Tuesday, May 25, 2010

How Subordination Got a Bad Name

"The fact is that there is no suggestion in Scripture that women in any sense are inferior or incapable - neither in personhood, which is the same as man's, nor in function, which is different than man's. Both the man and the woman are created in God's image, but each has an assignment from God (Gen. 1:27; 2:15-18).

Any attitude or action suggesting a woman's insignificance, inferiority, or lack of personhood originated in the Fall. The stigma of inferiority is no more appropriate from a wife than it would be for Christ. You can be subject to a superior, as Israel was subject to the Lord (Deut. 6:1-5) and as believers are subject to Christ (Phil. 2:9-11), or as Abraham submitted to the priesthood of Mechizedek (Heb. 7:7).

But subordination is also possible among equals: Christ is equal to God the Father and yet subject to Him (Phil. 2:6-8); believers are equal to one another and yet admonished to submit "to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Eph. 5:21). In fact, you are called to subordinate yourself to someone who is inferior, as Christ submitted to Pontius Pilate, making "no answer, not even to a single charge" (Matt. 27:11-14)...

...Subordination has been distorted before in the history of the Church. Arius assigned inferiority of being to Jesus the Son, refusing to accept the Scripture's statement that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in being and personhood (John 1:1; 5:3; 10:30; 14:6-9, 9, 11) and yet different in office and function. The Son voluntarily becomes subject to and subordinate to the Father (John 5:19-20; 6:38; 8:28-29, 54; 1Cor. 15:28; Phil. 2:5-11), and the Holy Spirit is sent by, and thus under the direction of, the Father to glorify the Son (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13-14).

Arian subordinationism was condemned as heretical - a denial of Trinitarianism - because it ignore, distorted, or misread certain Scriptures and simply dismissed or abandoned passages that the human mind could not explain (a view called Gnosticism). Can Arian feminism - which denies that women can have equal personhood along with a subordinate role, i.e., a different role with equal worth - be any more circumspect? I certainly think not. The Council of Nicea in A.D. 325 not only condemned this heresy but also ascribed to both the Son and the Spirit an equality of being, while clearly declaring subordination of order and function. Likewise, I have no problem in accepting within my womanhood the equality of creation and personhood, while recognizing that my divinely bestowed womanhood is uniquely suited to the tasks of divinely assigned to me by the Creator God."

~Dorothy Kelley Patterson, Where's Mom?: The High Calling of Wives and Mothers

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