d. glenn butner jr. - The Evangelical Theological Society

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d. glenn butner jr. - The Evangelical Theological Society

Transcript Of d. glenn butner jr. - The Evangelical Theological Society

JETS 58/1 (2015) 131–49
ETERNAL FUNCTIONAL SUBORDINATION AND THE PROBLEM OF THE DIVINE WILL
D. GLENN BUTNER JR.*
The doctrine of eternal functional subordination (hereafter EFS) has been growing in support in evangelical circles in recent years. EFS claims that the Father and the Son are eternally distinguished by an “authority-submission structure”1 such that the Son eternally submits to the Father and the Father eternally has authority over the Son. This structure is the pattern for all created male-female relationships. Advocates of EFS are confident in their theology. We are told that “if we do not have economic subordination, then there is no inherent difference in the way the three persons relate to one another,” such that, if we reject EFS, “we do not have the three distinct persons existing as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for all eternity.”2 Those who reject EFS are said to be “condemning all orthodox Christology from the Nicene Creed onward” because the Nicene Creed affirms that the Son is eternally begotten.3 This paper will suggest against such claims that EFS is completely contrary to classical Christology, but it will do so using a different argument than the standard one presented by opponents of EFS.
The most prevalent philosophical and theological argument 4 against EFS charges the doctrine with undermining the fact that the Father is homoousios with the Son, and therefore claims that the advocates of EFS are Arians. Millard Erickson presents the standard argument in its briefest form:
The problem is this: If authority over the Son is an essential, not an accidental, attribute of the Father, and subordination to the Father is an essential, not an accidental, attribute of the Son, then something significant follows. Authority is part of the Father’s essence, and subordination is part of the Son’s essence, and each attribute is not part of the essence of the other person. That means that the essence of the Son is different from the essence of the Father…. That is equivalent to saying that they are not homoousios with one another.5
* D. Glenn Butner Jr. is a doctoral candidate in systematic theology at Marquette University, P.O. Box 1881, Milwaukee, WI 53201.
1 Bruce A. Ware, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationships, Roles, and Relevance (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2005) 21.
2 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994) 251.
3 Ibid. 251 n. 35 4 I recognize that certain exegetical disputes as well as appeals to the tradition seem more prevalent than these arguments, but the emphasis of this paper will be on the implications of EFS for systematic theology. 5 Millard Erickson, Who’s Tampering with the Trinity? An Assessment of the Subordination Debate (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2009) 172.

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The fundamental problem, according to many of its opponents,6 is that EFS attributes one property to the Father and a different and distinct property to the Son. By virtue of these divergent properties, the Father and Son purportedly have a different essence. Thus, ontological subordination and Arianism are purportedly entailed by EFS, even if its supporters explicitly reject both of these ancient heresies.7
Though the conclusion that EFS entails a rejection of homoousianism ultimately holds true, I do not find the standard argument against EFS compelling. This is because if one cannot apply a unique word to each hypostasis—at the very least the terms “Father,” “Son,” and “Spirit”—then there is no way to distinguish the persons. The problem with EFS is not Arianism, but the fact that it entails tritheism. Advocates of EFS are correctly using classical trinitarian metaphysics but incorrectly replacing terms like “unbegotten” and “begotten” with the ideas “authority” and “submission.” If a critic of EFS does not want to preclude the notion of personal properties, he or she must turn to a different argument to reject EFS. Furthermore, Arius sought to make Christ the preeminent creature of the Father by affirming what might be called monotheistic homoiousianism, a stance insisting that only the ousia of the Father was divine, and that the Son was created with a different, non-divine ousia at some point in time. EFS is more in the line of what might be called polytheistic homoiousianism, whereby the Father and the Son have distinct natures, but each is still eternally divine. This problem is only clear when the metaphysics of dyothelite Christology are applied to the trinitarianism promoted by EFS. Many advocates of EFS affirm dyothelitism, the belief that Jesus Christ has both a human will and a divine will. Because Chalcedonian Christology insists that Jesus has two natures but only one hypostasis, dyothelitism as a development of Chalcedonian Christology necessitates the recognition that a will must be a property of nature in order for there to be two wills in Christ. To posit such terms as “obedience” and “submission” that imply a distinction of wills between the Father and the Son while affirming dyothelite Christology entails a distinction of natures between the Father and Son (and Spirit) resulting in tritheism. This “dyothelite problem” leads me to conclude that EFS must be strongly opposed by evangelical systematicians in order to avoid the risk of tritheism.
This paper will begin with a historical survey of the monothelite controversy, emphasizing Maximus the Confessor’s dyothelite Christology as a soteriologically grounded response to the question of whether Christ had two wills. A brief survey
6 Similar accusations of Arianism are found in a number of sources: Thomas H. McCall, Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism? Philosophical and Systematic Theologians on the Metaphysics of Trinitarain Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010) 178–79; Keith Yandell, “How Many Times Does Three Go Into One?” in Philosophical and Theological Essays on the Trinity (ed. Thomas McCall and Michael C. Rea; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009) 160; Peter Carnley, Reflections in Glass: Trends and Tensions in the Contemporary Anglican Church (Sydney: HarperCollins, 2004) 234; Gilbert Bilezikian, “Hermeneutical Bungee-Jumping: Subordination in the Godhead,” JETS 40 (1997) 64; Kevin Giles, “The Trinity without Tiers,” in The New Evangelical Subordinationism? Perspectives on the Equality of God the Father and God the Son (ed. Dennis W. Jowers and H. Wayne House; Eugene, OR: Pickwick, 2012) 267.
7 Ibid. 257.

