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

touché. quite correct.

1 Like

To what extent does the son submit to the father? Completely I imagine. But that does not mean he’s not autonomous in most of his choices.

I know, right? This is almost as toxic as suggesting that “as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything…

I know, right? where in the world could he possibly get such such ideas? It isn’t like there’s anything in the Bible that could conveivably be interpreted by even the most creative hermeneutic to suggest that wives should submit to husbands, or that women are prohibited from teaching or having authority over a man…

Of course, that is only toxic if it is separated from the verse preceding.” Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Sorry Daniel, but I feel that you have not be fair to my position. If you read my interactions on this topic you’ll see that I am complementarían myself… just not in the way Wayne Grudem is.

Complimentarianism should be grounded in passages like Eph 5:21-33 not in our doctrine of God. There Paul says the husband leads the wife self-sacrificially and at great person cost, he leads like a slave tending to a bride on her wedding day.

But by grounded marriage roles in the Doctrine of God, Dr. Grudem makes the role of the husband analogous to Father - not a servant but a ruler. That’s toxic theology in my books since it up ends reversing the bible’s picture of marriage roles. Not least the impression it gives men by telling them they are the divinely sanctioned ruler of the home rather than the chief servant. This is my principle issue with Wayne Grudem’s teaching on gender roles.

Additionally, Piper and Grudem have extended their view of complimentarianism beyond biblical bounds to say that women should not even hold jobs where they might be in authority over a man (eg. Police officer). This goes beyond the bibles teaching on gender roles to give a hall pass to sexist attitudes.

As to the ‘everything’ line in v24, I would argue that this is caveated when viewed in the context of the bibles teaching on authority. Above the family are higher authorities, such as the church leaders, the local/national government, and ultimately God. Therefore, ‘everything’ does not include anything that would cause the wife pain, shame, or is illegal, sinful, or unbiblical. When a husband acts in that way, he is not loving his wife as Christ loves the church and so the wife does not need to submit to him.

Furthermore, I would argue that it is for the wife to decide if her husband is loving her in a Christlike way, not the husband. In that sense following his leadership is always something that is offered freely and willingly, not something that is demanded. I believe that ethical system crumbles if one situates gender roles in the doctrine of God.

Totally agree, Phil. Teaching complimentarianism from Ephesians 5 cannot begin at v22.


How many wills do the Persons of God have?

1 Like

@ Dale evolutionary providentialist:

I did notice. The think about ‘tongue in cheek statements’ or irony is that they can often be misread or misunderstood especially late on Friday night. :blush:

I had to read it a few times to wonder what was going on.


Many ancient writers saw one supreme God and two subordinate deities, or wrote of women always subordinate to men. But unlike most Christians today, they typically did not also feel the pressure to insist on equality within the godhead and between the sexes. Subordination without equality is easy and pervasive. One-way subordination with equality is hard – and more recent.

Further, there are serious pitfalls in arguing for submission in the Trinity, whether that submission is hierarchical or mutual. Submission entails different wills that aren’t perfectly aligned, as @Klax implied. Submission makes sense for the Son when he has accepted human limitations. But outside of the incarnation, submission points in tri-theistic directions. That does mean there are biblical texts that need to be understood differently, but since those texts often suggest inequality as much as subordination (e.g. “the Father is greater than me”), seeking those different understandings seems like a worthy project.

For the Trinity, I find the language of “procession” more useful. The Son eternally proceeds from the Father, and the Spirit eternally proceeds from both. This still sees difference, but difference that is more compatible with equality. What proceeds is not obviously inferior nor superior to what it proceeds from, especially when “eternally” rules out a time preceding procession. But it does make my head hurt.


“Not my will, but thy will be done” certainly implies at least some existence of distinct wills, though it also showcases those wills merging or converging (with agonizing effort of submission) at the crucial point.

It seems like a no-brainer to me that humans will always feel the tug of their fleshly needs and desires (for rest, for replenishment, for many needed things) that would have been a major point of the whole incarnation … that God will have experienced our travail along with all of us and can sympathize with our temptations. If Jesus didn’t experience those for real, it would fatally undercut the whole theology of the incarnation and of Jesus’ 100% real humanity.

