Saturday, December 1, 2012

Really, truly, completely, equally human

Jody Stowell makes an excellent case excellently. At the heart of the turmoil over women in ministry, focused in the last week or so on women in the English episcopacy, is a simple question, Are women human as men are human? If women are not really human, Jody's question, then churches should boldly say so. After all, if women are not really human, then the simple fact is that they should not be ordered in such a way as to represent Christ to humanity or humanity to Christ through a priestly role, nor should they presume through a teaching ministry to speak about the incarnation of Christ as human to be saviour of humanity (i.e. to preach and teach the gospel).

But what if women are human? Actually, I am assuming here that all readers do think women are really, truly, completely, equally human, as men are, so my question turns out to be, Why can all (gifted, called, Spirit-filled, in Christ) humans not be able to be discerned for any office of the church? That is, if we are all on the same page in wishing to treat one another as fully human (note carefully, I am assuming we are), the question remains whether the decisions we make about church order properly give effect to that intention, and whether the argumentation or reasoning supporting those decisions constitute true recognition of the full humanity of women and men.

One argument against an affirmative answer to the question is that the truest and greatest office of the church, being servant to all, is already open to women, indeed held in many instances by women. This argument was drawn to our attention the other day in a comment pointing to this article on Kyrie, Eleison! To which I simply reply that if the greatest office of ministry in the church is open to both genders, why isn't the least office (by comparison, i.e. bishop) also open to women!

The same article stoops very low in suggesting that women desire to be bishops (a noble desire according to Scripture) as a matter of power ambition. Jody Stowell rightly nails that on the head. Women enter the diaconate and priesthood to respond to God's call and to serve the church. Power, ambition, career aspiration: cheap shots. Do we use that language when a man aspires to be ordained?

Whether we have a 'catholic' or 'evangelical' understanding of church office, the role is about being a saved human being in service to humanity, called and set apart by God to spread the gospel of the Word who became flesh in order that all flesh might be saved. On a 'catholic' understanding the priest represents Christ to humanity and humanity to God: there is nothing intrinsic about Christ's maleness to being our Saviour (ditto, as is often observed, his being a Jew). On an 'evangelical' understanding the priest is the presbyter or teaching elder, discharged with responsibility to lead the church through teaching sound doctrine: the emphasis falls on the ability of the presbyter to teach, not on the gender of the teacher. (In special regard here is 1 Timothy 2:12-15, but this is an explosive text in the sense that a reading of it which concludes it is universal in application relies on a reading of verse 14 that women are instrinsically and permanently unreliable: do we really believe that?)

In recent times a new* argument against women being presbyters and bishops has entered the fray, namely that the church is a household, the head of the household is a man, and thus the head of the church should be a man (where 'head', in episcopal churches, particularly pertains to the office of bishop as the licensing authority over the presbyters, deacons and lay officers). The questions about this argument which strike me as most pertinent are: (a) is the analogy between household and church a strong one, in particular strong enough to base as important a decision as denying to (remember) gifted, called, Spirit-filled, in Christ women the possibility of holding any office in the church? (b) should rules and regulations about church offices be based on an argument which, essentially, is a 'drawing a line through the dots', that is, an inferential argument? (c) are there not many situations in which women are heads of households and thus why can the church (on a straightline analogy) not also be a household headed by a women? A further question, but perhaps not the most pertinent, concerns the nature of biblical headship and whether women in the role of wife are not mutually bound with husbands into the role of head of household.

As I reflect on these situations I suggest we are too prone to read from the New Testament a set of everlasting rules when the essence of the New Testament in respect of 'how we then should live?' is about life in the Spirit (the most important criterion for church office is endowment of the Holy Spirit) and the fullness of the kingdom (which is a seed growing into a harvest, an ever widening and deepening healing of creation, one aspect of which is the fullness of our humanity being experienced, through (among other things) the healing of the rift between men and women in which women have been subjugated, set upon and sidelined through male dominance and aggression).

In this 'big picture' perspective we look into the New Testament and see a Spirit-led church which was very flexible in the way it was led, responding adroitly to local concerns (whether Acts 6 or 1 Timothy 2), remarkably mutual in the manner in which women and men took part in the ministry (think Priscilla and Aquila, Junia and Andronicus, Paul with Euodia and Syntyche), and fluid in its understanding of apostleship (so not only 'the Twelve' were deemed apostles). In those days of the 'charismatic' church, before it (for various reasons) solidified into an 'institutional' church, we see remarkable possibilities of the fullness of humanity developing in God's healing kingdom.

The point of being Anglican is being a catholic-and-reformed church, following the tradition yet ever open to varying it through examination of it in the light of re-reading Scripture, semper reformanda and sola scriptura. But what is the Scripture we read about men and women in the life of the church? Is the New Testament a deuteronomistic book (that is, a second law book for God's people) or a pneumatological handbook of the kingdom (that is, a guideline to life in the Spirit a.k.a our freedom in Christ and under Christ the king to become what God created us to be).

At the heart of the turmoil in England as it spills out into the Communion is an important challenge to Anglican theology: what is our vision for humanity in the kingdom of God? Does that vision truly, deeply, thoroughly engage with what it means for women and men to be really, truly, completely, equally human?

I side with Jody and against Anastasia!

ADDITIONAL ARTICLE: Read Tim Chesterton's excellent post here.

ADDITIONAL ARTICLE: For an interesting endorsement of Junia's apostleship in terms of being sent out for coffee, see here ...

*By 'new' I mean that in my reading over the past few decades I feel that a headship based argument is a relative newcomer to debates. It is, of course, an 'old' argument in the sense that it goes back to the New Testament era for its line of reasoning.

64 comments:

Anonymous said...

Change a few words here and there and you have just written a wonderful evangelical's case for same-sex marriage.

Susan.

Peter Carrell said...

There should be nothing, Susan, in any evangelical's theology which implies treating any human being as other than a human being and I would hope that what I have written has implication for how we treat one another.

Whether the change of a few words here and there leads to an evangelical's case for same sex marriage (let alone a 'wonderful' evangelical's case) is something to reflect on. My reflection would focus on whether a 'kingdom' or 'peumatological' perspective on marriage leads to any change about the constituent parts of marriage (male and female). After all, God's fullness of humanity in creation is 'male and female' and if the gender differences mean anything at all that meaning is bound together with our understanding of marriage. From that perspective I cannot find the few words to change here and there which would constitute support for same-sex marriage.

Others, perhaps, will give some guidance here.

Tim Chesterton said...

Well said, Peter!

I"ve tried to make a similar case here: here.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks Tim. Have added the link into the main post.

Shawn said...

Both men and women are made in the image of God. Both are fully human. Both become, through election, royal sons and daughters of the King of Heaven.

Everything that can and needs to be said can be said without bringing in "equality", which is a meaningless term that has no basis in the created, natural order.

The strongest part of your argument Peter is the idea of the charismatic vs the institutional Church, with it's structures and leadership determined by the Spirit. That seems to me to be the model of the New Testament/early Church.

Shawn said...

Men and women are not equal. Women are more important to a healthy society. All healthy, strong societies are based on rules to protect women and children. All else is surplus. That is why I oppose women being front-line soldiers in the military. Not because men are better, stronger or braver, but because men are expendable, women are not.

When it comes to the crunch, any society, whether a whole nation or a cruise ship, which does not put women and children first, is doomed to extinction.

Janice said...

Jody's argument, "What is not assumed, is not healed," (from Gregory of Nazianzus) is that if the only humanity Jesus assumed was what is distinctively male, then women aren't human in the same way that men are human. But the other (and I think more logical) conclusion from that dictum is that if the only humanity that Jesus assumed was what is distinctively male, then women aren't saved.

The quote comes from Epistle 51, to Cledonius (First epistle against Apollinarius) where Gregory is arguing against those who said that Jesus was not fully human.

