Friday, September 12, 2008

Alternatives to authority and submission

While Grudem and Ware support the notion that the relationship between Father and Son is one of authority and submission, this is not the traditional belief of the church. There are many other ways that the relationship between Father and Son have been described.

Saint Augustine believed that the will of the Father and Son was indivisible. If the Son subjected himself to the Father, he was subjecting himself to himself. J. N. Darby, who formulated doctrine for the Plymouth Brethren, and greatly influenced Dallas Seminary, taught that the will of the Father and Son was unanimous. Chrysostom talked about the Son submitting to the Father and providing counsel to the Father, in a relationship of reciprocity.

It is wrong to believe that even in the historic church, the Father and the Son were in a relationship best described as one of authority and submission. If that were the ideal relationship, the idea way of interacting, then we should all still be part of the Catholic church, a catholic church, and any divergence would be sinful.

The danger of the teaching of authority and submission in the godhead, is that this is used as the model for all human relationships. It is hard not to read the idealization of dominance and submission in this paradigm.


Peter Kirk said...

As I understand it, the orthodox Trinitarian position on this issue is that the three Persons have only one will between them - except that the Son also has a separate human will. When Jesus said "not my will, but yours", he is supposed to have been referring to the united will of the Godhead in distinction from his human will. I'm not sure that I entirely take this line, but I accept that the wills of the three Persons are entirely aligned. I would say that this comes about because they are entirely one in purpose and have a consensus on everything.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks. That is a good explanation. I will be interested in following the debate.

Peter Kirk said...

See also what I have just written here, quoting Frank Viola's interesting take on mutual functional subordination in the Trinity. That is not all he has to say on the subject, and on how it relates to mutual submission in the church. The interesting thing is that he is not coming at this from a gender perspective at all, but from a broader one of relationships in the church.