A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) Digest

Classic trinitarian theology says that the Father is unbegotten, the Son is begotten of the Father, and the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son.

But there are some influential people in the visible church who maintain that there is no Holy Trinity without the order of authority and submission. These people believe that in His Incarnation the Son submitted to the Father, but they also believe in the eternal submission of the Son to the Father. Their doctrine is known as ESS (Eternal Submission of the Son, or Eternal Subordination of the Son). It goes beyond scripture. It is not orthodox classical theology. It diverges from one of the most ancient creeds of the church, the Nicene Creed.

Here is a short blog post by Ps Sam Powell which explains ESS: God in three persons.

What follows is a list of posts on this site which contest the doctrine of ESS, name some of its most well known proponents, and discuss how it impinges on the way churches mishandle abuse.

Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) Digest

1. It’s vital to talk about motivation in the debate about “Eternal Submission of the Son”

2. The ceiling came down, so it’s time to inspect the whole building.

3. Bruce Ware teaches that a wife’s lack of submission threatens her husband’s authority, and he responds to this threat by abusing her

4. Why I think Wayne Grudem is unwilling to accord full respect to women

5. An open letter to Dr Wayne Grudem

Other posts

The Trinity: there’s a danger in trying to explain things that are beyond our pay grade (wise words from Liam Goligher)

The change of Genesis 3:16, ESS, the colonial code of relationship, and a call to bystanders

Are there strong parallels between Mormonism, Islam, and ESS?

Complementarity Without Subordination: What Does it Look Like?

Is the eternal Father/Son relationship a relationship of authority/submission? – Fred Sanders

Jesus cannot be eternally subordinate to the Father and still be Lord – Ps Sam Powell

Philippians 2 contradicts the idea that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father


  1. Finding Answers

    Thanks for the information and all the links, TWBTC.

    I had read some of the ESS discussions, both before and after finding ACFJ. While I could understand the importance of the discussion and the gist of the matter, the finer points needed to be set aside to cope with all the other healing / processing work.

    I followed the link to the Nicene creed and started to trigger, so will have to pursue the history at a later date. The bit I read was interesting.

    I was surprised a creed I knew so well would trigger me, and I keep having to edit my comment. From the Wikipedia bit I skimmed, I learned the Constantinople (later) version – my mind started to automatically sing it, stuck like an “ear worm” in my head.

    The trigger leads to one of those emotional boundary blank spots, and the light, non-physical pressure-sense is warning me I cannot trust the creed to lead me closer to God. In the past, I had dissociated the Triune God into three separate individuals, relating to the abusers in my life.

    God – the abusive father
    Jesus Christ – the sexually abusive sibling
    The Holy Spirit – my Friend and Anchor

    Shortly after I re-integrated myself, almost two years ago today, I was led by the Holy Spirit to understand I needed to re-integrate God. And reciting the Nicene creed defeats the re-integration of God.

    Maybe further down the road to healing I can pursue the history of the creed.

    • Finding Answers

      In re-reading my comment of 8TH AUGUST 2018 – 8:18 AM, I realized something needed clarification….

      I wrote:

      Jesus Christ – the sexually abusive sibling

      First, I need to clarify the above quote from my comment, although some of the information is contained in some of my comments elsewhere on the ACFJ blog. Two of my siblings sexually abused me. One sibling sexually abused me only once, and another sibling sexually abused me multiple times.

      The sibling who had sexually abused me only once is not the sibling written about in the above quote from my comment. And this sibling, who sexually abused me only once, is the sibling who tried to physically kill me twice….this sibling was, and still is, an abuser.

      The sibling who had sexually abused me multiple times is the sibling in the above quote from my comment. This sibling, who sexually abused me multiple times, was abusive to me, but I can’t say he was an abuser. From what I know and understand now, this sibling isn’t an abuser, although there are times he might (?) seem abusive to others. Not too long ago (omitting details for my safety and protection), I apologized to this sibling for how I treated him for an extended period of time prior to my apology (omitting details for my safety and protection).

      There were times when the sibling who had sexually abused me multiple times and is the sibling mentioned in the above quote from my comment was the equivalent of my saviour….he taught me good and helpful things I needed to know. This sibling has never been my Saviour.

      • Finding Answers, I honour you for faithfully heeding and cooperating with the delicate healing process which the Holy Spirit seems to be doing in you. 🙂

        This comment of yours seems to relate to another recent comment of yours in which you said:

        I’ve come to understand that one of my older siblings is not an abuser, although his behaviour was / might have appeared / might appear abusive. ….I now know what caused some (?) most (?) of his behaviour, and I’ve apologized to him for how I treated him.

