbnail on your post:

That is essentially the same topic as the other thread I linked, One and One And One Is Three… Discussing The Trinity, and your post was essentially simultaneous with its posting, that’s all.

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Boy are you in trouble.

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If you mean agreement say agreement, which is what Jesus did with the Father… If you mean submission, then it is not really my will, but someone else’s.

@Mervin_Bitikofer, how can you suggest that the refusal of Christ to die on the Cross would have been evil? He did not to do that. You do not know what He would have done if that would not have happened.

If the Father agonized over this it was because the Father did not want the Son to suffer any more than the Son did, that is unless you believe that God cannot suffer. Don’t you believe that love involves pain and suffering?

Love does not involve submission to others. It involves reconciliation with others which brings brings them together without compromising their wills. Jesus Christ was God and therefore could not by definition be subordinate to anyone and anything, even God the Father.

Jesus Christ died for the sin of the whole world because He freely chose to do out of Love for us, not because He had to because of the will of the Father.

I meant what I said and said what I meant.

If I willed not to and chose not to, then I would be accepting and submitting to whatever resulted.

If i follow what you"re saying, i respectfully disagree… in the military i regularly “obey the orders of those appointed over me.” And I do so willingly. the fact that i am in fact submitting to another does not remove free will in the general philosophical sense, or even in any practical sense.

to be a bit more specific with the language, when my commanding officer directs me to engage in a particular course of action, then in submitting to my authority, it has become my “will” to do that particular course of action. My initial preference may have been to have a meeting at 0800 in the morning, but when commanding officer states an order that said meeting will happen at 1000, then I disregard my preference in deference to submitting to the command of one in authority… but in no sense has my “will” been violated. My will is in such cases to do the bidding of the one to whom i am in subjection.

When (if?) you “obey” (i.e., submit to) the posted speed limit on the road, have you in fact lost your free will by so doing? Is it no longer your will, since you are doing the will of those who posted that sign? i don’t think many people would use the language in such a manner.


Thank you for elaborating and developing the idea well.

I’m not sure where you get most of this stuff you attribute to me, Roger. There is very little of what you wrote that resembles anything I believe, or indeed anything I wrote.

Yes. Yes I do (especially among sinful people - all of us).

Um … yes. Yes it does. Willing - even joyful submission.

Jesus could have responded they way we all are always tempted to respond to evil - by responding in kind. By outwitting his enemies before they “outwit” him. And yes - those are the typical violence-perpetuating choices we even still make today; but he chose not to use our evil ways and instead exposed them for what they are. He didn’t have to do it, but he did - even though it meant he had to suffer a cross. Your last sentence finally gets it right. He didn’t like having to suffer in body - who does? But his love was so strong that it prevailed over any tempation, fear, or avoidance of the necessary suffering that looms so large for any of us.


I think that these discussions need to include freedom - when Christ said “your will be done …” we would understand this as an expression of total freedom. Also, Christ made sure that the Romans and others who came to arrest Him, did not harm or kill any of His disciples, so we would understand His actions at multiple levels, all showing perfect freedom and love.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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