Wednesday, June 3, 2009

That's ALL?

Before I get started, let me take time to introduce everyone to the other links on my site. There are two of them: one goes to the American Institute for Faith and Culture, and the other is to my second blog, “The Center for Theological Studies” (CTS). CTS was created by my partner on the site, Byron M. Gillory III, as a blog that would tackle Biblical issues, stuff pertaining to what Christians believe about God, ourselves, the Bible, Christ, and eschatology—the study of the last things. If you take a trip to the site sometime, you’ll find that Byron has placed an article on there about Spinoza and miracles. All of you should read it sometime…

CTS is a part of the American Institute for Faith and Culture. This institute was founded by Byron, and I am a department head of the institute—as CTS demonstrates, I head up the theological studies department. I’ve posted some of my work from this site on CTS as well. This summer, having time to study the Arminian/Calvin debate, I’ve had time to study other theological issues. The Arminian/Calvin debate will probably be the biggest issue of the summer at CTS—but, stay tuned…others are sure to pop up out of nowhere.

Now, to Byron (my “adopted” brother, my twin in all the world): some time back, Byron and I began to discuss the issue of women in ministry. He talked to a professor who said that, while most complementarians don’t believe that 1 Timothy 2 is discussing women not having spiritual authority in the church, they seem to hang on to the view itself. Why? “Because of the Trinity.”

That’s IT? The TRINITY? I mean, I can understand someone taking 1 Timothy 2 out of context, coming to some warped conclusions about women. People have done that for years? But the TRINITY? That’s the ONLY thing keeping complementarians from changing sides?

It seems to be true. And that’s the reason why I applaud Rebecca Merrill Groothuis for tackling this subject in the book, “Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy.” If egalitarians are gonna change the world, one book at a time (and one blog post at a time), then they are gonna have to tackle the issue of the subordination of the Son to the Father.

“Support for the claim that woman’s unequal role does not bespeak woman’s unequal being is often sought in the analogy of the relationship of God the Son to God the Father. It is argued that the Father and the Son are “EQUAL IN BEING” yet IN ALL THINGS AND THROUGH ALL ETERNITY they relate to one another according to a HIERARCHY OF AUTHORITY AND OBEDIENCE; thus the analogy of the ‘eternal functional subordination’ within the Trinity illustrates and vindicates woman’s permanent and comprehensive subordination to man’s authority” (Rebecca Merrill Groothuis, “Discovering Biblical Equality,” page 329).

The analogy of the Father and Son is wrong on a few accounts, but I’m gonna spend time examining one particular piece of evidence against the concept: context.

If the relationship of the Father and Son was an example of how men and women relate to each other, don’t you think Scripture would have mentioned it? Yet, it’s funny that Scripture NEVER uses the Father-Son relationship in that way. Whenever the relationship is mentioned, it is mentioned CONCERNING MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH and their interactions with one another.

To see this concept, look at Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians:

“Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus: TO ALL THE SAINTS IN CHRIST JESUS WHO ARE IN PHILIPPI, including the overseers and deacons” (Phil. 1:1, Holman Christian Standard Bible).

Paul’s writing this letter to ALL THE SAINTS, everybody, not just some people. This letter is not written to JUST women, where Paul could say, “Submit to the male leaders, as Christ submitted to the Father.” No! Paul is writing to all the believers.

And it is to the church that Paul gives the analogy of the Son to the Father:

“Everyone should look out not [only] for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, existing in the form of God, did not consider EQUALITY with God AS SOMETHING TO BE USED FOR HIS OWN ADVANTAGE. Instead He emptied Himself by ASSUMING THE FORM OF A SLAVE, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming OBEDIENT to the point of death—even to death on a cross. For this reason God also HIGHLY EXALTED HIM and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow----of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth----and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 3:4-11, HCSB).

