Is the Son Eternally Subordinate to the Father?
The eternal functional subordination of the Son (EFS) is a novel redefinition of the Trinity. In this view, EFS has redefined the Trinity in the form of a community or society, one that is the paradigm or prototype for human society. What kind of society? A society of functional hierarchy. The Father is given the seat of utmost authority and even supreme glory over the Son and the Spirit. The Son’s submission to the Father occurs within the immanent Trinity and is even said to be person-defining, flowing from eternal generation.
EFS claims that Jesus is equal to the Father in essence but submissive in role or function, but can this dichotomy between role and essence hold up to scrutiny, especially within the immanent life of God? If the Son is begotten from the Father’s essence, how can EFS keep subordination out of the divine essence itself? And if there is a functional hierarchy within the immanent Trinity how can EFS avoid multiple wills within the Godhead? Matthew Barrett argues that if we are truly pro-Nicene then inseparable operations cannot be a mere cooperation between three persons. Rather, every act of God must be the single act of the triune God. As soon as you insert gradations of authority into the immanent Trinity, you forfeit the single will of God.
In the following resources, Matthew Barrett and others expose the Achilles’ Heel of EFS, demonstrating the novelty of the movement when compared to scripture and historic Christian orthodoxy. They also reveal hermeneutical missteps that come dangerously close to trinitarian heresies. In the end, these scholars encourage us to be faithful to the biblical, orthodox Trinity instead of redefining the Trinity in the image of our own society.
Join Dr. Barrett and other scholars as they teach key trinitarian concepts, which safeguard us from future Trinity drift and help us find our way home to a biblical and orthodox understanding of the Trinity. For more, sign up for the Trinity course through the For the Church Institute, and be sure to grab a copy of Dr. Barrett’s book, Simply Trinity: The Unmanipulated Father, Son, and Spirit (Baker, 2021).