Wednesday, 28 May 2008

The Bizarre Heresy of Sydney Anglican Evanglicalism

A few points on the bizarre heresy of Sydney Anglicanism regarding the alleged eternal subordination of the Son to the Father.

  • They argue that the Father, Son and Spirit are ontologically equal, but functionally subordinate in their personal relations. (Their aim is to justify the claim that men and women are ontologically equal but functionally subordinate.)
  • Which is why they are wrong. There is no ontological ‘stuff’ apart from the relations. The being of God is not a fourth in the Trinity next to the three of Father, Son and Spirit.(This is not making being and person identical, just that without the persons there is nothing ‘to be’.)
  • If there is a being of God apart from the relations this allows alien understandings to infect our theology. Orthodoxy ensures that the Son is the revelation of the Father, and cautions us against alien ideas incompatible with Jesus.
  • If the Father and Son are eternally subordinate in their personal relations then the ontological consequences cannot be avoided: the Son is no longer the revelation of the Father, and God remains a shadowy figure behind the Son.
  • They claim this on the basis of those passages that make Jesus subordinate in his earthly ministry.
  • And also those passages that make him subordinate eternally, if you want to read them that way. (They particularly love 1Cor 15)
  • It is true that the love of the Father and Son in the earthly life of Jesus is expressed in his obedience to the will of the Father. But to read this eternally, leads to the problems above, and others.
  • It is possible to understand the subordination of the Son in 1Cor 15 as voluntary, the voluntary love of the Son of the Father, congruent with orthodoxy.
  • This bizarre doctrine, I think, is a classic example of what happens when you separate yourself synchronically and diachronically from the rest of the church. And they have done it on the most fundamental issue of the church: the doctrine of God.
  • What is ironic is that, presumably, Sydney is teaching this internationally as the bankroll for Africa and Asia. The very churches that extol themselves as holding the true faith against the’ liberalism’ of gays and women. Their heresy is much more serious than anything they accuse their opponents of.
  • How bizarre. Apply caution before getting into bed with them.


  1. I always find it strange when people look at he fact that Jesus was subordinate to the Father in his earthly ministry as an argument that it might be something eternal. Surely God's will is a unity. You can not say something is the Father's will and not the Son's will or the Holy Spirit's will.
    If the will of one of the persons of the Trinity was separate to the others then we actually have three deities not one. This is why the earthly Jesus as much as he in his humanity struggled with the crucification submitted to the Father's will because it was also his will. There is only one God.

  2. It is possible to speak sensibly and truly of subordination within the Godhead without resorting to philosophical categories such as ontology or functionality, as in this quote from P. T. Forsyth:

    'He was of Godhead, but He sought no equality with God. The glory of Godhead He had, but it was the Godlike glory of subordination. There is place and order in the Godhead, and he kept it. Subordination is godlike. He was in the category of God, but He did not claim the immunities of God. The Son would not oust the Father. In a word, He was not inferior to God, but He was subordinate. Subordination is not inferiority.
    Oh, if you could but learn that in this your day, how many griefs heart-burnings, rebuffs, failures, and soul bitterness it would save you and your posterity! Subordination is not inferiority, and it is godlike. The principle is imbedded in the very cohesion of the Eternal Trinity, and it is inseparable from the unity, fraternity, and true equality of men. It is not a mark of inferiority to be subordinate, to have an authority, to obey. It is Divine. To suffer no lord or master— that is Satanic; to discard all control but superior force is the demonic form of sin, which soon passes into the brutal. To have no loyalty is to have no dignity, and in the end no manhood.
    (P.T. Forsyth, ‘The Divine Self-emptying’, from God The Holy Father, 1897, New Creation Publications Inc., Blackwood, South Australia, 1987, pages 42–43)

  3. Dear Martin,

    There remains the problem of the inevitable separation of the 'being' of God from the activity of the persons. A separation must occur for this subordination not to become part of the being of God via the relations of Father and Son. But where does this being come from? What is it? Or should I say who is it? In fact, no one! For we are then allowing some more primordial 'being/stuff' be the real God behind the activities of Father, Son and Spirit.

    Better to think of trinitarian life as mutual self-effacement. The relationship between the Father, as source of Godhead and the goal of all in mutual love, and the Son is mischaracterised as subordination in the way the word is being used in the debate on the place of women vis-a-vis men. The Father is origin of Son and Spirit, safeguarding both the unity of the Godhead and personal freedom over the determinism of the persons coming out of some more primordial 'being'. The effacement of the Son could only be characterised as a subordination if we then say it is a mutual subordination, which rather undercuts the point of the exercise from Sydney's perspective.