Q: What is "subordinationism"?
A: Very simply put (and there are many nuances), subordinationism is the belief that there is a hierarchy within the Godhead (Trinity) that has the Father as the head, with the Son and the Spirit flowing from the Father and in an equal, but submissive role. The main reason for this little series of posts is the way that it relates to the conversation on gender roles - I'm not sure that it plays a huge part, but the conversation did spark my curiosity.
Q: Is this the heresy of "Arianism"?
A: No. What was defined as heresy at the Council of Nicea
- Arianism taught that Christ is a created being - of "like substance", but not the "same substance" - sort of a "lesser god" or "created god".
- Arianism denied the full deity of Christ.
- Ariansim denies that the Son is of one essence, nature, or substance with God; He is not consubstantial (homoousios) with the Father, and therefore not like Him, or equal in dignity, or co-eternal, or within the real sphere of Deity.
Q: What is different about the two?
A: Subordinationism declares that each member of the Trinity are individual persons, yet fully unified in will and purpose; each member of the Trinity is fully God. James White, in "The Forgotten Trinity" puts in this way: There is One "WHAT" (the Godhead/Trinity). Within that one WHAT, there are three "WHOS" (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit). To deny that the persons of the Trinity are indeed three persons, is a denial of the Trinity that is known as "modalism" - held to by "Oneness" churches.
The Son and the Spirit are "generated" from the Father, yet all three are eternal and fully God and fully equal in person, dignity and deity. Are we confused yet? This is why the Trinity is called a "mystery".
Other helpful terms:
"The monarchy of the Father"
It is a mistake to confuse the belief of eternal submission with the heresy of Arianism.