Thursday, June 11, 2009

Grammatical and biological gender

Joel wrote about sophia in a comment,
    Perhaps unseen is not the best word that I could have used. Instead, perhaps I should have said heavenly versus earthly? By that, I mean, that John interacted on a very personal level with the Logos, while Wisdom has yet to interact with humanity on the personal level, as the Logos has.
I really appreciate Joel's interaction on this and it has got me thinking about reason and wisdom, or logos and sophia. If I look back at the passage from Gregory of Nyssa, then it appears that "word and spirit" and "reason and wisdom" are couplets that contain two terms which refer to the same entity. At least that is what I think.

So what does this suggest to me about gender?

First, there is grammatical gender - in those languages which have grammatical gender - which we can identify almost all the time by visible linguistic elements. Second, there is biological gender, which is largely, but not absolutely, stable. For the purposes of this discussion, I regard grammatical and biological gender as simple, observable phenomena, although I recognize that for the purposes of other discussions, they may not be.

In my view, we cannot verify the gender of any other thing beyond our observable reality. I believe that both logos and sophia are equally considered the preincarnate Christ by the early church fathers. The gender of these terms did not bother them. Christ was male in his physical and biological being, but he is neither the "eternal masculine" nor is he the "pre-existant feminine."

Only this view makes sense of the fact that logos becomes feminine in French and neuter in German without losing meaning. Only this view accounts for the fact that the spirit is feminine in Hebrew, neuter in Greek and masculine in Latin.

Here is another example. Some say that as the Father is to the Son, so is man to woman. Right away this contravenes gender. But if we think of Christ as the Logos of God, as His expression, the earthly incarnation of God; then once again gender is contravened. Woman is never treated as the logos of man - would that she were!

However, I do believe that the gender of words contributes to metaphorical meaning. It is a strong component of the poetic force of any language with grammatical gender. As humans we are very susceptible to arguments using gender since sexuality is a strong force in our life.

Gender in language should be treated as a beautiful and powerful poetic device which rouses our feeling and draws us close to what is beautiful and good. Gender in language should call to mind the love of our mother and father, the closeness of a community of siblings, the friendship of others, and the life-creating power of intimacy.

I'll write about what I think are the implications for translation in another post.

Index

17 comments:

John Starke said...

You say:
"Here is another example. Some say that as the Father is to the Son, so is man to woman. Right away this contravenes gender. But if we think of Christ as the Logos of God, as His expression, the earthly incarnation of God; then once again gender is contravened. Woman is never treated as the logos of man - would that she were!"

I wonder how you would interpret 1 Cor. 11:3? I'm sure what you mean by "gender is contravened", but it seems that God is using his relationship with his Son, as the model or analogy (weak word) for the relationship of men and women - however you interpret that.

I think you wrongly conclude when you say "Father sends the Son, therefore Man must send his wife". The Son's submission to the Father is not centered around him being sent, but rather his function in all things as equal God. The arguments are more precise than that. You have to give us some credit :)

Suzanne McCarthy said...

"The Son's submission to the Father is not centered around him being sent, but rather his function in all things as equal God."

I am going to cite Ware on this.

He supports his thesis that the Father and Son are in an eternal authority and submission relationship in Father, Son and Holy Spirit (page 80), by citing Augustine,

"Augustine affirmed, the distinction of Persons is constituted precisely by the differing relations among them, in part manifested by the inherent authority of the Father and inherent submission of the Son."

And this is the citation from Augustine,

“In the light of this we can now perceive that the Son is not just said to have been sent because the Word became flesh, but that he was sent in order for the Word to become flesh, and by his bodily presence to do all that was written. That is, we should understand that it was not just the man who the Word became that was sent, but that the Word was sent to become man. For he was not sent in virtue of some disparity of power or substance or anything in him that was not equal to the Father, but in virtue of the Son being from the Father, not the Father being from the Son.”*

Ware then comments on this quote,

"If the "Son" is sent by the "Father," and if the "Son" comes to do the will of the "Father," does it not stand to reason that God wishes by this language to indicate something of the authority and submission that exists within the relationships of the members of the immanent trinity?"

