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How to Understand the Trinity

The Son is inferior to the Father

Postby Kata Plasma » Wed Sep 13, 2017 3:18 pm

The God-worshiper relationship is always a relationship in which a superior is served by the inferior. The language of the father-son relationship implied the same in the ancient world.

Even after his glorification, the New Testament claims that Jesus worshiped the Father as his God. Further, Paul says the Father is the Lord Jesus' God. So even as Lord, Jesus has a God to whom he is subordinate. Jesus submits to God both during his life and after his exaltation - in this very moment, in fact.

There is absolutely no hint in the NT that this submission is mutual. The Father does not have a God. The Father does not worship anyone. The glorified Lord Jesus Christ is still the Father's servant.
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Re: The Son is inferior to the Father

Postby jimwalton » Wed Sep 13, 2017 3:56 pm

I'm glad to talk about this, but you may need to clarify a few things. I'll throw in a few, and ask a few.

> The God-worshiper relationship is always a relationship in which a superior is served by the inferior.

Agreed.

> The language of the father-son relationship implied the same in the ancient world.

I'm not as ready to agree with this. I'm not sure it was a SERVANT relationship, and I'm not sure it was viewed as superior/inferior.

From my research, "father" was primarily a family relationship, not a master-servant one. The emphasis is Greece/Rome was on authority, thought again not necessarily superiority. Theologically (biblically) the concept of Father was often related to Creator (Isa. 64.8; Mal. 2.10; Eph. 3.14-15), but still not necessarily denoting superiority, since Christ was co-creator (Jn. 1.3; Heb. 1.2). In the Bible, further, Father is a mark of compassion (Ps. 103.13) and of defense (Ps. 68.5).

In the Greco-Roman world, there was the Roman *patria protestas*, the father's authority, that was a life-long authority. Even when a Roman son was grown, even if he might be a magistrate of the city, even if the state had honored him, he still remained under his father's authority. But it's not at all a status of inferiority, but only of recognition of the father's place in the relationship.

> Even after his glorification, the New Testament claims that Jesus worshiped the Father as his God.

Now this is one you're going to have to explain. Where in the NT did Jesus worship God?

> Paul says the Father is the Lord Jesus' God.

You're right. It's in Romans 15.6; 2 Cor. 1.3; Eph. 1.3. Jesus used "My God" in John 20.17 and on the cross (Mk. 15.34 and parallels). Peter once used Jesus' own words (1 Peter. 1.3). As far as I know, these are the only places where Jesus identifies God as "My God." So what do these mean?

John 20.17: Jesus asserts his relationship with the father is unique, without parallel to any human relationship to God. He often makes the distinction. You'll notice through the Gospels that Jesus never talks about God as "our God" or "our Father" (except in the Lord's prayer when teaching humans how to address God), but only as "my Father" or "your..." As a man Jesus was under the Father's authority (Jn. 5.19-20; 7.16, et al.) There is no notion of inferiority here, but only as a man under the authority of another. An athlete may be superior to his coach, but he is still under his authority.

2 Cor. 1.3; Eph. 1.3; Rom. 15.6; 1 Pet. 1.3. His Fatherhood is linked with blessing and compassion, a cultural and biblical way to perceive "father" (no notion of superiority). God is revealed in relationship to His Son, not only as Father but also as His God, because the incarnation doesn't exhaust God's manifestation of himself.

On examination of the texts, your assertion of father connoting superiority doesn't hold. In John 5.19-20, Jesus is making a claim of his equality with God ("whatever the Father does the Son also does"; "the Son...can do only what he sees his Father doing"). He is making a formal, systematic, orderly, and regular statement of His own unity with the Father, not his inferiority to Him. Jesus doesn't act independently of His Father. This isn't based on the Son's inferiority, but rather on the intimate relationship He has with the Father that is unique, a completely different relationship than any human can have with God. His hearers understood perfectly what he was saying (Jn. 5.18). Notice the perception of equality, and Jesus never corrected that perception as if it were incorrect. He had a chance to say, "No, that's not what I meant," but instead he continues to assert his equality with God.

