"These people do not know that while Barak trembled, Deborah saved Israel, that Esther delivered from supreme peril the children of God … Is it not to women that our Lord appeared after His Resurrection? Yes, and the men could then blush for not having sought what the women had found." –Jerome, after criticism for dedicating his books to women link
I love blogging. There are so many good thinkers out there and I am thrilled when they choose to come to our blog and share their thoughts with us. I never know which blog post will resonate with out readers. Last week's post The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: If You Can’t Explain It to Me, You’ve Got a Problem garnered over 500 comments which I truly didn't expect. So, I decided to continue on with the discussion.
Courtney Reissig, a Neo-Calvinist and self-styled complementarian, wrote a post for Her.Meneutics called Amen to Women in Politics. As I read the article, it became clear to me that the complementarian position is not clear. This post helps to explain why I believe that position will become less and less influential within the Christian community as whole. It certainly is not supported by the secular society which looks at the Christian community's attempt to explain this the same way they look at that Duggar family getting ready to do a TV show on how to counsel child sex abuse victims.
As insane as it sounds, the couple are said to be pitching a new show that will center on their counseling victims of sexual abuse — like their daughters, Jill and Jessa.
Understanding the history of the development of the doctrine of the Eternal Subordination of the Son during the last century
This is the crux of the matter. If you do not understand what is being pushed here, you will not understand why the notion of comp theology is on the big screen. The real problem lies with what came first-the chicken (female subordination) or the egg (the subordination of Jesus?) In 2006, Ben Witherington wrote a post discussing the historical development of this doctrine during the 20th century. The Eternal Subordination of Christ and of Women.
In the later part of the twentieth century the doctrine of the Trinity captured the attention of theologians more than any other doctrine, and this interest has not waned. At no time in history, since the theologically stormy days of the fourth century, has there been so much discussion on this topic. Books on the Trinity by Protestant, Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox theologians continue to be published.
The co-equal nature of the Trinity vs. the hierarchical nature of the Trinity.
He says that this interest exhibited itself in a strong affirmation of the co-equal nature of the members of the Trinity which led to an understanding that humans, too, are co-equal in relationship.
it is no surprise to find that some of the best contemporary expositions of the doctrine of the Trinity understand the Trinity as a charter for human liberation and emancipation
However, during this same period, there was an equal push by some evangelicals to perceive the Trinity as a hierarchy.
Paradoxically, in this same thirty-year period in which the co-equality of the divine persons has been powerfully reaffirmed and the implications of this teaching for our human social life recognized, many conservative evangelicals have been moving in the opposite direction. They have argued that the Trinity is ordered hierarchically, with the Father ruling over the Son. The Father is eternally “head over” the Son just as men are permanently “head over” women. In this model of the Trinity, the doctrine of the Trinity, rather than being a charter for emancipation and human liberation, becomes a charter to oppose social change and female liberation.
Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology (1994) is the key to the development of hierarchy.
This was summed up by Wayne Grudem in a book which has profoundly affected evangelical thinking.
This new teaching on the Trinity came to full fruition in 1994 with the publication of W. Grudem’s, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Zondervan, 1994). Two chapters in this book outline his doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son in function and authority. The impact of this book on evangelicals cannot be underestimated. Over 130,000 copies have been sold and the abridged version, Bible Doctrine (ed. J. Purswell; Zondervan, 1999), with exactly the same teaching on the Trinity and women, has sold over 35,000 copies.
However, Witherington disagrees that Grudem's assumptions have a strong basis in history as he suggests.
These words disclose the key issue; that is, the Son is eternally set under the authority of the Father. Grudem insists that this understanding of the Trinity is historic orthodoxy (cf. his latest book, Evangelicals, Feminism, and Biblical Truth [Multnomah, 2004] 405-43). It is, for him, what the creeds and the best of theologians have maintained throughout church history.
This hierarchical understanding of the Trinity has now almost won over the conservative evangelical community. Most evangelicals seem to believe this is what the Bible and “the tradition”—that is, the interpretive tradition—teach. However, I am also an evangelical, but I am convinced the opposite is the truth. The Bible (Matt 28:19; 2 Cor 13:13; etc.) and the interpretative tradition summed up in the creeds and Reformation confessions speaks of a co-equal Trinity where there is no hierarchical ordering.