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of several key figures who advocate EFS will demonstrate that they too adhere to dyothelitism in such a way that their Christological position is contradictory to their trinitarian theology. After this historical account, a word study of the term “submission” will demonstrate that the term clearly implies an activity of the will yielding to another will and should therefore be rejected as an eternal property of a divine hypostasis. The terms “unbegotten” and “begotten,” grounded in the divine procession of eternal generation, will be presented as the predominant historical means of understanding the divine taxis of the Trinity by those who affirm one will in God. Finally, the paper will conclude by considering three objections: that the Scriptures teach that the Son eternally submits to the Father, that the one divine will can be possessed in a unique way by each hypostasis to validate the idea of EFS, and that perichoresis offers a viable alternative to the dyothelite position.

I. EFS AND THE DYOTHELITE PROBLEM
1. The theology of Maximus the Confessor. After the Council of Chalcedon, patristic and early Byzantine Christology took a decisive shift. While Nicene-era Christological debates primarily focused on explaining the divinity of Christ, postChalcedonian debates often focused on explaining how the Son could be, in the words of the Chalcedonian definition, “perfect man,” “truly man,” and “of a rational soul and body.” In short, the church was extensively wrestling with the fact that “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). This was in part a purely Christological matter: what must the Church believe in order to claim that Jesus was tempted (Matt 4:1–11 and parr., Heb 4:15), “grew in wisdom” (Luke 2:52), and “suffered in the flesh” (1 Pet 4:1)? However, it was even more a soteriological matter: who must Christ be in order to save humanity? The soteriological implications of Christ’s humanity were aptly summarized in a formula from Gregory Nazianzus. “That which [Christ] has not assumed he has not healed.”8 Christ had to be fully human in order to fully redeem humanity.
The monothelite controversy unfolded against this Christological background when the Byzantine patriarch Sergius sought a formula that might reconcile the Chalcedonian imperial position and anti-imperial monophysites. His proposed monothelite/monoenergist formula “two natures, one activity (energeia)”9 was challenged by dyothelites, who consistently held that both an activity and a will were primarily properties of a nature and not of a hypostasis.10 Therefore, Christ must have two wills because he has two natures. The most able of the theological opponents of monothelitism was Maximus the Confessor, a theologian who precisely developed the relationship between nature, hypostasis, and will. In fact, Maximus is

8 Gregory of Nazianzus, “To Cledonius Against Apollinaris (Epistle 101),” in Christology of the Later Fathers (ed. Edward R. Hardy; Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1954) 218.
9 See the helpful discussions of the political background to the monothelite controversy in J. M. Hussey, The Orthodox Church in the Byzantine Empire (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986) 13–16; Cyril Hovorun, Will, Action and Freedom: Christological Controversies in the Seventh Century (Leiden: Brill, 2008) 55–
67. 10 Hovorun, Will, Action and Freedom 154–55.