> There is absolutely no hint in the NT that this submission is mutual.

You have to understand that the submission of Jesus to the Father is only ever mentioned in relation to his humanity on earth. When Jesus is spoken of in exaltation, it's always in term of equality.

Phil. 2.9-11. God exalts Jesus to the highest place and gives him a name above every name. Also through the whole book of Revelation.

> The Father does not worship anyone.

Neither does Jesus. There is no passage showing him in worship.

> The glorified Lord Jesus Christ is still the Father's servant.

I'll need a text. I don't believe it.
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Re: The Son is inferior to the Father

Postby Kata Plasma » Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:34 pm

That God is the Father of Israel implied that Israel was God's servant. Look at Isaiah 42:1 LXX for instance. Jacob is the παῖς "child/servant" of YHWH. The word can be used for either a boy or a male slave. That's why I think Father/Son and Master/Slave are related here. Jesus too is called the παῖς of God in Acts 3:13; 26 and 4:30. In John 5 Jesus says the Son can do nothing except what the Father has for him to do. The assumption here is that sons are to do whatever their fathers say. The idea of son is blended with the idea of servant in Greek.

> Where in the NT did Jesus worship God?

John 4:22 implies that Jesus worships the God of Israel. "We worship what we know..." That Jesus prays to God and does his works implies that he worships/serves Him as well. In the Temptation narratives Jesus refuses to worship Satan because he must worship God alone. That Jesus still calls the Father his God in John 20:17 after his resurrection suggests he still relates to the Father as a worshiper. Further, Jesus appears to assume here that his current relationship to God is the same as Mary's relationship to God. That Paul calls the Father the "God of the Lord Jesus Christ" implies that this relationship is retained post-exaltation as well.

> As far as I know, these are the only places where Jesus identifies God as "My God." So what do these mean?

That Jesus is a worshiper/servant/son of the God of Israel.

> John 20.17: Jesus asserts his relationship with the father is unique, without parallel to any human relationship to God.

As I've already said, this is exactly backwards. He says here that the Father is the Father of both himself and of Mary. He says God is the God of both himself and Mary. How does that make Jesus' relationship unique in this context?

> You'll notice through the Gospels that Jesus never talks about God as "our God" or "our Father" (except in the Lord's prayer when teaching humans how to address God), but only as "my Father" or "your..."

He talks about our God and our Father all the time. The disciples of Jesus are sons of God. Jesus "gives them the authority to become sons of God." Jesus legitimately prays the Our Father prayer. He doesn't exclude himself from it. I think what is confused here is what it means to be a son in the Biblical narrative. We have to start with Israel and David if we are going to understand how it is that Jesus is Son. To be Son isn't to be equal to God or divine.

> In John 5.19-20, Jesus is making a claim of his equality with God

I mean, that's not a claim to equality. That's a claim to subordination........? Jesus is the boy watching his Father and doing what his Father tells him to do. He is perfectly obedient as a Son ought to be. John 6:38

> He had a chance to say, "No, that's not what I meant," but instead he continues to assert his equality with God.

This is another issue but Jesus absolutely corrects them. The Jews never understand what Jesus is saying in the Gospel of John, even Nicodemus, a "teacher of the people." Jesus goes on to explain in chapter 5 that he has seeming equality with God because God has granted him authority to judge and have life. God has given him great authority - Jesus doesn't have such authority because of his nature or divinity or whatnot. He has this authority because God gave it to him.

> You have to understand that the submission of Jesus to the Father is only ever mentioned in relation to his humanity on earth.

Well that's wrong. 1 Cor 15:28 says Jesus will submit himself to God on the last day. By simply still having a God at this very moment implies that Jesus is subordinate to that God. Note that the Father never has a God. God is never a worshiper of the Son.

