For a while there has been a tendency amongst some to accuse those of us who understand that the Bible affirms complementarianism and also the Eternal (Functional) Subordination of the Son of being little better than Arians. The claim is that

If in the Trinity all have the same authority, “none are before or after,” all are “co-equal” (the Athanasian Creed), then the doctrine of the Trinity calls into question all forms of human domination.

Which is, of course, begging the question since it implies that to be subordinate must be to be dominated – as though there is no other option. Thus we are accused of Arianism since we “subordinate” the Son to the Father and make Him less than He is.

However,

  1. The great mistake of Arianism was to be unable to reconcile how one divine person might be functionally subordinate to another while remaining ontologically equal, just as the Father and Son actually are and as Nicaea affirmed.
  2. Critics of complementarianism similarly refuse to reconcile how one gender may be (in certain circumstances) functionally subordinate to another while remaining ontologically equal. They cannot conceive of a functional subordination that does not also imply an ontological subordination – just as Arius their methodological forefather could not.

n.b. for some detailed responses to the charge of Arianism against complementarians see here and here and check out this debate .

Comments

comments

52 comments on “on subordination and <del>Arianism</del> Radical Subordinationists

  1. An historical note: This was not actually the position of the Arians. Athanasius deliberately labelled all his opponents as ‘Arians’, regardless of whether they were or not, and we’ve continued his rhetorical strategy for centuries, though without his savvy. The Arians believed in both ontological and functional subordination because they saw the Son as having a point of origin (ie. ‘there was when he was not’). But the likes of Eusebius of Caesarea and Eusebius of Nicomedia were Radical Subordinationists. They believed the Son was co-eternal with the Father (unlike the Arians), but believed he was ontologically subordinate and, therefore, of lesser status than the Father. It was with these guys that Athanasius primarily objected, and even though they weren’t, he called them ‘Arians’. To call Complementarians ‘Arians’ is to apply the same cheeky strategy, but unfortunately, without Athanasius’ appreciation of the theological subtleties involved in the various positions. It unfortunately lumps Arianism and Radical Subordinationism together in an undifferentiated way, such that ‘subordination’ becomes a badge of Arianism. It’s not theological astute, or helpful.

    Lewis Ayres’s book, Nicaea and Its Legacy goes into the theology of Athanasius’ opponents in the context of rethinking what was and was not achieved at Nicaea in 325.

      • I think your comments still stand, David, yes.

        One thing to be aware of, though, is that the Son is subordinate to the Father by nature, not merely by function. Subordination is not a decision the Son makes. Subordination is integral to the being of the Son. However, this in no way diminishes the Son’s status or equality with the Father. Subordination does not imply inferiority in any way. As humans, we have a tendency to think it does, because we have an unhealthy history of generally lording it over others. But this is projecting human experience onto our understanding of God—a conceptual fallacy with which Athanasius takes particular issue. Subordination, for us, tends to mean domination, rather than love. But God, being by nature other-person-centred and self-giving, does not compromise himself in any way by being what he is by nature—Father and Son (and Spirit, too!). The Son is fully equal to the Father in every way, but he is the Son, not the Father.

        It’s similar to me and my children: they are subordinate to me, and I am their ‘superior’ in a certain sense. But this is not a statement that they are lesser beings than me, or of lesser value, or anything like that. They are as equal and as human as I am. God forbid any other understanding!

        • THanks George. Entirely with you on that one. I suspect one of the problems is that whatever labels we use someone will misunderstand, both unintentionally and intentionally. In this case “functional” is set against “ontological”. Again, when you say ” by nature” you don’t mean “in essence” although the language of “nature” is used in that way in this debate.

          I fear we’ll spend all our time defining terms!

  2. Hi David,
    Can I encourage you to decouple your two points into separate issues? I can’t see that the Scriptures ever make the link between Tinitarian subordination and gender subordination, even by way of analogy. What the Bible presents as models for husbands/wives is:
    – Christ and the church (Eph. 5)
    – Christ and the authorities (1 Pet. 3)
    – Creation order (1 Tim. 2)
    1 Corinthians 11 gets close when it talks about headship, but that verse seems to lay out a hierarchy in order to make a point about authority in church fellowships, rather than make an explicit analogy (Christ–man is equivalent to man–woman) covering all areas of male-female relationships.

    Conversely, the teaching that is linked to the Son/Father relationship is:
    – Being sent on mission (Jn 20)
    – Receving life (Jn 5)
    – As Jesus lives because of the Father, we live because of him. (Jn 6:57)
    – Jesus knows sheep and is known by them, as Father knows Jesus and is known by Him (Jn 10).
    – Love and obedience (Jn 15)

    I know this link is popular, but I can’t see the Scriptural evidence. I also think it is possible to believe in both subordination and complementarianism without linking the two.

    • thanks for your comment Andrew. I’m not yet convinced that the two issues aren’t linked. Couple of reasons

      1 I read 1Cor11 as making exactly that link in it’s “headship” argument. Having said that, I’m not sure that I would describe it as “covering all areas of male-female relationships”.

      2 Even if there were no explicit link being made the conceptual argument remains – that there needs to be a consistency of argument across various areas.

      3 The egalitarians are arguing a “flattened” Trinity on occasion in order to then transfer the concept across to male/female relationships. You may understand them to be doing this in the face of a lack of Scriptural evidence but they’re doing it nevertheless. An so we need to address the consistency of their method.

      I’d be interested to know how you think 1Cor11 doesn’t make the application. How do you understand what Paul is saying vis-a-vis male/female relationships there?

      • I tend towards Andrew’s view on this, David, but I also agree with you at a key point.

        The Son’s obedience and submission to the Father is very different from ours. His is the obedience of the Son who is homoousious with the Father. Between Father and Son there is only one will, not a meeting of two wills. That doesn’t make ‘obedience’ nonsensical – but it does mean that it is very different from the obedience that any mere human being offers, either to God or to another human being. In those instances it is always a meeting of two wills, not one will existing in two different persons (from the Father to the Son).

        So the Son’s eternal obedience can’t be exactly our model. Jesus’ obedience can, but even that doesn’t seem to be a *big* argument in Scripture, 1 Cor 11 notwithstanding – Eph 5, for example, appeals to the example of Jesus as the example of the one in authority, not under it.

        But, and here I think I agree with your ‘consistency’ point, egalitarians claim (like Giles does in the article, and Erickson that he quotes) that God has no experience of authority or submission that isn’t voluntarily entered into for the salvation of the world. God’s inner life is completely free of authority, and that the full equality of the divine persons depends upon this. If the Son or the Spirit have to obey the Father, and do so eternally, then they are substantially inferior to the Father. And from that they deduce the same ethical argument to do with women submitting to men.

        I think it’s right and proper to attack the argument that ‘necessary submission requires substantial inferiority’ by appealing to the Godhead and showing that the Son and the Spirit eternally obey the Father, and that that reflects the nature of their equality with the Father. And hence that the principle is completely bogus. If it doesn’t hold true for the maker of creation, we need a pretty darn good argument why it would hold for the maker’s creatures.

        • I think it’s right and proper to attack the argument that ‘necessary submission requires substantial inferiority’ by appealing to the Godhead and showing that the Son and the Spirit eternally obey the Father, and that that reflects the nature of their equality with the Father. And hence that the principle is completely bogus. If it doesn’t hold true for the maker of creation, we need a pretty darn good argument why it would hold for the maker’s creatures.

          Yes, that’s my argument in a nutshell, – just put much more eloquently.

          but I’m appreciating the clarification on the details.

      • Hi David,
        Thanks for your reply and comments.

        In 1 Cor 11-14, Paul is addressing issues within the congregation – gender relationships, Lord’s supper, use of Spiritual gifts, conduct of services. The presenting issue is appropriate hair length for women and men, which in that culture was related to the concept of authority. There is also a word play going on regarding “head” – as God is the “head” of Christ, and Christ is the “head” of man, and man is the “head” of woman, so the woman should have a sign of authority on her head (long hair), but men should not. So, within the church fellowship, men have headship. We need to work out the appropriate way to express that headship today in our fellowships, which may or may not involve restricting some roles for men. But Paul doesn’t apply that principle outside the church fellowship. We ought to go to other passages to figure out gender relations in the home, society, etc.

        With point 2, we only need to be consistent if we are dealing with the same or similar issues. The Scriptures don’t set out Trinitarian relations as a model for gender relations, so we are discussing different issues. For example, there are some features of God-humanity relations that the Bible applies to parent-child relations (authority, respect, love, discipline) and some that are not (judgment, worship).

        In reply to point 3, neither complementarians nor egalitarians should appeal to Trinitarian relations for their arguments, because I don’t see that link made in the Scriptures. This linkage has made people feel that they have to believe in both Trinitarian and gender subordination or neither, and that we have to debate the two issues simultaneously. This has been an unhelpful part of the debate, and in many ways has given opponents a stick to beat us with.

        • thanks Andrew. I think it’s fair to say that because I’m not of one mind with you on point 2 that points 1&3 to some extent hang on that.

          Having said that, I agree with you on pt 1 – the analogy is not made directly in that way. I still contend that if the egalitarians make the argument then we need to point out that it’s inconsistently applied.

          Nevertheless, thanks for the engagement – I’m encouraged to go back and nuance some of my conclusions and even the thinking that leads to those conclusions.

        • Hi Andrew,

          I’m enjoying your contribution here (as, I think, has been the case every time we’ve ‘met’ on the net).

          Like David, I’d also dissent a bit from a couple of things you’ve said.

          So, within the church fellowship, men have headship.

