Subordination In The Trinity And Gender Roles: A Response To Recent Discussion -- By: Michael F. Bird
TRINJ 29:2 (Fall 2008) p. 267
Subordination In The Trinity And Gender Roles:
A Response To Recent Discussion
*Both authors teach at the Highland Theological College/UHI Millennium Institute in Dingwall, Scotland.
In more recent times debates concerning gender roles, women-in-ministry, and husband-wife relationships have drawn increasingly on arguments from intra-trinitarian relationships in order to substantiate their particular perspectives. One of the primary points of contention that has arisen has been that of the eternal functional subordination of the Son to the Father. On one such view the Son is equal to the Father in being and essence, but is subordinate to the Father in role. The Son’s subordination to the Father is not limited to the incarnation but goes all the way back to eternity. In terms of gender relations, the mileage that one gets out of this view is that it presents a prima facie case that one can have ontological equality with functional subordination. Thus, although wives may be subordinate in role to their husbands they nonetheless possess an ontological equality with men as sharers of the Imago Dei and women are not in any way ontologically inferior by being submissive to their husbands.1 Wayne Grudem has argued:
Just as God the Father has authority over the Son, though the two are equal in deity, so in a marriage, the husband has authority over the wife, though they are equal in personhood. In this case, the
TRINJ 29:2 (Fall 2008) p. 268
man’s role is like that of God the Father, and the woman’s role is parallel to that of God the Son. They are equal in importance, but they have different roles.2
In terms of justifying the eternal subordination of the Son in the first place, Grudem declares:
If we do not have ontological equality, not all the persons are fully God. But if we do not have economic subordination, then there is no inherent difference in the way the three persons relate to one another, and consequently we do not have the three distinct persons existing as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for all eternity. For example, if the Son is not eternally subordinate to the Father in role, then the Father is not eternally “Father” and the Son is not eternally “Son.” This would mean that the Trinity has not eternally existed. This is why the idea of eternal equality in being but subordination in role has been essential to the church’s doctrine of the Trinity since it was first affirmed in the Nicene Creed, which said...
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