A Nice Summary Footnote on Trinitarian Relations

In Biblical Doctrine, John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue have a helpfully clear and succinct footnote in their discussion of the relationship between the Father and the Son.

After quoting the Athanasian Creed, they discuss the "definite order" (taxis) within God's being. They write that it is "proper to say (with respect to their relationship only, not with respect to their essence, glory, or majesty) that the Father is first, the Son is second, and the Spirit is third." They continue by arguing that "the ad intra works of eternal generation and procession become the ground for the order reflected in the ad extra works in the economy of redemption."

Accordingly, then, "The Son submits to the Father in the economy of redemption (cf. John 5:30; 6:38) because he was eternally generated by the Father."

At this point, they offer an excellent summary of important qualifications to the language of the "submission of the Son" (207n58):
"This is in contrast to the teaching of some who say that the ad extra submission of the Son to the Father is rooted in a kind of eternal functional subordination (ad intra) of the Son to the Father. There cannot be eternal relations of authority and submission between the Father and the Son (ad intra) without undermining the doctrine of divine simplicity, for the concept of submission entails the subjection of one person's will to another person's will. However, since the faculty of will is a predicate of nature, and since the divine nature (or essence) is single and undivided among the three persons of the Trinity, there can be no submission or subjection from eternity. The incarnate Son is able to submit to the Father because, now possessing a fully human nature, he possesses a human will in addition to his divine will (cf. Luke 22:42; 1 Cor 15:28)."
Following this FN clarification, they end this paragraph by citing the Athanasian Creed again to sum up this area of theological formulation:
"And in this Trinity, none is afore, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid: the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshiped."  

Athanasian Creed
December 3, 2019


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