Foundations: No.73 Autumn 2017

Nature, Person, and Will: An Argument from the Church Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils against the Eternal Subordination of the Son

In this paper I offer an argument against the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father. The argument is based on Scripture and is understood in the light of the historic, orthodox teaching of the church, as seen in a number of the Church Fathers and Ecumenical Councils. Specifically, I argue, from Maximus the Confessor’s interpretation of Scripture, that the volitional faculty is a function of nature rather than person. This entails that just as in Christ there are two wills, because there are two natures, so in the Triune Godhead there is but one will, because there is but one divine nature. I argue that this renders the notion of eternal subordination meaningless.

The Nicene Creed was the primary doctrinal product of the first Ecumenical Council, the Council of Nicaea (325).[1] The Creed was developed and affirmed in the first Canon of the first Council of Constantinople (381). This was the second Ecumenical Council. The end result is the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed; it is usually referred to as the Nicene Creed for convenience.

I believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, And of all things visible and invisible:

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, Begotten of his Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made, Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man, And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried, And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures, And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father. And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead: Whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord and Giver of life, Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spake by the Prophets. And I believe in one Catholick and Apostolick Church. I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins, And I look for the Resurrection of the dead, And the life of the world to come. Amen.             

The Creed teaches, in accordance with Scriptural witness and the doctrine of the Church Fathers that the one divine essence of God subsists in three distinct persons or divine subsistences,[2] the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each possesses the full deity and yet there is only one God. The Creed also teaches that there is an order among the subsistences of the Trinity; the subsistence of the Father is unbegotten, and begets the subsistence of the Son, and spirates the subsistence of the Holy Spirit; the subsistence of the Son is eternally begotten of the Father (eternal generation[3]) and spirates the subsistence of the Holy Spirit; and the subsistence of the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The eternal generation of the subsistence of the Son by the Father and the communication of the divine nature is the theological premise on which the argument for the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father is grounded. The doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son is integral to the Nicene Creed, and cannot be abandoned without falling into heterodoxy. However, this is not necessarily the case with the doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father.

Implications of Trinitarian Taxis in the Nicene Creed

Recent debate about the personal relations between the Father and the Son in the Trinity prior to creation and the incarnation has drawn attention to the doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father. A critical element of the argument for eternal subordination is the claim that it is implied by the Creed’s statement that the Son is eternally begotten of the Father.

In my recent review of the late Mike Ovey’s monograph, Your Will Be Done: Exploring Eternal Subordination, Divine Monarchy and Divine Humility,[4] I cautiously attempted to endorse Ovey’s position that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father. However, in this paper I will set out my reasons for rejecting eternal subordination. Ovey claims that eternal subordination is not a “New Arianism” because he grounds his Trinitarian theology on the patristic affirmation that God is one being in three persons; I will further discuss the “New Arianism” claim below. Therefore, any notion that the Son is ontologically inferior to the Father is impossible because the Son is consubstantial with the Father. Since the publication of the review my understanding has developed. I will explain the line of argument that has led to this modification. But it is first important to state that I consider belief in eternal subordination to be error, not heresy, because it is a debate about the implications of the Nicene Creed rather than the content of the Creed itself. All debate must be irenic and gracious as an intra-mural discussion, not heresy hunting. Moreover, there are biblical and historical arguments in favour of eternal subordination. In this brief article I will set out the main reason why I now reject the doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father.

Scriptural passages that speak of the submission of the Son to the Father all share an incarnational context. Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane in which he prays “Not as I will, but as you will” (Matthew 26:39); Christ’s statement that he came “not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me” (John 6:38); Paul’s statement that our Lord “Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8); and Christ’s statement, “The Father is greater than I” (John 14:28),[5] serve as four clear examples. In all of these verses, the Scriptures teach the relation of the Son incarnate to the one divine will. Although the context of some of these verses, most notably Philippians 2, refer to the Son prior to the incarnation, the Scriptures are consistent in ascribing volitional subordination to the Son only in his incarnate condition.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) clearly notes this incarnational context in scriptures which speak of the Son as subordinate to the Father:

