It flares up now and then: the penchant for telling the Church how necessary ESS is to the survival of male headship. ESS, the Eternal Subordination of the Son (the same errant teaching called by other acronyms), is, we are told in so many words, at the root of civilization. How do we know this to be true?
Well, because the Son of God is ever under the God the Father’s authority and in the same vein the Son of God is ever of less authority than the Father. Redemption Story depends on it. Reality is sustained by it. Male headship is the evidence of it on the ground. And that is the way the world must go, because that is how God is.
So they say.
By now, if you’ve been following this debate, the arguments have been worked over and around many times. Still there is cause to keep bringing right reason as a bulwark against this erroneous doctrine and to keep bringing out into the open what we can know “by good and necessary consequence” from Scripture. What we can know from Scripture which confutes the error of ESS is what we should know.
What we should know is to be known not only so we can remove the error off the field of play. For even more positive purposes than removing error, what we should know (ie., think and experience) from Scripture is the wide-eyed realization that what Yahweh God is doing for the world for his glory has nothing to do with the Father’s execution of his sovereign dominion over the Son. The Story of Redemption would NOT be of grace if it were.
If bringing things to light is in good order, then it is time to state plainly that ESS (the teaching of the Eternal Subordination of the Son) is, in fact, fake-ESS. Over against this parody of Yahweh’s true identity and Being in the three Persons is legit-ESS. The legit-ESS, the real E.S.S. is that of the Eternal Sovereignty of the Son. How to spot fake-ESS v legit-ESS? Well, probably the most noticeable red flag is how fake-ESS manages to play word games with divine ontology; shift or separate the protocols of ontology from the essence of God from/to the Persons in God and back n forth and around and ad intra this and ad extra that and yada, yada…
Another signal that you have come upon a version of fake-ESS is that it casts an authoritarian shadow over his words and over its vision for mankind. We are and have been, even Christianity, subjected to creeping mutations of authoritarianism. Some of them appeal to fake-ESS to bolster their ethos. Authoritarianism comes in a variety of degrees of intensity. There is the steel-edged kind of authoritarianism not dissimilar to a variety seen in Islam. Then there is a milder kind of authoritarianism which maintains it momentum in a free society such as ours by repeatedly reminding those under them who’s in charge. Authoritarianism of whatever kind needs others to know who’s in charge as a first order of conducting its affairs. By teaching fake-ESS authoritarianism adds another tool for asserting its rule over others.
With this fake-ESS proponents aim to assert how the Son’s permanent “role” of being under the Father’s greater authority means that you women folk, like the Son (though not female himself), are permanently under male authority. Yes, permanently. Problem for fake-ESS is Jesus taught that marriage and its social structure is not permanent, not eternal. It’s of this temporal realm (see Matt 22:30 and Mark 12:25).
So why then can’t the Son’s period of submission be temporal and temporary as well? It is, but that ruins fake-ESS chances of hitching its agenda to the Son’s deputy position in the Godhead. It also ruins the true nature of saving grace, for if the Son were permanently subordinate to the Father, then his work of Incarnation and all which followed it would be a coercive divine act. It would not have been of the free gift of Yahweh giving himself fully in and through the Son. But, instead, it is God giving himself freely in the Son. Because the Son is not eternally subordinate to anyone, including the Father the true nature of gift-giving life in God extends to us – grace.
Another red-flag for fake-ESS is how it manages to either ignore or let the booming voice of the Old Testament be turned down to a faint whisper in his argumentation for the Son’s everlasting, permanent, fixed subordination to the Father. In a recent presentation on the topic of the Trinity professor Scott Horrell of Dallas Theological Seminary (a strong defender of fake-ESS) said that…
…the Bible presupposes and reiterates that the word ‘God’ in the Old Testament and most of the time in the New Testament, reflects the Father. That’s primarily the Father, not all the time. We’ll see Jesus is called ‘God.’ The word ‘God’ in the New Testament is used 1350 times or there about and usually, again, designates the Father.
(Passion Institute, Atlanta, session 2, Fall 2017)
Marcion believed that the god of the OT was different than that in the NT. We find similar claims, not exactly as Marcion, among other Evangelical leaders who teach the Eternal Subordination of the Son. Scary close, though. And this view resembles the JW’s view that “God” or “the LORD” is only the Father. In fact, the Sanhedrin which condemned Jesus held a similar view of YHWH.
Jesus was claiming to be of the same ontological Being and authority as YHWH. No doubt about it. The Name signifies essence as much as identity. He is YHWH, even as the Father and Spirit. A foundational problem with fake-ESS is that it does not let the robust theology of YHWH’s ontology echo forward into environs of the New Testament.
I’ve been told that when I keep reminding the other side, fake-ESS, about this, about the Son being fully YHWH I am guilty of “autistic screeching.” An odd thing to say for it is the apostles and Christ himself who in various forms of expression kept asserting the same. Iesous Kurios, the first creed of the Church, is just that (but it isn’t screeching of any kind). This is the ground of our faith. It is the anchor for all other creedal commitments in the Church.
This being true, that the Son is fully YHWH, even as the Father and Spirit, presents us with a simple syllogism. It is the governing syllogism for understanding the one simple divine essence in the Trinity. It is the governing syllogism for confronting the error of fake-ESS, on the one hand and displaying legit-ESS on the other.
YHWH is absolutely sovereign
The Son is YHWH, even as Father and Spirit
Thus, the Son is absolutely sovereign, even as the Father and the Spirit.
legit-ESS = the Eternal Sovereignty of the Son
…for the boundless glory of YHWH in himself and for the redemption of mankind by his un-coerced grace.
image credit: Tetragrammaton.jpg: Jonathunderderivative work: Jebulon (talk), Public Domain