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likely the first person to systematically develop a notion of the human will as a “full-fledged faculty.”11 Maximus distinguished between a will and a mode of willing, attributing the former to a nature and the latter to a hypostasis.12 Similarly, Maximus posited a natural will proper to nature and a gnomic will involved in deliberation that is proper to the hypostasis.13 The gnomic will is a deliberative mode of willing. The basis for attributing a natural will to nature is almost entirely soteriological. Maximus recognized that sin entered the world through human will at the fall, and that, in accordance with Gregory of Nazianzus’s formula, the Son must have assumed a human will in order to redeem it.14 Therefore, if Jesus did not assume a human will, he came for naught, leaving the root of our sin uncleansed. The human will in Christ is important so he can fulfill the law and the prophets as the perfect human being (Matt 5:17), and as a new Adam undoing the effects of the disobedience of the first Adam (Rom 5:12–18). When Jesus was tempted, he “put off the powers and principalities, thereby healing the whole of human nature,” freeing the human will from captivity to the passions by rightly using it to the glory of God.15 In order to accomplish the work of salvation, Jesus must have had two wills. Only the heretical Nestorians claimed that there were two hypostases in Christ, and therefore, logically, a will must be a property of nature.
Building on this soteriological foundation, Maximus’s teachings about the will of Jesus are clear. Jesus has both a human will and a “divine will, which is both his and the Father’s,”16 because it is “by nature the same as the Father’s.”17 Maximus is clear that there cannot be a composite will in God without God having a composite nature;18 because the Father and the Son share the same simple ousia, they share a single natural will. Since wills are a property of nature, Jesus must have assumed a human will. If he did not assume a human will, he did not truly assume a human nature.19 However, the Son did not assume a gnomic will in the incarnation because this is a property of a human hypostasis, which Christ did not assume. If Christ were only a human, he would deliberate “in a manner like unto us, having ignorance, doubt and opposition, since one only deliberates about something which is
11 Demetrios Bathrellos, The Byzantine Christ: Person, Nature, and Will in the Christology of Saint Maximus the Confessor (Oxford Early Christian Studies; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) 189. Cyril Hovorun suggests that, “Prior to the seventh century, the concepts of energeia and will were scarcely distinguished (especially will) and remained underdeveloped” (Will, Action and Freedom 163).
12 Bathrellos, The Byzantine Christ 120. 13 John Meyendorff, Byzantine Theology: Historical Trends & Doctrinal Themes (New York: Fordham University Press, 1974) 38. 14 Hovorun, Will, Action and Freedom 129–30. 15 Maximus the Confessor, Ad Thalassium 21, in On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ (trans. Paul M. Blowers and Robert Louis Wilken; Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003) 113. 16 Maximus the Confessor, Opusculum 6, in On the Cosmic Mystery of Jesus Christ (trans. Paul M. Blowers and Robert Louis Wilken; Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2003) 174. 17 Maximus the Confessor, Opuscule 3, in Maximus the Confessor (trans. and ed. Andrew Louth; London: Routledge, 1996) 194, italics mine. 18 Maximus the Confessor, The Disputation with Pyrrhus of our Father among the Saints (trans. Joseph P. Farrell; South Canaan, PA: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 1990) §27. 19 Maximus, Opuscule 3 195.