> Phil. 2.9-11. God exalts Jesus to the highest place and gives him a name above every name.

In order that all glory might go to God, the Father. Even here, Jesus is still just the conduit of God's ultimate glory.

> Neither does Jesus. There is no passage showing him in worship.

ughhh. Worship is a particular kind of service. Jesus is absolutely always the Servant of God. He has a God and therefore he worships that God. That is simply what it means to have a God in the Biblical texts.

> I'll need a text. I don't believe it.

Astounding. Try 1 Cor 15:28 again. Recall in Philippians 2 that Jesus is exalted with the result that glory goes to the Father.
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Re: The Son is inferior to the Father

Postby jimwalton » Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:47 pm

You're getting frustrated already. We've barely begun.

> Isa.42.1

Of course Isa. 42.1 speaks of Israel as a servant and God the master, but there is no connection with fatherhood here. You had to go to the Septuagint to get it, but it's not in the Masoretic text, which reads "servant".

The problem with your textual analysis is that it doesn't hold true across the board. *Pais theou* is a messianic designation more than it means strictly "son". *Pais theou* almost across the board means "servant of God" with no relation to God's fatherhood, and no implication of connecting "father" with the notion of inferiority. *Pais* is continually used in the sense of "servant" (2 Sam. 7.5, 8, 19, 20,21, 25, 26; cf. Lk. 1.69). The term “servant of YHWH” is applied in the OT to…

1\. A worshipper of God (Neh. 1.10; Dan. 6.21; so to Abraham (Ps. 105.6, 42); to Joshua (Josh. 24.29); to Job (Job 1.8).
2\. A minister or ambassador of God called to any service (Isa. 44.6); of Nebuchadnezzar (Jer. 27.6); of the prophets (Amos 3.7); of Moses (Dt. 34.5).
3\. Peculiarly of the Messiah (Isa. 42.1; 52.13)

In other words, the designation of *pais* is not one of inferiority, but one of devotion and calling.

> In John 5 Jesus says the Son can do nothing except what the Father has for him to do. The assumption here is that sons are to do whatever their fathers say.

Right. I already addressed this. There is no debating that Jesus recognized the Father's authority.

> Jn. 4.22

Of course Jesus is speaking corporately from the vantage point of the Jews in contrast to the Samaritans. This is clear in his next phase ("for salvation is from the Jews"). It is no implication that Jesus worships the Father. Remember that at this point in the conversation Jesus has yet to reveal himself to the woman (4.26).

> That Jesus prays to God and does his works implies that he worships/serves Him as well.

That Jesus prays is an indication of communication, not of subservience. The "work" is a shared partnership (Jn. 5.17). Even the Jews correctly interpret that he is making himself *equal to God* (Jn. 5.18), not subservient to him.

> In the Temptation narratives Jesus refuses to worship Satan because he must worship God alone.

Jesus is quoting Scripture indicating that God is the only being worthy of worship. This is no implication that Jesus worships God.

> That Jesus still calls the Father his God in John 20:17 after his resurrection suggests he still relates to the Father as a worshiper.

No, it indicates that He and His Father still have the same unique relationship as equals.

> Further, Jesus appears to assume here that his current relationship to God is the same as Mary's relationship to God.

Never.

> He says here that the Father is the Father of both himself and of Mary.

John 20.17? Why does he bother with the separation of "my Father and your Father" then? If it's what you say, it would be "our Father." Instead, His particular relationship to God is unique, distinct from any human relationship. He is the eternal Son of the Father, she is a member of God's family by faith (Jn. 1.12). Jesus is the only begotten of the Father (Jn. 1.14), the firstborn of all creation. By his death and resurrection, many more family members have been brought into God's family. His use of "your father" denotes their new status after the resurrection.

> He talks about our God and our Father all the time

Never.

> John 5.19-20...I mean, that's not a claim to equality.