What I didn't know before today is that in the same letter he makes an argument that goes against those who think that the order of the Trinity is heirarchical and that the Son is eternally subordinated to the Father. And this, of course, is part of their justification for saying that women may not have authority over men (and therefore can't be either priests or bishops).


For to make the Trinity consist of Great, Greater, and Greatest, as of Light, Ray, and Sun, the Spirit and the Son and the Father ..., is a ladder of Godhead not leading to Heaven, but down from Heaven. But we recognize God the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, and these not as bare titles, dividing inequalities of ranks or of power, but as there is one and the same title, so there is one nature and one substance in the Godhead.

carl jacobs said...

I see. The reason we reject WO is because we have "subjugated, set upon and sidelined through male dominance and aggression" all women. We did this because we consider women "less human", and we have justified it by being "too prone to read from the New Testament a set of everlasting rules." Nice to know. I should tell my wife this. She will be surprised to learn all this about herself.

So if this post was meant to persuade someone like me, it utterly failed. I got to ...

Are women human as men are human?

... and simply shut down. As in "OK, I see where this is going." This argument is the pro-WO analog to "All conservatives are closet homophobes" argument. You ignore every principled argument we make, attribute our arguments to an underlying character defect, and then declare victory based upon the alleged character defect. It's simply a means to delegitimize your opponent - to render him unworthy of response. There is no way to even respond to an argument like this. Denial is simply taken as evidence of the truth of the assertion.

This is why I don't even bother arguing this subject anymore. The contending sides exist in parallel universes that do not intersect. What then is there to do? If WO advocates go to the right, then traditionalists should go to the left. If WO advocates go to the left the traditionalists should go to the right. The two sides can meet across the fence line in common unity so long as they still agree on the essentials. Until the spiritual progeny of WO advocates follow their hermeneutic to its logical conclusion of smudging ceremonies and raisin cake liturgies for the goddess. At which point unity will become impossible.

carl

Rosemary Behan said...

If Carl misread it Peter, then so did I. You start at the wrong place. In the beginning .. GOD. Why did God create women? What does HE want for women. In my opinion, a very high privilege that is NOT mere ordination by men!!!!

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Carl,

I think my post deserves more than your misreading of it.

I did not say what you allege in the first part of your comment.

The general thrust of my post is that arguments against the ordination of women (respectful, reasoned and robust as they are) should nevertheless look more deeply into the question of whether they take account of the fullness of humanity, in creation and in redemption, a fullness in which men and women share completely; further, those arguments should take account of whether they imply in any way, unwittingly or otherwise, whether woman are not being treated as fully human by being restricted from taking up any of the churches offices.

I am not attributing arguments against women being ordained as to a character defect in those making the arguments, but I am suggesting the arguments are defective. Even principle arguments can be defective.

Further, Carl, at certain points I used the word "we". That is because I am as prone as anyone, if not more prone, to read law out of gospel and rules out of grace. The challenge I am attempting to raise is not about delegitimising anyone, let alone a group I ascribe as "opponents". We are all on the same side (the side of Christ) and we each need the other to read the Bible well.

I would hope you do bother to argue your case because the question of respectful and fair relationships between the sexes is far too important to dis-engage from the argument.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Rosemary,
What does God want for women, for men and for men and women? That is a vital question.

Is it possible that God could privilege women with serving Him in many ways, including ordained ministry, but by no means confined to ordained ministry? My answer is "Yes!"

Anonymous said...

Janice writes:
"What I didn't know before today is that in the same letter he makes an argument that goes against those who think that the order of the Trinity is heirarchical and that the Son is eternally subordinated to the Father."

I think you have misunderstood the point. What you describe is something akin to Arianism. The Eternal Subordination of the Son to the Father is NOT Arianism because the Son is co-eternal with the Father and Spirit ('before all worlds') and shares the divine ousia. This was taught by the Church Fathers and was reaffirmed by Hugh of St Victor in the 12th century in a profound meditation on the meaning of love. These have been well expounded recently by Mike Ovey of Oak Hill College (Bryden, take note!) and you can find the link through Christ Church Fulwood (Sheffield) or through 'Cranmer's Curate'.

I confess I grown inwardly whenever something from 'Fulcrum' pops up. I sense exactly where it's headed. The sub-text here is 'You're all sexists anyway!'

Martin

Anonymous said...

Shawn’s support of you, Peter, draws on nothing from the Bible, just old-school macho sailor stuff. Do you REALLY think that there’s only one verse to deal with? Carl hits the nail on the head in repeating what I said. You cannot approach the Bible in one way about gender for ordination and in a completely different way for marriage. Is there nothing particular about Christ’s masculinity in saving us? Would the Daughter of God have done as well? Is Paul wrong that he would have us know the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God? If God’s will was to “privilege women with serving Him in many ways, including ordained ministry” why did he indicate the opposite in His Word? Has the church been wrong in its interpretation for 2,000 years? Do you not hear your own phrases that you use against same-sex marriage? You may well be right. But then at least be consistent.
Susan

Anonymous said...

Jody writes:
"And the case against women being priests is, in itself, really about the particular humanity of women - is the particular humanity of women sufficient to represent authoritatively the humanity of Christ? If the answer to this is 'no', then the reality is that a woman's humanity is fundamentally different to a man's humanity and when there is a difference like that, then it follows that one type of humanity *must* be the most authentic representation of humanity that there is. In this case the male is the most human human and women are....well not."

This is just gibberish. I have no idea what "representative, authoritative humanity" means. Being a human being is a necessary but not sufficient condition to be a "representative" of Christ, 'cos there are billions of humans, most of them not Christians. & what on earth is "authoritative humanity"? "authoritative" for what? If Jody is hammering away at 'priest is icon of Christ' theology, she is in the wrong denomination for that idea, which has never been part of Anglican theology, but is pretty important in the Mystical Theology of the Orthodox Church, which is throughly typological.
The Anglican theology of ordination, enshrined in the BCP, asks a simpler and more direct question: is X *called* by the sovereign Spirit of God to the work of preaching the Cross to unbelievers and to pastoring the household of faith? That, I think, is the burden of Rosemary's comment.
I don't know why Jody included on her website a picture of some young women in their underwear. It looks a bit sexist to me.

Martin

Anonymous said...

Here's the link to Mike Ovey's talsk on Trinty and Servant Leadership, infused with modern (on power) and medieval (on love) psychological reflections:

http://fulwoodchurch.co.uk/resources/talks?ref=nav

Richard of St Victor was a new discovery for me.

Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin,
Agreed: the inclusion of the picture is a bit out of keeping with the post.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Susan,
I would refer you to Tim Chesterton's post (linked now in my post) re ordination being prescribed in the Word these last two thousand years: the way we order the Anglican church is not actually prescribed in the Bible, though (arguably) it is consistent with it. My point is that women being included in that (Anglican) ordering is consistent with the inclusion of women in the original ministry of the church (again, I refer you to Tim's post). By contrast it is difficult for me to see where 'same sex marriage' is consistent with marriage in the Bible which always presumes a man and a woman. Perhaps you read the Bible differently on that!

Paul on headship: indeed, there is more than one text to consider in the New Testament. But Paul in 1 Corinthians 11 offers a text which pertains to relationships between men and women, husbands and wives in particular. Is it applicable to 'headship' of the church? How do we apply this passage consistently in our churches where (by my observation) most women cut their hair, and men with long hair are not refused office!

Rosemary Behan said...

It is indeed a vital question Peter, thanks for acknowledging that. But don't please put the ball back into my court, I've looked very hard at this question because of my gender. I'm asking YOU why God created women, what did/does He ask us to do/be? I presume you have already decided what He asks you as a male to do.

carl jacobs said...

Peter

First of all, you explicitly linked to an article that did make the "women must be less human" argument, and gave it fulsome praise. You can't distance yourself from the argument you specifically posted.

