Tag Archives: Trinity

Graham Explains Submission within the Trinity


On our February 3rd VLOG, Becky’s husband Graham Buck offered an excellent explanation of what submission looks like from a Trinitarian perspective.  I thought I would transcribe his comments here for easier reference:

Becky: [Introduces Graham…]

Graham: Ok, so, submission when it comes to marriage.  I think where people sometimes get into trouble is right at the very beginning.  When we think about this idea of submission in marriage, and people draw this primarily from Ephesians 5 and 6, where Paul is laying out instructions for Christian families, and he makes this comment as to submission.

Now, the trouble comes from when we start from a strictly dictionary definition of submission.  I think that people sometimes feel that whenever you read submission, it is one person exerting their authority over another, and usually in an authoritarian way.  Which is not at all what the biblical picture of submission is.  In order to understand submission, we need to look back at God himself, because within the Trinity, you have mutually submissive relationships.  You have Father, you have Son, you have Holy Spirit, who are One and Three.

And if its true, as it is, that we are made in God’s image, as per Genesis 2, then who we are is going to reflect who God is.  Men will reflect God’s image, women will reflect God’s image.  And its not the case that you have just men or just women reflecting the image, or god forbid, you have men reflect part of his image here, and women reflect part of his image there, and in order to get the full picture, you have to be in a marriage relationship.  That kind of idea can do a lot of damage, and unfortunately, is not uncommon, and more often than not, has negative impact on women as opposed to men, because it tends to be in areas where guys can do anything and girls can’t.  But that’s conversation for another day.  We’re talking about submission.

So you have Father, Spirit and Son in a relationship.  The most deeply intimate relationship that there is.  Every kind of intimacy that we can know and understand is derivative from this intimate relationship that the Trinity experiences.  And while even the names Father and Son, and unfortunately most Christians have a very low view of Holy Spirit, its just some nebulous whatever.  Even just the fact that we like to have gendered names for Father and Son and then “it” for the Spirit, anyway, that’s for another day.

But its important in the sense that the names Father, Son and Spirit would lend themselves, without careful inspection of our categories, to say that the Father is the one in charge, he’s the one who lays everything down.  The Son just does what the Father says, and if you read certain portions of John, you’d think that’s exactly what happens.  Jesus says things like, “I can only do what the Father tells me to do,” “I can only say what the Father tells me to say.”  If you were to read these verses out of context, it would almost sound like a really abusive relationship, because Jesus, in some respect, says he can’t do anything apart from the Father. But that’s not the case at all.  You have the Father, who loves the Son, and you have the Son, who willingly gives of himself to the Father and to us. But it’s not just that one-way street.  The author of Hebrews even says, the Son now intercedes for us.  Jesus pleads our case to the Father, and does the Father say, “My way or the highway?”  No, the Father hears our prayers, and he answers them.

Submission within the Trinity is one where it’s not about a hierarchy, as if to say that the Father is more God than the Son, or Jesus has more authority than Holy Spirit.  Rather, submission within the Trinity is one of unified purpose, and really, for them, unified nature.

So as we think about marriage, as we think about marriage reflecting who God is, as we think about us as individuals in a marriage reflecting who God is, submission is not one of authoritative rule, it is rather one, of unified purpose.  Even there, what does Paul say?  That husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, laying down their lives for them.  Right?

This unified purpose – I am called, as a man generally, and as Graham specifically, to live out the commandments that God gives to Adam and Eve in the garden, which is to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.  This creation mandate that we see throughout the Scriptures, and ultimately, is repurposed in the Great Commission.  The Great Commission is not this brand new thing, but a restatement and a refocusing through Jesus, of the Creation Mandate of Genesis 2.
“Go and make disciples (be fruitful), baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I’ve commanded you (subdue).”

So as a man, and as Graham, that is my call.  For Becky, the call is no different.  As a woman, generally, and as Becky in particular, that is her call.  And we, as husband and wife, that is our call.  We have a unified purpose.  We are not uniform.  God himself is not uniform.  There is unity in diversity.  Unity is different than uniformity.  And so this unified purpose — that idea, I think, changes the ball game when you look at submission.  Because it then is far less about a top-down authoritarian rule of my-way-or-the-highway, or even more genteelly, I would love to hear your input, I would love to have your opinions, but ultimately it is my decision.  It’s far less that, and far more we, as individuals, and we, as one – the two shall become one – having a unified goal and a unified purpose.  And oftentimes for the us, something of me or something of she must be put aside.  Perhaps a particular desire that I have is not particularly wrong but doesn’t work for the purpose of our family, and so I just lay it down, for the purpose of our family.  Sometimes its the same for Becky.  So coming together, having a vision for our family, seeing that, working together, as co-laborers for this vision, right? And then stepping out into the world with that.  That’s the idea of submission.  We lay down our individual wants and desires when it comes time for that, because the us, and that vision and calling, is the greater good.

Becky: Yah, I think that’s pretty much exactly why I wanted him to tackle all that!  Because he has a great ability to tie things to a more accurately Biblical perspective without it being a more polarized opinion.  So, we just want to encourage you guys to explore that.  Look into what, if you’ve never thought about submission needing to having its roots in the Trinity and how the Trinity mutually submits to each other, explore that.  Explore that and see what the Holy Spirit leads you into.  […continues to discuss submission within marriage from their personal experiences.]

Watch this video in its entirety here.

Image credit: http://www.keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk/p/keep-calm-and-obey-your-husband-5/.  Sorry for the sarcasm! 😛