          That claim seems overly narrow. That’d be like saying that, within the church fellowship, God has headship over Christ and Christ has headship over man, but not outside it. I think Paul is saying some things simply are the case (this set of heads), and here’s what that means for patterns of relationships inside the church fellowship. What, if anything, that might mean for patterns of relationship outside the church fellowship is a different question. And I agree that the NT especially is pretty darn silent on the question. But I think the statement about the man being the head of the woman isn’t limited by the particular issue Paul is addressing – unless you think that holds true for the other heads in the set as well.

          As far as points 2 and 3 go, my experience of egalitarian arguments is somewhat different – both in debates I’ve been in and in books/articles I’ve read. Egalitarians just start with the moral intuition, a basic belief, that genuine equality is incompatible with necessary and/or permanent submission. There are no arguments for this ethical principle, it is (time and again) asserted as a self-evident, indubitable, ethical principle. It’s not being limited to the human sphere or the divine sphere, it simply is, and doesn’t need justification any more than 1+1=2 or the existence of creation needs justification by appeal to some external argument or ground. It is its own validation.

          In such a situation I think it is both responsible and effective to demonstrate that the Bible affirms the eternal and non-voluntarist (clumsy term, but ‘necessary’ is just asking for trouble) obedience of the Son to the Father, and that the theology enshrined in the orthodox interpretation of Nicaea and Chalcedon affirms it (even though it doesn’t make a big deal out of it, because no-one in the ancient world thought that *only* ontological inferiors had to submit to authority). .

          As you say, that has nothing at all to do with gender debate. That’s fine, it doesn’t need to. What it does do is demonstrate that the self-evident moral principle being intuited by egalitarians as the starting point in the debate is simply wrong. It doesn’t apply to God. And if that’s the case, then it can’t be just intuited and asserted. It needs to be argued – and the argument will have to show why the principle works one way with the Godhead and other way with human beings (or even, one way with human beings in some situations but does apply to the gender debate).

          Now, the principle could be wrong, and there still should be no limits on womanly authority over men. That is, as you say, a different debate that is not settled by the debate over the relations in the Godhead. But that’s fine. Speaking for myself, while I think women having authority over men is bad – bad for the women, bad for the men, bad for the church, in the church’s chequered history it’s hardly the worst bit of disobedience we’ve done. I would rather have a church that ordained women for some other reason than ‘necessary submission means genuine inferiority’ than a church that limited women’s authority and believed that principle. They’re both bad and harmful, but that principle is simply lethal for doctrine and ethics in my opinion. There’s a very long list of disobediences and unfaithfulnesses I’d (hypothetically) accept before that one.

          However, I think that that single principle is basically driving the entire egalitarian case. Knock it out and the push for women’s ordination as it is currently constituted goes the way of the Chesire Cat.

  3. Well, Kevin Giles’ grasp of the issues has certainly improved in this essay from where it was in his first book on the subject – a fact he acknowledges in his first footnote, and something good to see. But it still looks to me as though he’s doing most of his work with secondary sources and not carefully and extensively reading the primary sources in their own right. He’s also still imposing upon earlier debates the categories of the current debate, which doesn’t help understand the previous guys properly.

    I think you’ve partly fallen into the same trap by letting Dr Giles set the terms and then respond to them, David. Your point 1 is a really ahistorical way of putting the 4th century debate. No-one was confused about how you could be functionally subordinate yet ontologically equal, that’s our hang-up, not theirs. Their debate speaks to ours, but it is a different debate with different categories.

    My old colleague (and former student, how weird is that?) is right to point to Ayres’ book and the growing consensus in patristic scholarship that “Arianism” was a polemical strategy by Athanasius. It’d be like referring to *all* liberals, even very conservative ones like Rowan Williams as “Spongites” or “Borgites” and thrusting on them the most radical versions of liberalism as though it was their position.

    I’m not sure it is that clear that the two Eusebius’ did hold that the Son was co-eternal with the Father. It’s a murky area, and hard for us to get our heads around. They definitely (or at least Eusebius of Caesarea definitely) rejected the idea that the Son came ‘from nothing’ the way creation did. But there was a tradition going back to at least a couple of the second century apologists where the Word was conceived of being eternally internal to Father and then was spoken and externalised and from that point exists alongside the Father. Something like that is, arguably, possibly/probably Eusebius of Caesarea’s position. The Son is ‘from the Father’ and not ‘from nothing’, is eternal, but was eternally immanent to the Father – the begetting took place at a point in ‘time’.

    George is also right about the ‘subordination’ being ontological and not just functional. Part of the problem here is that, despite Dr Giles’ tendency to treat ‘subordination’ as though it is univocal, the term means something quite different as you move from one scholar to another. You can find scholars who say that to say that the Son has his origin in the Father is to make him ‘subordinate’, but if he merely obeys the Father that’s fine. You can find scholars saying the opposite. You can find scholars okay with subordiantionism and opposed to it in any sense. Like ‘equality’ it is almost a wax nose in Trinitarian debates – you pour into it whatever you want to pour into it.

    I think a better way of putting the 4th Century debate was that it was a debate over origination. A debate over what the Monarchy (mono-arche) of the Father meant. For the ‘Arians’ as both the Son and creation are originated from the Father, it must mean neither is of the same being and essence as the Father. For Athanasius, while both the Son and creation are originated from the Father, two different originations are in view – one of will (creation) and hence occurring at a point in time, one of being (begetting) and hence occurring in eternity. One produces creatures who didn’t exist before their creation, the other produces the Son who is all that the Father is (except for being Son) and always has been.

    That was the debate.

    In making their case, both sides pointed to the things that seemed to back up their case. The Arians (to the degree that Athanasius is giving us a window into their arguments by his apparent responses to them) pointed to the Son’s progress, his passions, his death, his birth, all as evidence that he can’t be of the same nature as the Father. Athanasius pointed to the Word’s role in creation and redemption to drive home that only someone fully God could take such a role, and explained the things the ‘Arians’ pointed to as consequences of the Son’s incarnation and that they were things he underwent for our sakes and our salvation, not due to his own nature.

    As far as I can see, and I’m no expert as I’ve been focusing on a different set of questions, but I have sat with Athanasius’ corpus for *cough* years now, no-one argued from the Son’s obedience to the Father that he was inferior. In Against the Gentiles Athanasius happily talks of the preincarnate Word obeying the Father. And then in another place he says that as the Word is the Father’s speech there are no commands that the Father gives the Word that the Word obeys – not because he is ‘equal’ but because he is the Father’s will – the living will. And he sees no contradiction between those two statements, from what I can see.

    The closest you get to something like what Dr Giles suggests is going on, occurs in an opposite way to how he presents it. Athanasius doesn’t say something like, “Now Arians have wrongly decided that the Son is inferior due to his obedience in the Incarnation.” Instead he says, “We don’t make the Son into a second Arche by saying he is equal to the Father – and appeals to a bunch of things to show that the Son isn’t (in our terms) a rival first principle to the Father. And one of the things that he appeals to to show that the Son can be equal to the Father and yet not impinge upon the Monarchy of the Father is Jesus’ words “I always do the will of the Father”. So it’s Athanasius appealing to the incarnate obedience of Jesus Christ to show the eternal ‘subordination’ (useless term) of the Son to the Father – but to do so in order to show the full equality of the Son to the Father (hence why ‘subordination’ is so useless).

    From Athanasius’ point of view, I’d say he turns the whole current debate on its head. The Son is equal to the Father because he is subordinate to the Father (kind of George’s point). It’s the fact that the Son is begotten from the Father and gets all that he is from the Father, and so is dependent upon the Father, that ensures that he is of the very same being of the Father and is all that the Father is. The actions of the Godhead reflect this. Dr Giles is right to say that there is an absolute unity between the Father and the Son (and the Spirit) in what they do. But he is silent (at least in that section of this essay) on the fact that Athanasius is quite clear that in that unity there is an order – and things always begin with the Father and the Word carries out the Father’s will and never ever vice versa. One act, but two different roles within the one act.

    There’s no hint of anything even remotely like mutual submission between the persons in Athanasius’ account. The ontological relationships of origination form the framework for the actions of the Godhead. The modern perichoretic social trinities, with their flat and interchangeable relations between the persons would be seen by Athanasius as either tritheistic or modalistic, despite Dr Giles either not realizing that, or passing over it quietly in his attempt to forge an ‘alliance of the willing’ against complementarianism.

    • The Son is ‘from the Father’ and not ‘from nothing’, is eternal, but was eternally immanent to the Father – the begetting took place at a point in ‘time’.

      Which, of course, is why Nicaea declared Him to be “eternally begotten of the Father” so as to eliminate that sort of confusion. See, I did learn something.

      • Heh, I’m writing the comments with you in mind, so I’m deliberately leaving those connections unmade as I know you ‘learned something*. 🙂

        Although since coming over here to do the DPhil, I’ve come to see that Nicaea is probably more complex than Athanasius’ take on it suggests. Athanasius isn’t a neutral observer giving the objective account of the meaning of the creed. He’s a player in a debate. It is most likely that the creed was intended to be the kind of ‘minimum statement of orthodoxy’ that Anglicans know and ‘love’ – not a declaration for Alexandria’s peculiar take on the question. It certainly seems to have been intended to nuke Arius and a couple of his fellow-travellers among the bishops. But Eusebius of Caesarea was able to sign the creed with a good conscience. Athanasius’ account makes the subsequent history really strange – a broad group of bishops, led by the emperor (who Eusebius claims introduced the term ‘homoousious’ to the debate), decisively and clearly repudiate anything other than Athanasius’ mature theology. And then, almost immediately, the majority, including the Emperor, become some kind of ‘Arian’ or at least very sympathetic to the Arians. It’s very weird behaviour.