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doubtful,” but because Christ was fully God, he did not deliberate, because he naturally has “an inclination to the good, and [a natural] drawing away from evil.”20 Maximus’s theology of the two wills of Christ was included in the sixth ecumenical council (Constantinople III 680/1) whose statement of faith affirms a “difference of nature being recognized in the same one hypostasis by the fact that each nature wills and works what is proper to it, in communion with the other.”21 In the West, the first Lateran Council (649) also affirmed the theology of Maximus.22
Maximus explicitly connects his soteriologically grounded Christological conclusions to Trinitarian theology on several occasions. When his opponents suggest that a will must be jointly a property of nature and hypostasis and not solely of nature, Maximus points out that this would either mean that “the blessed monad will also be a triad of natures,” or, perhaps, “if there is one will of the triad beyond being, there will be a Godhead with three names and a single person.”23 Because in God there are three hypostases and one nature, and because as we have shown above a will must unavoidably be a property of the nature in order for Christ to accomplish his salvific work without necessitating two hypostases, then positing a discrete, unshared will for each hypostasis would necessitate either three natures (tritheism) or one person (sabellianism). Therefore, a will must be solely a property of nature in order to avoid destroying the metaphysics of the Trinity. Insofar as such terms as “obedience” and “submission” attribute distinct wills to Father and Son, as will be shown below, Maximus’s question to his interlocutor Pyrrhus could just as easily be put to modern advocates of EFS: “Wilt thou say that … because there are three hypostases there are also three wills, and because of this, three natures as well, since the canons and definitions of the Fathers say that the distinction of wills implieth a distinction of natures? So said Arius!”24
2. Submission as an operation of a will. Does Maximus’s question in fact apply to advocates of EFS? A word study of “submission” shows that it clearly pertains to an operation of one will toward another such that advocates of EFS run afoul of the dyothelite problem. The Greek word most commonly used for “to submit” is hypotassō. The denotation of the word is fairly straightforward. BDAG suggests that the word may mean “obey” in the passive, but “to bring someone to subjection” in the active.25 The passive rendering as “obey” is shared by patristic and classical lexicons.26 Therefore, the appropriateness of using the passive meaning for a hy-

20 This lack of a gnomic will in Christ will be important at a later stage of this paper. Maximus, Disputation §87.
21 The same statement also repeatedly speaks of “natural wills” (“The Statement of Faith of the Third Council of Constantinople (Sixth Ecumenical),” in Christology of the Later Fathers 384).
22 The canons of the First Lateran Council condemn those who do not affirm that Christ has two
wills, and that “through each of His natures the same one of His own free will is the operator” (can. 10),
and that these wills are “preserved substantially,” indicating that they pertain to the substance/nature (can. 13), (“Canons of the Lateran Council 649,” in The Sources of Catholic Dogma [ed. Henry Denzinger;
trans. Roy J. Deferrari; Fitzwilliam, NH: Loreto, 1954]). 23 Maximus, Opuscule 3 195–96. 24 Maximus, Disputation §15.
25 BDAG 1042. 26 PGL 1462; LSJ 1897.

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postasis is connected with the appropriateness of using the word “obedience” of a

divine hypostasis. However, the notion of “obedience” seems inappropriate insofar

as it implies one person yielding their will to follow the directives of another person’s will. Thus, from denotation alone there is warrant for rejecting hypotassō as

appropriately used of a divine hypostasis. In its connotation, hypotassō clearly indicates an opposition of wills. Delling

suggests that “the general rule” for understanding submission “demands readiness
27
to renounce one’s own will for the sake of others.” Bergmeier suggests that the

term is often paraenetic, especially in the household codes in which the term is
28
applied to the relationship between women and men. Such paraenesis implies that

submission requires a change of will. Spicq repeatedly emphasizes that submission
29
is a matter of “accepting” what God has ordained, where Merriam-Webster defines “to accept” as “to receive willingly.”30 Clearly, the connotation of hypotassō sug-

gests a distinct will from the one who submits to the one with authority. Interest-

ingly,

the

active

of

hypotassō

may

mean

“to

place

31
under,”

a

term

that

would

not

require distinct wills for Father and Son, insofar as one could be “placed under”

another in a non-volitional way. However, the English word “submit” does not

retain this meaning, and rather signifies, to again cite Merriam-Webster, “to yield

oneself

to

the

authority

or

will

of

32
another.”

The

Oxford

Dictionary

defines

“submit”

as “to accept or yield to a superior force or to the authority or will of another per-

33
son.”

Therefore,

any

rendering

of

hypotassō

that

intends

to

merely

point

to

an

or-

dering is best translated by something other than the English word “submit.” Otherwise, both the Greek hypotassō and the English “submit” too strongly suggest a

distinct will belonging to the one who submits to allow for their use in the Trinity

given the dyothelite belief that a will is a property of nature.

