When I began digging down to the roots of the modern patriarchy movement (also referred to as patriocentricity to distinguish it as it’s own aberrant religious belief system as opposed to the legitimate use of the term patriarchy), I quickly found a path that lead back to participants with the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. In addition to the overuse of “Biblical” modifiers (not quite as bad as Vision Forum’s use of them) and a very prohibitive view of appropriate standards of conduct for women, I discovered something that shocked me: the Doctrine of the Eternal Subordination of Christ/the Son (ESS). Not all evangelicals who embrace patriarchy have professed this new and novel view, but patriocentric groups like Federal Vision profess a version of it. Rather than attributing Christ’s emptying of every aspect of His fully realized deity as a function of the kenosis described in Philippians chapter 2, this theory maintains that Christ never fully realized the authority of God the Father. Jesus becomes something of a “special purpose God” who ranks in hierarchy between His superior Father and above the Holy Spirit. Though all the Divine Persons possess the same nature and attributes, they do not share equal attributes in terms of authority of which role seems to play out as a function of that authority.
Finding the initial information about this theory confusing, I began to read more about the theory of ESS. Having practical experience in the trenches with witnessing to Jehovah’s Witnesses, I found the description offered by many at CBMW to be very similar to the version of Jesus promoted by JW’s. ESS differs in that it does not teach that Jesus was a created being that was not God, defining Jesus as an archangel, but it does claim that Jesus is of the same substance of the Father. In terms of rank, authority and power however, I believed that ESS reduced Christ to something much less than the fullness of the Godhead which is identical to the message of many cults. Many claim that by separating out authority, role and function that were not just “ad hoc” functions or economic functions of the Trinity but were permanent attributes related to ontology, that ESS essentially amounts to semi-Arianism because of the unique ontology attributed to Christ. Upon first listening to the evangelists of ESS, I could not help but be incredulous, amazed that Baptist seminaries were preaching what amounts to cultic Christology, though there are few if any complaints when this material is presented to the "people of the Book." (Who cares if Jesus is made of the same substance and declared “equal” if He is unable to answer prayer without permission from the Father and does not share the authority that the Father possesses?) It denies the concept of Trinitarian Monotheism that assumes that there must be two ways for the Persons of the Trinity to be divine.) Regardless of how one chooses to describe this theory, be it Arianism or a pitfall of social trinitarianism, I could not escape the fact that I did not feel like I could ever present an apologetic to a JW that would be found adequate. The Christ of ESS and the Jesus of the JW’s (or many other cults) do not differ substantially in terms of ontology (essence related to power and authority).
MM Outreach has finally released their video that discusses the Trinity but also confronts these doctrines with the Word of God to demonstrate the ignorance and avoidance of the doctrine of the Trinity throughout the whole Word. Lorri MacGreggor and Cheryl Schatz present an excellent review of the Scriptures concerning the Trinity. I’m all the more impressed that many who embrace this view lack a substantial understanding of how the Jews understood the Greek language and how certain concepts were understood by the Jews who were addressed in the New Testament. It seems ever more obvious to me after watching the videos that the ESS's presuppositions regarding the nature of God overrides understanding of aspects of both Greek rhetoric and references to concepts well understood in Judaism. This video series defines this well and presents a well-rounded defense using examples throughout the whole Bible (sadly reminiscent of how I witness to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons alike concerning the true identity of Jesus according to the Word of God). Though I enjoy looking at the academic aspects and philosophical writings concerning the Trinity which ESS likes to exploit for the purpose of confusing the average critic, this defense from the Word of God alone was a beautiful thing to watch.
Please review this collection of clips from the video series:
LINK HERE for ordering information. I am so excited that this has finally been made available, as this information will help not only to address this teaching of ESS in the evangelical church, but it will also help those in many cults.