        I think my current position is that Athanasius grasped that the creed went further than its signers intended – that in finding language to eliminate the view of Arius and other students of Lucian, the council was (possibly just by logic) required to put things in a way that, by implication pushed you towards Athanasius’ and Alexander’s theology.

        So, I think the council probably wasn’t trying to say that the Son has always existed alongside the Father as a second ‘thing’, or that begetting is constant or the like. It was finding a way of saying – ‘don’t say that the Son came from nothing, and don’t say he didn’t exist before he was begotten’. But Athanasius was right – there is only one good and right way to say that, and that is to say that the Son is eternally begotten, and to give those words the meaning that Athanasius attributes to them.

        This is made even more complex because IIRC, Athanasius’ version of the symbol from Nicaea (the Nicene Creed) and Eusebius of Caesarea’s version don’t quite match up. At least one key phrase that Athanasius makes a big deal out of doesn’t seem to be mentioned by Eusebius. And Athanasius has been caught out lying on at least one instance – in one of his books claiming that one of the councils subsequent to Nicaea said/did something that we know from elsewhere they didn’t. His interpretation of Dionysius of Alexandria, a predecessor, is, shall we say, ‘strained’ to say the least in his attempts to show that Dionysius didn’t hold the kind of views that Athanasius was attacking. But then Eusebius has some self-interest in this question as well.

        All of which is to say that Nicaea clearly rejected Arius and his actual supporters. But it may not have been trying to nuke “Arianism” more broadly. But, if so, Athanasius was right (in my opinion) that that’s what it actually did do, even if it hadn’t intended to do it.

        It’s complex, because it’s hard to join up the dots from the primary sources without deciding to weight some accounts of the facts from the primary sources over others – and whenever you have to do that, the history becomes complex and controverted.

  4. thanks Mark. Really really helpful stuff. I do hang out (virtually) with some very very clever people. Do you have a book recommendation like George? 😉

    Your last para deserves it’s own post,

    The modern perichoretic social trinities, with their flat and interchangeable relations between the persons would be seen by Athanasius as either tritheistic or modalistic, despite Dr Giles either not realizing that, or passing over it quietly in his attempt to forge an ‘alliance of the willing’ against complementarianism.

    • I think my recommendation would be the same as George Athas’ – Lewis Ayres’ book really is fantastic. It’s hardly the final word, and will be revised substantially over time (his take on Athanasius, for example, is almost dismissive – as several patristic scholars have commented to me, if Ayres is right about Athanasius then it is hard to see why he has ever been considered an important contribution to orthodoxy), but it is ‘state of the art’ for where the mind of patristic scholarship is at at the moment.

      In terms of our evangelical in-house debate with complementarianism, I don’t know of anything to recommend. Everything around at the moment seems too shaped by our debate and so is mining the tradition to justify one side or the other. And, while I think the historical tradition is (with the odd exception) brutally incompatible with egalitarianism and its concerns, I think it could reform complementarianism a bit as well. You don’t start this debate by asking questions of authority, love, equality and the like. You start the way the early church did, by asking questions of the nature of the Father’s Mona-arche and its implications, and reflecting upon what the Son’s role in creation and redemption reveals about him and his relationship with the Father. Ontological and soteriological questions, not ethical ones, are a more biblically based set of questions to enter the issue (one of the few times I’d make a big deal out of where you start).

      And social trinitarianism, yeah well. Social trinitarianism either rejects the creeds or just ignores them for all its substantial content. Read the Nicene Creed and Chalcedon and ask where you’d find anything that would push you towards something like ‘a perichoretic community of individuals who hold all things in common and are united by love’. It really is modern desires to find some substantial ground for a utopian human community being projected onto the Godhead and then declared to be historic orthodoxy. Perichoresis, like begetting and spiration, are one the things that are quintessentially unique to the Godhead and for which there are no creaturely analogies. The fact that social trinitarianism holds up perichoresis as the model for human communities is a huge signpost that it is just a projection of a certain ideal for humanity up onto God. It makes as much sense as saying God’s ability to create ex nihilo is a model for human communities. That’s not a model, it’s something that says, “God is not like you, buster.”

      • Actually, my recommendation would be to read the earlier guys and not simply to work out whether they are “complementarian” or “egalitarian”. I think Athanasius’ Incarnation of the Word and Orations Against the Arians (Books 1-3) are particularly useful to get a sense of the 4th century debate on its own terms. And genuinely edifying to boot. Irenaeus’ Against the Heretics is also worth reading, as are the Cappadocians, Augustine’s The Trinity, Aquinas, the relevant sections of Calvin’s Institutes etc. They don’t address the modern issues directly – and that’s a genuine issue. God put us here and now and our job is to speak to the present, not the past. But their answers to the debates of their days are *much* more faithful to the Bible than most of what is being written in contemporary trinitarian thinking in my view. And for the question of ‘what have Christians historically thought’ you have to sooner or later go for ad fontes or you end up at the mercy of scholars. And that rarely works out well.

    • Well, I doubt you’re dumb. Most of these things aren’t about intelligence, but about learning a whole new vocabulary and categories of thought. Perseverance more than flair is the key.

      ‘perichoretic’ is an adjectival form of ‘perichoresis’ which is an Englishization of a Greek term that was used in the later part of the Trinitarian debates. It picks up the language in a few places in the Bible, but especially John’s writings, such as ‘the Father is in me and I am in the Father’. It is the idea that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit mutually indwell – each person can be said to be in the other person in the same way at the same time as the other person is in them. It’s an extension of the idea that God is spirit, and so has no physical place, and the fact that the Son and the Spirit are homoousious with the Father – the being of the Father is also the being of the Son and the Spirit, who receive their being from the Father. Unlike us, the three persons are not three individuals. They are one “individual”, with a single essence, and they interpenetrate each other. There’s one will, and only ever one action – it’s not that the Father does some things and the Son others, and the Spirit still others. All three will the same thing, and are behind the same act. They mutually indwell.

      In modern social trinitarian thinking perichoresis tends to be divorced from its background as an unpacking of the implications of the Son and Spirit’s being homooousious with the Father. It tends to stand on its own and becomes the key thing that establishes the unity of the Godhead. The mutual indwelling simply is (or perhaps occurs because the three persons are, to paraphrase Miroslav Volf, ‘a community of perfect love in which any concept of subordination is inconceivable’). It is not a consequence of the Monarchy of the Father, but functions as a replacement for it. Hence social trinitarianism tends towards (and in some instances openly embraces) the idea that the Godhead is a community of three individuals who share all things in common and who are utterly interchangeable and indistinguishable in terms of their personal qualities. They might be called ‘Father’, ‘Son’, and ‘Spirit’ but those are little more than names like John, Peter, and Paul. There’s no substantial content behind the names – nothing particularly fatherly about the Father that distinguishes him from the other two, nothing particularly sonly about the Son etc.

      So, with the bypassing of the Son’s and Spirit’s origination from the Father as the thing that effects their equality and unity with the Father, modern social trinitarian thinking puts almost all the weight on perichoresis to establish the unity. But I think Athanasius would see its perichoretic community of perfect love (i.e. mutually indwelling three persons), basically shorn from the Father’s origination of the Son and the Spirit, as basically tritheism, or possibly modalism – for him it’d be basically just three different guys who love each other, are good mates, and share everything. It’s so far off the map of the early church’s thinking that no-one even came up with it as a heresy (no mean feat there – almost every kind of heresy you could imagine on this was explored in that era). No-one in the early church anticipated the modern rejection of mono-arche in its general anti-authority desire for egalitarianism in pretty well everything (although it needs to be acknowledged that the seeds of this were planted in scholastic thinking in the Middle Ages, so this problem has had a long gestation period).

  5. The only reason God sends the Son is to die. This evokes a violent and criminal image as a model of human relations. As a woman from a congregation where Packer, Paul Barnett and Bruce Ware exerted great personal influence, I would like to tell the police that this reprehensible teaching was a contributing factor to the violence I experienced. Christianity really cannot reach any lower.

  6. hi Sue,

    I trust it’s widely acknowledged that a wrong view of the incarnation and atonement can lead to distorted behaviour. If you’ve been subject to violent behaviour then that is, of course, reprehensible – I trust no-one would deny it.

    Having said that, those are strong claims you make and I’m not sure they’re entirely justified. The Scriptural understanding of Jesus’ death is that it is one of willing loving self-sacrifice. With that comes the mandate as men to consider what is best for those in our charge (not least those women we are given charge and care for) and to love them sacrificially just as Christ did His church. Which leads me to ask, if you feel that you are able, what exactly was the “reprehensible teaching” that you heard?

  7. Bruce Ware at ReFocus Canada taught that the Father never submits and the Son always submits and this is the model for marriage. This was preached in the congregation as follows by Richard James,

    Notes from Richard James’ sermon on marriage. Aug. 24, 2008, St. John’s Shaughnessy Church, Vancouver.

    “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?”

    To teach that the Son is subordinate in that he was sent (to die) and this is the model for how a husband treats his wife is simply using a violent image. Ware teaches that the very nature of teh Father is to exert authority, and the very nature of the Son is to submit. Having someone exert authority over another person in EVERYTHING, or at least any time he feels like it. creates insanity.

    John Piper speaks about the time he counseled a woman who had not been able to move about her house from one room to the other, including the bathroom without permission from her husband. When Piper asked how her husband had got that idea, she explained that it was from Piper’s sermons.

    My complaint is that Piper did not fund that woman’s therapy any more than Richard James funded therapy for women in distress in his congregation. In fact, both Piper and James laugh at the point in their sermon when they talk about abuse. This is profoundly wrong, and I am ashamed of this trend in the church.

