What did I say I'd do on my wedding day back in the year 2000...? and thoughts on ESS

I've just been wondering what it was I committed myself to on my Wedding day in the year 2000. This was before I'd even really considered the Christian gender wrangles and my brain was uncomplicated by these things (blissful ignorance, ah!). Anyway, I recovered my memory of the service performed on that beautiful sunny day St John's, Hagley Hall, Hagley to discover what this Mrs N had agreed to with her Mr N and it was the following:

N, will you take N to be your wife?
Will you love her, comfort her, honour and protect her, and, forsaking all others, be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?

I will.

N, will you take N to be your husband? Will you love him, comfort him, honour and protect him, and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live?

I will.

So, we both committed to the same things - so I did know what I was doing back then despite brain being less complicated and so very in love it might have agreed to anything...

Phew! I didn't say obey. If I had have done - it would have been a good excuse to have our marriage blessed again with the words:Will you love him, comfort him, honour and mutually submit to him, and, forsaking all others, be faithful to him as long as you both shall live? (bit of a mouth-full isn't it?)

So that saves us some money!

The reason I thought about this is because I am starting to realise how, on the surface of things, I would tick a lot of the boxes on any Grudemesque/Piperish complementarian check-list: Did I even say obey, I was thinking, and so I had to look it up.

John Richardson responded to my post about complementarians and the curse, and how we weed our gardens and have our pain relief during child-birth but are expected to just live under male headship and not seek to improve our lot. John informed me how in the early days of the discovery of anaesthesia they had denied it to some women on Christian grounds. Amazing!

Anyway - outwardly seemingly obedient to complementarian stereo-type (inwardly very much an egalitarian). How?

Keep house: tick
Cook: tick
Voluntary ministry with children: tick
Full time mum when I had preschool children: tick
(Bakes cakes) (tick) (!) (Joke)
Training to be a vicar - deh, deh deh!!! No - (not yet - !) Independent student -paying my way through theological college. So not in a 'leadership' position: tick

As you know, Bilezikian (Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible has to say about a Woman's place in Church and Family) is one of my recommended reads. I daren't leave it out on the coffee table just in case the cleaner thinks I'm into something kinky! (Woops - got a cleaner: check-list: big cross.)

I've just bought 'Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood ( AHHH! Fetch me some aspirin!) Grudem is having an argument with Bilezikian in the back (one-sided of course) and Grudem states that Authority and submission are divine concepts and goes on to explain what he means, saying these concepts are 'rooted in the eternal submission of the Son to the Father and of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son.' (p.463) What?! Yep, it's there - look it up! So this is ESS.

'Under much grace' writes about ESS, explaining it in the following way: Rather than attributing Christ’s emptying of every aspect of His fully realized deity as a function of the kenosis described in Philippians chapter 2, this theory maintains that Christ never fully realized the authority of God the Father. Jesus becomes something of a “special purpose God” who ranks in hierarchy between His superior Father and above the Holy Spirit. Though all the Divine Persons possess the same nature and attributes, they do not share equal attributes in terms of authority of which role seems to play out as a function of that authority.

...ESS's presuppositions regarding the nature of God overrides understanding of aspects of both Greek rhetoric and references to concepts well understood in Judaism...

George Knight III, in his highly influential book “New Testament Teaching on the Role Relationship of Men and Women,” published in 1977, formulated an entirely new set of theological arguments in support of the permanent subordination of women... In developing his novel case, Knight also argued that this God-given permanent subordination of women in role and authority in the church and home was supported and illustrated by the Trinity. For him, the Son is eternally subordinated in role and authority to the Father, despite the fact that the Father and Son are fully divine. He thus speaks of a “chain of subordination” and of an eternal subordination of the Son that has “certain ontological aspects.” This new teaching on the Trinity came to full fruition in 1994 with the publication of Wayne Grudem’s "Systematic Theology: An
Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.”...

For Grudem, the Son’s role subordination, like that of women, is not a matter of who does certain things, as we might expect on seeing the word role, but rather the matter of who commands and who obeys...

