Is There An Authority Analogy Between The Trinity And Marriage? Untangling Arguments Of Subordination And Ontology In Egalitarian-Complementarian Discourse -- By: Paul C. Maxwell

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 59:3 (Sep 2016)
Article: Is There An Authority Analogy Between The Trinity And Marriage? Untangling Arguments Of Subordination And Ontology In Egalitarian-Complementarian Discourse
Author: Paul C. Maxwell


Is There An Authority Analogy Between The Trinity And Marriage? Untangling Arguments Of Subordination And Ontology In Egalitarian-Complementarian Discourse

Paul C. Maxwell*

* Paul Maxwell is a Ph.D. student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, 2065 Half Day Road, Deerfield, IL 60015. He may be contacted at paulcmaxwell@gmail.com.

Abstract: Both egalitarian and complementarian positions on gender relations in marriage appeal to the Trinity as evidence for their view, resting on an authority analogy between the Father-Son relationship and the husband-wife relationship (whether to establish the existence of authority, or lack thereof, within both Father-Son and husband-wife relationships). The thesis of this article is that the metaphysical statuses of the Trinitarian relations do not serve as evidence for or against either view, because no such analogy exists. The argument contains three elements: (1) a categorical taxonomy with which to classify the various ways one can predicate metaphysical truths of the Trinitarian relations; (2) an evaluation of test arguments for and against the complementarian appeal to the Trinity, made on the basis of the categorical taxonomy; and (3) the dangers of maintaining an authority analogy between the Trinity and marriage for future work on a theology of gender.

Key Words: Trinity, gender, egalitarianism, complementarianism, Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Calvin, queer theology, subordinationism

There is a renewed trend in evangelical theology, and it is to appeal to the Trinity in theological argumentation.1 This is appropriate, in that the Trinity is arguably the indispensable element of Christian orthodoxy. And yet, while the Trinity is certainly significant, along with its popularity comes the problem of its misuse.

Recently, there has arisen a trend to use the Trinity as theological evidence for doctrines that are, at best, indirect in their relationship to the Trinity doctrine. Certainly the Trinity supplies direction for the Christian life in many ways. Yet, in order to protect the integrity, not only of the Trinity doctrine, but of the other doctrines to which it is intimately and directly linked, it is necessary to scrutinize its use as theological evidence (and even more its modification for the sake of its use as evidence).

One recent such questionable usage has occurred in the discourse between egalitarian and complementarian views on marriage. Egalitarianism is a view of gender relationships that rejects all gender-based authority hierarchies, on the basis of rejecting as a heresy the notion that...

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