In Grudem's camp, the subordinated role of women is the battle of our age.
The issue is not really the Trinity at all. What has generated this novel and dangerous doctrine of the Trinity is “a great cause,” the permanent subordination of women. For some evangelicals “the woman question” is the apocalyptic battle of our age.
They are convinced that the Bible gives “headship” (“leadership,” in plain speak) to men. If this principle were abandoned because of cultural change the authority of the Bible would be overthrown and the door would be opened to homosexual marriages, the ordination of practicing homosexuals, and believe it or not, the obliteration of sexual differentiation.
To bolster support for this “great cause” the doctrine of the Trinity has been redefined and reworded to give the weightiest theological support possible to the permanent subordination of women.
Witherington carefully outlines the faulty reasoning.
What has to be noted in all this is the circular nature of this reasoning.
1. A novel theology was first devised to theologically ground the permanent subordination of women based on the argument that men and women are equal yet differentiated by their God-given, unchanging roles; and then
2. the wording and ideas used to develop this novel case for the permanent subordination of women were utilized to develop a novel doctrine of the Trinity that spoke of the Son as equal, yet eternally subordinated in role or function; and then
3. this novel doctrine of the Trinity was quoted to theologically justify and explain the permanent role subordination of women.
If this line of reasoning is correct, then this means that the doctrine of the Trinity has been reformulated in terms of fallen male-female relationships to support what was already believed: women are permanently subordinated to men. Instead of correcting sinful human thinking, the primary doctrine of the Christian faith, the doctrine of the Trinity, has become a theological justification for such thinking. In the end, the doctrine of the Trinity, rather than being seen as a charter for human liberation, has become a charter for human oppression.
Ontological versus functional equality
Those in Wayne Grudem's camp do not believe that Jesus is subordinate to the Father in terms of the nature of his existence. He is co-equal in that regard. He is subordinate only in the fact that he is submissive to the Father in his function. In their line of thinking, this makes it OK.
The definition of subordination
It is my opinion that the complementarian crowd mess up in this area. They appear to believe that by merely making Jesus different in function, then the Trinity is still coequal. However, this does not play well in reality. Let's take a look at the definition of subordination. Here is the one from Merriam Webster.
Full Definition of SUBORDINATE
: placed in or occupying a lower class, rank, or position : inferior <a subordinate officer>
: submissive to or controlled by authority
a : of, relating to, or constituting a clause that functions as a noun, adjective, or adverb
Here are some synonyms for subordination.
Inferior, minor secondary, submissive subservient, unequal
Here are antonyms.
First class, important, main, primary
It is obvious that the Subordination of the Son folks came out the gate already behind. Words matter. And these words are particularly difficult to downplay.
CBMW promotes the idea that women will be subordinate to men in eternity.
The following statement would be amusing if it didn't sideline women. It appears that they don't know much about the new creation but they most certainly know that women will be subordinate forever. End of discussion.
There is so much that we cannot yet know about life in the new creation. We can be confident, though, that “God must have some very profound eternal purpose for manhood and womanhood.”52 There is every reason to believe that gender-based distinction of roles will remain. The social fabric of gender-based distinctions of roles was weaved in a pattern that accords with the prelapsarian decree of the Creator. In the new creation, that fabric will not be discarded or destroyed. The stains will be removed and rips mended. The fabric will be cleaned and pressed. But the pattern established in God’s “very good” creation will remain.
Let's call it what it is: eternal female subordination.
I want to give special thanks to TWW reader, Leila, who came up with a better term for complementarianism
Here’s one that’s better because it annoys the heck out of hardcore comps. “Female subordinationist.”
I have no idea why it would annoy the heck out of them because that is precisely what they are proposing if they understand the definition inherent in subordination.
So why promote women in politics?
I am afraid that I do not get female subordinationist, Courtney Reissig's, *rah rah* piece on women in politics. I continue to hope to see a woman in the White House before I go home to eternal subordination to the likes of Wayne Grudem, CJ Mahaney, et al., I believe that the sidelining of women in government, business, and the church has hurt each of those entities as well as out society. Secular society is changing. So is the church. At the same time there has been a full court press to develop doctrines to keep over 50% + of the church from sharing their wisdom and experience with the rest of the church.