... Bruce Ware (an American theologian) ...claims that historic orthodoxy teaches that Son of God is “equal in being, eternally subordinate in role.” The Trinity is a “functional hierarchy.” There is an “eternal relationship of authority and obedience grounded in the eternal immanent inter-Trinitarian relationships of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” If God is rightly called “Father,” then Ware holds the divine Father must be set over the divine Son, for human fathers always have authority over their sons. It is contemporary theologians, he argues, who speak of a coequal Trinity who have broken with historic orthodoxy!

I find it all fascinating.
I feel very uncomfortable about ESS.
What is your concept of the trinity?


Lynne said...

Ipersonally think ESS is nonsense. Apart from being a man-made doctrine that owes more to Greek philosophy than any revelation of God's (and who are we to presume we can figure out who God is unto himself further than he has revealed Himself?), I actually believe that
1. it directly contradicts the Athanasian creed
2. it's illogical -- how can the three persons of the Godhead, being perfect love, and perfect wisdom etc, be in disagreement with each other for the concept of subordination (one surrendering his/her will to another) to have any meaning?

Revd John P Richardson said...

Rachel, you wrote, "John Richardson responded to my post about complementarians and the curse, and how we ... are expected to just live under male headship and not seek to improve our lot."

Help me out here. Ephesians 5:23 is, I think, quite unambiguous as to what it says: "the husband is the head of the wife".

You also seem to think this is a 'lot' which could be 'improved'.

As far as I can see, this is not something which can be changed, nor is it subject to our agreement of approval. I am to my wife as Christ is to the Church whether she or I like it or not.

I cannot see how (at least for her!) this is a 'lot' that requires 'improving'.

What, exactly, am I missing here?

Rachel said...

Hi John
You're missing the fact that the original text has been translated for centuries and centuries by men.

The word head is kephale, as I'm sure you're already aware, (you've been studying the scriptures a lot longer than me) and this means 'source'. For some scholars it means 'pre-eminent (akin to 'head'). Scholars are not yet prepared to agree about how we should translate the passage.

Source makes sense in terms of Genesis - the woman being brought out from the side of the man (her source). The way we understand head as leader is a modern meaning that we are supplying - early Christians would have understood the heart as being the part of the anatomy which rules, not the head.

I don't think we'll agree here - you perhaps follow Grudem et al, whereas I find Bilezikian more convincing because of his ideas fitting the big picture story of a pragmatic God, who in the words of one of my fellow students, 'wouldn't render half of his human creation incapable of teaching his Word so to spread His message of salvation, which is ultimately what Grudem's teaching does for women.

I've been looking at these teachings for a couple of years, only. Perhaps I'll email you my essay when I've written it, on the theological reasons why and why not women should be consecrated Bishops. It would be interesting to see what you think.

With respect, brother in Christ

Carlos said...

Rachel, saw your comment on Tia's blog and was surprised you were familiar with Bilzekian; I read him about 20 years ago while visiting Willowcreek and never been the same - and it has gotten me in trouble more than once :-)for my egalitarian position.

Recently read William Webb's "Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals" and highly recommend it as it provides even more robust backing for the ultimate biblical ethic through a "redemptive movement hermeneutics" (his coinage)where men and women are on equal footing.

Would also suggest Miroslav Volfe's "Embrace and Exclusion", particularly what he writes on gender and what w can learn from the Trinitarian God.

Happy reading and keep on your your journey for I believe you're on track...

Cheers and Sahlom..


Rachel said...

Dear Carlos
Thank you so much for the encouragements and recommendations - I will certainly follow them up.
God bless

Is Tia still contributing to her blog, do you know?

Revd John P Richardson said...

Rachel, you'll find a review of Webb's work here.

Reading the reviewer's description of Webb's methodology, I found myself ahead of him in the questions I wanted to raise about Webb's approach. In short, it didn't seem to handle rightly the relationship between the Covenants, old and new, and therefore was far too complicated to be persuasive.


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