If there is any other disparity between Father and Son, then I would have to say that I have not seen this supported in the church fathers.

But, of course, I have probably missed it. I would be interested in any support for the eternal submission of the Son.

John said...

Augustine:
"Not only was he born in that form of a human mother; he also grew up in it, he ate and drank and slept and was put to death in it; and in that hyman form he rose again, and ascended into heaven; and now he sits at the right hand of the Father in that same human form, in which he is to come to judge the living and the dead, in which he will, in his kingdom, 'be made subordinate to God who made all things subordinate to him.'

Ware is not the only author who argues for this understanding. Millard Erickson's new book "Who's Tampering with the Trinity" - even though he does not hold to Ware's view - give a good overview of the arguments and authors in my camp (though I don't think he always fair).

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Here is my previous quote but in a different translation,

"For the Son is from the Father, not the Father from the Son. And according to this manner we can now understand that the Son is not only said to have been sent because "the Word was made flesh," but therefore sent that the Word might be made flesh, and that He might perform through His bodily presence those things which were written; that is, that not only is He understood to have been sent as man, which theWord was made but the Word, too, was sent that it might be made man; because He was not sent in respect to any inequality of power, or substance, or anything that in Him was not equal to the Father; but in respect to this, that the Son is from the Father, not the Father from the Son; for the Son is the Word of the Father, which is also called His wisdom. What wonder, therefore, if He is sent, not because He is unequal with the Father, but because He is "a pure emanation (manatio) issuing from the glory of the Almighty God?" For there, that which issues, and that from which it issues, is of one and the same substance."

It is from De Trinitate IV

Would you mind giving the reference for your citation so I can read the context? Thanks.

It is interesting that Augustine also called Christ the wisdom of God.

In the quote I provide, it appears that Augustine says that Christ is only different in that he is sent.

John Starke said...

Contra Maximinum 1.19

Suzanne McCarthy said...

John,

I found it.

Augustine makes a sharp distinction between the Son in his human form, the form of a servant, and his eternal form, in the form of God - forma Dei. The Son is only subordinate in his human form, because he took on the form of a servant. But in the form of God he is the preincarnate Word, he is fully equal, that is, not in any way subordinate to the Father.

The eternal Son is not unequal to the Father in substance or in power(potestas). Augustine means that as the eternal Son he is not unequal to the Father in authority. Within the trinity all three persons act as one.

According to Augustine, Christ is not subordinate to the Father in his divine or eternal form.

That is how I read Augustine's orthodoxy.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

"If the Son has been made visible in such a way that he ceased to be invisible with the Father, that is if the substance of the invisible Word, undergoing change and transition, had been turned into the visible creature, then we would have had to think of the Son simply as sent by the Father, and not also as sending with the Father. As it is, the form of a servant was so taken on that the form of God remained immutable, and thus it is plain that what was seen in the Son was the work of Father and Son who remain unseen; that is that the Son was sent to be visible by the invisible Father together with the invisible Son." (De Trinitate II.9)

Perhaps this helps. The Son is sent but in his divine form he sent himself with the Father. He acted with the Father. He is not in his eternal form subordinate.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Here is a more emotional appeal on the part of Augustine,

