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Subordinationism is a belief that began within early Christianity that asserts that the Son and the Holy Spirit are subordinate to God the Father in nature and being. Various forms of subordinationism were believed or condemned until the mid-4th century, when the debate was decided against subordinationism as an element of the Arian controversy. In 381, after many decades of formulating the doctrine of the Trinity, the First Council of Constantinople condemned Arianism.
Subordinationism has common characteristics with Arianism. In various forms it thrived at the same time as Arianism, and long survived Arianism. Its chief proponents in the 4th century were Arius of Alexandria, with whom the view is most commonly associated, and with Eusebius of Nicomedia and Eusebius of Caesarea. Two patriarchs of Alexandria, Athanasius of Alexandria and his mentor and predecessor, Alexander of Alexandria, battled Arian subordinationism.
Subordinationism continues in various forms today principally among Unitarians, who reject the creeds and confessions of the Nicean Churches.
Bishop Alexander, of Alexandria, taught that Christ was the Divine Son of God, who was equal to the Father by nature, and in no way inferior to him, sharing the Father's divine nature. However, Presbyter Arius believed this was inconsistent with the recent decisions against Sabellius at the Synod of Rome. Arius opposed Alexander and called him a heretic. At subsequent local synods, Alexander's view was upheld, and Arius was condemned and excommunicated as a heretic.
Arius' friendship with powerful allies, especially Eusebius of Nicomedia, who was influential in Constantine's Imperial Court, led to the controversy being brought before Constantine. Constantine at first viewed the controversy as trivial and insisted that they settle their dispute quietly and peacefully. When it became clear that a peaceful solution was not forthcoming, Constantine summoned all Christian bishops to convene the first ecumenical council (Nicaea I) at Nicaea. From the beginning of the Arian controversy, due to the influence of Arian bishops like Eusebius of Nicomedia, Constantine initially favored the Arian position. He saw their views as being easier for the common Roman to understand, and easier for Roman pagans to accept and convert to.
Two vocal subordinationists were Eusebius of Caesarea and Eusebius of Nicomedia. Of these, Eusebius of Caesarea was more moderate in his subordinationist views. Although not as extreme as the Arians in his definition of who Jesus is, he disagreed with the Modalists in equating Jesus with his Father in authority or person but he was flexible concerning ousia (substance). The Anti-Arians also opposed Modalism, but insisted on the equality of the Son and the Father by nature (though they generally allowed that the Son was relationally subordinate to the Father as to his authority). For the reasons of him being moderate in the religious and political spectrum of beliefs, Constantine I turned to Eusebius of Caesarea to try to make peace between the Arians and their opponents at Nicaea I.
Eusebius of Caesarea wrote, in On the Theology of the Church, that the Nicene Creed is a full expression of Christian theology, which begins with: "We believe in One God..." Eusebius goes on to explain how initially the goal was not to expel Arius and his supporters, but to find a Creed on which all of them could agree and unite. The Arians, led by Arius and Eusebius of Nicomedia, insisted that the Son was "heteroousios" or "of a different substance/nature" from the Father. The opposition, led by Alexander, his protege Athanasius, and Hosius of Cordoba insisted that the Arian view was heretical and unacceptable. Eusebius of Caesarea suggested a compromise wording of a creed, in which the Son would be affirmed as "homoiousios", or "of similar substance/nature" with the Father. But Alexander and Athanasius saw that this compromise would allow the Arians to continue to teach their heresy, but stay technically within orthodoxy, and therefore rejected that wording. Hosius of Cordova suggested the term "homoousios" or "of the same substance/nature" with the Father. This term was found to be acceptable, though it meant the exclusion of the Arians. But it united most of those in attendance at Nicaea I. Even the "semi-Arians" such as Eusebius of Caesarea accepted the term and signed the Nicene Creed.
Constantine, though he initially backed the Arians, supported the decision of the Council in order to unify the Church and his Empire. He ordered that any bishop, including his friend Eusebius of Nicomedia, who refused to sign the Creed should be removed from their positions in the Church and exiled from the Empire.