The Jews understand him perfectly (v. 18): He is "making himself equal with God." In 19ff. Jesus claims authority to duplicate and continue the Father's works, to bestow life upon men, to execute divine judgment, and to raise the dead in the last day. He claims unity with the Father. "The Father and I track together as one all the time. His actions are my actions; his ways are my ways; his thoughts are my thoughts." Jesus isn't just claiming to be a prophet or a good guy or a great teacher. He's claiming sameness. It's as if the Son was the protagonist in a book the Father was writing. Any action the Father takes must occur through his Son, who is his incarnation in the book. Also, any action the Son takes is genuinely an action of the Father who is doing the "writing." The two persons are distinct, but one and the same.

> John 6.38. He is perfectly obedient as a Son ought to be.

Christ was responsive to the Father's leadership during his incarnation. Repeatedly we read in John's gospel that Christ did the will of the Father and was responsive to the Father’s authority (see also John 4.34 & 8.28). At the same time, Christ's submission to the Father was based on equality and shared authority.

> 1 Cor. 15.28

The Son always recognizes the authority of the Father, and He exercises the Father's sovereignty in relation to the world. The goal of the lordship of Jesus in exercise of the Father's sovereignty is therefore to make the reconciled and judged world subject to God.

> ughhh. Worship is a particular kind of service.

So you're saying that because Jesus' life conformed to the will of God, he worshipped God as an inferior? Nah, too much of a stretch to make your point. Jesus conformed to the will of God, conversed with him in prayer, and pleased God in all that He did. This is not statement that Jesus was an inferior. Please.

> 1 Cor. 15.28, again. "The glorified Lord Jesus Christ is still the Father's servant."

The issue with this term is its broad range of meaning, so you just can't claim "inferiority." When a women submits to a man, there is no necessary implication of inferiority because Eph. 5.21 says that we should "submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." So if we're all equally inferior, then no one's inferior. We're all equal.

The term can also mean "to renounce your own will for the sake of another"—a voluntary taking up of the cause of another. It doesn't imply inferiority.

The term can also mean "to arrange in military fashion under the command of a leader." A sergeant isn't necessarily inferior to a lieutenant, but he is under his command. The term doesn't imply inferiority.

So it's not so "astounding". I'm quite convinced you are reading into texts what you want to see, and it's not there. Christ's servant relationship to the Father is quite complex, multi-faceted, and nuanced, and not at all a clear black-and-white. It's never portrayed as a position of inferiority, but as two equals with one deferring to the other.

I can already tell from this conversation that there is probably not going to be a meeting of the minds, here. We have very disparate viewpoints.
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Re: The Son is inferior to the Father

Postby Kata Plasma » Thu Sep 14, 2017 2:28 pm

Far too frustrating for me. My apologies. You are assuming John has some strong doctrine of Christ's equality to God that just isn't there. So you can get around language that would imply worship/service/inferiority in any other circumstance. In the words of Jesus, "a servant is not greater than his master." Jesus says bluntly that the Father is greater than he is in another text.

Your handling of the Mary Magdalene text is ridiculous. Jesus is claiming that his God and Father just is Mary's God and Father. You are seeing a distinction that isn't there. We already know Jesus can call God "our God" and "our Father." Denying this just seems silly.

I think your reasoning reveals just how problematic it is that Jesus treated God as God in the Gospels. Most Christians say the Son behaved subserviently only because he became a human. But you have bypassed that and simply said "Jesus didn't worship God at all, ever." Which is actually true to the ancient doctrine. Jesus was supposedly always co-equal with the Father. An equal wouldn't worship/serve his equal.

The other problem here is that most Trinitarians think their faith is in vain if the Jesus isn't God. That makes it very very difficult to honestly consider what the gospels are saying about God and Jesus.

But let's keep this specific. How could I prove to you that Jesus worshiped God? Do I need the word for worship? Would a scene where Jesus fell on his face in prayer to God work? What if Jesus made a sacrifice to God? What if he rejected his own will in favor of God's? He does all these in the NT. I can show you.

