Monday, September 08, 2008

The trinity and the subordination of women

As far as I know marriage has only been compared to the subordination of the Son to the Father in the last half of the last century. This paragraph from the sermon I listened to recently is almost word for word similar to the theology of Bruce Ware.

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?

I can't say to what extent Paul intended this comparison. Did he line up all the verses from the gospels of the Son submitting to the Father? It does not seem likely.

The question that one can possibly ask, and potentially answer, is whether the church fathers thought that the Son always submitted to the Father and the Father never submitted to the Son. Did the church fathers believe that the Son was subject to the Father?

I sincerely believe that I would be better off if I had access to the necessary documents in Greek, but for a start, I would like to post on Augustine's view of whether the Son is subject to the Father. This is only tentative. Some day, I might investigate further.

In this chapter, Chapter 8.— The Texts of Scripture Explained Respecting the Subjection of the Son to the Father, Which Have Been Misunderstood. Christ Will Not So Give Up the Kingdom to the Father, as to Take It Away from Himself, of On the Trinity, Book 1, Augustine writes,

Nor let any one, hearing what the apostle says, But when He says all things are put under Him, it is manifest that He is excepted which did put all things under Him, think the words, that He has put all things under the Son, to be so understood of the Father, as that He should not think that the Son Himself put all things under Himself.

For this the apostle plainly declares, when he says to the Philippians,
For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself.

For the working of the Father and of the Son is indivisible. Otherwise, neither has the Father Himself put all things under Himself, but the Son has put all things under Him, who delivers the kingdom to Him, and puts down all rule and all authority and power. For these words are spoken of the Son: When He shall have delivered up, says the apostle, the kingdom to God, even the Father; when He shall have put down all rule, and all authority, and all power. For the same that puts down, also makes subject.

While Bruce Ware compares the role of the husband to the Father who sends, Augustine is explicit in saying that the Son is sent both by the Father and by Himself, Book 2,

For perhaps our meaning will be more plainly unfolded, if we ask in what manner God sent His Son. He commanded that He should come, and He, complying with the commandment, came. Did He then request, or did He only suggest? But whichever of these it was, certainly it was done by a word, and the Word of God is the Son of God Himself.

Wherefore, since the Father sent Him by a word, His being sent was the work of both the Father and His Word; therefore the same Son was sent by the Father and the
Son, because the Son Himself is the Word of the Father. For who would embrace so impious an opinion as to think the Father to have uttered a word in time, in order that the eternal Son might thereby be sent and might appear in the flesh in the fullness of time?

But assuredly it was in that
Word of God itself which was in the beginning with God and was God, namely, in the wisdom itself of God, apart from time, at what time that wisdom must needs appear in the flesh. Therefore, since without any commencement of time, the Word was in the beginning, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God, it was in the Word itself without any time, at what time the Word was to be made flesh and dwell among us.

And so Augustine rebutted the view that the Son was subject to the Father, except in that he was subject to Himself, that is, the will of God the Father, and of the Son, is indivisible.


Lynne said...

I must say i don't get the whole subordinationist thing. people round here (Sydney) spout it as if it's a given, but most of them just throw a couple of proof texts around out of context. I find no room for subordinationism in the Athanasian Creed, which must represent the consensus of the early church. Further, it's logical nonsense. If God, in all 3 persons is all power, all love, all wisdom etc etc, how could the 3 persons not be totally at one in what they will and desire? And if they are in total agreement, then the word subordination, which in human terms means surrendering your will, desires and intentions to somebody else, is meaningless. Furthermore, the scripture compares the marriage relationship to that between Christ and the church. There is no logical connection to comparing the relationship of husband and wife to the eternal relationship between the Father and the Son, rather than anything else, and something slightly weird about comparing the marital two-become-one to two thirds of the Trinity.

Peter Carrell said...

Your piece ended with these words:

"the will of God the Father, and of the Son, is indivisible"

What the 'subordinationist' approach to marriage misses - dangerously - is the importance of the will of husband and wife becoming 'indivisible'. This is best achieved by mutuality and not by command!

Thank you for your blog.

Rev R Marszalek said...

Thank you so much for this. It gave me much food for thought and was particularly interesting in the context of my having just put down 'A Thousand Splendid Suns' by Hosseini.
Rachel at Re vis.e Re form

Anonymous said...

Thanks Suzanne for that quote. I needed it today and, having used it, and other extensions of abbreviated quotes from other church fathers, I think I'm being accused of not benefiting anyone and of lacking grace.

Rev R Marszalek said...

This vancouver church has just provided the keynote speaker for the Reform conference oct 14th and 15th 08 in which they hope to impact the c of E with their Gafcon agenda which in amongst many things thinks that the appointment of women in the church as bishops means a church is following the world and not the word.

These people all like to commune together.

Rachel See