Another way in which some recent Calvinist theologians advance the notion of a compositional unity of divine knowledge and will is through the teaching of eternal functional subordination. In short, this teaching claims that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father such that the Father has a unique power and authority to issue commands to the Son, and the Son, in turn, has the unique obligation to submit Himself to the Father's command. ... What makes this claim controversial is that this command-obedience arrangement is said to characterize the relations of the persons within the Godhead itself (ad intra) and not merely the Son's obligation as incarnate man. (James E. Dolezal, All that is in God, 132)
As someone who subscribes to ESS, this is such a terrible misrepresentation that it is amazing how it can even be written. It is not even a fair representation of Ware and Grudem either, with whom I have disagreements on this issue. First, ESS is always ad extra, not ad intra; functional not essential. Second, it is not that the Son is "eternally subordinate" but that he chooses to eternally submit to the Father. Third, it is relations and persons, not essence.
Now, it can be argued that based upon classical theism's notions of time and eternity and perfection and so on, ESS looks like what Dolezal has described. And certainly that is true. But a scholar has to not just claim that something looks like what he thinks it is according to his own system, but a scholar has to adequately represents the other side accurately. Since this is not what is going to happen, let me kindly suggest how a classical theist ought to critique ESS:
- Criticize ESS' view of time and eternity, but not doing it as "it is against classical metaphysics," but as an argument why classical metaphysics should be regarded as superior to ESS' metaphysics.
- Criticize (some) ESS' language of the inner life of God
- Criticize ESS' view of the relation of works to being
- Criticize (some) ESS' shallow doctrine of the Trinity.
- Propose a better way to explain God's interaction with His creatures, acknowledging the very real concerns their detractors have about an abstract and timeless deity, not just glossing over them and attacking their opponents with vitriol.
It is the last point which was really upsetting during the online war over ESS 2-3 years ago. Classical theists have never ONCE acknowledged the very real concerns their opponents have, and decide the best course of action was scorched-earth guns-blazing accusations of high treason against God, against their VERY OWN brothers in the faith. Reformed turned against Reformed, Evangelical turned against Evangelical, and for what? Spilling blood on behalf of Saint Thomas Aquinas? If there was one major event that shook my confidence in the Reformed faith, it was this event above all else.