Athanasius, while believing in the Monarchy of God the Father in which the Father is the source of the Son, rejected Arian subordinationism. Constantine, who had been sympathetic to the Arian view from the beginning of the controversy, ends up rescinding the exiles of Arius and his supporters only a few short years after Nicea. He also brings Eusebius of Nicomedia in as his personal spiritual advisor, and then turned on Athanasius, who is not only deposed from his seat as bishop of Alexandria, but also banished from the Roman Empire a total of five different times.
After the death of Constantine, his sons, Constans I and Constantius II, share joint rule in the Empire. Both sons begin to actively support the subordinationist views of Arianism, and begin to depose Trinitarian bishops in key sees throughout the empire and replace them with Arian bishops. This policy begins to change the balance of power in the Christian Church, as many of the most influential churches in the empire became Arian by the intervention of Constans I and Constantius II. To this, Saint Jerome lamented about the creed of the Synod of Ariminum: "The whole world groaned and was astonished to find itself Arian." Ironically, after Nicaea I, Arianism actually grew in power in the Church.
The deaths of Constans I and Constantius II ended this policy, however the increased power of Arianism in the Church remained unchanged until the ascension of an Emperor friendly to the Trinitarian view. Theodosius I called the second ecumenical council, Constantinople I, in 381, 56 years after Nicaea I, to confront the Arian controversy. Constantinople I once again rejected Arian subordinationism, and affirmed Trinitarianism. In addition, the Nicene Creed of 325 was amended and expanded to include a more detailed statement about the Holy Spirit, rejecting an idea which had been advanced by the Arians during the intervening years since Nicea, termed "Macedonianism", which denied the full deity of the Holy Spirit. The Creed of 381 included an affirmation of the full deity of the Holy Spirit, calling him "the Lord, the giver of Life, who proceeds from the Father."
Cappadocian Fathers achieved final victory against Arian Subordinationism by refuting the various later versions of Arianism. Like all catholic theologians they also believed in the Monarchy of God the Father, which they interpreted as denying the subordination of the essence of the Son and Holy Spirit. (The Greek Fathers and the whole Christian Orient speak, in this regard, of the "Father's Monarchy," and the Western tradition, following Augustine of Hippo, also confesses that the Holy Spirit originates from the Father principaliter, that is, as principle. In this sense, therefore, the two traditions recognize that the "monarchy of the Father" implies that the Father is the sole Trinitarian Cause (Aitia) or Principle (principium) of the Son and the Holy Spirit.)
The origin of the Holy Spirit from the Father alone as Principle of the whole Trinity is called ekporeusis by Greek tradition, following the Cappadocian Fathers. St. Gregory of Nazianzus, the Theologian, in fact, characterizes the Spirit's relationship of origin from the Father by the proper term ekporeusis, distinguishing it from that of procession (to proienai) which the Spirit has in common with the Son. "The Spirit is truly the Spirit proceeding (proion) from the Father, not by filiation, for it is not by generation, but by ekporeusis." [speculation?] Even for Cyril, the term ekporeusis as distinct from the term "proceed" (proienai), can only characterize a relationship of origin to the principle without principle of the Trinity: the Father.
In 589, battling a resurgence of Arianism, the Third Council of Toledo, in the Kingdom of Toledo, added the term filioque ("and the Son") to the Nicene Creed. This was ostensibly to counter the Arian argument that the Son was inferior to the Father because he did not share in the Father's role as the Source of the Holy Spirit's Godhead, and so they affirmed that the Holy Spirit proceeded "from the Father and the Son". This, phrase, however, was not intended originally to change the Nicene Creed, but only used as a local creed in defense against the Arians. But its use began to spread throughout the Western Church. To many in the Eastern Church, the filioque implied that there were two sources of the Godhead, the Father and the Son, which to them meant that there were now two Gods, and the Holy Spirit was relegated to an inferior status, as the only member of the Godhead who was not the source of any other. The Western Churches, however, did not necessarily understand this clause to imply this, but understood it to mean the Holy Spirit proceeded "from the Father through the Son" or "From the Father and the Son as from one principle our source". But to the Eastern Church, it appeared to be a denial of the Monarchy of the Father and an heretical and unauthorized change of the Nicene Faith.
In the Eastern Church, the debate surrounding subordinationism was submerged into the later conflict over Monarchianism, or single-source of divinity. This idea was that the Father was the source of divinity, from whom the Son is eternally begotten and the Spirit proceeds. As the Western church seemed to implicitly deny the monarchy of the Father and explicitly assert the papacy. Disagreements about the filioque and papal primacy eventually contributed to the East-West Schism of 1054.