Second, I don't see much practical difference between "You think women are less human" and "You don't recognize the full humanity of women." Both assertions address problems intrinsic to me. The underlying assumption is that my position is derivative of that 'failure to recognize.' Well, why do I 'fail to recognize?' Am I blind? Am I dense? Am I a self-interested member of the threatened patriarchy simply attempting to protect my position of power? These all point ultimately to problems with my character. I can no longer respond with argument to argument. I have no choice but to defend myself.

Third, I don't have any idea how to prove that I have 'looked more deeply' into whether my arguments 'take account of the fullness of humanity, in creation and in redemption, a fullness in which men and women share completely.' You have set up the answer in this way. "When you delve more deeply, you will end up agreeing with me." Disagreement thus becomes evidence of not having 'deeply delved.' It's an impossible burden that I can never meet.

If you believe that I (and people like me) do not consider women to be "less human" then the charitable approach would be to never broach this kind of argument. I cannot over-emphasize how quickly I disengaged once I realized the thrust of this post. It came across as "How do I say this nicely? You are all sexists, but I understand you don't mean to be." At which point the eyes rolled up, the gates slammed shut, and the possibility of persuasion was fatally compromised.

carl

Tim Chesterton said...

Jody's piece is actually a rather strange one for an evangelical to write. Her whole case is based on the idea that ordination makes us a representative of the humanity of Jesus to the Church (as if we are somehow separate from the Church, a go-between connecting people with Christ), which seems much more appropriate for an Anglo-Catholic understanding of ordination to me. Frankly, I don't understand it. I'm tempted to use the words of the psalm: 'I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvellous for me'. I think it's safer to stick with being a shepherd (or even a sheepdog under the Good Shepherd!) and let people decide whether they see Christ in us, rather than assuming that ordination will do the trick.

Shawn said...

Carl has made some points that we need to hear.

As I have said before, those of us who are Conservative Evangelicals need to be very careful about the kinds of arguments we use.

Any argument that begins with the claim that those who oppose WO and leadership of mixed congregations are doing so because they view women as less than human is unfair and inaccurate.

Any argument that suggests those who oppose WO have not delved deeply into the issue is unfair and inaccurate.

And any argument that suggests that those who oppose WO are just being sexist is unfair and inaccurate.

Such arguments, as Susan rightly points out, are no different to the kinds of arguments used by those promoting the full acceptance and legitimacy of homosexual sex and marriage.

On Friday night my wife was ordained a Priest in the Church. Nobody can accuse me of being anything less than supportive of women as priests, Bishops and leaders of mixed congregations.

But we must make our arguments on Scripture alone, and without suggesting nefarious motivations to those ConEvos who disagree with us.

Finally, any women who aspires to mere equality with men is selling herself short. She should aim much higher than that.

Tim Chesterton said...

Shawn says, 'But we must make our arguments on Scripture alone....'

As I tried to point out in my blog post, if we make our arguments on Scripture alone we've got nothing to argue about, since ordination and priesthood as we now know it had not yet evolved in NT times. You cannot argue from Scripture about whether or not women should preside at the Eucharist (the NT is silent on the issue), and (as I argued in my blog post) the NT is ambiguous on the subject of whether or not women may speak in church (they could certainly pray and prophesy, so 'be silent' was obviously not an absolute prohibition). One thing we can say for sure is that Paul counted them as his co-workers (he uses exactly the same term to describe Priscilla, Euodia and Syntyche as he does Timothy, Titus, and Epaphroditus). But I seriously doubt whether any of them, male or female, were 'priests' as we now understand the office.

Peter Carrell said...

Thanks for points above, dear commenters. Carl and Rosemary, I am going to attempt to answer your latest comments in a new post.

Simon said...

Bristol Diocesan Synod yesterday passed a vote of no confidence in General Synod. The motion was proposed by an evangelical incumbent, Rev Mat Inseon:
http://www.bristol.anglican.org/wordpress/?p=11060

Simon said...

I stand corrected by my friend: the motion was not a vote of no confidence in either 'this' General Synod, nor 'the' General Synod. But a vote of no confidence in the ability of General Synod to effect the will of the Church of England.
More here: http://alternativeworship.org/paulsblog/?p=587

Shawn said...

Hi Tim,

I agree with your point about ordination, but behind that issue is the question of whether women can lead, teach and preach to mixed gender congregations, and that issue can be argued from Scripture.

Anonymous said...

Tim writes: "Jody's piece is actually a rather strange one for an evangelical to write. Her whole case is based on the idea that ordination makes us a representative of the humanity of Jesus to the Church..."

That was precisely my criticism above. But nothing that Jody writes on her blog or in her service of 'Fulcrum', the so-called "evangelical centre" makes me think that she is an evangelical. Maybe she grew up liking the songs of Graham Kendrick (for the oldies) or Matt Redman (for the younger ones). But that no more makes her an evangelical than my pleasure in curries makes me an Indian. Jody typifies the desperate theological thinness of 'Fulcrum'.

Even worse, she seems obsessed with the idea of being Priest (First Class), which must mean she is of a different order of being than the other people in her church.
Does Jody not believe in the Full, Authoritative and Representative Humanity of Jim and Jill Christian (Laity, Second Class)?

I do not understand Peter's fulsome praise of her essay.

Martin (Sinner saved by Grace, First Class)

Anonymous said...

Tim writes: "You cannot argue from Scripture about whether or not women should preside at the Eucharist (the NT is silent on the issue)...."

- which is exactly why I have long supported lay presidency at communion, despite the convoluted Hegelian arguments made against it which are nowhere found in the NT (if authorized laypeople can preach the Word of God, they can also lead in eucharistic prayer);

"....and (as I argued in my blog post) the NT is ambiguous on the subject of whether or not women may speak in church (they could certainly pray and prophesy, so 'be silent' was obviously not an absolute prohibition)."

The ministry of teaching and ruling a congregation is a different matter. The NT (and sub-apostolic church) evidence all points in one way.

Martin

Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin and Tim,

What I like about Jody Stowell's post is in these three paragraphs:

"Firstly, I want to say something about the 'career ladder' language that has surrounded some of the responses to the images and stories of women's pain linked with this issue. The idea that women enter the priesthood in order to progress up a career ladder is not only offensive in the extreme, but ridiculous too. ...

Well, what is 'wrong with us' is that we feel 'rubbed out', as if we are a strange anomaly in the fabric of the priesthood, an anomaly that can simply be unpicked at any moment. ... priests is, in itself, really about the particular humanity of women - is the particular humanity of women sufficient to represent authoritatively the humanity of Christ? If the answer to this is 'no', then the reality is that a woman's humanity is fundamentally different to a man's humanity and when there is a difference like that, then it follows that one type of humanity *must* be the most authentic representation of humanity that there is. In this case the male is the most human human and women are....well not. ...

Our humanity is Jesus' humanity and it is by *this* authority that we dare to stand where we stand and say what we say, behind the altar and in the pulpit."

I like these paragraphs because Jody highlights the demeaning way in which women priests are being treated in the course of arguments over them.

Re representation, I understand Jody to be making a slightly different point than (what I understand to be) the classic catholic understanding of priesthood as icon of Christ. I understand her to be saying that if a priest acts as Christ to people, whether enacting the last supper (as evangelical presiding priests do) or speaking in the name of Christ (as evangelical preaching priests do), they do so as humans who are as fully human as Christ himself was.

I do not understand Jody to be claiming a status priests have which lay people do not. I understand her (as a fellow priest in a church which, rightly or wrongly, ordains priests) to be saying that she is as "ordained priestly" as any man. I am as "ordained priestly" as the next ordained priest: so is she.

I think she should be applauded for telling us how it is.

Anonymous said...