Many things are so said in the sacred books as to signify, or even most expressly declare, the Father to be greater than the Son; men have erred through a want of careful examination or consideration of the whole tenor of the Scriptures, and have endeavoured to transfer those things which are said of Jesus Christ according to the flesh, to that substance of his which was eternal before the incarnation, and is eternal.[6]

Augustine highlights the danger of the doctrine of eternal subordination, and draws the same distinction concerning verses that speak of Christ’s subordination to the Father only in the context of the incarnation. As will be seen in this paper, although there are nuances of emphasis in the Church Fathers, the teaching that the subsistence of the Son is not subordinate to the Father apart from the incarnation is unmistakable in the most historically-significant patristic authors.[7]

Ovey bases much of his argument on exegesis of Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane. Arguing from such passages that the Son eternally submits to the Father, not merely in the incarnation, is not reasonable. These passages teach that in the incarnation, Christ submitted to the will of God. Ovey’s exegetical argument is not the focus of this paper; instead I will concentrate on the theological argument behind eternal subordinationism, which Ovey then seeks to apply to Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane.[8]

The Incarnation and the Will of God

In the incarnation God the Son assumed full humanity into personal union with the divine nature as it subsists in the Son. The incarnation therefore produces a composite Christ, the personhood of which is provided in the Word of God, the divine logos.[9] The humanity of Christ was complete just as ours is, except without sin. The Nicene Creed describes the incarnation only briefly; fuller definition is provided at the Council of Chalcedon (451), the fourth Ecumenical Council. Chalcedon states that, “The same Christ, Son, Lord, Only begotten, [is] to be acknowledged in two natures, unconfusedly (ἀσυγχυτως), unchangeably (ἀτρεπρως), indivisibly (ἀδιαιρετως), inseparably (ἀχωριστως).”[10] These four Chalcedonian adverbs primarily defend against the heresies of Eutyches[11] and Nestorius respectively. Christ’s humanity includes human emotions, the intellectual and volitional faculties, as well as the passibility entailed by being a creature. Therefore, in Christ there are two wills, the divine and the human, even though there is one person. The human will of Christ ceaselessly submits to the one divine will. Dyotheletism, the doctrine that there are two wills in the one Christ was formally approved and accepted by the Church at the sixth ecumenical council, the Third Council of Constantinople in 681.

When Christ prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, “Not as I will, but as you will”, he was submitting his human will to the will of God. He was not submitting his divine will to the divine will of the Father; I argue that this is impossible. The concept that the will of the Son submits to the will of the Father is foundational to the doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son. This conception of intra-divine submission depends upon the notion that in God there are three distinct wills; the will of the Father, the will of the Son, and the will of the Holy Spirit. I assert that this is not a biblical conception of the will of God. Instead, the Scriptures speak of one will of God.[12] The argument for the one divine will is grounded in the Scriptures and guided by the writings of a number of the Church Fathers. It is beyond the scope of this paper to exegete Scriptures which are taken by adherents to the doctrine of eternal subordination to imply that there are three wills in the Godhead.[13] I suggest that such verses speak of the functioning of the single unified will of the divine nature with reference to the Triune subsistences in accordance with the doctrine of appropriations. This is frequently the way the Scriptures speak of the divine works of God in relation to what he has created.

In the Lord Jesus Christ there is one person – the person of God the Son. There are not two persons in Christ, a human person and a divine person; this is the heresy of Nestorianism, which was anathematised at the Council of Ephesus (431), which was the third Ecumenical Council. And yet in the Lord Jesus Christ there are two wills – the divine will and the human will. It is this human will of the Lord Jesus Christ that submits to the will of God in the New Testament. There are two faculties of volition and two wills in Christ because there are two natures in Christ. The claim that there is only one will in Christ stems from Nestorianism and must be rejected. If the will were a faculty of the person then there could only be one will in the Lord Jesus Christ. However there are two natures and two corresponding wills in Christ, and one person. Therefore the faculty of volition and the exercise of the will are tied to the nature rather than to the person.

