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

Appreciate the thoughts… in a similar way, however, i could not be “comfortable” thinking that the three persons of the trinity chose the various roles they would have in redemption, and which of the three would be the one to become incarnate, by playing rock, paper, scissors, or drawing straws before the creation of the universe.

Was there really nothing inherent in the persons or relationships within the trinity that inclined the Son to be the one who would “become obedient unto death”?

Is it simply coincidental our God revealed himself as Father, Son, and Spirit, and in all our experience, it is natural and instinctive to recognize that sons are subordinate and obedient to their fathers, but not the reverse?

Also, i’m just curious… do you notice that just as there is an obvious subordination of the (temporal) Christ to the Father (as i believe you acknowledge), that there is at the same time an obvious subordination of the Spirit to even the temporal Son? it seems exceedingly odd to think that the Son of God in his incarnation simply submitted, temporarily, as a man, to the first person of the trinity… but somehow maintained in his humanity an authority over the Third person of the trinity?

Basically, I am rather “uncomfortable” with the idea that the choice for the second person of the trinity to become incarnate, and who would thus “become obedient to death”, rather than it being either the Father or the Spirit, was somehow arbitrary.

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That is why the submission that you are talking about is not really appropriate to the conversation. Submission is not the same as Love. If it were. there would be no problem, but it isn’t. So why are some people trying to sell it as a replacement for Love for any reason other than a political one?

Is that your opinion?

Who says so?

NO. The Son is ontologically the Same as the Father, they both are fully God, according to Nicaea It was Arius who said they were ontologically different, because he said the Son was not eternal, and thus was not God.

God is God. There is no authority over God. If the Son is God or the exact image of God, then how could He be under the authority of anyone, since the Father is not under the authority of anyone.

@Daniel_Fisher, The thank you for the quotation.

The false teaching is to say that the Son has a nature different from the Father. There is no doctrine that the Father has authority over the Son. Also Hebrews says that Jesus was tempted in every way that we are as humans, and yet is without sin.

Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV2011)

15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have One Who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet He did not sin.
16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

If the nature of Jesus was to submit to the the good pleasure of the Father, then He was not tempted as we are. He is not fully human. This is another false teaching.


You don’t know where that’s from?

There was an earlier one?

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Agreed. But it can be a quality or fruit of love. If I love my brother or sister, I will submit to considering their welfare above mine. I will submit to hearing their voice rather than imposing my own over theirs.


if you are speaking of the essence, or divine nature, or nature of the divine being, then of course, there is no dispute. The Son is one in substance… homoousios, with the Father, and has the same divine nature. But again, i will try to clarify… no one in this present discussion is disputing that, however.

the question under dispute is the nature of the persons themselves, and the nature of the relationship between the persons. And the nature of the person of the Son is different than the nature of the person of the Father.

Although we all agree they share the same substance, we do not blend the persons - the person of the Father is a distinct person, the person of the Son is another, and that of the Holy Spirit still another.

dis·tinct ( /dəˈstiNG(k)t/ ) adjective - recognizably different in nature from something else of a similar type.

“There is no doctrine that the Father has authority over the Son [that I agree with]”

there, fixed it for you…

there is an entire doctrinal category referred to by the terms economic and ontological trinity, the former referring to the differences in the nature of the persons, and which recognizes different authority and priority among the persons in their roles especially as touches redemption, and the latter referring to the nature of their eternal substance, being, or essence.

But the fact that you don’t like these doctrines is no reason to claim they don’t exist. That would be like me, staunch Protestant that I am, claiming there is no doctrine that bread and wine are transubstantiated into the body and blood of Christ. whether i like it, or regardless of how much i disagree with it, there is such a doctrine. it exists. I can claim it is a false doctrine, but let’s not claim that there is no such doctrine, shall we?

Speaking of “authority”, reminds me… didn’t Jesus himself say that he had not spoken on his own, but that the Father who sent Him gave him a “commandment”?? And that even his choice to lay down his life was a “commandment” from his Father?

And then i’m also reminded of the time Jesus clarified that fulfilling a certain request was not his to grant, but rather it would be granted to those for whom it had been prepared by the Father?

Then there was something about him saying that he kept his Father’s commandments

And he was “obedient” even to the death on the cross…

This is certainly a strange way of speaking if one is trying to clearly communicate that one is not under the authority of the Father in heaven…



i’m not sure how you’re using the words here. since i would say, if it had ever at any point been the nature of Jesus to refuse to submit to the good pleasure of the father, then this would have been called “sin”, no?