Here is what she had to say.
While the numbers of female officials in the US are slowly edging up, their voices have long been rallying for social good and change. Throughout history, women fought for protection from harsh factory conditions. They have defended rights for pregnant women and mothers. They stood alongside men in efforts to abolish the slave trade. Today, they continue their work to bring hope to a society in desperate need of redemption and restoration.
It is not good for the man to be alone, God said (Gen. 2:18). We all benefit from the work and voices of female leaders, who stand alongside men to bring change to a broken world.
However, that change is only for anything that is not involved with the church.
She claims that being a stay at home mother is excellent preparation for being a political leader. However, she shows naivety when she discusses a number of women who have not fulfilled that role in any traditional way.
As a complementarian, some may be surprised that I applaud female leadership in the public sphere. While I believe that leadership in the church rests on qualified, male pastors, I don’t carry that belief into the culture because I don’t think the Bible does. Many fellow complementarians are with me on this point. As women like Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton pursued the presidency in recent elections, evangelicals noted that while Scripture clearly speaks directly to spiritual leadership in the home and church, it does not make the same kind of clear statements on women in governmental leadership. Additionally, many point out the examples of women leading as queens and judges in the Bible.
I should be one of those who get it. I have stayed at home full time.Yet, I am so supportive of those who have not. Each of us are called into different paths.
Reissig pushes Nikki Haley as a model female governor. Yet Haley does not represent Reissig's believe in homemaking. Here is Haley's career path.
Haley worked for FCR Corporation, a waste management and recycling company, before joining her mother’s business, Exotica International, an upscale clothing firm, in 1994. The family business grew to become a multi-million dollar company.
Haley was named to the board of directors of the Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce in 1998. She was named to the board of directors of the Lexington Chamber of Commerce in 2003. Haley became treasurer of the National Association of Women Business Owners in 2003 and president in 2004. She chaired the Lexington Gala to raise funds for the local hospital. She also serves on the Lexington Medical Foundation, Lexington County Sheriff’s Foundation, West Metro Republican Women, President of the South Carolina Chapter of the National Association of Women Business Owners, Chairman for 2006 Friends of Scouting Leadership Division campaign and is a member of the Rotary Club in Lexington.
Now, let's take a look what would happen if a Christian woman of Haley's experience showed up in your average, female subordinationist church. She would not be allowed to teach a Sunday school class on the Christian and politics. Instead, they could have the 29 year old guy who read a book on it teach. Why? Women are not allowed to teach a mixed class. Does that truly make any sense?
As Christian woman participate and lead industry, the military, social welfare programs, participate in think tanks, manage large groups of people, teach courses in psychiatry, psychology, disease prevention, etc., it is going to become more and more difficult to sideline them in church and say "Take care of the 2 year old class while the men make the important decisions for the church."
Everybody except those who believe in the subordination of women get it. Men are the leaders of the church and the experience of women does not make any difference. That makes no sense to most people.
Because I said so
I made a point in explaining to my kids why they could or could not do things. Other mothers would use the "Because I said so" mantra. "Because I said so" does work with intelligent, thoughtful people. Years ago, I discovered a problem in a church which I believe dealt poorly with some boys who were molested. Having some experience in dealing with child abuse, I tried to intervene. The elders rejected our concerns. One elder attempted to blame one of the molested boys, saying that he should have know better.
I have watched those church leaders and others screw up in handling child sex abuse, domestic violence, etc. I am firmly convinced that women on those elder boards would have made a difference. The men were more concerned about their dadblasted *authority* then they show for those who were wounded.
I find it amusing when a group of men come up with theories about the way life is going to be in heaven. Its kind of like John Piper telling us why bridges collapse. They have no proof; merely a set of proof texts and utter trust in their own imagination. Such proof texts sideline 50%+ of the Christian population. What if they are wrong?
So, I look forward to anyone out there who thinks they can explain to me why a woman with a vast amount of experience and sensitivity should sit quietly and listen to some guy who read a book and listened to some sermon.