An awareness of Nestorianism and the corresponding volitional heresy of monotheletism is crucial to an orthodox articulation of Christology and the intra-Trinitarian relations. I have argued for a dyothelite Christology; this may now be applied to the doctrine of God. I have demonstrated that in Christology, the faculty of volition and the exercise of the will are grounded in the nature. In Christ there are two natures, there are therefore two wills. In applying this argument to the doctrine of God it is therefore clear that there can only be one divine will of God, not three wills in the three subsistences or persons. This is because the will is tied not to the subsistences but to the nature and there is only one divine nature. One might speak of a Trinitarian expression of the one divine will,[14] but this still precludes numerical distinction in the divine will itself. Scripture does distinguish between the human will of the Lord Jesus Christ and the will of God, but Scripture does not divide the one will of God.[15]

The one will of the one divine nature is, in my mind, the primary argument against the doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father. Unfortunately, in spite of the central importance of this argument, it is seldom discussed extensively in the literature on eternal subordination in the last two decades. In his article “God is the Head of Christ: 1 Corinthians 11:3” Kyle Claunch notes this lacuna:

One often overlooked feature of such a proposal is that this understanding of the eternal relationship between Father and Son seems to entail a commitment to three distinct wills in the immanent Trinity. In order for the Son to submit willingly to the will of the Father, the two must possess distinct wills.[16]

Claunch correctly states that this premise, which lies behind the doctrine of eternal subordination, is a departure from Trinitarian orthodoxy understood in the light of the Church Councils and Fathers. He adds that this understanding also runs counter to medieval and Reformed understanding of the divine will.[17]

According to traditional Trinitarian theology, the will is predicated of the one undivided divine essence so that there is only one divine will in the immanent Trinity. If there is only one divine will, the notion that the Son submits his will to the will of the Father is illogical and incoherent. Without three wills in God it is meaningless to speak of the will of one divine subsistence being subordinated to the will of another divine subsistence. However it is entirely scriptural to state that the human will of Christ submits to the divine will.

Patristic and Conciliar Sources in Opposition to Eternal Subordination

The argument that there is only one divine will is in accordance with the teaching of the Church Fathers and the Councils of the early Church.[18] In order to demonstrate this claim I will cite evidence from Emperor Justinian (482-565), the third Council of Constantinople (680-681), which was the sixth Ecumenical Council, and Maximus the Confessor (580-662). The theology of the Confessor is especially pertinent because his theological statement of the divine and human wills in the one Christ is central to the argument against the eternal subordination of the Son; furthermore it is directly explored by Ovey.

Justinian reigned over the Byzantine East as emperor from 527 to 565. Justinian’s political and military concern was the reunification of East and West, which he attempted in part through ecclesiastical rapprochement. He convoked the second Council of Constantinople (553), which was the fifth Ecumenical Council, the primary purpose of which was to confirm Justinian’s condemnation in 543 of the “Three Chapters” – the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret against Cyril of Alexandria, and the letter of Ibas of Edessa to Maris, all of which were sympathetic to Nestorius. Examining Justinian’s position on the relations between the Father and the Son in the Triune Godhead is helpful because as both emperor and theologian he represents a broad theological consensus in the sixth century. This is seen in his influence on the second Council of Constantinople.

Justinian’s work The Edict on the True Faith examines scriptural and patristic teaching on Trinitarian theology and aspects of Chalcedonian Christology. Justinian quotes widely from previous Church Fathers in support of his arguments, particularly Cyril of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, and Athanasius the Great of Alexandria. Justinian composed thirteen anathemas in order to uphold orthodoxy. The first reads as follows: “If anyone does not confess the consubstantial Trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, worshipped as one Godhead or nature or essence, or one power or authority in three hypostases or prosopa, let him be anathema.”[19] Justinian quotes from and incorporates the writings of the Church Fathers in order to show that there is only one divine will; one divine authority located in the one divine nature.

