Neo-subordinationism has its origins in Lucifer, who was the very first one, long before Arius, and long before neo-subordinationism was first articulated in 1977, to hierarchically order the immanent Trinity and subordinate the Son to the Father. This heresy is packaged with Last Generation Theology, male headship theory, church purificationism, legalism, perfectionism, fanaticism, and other imbecilities we Seventh-day Adventists know all too well. They all share one commonality, which is the desire, witting and more often unwitting, to exalt self relative to others.
The best way to spotlight how far out to sea these troubled souls are, I think, is to quote some nice observations recently posted by Matthew L. Tinkham, Jr.:
OUR SIN, GOD’S GRACE
Isaiah 64:6b, NIV, says, “and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” The Hebrew phrase translated here as “like filthy rags” is וּכְבֶ֥גֶד עִדִּ֖ים, and it literally means “like a garment of menstruation.” This is how utterly appalling even our best attempts to perform holy deeds are! Our good works aren’t that good after all but are thoroughly tainted by our sinfulness. This is the extreme depths of our human depravity, the severity of our situation. We are so corrupted by sin, that even our righteous acts constitute sin!
The Protestant reformer, Philip Melanchthon wrote in 1519, “Therefore it is true that even good works are sins” (Baccalaureate Thesis 11).
In 1521, he similarly wrote, “But the works that follow justification, although they proceed from the Spirit of God who fills the hearts of the justified, are still impure themselves, since they are done in flesh that is still impure. … Moreover, since there is a certain impurity even in these works, they do not merit the name ‘righteousness.’ No matter where you turn, whether to the works that come before justification or to those that follow justification, there is no place for our merit. Therefore, justification must be the work of God’s mercy alone” (Loci communes rerum theologicarum, 134).
No amount of the purest of human deeds in this life will merit us anything because they are still dirty menstrual rags, utterly stained with sin. Even our good works need to be cleansed by the blood of Jesus!
Ellen G. White said, “Man’s obedience can be made perfect only by the incense of Christ’s righteousness, which fills with divine fragrance every act of obedience” (AA 531).
“He keeps his eye upon [his children], and when they do their best, calling upon God for his help, be assured the service will be accepted, although imperfect. Jesus is perfect. Christ’s righteousness is imputed unto them, and he will say, ‘Take away the filthy garments from him and clothe him with change of raiment.’ Jesus makes up for our unavoidable deficiencies” (3SM 195–196).
“If you would gather together everything that is good and holy and noble and lovely in man and then present the subject to the angels of God as acting a part in the salvation of the human soul or in merit, the proposition would be rejected as treason. … Christ for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made rich. And any works that man can render to God will be far less than nothingness. My requests are made acceptable only because they are laid upon Christ’s righteousness. The idea of doing anything to merit the grace of pardon is fallacy from beginning to end” (FW 23–24).
OUR ONLY HOPE IS JESUS! We can only be saved from sin by the imputation of all our sin to Christ on the cross and by the perfectly meritorious righteousness of Jesus’s active and passive obedience graciously imputed to us by faith through Jesus (i.e., justifying grace) and graciously imparted to us by faith through the Holy Spirit (i.e., sanctifying grace). We can only be perfect in the eyes of the Father, as we stand by faith in union with Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. And, even then, as another Protestant reformer, Martin Luther, once said beautifully, simul justus et peccator (i.e., “simultaneously justified and sinner”). Sinless perfection will only come in the eschaton at the parousia, when, through Jesus’s gracious act, we receive our new immortal, incorruptible bodies by faith (i.e., glorifying grace).
Sola fide (“by faith alone”),
Sola gratia (“by grace alone”),
Solo Christo (“through Christ alone”),
Solo Spirito Sancto (“through the Holy Spirit alone”)
Soli Deo gloria (“glory to God alone”)!