    • well i (obviously) didn’t hear the sermons delivered so I’m unable to comment upon the laugh, how it sounded and how you perceived it. I’ll have to limit my comments to the reported teaching.

      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.

      This, surely, is true?! Setting aside whether it’s assertion can be abused in application, the statement itself is true, isn’t it?

      To teach that the Son is subordinate in that he was sent (to die) and this is the model for how a husband treats his wife is simply using a violent image.
      Well here it gets tricky. The Son is subordinate in that He was sent – He says so much Himself. So first He teaches that He is completely acting at the behest of the Father,

      John 6:38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me.

      And He understands His own death to be part of that will and gladly accedes to it

      Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cupa from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

      Yet at the same time never being “forced” into it – He does so freely,

      John 10:17-18The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”

      So rather than being an enforced death, it is one commanded by the Father in a relationship in which the Son gladly obeys and the Father loves Him for it. There is no compulsion, just glad willing submission on the part of the Son.

      All of this is, surely, uncontroversial for any who claim to take the Bible seriously.

      So now there are 2 issues.
      1. is this teaching misunderstood and abused in the way that some men speak of male/female relationships – undoubtedly. Further, I’m sure that much of the abuse is unintentional – either since the man just doesn’t get how his language sounds or further because the language of the Scriptures themselves can act as triggers for those who have experienced or are aware of abuse that is founded in a different understanding of those terms. All of this is, of course, wrong in various ways.
      2. But that does not set aside the basic truth revealed here from Jesus own lips – that there is a willing submission of the Son to the Father that began before the Incarnation – it must have been pre-incarnation otherwise to the command to go and be incarnate would not have been received.

      I fear that in your right and proper quest to deal with the issue of 1 you are unnecessarily binning 2.

  8. Not at all. First, where does it say anywhere that “marriage is like the trinity?” The only citation is 1 Cor. 11:3, where the trinity is not mentioned, no Holy Spirit, and the comparison is about Christ and God, not the eternal Son and the eternal Father. So no, male and female relations should not be like the trinity. That is the first problem

    Second, if God sent the Son means the the Father exerts his authority over the Son, (Bruce Ware’s words) and the Son submits because it is his very nature, then this is abuse.

    Augustine explains that the Son is not unequal to the Father in authority, but in fact, the Son is sent by both the Father and the Son. He delivers himself up to die. The beauty of Christ’s death is that he is both priest and sacrrifice at the same time. This is not subordination of one individual to the will of another.

    As Augustine explains, and he uses scripture to do so, the Father and Son have “one will” and are one in operation. The trinity does not consist of three individuals with three wills, and the HS is subordinate to the will of the Son and the Son is subordinate to the will of the Father. The Son is sent by the Word, that is by himself. This is all in De Trinitate with lots of scriptural support.

    In no way should a marriage be a relationship in which the husband never submits and the wife always submits. Even if the husband says that there is only one will, in effect, that one will is his will. Only the husband expressses will and has normal human agency.

    In a marriage there are two individuals, with two different perceptions of the world, with two different sets of receptive sense organs. If you deny that one of those persons has a will, it is a pathology.

    having lots of trouble with your captcha.

  9. First, where does it say anywhere that “marriage is like the trinity?”
    I don’t think I ever claimed that it was.

    The only citation is 1 Cor. 11:3, where the trinity is not mentioned, no Holy Spirit, and the comparison is about Christ and God, not the eternal Son and the eternal Father.
    I find that last phrase very confusing. Are you suggesting that “God” (in this case clearly the Father) and the “Christ” are not to be recognised as the eternal Father and eternal Son? Is it your position that the Christ is not to be equated with the eternal Son and that He is only to be identified as such in the Incarnation and thus is no longer to be seen as “Christ”?

    Second, if God sent the Son means the the Father exerts his authority over the Son, (Bruce Ware’s words) and the Son submits because it is his very nature, then this is abuse.
    I’m not at all sure how one follows from the other. Quite the contrary – (a)Jesus signals clearly that He does whatever He is told to do by the Father and (b) He does this willingly.
    For Jesus it’s not abusive so I’m not sure why you insist that the paradigm of authority has to be seen as abusive.

    In no way should a marriage be a relationship in which the husband never submits and the wife always submits.
    Again, who here is arguing that it should be? This is what I referred to when I suggested that you were showing a fair degree of prejudice.

    Even if the husband says that there is only one will, in effect, that one will is his will. Only the husband expressses will and has normal human agency.
    I’m afraid I don’t understand that at all.

    In a marriage there are two individuals, with two different perceptions of the world, with two different sets of receptive sense organs. If you deny that one of those persons has a will, it is a pathology.
    Where have I ever denied that the wife has a will? Could you point me to that denial? I merely pointed out that Jesus has a will and He chooses to submit His to the Father’s. I’m not at all sure how you got from there to reading that I deny the will of the wife. On the contrary – she has a very clear will and she has every choice how to exercise it. It seems to me that the Apostolic command is to submit her will to that of her husband just as the Apostolic command is that her husband ought to love her as Christ loved the church. Beyond that, which is the words of Scripture, I haven’t argued much more.

    You seem to be doing fine with the captcha. I’ve got every one of your comments.

  10. Most complementarians make an analogy between the eternal and absolute submission of the Son to the authority of the Father, and the subordination of the wife in marriage. They don’t usually make all women subject to all men. You simply mention gender, by which I assumed that you were talking about subordination in marriage.

    I don’t think that complementarians are Arians, but definitley, complementarians hold a belief that was anathematized by Augustine. In his sermon 215, on the creeds, he writes that the Father and Son have one potestas/power (authority/exousia) one might (power) and one majesty. And anyone who thinks differently is anathematized.

    Augustine also writes that the father and son and not unequal in potestas, that is exousia, or in any other way. The only difference is that the father sends and the son is sent. This he later explains is because the the Son is sent by both the father and the Son, the Son is both sender and sent. The Son is also both priest and offering.

    In the deity, for Augustine, there is only one will and one working. There cannot be sepearate wills but only one will. So, egalitarians think that complementarians are positing a separate will, one subordinate and one in authority, when they say (Bruce Ware, for example) that the father has all authority, and the son has all submission.

    I would say that complementarians deny Augustine’s interpretation of the creeds and the trinity. Also complementarians posit three separate wills, and one subject to another, three individuals, a social complementarianism. Complementarians relate the trinity to human relations which are necessarily between individuals.

    If you have two individuals, and nnly one will, in human terms, then one individual is living without expressing a will. That is a pathology, or a form of slavery. But in the tinrity, it is not, because father and son are truly one power, one authority, one will, one majesty, and one working The one working is because they are truly one in essence and in function, that is working. Human relations can never be modeled on this. This is where egalitarians find complementarians to be less than orthodox.

    Father and Son are only different in that one is made visible, is of God, is sent and dies. The woman can never be the one who is sent by the husband to die. She is not the visible emanation of the husband, the one who suffers death as a response to human sin. Men have to take responsibility themselves and cannot delegate to the wife, as the father to the son. This is because the wife is a separate individual, and needs to be treated as such.

  11. Here is what Augustine wrote, De Trinitate, Book 4:27

    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. Verbum enim patris est filius, quod est sapientia eius dicitur.

    “because He was not sent in respect to any inequality of power (potestas, which is authority), 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.”

    For Augustine, the Son was sender and sent, and priest and offering. This does not line up with complementarians who say that it is God-like to have authority, and God-like to submit, and authority is inherent in the father, and submission is inherent in the son. This splits up the trintiy into two different individuals, three of course.

    This is from De Trinitate, Book 2:9,

    “Because the will of the Father and the Son is one, and their working indivisible.”

    So, the Son and the Father are not unequal in authority, (De. Trinitate 4:27), of one subsstance, of one virtus/might, of one potestas/authority, of one majesty, (Sermon 215) and of one will and indivisible in their working (De Trinitate, Book 2:9.)

    I just don’t see the inherent authority of the father and inherent submission of the son in the very nature of the eternal trinity in Augustine. From Augustine’s point of view, complementarianism does not seem orthodox.

  12. Sue, I’m not sure what is to be gained here for 2 reasons – first this is clearly a highly emotive topic for you and, with the greatest respect, I’m not sure you’re being careful to read what I’m actually writing. Second, and related, you don’t actually respond to the thrust of my argument – I made specific reference to the text of the Scriptures and Jesus’ words in particular and you appear to brush them aside and counter with citation from Augustine. Now I like Augustine, not totally but still very much but I don’t consider him canonical. His argument is helpful as a contribution to the debate but, as others have noted, he thinks in very different categories to us and is often critiqued for allowing Platonic structures and assumptions to overwhelm his argument. I think that this is often the case in The Trinity.

    I don’t think that complementarians are Arians, but definitley, complementarians hold a belief that was anathematized by Augustine.

    Well Augustine didn’t have the power to anathematise anyone. He didn’t like a certain belief but I don’t think you have yet established that his meaning is specifically what you say it to be. So, for example,

    “because He was not sent in respect to any inequality of power (potestas, which is authority), 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.”

    I have no problem with any of this. In fact, on consideration, that’s the thrust of my argument in the OP – that it is the egalitarians who share the Arian assumption that differentiation of role MUST mean distinction of power and authority. On the contrary – the Son is equally divine and has an equal authority in the sense that it is derived from the Father. But He is the Son of the Father and in that respect makes the statements that I have cited above.

    So while looking at Augustine is helpful to determine what Augustine may have thought as related in the language and categories of his day, it doesn’t actually answer the arguments that I raise for your position here.

