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Catholics/Jesus being subordinate to the Father


QUESTION: If Jesus and the Father are co-eternal and co-equal how is it that Jesus will by a subject of the Father?

I was reading this passage from 1 Corinthians 15:28 "And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all."

That seems to be saying that the Father will make all things subject to himself including Jesus.  If that is the case then Jesus can not be co-equal, or this passage has a different meaning

ANSWER: Jesus is subject to the Father in an analogous way as offspring are subject to their parents.  Using the same analogy: offspring are subservient to their parents with respect to their relationship to their parents, but equal to their parents with respect to their nature--that is--what they are.  Parents beget children who are of the same nature.  Do not take the analogy too far--because unlike biological parents and offspring, there was never a time when God the Son was not.  God the Son is eternally generated by God the Father.  He has always been with God the Father.

God the Father has a priority in the Trinity because he is the source of life--both human and divine. This is what makes God the Father, God the Father--the fact that He is the source and origin of all that is.  This is why God's relationship to us is paternal and not maternal.  God the Son is generated from eternity past by God the Father by way of generation.  The Holy Spirit comes from the Father and the Son by way of spiration.   God the Son is the WORD of God, God the Holy Spirit the BREATH of God.  

When speaking of the Trinity, there is an axiom to keep in mind: Difference in function does not indicate inferiority in nature.  God the Father is the origin of all that is through God the Son by the working of the Holy Spirit.  The reason that it fell to God the Son to redeem the world has to do with the fact that God the Father creates and orders creation through God the Son.  Thus when creation fell into disorder, it fell to God the Son to restore order--redemption.  (Recreation.)

There are two terms to keep in mind here: nature vs. personhood.  With respect to God's nature we say that God is one.  With respect to God's personhood we say that God is three.  The word "nature" refers to WHAT God is.  The word "person" refers to WHO God is.

Thus: what is the Father?  God.  What is the Son?  God.  What is the Holy Spirit? God.  Who is God?  God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The distinction in God is not in nature but in relationship.  There are three persons that possess one divine nature. God is therefore both a unity and a plurality. God is a unity in nature, a plurality in personhood.  

There are many places in Scripture where Jesus speaks about the Father being greater than he. Indeed--in the order of relationship, the Father is greater than Jesus--Jesus is the Son.  But in the order of Nature Jesus is equal to the Father.  There are also many places where Jesus speaks about he and the Father being one, the Father being in Him, etc.  When Jesus is speaking about his unity with the Father, Jesus is speaking in terms of NATURE.

A priest by the name of Arius in the infant Church (2-300's) taught that Jesus was God's son by adoption.  Jesus was less than the Father and not equal to the Father.  He also taught that there was a time when the Son was not.  The Son was created by the Father.  Arius and his followers misread and used the Scripture passages where Jesus talks about the Father being greater, etc.  This heresy is called Arianism.  It was one of the first major heresies that the Church had to deal with. The heresy was so great that it tore the Church apart at the seams.  In 325AD a council was called by the emperor because the Church was so divided.  This was threatening the health of the empire.  This was the Council of Nicaea.  It is the first of 21 ecumenical councils held by the Church to address major points of division.  The Council defined that the Son (Jesus the incarnate Word of God) is homoousious with the Father.  (Of the same substance.) This is where the Nicaea Creed comes from. "I believe in God the Father almighty creator of heaven and earth..."

A bishop by the name of Athanasius lead the council and was instrumental in defending the Christian Faith.  After Nicaea, the heresy actually became worse and it took around 100 years or so for the heresy to subside.  Many of the bishops, went Arian under political pressure.  Even Pope Liberius signed on to an ambiguous creed that could be taken in an Arian sense--he did this under threat of torture and persecution.  Thing is--whenever the political pressure subsided, the bishops went right back to defending the Christian Faith.  A 90 year old bishop was beaten and tortured for refusing to defend Arianism.  

Today, the Arian heresy is alive and well in pseudo-Christian religious like the Mormons and the Jehovah Witnesses.   Interestingly enough many of the arguments they use to justify their theological beliefs about God are taken right from the Arian playbook.  (The ironic thing is that they think they are so clever--that no one had ever thought of this before! The reality is that the Church has already been there, done that--as with just about everything. There is nothing new under the sun.) They have been aptly answered by such fathers as Athanasius, Hillary of Poitier, etc.  You can access their writings at NEWADVENT.ORG.   

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QUESTION: Thank you for your reply.

In my question perhaps I should have asked for scriptural evidence to show how to reconcile what was written in 1 Corinthians.  At this time I am not interested in what other writers said, I want to know what the Bible says.  Shouldn’t the Bible be our source of information”

I can understand your analogy of a child and parents where the child obeys the parents so that they are in subjection to the parents but are equal in nature to the parents. So I understand human nature, we are terrestrial. All animals on earth are terrestrial.  We all share the same nature, except God made us have them in subjection.  

I do not see who that analogy applies to God and Jesus.  The only thing I every remember reading about the nature of God is that he is a spirit. So doesn’t that mean that the nature of God is that of a spirit? When Jesus was resurrected he became a spirit. The angels are spirits. The devil and his friends are spirits. So what scripture tells us that God and Jesus have  a completely different nature to the angels and the devil?

You said

There are also many places where Jesus speaks about he and the Father being one, the Father being in Him

Isn’t there also a verse where Jesus says that he and his disciples are one? Is there a different meaning to word “one” used when Jesus said he and the Father were one to when he said he and the disciples were one?

You said

When Jesus is speaking about his unity with the Father, Jesus is speaking in terms of NATURE.

