The Metaphysics Of Subordination: A Response To Rebecca Merrill Groothuis -- By: Steven B. Cowan

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 14:1 (Spring 2009)
Article: The Metaphysics Of Subordination: A Response To Rebecca Merrill Groothuis
Author: Steven B. Cowan


The Metaphysics Of Subordination:
A Response To Rebecca Merrill Groothuis

Steven B. Cowan

Associate Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics

Southeastern Bible College

Associate Director, Apologetics Resource Center

Birmingham, Alabama

The debate over gender roles in the family and the church has never been more intense than it is at present. Much of the debate, of course, focuses on biblical exegesis. Complementarians argue that the Bible teaches that women are to be subordinate to men at home and at church and that women are not permitted to teach Christian doctrine to men. Egalitarians, in contrast, insist that the Bible does not teach the subordination of women but in fact teaches the full equality of men and women and permits women to occupy the full range of leadership and ministry positions that are also available to men.

Occasionally, however, the gender role debate bleeds over into discussions of metaphysics. One of the traditional arguments of complementarians, used to stave off criticisms that their view makes women inferior to men, is that women are equal to men as persons, but they have been given by God a different role in creation than men. Men have been given the role to lead in both family and church, while women have been given the role to follow the leadership of men and come alongside men as their “helpmeets.” Thomas Schreiner, for example, asserts,

We have already seen that men and women equally are made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27). But I would also contend that there are six indications in Genesis 1– 3 of a role differentiation between men and women. By role differentiation I mean that Adam has the responsibility of leadership and Eve has the responsibility to follow his leadership. Before explaining these six points I must make a crucial comment: Equality of personhood does not rule out differences in role.1

Similarly, Raymond C. Ortlund states that “the Bible does teach the equal personhood and value and dignity of all the human race—men, women, and children—and that must be the only equality that matters to God,” but nonetheless, “God did not create man and woman in an undifferentiated way, and their mere maleness and femaleness identify their respective roles.”2

So we have here from both Schreiner and Ortlund (who echo the thoughts of other complementarians) the claim that the Bible teaches that women are equal to men in value and dignity (since they both share the imago d...

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