Friday, September 6, 2019

The Son Who Learned Obedience [Review]

While many evangelicals are aware of the internicene debates over whether or not the Second Person of the Trinity is eternally functionally subordinate hereafter EFSS) to the Father, it seems not many have delved more deeply into the matter than what they have read online between the feuding parties. D. Glen Butner’s book on the matter takes the reader beyond the dialectical proof-texting of Scripture and historical theologians so common in the debate, and addresses some more pressing concerns that the doctrine of EFSS raises. The Son Who Learned Obedience: A Theological Case Against the Eternal Subordination of the Son aims to, and in this writer’s opinion does, present an argument against the EFSS doctrine that self-consciously elaborates on some of the more nuanced doctrines presupposed and entailed by it. Rather than miring down his readers in abstruse details, Butner skillfully selects the more prominent facts relevant to his argument, explains them, and draws his conclusion.

The book is scholarly, accessible, and irenic in its tone. Butner is not seeking to anathematize those who hold to EFSS; he wants to respectfully and carefully engage with their best arguments, and he succeeds at it. A needed explanation of the complexity of the issue at hand is given by Butner before he delves into EFSS, its proponents, and his argument against it. He reminds his readers that “systematic theology differs from biblical theology in the tools it deploys to make sense of the Bible.”1 Whether or not the Son of God is eternally functionally subordinate to the Father is a question that all sides of the debate will have to answer by means of “second-order reflection on the Bible.” Butner —
The issue of eternal submission is a question of how best to make sense of the broad testimony of Scripture, a question of which terminology provides conceptual clarity for Scripture's broad testimony, and a question of whether the terminology considered is compatible with faith seeking understanding through reason and tradition.