Do we agree at least that Jesus in fact always did those things that were pleasing to his Father?


Firstly, I had a great time writing this reply. Grateful for an oppotunity to sharpen iron over a topic we have no need to divide over. :+1:t2:

Neither would I, and, as far as I know, neither would most (any?) evangelical theologians who hold to the economic view. The alternative to ESS is not necessarily a laissez-faire Trinity where anything goes. I think in that sense you are perhaps in danger of sweeping away a straw man, if indeed the above was directed at the economic view. Additionally, I would suggest that one can have a robust Reformed view wherein the Father decrees redemption, the Son achieves redemption, and the Spirit applies redemption without having either ESS or some kind of pre-temporal game of short straws. Something I’ll get to later.

I don’t think I have ever said that there wasn’t, but neither do I think accepting that premises necessitates that ESS must be true. Could the thing that is inherent to the Son’s person be perfect love and delight in the Father (and the Spirit and vice versa) that delights in their divine plan, rather than an eternally subordinate will? Granting here of courses, that the adherent of ESS may also believe that the Son perfectly loves and delights in the Father, etc. etc.

Great point; two thoughts. Earthly sons are not always or eternally subordinate and obedient to their fathers though, are they? For example:

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Gen 2:24; Mat 19:5 NIV2011).

Whilst a son is always required to honour his father and mother, he is only required to obey them so long as he is under their roof (taking as read here that their parents’ requirement of their children accords godliness and promotes flourishing). Once they marry (or leave the family home) they are no longer required to be subject to their father’s will, yet they remain sons, right? In that sense, perhaps the earthly relationship between fathers and sons is more analogous to an economic view rather than an eternal one. I struggle to see the logic line that links a son temporarily submits to his father, therefore the Son eternally submits to the Father. But perhaps I have misunderstood you here?

As to the reverse of father and son relationships, see my initial paragraph.

I do see your concern, and acknowledge that it is a legitimate one. I guess I would respond by saying that, to my knowledge, I do not see anything in the Bible to suggest that the Spirit is eternally submissive to the Father and the Son. Only that he agrees to proceed from the Father and the Son to indwell in believers to spiritually unite them to Jesus until such time as they physically united with Jesus (as well as many other things that the Spirit does in the lead up to Christ’s return).

Will the Holy Spirit need to indwell us in the New Creation as he does now? If so, I hope we can agree that it won’t be identical to how he does now. For example, the Spirit will not need to sanctify and conform us to the image of Jesus since this work will be complete. Neither will the Holy Spirit need to be the seal of our inheritance since we will, at last, possess it. Neither the Spirit to empower us against sin or to tell us what to say in times of persecution since sin and persecution will be no more. In that sense, I have no problem in suggesting that as the Son’s submission to the Father’s will was for a time, so the Spirit’s submission to the Father and the Son appears also to be for a time, namely, from Pentecost to New Creation.

As would I, but again I do not think arbitrariness is the only alternative to ESS. For example, my view is position is (in part) based on the Doctrine of Divine Simplicity. I’m assuming you are familiar with this, Daniel, so feel free to skip this paragraph. For any onlookers who are not familiar with Divine Simplicity, this doctrine states that God is not made up of ‘bits’ or ‘parts’ but rather that his essence, existence, and attributes are the same. For example, God does not only act in a way that we might describe as loving, just, holy, good, or right according to some external standard, but rather is love, is just, etc. An implication of this doctrine, is that God’s attributes cannot be pitted against one another since he is love is just and holy, his justice holy and loving, and his holiness is justice and loving, etc. Or to put it another way, God can always be trusted to do what is good, right, and perfect, because he is in his nature goodness, perfection, and righteousness.

How this relates to the Trinity and temporal subordination is that the Father can decree salvation but because his will and his love for the Son and the Spirit is good, right, and perfect, the Son delights to submit to the Father’s will for a time to achieve redemption because he has spent an eternity experiencing this good, right, and perfect love the Father has for him. Similarly, the Spirit willingly submits to the Son and the Father for a time to apply the redemption to the elect because he knows that the Father and the Son desire this for good, right, and perfect reasons.

In this way, I guess I relate more to those who have described the Trinity in more social ways, as a perfect communion of three persons in one being perfectly expressing, reflecting, and delighting in their shared attributes for all eternity (I’m reminded, for example, of Lewis’ analogy of a dance involving three partners). When such persons reach a consensus of wills to form a divine plan, that is anything but arbitrary.