"I do not understand Jody to be claiming a status priests have which lay people do not. I understand her (as a fellow priest in a church which, rightly or wrongly, ordains priests) to be saying that she is as "ordained priestly" as any man. I am as "ordained priestly" as the next ordained priest: so is she."

This is all tautological and nowhere explains what "priest" and "priestly" mean. If Jody had ANY Reformed understanding of the ministry AND the priesthood of all believers - something critical in evangelical self-understanding since Luther and Calvin - she wouldn't produce this stuff.
Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin,
Perhaps as a matter of conception, that is so. But as a matter of the heart? I do not know much about what it feels like to have my priesthood questioned on the basis of my gender. The nearest I can think of is reflecting on Roman denial of Anglican orders, but I do not think that is near to what Jody is feeling. What if you tried to empathise with her as a woman being put down by men rather than criticise her for failing to meet the criteria of evangelicalism you are adducing?

Janice said...

Martin,

I know that most of those who argue for the eternal subordination of the Son are not Arians. They don't claim, like Arius, that Christ was a created being. They do, however, argue that the Trinity is "functionally" heirarchically ordered with the Father having authority and the Son being subordinate to the Father.

Mike Ovey writes, about the love of the Father for the Son, that, "one in authority can insist on equal value for some-one to whom they give – note the equal honour the Father wants for his Son ... [but] questions still remain about being subject and of equal value, and in particular how we are to understand the obedience of Jesus". He describes the love of the Son for the Father as, "an unenvious love which takes joy in the other’s good, but is different from the Father’s love in its obedience". He then argues that passages where Jesus says he has come to do the Father's will do not refer only to Jesus as a human but show, "no discontinuity between what the Son reveals about his relation with his Father on earth and his relation with his Father in eternity". Therefore, whether on earth or in heaven, the Son's eternal relation to the Father is that of subjection.

It bothers me when people talk of the Son and Jesus interchangeably, as though his incarnation changed nothing for him, so I went searching and found an interesting essay. Trinitarian Agency and the Eternal Subordination of the Son: An Augustinian Perspective by Keith E. Johnson. Here is a small part of it:

Augustine’s opponents ... argued that the sending of the Son by the Father reveals the “inferiority” of the Son to the Father on the grounds that the one who sends must, of necessity, be “greater” than the one who is sent. ... [Augustine] labors to show that “being sent” does not imply any inferiority on the part of the Son. It simply reveals that the Son is eternally from by the Father:

If however the reason why the Son is said to have been sent by the Father is simply that the one is the Father and the other the Son, then there is nothing at all to stop us believing that the Son is equal to the Father and consubstantial and co-eternal, and yet that the Son is sent by the Father. Not because one is greater and the other less, but because one is the Father and the other the Son; one is the begetter, the other begotten; the first is the one from whom the sent one is; the other is the one who is from the sender ...

In short, because sending reveals merely the generation of the Son, the Son is not in any way inferior to the Father. One of Augustine’s central insights is that the economic missions of the Son and the Spirit both reflect and reveal the nature of their eternal relation to the Father. The temporal sending of the Son reveals his eternal generation by the Father while the temporal sending of the Spirit from the Father and Son reveals his eternal procession from the Father and Son. In this sense, the missions ultimately reveal the Father. ...

What does Augustine mean when he affirms that the divine persons act “inseparably”? First, inseparable operation means that all three persons are involved in every action of creation, providence, and redemption. As Augustine explains, while it was only the Son who became incarnate, the incarnation of the Son was the inseparable work of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Second, it means that that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share one will and execute one power.


If the divine persons act inseparably and share one will and execute one power what room is there left for any one of them to have an authority that the others don't have or to submit to a will different to their own? None at all.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Janice,
You have made my day!
Thank you.

carl jacobs said...

Peter

... I do not think that is near to what Jody is feeling.

Well, there are a couple of answers to this, I suppose.

The first would be "Thicken your skin." If she isn't confident enough in her position to stand upon it when it is contradicted, then perhaps she should reconsider her position. Yes, it can be hard to stand in the face of opposition. But sometimes it's necessary - especially in an increasingly hardened world. If she can't run with the likes of me, then how will she run with the horses? And (to be blunt) she isn't really being all that challenged. Almost all of her peers agree with her. It's people like me who are being ripped in the wider culture as misogynistic reactionary backwards medieval troglodytes. Who is actually standing against resistance in this matter?

What has really happened here? Women Bishops in the CoE have been delayed (what) maybe two years at the outside? And when they arrive, they will arrive with no protection for objectors at all. So what is she really upset about? How has she in fact been deprived such that she may justifiably claim to feel delegitimized? What has been denied her? Virtually the whole of England including the Government has risen to her defense and she writes of being delegitimized. There is no sense of proportion in her claim.

Second. If the standard is to be "Let's not hurt Jody's feelings by by delegitimizing her calling" then you might as well just chuck people like me out the door right now, because I begin from the premise that her calling is illegitimate. She can perhaps be told that (to her) unpalatable truth in a tactful way, or an untactful way. But there is no way to avoid telling her the truth that she has no business occupying the position that she does. If that hurts her feelings then her feeling are going to be hurt.

I learned a long time ago that the fastest way to offend a Mormon is to say "Mormons aren't Christian." But Mormons are not Christian, and it is my responsibility to give testimony to that fact. They believe a false gospel. Their feelings aren't overly important relative to that fact. Now a woman acting in the roll of an elder does not reach not the same level of error, but it is a severe error none the less. Truth is worth the defense, no matter if people get offended. You can't control how people respond to the truth.

What if you tried to empathise with her as a woman being put down by men rather than criticise her for failing to meet the criteria of evangelicalism you are adducing?

Because she isn't being 'put down.' She is being held to the standard. It's not my fault that the standard is what it is. It is however my responsibility to uphold that standard.

carl

Anonymous said...

Janice, I am glad you have cited Ovey and I hope readers here will be encouraged to listen to his talks. Actually, your quotations from Ovey (drawing on Richard of St Victor) and Johnson make my point, which all along has been that the obedience and subordination in love of the Son to the Father's will are NOT contrary to his ontological and doxological equality with the Father (although the Orthodox, disputing the filioque clause which Augustine championed - although it is not in Scripture! - take a somewhat different view). It's your concluding lines that don't follow: "If the divine persons act inseparably and share one will and execute one power what room is there left for any one of them to have an authority that the others don't have or to submit to a will different to their own? None at all." That's a big if, but the logic fails to reckon with the mystery of perichoresis. And the killer punch (Peter, I want to make your day!) is: What do you think 1 Corinthians 15.28 means if not that the Son continues to be and will be subject to the Father 'who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all'?

Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin,
From my perspective (i.e. not trying to respond for Janice), I do not quite understand how the 'mystery of perichoresis' leans towards your understanding rather than Janice/Augustine's.

1 Corinthians 15:28: I suggest this language sits alongside other language within Scripture which portrays a different 'picture' of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit a picture not well formed (it would take the later Trinitarians to do that) but suggestive of the 'perichoresis' or mutual indwelling of the three Persons ("I and the Father are one"; "as I also overcame and sat with my Father on his throne").

1 Cor 15:28 flows along nicely in a hierarchical or imperialist world in which the emperor sends the general off to fight the enemy, subdue opponents and bring back submitted rebels to the court, the general retaking his place in court at the right hand of the emperor. When 1 Cor 15:28 concludes with "that God may be all in all" the door opens for the perichoresis in which God is "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" and it is precisely this God, not the imperial God which represents the fullness of the vision of God available to us, frail and finite humans with limited language to describe the indescribable.

In other words, the Son submitted to the Father in 1 Corinthians 15:28 is not the whole story of the Son's relationship to the Father, as though they are separable beings, one always subordinate to the other, implying one is more "God" than the other (as a lot of scriptural language about the Father doing this and sending that implies). Rather the content of the Son's relationship to the Father (and to the Spirit) involves inseparability as well (the oneness of God), so that all our language seeking to penetrate the mystery of God is frustrated (because we have no precise analogy here on earth to Three being One and One being Three, simultaneously separable and inseparable). Long story short, I refuse to draw a line from subordination in the Godhead to subordination in relationships between men and women.