        For my own clarification and remembrance, I’m going to write down my summary of what I understand from what you’ve written.

        As a child you dissociated the Triune God into three separate persons. You knew the Holy Spirit as your Friend and Anchor. But you associated God the Father with your abusive father.

        One of your siblings sexually abused you multiple times, but he also taught you good and helpful things that you needed to know. Because that sibling taught you helpful things, you associated him with Jesus. You now know what caused some or most of that sibling’s behaviour and you have realised that although he sexually abused you, he is not an abuser. You have apologized to him for how you treated him for an extended period of time prior to your apology.

      • Finding Answers


        Your summary in your 14TH APRIL 2022 – 11:52 PM comment is accurate….what I find frustrating is that, for me, the Triune God hasn’t been three separate Persons in a very long time, yet it’s like the Holy Spirit keeps deliberately splitting the Triune God into three Persons.

        The Holy Spirit keeps dragging up old stuff, memories, etc. that have already been healed…. and from my perspective, He’s not accomplishing anything with me other than furthering abuse, and keeping me in living in hell-on-earth. The linked comment at the end of this comment explains some of my frustrations, as well as what I mean about living in hell-on-earth.

        And the above paragraphs kinda-sorta lead to the following….

        Mark 12:29-31 (New Matthew Bible (NMB))

        (29) Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is: Hear, O Israel, the Lord God is one Lord. (30) And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. (31) And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.

        From my perspective, the only thing the Holy Spirit is accomplishing with me is that I’m unable to keep the first commandment in the New Testament, although I can keep the second commandment in the New Testament. And I’m not making people into any kind of idol.

        It’s like the Holy Spirit is intentionally keeping the Triune God as my enemy. And for any number of reasons, I’m intentionally not writing anything else in this comment about the first commandment in the New Testament, humans being born in a Fallen world, original sin, etc., etc., etc., but my discontinuing writing anything more in this comment about the first commandment in the New Testament is not because I’m in denial, lacking in the desire to keep the first commandment in the New Testament, backslidden, lacking in knowledge and understanding, etc..

        Probably the easiest way to explain a bit about my perspective on what I’ve written above in this comment is to add a link to another recent comment of mine….the linked comment is a long comment, but it might help explain a tiny bit about my frustration with the Holy Spirit….

        John Piper’s Works Righteousness “Gospel” (Part 2) — He Misuses the Law of God — comment 154534

  2. Helovesme

    The first words caught me right away (from Pastor Sam’s blog); it’s what I understood for years:

    Equal in being, but subordinate in role.

    No one would DARE say (out loud, at least) that a woman was a lesser being (we all have the same Creator. But then you “slip in” that God has a certain “order” in mind to reduce chaos and form a chain of command.

    It has caused me and so many others so much suffering. And yet it’s very acceptable, very popular—but very, very harmful.

    Pastor said it so, so well:

    False doctrine always leads to bondage.

    Please keep that in mind concerning anything and everything. No issue is too small to be inflated into a huge heresy of some kind.

    The Lord gives us room to have personal opinions and preferences, but when it comes to the rock solid Word of God—don’t mess with that!

    Pastor did such an amazing job in describing the Lord as fully human (except for sin) and fully God. It is heresy to minimize either.

    I will confess that sometime heresies can be confusing to understand. Deception often is!

    Pastor described it so simply:

    The problem with ESS is that it takes that submission, that belongs to the incarnate Christ, and moves it into His divine nature, into eternity, apart from the incarnation. This makes the divine nature submissive. That is, not divine at all.

    Pastor also mentions how the divine is something of a mystery to us. That can be frustrating, as humans by nature tend to be very curious and want to unlock and solve mysteries. Accepting that there are many things we simply cannot quite understand with our limited minds is hard.

    I once asked my spouse why the Lord make more planets in our solar system, if Earth was the only one that could support life. He suggested that the Lord knew man would be curious, and want to explore—so He gave us plenty to dive in.

    It’s only a theory of course! Never mind the rest of the universe—with everything else that exists out there that w will probably never be able to fully explore!

    Christ is unique, through and through. How He lived His life on earth as fully man and fully God is (for me) still something of a mystery—but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because He added humanity to His fully divine nature, we have a perfect Savior and a permanent High Priest. We don’t need anyone else to mediate or step in the gap for us.

    Having full, free access to the Lord because of what Christ did for us is amazing. No husband or pastor or authority figure is needed, and it’s an insult to the Lord’s full divinity to believe that.

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