Lastly, some thoughts on the terms Father and Son. Firstly, I think we should be careful about drawing hard and fast links between earthly fathers and sons and their divine namesakes. I think we would both agree that the divine relationship of persons is incomprehensible beyond what has been revealed to us and logically inferred from it. In that sense, I do not think that it is heterodox to suggest that the terms ‘The Father’ and ’ The Son’ are divine concessions for the benefit of limited understanding and the sake of comprehensible revelation. I am sure we would agree, for example, that whilst Jesus is male by virtue of his human nature, his divinity surpasses gender or sex.

Similarly, though the Father reveals himself to us with masculine pronouns his not actually a man or male by virtue of his person. And so the earthly mother/daughter relationship is no more or less reflective for the divine community than an earthly father and son. Indeed, I do not think there is anything ontological that would have prevented God from revealing Godself to us as the Mother, and the Daughter and the Holy Spirit, or the second person from incarnating as a woman to redeem humanity if God had willed it to be so. Obviously, for reasons known only to God, this was not the case. However, it does makes me cautious about reading father/son relationships back into the Trinty as being an particularly reflective of the divine community over against any other godly human relationship that reflects a unity in diversity.

I will always grant the possibility that truth within the Godhead is beyond my comprehension, but I’m afraid I fail to see the logical alternatives. Either the Father decreed redemption (including the choice for the Son to so excute such) arbitrarily, (i.e., any of the three might have made such a decree, it just happened to be God the Father that did so), or it was fitting that it was the Father that so decreed - and of course the Son would have given wholehearted agreement, support, and utter unity, but his agreement was in some sense deferring to the right authority of the Father to make such a decree in the “first” place. Of course all this breaks down and is in danger of getting into the “who made the first move” when we are talking about eternal uncreated persons, but perhaps you see my concern? I’m afraid logically I simply don’t see a middle ground.

But that as it may, I really do appreciate your thoughts. As mentioned, I’m not trying to offer a full-blown apologia for this position, I did only want to defend it from the accusation of it being some kind of novel heresy.

My own bottom line if interesting - I am personally very sympathetic to the position that you hold (if I understand you correctly) - for a few reasons. Firstly, Athanasian orthodoxy requires belief that the three persons of the eternal Godhead are absolutely equal in power, eternality, their glory equal, and their majesty coeternal. And any suggestion of “inferiority” or “superiority” even in any however qualified sense, at first, sounds to be in conflict with that critical and core truth.

Secondly, it makes perfect sense to me to understand the idea of the Son being temporally submissive to the Father. If I held the position I believe you do (and which if my memory serves I seriously explored and considered at one point), it would seem beyond obvious and simply common sense that, should any of the persons of the Godhead be incarnate, that they, at least in their human nature, would naturally be “submissive” to God, in the same way that any human is required to be.

Adam had to obey as a man (and failed), Christ had to obey as a man, (and succeeded). Of course God incarnate had to be obedient, to follow God, to obey God’s commands. Such is necessary to “fulfill all righteousness”, no?

What prevents me from embracing such a position, speaking only for myself, is the aforementioned relationship between the incarnate Son of God - in his human nature, and that of the Holy Spirit. If Christ’s oft-repeated submission to his Father was strictly due to the fact that he, in his human nature = as a man - was naturally subservient to God as God, then I would expect him to express such a submission to both the Father and the Spirit. But instead, I see him expressing subservience to the Father, and authority over the Spirit, in his human nature. This is what primarily gives me pause. What possible reason could the eternal Son of God - in his human nature - chosen to submit to the Father, but not the Holy Spirit, unless there was some heirarchy of some form in which he was between the two, and one that lasted from eternity past? I can see none myself.

Not to mention, relatedly, while I was able to consider that the Son’s submission to the Father could have been the temporal result of the incarnation, we simply can’t say the same about the Spirit’s submission to either the Father or the (incarnate) Son… If the Spirit is submitting to the Father, that is by definition eternal, no? And if the eternal Spirit is submitting to even the incarnate Son, this seems to exhibit a relationship dynamic from eternity as well.

Hence, with Packer, my only conclusion is that this is not a new relationship that began with the incarnation, but the continuation of a relationship between the persons that existed from eternity.

On this point, I would say of course! And if anything I ever said would have made you think I could possibily have disagree with that, then I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes. Absolutely, compeltely, without question - the Son’s “subordination” is not one of reluctant, frustrated subservience, but absolute perfect love, delight, and joy in the Father’s will, a will which itself is 100% focused on the joy, delight and love toward the Son.