Thanks for talking with me. I know it's not easy.
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Re: The Son is inferior to the Father

Postby jimwalton » Wed Nov 08, 2017 2:02 am

The equality of Christ with God is repeated and consistent theme of the NT (Mt. 12.8; 16.27; 22.41-45; 26.64; 28.19-20; Mk. 2.5-11; Jn. 1.1, 3; 5.18; 8.58; 10.30; 14.9; 20.21; Acts 1.1-8; Rom. 8; 1 Cor. 12.4-6; Phil. 2.11; Col. 1 .15ff.; Titus 3.3-8; Heb. 1.2; 10.5-18; Jesus' "I AM" statements; Jesus as divine judge, and many others). If we believe in the unity of the Scriptures, the teaching of the NT is of the equality of Jesus and the Father. It is the hermeuneutical paradigm by which texts are interpreted.

> John 14.28: "The Father is greater than I."

Jesus, in the days of his humanity, was subordinate to the Father (Phil. 2.7: he emptied himself, took the form of a servant, and became obedient). So this is not talking about the relation of the Father and Son in themselves, but only in the context of his incarnation. It is not a distinction in nature or essence (Jn. 10.30) because His unity of essence with the Father has already been established. Arianism was a heresy consistently condemned by the Church, and officially condemned by both the Council of Nicea and the First Council of Constantinople.

> Your handling of the Mary Magdalene text is ridiculous. Jesus is claiming that his God and Father just is Mary's God and Father.

Jesus ALWAYS made a distinction between his relationship with God and the way humans relate to God. He never uses the term "our father" (except, as I've said, in The Lord's Prayer where he is telling humans how they should pray). NEVER. You can't give evidence of a text where Jesus lumps himself together with them. It's ALWAYS "My Father" or "My God" and, in contrast, "your Father" or "your God". You make think it's ridiculous, but the textual evidence is clear. There was always a distinction.

> Most Christians say the Son behaved subserviently only because he became a human.

It's based on Phil. 2.6-8.

> But you have bypassed that and simply said "Jesus didn't worship God at all, ever."

We have very few, if any, pictures of worship in the Gospels. We have a couple of texts where Jesus is in a synagogue (there he taught and healed), a couple where he is in the Temple (driving out the moneychangers), and little else. We don't even have pictures of worship by other people in the Gospels, either. But there is no specific mention (and therefore no subsequent case) that Jesus worshipped God, as if Jesus were an inferior. There's no evidence of it.

> The other problem here is that most Trinitarians think their faith is in vain if the Jesus isn't God. That makes it very very difficult to honestly consider what the gospels are saying about God and Jesus.

It's because of what the Gospels and the rest of the NT teach that we believe Jesus is God, not because we have chosen to believe it and then use the texts to try to justify it.

The doctrine of the Trinity (the deity of Christ) was recognized early in the young Church (Irenaeus, Tertullian), though there were disputes about it (Monarchianism [Sabellianism], Modalism, Arianism). The Church Fathers (Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyril of Alexandria, Theodoret, Athanasius, Basil) refuted all teachings against trinitarianism, and the Councils of Nicea, Constantinople, and Chalcedon endorsed that theology. (The doctrine of the Trinity was not fully delineated until someone challenged them. Tertullian is the first to use the term, affirming the full deity of Christ in response to the various heretical groups.)

> How could I prove to you that Jesus worshiped God? Do I need the word for worship? Would a scene where Jesus fell on his face in prayer to God work? What if Jesus made a sacrifice to God? What if he rejected his own will in favor of God's? He does all these in the NT. I can show you.

I don't need a word for worship; I know the words. I know Jesus prayed to God. Most of the time we don't know what He said (Jn. 17 is the exception), so that doesn't help. There's no specific prayer of worship, though, or even in a worship context. Jesus made a sacrifice to God? Hmm. I know he gave a temple tax (Mt. 17.27), but I'm not aware of a sacrifice. So sure, give me what you've got.


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