The word “submission” does not just suggest that the Father and Son have

distinct wills according to the word’s definition, but also according to its specific

usage among advocates of EFS. The longest discussion of the meaning of “submis-

sion” that I have found written by Wayne Grudem describes submission as a “dis-

position to yield.” In husband-wife relationships this is not “an absolute surrender

of her will” because the wife may have to take a stand against the husband’s “sinful will.” Though not “absolute,” Grudem certainly considers submission a qualified

27 TDNT 8.45. 28 R. Bergmeier, “ὑποτάσσω,” EDNT 408. 29 Ceslas Spicq, Theological Lexicon of the NT (trans. and ed. James D. Ernest; Peabody, MA: Hen-

drickson, 1994) 3.425–26.

30

Merriam-Webster’s

Collegiate

Dictionary

th
(11

ed.;

Springfield,

MA:

Merriam-Webster,

2003)

7,

italics

mine. 31 LSJ 1897; EDNT 408; TDNT 8.39.

32
This is the preferred definition of the verb when used in an intransitive sense, as it is used by advocates of EFS (Merriam-Webster 1244).
33 Oxford Dictionary of English (2d ed.; ed. Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson; Oxford: Oxford

University Press, 2003) 1760.

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yielding of one will to another.34 Similarly, EFS advocate Tom Smail describes the eternal subordination of the Son as a “willing responsiveness” which is the “proprium, the defining hypostatic characteristic” of the Son.35 Robert Letham’s definition is equally clear: submission is a “free action chosen willingly by the one who submits.”36 Time and again, advocates of EFS use the word “submission” according to its proper lexical meaning to indicate a yielding disposition of the Son’s will toward the Father’s will, clearly implying two wills.
3. EFS and the problem of the divine will. This is the “dyothelite problem” on which either the theory of EFS must fall, or the advocates of EFS must abandon dyothelite Christology in favor of a monothelite alternative. If a will is a property of nature, then the Trinity only has one will and thus one person of the Trinity cannot qua divinity eternally “obey” or “submit” to another. Most of the advocates of EFS consistently reject monothelite Christology in favor of dyothelitism. Wayne Grudem claims that “it seems necessary to say that Jesus had two distinct wills … and that the wills belong to the two distinct natures of Christ.”37 Grudem understands the soteriological implications of monothelitism. Jesus must be fully human “for representative obedience” so he could “obey in our place.”38 It seems that Grudem is unaware that making will a property of a hypostasis jeopardizes this representative obedience. Likewise, Bruce Ware agrees that Jesus must take on “a full human nature.”39 Ware accurately summarizes William G. T. Shedd’s understanding of the temptations of Christ, which he explicitly connects with Constantinople III and the affirmation of dyothelitism.40 However, Ware goes even further than Shedd in teaching that not only did Christ experience temptation because he had a human will, he also overcame temptation by virtue of a “perfect obedience”41 accomplished through “all the resources given to him in his humanity.”42 This is basically a restatement of the position of Maximus the Confessor. How Ware can connect a Christology built upon the dyothelite position while explicitly advocating an “eternal subordination of the Son to do the will of the Father”43 and repeatedly affirming P. T. Forsyth’s claim that the Son has a “yielding will” and the Father an

34 Wayne Grudem and John Piper, “An Overview of Central Concerns,” in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism (ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem; Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1991) 61.
35 Tom Smail, Like Father, Like Son: The Trinity Imaged in Our Humanity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005) 169, emphasis mine.
36 Robert Letham, “Reply to Kevin Giles,” EvQ 80 (2008) 344, italics mine. 37 Grudem, Systematic Theology 560. 38 Ibid. 540. 39 Bruce A. Ware, The Man Christ Jesus: Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012) 20. 40 Ibid. 75–76. 41 Ibid. 88. 42 Ibid. 84. 43 Ware, Father, Son, and Spirit 81.