The imperial approval of the patristic teaching that there is one divine will received conciliar affirmation with the Exposition of Faith in the Third Council of Constantinople. This Church Council is the sixth of the seven Ecumenical Councils. Historically, Protestantism has typically rejected the fifth, sixth, and seventh Councils[20] as containing heterodox statements about the Virgin Mary among other issues. This trend follows Martin Luther’s statements in On the Councils and the Church.[21] However, I assert that it would be unwise to disregard the teaching of these Councils entirely, especially in their Christological judgments, simply on the basis of a limited number of heterodox statements on secondary issues.[22] The third Council of Constantinople represents the most significant ecclesiastical teaching on the will in relation to Christology and the doctrine of the Trinity.

The Council condemned monotheletism, the teaching that in the incarnate Christ there is only one will; and upheld dyotheletism as orthodox in accordance with the Scriptures and the Church Fathers. This is the doctrine that in the incarnate Christ there are two wills, the divine and the human. The Council clearly locates the faculty of volition in the natures of Christ rather than in his person, and therefore also states that there is only one divine will because there is only one divine nature, which subsists in three persons:

We proclaim equally two natural volitions or wills in him and two natural principles of action which undergo no division, no change, no partition, no confusion, in accordance with the teaching of the holy fathers… And the two natural wills not in opposition, as the impious heretics said, far from it, but his human will following, and not resisting or struggling, rather in fact subject to his divine and all powerful will… For the will of the flesh had to be moved, and yet to be subjected to the divine will, according to the most wise Athanasius… Believing our lord Jesus Christ, even after his incarnation, to be one of the holy Trinity and our true God, we say that he has two natures shining forth in his one subsistence in which he demonstrated the miracles and the sufferings throughout his entire providential dwelling here, not in appearance but in truth, the difference of the natures being made known in the same one subsistence in that each nature wills and performs the things that are proper to it in a communion with the other; then in accord with this reasoning we hold that two natural wills and principles of action meet in correspondence for the salvation of the human race.

The third Council of Constantinople, like Justinian, seeks to establish scriptural truth with reference to patristic orthodoxy. The statement clearly locates the human will of Christ in the human nature of Christ, and the divine will of Christ in the divine nature of Christ. By explicitly locating the faculty of volition in the nature, this statement directly upholds the orthodox teaching that there is but one divine will because there is but one divine nature.

I now turn to third main piece of evidence in the paper in the writings of Maximus the Confessor. I discuss the Confessor at greater length than Justinian and the third Council of Constantinople because Ovey interacts with Maximus on the central question of the unicity of the divine will as the ground for opposing the doctrine of eternal subordination.

A Possible Counterargument from the Theology of Maximus the Confessor

The claim that the doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son is a “New Arianism” assumes that the doctrine is a misinterpretation of the Nicene Creed, whereas I have argued that it is instead a misunderstanding of the implications of the Creed. However, the doctrine of eternal subordination assumes that the will of Christ, which submits to God the Father, is located not in his nature but in his person. This understanding undermines the patristic defence of dyotheletism and dyophysitism against the opposing heresies monotheletism and monophysitism. Two significant departures from orthodoxy obtain. First, if the incarnate Son has only one will then the distinctions between Christ’s two natures set out in the Council of Chalcedon in 451 fail to obtain. Secondly, if the pre-incarnate Son possesses a will that is different from the will of the Father and the Holy Spirit, then the three persons of the Trinity are not consubstantial because the will is a natural faculty. This argument is evident in the Theological Orations[23] of Gregory Nazianzus concerning the Gethsemane prayer. Gregory argues against the Arian position that the incarnate Son possesses a different will from the Father. However his exegesis of the prayer is problematic in other respects in that he does not do justice to the authorial emphasis on Christ’s volitional predicament in submitting his human will to the divine will. The same dyothelite anti-Arian affirmation occurs in Gregory of Nyssa’s treatise Against Apollinarius.[24]

The early Church seems to have consistently taught that in Christ there are two wills because there are two natures, and that therefore in the divine nature there is only one will.[25] Once this has been established and accepted it is a matter of deductive logic to reach the conclusion that the person of the Son cannot volitionally submit to the person of the Father because the Father and the Son, with the Holy Spirit, share one nature and therefore one divine will. According to the communicatio idiomatum, whatever is said of either of Christ’s natures is predicated of the person of the Son. Therefore if the will of the human nature of Christ submitted to the divine will, one can correctly say that the person of God the Son incarnate submitted to the Father. However, this nuance does not amount to the eternal subordination of the Son because it only obtains within the incarnation. Instead it clarifies the orthodox understanding of the unio personalis.