    More simply put, you are begging the question in your reading of Augustine and not dealing with the subtlety of the complementarian position, as least as I am expressing it. So I wonder, in order to move us forward, if you could explain to us how you actually understand Jesus’ words above where He speaks of His own will that He gladly submits to the Father’s or where He speaks clearly of His own authority and then in the same breath speaks of it as being given to Him by the Father? How do you fit those clear statements (and others like them) into your framework? When you say

    Father and Son are only different in that one is made visible, is of God, is sent and dies.

    it appears to me that Jesus says there are more differences.

  13. Its true that am interacting more with Bruce Ware’s book, Father, Son and Holy Spirit than with your post which is quite short.

    But the thrust of what I am saying is that I am an egalitarian, once in a complementarian congregation, and I am not accusing anyone of Arianism. I quite clearly discern the differences. However, I am saying that although complementarians are not, in my view, Arians, they do hold a belief that was anathematized by Augustine. That is why I mention Augustine, both because it is one of the ways we evaluate Arianism, and because Ware uses him so much.

    So, in my view comps do not hold Arianism, so I won’t argue one way or another on that. But they do hold the belief that the Son is eternally, and inherently, in his very nature, under the authority of the Father. Then, as you say, you also believe that the Son is equal in authority to the Father. But finally, you explain that this is very subtle. Yes, I find this very subtle.

    Regarding the will of Jesus, here are two passages from Augustine which I cite BECAUSE they use scripture, De trintate Book 2

    “For the same Lord says both; “Say of Him,” He says, “whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world, You blaspheme, because I said, I am the Son of God;” while in another place He says, “And for their sake I sanctify myself.” I ask, also, in what manner the Father delivered Him, if He delivered Himself? For the Apostle Paul says both: “Who,” he says, “spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all;” while elsewhere he says of the Saviour Himself, “Who loved me, and delivered Himself for me.” He will reply, I suppose, if he has a right sense in these things, Because the will of the Father and the Son is one, and their working indivisible.” …

    “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.”

    I, as an egalitarian, most emphatically believe that the relationship within the trinity is not applicable to the relationship between two human individuals. I don’t think that relating the sending of the Son to die, is a good model for how to treat a woman, or anyone at all. In fact, once, on another blog I saw a picture of a hammer hitting a nail, and the caption showed that the author of the blog, a minister, was saying that the man is the driving force and the woman is the nail. This is violent. My experience is that using violent models leads to violence. And I don’t think that being emotive or highly emotive is wrong for a Christian. It is appropriate to react with emotion when you see something that is wrong. Jesus certainly did.

    And sometimes I dont follow up on your questions, because I am losing a lot of my comments, for some reason. Don’t know why. I am trying to copy them and repost when my post fails.

  14. Its true that am interacting more with Bruce Ware’s book, Father, Son and Holy Spirit than with your post which is quite short.

    Then, with much respect, why not write to Bruce on a forum where he will respond? You can’t respond to him by directing your responses to me. That’s just, well, slightly silly. I’m not Bruce Ware, I’m David Ould and I have my own particular position that you failed to take seriously.

  15. David,

    I am quite surprised by the tone of your response! I certainly took your post quite seriously. You wrote,

    “Thus we are accused of Arianism since we “subordinate” the Son to the Father and make Him less than He is.”

    I wrote that I do not accuse you of Arianism

    You wrote,

    “However, The great mistake of Arianism was to be unable to reconcile how one divine person might be functionally subordinate to another while remaining ontologically equal, just as the Father and Son actually are and as Nicaea affirmed.”

    I argued that the father and Son are NOT ontologically equal and functionally subordinate according to the creeds and Augustine. The Father and Son are considered equal in power and authority, and are of one will and indivisible in working.

    Let me add that one of the mistakes of Arianism was to believe in the subordination of the Son. This is a mistake that complementarians share, but it is only a part of the belief called Arianism. In other ways complementarians differ.

    You wrote,

    “Critics of complementarianism similarly refuse to reconcile how one gender may be (in certain circumstances) functionally subordinate to another while remaining ontologically equal. They cannot conceive of a functional subordination that does not also imply an ontological subordination – just as Arius their methodological forefather could not.”

    Most critics of complementarianism are puzzled that Bruce Ware – who is endorsed by many complementarians – can wrote that the Son has “eternal and inherent submission that is his very nature” and still claim that this “inherent submission that is his very nature” is not ontological. it is the language claiming that the submission is the nature of the Son and is inherent in the Son, that makes critics puzzled. I simply don’t understand this myself.

    I am trying to have an honest conversation, and I guess I did make the assumption that you are aware that Bruce Ware has articulated complementarianism using this language. Paul Barnett just calls it hierarchy and top-down authority.

    But, my point is that even though complementarianism differs dsignificanlty from Arianism, it still shares a belief in the eternally subordinate Son, and this particular belief is goes against the historic understanding of the creed.

  16. I am quite surprised by the tone of your response! I certainly took your post quite seriously.
    Well, I”m surprised that you’re surprised. As I already said, I got every impression that you were not reading what I was writing carefully enough. Then you tell me you’re actually responding to Bruce Ware, not me.

    So I have you not reading my carefully, you saying that you’re not actually responding to me but have Bruce in mind, and then you wonder why I reply as I do! So when you write,

    I am trying to have an honest conversation

    I have to say that it’s not “honest” – not in an moral sense but simply intellectually – you’re not reading my words, you’re reading Bruce Ware into my words – repeatedly. So please understand my exasperation.

    For clarity now, you write:

    Most critics of complementarianism are puzzled that Bruce Ware – who is endorsed by many complementarians – can wrote that the Son has “eternal and inherent submission that is his very nature” and still claim that this “inherent submission that is his very nature” is not ontological. it is the language claiming that the submission is the nature of the Son and is inherent in the Son, that makes critics puzzled. I simply don’t understand this myself.

    And that is exactly my point in the OP. You cannot conceive that it is possible for the Son to be functionally “submissive” to the Father and yet ontologically equal. It is that basic presupposition on your part that the two cannot coexist that is equivalent to the very point I’m making in the OP. It is that very assumption that drove Arius to Arianism (albeit with the caveats discussed by others above)

    The position of complementarians, however is to observe that 2 truths are revealed in Scripture:

    1. The Son appears quite obviously to be functionally “beneath” or “subject” to the Father (viz., not least, the texts I outline above).

    and yet at the same time

    2. The Son appears quite obviously to be ontologically equal to the Father.

    The egalitarian, along with the Arians appears not to be able to tolerate this tension and, for the sake of upholding 2 (in and of itself a right thing to defend), denies 1 (whereas the Arians deny 2 for the sake of upholding 1). The complementarian lets the tension exist and is therefore quite happy to allow the principle to exist elsewhere as well.

    Your own comments on this thread, I would suggest, more than adequately demonstrate this approach in every aspect, the quotation I quoted just now as a prime example.

  17. David,

    “You cannot conceive that it is possible for the Son to be functionally “submissive” to the Father and yet ontologically equal. It is that basic presupposition on your part that the two cannot coexist that is equivalent to the very point I’m making in the OP. It is that very assumption that drove Arius to Arianism (albeit with the caveats discussed by others above)”

    I can believe it. Most certainly!! For example, any person that has a slave has a human being who is his or her ontological equal and functional subordinate. This happens all the time. It is a part of all human life, to a differing extent. of course, I believe it.

    But I am not sure that complementarians believe this. For example, complementarians say that the Son is eternally, permanently and absolutely subordinate. The human slave I mention above could be liberated and function as an equal human being. But for complementarians, the Son is always totally in aubmission, because it is inherent and it is his very nature. With this wording, it appears that the Son is more than functionally subordinate, he is totally and permanently subordinate. This wording doesn’t sound like the slave who is functioning as a subordinate, but could function as a free human being if he had the chance. Because the slave does not have slavery as his inherent nature. Slavery is his circumstance, and he can get beyond it if he is given the chance. He is not an inherent slave, but a functional slave.

    “The position of complementarians, however is to observe that 2 truths are revealed in Scripture:

    1. The Son appears quite obviously to be functionally “beneath” or “subject” to the Father (viz., not least, the texts I outline above).”

    The interpretation of scripture that I was taught is that the will of the Son IS the will of the Father The two are of one will, and one working or action. Just as he says he obeys the father, he also says that he gives himself up to die. Both act together as one. The Son is light from light, he is not a separate entity from the Father that could act differently but choses not too. Therefore, he is not beneath the father. He is one with the father.

    “and yet at the same time

    2. The Son appears quite obviously to be ontologically equal to the Father.”

    “The egalitarian, along with the Arians appears not to be able to tolerate this tension”

    I at least, simply don’t see that the Son is beneath the Father in scripture. He laid down his own life, he will was one with the Father. He was similtaneously priest and offering, sender and sent. That is the Christianity I was taught in my fundamentalist childhood, which was long before complementarianism was expressed as a belief.

    ” and, for the sake of upholding 2 (in and of itself a right thing to defend), denies 1″

    I deny 1) because I don”t believe that it is the plain interpretation of scripture, nor was it a majority position in the interpretation of scripture at any time in church history.

    In traditional scripture interpretation and in the creeds, and the expositions on the creeds, the Son was equal in power (this meant authority in English before this century) and he was of one power with the father, and he was of indivisible working with the father. He was not BENEATH the father. And gender issues were not related to the trinity.

    “(whereas the Arians deny 2 for the sake of upholding 1). The complementarian lets the tension exist and is therefore quite happy to allow the principle to exist elsewhere as well.”

    Yes, complementarians are quite happy to have this tension exist in the home. I don’t think this is a good idea myself.

    “Your own comments on this thread, I would suggest, more than adequately demonstrate this approach in every aspect, the quotation I quoted just now as a prime example.”

