Considering subordinationism again as a theological concept...

Peter Kirk is raising the issue of subordinationism on his blog. I am very interested in this subject.

Is it a modern heresy with some very ancient echoes or am I in error?

I've posted a comment at Peter's blog, with a link to the debate in America, which at some point soon I hope to reflect on as part of a college project.

If anyone has any other resources which would inform this debate, please let me know.

It is the nature of the second person of the Trinity to acknowledge the authority and submit to the good pleasure of the first.- J.I. Packer in Knowing God (1973)

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth hasbeen given to me. …”- Matthew 28:18 (TNIV)

How do we square this?

The idea of subordinationism in the trinity has been rather hijacked by the complementarians. For Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem, the subordination of the son necessitates the subordination of the woman to the man. It supports their construction of a theology of male headship which they then seek to describe in its practical outworkings. This has huge implications, especially for women's work in the church and the world.

Women and men are complementary, this I am very sure about. They are equal. But does subordinate mean inferior? This is what I am wondering. Now, maybe inferior is the wrong word. How do terms employed like ontological, functional, eternal etc work in this debate? Can anyone fill me in on exactly what, in a nutshell, is proposed by Grudem, Packer, Ware etc?

The reason I think subordinationism, in its practical outworkings, feels like inferiority is that when I was doing research on the theology behind women bishops, I looked at Grudem and Rainey’s ‘Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood’. They describe how the ‘Biblical View of Submission …requires her to submit to him…, while no passage indicates that a husband should be subordinate to his wife.’ I think that in the casual exchange of the word submit for subordinate, significant problems lie. These two words are not synonymous because the former is theological and about ‘dying to self’, the latter is worldly, denoting inferiority.

I have no problem with the idea of Christian submission but I am a little suspicious about the idea of Christ’s subordination - something doesn’t add up because of what becomes its logical extension.

For example, John Piper has a list of jobs that are suitable for women and some that really are not - I find this very difficult and I don't think it's because I'm post-modern.

There was a very interesting live debate over in America where this very idea was being debated and Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem were putting forward their case for subordinationism.

For links see


Peter Kirk said...

Thank you, Rachel. My post which you quote from is here.

Rachel said...

Thank you
Sorry Peter, I had intended to link to your article but forgot to follow through on that intention and I posted without proof-reading. I've now updated the post.

Roger said...

Thank you for that Rachel. I am with you in your questioning of subordinationism within the Trinity and its link in support of male ‘headship’. The proponents of this stance seem to gloss over the universalising exhortation in Ephesians 5:21: ‘Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.’ Surely such statements as Jesus’s to Philip, ‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father… Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?’ (John 14:9,10) point to complementary and indivisibility within the Trinity.

Made in God’s image (relating, loving and mutual within the godhead), male and female, we are called to submit to one another.

Rachel said...

Thank you for your comment.
It's always good to find someone who shares similar thoughts on this topic.
God bless


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