"2. Let the Arian attend to this, and find healing in his attention; that wrangling may not lead to vanity, or, what is worse, to insanity. For it is the servant-form which is that wherein the Son of God is less, not only than the Father, but also than the Holy Spirit; and more than that, less also than Himself, for He Himself, in the form of God, is greater than Himself. For the man Christ does not cease to be called the Son of God, a name which was thought worthy of being applied even to His flesh alone as it lay in the tomb. And what else than this do we confess, when we declare that we believe in the only-begotten Son of God, who, under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, and buried? And what of Him was buried, save the flesh without the spirit? And so in believing in the Son of God, who was buried, we surely affix the name, Son of God, even to His flesh, which alone was laid in the grave. Christ Himself, therefore, the Son of God, equal with the Father because in the form of God, inasmuch as He emptied Himself, without losing the form of God, but assuming that of a servant, is greater even than Himself; because the unlost form of God is greater than the assumed form of a servant. And what, then, is there to wonder at, or what is there out of place, if, in reference to this servant-form, the Son of God says, "The Father is greater than I;" and in speaking of the form of God, the self-same Son of God declares, "I and my Father are one"? For one they are, inasmuch as "The Word was God;" and greater is the Father, inasmuch as "the Word was made flesh." Let me add what cannot be gainsaid by Arians and Eunomians: in respect of this servant-form, Christ as a child was inferior also to His own parents, when, according to Scripture, "He was subject" Luke 2:51 as an infant to His seniors. Why, then, heretic, seeing that Christ is both God and man, when He speaks as man, do you calumniate God? He in His own person commends our human nature; do you dare in Him to asperse the divine? Unbelieving and ungrateful as you are, will you degrade Him who made you, just for the very reason that He is declaring what He became because of you? For equal as He is with the Father, the Son, by whom man was made, became man, in order to be less than the Father: and had He not done so, what would have become of man?"

Tractate 78 (John 14:27-28)

Suzanne McCarthy said...

In brief, Augustine writes,

"the Son was sent to be visible by the invisible Father together with the invisible Son."

Augustine does not affirm the authoriy of the Father over the preincarnate Son, as Ware suggests.

John Starke said...

I am not a fan of using "subordinate" in my position, so when I use it, I cringe. That's why I don't like it when Erickson uses the word "gradationist" to label us. It has only been used to describe theologians who have held to a gradation of being in the Godhead. The wording is unfortunate, because we certainly do not hold that view.

I don't think Augustine makes a sharp distinction. This *subordination* is even in his kingdom, when all things as well will be made subordinate to him. Augustine is referring to the future.

Augustine is interpreting I Cor 11:3. He also has a sermon on this text that I can't seem to locate. Hopefully, in July (possibly in August) there will an eJournal that I will put out with some theologians (other than Ware and Grudem) who will focus on the historical, theological, and philosophical understanding of this. Hopefully, that will be more clear.

I think it is clear in all the Creeds, Ath., Nic., and Chalc. as well.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

John,

Perhaps this passage from the Cambridge Companion to Augustine might help, page 93

"Certain texts taken by Homoeans to mean that Christ, or even the Word of God, is subordinate to the Father Augustine interpreted by the traditional exegetical rule: the scriptural texts referring to the Son as less than the Father, in the form of a servant, are referring to the Son's humanity; scriptural texts referring to the Son as equal to the Father are referring to the Son's divinity."

We know for a fact that for Augustine the eternal Son is not under God in authority because he says that explicitly,

"For he was not sent in virtue of some disparity of power(potestas=authority) or substance or anything in him that was not equal to the Father, but in virtue of the Son being from the Father, not the Father being from the Son.”*

non secundum imparem potestatem uel substantiam uel aliquid quod in eo patri non sit aequale missus est, sed secundum id quod filius a patre est, non pater a filio.

I appreciate the fact that you are taking time to research this. However, I think it is important to realize that some people think of Ware's teaching as highly unorthodox.

John Starke said...

Well, I don't think either one of us can fairly say that Augustine explicitly says anything on this topic, since he never actually addresses explicitly addresses it.

My main concern is how one can stay within Chalcededonian christology. Can the Son be both equal in authority in his Personhood, but submissive in his humanity? This seems to be a schizophrenic Christ. This doesn't seem to fit in the confession itself. Can we really hold to a kenosis at the incarnation in authority? Is this true to the doctrine of the simplicity of God? I am convinced that when the early fathers spoke of eternal generation, this would be equivalent to our understanding of authority in function.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

1) Well, I don't think either one of us can fairly say that Augustine explicitly says anything on this topic, since he never actually addresses explicitly addresses it.

How could Augustine have been any more explicit than this?

"For he was not sent in virtue of some disparity of authority* or substance or anything in him that was not equal to the Father."

*potestas which was used to translate exousia.

2) This seems to be a schizophrenic Christ.