In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, book 1, chapter 13 Calvin attacks those in the Reformation family who while they confess 'that there are three [divine] persons' speak of the Father as 'the essence giver' as if he were 'truly and properly the sole God'. This he says, 'definitely cast[s] the Son down from his rank.' This is because it implies that the Father is God in a way the Son is not. Modern scholars are agreed that this was a sixteenth century form of what today is called, 'subordinationism'. Richard Muller says Calvin recognised that what his opponents were teaching 'amounted to a radical subordination of the second and third persons, with the result that the Father alone is truly God.' Ellis adds that this teaching also implied tritheism, three separate Gods.
Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), in contrast to Calvin, argued that the begetting of the Son should be understood as the generation of the person of the Son and therefore the attribute of self-existence, or aseitas, belonged to the Father alone. His disciple, Simon Bischop (1583-1643), who assumed the name Episcopius, went further speaking openly and repeatedly of the subordination of the Son. He wrote, 'It is certain from these same scriptures that to these people's divinity and divine perfections [the Son and the Spirit] are attributed, but not collaterally or co-ordinately, but subordinately.' Ellis says: 'His discussion of the importance of recognizing subordination among the persons takes up nearly half of the chapter on the Trinity, and the following four chapters are largely taken up with the implications of this subordination.' In seventeenth century England Arminian subordinationism gained wide support from leading English divines, including, Bishop John Bull (1634-1710), Bishop John Pearson (1683-1689) and Samuel Clarke (1675-1729), one of the most learned biblical scholars of his day.
According to the Eastern Orthodox view, the Son is derived from the Father who alone is without cause or origin. This is not subordinationism, and the same doctrine is asserted by western theologians such as Augustine. In this view, the Son is co-eternal with the Father or even in terms of the co-equal uncreated nature shared by the Father and Son. However, this view is sometimes misunderstood as a form of subordinationism by Western Christians, who also asserts the same view even when not using the technical term i.e. Monarchy of the Father. Western view is often viewed by the Eastern Church as being close to Modalism.[page needed]
The Catholic Church also believes that the Son is begotten of the Father and the Holy Spirit is proceeding from the Father through / and from the Son. Catholic theologian John Hardon wrote that subordinationism "denies that the second and third persons are consubstantial with the Father. Therefore it denies their true divinity." Arius "made a formal heresy of" subordinationism. The International Theological Commission wrote that "many Christian theologians borrowed from Hellenism the notion of a secondary god (deuteros theos), or of an intermediate god, or even of a demiurge." Subordinationism was "latent in some of the Apologists and in Origen." The Son was, for Arius, in "an intermediate position between the Father and the creatures." Nicaea I "defined that the Son is consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father. In so doing, the Church both repudiated the Arian compromise with Hellenism and deeply altered the shape of Greek, especially Platonist and neo-Platonist, metaphysics. In a manner of speaking, it demythicized Hellenism and effected a Christian purification of it. In the act of dismissing the notion of an intermediate being, the Church recognized only two modes of being: uncreated (nonmade) and created."
Subordinationism in yet another form gained support from a number of Lutheran theologians in Germany in the nineteenth century. Stockhardt, writing in opposition, says the well-known theologians Thomasius, Frank, Delitsch, Martensen, von Hoffman and Zoeckler all argued that the Father is God in the primary sense, and the Son and the Spirit are God in second and third degree. He criticises most sharply the Leipzig theologian, Karl Friedrich Augustus Kahnis (1814-1888). For these Lutheran theologians, God was God, Jesus Christ was God in some lesser way. The American Lutheran theologian, F. Pieper (1852-1931), argues that behind this teaching lay an acceptance of 'modernism', or what we would call today, theological 'liberalism'.
More recently John Kleinig, of Australian Lutheran College, promoted a form of subordinationism and concluded:
Well then, is the exalted Christ in any way subordinate to the Father right now? The answer is both "yes" and "no". It all depends on whether we are speaking about Him in His nature as God, or about Him in his office as the exalted Son of God. On the one hand, He is not subordinate to the Father in His divine essence, status, and majesty. On the other hand, He is, I hold, subordinate to the Father in His vice-regal office and His work as prophet, priest, and king. He is operationally subordinate to the Father. In the present operation of the triune God in the church and the world, He is the mediator between God the Father and humankind. The exalted Christ receives everything from His Father to deliver to us, so that in turn, He can bring us back to the Father.