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“exigent will”44 remains unclear. Is a will a property of nature, whereby Christ could overcome temptation by virtue of his human will, or is will a property of a hypostasis, whereby the Son could eternally submit to the will of the Father? Robert Letham is most explicit: “to speak of three wills is heterodox, implying tritheism.”45 Yet in the same article that Letham makes this claim, he advocates the eternal submission of the Son, defining submission as a “free action chosen willingly by the one who submits.”46 How the Son can willingly chose qua hypostasis47 to submit to the Father without suggesting that the Son has a distinct will from the Father’s will is not explained. Further examples could be provided, but the point has been made: dyothelite Christology is not easily affirmed in conjunction with a doctrine of the Trinity understood in terms of EFS. I must conclude that the Christology of many advocates of EFS is logically inconsistent with their trinitarian theology.
II. THE HISTORICAL DYOTHELITE MEANS OF DISTINGUISHING THE PERSONS
Advocates of EFS such as Bruce Ware would have us believe that a rejection of EFS leaves one unable to answer “why the eternal names for ‘Father’ and ‘Son’ would be exactly these names.”48 If the word “submission” cannot appropriately be used to describe the relationship between the Father and the Son, does that therefore mean that there is no basis for distinguishing between the Father and the Son? The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed affirms the basic terminology classically used to distinguish the persons. The Son is “begotten of the Father before all ages” and the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father [and the Son?].” However, contra claims by Wayne Grudem,49 this was not classically understood to support EFS. Rather than indicating submission and authority, it explicitly and exclusively indicated a form of causation distinguished from creation. The Son was “begotten, not made” and “true light of true light.” Neither comparison signifies an authoritysubmission structure, so the terminology does not even hint of two distinct wills in the Father and the Son. Therefore, the classical terminology can be retained without being confronted with the dyothelite problem.
Historically, we see a pattern of affirming one will of God shared by three persons who are distinguished by divine processions understood in terms of origin and not submission. Prior to the monothelite controversy the systematic justification for affirming one will in God was not as clearly articulated, yet Gregory of
44 Ibid.; cf. Bruce Ware, “Equal in Essence, Distinct in Roles,” in The New Evangelical Subordinationism? 36; idem, “How Shall We Think about the Trinity?,” in God Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents God (ed. Douglas S. Huffman and Eric L. Johnson; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002) 274.
45 Letham, “Reply” 340. 46 Ibid. 344, italics mine. 47 If the free choice is made “by” the one submitting, it would seem to be an operation of the hypostasis. 48 Ware, “Equal in Essence” 16. 49 Grudem, Systematic Theology 251.

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Nazianzus50 and Augustine,51 among others, explicitly taught that there is only one will in God because God has one nature. Similarly, Gregory of Nyssa developed a formula to understand all trinitarian action whereby “there is one motion and disposition of the good will which proceeds from the Father, through the Son, to the Spirit.”52 Every divine action has “its origin in the Father, proceed[s] through the Son, and reach[es] its completion by the Holy Spirit.”53 In human beings we can distinguish between the actions of individual human beings who undertake the same task, but this is not the case for the three divine Persons, whose actions (including willing) are indistinguishable.54 For Gregory, this is the basis of affirming the Trinity without affirming three gods. The order Gregory proposes corresponds to the causal structure within the Trinity where Father begets the Son, and Father spirates the Spirit through the Son. Gregory is clear: “We do not deny a distinction with respect to causality. That is the only way by which we distinguish one Person from another.”55 Thus, we see in the patristic period a pattern that will become more fully developed after the monothelite controversy. God has one will and is only distinguished in terms of causal origin, not by submission. While the advocates of EFS have made numerous appeals to historical sources, the majority of their citations belongs to this pre-monothelite period or to the post-Enlightenment era after the significance of dyothelitism appears to have been minimalized. Many of the examples cited falsely equate procession with submission, and those patristic examples that do speak of obedience are taken from an era before the faculty of the will was well defined by Maximus, and before the monothelite controversy had made it clear that a will must be a property of nature.56
After the monothelite controversy the reason for attributing one will to the divine nature is much clearer. I will only briefly mention two major figures as representative of the Eastern tradition. John of Damascus, the great Orthodox synthesizer of the tradition, clearly wrote that in God there is “one substance, one godhead, one virtue, one will, one operation, one principality, one power, one domina-