Augustine explains that Christ was also submissive to his human parents although he was God in his person. He discussed this in Tractate 78, you can google it,

"Let me add what cannot be gainsaid by Arians and Eunomians: in respect of this servant-form, Christ as a child was inferior also to His own parents, when, according to Scripture, "He was subject" Luke 2:51 as an infant to His seniors. Why, then, heretic, seeing that Christ is both God and man, when He speaks as man, do you calumniate God? He in His own person commends our human nature; do you dare in Him to asperse the divine? Unbelieving and ungrateful as you are, will you degrade Him who made you, just for the very reason that He is declaring what He became because of you? For equal as He is with the Father, the Son, by whom man was made, became man, in order to be less than the Father: and had He not done so, what would have become of man?"

3)I am convinced that when the early fathers spoke of eternal generation, this would be equivalent to our understanding of authority in function.

This is a presupposition which not even one document from the early church fathers can be found to support - at least not one that is considered orthodox.

But I have made a very sweeping statement out of my own ignorance. I would be interested in seeing any early writing which says that Christ, in his divine and eternal nature, is under God's authority.

Instead I read that Christ is equal to and coeternal to God in sovereignty, majesty and power (authority.) This is the tradition I was raised in and many conservative people of my age can only be shocked at the doctrine of the functional aubordination of Christ.

I think the Athanasian Creed reiterates this exactly,

"Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood"

This appears to mean that Christ was equal in authority to his Father as God, but under God's authority as a man.

So far, I have not seen any evidence that as God, the Son is under the Father's authority.

John Starke said...

Suzanne,
The "inferior" is of course pertained simply to his manhood. I think you miss the difference of what we are arguing and what the Fathers are arguing.
Of course Jesus did not despair of any authority - because he was God. Augustine is not arguing in light of functional authority within the Godhead, but that the Son still all the authority as God.
Please understand that Jesus has "all" the authority of God, but displays submission "within" God. So that when I Cor 11:3 says "the head of Christ is God", this does not speak of any disparity in Christ as God, but that the Father has a functional authority within the Godhead.
I am afraid you are over-simplifying my arguments.
Because I have had this discussion with you for a while - which I appreciate - I'm not going to put just any quote I find from the fathers to argue my point. I don't think its helpful, and both sides have taken cheap quotes to argue their point.
With Augustin, however, he starts with the Trinity as "One", so its easy to pick out a quote here and there to prove no functional authority/submission. I don't think taking a sentence quote here and there is helpful.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

John,

I am going to have to assume that you are not aware of any citation from any of the church fathers which indicates that the Son is under the Father's functional authority in his eternal being.

In the absence of any evidence I really don't know what else to think.

I do understand how you could argue your point from scripture, but I do not see how you can suggest that any church father or creed supported it. I can't find any creed which suggests that there is functional authority and submission within the trinity.

I am trying not to just quote a sentence here and there but have linked to three books by Augustine.

To clarify, I am tryiing to keep the discussion to whether the notion of authority and submission within the godhead was present in teh writings of any of the orthodox church fathers. Do you think it was, and would you be able to mention any theologian which states this?

Are there any complementarian authors who have cited evidence for this?

This is vital to women - it should not be an issue which is just left hanging or future reference, or until evidence is found. It affects whether women have full authority in the family to partipate equally in decisions about their own children. It can lead to tragic life and death consequences.

john Starke said...

Well, if we want some complementarians who have sited Church Fathers, then look at this article by Schemm and Kovach at ETS:

Stephen D. Kovach and Peter R. Schemm, Jr. “A Defense of the Doctrine of the Eternal Subordination of the Son.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 42/3 (September 1999): 461-476.

I can't find a link to it. Maybe you can. That's a helpful article. Robert Lethem discusses the historical understanding.

Much of the reason I am not quoting much is not because it is not there, but because there are two articles being put together on the historical understanding from Origen to Auustine, then from Leo the Great to Calvin. I am waiting to see how they use their arguments, because there is much interpretation of their texts (or implying) because the topic is simply not addressed that much.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

John,

I have found Schemm's article online and will have a look at it. Is there any part that you want to draw attention to?