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Anselm on Submission & Duty

Anselm on Submission & Duty

In the midst of this Trinitarian hogwash, I must recall a certain issue I have with anything label eternal submission. My concern is that anyone might claim that the Son's submission to the Father is due, duty, or natural. I am not claiming anyone has deliberately or vocally made this point (other than Karl Barth). Yet, in making Christ necessarily obedient all Reformed understanding of Christ "meriting" — fulfilling the Covenant of Works — is rendered useless.

I learned this position from Saint Anselm's Cur Deus Homo. I put it forward and his position and not necessarily mine. Nonetheless, it is not without Biblical support. Jesus himself is stated as saying,

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’ — Luke 17:10

That which is due cannot merit. If the pre-Incarnate Son owes the Father anything — whether ontological or relational — then his obedience here on earth as both man and Divine is already owed to God. It could not be meritorious on behalf of mankind.

I confess that this line of thinking stems almost entirely from my instruction at the feet of Saint Anselm. For him, sin is the deprivation of what is owed to God. Sin is essentially equal to theft from God the glory and obedience owed him. This is particularly relevant when discussing the "why the God-man" as Anselm asks. Why must God become man for salvation? Why could only God be the savior for mankind? Because his meritorious action was not already owed to God. I recall specific portions from Saint Anselm,

"This [savlation of mankind] cannot come about unless there should be someone who would make a payment to God greater than everything that exists apart from God ... there is nothing superior to all that exists which is not God—except God" (Cur Deus Homo, II.VI)

This is the exact foundation of the Reformed tradition whether it is recognized or not. In particular, it finds its expression in the Heidelberg Catechism Q40,

Q. Why did Christ have to suffer death?
A. Because God’s justice and truth require it: 
nothing else could pay for our sins
except the death of the Son of God.

This hits the root of the Reformed tradition. It was not merely an obedient man that garnered salvation but the work of God himself. And why? Perhaps it is best to remain within the Reformed framework and say because only God could fulfill the Covenant of Works made with Adam.

"No member of the human race except Christ ever gave to God, by dying, anything which that person was not at some time going to lose as a matter of necessity. Nor did anyone every pay a debt to God which he did not owe.But Christ of his own accord gave to his Father what he was never going to lose as a matter of necessity, and he paid, on behalf of sinners, a debt which he did not owe." (Cur Deus Homo, II.XVIII)

Not a person of the Trinity who owes obedience — or for whom it is natural — but as a freely divine gift. For all the talk of obedience/submission ad intra or ad extra, the confessionally Reformed church seem forced to accept that the Son's obedience was never his required due or duty.

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