Can you please show me evidence of that from the Bible.

Sorry for the questions.  I want tounderstand an know God as presented in his word. There have just been some passages that I find hard to reconcile

Firstly, of course the Bible should be our source of information--in the sense that a textbook is a source of information about a subject matter.  The Bible as a source of information without a divinely authorized teacher, however, is like a textbook without a teacher.  You can learn--but with a teacher you can learn more perfectly.

Unlike Protestants, Catholics do not just read and interpret the Bible in isolation from the Tradition from which it came.  Unlike Protestants, Catholics also do not read and interpret the Bible in isolation from the wider Catholic community.  

Thus, when you ask "Shouldn't the Bible be our source of information?"  The answer is "of course."  But to say that without qualification is misleading.  You say that you don't want to know what others have said, you just want to know what the Bible says. The fact is---when most people--Protestant or Catholic read and attempt to interpret the Bible, in the end they will do so based on what others have taught them.  Very few people actually come up with original material.  After 2016 years of Christianity, that would be difficulty to do.  Most controversies today take two forms: 1) they are either an old heresy repackaged and disguised as something new and "cutting edge" or 2) controversies about morality.  Liberal scholars who try to claim that the Church did not know what she was talking about for the past 2000 years--until the likes of them came along to teach them what the Bible really says about divorce and remarriage, gay marriage, women's ordination, etc.  

Your questions suggests the influence of Mormonism on your thought.  Whether you are a Mormon or were Mormon or had anything to do with Mormonism I do not know--but your question does suggest a certain Mormon influence.  

God is a Spirit.  God the Father is a Spirit.  God the Son (the eternal Word) was a Spirit--until the Incarnation whereby the Word became flesh in the Divine Person of Jesus Christ.  At that point God the Son is no longer pure spirit but an embodied Spirit like us. When he was raised from the dead he did not become a pure Spirit again. His flesh became glorified.  The Word of God retains his flesh. God the Holy Spirit is, like the Father a pure Spirit.  Thus, in the person of the Father, God is pure Spirit.  In the person of the Son, God is an embodied Spirit.  In the person of the Holy Spirit, God is pure Spirit.  

Our natures WERE different from God prior to the Incarnation. Through the Incarnation, God (in the Divine Person of Jesus Christ) takes on a human nature thus uniting humanity to Himself.  Thus, God is no longer totally other and totally different from us, but actually one of us through the Incarnation.  Again, God is a Trinity of persons.  Thus, in the person of the Father, God is totally beyond us and totally different from us.  In the person of the Son, God is like us.  In the person of the Holy Spirit, God dwells within us.  

You ask me to show you specific verses from the Bible to back up my claims.  I can do that to a degree.  The problem is that the Bible is not a theology text book.  The Bible does not always used refined theological language to teach us.  The Bible does not make a distinction between person and nature.  This is because in order to make that distinction, certain theological controversies, namely Arianism have to be presupposed.  These were not controversies at the time the Bible was written. Theological language only becomes refined and specific in response to controversies.  This is similar to the US Constitution and the development of law.  The law only becomes more and more specific and refined in response to challenges and decisions in response to those challenges by the courts system.  

Here are some verses whereby Jesus seems to suggest he is inferior to the Father:  

John 14:28 "You heard me say, 'I am going away and I am coming back to you.' If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I."

Matthew 24:36 "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

These are two verses--that are a sampling.  I could multiply verses I am sure.  The above two are just meant to give an idea.

Now here are verses that seem to suggest that Jesus and the Father are equal:

John 10:30: "I and the Father are one."  

Matthew 28:19: "Go ye therefore and make disciples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."  

Again, just a sampling.  

It is difficult for me to just start quoting Scripture verses.  It would be easier for me if you emailed me specific verses and asked what they meant or how they can be reconciled.  

As for there being a different meaning to the word "one" when Jesus speaks of his Father and he being one, verses the disciples: that I do not know.  I would have to see the verses in Greek and see if a different Greek term is used, then I would have to compare it with verses where the term is used, etc.  That question would be better posed to a Scripture scholar.  


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Father Dave Bechtel


I am a Catholic priest in good standing and in active ministry in the Diocese of Scranton PA. I can answer most any question about the Catholic Faith, however my area of specialization is Systematic Theology. Systematic Theology is a branch of theology that focuses on the fundamental tenants of the Faith and the Dogmas of the Faith. I have specialization on the Reformation and Catholic vs. Protestant theology/issues and answering Protestant challenges to the Faith.


I was ordained in June of 2008. Since that time the thrust of my ministry has been specialized. In my first assignment I was an assistant pastor. A year later I was sent to work in education. I spent six (6) years in education and have now assumed my first pastorate. While education was the thrust of my ministry, nevertheless I continued to have a hand in parish ministry, hospital chaplaincy and prison chaplaincy. Now that I am out of education I will obviously be focusing more on parish work than specialized ministry. I have two years of formal Clinical Pastoral Education and prior to ordination I successfully pursued Board Certification for health care ministry through the NACC. My certification needs to be renewed and I plan to seek dual certification in health care ministry (NACC and APC) when I renew my certification. I have a breadth of experience working with Protestant ministers and collaborating with them to achieve the goals of hospital pastoral care and chaplaincy. These ministers run the spectrum from the liberal to the conservative.

Bachelors of Science-- University of Scranton PA Masters of Arts Theology--- Saint Mary's Seminary and University Baltimore MD Masters of Divinity--- Saint Charles Borremeo Seminary Philadelphia PA Board Certified Chaplain (up for renewal)

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