Suzanne McCarthy and the Son’s Submission to the Father
In a Denny Burk blog post, he discusses the Trinity Debate that recently took place at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The topic was the eternal submission of the Son to the Father’s authority within the Godhead. Burk summarizes the debate:
The debate concerned the nature of intra-Trinitarian relationships with a particular focus on the nature of the Son’s submission to the Father. On the one hand, Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem argued that the Son has always submitted to the Father (eternity past, present, and future). On the other hand, Tom McCall and Keith Yandell argued that Christ only submitted to the Father during his incarnation.
Of course, Burk takes the side of Grudem and Ware, in supporting the eternal submission of the Son to the Father’s authority. While Burk’s post is solid, what is more compelling is the discussion it stirs within his comment section. Suzanne McCarthy – a recognized egalitarian – chimed in several times for comment. One question that she kept raising was this:
I would like to ask how you reconcile your understanding of this verse with the doctrinal statement of ETS,
God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory.
Since, in Greek “power” and “authority” are one and the same word, how can Christ be equal to God in power, but not in authority. If the Son is eternally in submission, he is not equal in power and glory.
This is sort of a perplexing argument since the Greek word for power is usually “dunamis” and authority is “exousia”. The common way of expressing the power of Christ or God the Father is using the word “dunamis” , not “exousia”. McCarthy also seems to ignore the semantic range of the word “exousia”. It can be translated as “power”, but it can also be translated as “liberty” or “right”. There is a wide range of words with different meanings and implications connected with “exousia”. So, to express that there is a difference in authority but not in power between the Son and the Father is not unthinkable. McCarthy argues the opposite. She wonders how the Son can be “equal in power and glory, but unequal in authority, and how is this derived from the Scripture?” A simple example would be Ephesians 1:19-22:
What is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet.
It is the Father’s authority that gave the Son his authority. This can also be seen in Philippians 2:9, “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.” My only explanation for some refusing to see this in Scripture is the fear that since there is authority and submission within the Godhead, this implies and creates a pattern of authority and submission for the Christian family and local church – which of course it does.