In order to overcome the assertion that the doctrine of eternal subordination is a “New Arianism”, I suggest that its adherents must accept one of two options: Either the clear witness of Scripture and the teaching of the Church Councils that there is only one divine will must be abandoned, or it must be modified by the introduction of a new distinction. Ovey attempts to uncover such a potential distinction in the writings of Maximus the Confessor, who lived towards the end of the period of the seven Ecumenical Councils, but before the nascent development of theological scholasticism. His theological writing is intensely logical and intricate. Paul Blowers writes, “Maximus’ theological reasoning at times comes to expression in an exacting logic and use of syllogisms; and he is often meticulously precise in the nuances of his theological language.”[26] Maximus’ emphasis on deification, and the cosmic aspect of salvation in Christ focuses on the unio personalis. Moreover, his understanding of the nature of the volitional faculty is crucial to Christological debate and Trinitarian theology.

Maximus the Confessor argues in Opusculum 6[27] that the will is a natural not a personal faculty, and applies this notion to the doctrine of God in his discussion of Christ’s prayer in Gethsemane: “The Father and the Son always share a common will.” Maximus argues that when Christ submits his will to the will of his Father, he is submitting the will of his human nature to the one will of God. Maximus’ teaching is not directly quoted in the Church Councils, but his influence is apparent, particularly in the third Council of Constantinople.

In the preceding argument I have established that there is but one divine will, and I have employed this notion to argue against the doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son on the grounds that it is meaningless to speak of the Son submitting his divine will to the divine will of the Father when they share one will. However, Ovey addresses this very argument and offers an intriguing counter-argument which, in the space of three pages, attempts to incorporate the theology of Maximus the Confessor. He frames Maximus’ position in the context of the dyothelite controversy and the writings of Sergius of Constantinople. However, it is not insignificant that Ovey only utilises secondary sources in his discussion of Maximus; he is heavily dependent on Demetrios Bathrellos,[28] and the sparse quotations from Maximus are lifted from Bathrellos’ monograph. Ovey argues that the unity of Christ’s person means that the divine and human wills of Christ cannot will inconsistently: “One person cannot ultimately will inconsistently with himself or herself, even if that person has two ways in which ‘will’ may be exercised.”[29] Ovey proceeds to define will in the writings of Maximus by drawing a distinction between the faculty of volition and the act of willing a particular thing; or more specifically from Maximus, the particular object of the will. Ovey attempts to incorporate Maximus’ theology and notes that Maximus places the one divine will in the category of the former, that is the faculty of volition; in Maximus’ words, the faculty “in virtue of which one is able to will or act”.[30] Ovey claims that the act of willing “relates more to what ‘I’ do with my ‘natural’ faculty of will”.[31] However this claim is not directly grounded in Maximus’ writings, as is seen by Ovey’s speculative conclusion:

If Maximus is correct to stress that the Person or hypostasis provides the unifying point by which the different faculties of the two natures operate, and if he is also correct to see a distinction between will at the level of nature and the exercise/actualisation of that faculty at, in effect, the level of Person, then Maximus’ theology does have the resources to cope with the eternal subordination of the Son. For the eternal subordination involves a distinction of “wills” between Father and Son at the level of personal relation and not a distinction at the level of nature.[32]

The implication of this distinction drawn by Ovey is not substantiated by Bathrellos or in the primary sources in Maximus:

Maximus drew an all-important distinction, without which the question of the wills of Christ cannot be properly approached. This distinction is between the will as a faculty, integral to all rational beings, in virtue of which they are capable of willing, and the object of willing; namely, that which is willed by the being possessing this faculty… The former is a permanent, indispensible part of the ontological constitution of both God and man, whereas the latter is not more than its external object.[33]

This quotation demonstrates that Ovey has slightly misrepresented Maximus’ distinction. Bathrellos’ understanding of the distinction is clearly substantiated by the text of Opusculum 6.