1 Like

Yes, I agree that some kind of distinct will is necessary to keep the incarnation from being a farce. But outside the incarnation, I don’t think God’s will is plural.

I think I can understand and appreciate the end toward which this looks … that people here are at pains to distinguish and protect Christian trinitarian understanding from the charge of polytheism. Okay. So far and so good - I have no wish to defend polytheism, nor do I think any challenges to this must necessarily really fall to that charge.

My pushback here is somewhat experimental (me thinking aloud) and can be taken in that spirit. I suggest that for all of us to imagine that God’s will is and always has been one razor-thin path connecting and bookending both ends of all history might be a presumption on our part. Because it might just be mostly us imagining, then, that this absolute will can then be discovered or revealed (usually to us or our favored prophets/preachers who have much to say to everybody else we disapprove of) on God’s behalf. We really want all that to be true. Is there no possibility that God might actually grant freedom to us to be faithful (or not) on the unfolding of details within a broader plan that God will still bring about? …either with the help of, or even in spite of, our choices.

Gotta run for now. So I’ll leave that incomplete thought as it is for the moment.

I’m an observer of this discussion, and don’t have a deep stake in it per se, but i do beg for clarity in such discussions, so i do appreciate any clarification.

Now i have not read Grudem myself on these topics, and i’m not terribly familiar with his writing, so i will defer to your knowledge if you have read him, and so i beg you to correct me if my impression is mistaken…

But just from my cursory reading of the overall discussion, my impression or working assumption has been that Grudem (and Piper, I understand, is a “partner” of sorts in the discussion) has indeed “grounded” his/their complementarianism on such passages as Ephesians 5:21ff, and again my impression is that he /they would wholeheartedly endorse, agree, and affirm your observation that such passages teach the “husband leads the wife self-sacrificially and at great personal cost.”

Are you asserting that Grudem would deny or oppose your basic observation about ephesians 5 of sacrificial leadership, or that he would not /does not use ephesians 5 as the primary ground of his perspective? or that he is essentially using the Trinitarian subordination as a means to annul the principle of selfless, sacrificial leading on the husband’s part?

in other words, what you describe apps above gives the impression of a theologian who is exclusively using the trinitarian theology in order to present a case of absolute leadership that contradicts or overrides the portrait of sacrificial leadership as found in eph 5. If you have read him extensively and that is an appropriate description, i will defer to your knowledge, as i said my reading has been cursory on this topic.

But it has certainly not been my impression. my impression was that Grudem (and Piper, with whom i am more familiar) ground, or base, their complementarian perspective on such passages as ephesians 5, and fully embrace the kind servant, sacrificial husbandly leadership you describe… and the consequently have used the “subordinationism” within the trinity as an illustration to clarify that subordination of role does not imply inequality in essence.

are you able to clarify for me further?

do you really believe Grudem would dispute

Liam, i hope you take my next comment with all the genuine respect and cordiality i intend… but i must say this bluntly…

Regardless of Grudem’s particular perspective, teachings, or implications here… I’m am extremely distressed that you could conceivably take the relationship of God the Father toward God the Son… the very relationship that defines love, and conclude that if any human relationship ever existed that was analogous to that interconnected, honoring, cherishing, delighted, adoring relationship of God the Father toward his son, “that he loves, with whom he is well pleased”…

that such a relationship would be “toxic”???

I could only dream that my relationship with my own sons could approximate the love and relationship that God the Father has toward his only begotton… and i could only dream that my love, honor, cherishing, pride, joy, delight, giving, and all the rest of the dynamics in my relationship with my wife could approximate the love and honor that the Father has toward the Son.

I am flabbergasted, honestly, that anyone could take the relationship where “the Father loves the son and has given everything into his hand”, “This is my beloved son, whom i love” and suggest that this is a toxic example for us to try to emulate in our human relationships, even those with any kind of hierarchy.

