Manfred T. Brauch on Kaphale (head)

Manfred T. Brauch’s Abusing Scripture: The Consequences of Misreading the Bible has one of the best discussions of the case for reading kaphale (head) as meaning “source” or “origin” over and against “authority.”

This much neglected book deserves a wider reading, not just for its interpretations of gender texts, but for its common sense in reading the Bible as a whole.


Omelianchuk v. Cowan

Steven Cowan and I go toe to toe in the latest edition of Philosophia Christi over whether complementarianism is incoherent.

In a recent article Cowan defended the claim that female subordination and male authority are merely functional differences. Drawing upon insights from Natural Law, I argue that complementarianism typically speaks of these functions as proper functions of male and female designs, thus making men and women metaphysically unequal in being. Furthermore, I maintain that the function serving as a means to an end is less valuable than the function having authority to direct the end. Hence, Cowan fails to defeat the objection that the claim that women are equal to men in being, but subordinate in role, is incoherent.

In reply, Cowan says that my case misses the point of certain aspects of his argument, that it begs the main question, and that it depends upon an unclear notion of metaphysical inferiority.

Confessions of a Cage Fighter

And perhaps this is the main reason that I bristle when Driscoll begins to opine on MMA, because he is the type of fan that fighters despise. If you go to any live event, you will know why: the fans are there for blood. Well, more accurately, they are there to get drunk, whistle at ring-card girls, and bullshit about why they would fight if some circumstance outside of their control were different. But mainly, they are there to see blood. If you can count on fans yelling anything during a fight, it is the cry, “Elbow him! Elbow him!” An elbow that is delivered properly can be much more destructive than a fist. One well-timed elbow can end a fight—or a career. By their cries, many fans make it clear that they are there for one reason: to see someone get hurt.

Read the whole thing.

Against the New Subordinationists

Against the New Subordinationists:

And we see, moreover, how functional subordinationists read ghosts of subordination into every little thing. The Father gave the Son; therefore the Son is subordinate. The Father sent the Son; therefore the Son is subordinate. The world was made through the Son; therefore the Son is subordinate. But we have seen these claims before; we battled them in the Eunomians sixteen hundred years ago. They were no more plausible then. The Father sent the Son, yes, but ‘to send’ tells us nothing of authority. A child may say to his parent, “Go and see how well I have cleaned my room.” The parent goes; and, behold, in going, the parent is sent. But this tells us nothing of who has the greater authority. My friend and I are in perfect agreement that she should help you on some matter; I say to you, “I am sending you my friend to help you.” Have I arrogated an authority over my friend? Hardly, for my purpose does not rule the agreement. Was I lying? Certainly not, for I am sending my friend. This supposed proof is dubious in our own case; shall we think it conclusive in God’s? It is even less likely to be legitimate there. For if I and my friend are in perfect agreement, it can be nothing in comparison to the agreement of the Father and the Son and the Spirit, who are so united that the work of the Father is through the Son and in the Spirit, so that one and the same action belongs to three persons, whether it pertains to creation or salvation. What human unity of purpose could possibly compare? But in unity of purpose, as such, there is no subordination; if there were subordination there would not be unity, but one purpose subordinating another purpose, however congenially. And so if the Father gives the Son, and this giving is eternally purposed by the Thrice-Holy Trinity, there is no subordination in being given, for there is no subordination of purposes, only a perfect unity of purpose: that the Word be made flesh and come among us a Savior, a gift of life. Thus from the mission of the Son, nothing follows about subordination. And likewise from the making of all things through the Son, nothing follows about subordination; indeed, the reverse: for that all things are made through the Son shows clearly that the Son is one with the Father with a unity that we can scarcely comprehend. But so eagerly do the functional subordinationists grasp after straws that they see elaborate subordinations lurking in every difference of preposition.

Read the whole thing.

Dorothy Sayers: Are Women Human?

From Scot McKnight’s blog:

God, of course, may have his own opinion, but the Church is reluctant to endorse it. I think that I have never heard a sermon preached on the story of Martha and Mary that did not attempt, somehow, somewhere, to explain away its text. Mary’s of course was the better part – the Lord said so and we must not precisely contradict Him. But we will be careful not to despise Martha. No doubt He approved of her too. We could not get on without her, and indeed (having paid lip-service to God’s opinion) we must admit that we greatly prefer her. For Martha was doing a really feminine job, whereas Mary was just behaving like any other disciple, male or female; and that is a hard pill to swallow.

Perhaps it is no wonder that women were the first at the Cradle and the last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man – there never has been another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them as “The women, God help us?” or “The ladies, God bless them!”; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words or deeds of Jesus that there was anything “funny” about woman’s nature.