50 “[John 6:38] does not mean that the Son has a special will of his own, besides that of the Father,
but that he has not; so that the meaning would be, ‘Not to do my own will, for there is none of mine
apart from, but that which is common to, me and thee; for as we have one Godhead, so we have one will’” (Gregory of Nazianzus, “The Theological Orations,” in Christology of the Later Fathers IV.12).
51 “The will of the Father and the Son is one, and their operation is inseparable” (Augustine, The Trinity [trans. Stephen McKenna; Washington, DC: The Catholic University of America Press, 1962]
II.5). 52 Gregory of Nyssa, “An Answer to Ablabius: That We Should Not Think of Saying That There
are Three Gods,” in Christology of the Later Fathers 262. 53 Ibid. 54 Ibid. 261. 55 Ibid. 266. 56 For example, the list of historical sources defending the notion of EFS offered by Kovach and
Schemm points almost entirely to examples that affirm divine processions, without recognizing that the
processions were generally, as is the case here with Gregory of Nyssa, considered only in terms of cause
and not along an authority/submission hierarchy as is supposed by advocates of EFS (Stephen D. Ko-
vach and Peter R. Schemm Jr., “A Defense of the Doctrine of the Eternal Subordination of the Son,” JETS 42 [1999] 461–76).

140 JOURNAL OF THE EVANGELICAL THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY
tion, one kingdom.”57 John explicitly affirms taxis within the Trinity, though his belief that God has one will prohibits him from attributing this taxis to the submission or obedience of the Son. Rather, he teaches that, “if we say that the Father is the principle of the Son and greater than the Son, we are not giving to understand … any other thing save causality. That is to say, we mean that the Son is begotten of the Father, and not the Father of the Son, and that the Father is naturally the cause of the Son.”58 Any ranking of the triune persons is grounded in the processions understood in terms of causation alone, and not in submission. God has only one will. Similarly, Gregory Palamas later clearly taught that God has one will which operates according to the formula of Gregory of Nyssa. He writes, “the activity of the divine will is one, originating from the Father, the primal Cause,59 issuing through the Son, and made manifest in the Holy Spirit.”60 In the East, origination understood along causal lines and not as submission was the basis of distinction between the persons, who shared a single undivided will.
In the West, the main trinitarian texts circulating in the early Middle Ages were those of Augustine, Hilary of Poitiers, and Boethius, each of which antedated the monothelite controversy. However, in the late eleventh century and continuing into the twelfth century a renaissance of trinitarian theology swept the European theological landscape. Two important figures exemplify a trend that continued throughout the Middle Ages: Anselm of Canterbury and Richard of St. Victor. Anselm is quite clear that the divine will is an attribute of nature. “In no way does any willing or power belong to the Father and the Son by reason of their proper characteristics themselves, that is fatherhood and sonship,” writes Anselm, “but by reason of the substance of the divine nature, which is common to them.”61 He affirms that the Son is begotten from the Father, and says “in ordinary language, ‘begotten from’ means ‘has its existence from.’”62 Anselm, who first systematically developed the satisfaction theory of atonement, rightly understood the importance of dyothelite Christology and its insistence that a will is a property of nature. In Why God became Man, after affirming that Christ was one person in two natures Anselm teaches that, “Christ himself of his own volition underwent death in order to save mankind.”63 “That particular man, Christ, owed this obedience to God his Father, and his humanity owed it to his divinity.”64 Jesus qua his humanity owed obedience to Father and Son. “Christ, therefore, did not come to do his will, but the will of his
57 John of Damascus, An Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, in Saint John of Damascus: Writings (trans. Frederic H. Chase Jr.; New York: Fathers of the Church, 1958) I.8, italics mine.
58 Ibid. 59 Note Palamas’s emphasis on processions as a matter of causation and not submission. 60 Gregory Palamas, “Topics of Natural and Theological Science and on the Moral and Ascetic Life: One Hundred and Fifty Texts,” in The Philokalia: The Complete Text (compiled by St. Nikodimos of the Holy Mountain and St. Makarios of Corinth; trans. and ed. G. E. H. Palmer, Philip Sherrard, and Kallistos Ware; London: Faber & Faber, 1995) 4.398 (§112). 61 Anselm of Canterbury, “On the Incarnation of the Word,” in Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998) 241 (§2). 62 Anselm of Canterbury, “Monologion,” in Anselm of Canterbury: The Major Works 63 (§56). 63 I.8. 64 Ibid. I.9 (emphasis mine).
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