While contemporary Evangelicals believe the historically agreed fundamentals of the Christian faith, including the Trinity, among the New Calvinist formula, the Trinity is one God in three equal persons, among whom there is "economic subordination" (as, for example, when the Son obeys the Father). As recently as 1977, the concept of economic subordinationism has been advanced in New Calvinist circles. In The New Testament teaching on the role relationship of men and women, Presbyterian minister George W. Knight III wrote that the Son is functionally - but not ontologically - subordinate to the Father, thus positing that eternal functional subordination does not necessarily imply ontological subordination.[page needed]. The reception of such doctrine among other Evangelicals has yielded certain controversies.
Nontrinitarianism is a form of Christianity that rejects the mainstream Christian doctrine of the Trinity--the teaching that God is three distinct hypostases or persons who are coeternal, coequal, and indivisibly united in one being, or essence (from the Greek ousia). Certain religious groups that emerged during the Protestant Reformation have historically been known as antitrinitarian.
In number of adherents, nontrinitarian denominations comprise a small minority of modern Christianity. The three that are by far the largest are The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ("Mormons"), Jehovah's Witnesses and the Iglesia ni Cristo, though there are a number of other smaller groups.
'Subordinationism. Thus we call the tendency, strong in the 2nd- and 3rd-century theology, to consider Christ, as Son of God, inferior to the Father. Behind this tendency were gospel statements in which Christ himself stressed this inferiority (; Mk 10, 18; 13, 32, etc.) and it was developed in Logos christology. This theology, partly under the influence of middle platonism, considered Christ, logos and divine wisdom, as the means of liaison and mediation between the Father's position to him. When the conception of the Trinity was enlarged to include the Holy Spirit, as in Origen, this in turn was considered inferior to the Son. Subordinationist tendencies are evident in theologians like Justin, Tertullian, Origen, and Novatian; but even in Irenaeus, to whom trinitarian speculations are alien, commenting on , has no difficulty in considering Christ inferior to the Father.'
Subordinationism, according to Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, "regards either the Son as subordinate to the Father or the Holy Spirit as subordinate to both. It is a characteristic tendency in much Christian teaching of the first three centuries, and is a marked feature of such otherwise orthodox Fathers as" Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Reasons for this tendency include:
By the 4th century, subordinationism was "regarded as clearly heretical in its denial of the co-equality of the Three Persons of the Trinity. The issue was most explicitly dealt with in the conflict with Arius and his followers, who held that the Son was God not by nature but by grace and was created by the Father, though in a creation outside time." Subordination of the Holy Spirit became more prominent in the 4th century Pneumatomachi. The second ecumenical council, Constantinople I, condemned subordinationism in 381.
Subordinationism. The term is a common retrospective concept used to denote theologians of the early church who affirmed the divinity of the Son or Spirit of God, but conceived it somehow as a lesser form of divinity than that of the Father. It is a modern concept that is so vague that is that it does not illuminate much of the theology of the pre-Nicene teachers, where a subordinationist presupposition was widely and unreflectively shared.
Ante-Nicene subordinationism. It is generally conceded that the ante-Nicene Fathers were subordinationists. This is clearly evident in the writings of the second-century "Apologists.". ...Irenaeus follows a similar path... The theological enterprise begun by the Apologists and Irenaeus was continued in the West by Hippolytus and Tertullian... The ante-Nicene Fathers did their best to explain how the one God could be a Trinity of three persons. It was the way they approached this dilemma that caused them insoluble problems and led them into subordinationism. They began with the premise that there was one God who was the Father, and then tried to explain how the Son and the Spirit could also be God. By the fourth century it was obvious that this approach could not produce an adequate theology of the Trinity.
Mark Baddeley has criticized Giles for what he sees as a conflation of ontological and relational subordinationism, and for his supposed generalisation that "the ante-Nicene Fathers were subordinationists"
his so called 'non-Trinitarian' group includes the Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Christadelphians, Christian Scientists, Theosophists, Church of Scientology, Unification Church (Moonies), the Worldwide Church of God and so on.