In fact, most of us Reformed people recognize, oddly enough, that even my own salvation was a joyous and beneficial byproduct of a process whose primary purpose was the Father delighting to glorify his Son. The fact that we are saved for eternal life was secondary.

But that being said, there is still, as I think you may not disagree, a primacy to the Father’s action, decisions, or will, one with which the Son is utterly in full unity and joy with. Perhaps “subordination” is an unfortunate word on many levels, not least of which becuase it sounds like the “subordinationism” heresy. But this is essentially all I mean by the doctrine, and what Packer to my understanding is saying. That it was the Father’s initation, the Father’s decision, the Father’s will, a will which was fully absorbed in pure love and delight for the Son, and which the Son of God delightedly, with joy and perfect love, enjoyed executing. I personally don’t mean anything else much beyond this when I defend the concept in general. But the primacy always seems to remain: The Father sent the Son, the Son was Sent by the Father. The Son sits at God’s right hand, God doesn’t sit at the Son’s left hand…


Absolutely and amen.

I can respect, and do, respect that. And in many ways I had a similar horse in this race. I think at this point, we’re we at the pub I’d say ‘sounds good to me’ and offer to buy you another pint. :slight_smile:

I’m definitely grateful for this forum offering the space to think out loud with dialogue partners. Often though I don’t get the chance to do that on this kind of theology - either online or offline. As I said early, I’ve enjoyed sharpening iron together. Be blessed, Daniel.

Cheers :beers:


Thank you. I agree that the relationship in marriage is more constant across cultures. My only question was that the symbolism in Paul’s writings of relationship between husband and wife is not unique, and that he used the same in other relationships that are subsequently gone.Thus, the actual symbolism does not seem a springboard to imply subordination of the wife is uniquely constant across time and cultures.

I agree with Marshall’s illustration and the likely segue to better relationships, both in marriage and master/slave.

I enthusiastically affirm your illustration above that Paul is trying to illustrate how we can serve even our enemies, let alone our allies, friends and lovers, as Christ served God. And if we continue to prayerfully and humbly implement that in both directions, we will continue to improve our own situations. I like Lewis’ criticism of chronological snobbery–we have our lifetimes to learn how to be like Christ. As a parent and husband, I tell my family I may be better when I’m 100–with God’s and their forgiveness and grace, many times along the way (and will have much more to go then, I’m sure).

I appreciate your thoughts, sincerely, as well, @LM77 Liam. I find much to learn here. I know you have read much more than I in the complementarian/egalitarian reasoning.

I am not even sure we can criticize slavery in the OT and early NT as much as we’d like. It was a way, after all, of helping those with nothing to survive, in a very harsh environment where mortality was high, and resources low. So, Paul was revolutionary in his inspired teaching. The NT may have led the West to uniquely abolish slavery before much of the East, though there was terrible abuse among Christians prior to that.

I admire you for your raising your children up. A partner of mine has chosen that, too–her firefighter husband has opted to take care of there children at home. I forwarded her an article that points out a stay-at-home-parent should rightfully earn more than $160,000/year (which I also sent to my wife) How much is a stay-at-home parent worth? says over $160k |
Although I work in an office, I try as much as I can to be the one that wakes our kids up in the morning, and take them out on “dates” every few weeks to talk. Having said that, I do not have as rich of an experience.

I like Trent and Smalley’s “Two Sides of Love,” (associated with Focus on the Family), which observes how we each complement each other in personality types, with strengths of either side.

Thank you for your leadership and example.

Again, not trying to be slow or obtuse, I’m not following where you’re getting this?

Granted I recall many places where he says “obey X as you would obey Christ.” granted of course, but that never strikes me so much of symbolism as much as basic guidance, not unlike when I tell my kids to obey our babysitter just like you would obey me - I’m not trying to make a symbolic statement, it is simply instruction - if you would obey me, quickly, without hesitation, without complaint, then that is how you are to obey the babysitter.

If there is any place where the actual same two-way analogy, or two-way symbolism, is actually used for another relationship, I am ignorant, but I don’t bleieve there is any place where Paul says, “Masters, love your slaves as Christ love the church…” or anything remotely close to the same analogy used for marriage? If you’re thinking of one, can you give the specific reference?

Otherwise, I would humbly maintain that the symbolism Paul uses of Christ and the Church as for husband and wife is unique?