Bryden Black said...

Wow! Turn your back for a few days/hours, and a veritable Niagara Falls’ worth of Comment issues forth. What a catch up for a Monday, when I have more than enough to attend to already!

Martin note; in response to your noting of my dear self! Time to come clean: my doctoral studies were on the contemporary doctrine of the Trinity, Barth and the Barthian legacy; and no, I did not go through Oak Hill! But naturally one had to assess a large amount of the Tradition as well. It’s truly great when we have Richard of St Victor, Augustine and Gregory (well; any of the Cappadocians would make my day!) all under a single thread - which clearly shows it must be the season of Advent!

To keep things manageable:
(1) I have had to conclude that any subordinationist language of the Triune Identities (to use Robert Jenson’s term for the traditional ‘persons’) is seriously mistaken. Martin has correctly in my view nailed that even when he says: “the obedience and subordination in love of the Son to the Father’s will are NOT contrary to his ontological and doxological equality with the Father.” Er; am I missing something! No; it’s as ever a question of terms and the way we use language. Given our own western liberal democratic world-view ANY talk of “subordination” means, has to mean, LACK of “equality”. So; what to do?
(2) Our difficulty is equivalent to the hard-won distinction the 4th C reached eventually when they were using their own philosophical terms to try to distinguish what the ‘three’ were/are and what the ‘one’ was/is, as far as triune deity is concerned. Nor is this exercise a mere academic game. In the mission of the Church, it is imperative we have a clear and direct means of distinguishing the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ from among the pluralistic field of claimants to deity. For Who is the God of the Gospel? The Name Father-Son-&-Holy-Spirit so identifies THIS God, the One who has done these things “among us” (Lk 1).
(3) Derivatively thereafter, who and what is homo sapiens, that singular creature made in this God’s Image? Similarly, I have had to conclude a fulness of dignity has to be accorded both the male and the female of the species. True enough, any cursory glance at our fallen societies and fallen forms of behaviour and relating to one another would accord very little dignity at all (Gen 3 rules ...). Apart from the odd glimpse here and there - mercifully ...! So of course there are going to be multiple examples of things being askew between the sexes. Yet, “from the beginning of creation ...” (Mk 10). And what therefore of the New Creation in Christ Jesus?!
(4) Frankly again, I have had to conclude that all the rest is, while totally understandable, given our recalcitrant human nature and cultural histories, mistaken and not yet the fulness of Gospel life among us, whenever women are deemed less than on a par with men in whatever forms of calling and ministry are ‘on offer’ in the life of that new social project which is the Community of the Rule of the triune God. I.e. WO has nothing necessarily to do with the French Revolution’s cry of liberté, égalité, fraternité - even though in some people’s hands these ARE the tools they wave around. Rather, “from the beginning” and now even more so (a touch of Irenaeus here) in our redeemed and redeemable state, women and men are needing to declare to the world and to the hosts of heaven the fulness of their inheritance.
(5) PS I like Tim Chesterton’s brave attempt to recognize the words of ministerial office and leadership as we use them today have virtually NO semblance to that of the NT or Early Church. We have both touched on this before on ADU when insisting on noting well the specific sociology of the Church. Last time it involved population size etc. vis-à-vis numbers of bishops. If we were to be truly “ever under reformation” ala NT Scripture, then MUCH re Church order generally would be in for a radical shake up indeed! It might just make WO an appropriately smaller issue.

Peter Carrell said...

AMEN, Bryden.

Janice said...

the obedience and subordination in love of the Son to the Father's will are NOT contrary to his ontological and doxological equality with the Father

Yes, love flows between the Father and the Son (and Spirit). But when the Son does the will of the Father it isn't because of his love of the Father leads him to act in obedience, subordinating his own will to that of the Father. It is because Father and Son have the same will. No obedience or subordination is necessary.

the logic fails to reckon with the mystery of perichoresis

I don't think so. No one is capable of understanding this mystery fully, but to the extent that I understand it I do think that Father and Son having the same will could reasonably be argued as being an aspect of a co-indwelling, co-inherent, mutually interpenetrating relationship.

What do you think 1 Corinthians 15.28 means if not that the Son continues to be and will be subject to the Father 'who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all'?

I'm going with Glenn Miller on this. He says,
The 1 Corinthians passage is essentially irrelevant to the question of the in-Trinity relationships between the Father and the Son, since it deals with historical events in the redemptive drama and the functional relationships unique/specific to that drama.

--"When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him". Oddly enough, this statement points out that the Son currently is NOT 'subject' to the Father, for it places this 'subjection' at some future point--when the enemies are all subdued. The Father is not subjected to the Son during this time (according to the passage), but if the Son will subject Himself later, this rather clearly shows that even the Redemptive post-resurrection Son is currently not 'under the subjection' of the Father, in some major sense.

This understanding is not a problem for someone who understands the passage to be referring to the in-history, redemptive-work arena, but could be a considerable problem to someone arguing that the Son was eternally-subordinate ... to the Father
.

And what Peter and Bryden said.

Anonymous said...

Well now, when even Glenn Miller is prayed in aid, I see I have a big band to answer! I can't answer now, not because I've sought recourse in a little brown jug (tho' the rugby might make one want to) - I am in the mood but I have to answer the importuning of my employer's bugle boy. But very briefly: 1. I don't see that anything that Peter says addresses the issue, but rather attempts to defuse that verse. 2. I'm not too concerned here with modern political projects (to be honest, democracy didn't work all that well in ancient Athens either) and counsel against projection of human ideas onto God (I've learnt my Feuerbach) 3. what Janice says about 1 Cor 15.28 contradicts what she said earlier about Augustine (that the Trinity's works in history disclose eternal relations).
More later, as Mammon allows.
Martin

Shawn said...

Democracy; A process in which A, B, and C gang up and vote to steal the property of D.

In practice Democracy is just legalized thuggery and theft.

Janice said...

3. what Janice says about 1 Cor 15.28 contradicts what she said earlier about Augustine (that the Trinity's works in history disclose eternal relations).
More later, as Mammon allows.


Please do elaborate. I have no idea what you're talking about.

Peter Carrell said...

In practice, Shawn, I prefer legalized thuggery and theft to without-the-law or beyond-the-law thuggery and theft.

But notwithstanding elements of 'theft' within democracy (e.g. tax) I do notice that in your city of domicile the compulsory acquisition of property by the government is accompanied by a cheque!

Shawn said...

In practice I believe in a polis in which theft of any sort is a crime, whether it is carried out by lawless individuals or the state.

MichaelA said...

"In recent times a new* argument against women being presbyters and bishops has entered the fray, namely that the church is a household, the head of the household is a man, and thus the head of the church should be a man…"

Peter, not only is this argument not new, but evangelicals opposed to women's ordination have been making it since the beginning of the debate. Its just that only recently have those in favour of Women's Ordination started listening!

The doctrine of male headship applied to church governance is found in the Church Fathers, among the Medieval Divines, among the Reformers, and in later theologians up to and including T. C. Hammond and John Stott in the mid-20th. It is not in any sense "new".