Here Paul is talking about the believers to put others before themselves. And who is the example? Christ. Why is Christ the example? Because, even though He was God (and is God), He didn’t let His EQUALITY with the Father keep Him from submitting to His Father. Instead, He SUBORDINATED Himself for a time, becoming human (human flesh being, of course, “a little lower than the angels,” Psalm 8); and, if that wasn’t enough, He even went to the cross in OBEDIENCE to His Father. As a result, the Father exalted Him for His obedience and gave Him the ONLY NAME by which people can be saved.

What we see is the Son doing what the Father demanded—and obeying, received exaltation. However, this exaltation wasn’t just for the Son—it was also “to the glory of God the Father.” The Father started the process of redeeming the world by sending His Son; the Son went in obedience to the Father to die for the world and, while on earth, EXALTED the Father; in return, the Father EXALTS the Son and all of this brings glory to the Father.

Notice that Christ, as the SON of God, is elevated as the example for the church, the SONS of God. By following Christ’s example, the church would be acting as SONS of the Most High God—and the Father would exalt them and bless them in due time.
Peter gives similar words to the Jewish believers in the Dispersion in his First Letter. Here, Peter is telling those in the church how they should conduct themselves in their relationships with one another:

“And all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, because He cares about you” (1 Peter 5:5-7, HCSB).

Peter tells the believers to humble themselves UNDER the hand of God. Sounds familiar to Paul’s words in Philippians, right? Paul told the believers there that Christ “HUMBLED HIMSELF…” (Phil. 2:8). He also told the Philippian believers to “in humility consider others as more important than” themselves (2:3). Paul focuses on the exaltation of Christ in Philippians (pointing to the exaltation of the believers there due to humility), while Peter focuses on God exalting the believers in the Dispersion.

The language of submission and exaltation has to do with all the believers there, NOT a division of men and women. The idea that these passages deal with men and women is ridiculous. In addition, notice that the ONLY submission stressed prior to the general submission in 1 Peter 5 is the submission of the younger believers to the older believers. There are NO genders mentioned here.

So, what analogy applies to husbands and wives? The analogy of Christ and the CHURCH in Ephesians 5:

“Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, for the husband is head of the wife as also Christ is head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives should [submit] to their husbands in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24, HCSB).

I want us to take time to examine something here so that we don’t get misled. The reason why wives are to submit to their husbands is because THE CHURCH SUBMITS TO CHRIST. But why isn’t the analogy of the Father and Son used IF subordination of the wife is what’s in mind here?

The answer is that subordination IS NOT the idea here. The idea in mind here is submission. Submission is not the same as subordination.

According to Byron (mentioned above), the only thing keeping complementarians intact is the Father-Son relationship in the Trinity. But the problem is that whenever this relationship is discussed, it’s used in regards to members of the body of Christ, not the husband and wife—and certainly not with discussions of men and women.

Rather, when men and women are discussed, Adam and Eve are used (1 Tim. 2 and 1 Corinthians 11); and in 1 Corinthians 11, the old order of birth (man before woman) is replaced with woman before man.

To the complementarian I say, CONSIDER YOUR CONTEXT! If this is all they have, then they have nothing at all…


  1. Amen! Consider indeed the context! It is also good to see a woman going into the field of apologetics. There really isn't enough women in this field and I am delighted to see that you are entering this male dominated field. Good going!

  2. Cheryl,

    Thanks so much for posting at the site. Please continue to read and pray for the blog's success...

  3. “Because of the Trinity”???!!!?? This does seem bizarre.

    For a doctrine, i.e., patriarchal complementarianism (PC), which professes to be rooted in what the Scripture “clearly says,” this is definitely a new turn. There is not a single prooftext that even remotely suggests an analogy between subordination in the Trinity and the subordination of women to men.

    Yet I think I can see why they would hold on to this dubious doctrine with such determination. If they can succeed in arguing that the Trinity functions along the line of an eternal “role” subordination, then the PC doctrine of women’s equal being/unequal role is not illogical, and PCs can then hang on to their analogous paradigm of women’s permanent subordination in “role.”

