A Defense Of The Doctrine Of The Eternal Subordination Of The Son -- By: Stephen D. Kovach
JETS 42:3 (September 1999) p. 461
A Defense Of The Doctrine Of The Eternal Subordination Of The Son
Gilbert Bilezikian boldly claims that “nowhere in the Bible is there a reference to a chain of command within the Trinity. Such ‘subordinationist’ theories were propounded during the fourth century and were rejected as heretical.” 1 In 1997, the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society published Bilezikian’s article “Hermeneutical Bungee-Jumping: Subordination in the Godhead.” 2 This article was originally a paper he delivered at the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society on November 18, 1994. Bilezikian claims that the current discussion of the eternal subordination of the Son by certain evangelical writers is based upon a theological innovation for the purpose of advancing an ideological agenda that makes women subordinate to men. The ministry of Christ on earth, according to Bilezikian, was only a temporary self-humiliation that has no bearing on his eternal status of complete equality of function and authority. 3 Both Scripture and the Church councils exclude “any form of hierarchy, order or ranking” that would pertain to the eternal state of the Trinity. 4 Bilezikian concludes his article with three recommendations for those who teach the eternal subordination of the Son: “1. Do not mess with the Trinity … 2. Let us quit talking about subordination … (and) 3. Let us not use God to push our ideological agendas … ” 5 As this article will show, Bilezikian’s warnings are far more rhetorical than they are biblical or historical.
The purpose of this article, then, is to offer an introductory survey of the historical and biblical data that support the teaching of the eternal subordination of the Son. There are three parts to the survey. First, it is necessary to explain the distinction between the heresy of “subordinationism” and the idea of “functional” or “economic subordination.” Bilezikian’s misunderstanding is based on an improper and overly negative definition of subordination. Second, a brief account of the early Church councils and the
* Stephen D. Kovach is instructor of theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 222 N. Wingate, Wake Forest, NC 27587. This article is primarily based on his 1995 ETS presentation in Philadelphia. Peter R. Schemm, Jr. is a Ph.D. student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
JETS 42:3 (September 1999) p. 462
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