An example from Calvin:

"For although God gave the gift of prophecy to Philip’s daughters, yet notwithstanding, they had not the office to speak in the assembly, but God used them to beautify the Gospel: and when they were in the company of women, then did they there lay out the gift that was given them: as it may come to pass in some household, that the woman shall be wiser than the man, and shall use it to the governance of the family. We see that the house of Nabal had been utterly destroyed, had it not been for the wisdom of Abigail. [1 Sam. 25.14.] And thus it may sometimes come to pass: and therefore the woman that is endued with such gifts, may well do that that is her duty in all humbleness & modesty, insomuch that if there be a want in her husband, she may supply it. Yet notwithstanding the order that God hath established, must needs be kept. And this is it we have to bear away in this text. And so let us conclude that the woman ought to be subject, and keep herself in silence, as Paul appointeth here. And yet a man might move a question: for Paul bringeth this argument to shew that women ought not to have the charge and office of teaching, because they are subject, neither may have authority to speak." [J. Calvin, "Sermons on the second chapter to the First Epistle to Timothy", XIX]

The context indicates that by "speak", Calvin means to preach or otherwise exercise leadership in the assembly of believers.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Michael,
I was a bit imprecise re the newness of the argument, offering an anecdotal reflection. However I am happy to stand corrected. Clearly if John Stott was offering a headship argument in recent decades then it is not quite as 'fresh' into the debate as my memory has been telling me.

Do you think a woman could be a presbyter on a staff team headed by a male presbyter?

MichaelA said...

Peter, I don't really have a final view on that yet. I have no problem with the concept.

But to me, the primary role of an Anglican priest is to head a congregation. Hence why in BCP only a priest celebrates Holy Communion - it is his role as head of the congregation to preside over that most intimate expression of the assembly of the people of God (and no, I don't agree with lay presidency!). Whereas anyone can preach, but under the authority of the priest.

So I question why a female staff member would need to be a priest. But as I say, I don't really have a considered view on the issue.

Anonymous said...

Janice, you quoted Johnson above:

"One of Augustine’s central insights is that the economic missions of the Son and the Spirit both reflect and reveal the nature of their eternal relation to the Father"

without recognising that the Son, in his 'economic mission'* is precisely obeying/submitting to His Father's will.

* sounds like a trade delegation - which it was - trading his righteousness for our guilt!

Martin

Janice said...

Martin,

I think you need to read Johnson's essay again. He writes:
Augustine’s response has important implications for the EFS debate. He labors to show that “being sent” does not imply any inferiority on the part of the Son. It simply reveals that the Son is eternally from by the Father.

That is what he is talking about when he says, the economic missions of the Son and the Spirit both reflect and reveal the nature of their eternal relation to the Father.

That is,
The temporal sending of the Son reveals his eternal generation by the Father while the temporal sending of the Spirit from the Father and Son reveals his eternal procession from the Father and Son. It nothing to do with superiority versus inferiority, or with authority versus submission. We need to step back from our usual, human, way of thinking that being the sender means being the boss and being sent means being an underling and having to do what you are told, even if you don't mind it because you love your boss.

Johnson discusses issues associated with your statement that, "the Son, in his 'economic mission'* is precisely obeying/submitting to His Father's will," in the section below his heading, "2.2.2. The Inseparable Work of the Father and Son" where he quote Augustine as follows:

What we are saying may perhaps be easier to sort out if we put the question this way, crude though it is: In what manner did God send his Son? Did he tell him to come, giving him an order he complied with by coming, or did he ask him to, or did he merely suggest it? Well, whichever way it was done, it was certainly done by word. But God’s Word is his Son. So when the Father sent him by word, what happened was that he was sent by the Father and his Word. Hence it is by the Father and the Son that the Son was sent, because the Son is the Father’s Word (De trin. II.9, 103).

Where is there room for subjection or submission of the Son to the Father when they do what they do inseparably?

Anonymous said...

"Where is there room for subjection or submission of the Son to the Father when they do what they do inseparably?"

Everywhere in the pages of the New Testament: 'Here I am - it is written about me in the scroll - I have come to do your will, O God.' 'Nevertheless, not my will but your be done.' 'I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.' etc etc. Anywhere in John's Gospel and Paul's letters, in fact.
I have learnt a great deal and have immense respect for Augustine, though not always for his biblical exegesis from the Old Latin (I haven't yet read De Trinitate), and sometimes he can over-egg the pudding; I wonder if here he is trying to make a case for the filioque doctrine of the dual procession of the Spirit which the East (with its different understanding of the Trinitarian relations) repudiates. Quite simply, the East would NOT agree that 'it is by the Father and the Son that the Son was sent' - and I'm not sure I would either! Rublev's icon of the Trinity gives a very different view of how the Trinity works.
This discussion does demonstrate that old observation, that the temptation of the West is toward modalism, the temptation of the East is toward tritheism.
Remember: it was not the Father who was sent or became incarnate or suffered.

Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Talk about succumbing to modalism and tritheism in one go :)

The Father was incarnate and suffered. God died on the cross!

Anonymous said...

I guess/hope you're being ironic, Peter! How many times have you heard people pray: 'We thank you, Father, for dying for us'? Patripassianism lives in modern sub-evangelicalism!

Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin,
I may be being more ironic than I know. I find it hard to tell because when we explore what it means that Jesus died on the cross as the eternal Son of God we enter territory which the human mind and the language given to it has difficulty navigating with ease.

Did Jesus the Son die separated from God the Father (Eli eli lama etc) or was God in Christ reconciling the world (2 Cor 5)? Did God die on the cross (as I believe both Luther and more recently E. Jungel say)? We may give these speculative thoughts a label such as Patripassianism, and that label may be deserved, but does it help us in our exploration of the all but impenetrable mystery of the Trinity in relation to the cross?

In all these instances I am desirous to avoid any sense that the Father is understood as being really mad with us, waving a cricket bat around threatening to hit us and Jesus the Son is yelling to the Father, "No, don't hit them; hit me instead."

I am not for a moment denying that on the cross God the Son bore our punishment for us. I am asking whether we really know where the Father was at that point.

Anonymous said...

"Did Jesus the Son die separated from God the Father (Eli eli lama etc)" - yes -
"or was God in Christ reconciling the world (2 Cor 5)? - yes again

"Did God die on the cross (as I believe both Luther and more recently E. Jungel say)?" - not so sure about that - Luther was very much given to dialectic and paradox, with extreme use of the doctrine of communicatio idiomatum. Do you mean Moltmann rather than Jungel? I prefer to follow Thomas Weinandy on divine impassibilism.
"We may give these speculative thoughts a label such as Patripassianism, and that label may be deserved," - probably in Moltmann's case, yes -
"but does it help us in our exploration of the all but impenetrable mystery of the Trinity in relation to the cross?" - well, maybe it can "help" us not to stray too much off the track of biblical-patristic orthodoxy - a path long since abandoned by Tec. The Christological and Trinitarian heresies of the first three centuries (adoptionism, gnosticism,Sabellianism, Arianism etc) have an uncanny knack of resurfacing in new combinations across the history of the Church.

"In all these instances I am desirous to avoid any sense that the Father is understood as being really mad with us, waving a cricket bat around threatening to hit us and Jesus the Son is yelling to the Father, "No, don't hit them; hit me instead."" - Well, then, Peter, don't wave around this old canard then! Steve Chalke did in England and it wrecked his standing among evangelicals. If you want German heavyweights, Martin Hengel and Wolfhart Pannenberg understood the historical and dogmatic sides of penal substitution very well.
Martin

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Martin,
Neither you nor I wish to stray far from any path of orthodoxy.

Bryden Black said...

Hi Martin; just one final entry to conclude this thread.

I seriously wish you well when you read De Trinitate. May I suggest Edmund Hill’s translation, now widely acknowledged, and published by New City Press, 1991. Therein you will find a crucial modifier by St Aug himself:

“And yet it is not without point that in this triad only the Son is called the Word of God, and only the Holy Spirit is called the gift of God, and only the Father is called the one from whom the Word is born [begotten] and from whom the Holy Spirit principally proceeds. I added “principally”, because we have found that the Holy Spirit also proceeds from the Son. But this too was given the Son by the Father—not given to him when he already existed and did not have it; but whatever the Father gave to his only-begotten Word he gave by begetting him. He so begot him then that their common gift would proceed from him too, and the Holy Spirit would be the Spirit of them both. This distinction then within the inseparable trinity must be diligently looked into and not casually taken for granted.” Book XV, 5.29, p.419.