I mean, The obedience of children to parents immediately follows the section of husbands and wives there in Ephesians… and indisputably there is a more obvious "analogy between the Father and Son and, well, fathers and sons… would you say it is “toxic” for human Fathers to try to live in a way that is in some ways analogous to the love and delight and honor that age the Father has toward his son… or to try to cultivate the kind of relationship that would result in the absolute and utter delight that God the Son obviously displayed in obeying his father?

Please forgive me if i have misunderstood or misconstrued… but i am truly distressed with the ease by which we would offer any critique whatsoever, especially using the word “toxic”, to describe any aspect of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son. or that any human relationship that tried to emulate the mutual honor, delight, cherishing, and love, even alongside a hierarchical role, could rightly be described as “toxic”??

1 Like

The will that was submitted was entirely human. The Son of God’s. Not God the Son’s.

I think we’re talking about different things. Sure, I believe there is room for human freedom, and others have spoken of God’s effective and preceptive wills (and others). But that isn’t normally presented as, say, the Spirit having the effective will and the Father having the preceptive will. Dividing these wills between the members of the godhead and then claiming one member submits their will to the will of another (outside the incarnation) is where I see the problem. Not in God’s will (shared by the entire godhead) being multifaceted and partly resistible.

1 Like

@LM77 Liam, all Christian morality is based on the Doctrine of God. The problem with what Dr. Grudem says is not that it is based on a Doctrine of God, but his false Doctrine of God.

The reason for the Trinity is that Arius insisted that the Son was subordinate to the Father. The basis for this claim was the assertion that “There was a time when the Son was not.” The Son was not eternal and thus not fully God.

The Council of Nicaea in 325 decided on the formula that the Father and the Son were homoousios, that is they of the same nature, they were both fully God. Since by definition God cannot be under or subordinate to anything or anyone, the Son is not subordinate to the Father.

Sometimes I fear that when we think about the Father and the Son we picture a father and infant son in our minds, but the intention seems to be a father and adult son. The parable of the Prodigal Son is about adult sons. The relationship between the father and his adult sons was one of love and respect, not submission.

The Jesus we know from the NT is the adult Son of God. Most of us are adult children of God. This does not make us equal to God, but guess what?, God treats us with love and respect that we do not objectively deserve, but we receive as God’s adult children.

The Father loves us as much as the Son. It is unconditional. The Son loves the Father as we are to love the Father, Son. and one another. If the Son were subordinate to the Father, if the Son were less than the Father, He could not love Him because love must be freely given and to be subordinate means the Son is not free. Also love must be between persons who are equal, but persons who are subordinate are not equal to their superiors.

God is Love. This is the revelation of the Gospel. This is the meaning of the Holy Spirit, but this is also foreign to Greek philosophical thinking, which claims that humans cannot love God because God is Absolute. This is so even though it clearly says, “Love YHWH Your God … ;”

Are you saying that the Father was perfectly happy to send His Beloved Son to a gruesome, painful, humiliating, unjust death upon the Cross? Are you saying that the Son accepted this only because the Father demanded it?

Or doesn’t make more sense in the context that the Father and the Son agreed to a plan of salvation in advance of His mission and both know that it would most likely lead to the Cross? They both agreed to the plan not because it was easy or pleasant, but because it was necessary to rescue humans from sin. No, but because of our sin there was no alternative, so the only reason why this took place was because of the Love of the Father and the Son for you and I.

They both did it out of love for us. Love is not easy. Being God is not easy, even though @Klax says it is. It often hurts, but God is stronger than evil.

That’s ok.

It’s perhaps the case that suspect deeper theological matters in books aimed at popular level readership are not generally spotted by the Christian public at large. Even editors miss things. You’r eprobably right that the whole church was not up in arms at the time. Barely a ripple it would seem.

That’s not to say it has gone by completely unnoticed.


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.

1 Like

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.

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

This is a place for gracious dialogue about science and faith. Please read our FAQ/Guidelines before posting.