Missing The Point
Many male supremacists/complementarians dismiss the charge that their teaching of ESS (the eternal subordination of the Son) has anything to do with the issue of male supremacy. But at this link we have just one of many evidences that the charge is indeed true. The motivation for ESS is clearly displayed in that article: if there is equality with hierarchy in the Trinity, then it is an established Biblical principle supporting the subordination of women to men without devaluing women.
The arguments there are very familiar to anyone having read either Rebecca Groothuis’ arguments or my summaries of them here. She has thoroughly debunked the claim that it is possible to have equality of being when hierarchy is determined by one’s being; that is, if a person is held to a lessor authoritative position for life because of their race, sex, or other genetic qualities, that is not a role to play but a devaluing of the person. So the article stands as a witness against any claim that ESS and MS are unrelated, and proves once again that people are willing to stoop so low as to dissect the One True God in order to preserve their place in society.
As I showed here, there is overlap in the functions of the Persons of the Trinity. And as I showed here, there is no way to have hierarchy in one will; if God has three wills, then this is not a trinity but three gods. So using the Trinity as some kind of justification for a logical absurdity is obviously a poor base from which to operate. To believe equality of being at the same time as inequality of permanent, being-based function is to resort to absurdity. Thus the article’s bold claim that such hierarchy is even possible (“I’ll go even further to say that neither does a hierarchy necessarily exclude equality”) is false both by logic and scripture.
Without this fallacious foundation, is it still possible to make a coherent and Biblical argument for MS? Not when we remember the Bible’s own model for how believers relate to each other. Paul’s statement in 2 Cor. 5:17 is typically taken to refer to individual transformation, and that’s certainly part of it. But it also refers to the fact that we are a new, third entity or “race” of humanity: neither Jew nor Gentile but the very children of God (Gal. 3:28, Eph. 2:15).* And as I’ve mentioned often, Jesus’ “not so with you” (Mt. 20:20-28, Luke 9:46-48, 22:24-27) has no fine print or loophole for when women are present. Along with Paul’s “body” analogy (1 Cor. 12:4-30, Eph. 4:15-16, Col. 2:19, etc.), we see that the whole emphasis is on the breaking down of old barriers and replacing them with the kind of unity a human body has.** Clearly, scripture teaches against hierarchy among believers in any sphere.
This all supports the statement that prompted the writing of the linked article: that “A marriage must be either a partnership or a hierarchy; it cannot be both”, which the writer claims is a false premise. But we see also in that article that the writer equates submission with authority, since “no one can serve two masters”. Yet if the wife has Christ as her authority or master, the author will be forced to concede that the husband is neither. And when he uses terms like “she can willingly and fully submit to me”, he’s not talking about serving her but ruling over her. All the flowery adjectives in the world cannot change that fact.
That the writer sees the “church” through the same worldly, hierarchical lens should come as no surprise. He equates his submission to church elders with how his wife is supposed to submit to him– the familiar chain of command. And like the world, that chain finds women perpetually at the bottom, because unlike children (boys anyway) the women never get to be fully adult. As one of my friends who comments here says, “What happens to this chain when you have a ‘shepherd’ like Jim Jones?” And if the people of the church, like the wife of a wayward husband, can judge and discern where the line has been crossed into sin, then it is truly the laity and the wives who shoulder the greatest responsibility. Yet these are denied the authority that should go with it. This is a recipe for disaster, as anyone competent in matters of mental health will tell you.
Finally, the writer exposes the idolatry of MS doctrine: “Paul urged the Corinthian church to follow his example as he followed Christ. I figure the God-given role of a husband and father isn’t far at all from that.” Are we talking about example or authority? And did Paul expect churches to never mature in the faith and produce capable leaders? Here again we see the glaring difference between churches and marriages: laity can rise up to lead, but wives can never, ever lead their husbands. But as all the preceding in the article show, the writer does mean rule and hierarchy when he talks about leaders and followers, hence the idolatrous treating of men as little gods, as little christs; they usurp the place of our one and only Mediator (Mt. 23:8, 1 Tim. 2:5).
Once again I must appeal to the examples of Paul and Jesus: laying authority down (see also Phil. 2:5-11). Whether any believer thinks Paul could override “not so with you” or not, both he and Jesus showed that all believers are to humble themselves and take the place of the waiter instead of the patron. The teachings of MS and clergy/laity, in contrast, keep the world’s hierarchy and seek first place in it. If they want to play “servant leader”, then let them show that Jesus only modeled that for certain privileged men. Privileged, because they want authority like that of Christ over the church. If they had any grasp of “not so with you”, however, they would not fight for first place, but rather lay down the titles, the final say, the followers, and become followers without titles themselves.
I will never, never, never accept as a Christian leader anyone who fights for it, no matter how many layers of sugar and fluff they may try to cover it with. I will never believe the professed “love” of a husband for a wife while he also wants final say and to be obeyed as the church obeys Christ, keeping his wife as a permanent child to his “father” role. Such people have no concept of the kingdom of heaven. Real leaders, whether in marriage or the Body of Christ, never ask for the job or use proof-texts to claim it. All they do is serve without fanfare.
* This relates also to the topic of legalism. As we are taught in Heb. 7:12, “when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also”. We Gentiles were never under the old Law at all (Eph. 2:12), and the Jews who become Christians have “died” to that law (Romans 7:4, Gal. 3:23-29) and are now under a new law because of a new priesthood.
** Some may try to argue that some internal organs are more vital than others, but that never entered into any of Paul’s references to the body as an analogy. He only referred to the external parts and focused on the fact that no part is greater than another, and that they all connect to one Head instead of reporting to each other.