There was a time when arguments about the ordination of women and the role of wives were solely exegetical. Increasingly they are taking a theological turn, to be precise, a Trinitarian touch is transforming the foundation of arguments that men and women are equal but different, or, equal but one is subordinate to the other. Consider this title of an article by a doyen of the Eternal Subordinationists, Bruce Ware, published in the movement's flagship journal, Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood : "Equal in Essence, Distinct in Roles: Eternal Functional Authority and Submission among the Essentially Equal Divine Persons of the Godhead".
The title gives the gist of what is going on: a re-examination of orthodox Trinitarian theology, which is founded on a rejection of Arianism, meaning the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father because the Son is created not fully deified, now reveals that:-
Father Son and Holy Spirit are 'Equal in Essence, Distinct in Roles'
but between Father Son and Holy Spirit as the Three Persons of the One Essence
there is 'Eternal Functional Authority' exercised by the Father
and 'Eternal Submission' exercised by the Son and the Holy Spirit
but not to the detriment of 'the Essentially Equal Divine Persons of the Godhead'.
Since much of this kind of argumentation exists within movements for the subordination of women within the church and within marriage, or in debates with those concerned by such movements, it is all but impossible to distinguish talk of 'Eternal Subordinationism' from talk of 'Female Subordinationism'
Nevertheless I am going to have a go making the distinction here, and in a post or three in the future, because the pure Trinitarian question of eternal subordinationism interests me, whether or not it is linked to 'biblical manhood and womanhood'. Here are some questions:
(1) Given that there is some kind of 'order' in the Trinity (e.g. we feel we should always speak of Father Son and Holy Spirit rather than of another ordering of the three; the Father sends the Son, and not vice versa; and the Spirit proceeds from the Father (all Christians agree) and the Son (Eastern Orthodox Christians deny this), what is this order? Does it imply subordination? If it does, what kind of subordination? Eternal or temporal? Functional or ontological?
(2) What does Scripture say which requires us to understand the relationship of the Son to the Father as characterized by eternal subordination?
(3) Should we not be sceptical about any claim to a 'new' understanding of creedal matters of orthodox faith? If so, is eternal subordination something which has been understood and taught by the great theologians since Athanasius? If it has been taught, has this been clear or obscure within their body of teaching?
(4) Is evangelicalism on the point of division over eternal subordinationism (ES)? Are those promoting it adopting it into their understanding of evangelicalism so that it will become a matter of evaluation of identity? (That is, if one denies ES will one be considered either a non-evangelical or a dubious evangelical?)
(5) Given that Eternal Subordinationists today vigorously deny the charge of Arianism (and accepting that denial), is there a danger that tomorrow an ES evangelicalism will evolve into Arianism?