But we might easily deduce it from his contemporaries, and from His prophets before Him, and from His Church to this day. Women are not human; nobody shall persuade that they are human; let them say what they like, we will not believe it, though One rose from the dead. (p. 46-47 from 1981 printing)

William Lane Craig on the “generation” of the Son

At William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith website, Dr. Craig answers a complex question about the Trinity and prior causation. Although most of the article is dedicated to explaining the “First Cause” argument for God’s existence, there are a few interesting quotes about the eternal generation of the Son from the Father. He says,

Theologically, it seems to me, the doctrine of the generation of the Logos from the Father cannot, despite assurances to the contrary, but diminish the status of the Son because He becomes an effect contingent upon the Father. Even if this eternal procession takes place necessarily and apart from the Father’s will, the Son is less than the Father because the Father alone exists in Himself, whereas the Son exists through another. Such derivative being is the same way in which created things exist. Despite protestations to the contrary, Nicene orthodoxy does not seem to have completely exorcised the spirit of subordinationism introduced into Christology by the Greek Apologists.

For these reasons evangelical theologians have tended to treat the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son from the Father with benign neglect. If we do decide to drop from our doctrine of the Trinity the eternal generation and procession of the Son and Spirit from the Father, how should we construe the intra-Trinitarian relations? Here I find it useful to distinguish between the ontological Trinity and the economic Trinity. The ontological Trinity is the Trinity as it exists of itself apart from God’s relation to the world. The economic Trinity has reference to the different roles played by the persons of the Trinity in relation to the world and especially in the plan of salvation. In this economic Trinity there is subordination (or, perhaps better, submission) of one person to another, as the incarnate Son does the Father’s will and the Spirit speaks, not on His own account, but on behalf of the Son. The economic Trinity does not reflect ontological differences between the persons but rather is an expression of God’s loving condescension for the sake of our salvation. The error of Logos Christology lay in conflating the economic Trinity with the ontological Trinity, introducing subordination into the nature of the Godhead itself.

So I regard God the Father as neither ontologically nor causally prior to God the Son, and I view Augustine and the Damascene’s views as extra-biblical and unfortunate.

From this it is not clear whether there is an eternal subordination of the Son; only an eternal generation is denied. But many complementarian scholars seem to conflate the two thinking that the Son’s eternal generation is evidence (or perhaps better said, the explanation) of His eternal subordination. Still, Craig does not see the economic Trinity as reflecting the ontological Trinity, which is fundamental to the complementarian scheme.

Is Complementarianism at the very center of orthodoxy?

Recently Scot McKnight wrote about his concerns over what he calls the “NeoReformed” (part 1, part 2). According to him, these ardent Calvinists “are more than happy to call into question the legitimacy and fidelity of any evangelical who doesn’t believe in classic Reformed doctrines, like double predestination.” Whether or not that is the case, he also observes something else that is equally alarming:

“And here’s another issue: the NeoReformed are deeply concerned with complementarianism and see it as a test case of fidelity. Fine, argue your points, but complementarianism is hardly the center of orthodoxy. You wouldn’t know that by the way they write or talk. Some see it as the litmus test of evangelical orthodoxy these days. This grieves me. Don’t we have more significant battles to wage?”

Denny Burk objected to this, without commenting on the merits of McKnight’s label, saying that complementarianism is not understood by the “NeoReformed” to be “the center of orthodoxy” or at “the heart of their doctrinal priorities.” Nevertheless, he goes on to say that egalitarianism is a threat to the auhority of the Bible. To me, this smacks of double-speak because it seems to be the case that to deny complementarianism is to deny the authority of Scripture–which of course, puts the very “center of orthodoxy” at stake!

There is some evidence to back up McKnight’s complaint. For example, the Together for the Gospel statement reads:

We affirm that the Scripture reveals a pattern of complementary order between men and women, and that this order is itself a testimony to the Gospel, even as it is the gift of our Creator and Redeemer. We also affirm that all Christians are called to service within the body of Christ, and that God has given to both men and women important and strategic roles within the home, the church, and the society. We further affirm that the teaching office of the church is assigned only to those men who are called of God in fulfillment of the biblical teachings and that men are to lead in their homes as husbands and fathers who fear and love God.

We deny that the distinction of roles between men and women revealed in the Bible is evidence of mere cultural conditioning or a manifestation of male oppression or prejudice against women. We also deny that this biblical distinction of roles excludes women from meaningful ministry in Christ’s kingdom. We further deny that any church can confuse these issues without damaging its witness to the Gospel.

The message could not be anymore clear: if you deny such an order exists between man and woman you undermine the church’s witness to the gospel. For decades evangelicals of all stripes, complementarians and egalitarians, have found unity in the gospel message of Christ. But with this statement, there can be no unity in the gospel as egalitarians are subtly denounced as undermining it. And there is nothing more at the center of orthodoxy than the gospel itself.

Al Mohler reviewed Wayne Grudem’s book Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism? and came to this conclusion:

Nothing less than the future of the Christian church in North America is at stake in this controversy. Evangelicals no longer have the luxury of believing that this controversy is nothing more than a dispute among scholars.

If the future of the church in North America is contingent upon the repudiation of egalitarianism, then the advancement of complementarianism is (and ought to be) “the heart the NeoReformer’s doctrinal priorities.

If complementarianism’s understanding of hierarchy is essential to the Christian worldview (as Mary Kassian argued in her book Women, Creation, and Fall, p. 45), then how could it not be in dispute that the NeoReformed see complementarianism as a litmus test of orthodoxy? If they deny that it is they should qualify or even recant some of the things said above.