The Latin word is principaliter, which may mean both principally and peculiarly, i.e. pertaining specifically/exclusively to. Augustine continues to discuss this original procession of the Spirit from the Father, which too is given to the Son in his begottenness, in XV, 6.47, p.432.

Thereafter, Lewis Ayres, Nicaea and its Legacy: An Approach to Fourth-Century Trinitarian Theology (Oxford, 2004), and Augustine and the Trinity (Cambridge, 2010) is among those who have helpfully canvassed a re-reading of the supposed differences between East and West. The old thesis, propounded by de Régnon and once popular, has been simply disproven; it’s more subtle and beautifully richer than the simple tritheism vs. modalism slogan suggests.

PS love your naming Hengel, Pannenberg and Jüngel, all of whom will be read 100 years from now. Whereas I think Moltmann far less so ... And Weinandy is very helpful indeed. I see we are both in good company! Pax et gaudium!

Anonymous said...

care Bryden, maximas gratias tibi ago propter consilium tuum de redditu anglice significationeque Doctoris Africani Ecclesiae; quamquam magister linguae Latinae quondam eram, opera tamen Vergilii Ciceronisque docens, nec satis vitae neque scientiam mihi manet ut libros sancti Augustini sicut scriptos legam! primum tamen mihi oportet 'De Civitate Dei' legere, quoniam nuper hoc emi - et ut scis: ars longa, vita brevis, et ars Augustini longissima!

Ludovicus Ayres, quem credo Anglicanum fuisse, nuper Tiberim transiit.

pax gaudiumque tibi

Martinus

Bryden Black said...

Ave Martinus!

It's been a while since a teenage school boy and a Spanish teacher were forced to converse in Latin as the former knew no Spanish and the latter no English. So I salute you and thank you for your own greeting and words, the gist of which was easy enough to discern, even for this befuddled memory!

To be sure, dear St Aug surely suffers the riposte of Ecc 12:12 - a veritable “nullus est finis” and not only “longissima”! Yet I would encourage a romp through De Trinitate nonetheless; it’s a beautiful gem!

Fuscus collis

Mark said...

Hi Janice,

If the divine persons act inseparably and share one will and execute one power what room is there left for any one of them to have an authority that the others don't have or to submit to a will different to their own? None at all.

We can take ‘authority’ and ‘submit’ out here, and put love in and get a similar result:

If the divine persons act inseparably and share one will and execute one power what room is there left for any one of them to love another and for that one to receive a love that is the love of another? None at all.

Yet, it is clearly the case that they do love one another, even though in humans love of another is only possible when there are two wills.

Athanasius is very clear that there is only one will in the Godhead, and that the Son is fully equal to the Father. He even says in contra Arianos that there can be no command from the Father to the Son because the Son is the Word and living will of the Father and there can be no prior word before the Word. And yet he will quite happily speak of the Father commanding the pre-incarnate Word in contra Gentes 46 in commenting upon Genesis 1. And there are similarly several places in contra Arianos where he indicates that the Son does the will of the Father—not the shared will of the Godhead, or his own will, or the like, but the will of the Father.

Some place has to be given for negative theology and analogous language here. It is both the case that there is one will in the Godhead (in some sense) and that love and authority and obedience are described as existing between the divine persons – and not simply the human will of Jesus Christ.

That suggests that intra-trinitarian love and authority are profoundly different from that experienced by humans, but not so different that God chose to use different words to describe them. Some substantial analogy does flow from the Father’s love for the Son and our experience of love and the Father’s authority over the Son and our experiences of authority and submission.

The temporal sending of the Son reveals his eternal generation by the Father while the temporal sending of the Spirit from the Father and Son reveals his eternal procession from the Father and Son. It nothing to do with superiority versus inferiority, or with authority versus submission. We need to step back from our usual, human, way of thinking that being the sender means being the boss and being sent means being an underling and having to do what you are told, even if you don't mind it because you love your boss.

On the contrary, it has everything to do with superiority versus inferiority and authority and submission. The sending of the Son and the Spirit demonstrates that they are fully equal to the Father. Only one fully equal to the Father could be sent in this fashion. And so, for Athanasius, and I think for most of the early church fathers’, the Son’s submission to the Father was the submission of a Son and not a slave – it was a token of his equality to the Father, not his inferiority to the Father.

They didn’t have our liberal democratic problems of reconciling equality and authority as Bryden noted. They didn’t assume the way we do that if the Son submits to the Father then he can’t be equal to the Father. So, while they do not make a big deal out of it, they use language which indicates that the Father has a priority in the operations of the Godhead, and saw that as entirely consistent with the Son’s and the Spirit’s full equality with the Father.

So you’re right about stepping back from our usual human ways of thinking, but need to step further back still – this is a vision of authority and submission (and similarly for love) that transcends what it is possible for human beings because the persons involved are not just equal, but of the same being. Boss and underling doesn’t capture it, but neither does a flat structure where everything is interchangeable and shared.

Mark said...

Hi Peter,

Looking at your comment on 1 Cor 15,I think if the early church fathers had the view of Scripture that seems to be implicit in that comment then they would never have arrived at the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.

If they read some bits as portraying a different picture of God than that of others, of some bits reflecting an ‘imperial’ view of God, and others as representing the fullness of the vision of God, of ‘a lot’ of scriptural language implying that one person is more ‘God’ than the other, then they would never have taken it upon themselves to prioritize one set of scriptural data over other. They never saw themselves as forming a picture that was not well formed by Christ’s apostles.

Their arguments are grounded in the view that they are expounding the sense of Scripture, and that Scripture presents only the one picture and view. Take that away, and claim that instead they were (without knowing it) doing some kind of constructive advance on Scripture and they would be the first to say that if that is the case then their views should be consigned to the dustbin.

That is one of the main reasons why their view of the Godhead is more ‘complementarian’ than yours. They don’t divide Scripture up into ‘fullness of the vision of God’ and ‘imperial God’ and play one off against the other, or see sending language as implying inferiority the way you have here. Their view of equality – full, real, equality – accommodates all of what Scripture says, not simply a subset that correlates to their a priori convictions as to what ‘equality’ has to mean.

And few people draw a line directly from subordination in the Godhead to subordination between men and women. Rather, the line tends to be argued indirectly - that subordination in the Godhead demonstrates the fundamental and dishonouring error of the view that equality is not compatible with subordination. If the Son’s equality is compatible with his subordination (not my preferred term, but seeing you’ve chosen it) to the Father, then a case has to be made to show why the two are incompatible for human beings.

The argument from the Godhead does not establish women’s subordination to men - which would be a direct application from the Son to women and from the Father to men.

Rather, it works indirectly. It counters the heart of the WO case – that women (or any other class of human being) are not fully equal if they are in any sense subordinate to somebody else. That liberal democratic assumption is not biblical or Christian but cultural, and the compatibility of equality and subordination in the Godhead demonstrates its unbiblical provenance.

That doesn't prove that women are subordinate to men, or that any other class of human beings are subordinate to any other class. What it does do is cut off this highly damaging argument that if people are subordinate then they are not really human beings, and if people have authority then they are some kind of super-person - an argument that makes authority and submission highly problematic for loving relationships between free equals and offers us only friendships or servility as our models of human relationships, but never the free submission of an equal, or the loving authority of someone whose authority is ordered to the end of the other's good and not their own.

Anonymous said...