Furthermore, Ovey asserts that the veracity of his subordinationist interpretation is demonstrated by its assimilation into sound exegesis of the Gethsemane prayer. Central to this is Ovey’s claim that in this prayer Christ submits his divine will to the divine will of the Father. Maximus directly opposes this interpretation in Opusculum 6. He argues that if the subject of the Gethsemane prayer is the divine will of the Son then one is “not repudiating what is willed, namely, the declining of the cup, but you are in fact ascribing that declining to their common and eternal divinity, to which you have also referred the exercise of will in the negating.”[34] I suggest that this quotation from Maximus the Confessor, and the context of Opusculum 6 makes it clear that Maximus’ theology is not compatible with Ovey’s position on the eternal subordination of the Son. Therefore, Ovey is not successful in his attempt to align his explanation of the dyothelite controversy and its implications for the Son’s relation to the Father, with the historic Christological orthodoxy of the Church Fathers and the Ecumenical Councils.

Conclusions and Further Questions

In the incarnation the divine subsistence of the Son assumes human nature into personal union. From the incarnation the subsistence of the Son possesses both human and divine natures which are united in the subsistence of the Son in the manner described by the four Chalcedonian adverbs. Christ’s human nature and his divine nature each possess a faculty of volition; there are therefore two wills in Christ. I have argued from this that in the one Godhead there can only be one will because there is one nature. I have demonstrated the orthodoxy of belief in the one divine will from patristic sources including Augustine of Hippo, Gregory Nazianzus, Emperor Justinian, Maximus the Confessor, and the third Council of Constantinople. Furthermore, I have demonstrated explicitly from these patristic sources that the consensus of the early Church Fathers took the unicity of the divine will to entail that the Son is not eternally subordinate to the Father. I have also used these patristic sources, and specifically Maximus the Confessor, to argue against Ovey’s position. My argument has focused on his attempt to incorporate Maximus’ writings to pursue a person-centred understanding of the functioning of the faculty of volition. I have demonstrated that Ovey’s position lacks proper grounding in the original sources.

I have presented my argument against the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father on the basis of the Scriptures as the supreme authority, and also from the early Church Councils and the writings of a number of the Church Fathers. The limited space has necessitated a relatively brief treatment of the subject, which has not done full justice to the many subtleties of the intra-Trinitarian relations in eternity and in the incarnation. In order to highlight something of this complexity for further reflection, I will close by noting an important aspect of the doctrine of the incarnation.

Why did the Son become incarnate rather than the Father or the Holy Spirit? The divine works ad extra always involve the three divine subsistences; this is therefore true of the incarnation. Within the Triune Godhead the subsistence of the Father is unbegotten; he eternally begets the subsistence of the Son, and eternally spirates the subsistence of the Holy Spirit; he is the fountainhead of the Triune subsistences. Therefore it is logical that the Father sends the Son and that the Son is sent by the Father in the incarnation.[35] The Son’s mission in the incarnation is grounded in his eternal generation. It would be theologically inappropriate and unfitting, to use Francis Turretin’s term, for the Father to be sent by the Son. Similarly, it would be inappropriate for the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, and who is the love between the Father and the Son, to become incarnate. Rather his role is the application of the redemption purchased by Christ at the cross. Furthermore, it is through the Holy Spirit that the Lord Jesus Christ offered himself to the Father.[36] If it is only the Son who becomes incarnate,[37] and submits his human will to the divine will in the incarnation, what is implied by this concerning the relation of the Son to the Father in eternity prior to creation and the incarnation?

The implications of this in terms of the one undivided will of God and the relations among the Triune subsistences are beyond the scope of this brief paper, but they raise considerable questions. I have argued that it is meaningless to speak of the Son’s eternal subordination to the Father, but in light of the incarnation of the Son and not the Father, perhaps something may be said concerning the eternal intra-Trinitarian relations beyond the Nicene formula in this regard, though what that something is must surely remain hidden in the eternal and unsearchable councils of the Triune Godhead.[38]

 

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