The Right View of God
An email from John: "The other day I was watching a National Geographic documentary where a Catholic woman in Texas lost her faith and became a Muslim after she struggled with a question she heard someone ask a radio talk show host who apparently did not answer the question satisfactorily. The question is, “If Jesus is God, why does he pray to God?” If there is only one God that is formed by the trinity it would seem that since Jesus prays to God He is therefore praying to Himself and therefore it is an argument against Christ’s deity because why would God pray to Himself?"
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11 that the head of the man is the woman in marriage, and that the head of Christ is God. And what he is illustrating there is that Jesus Christ, though equal to the Father, is submissive to the Father.
It may sound strange to speak of subordination within the Trinity. After all, Jesus and the Father are “one” (John 10:30). Subordination makes us think of a lower rank or a subservient position. To understand how there can be subordination in the Trinity, it is important to understand that there are different types of subordination. The biblical or orthodox view of the triune nature of God acknowledges an economic subordination in the Trinity but denies the heretical view of an ontological subordination.
What does this mean? Simply that all three Persons of the Godhead are equal in nature. God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit all have the same divine nature and divine attributes. Contrary to the teaching of many cults, there is no ontological subordination (no difference in the nature of the three Persons of the Godhead). This means that Jesus is not a lesser god than God the Father, etc.
What the Bible does teach is an economic (or relational) subordination within the Trinity. The three Persons of the triune Godhead voluntarily submit to each other respecting the roles they perform in creation and salvation. So, the Father sent the Son into the world (1 John 4:10). These roles are never reversed in Scripture: the Son never sends the Father. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is sent by Jesus and “proceeds from the Father” to testify of Christ (John 14:26; 15:26). And Jesus perfectly submitted His will to the Father’s (Luke 22:42;Hebrews 10:7).
Economic or relational subordination is simply a term to describe the relationship that exists among God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Essentially, economic subordination within the Trinity refers to what God does while ontological subordination refers to who God is.
Biblically, all three Persons of the Trinity have the same essence and nature, but each One has different roles or activities when it comes to how God relates to the world. For example, our salvation is based on the Father’s power and love (John 3:16; 10:29), the Son’s death and resurrection (1 John 2:2; Ephesians 2:6), and the Spirit’s regeneration and seal (Ephesians 4:30; Titus 3:5). The different tasks that we see the Father, Son, and Spirit perform are the result of the eternal relationship that exists among the Persons of the Trinity.
Correctly understanding subordination in the Trinity helps us avoid several false teachings about the nature of God. Having a right view of God is important so that we do not manufacture a god in our own image.