    I think you assume that I would critique complementarianism in the way others have. But I am intimately familiar with it. I couldn’t be more familiar with it. I know these men, I have been in their church, and under their teaching, and read their books, and listened to them for hours. I know this belief through and through. Some of these men have good qualities, but I do not agree that their theology falls within historic traditional interpretation of the scripture and the creeds.

    The thing is that complementarianism, the teaching of the eternal subordination of the Son, the Son beneath the Father, is a very new teaching. People my age have only heard of it in the last few years, and have felt the influence. But we were not raised in this belief.

  18. Sue, I see you have no further comment to make about responding to Bruce Ware, not me. I’ll take it you want to leave that not dealt with.

    As for your comment, I don’t think I have more to add. You really appear to me to be reasserting what I have already commented upon. You now introduce the word “beneath” which does rather prejudice any objective understanding of what I’m trying to communicate. Words are important things. I note also that you still chose to avoid discussion of the actual texts that are central to this debate preferring to restate your position and the philosophical assumptions that underly it.

    As for the novelty of the doctrine, it’s rather a canard. i know it’s rhetorically impressive to assert it but the facts are, of course, different. So, as one example, this article in a recent Themelios.

    I’ll leave others to decide whether your assertion is supported by the facts.

  19. “Sue, I see you have no further comment to make about responding to Bruce Ware, not me. I’ll take it you want to leave that not dealt with.

    I did quote from Ware originally as he articulates the position that the Son is in his very nature subordinate, but still ontologicallly equal. That is one difficulty I see with the complementarian position and I would like to know if you agree that this is the complementarian position or not. I don’t know if that is what you think.

    “You now introduce the word “beneath” which does rather prejudice any objective understanding of what I’m trying to communicate. Words are important things.”

    No, David, you are the one who introduced the word “beneath.” You wrote, “1. The Son appears quite obviously to be functionally “beneath” or “subject” to the Father (viz., not least, the texts I outline above).” These were your words and not mine.

    ” I note also that you still chose to avoid discussion of the actual texts that are central to this debate preferring to restate your position and the philosophical assumptions that underly it.”

    No, I am not “choosing to avoid” but rather I acquiesed to your request to interact with your post. I couldn’t find any scripture in your post.

    “As for the novelty of the doctrine, it’s rather a canard. i know it’s rhetorically impressive to assert it but the facts are, of course, different.
    So, as one example, this article in a recent Themelios.”

    Its an excellent article and I have read it through several times. I understand Johnson to be saying that the Son and the Father are distinct in order, that is, Augustine wrote that the Son was eternally generated from the Father.

    But As he notes, Augustine also wrote that there was no disparity of authority (power) between the Father and the Son. Johnson is clear that Augustine rejected the authority and submission model.

  20. I did quote from Ware originally as he articulates the position that the Son is in his very nature subordinate, but still ontologicallly equal.
    Yes, and then you proceeded on the basis that I was Ware. Which, I trust, we have now established I am not.
    No, David, you are the one who introduced the word “beneath.” You wrote, “1. The Son appears quite obviously to be functionally “beneath” or “subject” to the Father (viz., not least, the texts I outline above).” These were your words and not mine.
    Indeed, and yet I put them in “quote marks” so as to communicate that they were being used in a way that was constrained, as I noted, to the texts I had cited. You then transfer that into a far more general meaning.

    I couldn’t find any scripture in your post.
    I laid out Scripture in comments made to you. You are free to pass over it and not interact if you choose but then it renders your claim to honest dialogue rather defunct.

    But As he notes, Augustine also wrote that there was no disparity of authority (power) between the Father and the Son. Johnson is clear that Augustine rejected the authority and submission model.
    The “authority and submission model” as you understand it which (it is now, I trust, clear to other readers) is not the understanding of those who are actually putting it forward.

    Now to your question:

    I did quote from Ware originally as he articulates the position that the Son is in his very nature subordinate, but still ontologicallly equal. That is one difficulty I see with the complementarian position and I would like to know if you agree that this is the complementarian position or not. I don’t know if that is what you think.

    Well, it depends what you mean by “nature”. If you mean “in essence” then I would reply “clearly not”. He is homoousion with the Father. They are of the same divine nature.
    But if you mean that there is something in the Son that is different to the Father then I would say “yes, of course. He is the Son sent by the Father, who always does what the Father tells him to do and who always submits his will to that of the Father so that it may be said at the same time that they are of one will and yet he submits his will to the Father. That’s the beauty of it as clearly revealed, it seems to me, in His own words (which I cited above – you are free to ignore them, of course). He says clearly ‘not my will, but yours’. So He quite clearly has a “different” will to the Father but at the same time they may be said (as Augustine quite rightly observes) to have “one will” since their wills are always in agreement.

    Again, the complementarian is quite happy to have both these truths asserted and in particular does not deny that the Father and Son (and Spirit) have one will in the sense that that is communicated by their united agreed and common purpose. The difference between the comp and the egals, however, appears to be that the comp. is also quite prepared to accept the clear testimony of Scripture that the Son submits His will to that of the Father (again, see the citations above) since one does not need to be set against the other. The egalitarian, however, cannot conceive of this occuring since for them this must mean a difference in ontology.

    Thus I conclude, and I think the reader will too, that the egalitarian is driven by that philosophical assumption – that difference in function or submission of one to the other must mean ontological difference. All this as stated in the OP.

  21. “But if you mean that there is something in the Son that is different to the Father”

    Here is one of the difficulties in language. I would have to say, speaking for myself, I don’t understand how the father and son can be different in nature, (except for the human nature of the son) but different in their eternal and divine nature from each other and yet be the same in essence. Clearly equality of essence does not entail equality of nature for complementarians. And this could be the bottleneck.

    Aristotle taught that it was in the nature of the male to command and in the nature of the female to submit. This refers to human beings, as individuals. It appears that you are applying this difference in nature to father and son and then saying that this justifies the belief that the male is born to command, (born is to be something by nature) and the female is born to submit. Is this equality? Then why not maintain slavery also, by positing that certain races are born to submit. That was done.

    Regarding the trinity, the Son is the emanation of the father so his will is one with the father, and we can reconcile this in the trinity, that he is from the father and they are also one.

    But for human beings, if you say the male has the nature of command and the female has the nature of submission, you have made them two distinct natures, and it is then very hard to see how you can claim that they are equal in essence.

    So, I see how you can say what you do about the trinity, because at some point, we see the trinity as both one and three. But human beings can never be both one and two individuals at the same time without one person losing agency, or losing voice. The one person has their will obliterated.

    So for the Son, “not my will but thine” and “sent to die” are valid expressions of the Son as light from light, not a separate being from the father, but still from the father. The Son dies as the divine one dying for us But if the wife dies as an result of the husbands mission, that does not seem right in human terms.

    For two human individuals, the categories cannot be transferred. To treat one as a natural submissive, does the same thing as Aristotle, when he declared that there are natural slaves. In fact, Aristotle was cited when Spain enslaved the native Americans and enforced their labour to the extent that they died labouring for Spain They were treated as natural slaves. This is not usually considered equality.

    If you mean that women are natural submissives, then I think egaltarians balk at the thought that any person can declare someone different from themselves as their natural submissive, and then teach them that they are created by God for a life of submission, while person A was created by God for a life of exerting authority, and this is equality. This just sounds like Aristotle all over again,

    If you actually make a woman live in a way comparable to the Son vis-a-vis the father, that is, not having her own will, obliterating it, and cite that this is like the Son who was sent to die, and explain that she is by nature eternally and permanently without the right to use her own will, then it is a pathology. And you can’t think that this does not happen. Men invoke total obeidience in the measue in which they need obedience, according to their own sinful will.

    So, the real difference between egalitarians and complementarians is that egalitarians, at least in my view, recognise the trinity as a mystery, three in one. However, they believe that this does not transfer to human categories without creating a situation in which teaching the wife that she has total submission, permanent and eternal because she is a woman and this is in her nature, also entails inequality. The wife always experiences this as inequality because she has no agency and no personal authority. She has no will apart from her husband and so slowly walks into the dark night of death while still breathing. Most women resist total shutdown, and seek to engage, and negotiate areas of normaltiy. But the pressure, if not resisted, leads to depression and abnormality. It become a form of slavery, the one person exerting his will, and the other person always submitting.

    • Sue, once again I fear you’re not actually reading me but, rather, responding to some other discussion partner of your own manufacture.

      Here is one of the difficulties in language. I would have to say, speaking for myself, I don’t understand how the father and son can be different in nature, (except for the human nature of the son) but different in their eternal and divine nature from each other and yet be the same in essence. Clearly equality of essence does not entail equality of nature for complementarians. And this could be the bottleneck.

      No, I was very precise about what I wrote noting that the word “nature” is not helpful since it has an implied meaning. I gave you, instead, a specific answer, “there is something in the Son that is different to the Father”. Again, I’m not sure how many times I can explain this – the text of the Jesus’ own words makes it abundantly clear that he is different to the Father. Not different in nature (if by nature we mean divine nature) but, nevertheless, different. The Son is the Son, not the Father. The Son is sent, the Father sends. The Son submits His will to that of the Father and does only what the Father tells Him – there is a clear difference between the two. You keep asserting that you cannot accept a difference and yet the difference is right there in Jesus’ words. Until you address this directly you will never be properly addressing the actual complementarian position.

