Theological bloggers have recently stirred up a ruckus about the doctrine of the Trinity. A group of theologians led by Wayne Grudem have argued that within the Trinity there is an eternal submission of the Son to the Father. They used to call it Eternal Subordination, but now refer to it as “Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission” (ERAS). Other theologians argue this is a denial of the Nicene Creed.
I am not going to get into the arcane arguments, but simply note that the label ERAS shows that they do not understand authority. The order of the words indicates that they see authority as prior to submission, ie authority requires submission. The Father has authority, so the Son must submit.
If they really understood authority they would put it the label the other way round as ERSA. Relations of Submission and Authority would be quite different. Authority can be obtained in two ways.
- Authority can be taken, usually taken with threats of force.
- Authority can be given, by some agreeing to submit to the wisdom of another.
If the relationship between the Father and the Son begins with the authority of the Father, it cannot be something innate in the person of the Father. The Father would only have authority over the son, if he could force the Son to obey him. This would be domination of the Son by the Father, or Imposed Authority. The Son would be subordinate to the Father, so not truly divine.
The only way that the Father can have authority over the Son is if the Son freely submits to the Father, creating the authority of the Father. Free submission creates the authority of the person submitted to. This authority is temporary and limited. The person given authority only gets authority over the aspects of life that are submitted to them. If the person giving submitting withdraws their submission, the authority created disappears.
I do not know if there is a relationship of Authority and Submission between the Father and the son. But if there is, it must be a relationship of submission and authority, in which the Son gives authority to the Father by freely submitting to him. The submission of the Son would come first and create the authority of the Father.
The fact that the proponents of ERAS begin with authority suggests that they have a distorted view of authority, in which the one with authority can demand the submission of another. This is domination, not true authority