The debate about Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission in the Trinity has been interesting because, there has been very little discussion about the nature of authority.
Bruce Ware says,
The position of greater authority is always held by the Father while the position of submission to that authority is always held by the Son and the Spirit.
Because the Father is the eternal Father of the eternal Son..., he eternally possesses and expresses authority.Wyatt Graham puts it this way.
The Son differs from the Father by submitting, while the Father to the Son by exerting authority.Ware does not say what he means by “expressing authority”. Graham never says what he means by “exerting authority”.
I presume they live in a culture that believes that men are better at making decisions, so they can demand submission from their wives. I guess they would call this “exerting” their authority.
If there is something innate in the Father that means that the Son has to obey him, then that is not really authority. It would be domination of the Son, which would mean that he is not equal with the Father, but subordinate.
Ware and Graham do not say what they mean by “expressing” or “exerting”, but it suggests that the Father is doing something that makes the Son obey. That is concerning, because a person with authority can issue a command and know that it will be acted on. This can occur for two reasons.
- The person with authority has power or the ability to compel the person to obey. The soldier obeyed the centurion, because he knew that if he disobeyed, the whole weight of the Roman Empire would come down on him. This is Imposed Authority.
- The person receiving the command loves and trusts, the person issuing the command and has freely chosen to submit to them. I call this Free Authority. A person gains authority when someone freely submits to them, because they love them. The person submitting actually creates the authority of the person they submit to. That means that they can take the authority away, if they lose their trust, and stop submitting.
If the Son submits to the Father, it will be because he loves him. Therefore, at the point where the Father tells the Son what to do, he has no authority. Rather, the Son creates authority for the Father by freely submitting to his command. There is no need for the Father to “exert authority” or “express authority”, because the Son loves him. Instead, the Father receives authority from the Son, when he freely submits to his will.
The relationship should be rearly be called an Eternal Relations of Submission Creating Authority (ERSCA).