Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Types of subordination

In the debate between egalitarians (or evangelical feminists) and complementarians, both sides sometimes try to ground social models in a Trinitarian template. But, in principle, there are four possible positions:

i) The Trinitarian persons are coequal while husband and wife are coequal.

ii) The Trinitarian persons are unequal while husband and wife are unequal

iii) The Trinitarian persons are coequal while husband and wife are unequal.

iv) The Trinitarian persons are unequal while husband and wife are coequal.

I myself think it’s a mistake to use the Trinity as a template for social roles. Not only is there a fundamental disparity between God and creatures, but the attempted analogy is disanalogous.

For instance, complementarians sometimes ground male headship in Nicene subordinationism. But how is that analogous? This is how that would cash out:

The wife is to the husband as the Son is to the Father.

But how is a father/son relation analogous to a husband/wife relation? A father/son relation is a male/male, parent/child relation.

If you’re mounting an argument from analogy for subordination, the logical analogy would be:

Humans sons are to human fathers as the Son of God is to  God the Father.

By contrast, the Scriptural analogy for male headship takes this form:

The wife is to the husband as the church is to Christ.

1 Cor 11:3 is another complementarian prooftext. That analogy cashes out thusly:

The wife is to the husband

As the husband (or man) is to Christ

And Christ is to God

I do think this passage, along with some others, is sufficient to establish male headship in marriage. That said, it can be a double-edged sword unless handled with care.

i) Complementarians gloss kephale in terms of rank whereas egalitarians gloss kephale in terms of source. However, Nicene subordinationists also gloss kephale in terms of source.

But that places Nicene complementarians in a bind. If they wish to use this as a prooftext for Nicene subordination, then they play into the hands of the egalitarians. If, on the other hand, they wish to use this as a prooftext for male headship, then they forfeit the verse as a prooftext for Nicene subordination.

You can either be a complementarian or a Nicene subordinationist, but it’s hard to ride both horses.

ii) In 1 Cor 11, Paul does have a grounding principle: the order of creation.

iii) In addition, 1 Cor 11:3 is dealing with the economic Trinity, not the immanent Trinity, per se. 

1 comment:

  1. There is a general sense of subordination given in the passages that follow Eph 5:22-33, but kephale is only applied to the marital relationship as a given type of the relationship between Christ and the Church.

    1 Cor 11:2ff is a little more difficult because Paul views different subordinate relationships and particularly the marital relationship from multiple viewpoints. But the context clears things up considerably. This is Paul's commendation that they follow traditions that glorify God in the manner of their corporate behavior over and against his not commending them in the next passage for their disunity in corporate behavior. So the visible pattern of married couples as equals in the Lord with headship and subordinate roles given by God glorifies God as they do so with a unified approach. In this, we imitate Christ (v 1). The terms used here are not specifically Son (hweeos) and Father (patayr), but Christ (christon), as the purposeful incarnation of the Son, and God (theos), as the godhead in general.

    So inner-Trinitarian relationships are not particularly specified. And in fact, Paul's language here leads into the next section where he continues building a teaching that develops into what should be properly understood as the Body of Christ. All of this builds up to what we are to be as the practical incarnation of Christ as we perform His ministry here in His physical absence. Therefore, the relationship is closer in comparison to the relationship between the Church and Christ in Ephesians as the Church is the Body of Christ in this present age. Just as Christ submits to God, the Body of Christ submits to the headship of Christ because Christ is God. So I agree that it cannot be biblically said to be identical to the inner-Trinitarian relationships.