      Aristotle taught that it was in the nature of the male to command and in the nature of the female to submit. This refers to human beings, as individuals. It appears that you are applying this difference in nature to father and son and then saying that this justifies the belief that the male is born to command, (born is to be something by nature) and the female is born to submit. Is this equality? Then why not maintain slavery also, by positing that certain races are born to submit. That was done.
      Let Aristotle teach whatever he wants to teach. It does not bind the Christian mind and I am certainly not bound by it. Once again you are striving to apply a paradigm to my words rather than simply read them as they are. So be it, but you cannot then claim to be engaged in “honest discussion”

      Regarding the trinity, the Son is the emanation of the father so his will is one with the father, and we can reconcile this in the trinity, that he is from the father and they are also one.
      Agreed. It is reconciled within the Trinity – the Trinity shows us that, despite our assumptions, it is perfectly possible to have One who is in every way subject to the other – He proceeds from Him, He subjects His will to Him, He is sent by Him, He does only what the other wishes Him to do and yet at the same time He is equal. It seems every time you attempt to assert this equality, however, you consistently downplay the strength of the language of sending, obedience and submission etc despite the fact that this is at the heart of how the Son describes Himself – yet you appear to ignore these strong statements for (I would suggest) they undermine your argument.

      But for human beings, if you say the male has the nature of command and the female has the nature of submission, you have made them two distinct natures, and it is then very hard to see how you can claim that they are equal in essence.
      No, because you are once again using the language of “nature” in a way I specifically rejected. I reject any notion that men and women have distinct natures – they do, however, have distinct role just as the Father and the Son have the same nature and yet (by Jesus’ own words) distinct roles.

      So, I see how you can say what you do about the trinity, because at some point, we see the trinity as both one and three. But human beings can never be both one and two individuals at the same time without one person losing agency, or losing voice. The one person has their will obliterated.

      So for the Son, “not my will but thine” and “sent to die” are valid expressions of the Son as light from light, not a separate being from the father, but still from the father. The Son dies as the divine one dying for us But if the wife dies as an result of the husbands mission, that does not seem right in human terms.

      Indeed, and yet I would argue that they make the willing submission of the Son all the more staggering.
      As for “the wife dies as an [sic] result of the husband’s mission” I don’t know any complementarian who argues that way – on the contrary the husband is called to die on behalf of his wife. The wife, in return is called to submit to that husband’s love and she may choose as she wills to do what she is called to do. If she does it then she lives in accordance with her God-given role, freely choosing to submit to her head just as the Son freely chooses to submit to the Father with no lessening of his divine nature.

      For two human individuals, the categories cannot be transferred. To treat one as a natural submissive, does the same thing as Aristotle, when he declared that there are natural slaves. In fact, Aristotle was cited when Spain enslaved the native Americans and enforced their labour to the extent that they died labouring for Spain They were treated as natural slaves. This is not usually considered equality.

      Again, who is speaking of the woman as “a natural submissive”? Where did I ever state such a thing? Submission is utterly unnatural to our fallen human nature whether men or women – each of us is called to submit as necessary and each of us finds our sinful nature rebels against it. And yet each of us also ought to recognise that we are in our own ways called to submit. But “a natural submissive” is something i have never argued for – once again you demonstrate that you’re not actually paying attention to my personal view.

      If you mean that women are natural submissives, then I think egaltarians balk at the thought that any person can declare someone different from themselves as their natural submissive, and then teach them that they are created by God for a life of submission, while person A was created by God for a life of exerting authority, and this is equality. This just sounds like Aristotle all over again,

      Again with the “natural submissive”. I do, however, want to assert that the husband is the head of the wife and the wife ought to submit to her husband. Whether he chooses to exert that headship in the sacrificial love that he is called to or whether she will submit willingly just as she submits to Christ also is up to them to work out – they can neither be compelled, only persuaded and transformed by the Spirit.

      If you actually make a woman live in a way comparable to the Son vis-a-vis the father, that is, not having her own will, obliterating it, and cite that this is like the Son who was sent to die, and explain that she is by nature eternally and permanently without the right to use her own will, then it is a pathology. And you can’t think that this does not happen. Men invoke total obeidience in the measue in which they need obedience, according to their own sinful will.

      And again, where did I ever say anyone should make a woman live in that way? She will determine what she should do by obedient listening to the Scriptures and by the transformative power of the Spirit. No-one is arguing here that any woman ought to be forced to submit and I rather resent the implication that I would suggest such a thing. Again, you betray a total lack of willingness to understand my position – now reading it in the worst light”.

      So, the real difference between egalitarians and complementarians is that egalitarians, at least in my view, recognise the trinity as a mystery, three in one.
      Well, it will forever remain mysterious is you never take Jesus’ words seriously. But that’s what comes when you make your philosophical paradigm so rigid as to reject any understanding of the Scriptures that might mould it more Biblically.

      However, they believe that this does not transfer to human categories without creating a situation in which teaching the wife that she has total submission, permanent and eternal because she is a woman and this is in her nature, also entails inequality.

      And yet here you are dialoguing (apparently) with someone who rejects that canard. So what will you do with it?
      a) insist that I haven’t a clue what I’m saying and I must really be Bruce Ware in disguise
      b) take my actual words seriously and respond to them.

      The wife always experiences this as inequality because she has no agency and no personal authority. She has no will apart from her husband

      “The Son always experiences this as inequality because He has no agency and no personal authority. He has no will apart from His Father’s”.

      You do see the irony, don’t you?

      and so slowly walks into the dark night of death while still breathing. Most women resist total shutdown, and seek to engage, and negotiate areas of normaltiy. But the pressure, if not resisted, leads to depression and abnormality. It become a form of slavery, the one person exerting his will, and the other person always submitting.

      But what you speak of here is abuse of the complementarian position, not the position itself. So I join you in wholeheartedly rejecting any system that demands women be made to submit. But I am more than happy to do that while also commending the complementarian position and urging husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church and urging each and every one of us to understand that submission in whatever place we need to submit is never in any place a dimunition of our essence, just as it was not for the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.


  22. ” I gave you, instead, a specific answer, “there is something in the Son that is different to the Father””

    I am struggling with the fact that you have made our specific answer to be “something.” I agree that there is “something” also. I don’t disagree with that at all, and I acknowledge that you say this. For Augustine, as Keith Johnson says, it was eternal generation I don’t disagree with this. But for me the most marked difference is that the Son was SENT, as you also say, and sent to die, and he took on moratlity. This is why I find the comparison with gender so odd. How does the male send the female to die? How is there an analogy, and why should the two be linked in one conversation. Because it makes me check my back and feel a little anxious!!

    “however, you consistently downplay the strength of the language of sending, obedience and submission”

    I am simply providing the counterpoint, that the Son is equal in authority to the Father according to Augustine, and subsequent exposition on the creeds. I think we should at least openly discuss thie very central thread in church doctrine. Let’s at least acknowledge it.

    “No, because you are once again using the language of “nature” in a way I specifically rejected. I reject any notion that men and women have distinct natures – they do, however, have distinct role just as the Father and the Son have the same nature and yet (by Jesus’ own words) distinct roles.

    Perhaps you could remind me of your definition of “nature” because it clearly contrasts with the way other complementarians use the word. Sorry that I have not been able to keep track of your specific use of the word. I just forgot that you don’t use it the way other people do.

    I use the term “natural submissive” as a short form for the person who is submissive in their very nature, or has inherent submission in their nature. But this is the notion that men and women are the way they are “” by design.” Some complementarians stress that women are by design the ones who submit.

    “freely choosing to submit to her head just as the Son freely chooses to submit to the Father with no lessening of his divine nature.”

    Two problems – 1) the submission cannot be divorced from context, the death of Christ, that is his submission. 2) the submission is not of one individual to another individual, but the submission of light from light, of the Son, from the Father, as a metaphor for the emanation of God become human. The comparison with the wife is not relevant. It leads to the notion of death – it cannot otherwise. I cannot think of the Son who is sent without seeing him on the cross. Since I like many women, are victims of male violence in the Christian community, this is a metaphor for gender violence.

    Me: The wife always experiences this as inequality because she has no agency and no personal authority. She has no will apart from her husband

    You: “The Son always experiences this as inequality because He has no agency and no personal authority. He has no will apart from His Father’s”.

    You: You do see the irony, don’t you?

    Me: Not at all. You cannot compare the trinity to the relationship between two human beings. It should not be done.

    I do want to say that I am very happy that you are so careful to distance yourself from Bruce Ware’s teaching on inherent and absolute submission and authority. He wrote the summary of complementarianism for the CBMW website, and his books are widely endorsed and taught. His views were preached in our church. I won’t bother to cite the sermon, but my daughter stood up and walked out in the middle. It was incredibly disturbing.

    I think that it is great to urge husbands to love their wives as Christ loves the church. It is not so great to tell husbands that their relationship can be modeled on the trinity, especially the authority of the father in sending the son to die, and the obedience of the son in dying.

    Unfortunately, women are influenced to feel that they MUST submit, because otherwise someone will call them a b***, or “shrill”, or “rebellious”, or a “feminist”, or say that they will “go to hell”, or they are going over to the “dark side”, or someone will tell their children that their mother is going to hell. Or perhaps they will be reminded that they vowed to obey. And, in the end, it can end up the way it did for the woman who told John Piper that she was not allowed to go to the bathroom without permission because that is how her husband understood John Piper’s sermons, and this is how some understood Bruce Ware’s sermons. Ultimately I almost died from this kind of teaching. I can’t think of any of it without realizing now that I look back that my life was permeated with abuse of every kind, both psychological and physical. So talking about the father sending the son to die is a reminder of how a man can actually treat his wife. And not a very nice reminder either.

    Maybe you will understand better that for some women, to reject this teaching is the only way that they could remain alive.

    I know this abuse has nothing to do with you, but I just could not figure out how anyone could talk about the father sending the son do die and compare that to gender.

    It breaks my heart that so often a man cannot look at a woman as his neighbour and treat that woman as someone that he should treat as he would be treated. My heart breaks because I have never met with this in the church, that a man could live out this gospel teaching in the way he treated women.

