The following paper outlines what Kevin Giles writes about subordinationism in the thought of Moltmann, Pannenberg and Roman Catholic theologians. I will discuss pp. 94-97 of Giles' work The Trinity and Subordinationism. All references are to his book.
I. Jurgen Moltmann and the Trinity
Jurgen Moltmann is one 20th century theologian and writer, who has intensely focused on the Trinity doctrine. Karl Barth has apparently exerted a great influence on Moltmann, especially with regard to the latter's stress on relationality. The community of the Three Persons within Moltmann's social Trinitarian thought is grounded in the Eastern notion of perichoresis (i.e. intermutuality, interpenetration
or mutual indwelling). The Three are considered to be divine subjects (centers of activity), Moltmann argues, who are coequal, live in one another, manifest themselves in one another, as they eternally work through one another (see Giles 94-95).
Giles concludes that Moltmann categorically repudiates "all subordinationism" (95). The Three Persons supposedly relate to the world and to one another in love. The argument is thus made that God is not a monarch to whom humans subject themselves. Rather, he is supposed to be "one who seeks a loving fellowship with those with whom he identifies himself" (ibid). Moltmann thinks God is our heavenly partner, it seems, suffering with and for us. Undoubtedly his form of social Trinitarianism is a result of his theological starting-point. He begins with God's activity in Heilsgeschichte (salvation history) rather than with God's immanence (divine existence in se).
II. Pannenberg, the Trinity and Subordinationism
Another significant Protestant theologian is Wolfhart Pannenberg. His thought has been described as "speculative" since he putatively has the tendency (Tendenz) to navigate theologically where other Trinitarian discussions are "currently cresting" (Giles quoting Ted Peters in Giles 95). Giles chooses Pannenberg because other Protestant theologians have stated that the German thinker espouses the eternal subordination of the Son. But while Pannenberg does write that the Son is "dependent" on the Father and he is evidently "differentiated" from the Father, Pannenberg's thought as a whole apparently does not support the claim made by certain Protestant theologians. Granted, he seems to believe that the Son and the Spirit are dependent on the Father; however, the Father is evidently also dependent on the Son in his post-resurrection existence according to Pannenberg:
"The Father's dependence on the Son takes place, Pannenberg argues, after Christ's resurrection, when he is given all power and authority, being made head over all things . . ." (Giles 96).
In nuce, it appears that Pannenberg believes the Son's dependence on the Father is balanced by the Father's mutual dependence on the Son. Giles thus concludes that a holistic reading of Pannenberg does not support the claim that he teaches the eternal subordination of the Son. To the contrary, a "mutuality in their relationship" obtains, is the view of Pannenberg.
III. Roman Catholicism and Subordinationism
Giles states that Roman Catholic treatments of the Trinity doctrine are examples of high-level scholarship: they are "impressive," and these Catholic studies apparently do not differ in substance from their Protestant counterparts. Giles summarizes these Roman Catholic works in the following way: "The Trinity is a communion of three distinct divine persons who interpenetrate one another and work as one, none being set over or under the others" (97).
Nevertheless, he reports that he was surprised when he researched Catholic books while writing his study, for he found that none of the Catholic works he consulted actually talked about subordinationism in any detail. He relates that Catholics think the pre-Nicenes "naively" subordinated the Son and Spirit to the Father (Bernard Lonergan). Furthermore, "Subordinationism is not given a hearing by Roman Catholic theologians because their doctrine of the Trinity is emphatically 'Western' "(ibid).
The Roman Catholic version of the Trinity doctrine supposedly begins with the unity of the persons. Ergo, "Whenever the divine unity is to the fore, subordinationism is excluded" (ibid). The Western Filioque clause also seems to preclude any suggestion that the Son is, in any way, subordinate to the Father. In ftn. 51 on page 97, Giles refers to Catholic books on the Trinity that he consulted in preparation for his study. He closes the section on Roman Catholic theologians by referring to Karl Rahner's rule, even though he denies that this notable axiom supports the eternal subordination of the Son concept. The famed rule says: "the economic Trinity is the immanent Trinity and the immanent Trinity is the economic Trinity."
So whether drawing from Protestant or Roman Catholic thinkers, Giles insists that neither type of theologia upholds subordinationism.