Mark, thanks for your two pieces, which adroitly demonstrate that the biblical-patristic patterns of thought are really a different model from our modern liberal (and essentially humanistic) forms of ratiocination.
It is clear that the Father is nor the Son, nor is the Son the Spirit, nor is the Spirit the Father, yet each Person is eternally, equally and truly God, partaking of the divine nature, and the reciprocal Relations (Father/Son; Son/Father; Son/Spirit; Spirit/Son; Father/Spirit; Spirit/Father) are eternal and real. Equality of nature does not mean identity of relationship or function. If this were not so, we would be left with either Arianism or modalism.
I think you have correctly outlined how the Fathers would have understood 1 Cor 15.28, and I would add to this the relational distinctions revealed in John 5.19-26, which describe a certain priority sub specie aeternitatis to the Father, who in realtion to the Son, 'gives, shows, grants, sends'.

Martin

Mark said...

Hi Bryden,


Looking at your five points in your comment earlier in the thread, I think you are basically right in your analysis in your first two points – the argument that subordination is incompatible with equality by the definition of the words is closely related to the same problem the early church faced, but from the other angle - social rather than ontological.

They argued against the ontological assumption that if the Son is originated from the Father then he must be inferior to the Father as the source must be superior. The issue of authority was not really up for grabs for them, because for them it was fairly obvious that authority relationships can co-exist with ontological equality. They didn’t see all authority relationships as indicating that the one under authority was ontologically inferior to the one with authority (they certainly saw that some reflected that difference).

We are faced with the other side of the problem because liberal-democracies are loathe to discuss ontology, but are obsessed with power relationships, so ‘equality’ must be fundamentally social as ontological 'equality' does not have much ‘cash value’ for us. So we struggle with how people can truly be equal with those who have authority over them.

I can’t opt for the approach you seem to be going for (if I've read this comment correctly) – to accept the either/or that our liberal democratic worldview offers us that the choice is either authority and inferiority, or equality and no authority, and so avoiding any use of ‘subordination’ language in the effort to uphold equality. That leaves the liberal democratic a priori in place and unreformed – it instantiates a view of ‘equality’ in the social realm that is as damaging as the Greek philosophical view of ‘equality’ was in the ontological.

I think the way forward is the via negativa and analogous approach of the early church – use the language that is there, given in Scripture and tradition. And continue to try and point to the reality that is being communicated through the language that is neither of the two options our liberal democratic worldview can imagine – the way they normally understand the semantic range of those words. Continue to try and find ways to show that there is a third option between the either/or of our liberal democratic values of authority and subordination must mean superiority and inferiority while equality must mean no authority or subordination. Use language that seems paradoxical to our culture like ‘equal but different’ or even more provocatively ‘equal and inferior’ (ontologically for the first and socially for the second), while also trying to find ways to bypass the whole very human cul de sac our society has gotten itself into in thinking that authority and submission are inherently problematic for love and equality.

That seems to me to be the strategy the early church used – not just in the 4th century, but as far back as we have records that touch on the issue. The Word originates from the Father yet in such a way that he is fully God. That was a paradox for the time – and continues to often be among Protestants post-Reformation as well.

What you seem to be suggesting in dropping any language of subordination at all would seem to be analogous to the fathers simply affirming that the Word originated from the Father and never contesting the view of equality of their culture by also claiming that he is truly God (opposite to us there – because for them all sides agreed on the origination, it was the ‘equality’ that was debated, while for us the ‘equality’ is agreed on by all sides but it is the authority and submission that is debated).

Bryden Black said...

Post 1. Many thanks Mark for this fulsome piece; it is a pleasure to engage with you.

Firstly, I will confess it is difficult on a blog to be more than piecemeal. To counter that to some extent, I’ll refer you to: http://dl.dropbox.com/u/40623476/Grammar%20of%20our%20Language%20for%20coll.pdf which is a contribution to a collection of articles/essay published in Australia but now out of print. Here I deliberately and explicitly tackle liberal-democratic culture, with its premise of the autonomous human subject. I also pay careful attention to differing forms of language.

Now to the language issue itself and all those social and ontological aspects you speak of re the Trinity. Over the years I have learned not to use certain words, using rather others (and trying to be consistent, but it’s difficult!). Often I shy away from “equality”, preferring the sorts of circumlocution Athanasius went in for, on account of its contemporary connotations. Likewise, “subordination” has connotations which I sense do not quite do justice to the Trinitarian reality. True; where a strict Eastern Orthodox view is presented, one still has to use such words at “root”, “cause”, “fount”, etc., so that “authority” - with its incorporation of the word “author” - lurks strongly. So even if I am happy obviously with both John’s and Paul’s use of “sending” formulae (which may connote some form of ‘authorship’), clearly, as you say, this does not necessarily imply ‘inequality’; the debates of 2nd-4th Cs settled that issue! Instead, I have found Barth’s two expressions, forma servi and forma Dei, sufficient, even if for many “servi” may imply subordination.

The reason I shy away from this last term is, in the first place, on account of the Johannine redefinition of “glory”. Even when there’s the statement “the Father is greater than I” on Jesus’ lips, the theme of mutual glorification is paramount throughout the drama: e.g. “Father glorify me that I may glorify you”. I paraphrase/translate “glory” to mean, the manifestation of deity, BTW. And of course, in the FG the hour of glory is in BOTH crucifixion AND resurrection.

Similarly, when we exegete Phil 2:6-11, there’s firstly the question of how to translate ἁρπαγμός. I follow the NRSV and Tom Wright’s great essay in his The Climax of the Covenant (1991), viewing it as “exploit”. This captures the overall sense once more that this Hymn, which lies at the origins of “Where Christology Began”, redefines the very meaning of God’s nature, via Jesus’ “submission” - or rather, via his humble self-emptying and obedience or surrender even unto death. For when we have this human being subsequently described in terms originally depicting Yahweh in Isaiah, then we have to back-track and, especially in the light of his non exploitative “equality” with the “form of God”, ask ourselves afresh, ‘Well then; what does deity thereby consist of?!’ Yet too we’ve to ask, wherein this matter of “obedience”?

The crux, as Martin I think it was who said elsewhere, is there’s only one will in the Godhead; and the Son’s manifestation of that one divine will shows itself by means of the Gethsemane story, and by means similarly of this Phil Hymn’s use of “obedience”. Is this “subordination”? Some have recently insisted, YES! However, it could easily be said that even the Father subordinates himself to surrendering up the Son, in order to subscribe to the one divine purpose (such as that depicted in Eph 1:3-14).

Bryden Black said...

Post 2. All in all, I do not think we have actually thought through enough the inner-trinitarian dynamics around the ideas of surrender, submission, subordination etc. We have yet to reach the sorts of key distinction the 4th C arrived at between ousia and hypostasis, and such expressions as τρόπος ὑπάρξεως (tropos hyparxeōs). For there is another aspect to the dynamic also to bring into the mix, as we try to address all this, where both Wolfhart Pannenberg and Robert Jenson would want to stress the tradition’s needing to complement the relations of origin (that only go one way) with additional and fully reciprocal relations (that go the other way as well). This ensures a serious re-balancing of the traditional dynamic. Where the Father was traditionally conceived as being in “authority”, as “origin”, with the Son therefore as “subordinate”, the Father too is now ‘dependent’ upon the other “twin pole of deity” (Jenson), the Spirit - relations running from the Spirit to the Father (via the Son, to some degree).

Just so (a famous RWJ expression), who exactly is ‘authoring’ whom?! And commensurately, who is ‘subordinate’ to whom?! Like I say, I sense the Church has still further, richer work to do ...! And as it does this work, I suspect we shall find our language becomes even more refined, since our very root paradigms will necessarily shift. Not only will this reposition the likes of liberal-democratic stuff wholesale (a bastard step-child of Christendom’s via the Enlightenment); but it will avoid the current stand-off between so-called “complementarians” and “egalitarians”, neither being quite adequate or up to the mark. [For you will notice I have never employed the word “role”; it smacks too much of modalism ...] Well; that’s my surmise ...! Enjoy!