    But since the case for equal being/unequal role in the Trinity is just as weak—if not weaker!—than the case for women being equal yet unequal, there has to be something more going on here than straightforward logical argumentation. What can it be? It can’t be the strength of the Trinity argument (the theology is incoherent, and the analogy between humanity and the Trinity is false; see pp. 329-331 in Discovering Biblical Equality, also pp. 55-60 in Good News for Women).

    No, the driving force for the Trinity argument would have to be the strength of the argument that the Trinity argument has been set up to refute: namely, the egalitarian claim that women cannot be stripped of certain key qualities of human nature and still be equal in being to men, who HAVE been given by their Creator the right to exercise the full complement of uniquely human qualities (see especially pp. 307-310 in Discovering Biblical Equality). In other words, the Trinity argument is purely ad hoc (i.e., an argument devised specifically to serve a particular purpose).

    However, I cannot believe that most patriarchal-complementarians rely more heavily on the Trinity argument than on 1 Timothy 2:11-15. That simply makes no sense!

  4. Rebecca,

    I agree with you completely. I think most arguments from complementarians are set up for this purpose. The problem with their interpretation is, as you said: it has nothing to do with 1 Timothy 2! And, as has been discussed here in numerous posts at the site, the issue that PCs have with women in leadership is that they believe 1 Timothy 2 condemns it.

    Well, if that's what the passage does, then alright...but, as we've seen, the passage does not force women into a subordinate position. So then comes along the so-called Trinity subordination concept that has become the new issue of the day. It seems as if complementarians have gotten shown to be false in Scripture-- so now, they have to "muster" up something else for their view since the old argument won't stick...

    I think the situation is pretty desperate for complementarians when they have to "invent" something that isn't there in Scripture. The whole argument for the complementarian is based on 1 Timothy 2. If they can't explain that, then they should just throw up their hands in theological honesty and admit that, contrary to what they believe, Scripture does not forbid women from places of leadership.

  5. In the 2 DVD set "The Trinity Eternity Past to Eternity Future" there are two out of the three sections that deal with exposing the false view of the subordination of the Son. Several on line clips are put together into one preview of this set here

    I believe that it is time to deal with this issue head on as the subordination of the Son has moved to a level that Bruce Ware now teaches that we are not allowed to pray to Jesus. How sad!

  6. Cheryl,

    It is sad!!!! But that is the state of our fallen world.

    Bruce Ware has a number of questionable theological issues, one of them being his idea that God ELECTS some to salvation and damns others on the basis of some unknown decree of God (instead of by faith). I've written on Calvinism and Arminianism at my other blog (Center for Theological Studies, CTS, at the top of the page). In addition, I've written a post here at Men and Women on "Calvinists and Complementarians." Read it when you get a chance if you haven't already.

    I've been studying Calvinism and Arminianism for the last month, and I think it's so sad when people have to read things into Scripture that aren't there to feel good about themselves. I've learned while at Seminary that there is a difference between UNDERSTANDING the Word and OVERSTANDING the Word. When we "UNDERSTAND" the Word, we STAND UNDER it and let it dictate to us. Unfortunately, complementarians "OVERSTAND" the Word, STAND OVER it, and tell the Word what it is going to say. And that indeed is sad.

    Nonetheless, we need to pray for people like Bruce Ware (and other complementarians). I think that their conclusions about Scripture and women are based on inner presuppositions that they place onto Scripture. Let's pray for them, that God would change their minds and hearts.

  7. I consider ESS to be the absolute biggest threat to Christianity. And yes, it has been read into the Word in order to prop up hierarchy in the Body and marriage. As Rebecca said it makes no theological sense. But that is not the is a distraction. And if the big names support it, it must be true.

    I live around these guys and I can tell you that they KNOW they are losing the theological debate on women in ministry. And strictly from those being educated in the Word. ESS is just another heretical last ditch effort. I have personally seen many of the big names we see now promoting this stuff that used to be basic comps. Now they are moving into clear cut Patriarchy.

    When I go over to read CBMW site, I feel like I am reading a Christian Talmud.


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