    I thank you for your patience. I do not in any way suggest that anything you think or do is abusive. I have hoestly tried to learn how you can use the language of the trinity for gender relations. I think I lost track with your use of the word “something” but at least we both tried!! So, thanks again.

  23. hi Sue, I fear a little messing around with my site design this afternoon messed up comments and I ended losing a long one I wrote in response. For now let me just thank you for your continued patience and desire to persevere with this. I’ll get to a more lengthy response tomorrow.

    • Now this comment will in no way contribute to the very interesting theological debate above. Just wanted to say David that your site is easier to read from an iPhone.

      • hi Lucy,

        Yes, it’s a responsive theme which identifies what sort of device you’re reading it on. It drops a lot of content for iphone so as to present just the text.
        I still think it looks good in a regular browser, though 😉 Are you having particular problems?

  24. I normally use my iMac if I doing a lot of reading online or wanting to make a comment. Sometimes I browse your site and others with the phone and prefer the new settings that you have put on.

  25. David,

    This is from De Trinitate, Book I chapter 11. The indication is clearnthatnwhen thenSon took on the form of a servant, he then said, not my will, but thine. In the form of God, he is equal to the Father. As a human being then, a woman is equal to her husband, and only if she takes on the form of servant, does she say, not my will… This is perhaps where egaliarians part ways, as there is not thought to be a sense in which the wife is the servant of the husband. But there is a sense in which the Son gave up equality, and took on the form of a servant, In this, both men and women equally ought to imitate Christ. Egalitarians do not believe that treating the wife as servant of the husband, is a good witness to non-Christians.

    Here is Augustine,

    22. Wherefore, having mastered this rule for interpreting the Scriptures concerning the Son of God, that we are to distinguish in them what relates to the form of God, in which He is equal to the Father, and what to the form of a servant which He took, in which He is less than the Father; we shall not be disquieted by apparently contrary and mutually repugnant sayings of the sacred books. For both the Son and the Holy Spirit, according to the form of God, are equal to the Father, because neither of them is a creature, as we have already shown: but according to the form of a servant He is less than the Father, because He Himself has said, “My Father is greater than I;”1 and He is less than Himself, because it is said of Him, He emptied Himself;”2 and He is less than the Holy Spirit, because He Himself says, “Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven Him.”3 And in the Spirit too He wrought miracles, saying: “But if I with the Spirit of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.”4 And in Isaiah He says,—in the lesson which He Himself read in the synagogue, and showed without a scruple of doubt to be fulfilled concerning Himself,—“The Spirit of the Lord God,” He says, “is upon me: because He hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek He hath sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives,”5 etc.: for the doing of which things He therefore declares Himself to be “sent,” because the Spirit of God is upon Him. According to the form of God, all things were made by Him;6 according to the form of a servant, He was Himself made of a woman, made under the law.7 According to the form of God, He and the Father are one;8 according to the form of a servant, He came not to do His own will, but the will of Him that sent Him.9 According to the form of God, “As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself;”10 according to the form of a servant, His “soul is sorrowful even unto death;” and, “O my Father,” He says, “if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”11 According to the form of God, “He is the True God, and eternal life;”12 according to the form of a servant, “He became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”13 —23. According to the form of God, all things that the Father hath are His,14 and “All mine,” He says, “are Thine, and Thine are mine;”15 according to the form of a servant, the doctrine is not His own, but His that sent Him.16

  26. thanks Sue, none of it (yet again) actually deals with the substance of the complementarian argument. I am sadly resigned, at this point, that you won’t address it. And yes, with the greatest respect, I don’t think posting more and more slabs of Augustine is the same as involved discussion.

    So there’s much actual engagement on this thread from me that you are more than welcome to grapple with – I’d love your own answers to the questions I’ve asked. But if you’re just going to keep restating your position and keep begging the same question then there’s little point to it, I fear.

  27. First you happily agree with Mark that there is only one will in the trinity. Then to me you write,

    “I merely pointed out that Jesus has a will and He chooses to submit His to the Father’s. I’m not at all sure how you got from there to reading that I deny the will of the wife. On the contrary – she has a very clear will and she has every choice how to exercise it. It seems to me that the Apostolic command is to submit her will to that of her husband just as the Apostolic command is that her husband ought to love her as Christ loved the church. Beyond that, which is the words of Scripture, I haven’t argued much more.”

    So now you agree that the wife has a will although totally submitted, but she has a will. However, if you make an analogy with the trinity, then she has no will. No wonder I am confused. This was my life as a complementarian woman. Not allowed to have a will one day, and then the next day I could have a will as long as it was totally submitted. It was a nightmare! And now you can’t even remain consistent with your own comments. Either Christ has an independent and individual will or he does not. I don’t see that you have made this clear.

    • So now you agree that the wife has a will although totally submitted, but she has a will. However, if you make an analogy with the trinity, then she has no will.

      No, sadly I fear you are reading what I write through your own paradigm rather than reading it in it’s own right.

      In part it is obvious that that paradigm of misunderstanding has been born out of your own experiences for which I am genuinely sad for you. But on the other hand you present yourself as someone knowledgable in this field and so your repeated failure to seek to understand me without pushing my words through your interpretative grid is rather frustrating.

      But that, alas, appears to be how it remains.

      Either Christ has an independent and individual will or he does not

      Again, the problem here is that you repeatedly fail to consider how the complementarian understands these matters. The wonder of any submission is that it is the willing and deliberate submission of one’s own ‘independent and individual will’ (as you put it) under another’s. When perfectly submitted one might truly say that there is only one will and that the two parties delight in having the same will.

      So, in part, one understands the submission of the Son to the Father. And yet there is certainly more than that for since they are equally God there is a unity of purpose and will that no two humans can have.

      I have sought to explain this in many and various ways ad nauseam – not sure what else can be achieved now.

  28. I just assumed that you had agreed with Mark who earlier stated,

    “The Son’s obedience and submission to the Father is very different from ours. His is the obedience of the Son who is homoousious with the Father. Between Father and Son there is only one will, not a meeting of two wills. That doesn’t make ‘obedience’ nonsensical – but it does mean that it is very different from the obedience that any mere human being offers, either to God or to another human being. In those instances it is always a meeting of two wills, not one will existing in two different persons (from the Father to the Son).

    So the Son’s eternal obedience can’t be exactly our model. Jesus’ obedience can, but even that doesn’t seem to be a *big* argument in Scripture, 1 Cor 11 notwithstanding – Eph 5, for example, appeals to the example of Jesus as the example of the one in authority, not under it.”

    He says, “only one will, not a meeting of two wills.” So naturally Iasked whether you were later saying that this applies to the wife, that she has no will, because there are not two wills but “only one will, not a meeting of wills”, but only one will.

    But Mark agrees with this and says that the eternal Son cannot be our model. However, you say,

    “The wonder of any submission is that it is the willing and deliberate submission of one’s own ‘independent and individual will’ (as you put it) under another’s. When perfectly submitted one might truly say that there is only one will and that the two parties delight in having the same will.”

    But of course, there is no model for this in the trinity, the eternal son does not have an independent and individual will at all, according to Mark, at least, and it is purely a construct that men are putting on women, that women should imitate the eternal son in perfect submission, claiming that there is some analogy in the trinity for this kind of subordination. But clearly there is not. I just don’t understand how men can think up this kind of thing.

    Yes, there is submission from the son in human form, as he takes on mortality and dies. Is this the model for the wife? Is there anything at all in the way that the father has sent the son to die, that should be modeled in marriage? And if not, why is this taught?

    Why is something that is about punishment and death, presented to women as you call it “delight?”

  29. That last comment was not very clear. What I am trying to figure out is whether complementarians believe

    A) the eternal son and the father have only one will and marriage is like that, there is only one will, that of the husband, the wife has no will

    OR

    B) Jesus, in human form, has a human will, which is totally submitted to the one will of the father, and that entails obedience even unto death, it is suffering, and wives are to imitate this

    My question is, which of these two do complementarians teach? This comment thread is not clear, you seem to switch sides.

    My view is that the first part of A and B are correct, but to treat a women as one who has no independent will, or as one who must be totally submitted, is a terrible suffering that should be visited on no human being. Even a dog loves a little off leash time. I believe that churches who teach either one, need a fund for therapy for those who lived under this teaching. It is not easy to recover from a lifetime of this kind of treatment.

  30. And Jesus sweat blood over his submission. That is an important detail. I do not accept that for a woman to be totally submitted, it is a delight. She often pretends because the cost of belittlement, exclusion and having your kids told that mommy is going to hell is a high cost. It is hell either way.

  31. What I am trying to figure out is whether complementarians believe

    A) the eternal son and the father have only one will and marriage is like that, there is only one will, that of the husband, the wife has no will

    nope

    B) Jesus, in human form, has a human will, which is totally submitted to the one will of the father, and that entails obedience even unto death, it is suffering, and wives are to imitate this

    nope

    Thing is. Sue, I’ve done the rounds with you on this a number of times. On each occasion I clarify my position and then you restate your own assumptions into my language. So I don’t see what point there is in continuing. You don’t read me carefully, you don’t engage with the text of the Bible when I ask you for your understanding of Jesus’ own words on the subject so there’s actually no dialogue here.

    I’m genuinely sorry that you’ve been mistreated by people, and men in particular, in what you understood to be a complementarian environment. Genuinely

    But you present yourself as a scholar knowledgable in these issues and yet at every turn you appear to show next to no attempt to properly understand me. So I have no intention in continuing this conversation – not least for your sake but also for mine since every time I write something you push it through your own presumption of what complementarianism is and will consequently think the worse of me.

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