Since posting “Complementarity Without Subordination” and “’And he shall rule over you’: A Collaborative Response to Aimee Byrd and Barbara Roberts”, I have been told by one side that my proposals are anti-authority, feminist, and egalitarian and by the other side that they suggest misogyny and endorse ungodly authority (I should note the all-around good will and kindness of the latter respondents). Given the polarity of these responses, I believe much of this must be due to misunderstanding and my own lack of clarity. But since I have from the beginning intended these posts to be collaborative contributions and not primarily polemics against those I most appreciate and learn from, I believe the best course of action is to reset the table. Rather than continue to iterate and push down paths that have already been potentially misleading, and therefore not conducive to framing clear and common consent, I propose a fresh start. I am in no wise abandoning the proposals set forth in the previous two posts, but rather believe that there are unresolved tensions, potential inconsistencies, and even some cake eating and having in the critiques I’ve received thus far.
Because I believe this to be a discussion of utmost importance and also because I believe that the internal tensions on all sides remain unresolved, I have decided to present a short list of questions that I have been implicitly trying to answer in these posts. I believe the answers to these questions will both point up and clarify some of the tensions and inconsistencies floating about the discussion.
These questions are presented to those holding to a broadly Complementarian view point, but who also reject ESS Complementarity (as described in the previous posts). But first, a few points of agreement ought to be noted as a basis for the questions that follow.
Points of Agreement
A 1. I believe we all agree that there was a natural complementarity between man and woman before the fall, described in the early Genesis narratives and also by the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 11. Some would call this “headship”, others may not, but God clearly made the man first, made the woman from man’s body, made the woman for man, made the woman as a “help-meet” complementing the man, joined them together as one flesh, and conjointly commissioned them with a common work and mission.
A 2. I think we all agree that throughout the New Testament, relationships between men and women, in home and church, include the notions of “authority”, “rule”, “submission”, “subjection”, and “obedience” (1 Cor. 11:10; Eph. 5:22,24; Col. 3:19; 1 Thess. 5:12; 1 Tim. 2:12, 5:17; Tit. 2:5; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 3:1-6 and the like). These are not only described but clearly enjoined in the home and in the church.
A 3. Further, we agree that rightful authority in the home and in the church is defined primarily as leadership by self-sacrificial service and example (see Matt. 20:25-28; John 13: 5-17; Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Pet. 5:3). All “authority” outside of these parameters is ungodly and unrightful. We also agree that all authority is delegated authority and never owed primarily to persons nor a consequence of personhood (including gender). And on the other side, all submission is “as to the Lord”, not carried out primarily toward persons nor as owed to persons, but done before the Lord, and not to be exacted by force, manipulation, or even allurements.
A 4. All relations of human authority and submission are temporal and temporary, whether in the home or in the church. “Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power” (1 Cor. 15:24).
A 5. Gender is part of personhood; it is not extraneous to who we are as individual subsistens and is not somehow dissolved in the New Heaven and Earth, or neither I nor you will be there.
I do hope that these are agreed upon points of departure and I also hope that all involved can see that I have consistently held to these principles. Now for the questions. Again, these are directed toward those who reject ESS Complementarity yet still consider themselves broadly Complementarian.
Q 1. Are the concepts of “authority”, “rule”, “submission”, “subjection”, “obedience”, and the like, applicable to the natural complementarity before the fall? Did these concepts characterize prelapsarian headship as enjoined upon Adam and Eve?
Q 2. If the answer to Question 1 is “yes”, then what is different between this position and that of ESS Complementarity and not include all of the same drawbacks? If “authority”, “rule”, “submission”, “subjection”, “obedience” characterize prelapsarian headship, then how does the whole critique of “ESS, Slavery, and the Metaphysic of Oppression” not apply. It would seem that if these relations describe the Garden household and are rightfully enjoined in that sinless estate, then (given the narrative and Paul’s argument in 1 Corinthians 11) “authority” and “submission” are part of the created nature of male and female; that it is, “subjection” would be according to personhood, resulting from the priority, order, and intention of the created genders.
Q 3. Further, if the answer to Question 1 is “yes” and therefore relations of authority and submission are a part of the natural complementarity and are therefore due to the order, the from whom and for whom, of creation, then how do such relations not continue as long as gender continues? It would seem that so long as man is man and woman is woman, then authority and submission must continue as such relations are part of the very created identity of persons.
Q 4. If, on the other hand, the answer to Question 1 is “no”, then when did such relations as “authority”, “rule”, “submission”, “subjection”, “obedience” begin? At what point did they become such as could be rightfully enjoined by the Apostles?
Q 5. Next, if authority is indeed temporal and temporary, to what is it keyed? Has it been delegated from the creation of the world and only to be ended at the consummation? For those who answer yes to Question 1, was it delegated for the prelapsarian sinless state but then put to an end at the post-consummation sinless state? Why? For those who answer no to Question 1, does the not the delegation of authority appear to be identically coextensive with the period beginning at the fall and ending at the full restoration, i.e., it is keyed to the dispensation of sin and curse? (“Objection! Counsel is leading the witness.” Sustained.)
Q 6. Why was authority delegated at all? What was the purpose, why was it needed?
Q 7. What is the meaning and purpose of the “nevertheless” in 1 Corinthians 11:11?
For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man. For this reason the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. Nevertheless, neither is man independent of woman, nor woman independent of man, in the Lord. (1 Cor. 11:8-11)
What is the Apostle contrasting? If he is in the first passages describing authority in the sinless prelapsarian Garden, then why does he say this is not true in the sinless post consummation eternity that is now realized eschatologically? If, on the other hand, he is describing a post-lapsarian authority relation, then why does he hinge it on the Genesis narrative? (It also will not do to explain this entirely by first century cultural exegesis for the same reason.)
Q 8. And last, how do we explain 1 Timothy 2:12-15?
And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.
Is this prohibition in the church simply reasoned from a description of a deceived Eve, or is it a prohibition due to her deception? This I believe to be a very important question, but the distinction can be hard to explicate, so I will elaborate a bit more on this.
As I wrote in a previous comment, either (1) the fact that she was deceived shows that she is not fit for the office and therefore should not be allowed to it, or (2) the prohibition to such office results from a sanction due to the deception. The former is the awful “women are more gullible by nature” argument, the latter is that an order of authority was introduced after the fall and due to the fall. For example, a businessman having been swindled (partly his own failure) of all of his money is not grounds in itself to prohibit him from starting a new venture. But a judge could pull his license to do business as a result of the loss (for various possible reasons relating to his own part in the failure). If someone then said, “no, Jim can’t do business because he was swindled,” I would have to presume that this person is either telling me that the businessman showed himself incapable of doing business and therefore shouldn’t, or assume that some authority had barred him from it for having been swindled.
This set of questions, with the preceding assumptions fixed, are what I have been trying to answer in my last couple of posts. I reject the Metaphysic of Oppression, the inequality of equals, but I must also make sure that whatever position I endorse captures and coordinates all of the Biblical data. I have of course read and heard many answers to these questions, but when distilled and placed in order they seem to be discordant at best.
It is my hope that this approach might prove more collaborative, might bring clarity to the discussion, and might offer a fresh point of departure going forward. (And of course, relieve me of some heat.)