I came across the following Evangelical statement attempting to decree all who believed in subjection within the Trinity heretics on the basis of Athanasius’s Trinitarian theology. According to Evangelical scholar Kevin Giles where he asserts claim St. Athanasius does not teach the subordination of the Son to the Father. I was curious about this so I looked up some stuff on St. Athanasius. Here’s what I found…
“(4.) Nor again, in saying that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is one only God, the only Ingenerate, do we therefore deny that Christ also is God before ages: as the disciples of Paul of Samosata, who say that after the incarnation He was by advance made God, from being made by nature a mere man. For we acknowledge, that though He be subordinate to His Father and God, yet, being before ages begotten of God, He is God perfect according to nature and true , and not first man and then God, but first God and then becoming man for us, and never having been deprived of being.” (De Synodis, 2.26)
“(7.) And at the same time those who irreverently say that the Son has been generated not by choice or will, thus encompassing God with a necessity which excludes choice and purpose, so that He begot the Son unwillingly, we account as most irreligious and alien to the Church; in that they have dared to define such things concerning God, beside the common notions concerning Him, nay, beside the purport of divinely inspired Scripture. For we, knowing that God is absolute and sovereign over Himself, have a religious judgment that He generated the Son voluntarily and freely; yet, as we have a reverent belief in the Son’s words concerning Himself Proverbs 8:22, ‘The Lord created me a beginning of His ways for His works,’ we do not understand Him to have been originated like the creatures or works which through Him came to be. For it is irreligious and alien to the ecclesiastical faith, to compare the Creator with handiworks created by Him, and to think that He has the same manner of origination with the rest. For divine Scripture teaches us really and truly that the Only-begotten Son was generated sole and solely. Yet , in saying that the Son is in Himself, and both lives and exists like the Father, we do not on that account separate Him from the Father, imagining place and interval between their union in the way of bodies. For we believe that they are united with each other without mediation or distance , and that they exist inseparable; all the Father embosoming the Son, and all the Son hanging and adhering to the Father, and alone resting on the Father’s breast continually. Believing then in the All-perfect Triad, the most Holy, that is, in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and calling the Father God, and the Son God, yet we confess in them, not two Gods, but one dignity of Godhead, and one exact harmony of dominion, the Father alone being Head over the whole universe wholly, and over the Son Himself, and the Son subordinated to the Father; but, excepting Him, ruling over all things after Him which through Himself have come to be, and granting the grace of the Holy Ghost unsparingly to the saints at the Father’s will. For that such is the account of the Divine Monarchy towards Christ, the sacred oracles have delivered to us.” (2.26)
“(18.) Whosoever, hearing that the Father is Lord and the Son Lord and the Father and Son Lord, for there is Lord from Lord, says there are two Gods, be he anathema. For we do not place the Son in the Father’s Order, but as subordinate to the Father; for He did not descend upon Sodom without the Father’s will, nor did He rain from Himself, but from the Lord, that is, the Father authorising it. Nor is He of Himself set down on the right hand, but He hears the Father saying, ‘Sit on My right hand’ Psalm 110:1.” (2.27)
“But since many persons are disturbed by questions concerning what is called in Latin ‘Substantia,’ but in Greek ‘Usia,’ that is, to make it understood more exactly, as to ‘Coessential,’ or what is called, ‘Like-in-Essence,’ there ought to be no mention of any of these at all, nor exposition of them in the Church, for this reason and for this consideration, that in divine Scripture nothing is written about them, and that they are above men’s knowledge and above men’s understanding; and because no one can declare the Son’s generation, as it is written, ‘Who shall declare His generation’ Isaiah 53:8? For it is plain that the Father only knows how He generated the Son, and again the Son how He has been generated by the Father. And to none can it be a question that the Father is greater: for no one can doubt that the Father is greater in honour and dignity and Godhead, and in the very name of Father, the Son Himself testifying, ‘The Father that sent Me is greater than I’ John 10:29; 14:28. And no one is ignorant, that it is Catholic doctrine, that there are two Persons of Father and Son, and that the Father is greater, and the Son subordinated to the Father together with all things which the Father has subordinated to Him, and that the Father has no beginning, and is invisible, and immortal, and impassible; but that the Son has been generated from the Father, God from God, Light from Light, and that His origin, as aforesaid, no one knows, but the Father only. And that the Son Himself and our Lord and God, took flesh, that is, a body, that is, man, from Mary the Virgin, as the Angel preached beforehand; and as all the Scriptures teach, and especially the Apostle himself, the doctor of the Gentiles, Christ took man of Mary the Virgin, through which He has suffered. And the whole faith is summed up , and secured in this, that a Trinity should ever be preserved, as we read in the Gospel, ‘Go and baptize all the nations in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost’ Matthew 28:19. And entire and perfect is the number of the Trinity; but the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, sent forth through the Son, came according to the promise, that He might teach and sanctify the Apostles and all believers.” (2.28)
The only reason I can gather why Evangelicals are so worked up about this issue is because they feel if the Son is subordinated to the Father, then this means women should be subordinated to men. But I don’t follow the logic because a) even if it is accurate to say that the 4th century theologians condemned subjectionist views on the Trinity (which they did not), these same 4th century theologians also certainly condemned women’s ordination and b) a Father-Son relationship is not equivalent to a husband-wife relationship–subjection of the Son to the Father (if not found in 1 Cor. 11:3) is found in 1 Cor. 15:25-28 and in John 14:28. Nevertheless, it does seem that Athanasius argued for the subordination of the Son to the Father.