I am sorry if I’m misunderstanding–would you consider Paul’s letter to Philemon as an example? Though that is not as clear, perhaps, as the two way illustration here.
Ephesians 6:5-9

5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6 Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 7 Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, 8 because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free.

9 And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

Treating slaves in the way of serving Christ would be in many ways similar to the illustration of the marriage relationship, it seems (though a Greek scholar would be more accurate).

It also seems, as you put it, that any relationship between two believers should be subject to the same deepening, in both directions.

Thanks, again, for helping me think this through.

“God the Father so loved the World that He sent His only begotten Son, so that Whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life with God, the Father, Son. and Holy Spirit.”

  1. The Father sent the Son out of Love for humanity and not love for the Son… Love is missing inaction in your desire to make submission the driving force in the Godhead. There is noting arbitrary about Love. John even says that God is Love.

  2. John 3:16 does Not say whoever submits to the Father will have everlasting life. Again submission is not the dominant ethic of Jesus, so why are you claiming it should be for Christianity?

  3. The point of the Sonship of the Savior is that fathers and offspring share the same nature. It is that Jesus is God, and has all the powers and responsibilities of God, not that Jesus is submitted to God, that is, submitted to Himself which makes no logical sense.

  4. The gift of faith is eternal life, it is joy and freedom, not submission to Another.

The Trinity in its wonderful mystery is ‘logical’? A loving Son being obediently submissive to a loving Father makes a lot of sense. Please note: love is not absent in the previous sentence.

The definition of Christian Love is abundantly clear in ! Cor 13.

If you do not like this definition, then see if you can change it, rather than replacing it with submission.

1 Corinthians 13:8-13 (NIV2011)
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.
12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

First of all of all you have taken the “mystery” out of the Trinity be saying that the Father and the Son have different natures, that is they are two and not One. They are not One because Unity requires mutuality and submission is not mutual. If it were mutual it would not be submission,.it would be Love, 1 Cor 13…

The mystery of the Trinity is how the Three can be One and how the One can be Three. Under ESS there is no Three and there is no One. Only the Father and a subordinate son and spirit. The Father is defined as superior and the Son is defined as subordinate, thus they are different and not One.

Per the universal Trinity, I believe in God the Father, Maker of heaven and earth, and Jesus Christ (the Messiah) His Son our Lord, and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is defined not as the Son of God, but as the Savior, the Messiah. If Jesus is the Savior only because the Father sent Him and died on the Cross only because He submitted to the Will of the Father, then Jesus does not deserve credit as the Savior because He did not do it out of His free will, but because He wanted to please the Father. Jesus was not passive, only doing the Will of the Father, but rather He was actively planning and carrying out the plan of salvation conceived and carried out by the Son, Father, and Holy Spirit.

Okay then. Thank you very much for the new information. I understand now.

If what you say were true, and I insist that it is not, then the Trinity would be Three Gods. If the Father is God, and the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and each Person has a distinct personal Nature that makes them different, then we have three separate distinct Gods.

If the unity of the Father and the Son is the result of the submission of the Will of the Son to the Father, there is a no true unity of Will, because submission requires difference so one can be under the other…

The basic model of the Trinity is God the Father, Who is the Creator. God the Son, Who is the Messiah/Savior, and God the Holy Spirit, Who is Love. These are the three roles if you will that the Persons of the Trinity play, but the Father and Son along with the Spirit are all Love. The Son and the Spirit along with the Creator create the universe, and the Father and the Spirit along with the Savior are active in the process of salvation. The 3 Persons of the Trinity are One not only because They are God, but because They always work together as we see in the Bible and in our .lives…

Matthew 5:43-45, 48 (NIV2011)
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’
44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I think you and others misunderstand the difference between the ontological Trinity and the economic Trinity. The ontological Trinity forbids structural, built in subordinationism, because it says that the Persons of the Trinity are of the same nature and essence. Similarly all humans are of the same nature and essence, because we are all created equal in that we are all created in the image of God. Male and female we are created in the Image of God. Gen 1 26-27:

The economic Trinity is how the Three Persons work together to carry out the tasks before them such as the Creation and Salvation. These roles are based on convenience rather than necessity. God by definition does not do anything because God has to. God is free to do whatever God chooses to do.

It may well be that some people misunderstand the difference between the economic Trinity and the ontological Trinity, but that does make it so. The ontological Trinity is the dominant doctrine, but here there is really no problem unless it is a made up one.

I was quoting the Athanasian creed…


This is the problem with your statement. Please excuse the misquote.

“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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