Thursday, September 11, 2008

The five positions of subordination

This is the teaching in St John's Shaughnessy Church,
    Marriage is like the trinity, The Father is in charge. Jesus ALWAYS submits to the father, he obeys, he says what his father has told him to say, Jesus sees the father in the trinity as the head, and he obeys him. It is never the other way around. Isn't it interesting?
Here is the elaboration from CBMW's Gender Blog,
    Does a relationship of authority and submission really exist eternally among the persons of the Godhead? We know that while Jesus Christ walked the earth he was fully submitted to the Father, while remaining fully equal as God. But has he and will he forever be God, yet also ever in a relationship of submission to the Father?

    It's a very important question. While the commands of Scripture in Ephesians 5:22 for instance, that make plain the distinct roles between men and women under God's design are clear— they, as God's Holy Word, need no further defense to be obeyed. Still, what beauty, what wonder, what glory remains to be seen as we peer into the relationship between God the Father and God the Son that the Scriptural authors open to us?

    Further, how does the relationship of the Godhead inform our relationships between the sexes? If equality of essence and distinction of roles exist eternally in the trinity, what a strong paradigm that provides for human relations between the genders.

    Four evangelical scholars will consider this important biblical question next month in a debate set for 7 p.m., Oct. 9 in the chapel at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS) in Deerfield, Ill.

    Defending the non-subordination view will be Tom McCall, Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at TEDS and Keith Yandell, who serves as Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

    Noted scholars Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware will represent the complementarian position which affirms that a structure of authority and submission will exist for eternity in the Godhead. Both Grudem and Ware are well-known across the evangelical world and both have published extensively on the gender issue.

There are several different variations on the "subordination" view. The way I see it, there are at least these five positions,

A Arianism
B Subordinationism
C Functional Eternal Subordination
D Temporal subordination of the Son to the Father
E Indivisibility of the will of Father and Son

Grudem and Ware will take position C and the classical position is a mix of D and E. It is important to distinguish the position that Grudem and Ware will take from position A and B. These would be considered heresy.

It is also important to realize that the position of Ware and Grudem dates from about 30 years ago and is not the traditional position of the church. If it were, then a Christian marriage would be one in which the husband would never submit to the wife in anything, and the wife would always submit to the husband. There would be no case for the wife not submitting. This would be a "total submission" relationship. It is almost to bizarre to imagine.

In my view this teaching is not acceptable in any form. Although there are many different aspects to the recent fissures in the Anglican Communion, and I appreciate points from both sides, this teaching is the explicit teaching of slavery of the woman in the home. "What beauty, what wonder, what glory..." would not be my view.

4 comments:

Rachel said...

Thank you for this. It has also helped me to clear up the exact nature of what Grudem's and Ware's positions had been - I think I had been guilty of unfairly aligning these views with the A or B position. Csn you explain a little further the difference between A B and C.
Rachel at Re vis.e Re form.

Janice said...

According to Wikipedia Arians say that the Son was created. They say there was a time when the Son did not exist. By virtue of being a created being the Son is subordinate to the Father.

Subordinationists say that the Son and Holy Spirit are heirarchically subordinate/inferior in nature and being to the Father even though they have always existed and are not created.

Relational Subordinationists (or Eternal Functional Subordinationists) say that The Son and the Holy Spirit are not inferior to the Father by nature or being but are always obedient to the Father and do His will.

But if by nature and being you only ever have someone else's will (and therefore cannot help but be obedient to it) then that makes you not a person at all (maybe you are something like a robot) and, by definition, that makes you inferior to someone who is a person. Therefore Eternal Functional Subordinationism (C) aligns so closely with straight Subordinationism (B) as to make no difference. And therefore Grudem and Ware (and their followers) are heretics despite the word games they play to try to disguise their heresy, perhaps even from themselves. It does not help you to merely assert that you don't believe that the Son and the Holy Spirit are inferior to the Father if you then follow that assertion with a form of words that shows that what you're really saying is that both are, in fact, inferior.

"You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

Rachel said...

Thank you Janice for your help.

It's strange (or not) that I always felt quite intuitively that there was something not quite right about this way of thinking when I was first introduced to it. At that time, I was experiencing a spiritual awakening and a real desire to get to know God - I couldn't (and still can't) get enough, to put it rather crassly. I was in a vulnerable position, if you like, because I was wanting to feed my spirit and learn how to come into a closer relationship with God and the teaching that I was accessing felt wonderful for most of the time but something was just not quite right. I am certainly no theologian, I have a literature background, but I became hungry to find out for myself how this mystery of the trinity is articulated. At the end of about two years now of looking into these things, I feel a kind of relief, a healing, my view of the trinity remains in tact, despite my anguished explorations. For me it is not about submission, there is a beauty to the harmony of the trinity that I think humanity should just reflect upon in awe, we'll never fully understand it and can only marvel in wonder that the will of God the Father, and of the Son, is indivisible.

Thank you for your help

love Rachel at Re vis.e Re form

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks for all your comments, and I read your blogs. I don't have a lot of free time right now but I want to follow the debate coming in Oct.

It is not so much that this view is heresy as that it is terribly dangerous and damaging to all human beings to teach that a man and woman should be in a permanent authority and submission relationship with ALL authority to the male, who never submits and ALL submission to the female who has not authority.

I really cannot imagine how complementarians get away with this.

Certainly it has helped me to read more about the Sydney diocese also and to understand the theological background of my former pastor. I feel like I am coming out of a cult.