Posted on Tuesday, July 26, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

Brothers and sisters, the recent discussions of the Trinity and of complementarianism have revealed among other things the theological and historical shallowness of much that passes for state-of-the-art theology and social thought in Protestant circles. We really must do better. This week I’m sharing two guest posts that model depth of thought and positive engagement that surmount the stereotypical evangelical method with a deeper, more holistic approach to personhood. This first piece deals with the topic of singles and the church by a woman writing from the Reformed perspective:

 
How Do We Solve a Problem Like the Singles?
 
Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds. Hebrews 10:24
 
 
What the Catholics Know About Singleness
Protestants are clueless about singleness. In spite of the many strengths of my reformed Presbyterian upbringing, at 25 I had absorbed the church culture’s implied teaching about singleness – that it is a state of interminable suffering.  Accepting that I would be crippled without my “better half” until marriage, I turned to my church’s much better teaching about suffering.  As in Herbert’s poem, “The Pulley” my loneliness and restlessness tossed me to Christ’s breast, and that rich friendship is not one I would trade for any number of dates with the dashing music director. Yet while it is quite true that there is a suffering in singleness, much of it results from the contradictory attitudes in the church; if Paul was right about the blessings of singleness, why does the church seem to pity us so much? 
 
 
Among the Catholics I met while in graduate school at the University of Dallas, this contradiction was far less apparent. There, I met the numeraries of Opus Dei – a semi-monastic order of (essentially) nuns and monks who have jobs in the “real” world, but live together in large houses where they minister to the community and the church.  The presence of convents and monasteries changed all the assumptions about singleness among these devout Catholics.  Here, singles had more opportunities for enjoyment of God, for service.  They had a voice.  They, in fact, had to tell the other Catholics that they were not holier than married people – a sentiment summed up in the Catholic girls’ complaint that “God gets the best and we get the rest.”  I’ll not deny the problematic theology here, but the Protestant theology that the singles are the poor left-overs is hardly an improvement.  
 
 
The Protestant Message in a Sexual Age
When I returned to Protestant (specifically reformed Presbyterian) circles, my ear was tuned to notice the cultural pressures towards sex, the Protestant pressure toward marriage, and the silence of the pulpit.  In their most recent podcast on the Sexual Revolution, the MOS team summed up our culture’s immense pressure toward sexual identity.  Christine Colon takes it one step further in her book Singled Out – culture tells us that virgins are immature and emotionally stunted neurotics whose only escape is in having sex. Christian singles hear this from culture and from the church that sex outside marriage is wrong.  The result is that the slightest nudge toward marriage from a well-meaning believer comes across to the single like another reminder that we are immature and emotionally stunted and our only hope for happiness is marriage. 
 
 
We are told to both “enjoy our singleness while we can” and to “get serious about getting married.” When I answer the “Are you dating” question in the negative, the look of pity, confusion, surprise, and embarrassment that follows is another reminder that I as a “professional” woman am outside the experience of the housewife with three children. What follows is rarely helpful: “Maybe you’re too assertive,” “Don’t worry!  You’re pretty!” “That’s right – party it up!” and the recent classic – “Have you tried eHarmony?” In the Mrs-Bennet-like moves to cure the problem of our singleness combined with the pulpits’ occasional teaching that singleness is good, both married and single people have grown confused.
In hyper-complementarian and patriarchic circles the damage goes even further.  If all women are to submit to all men, and if a woman’s natural place is in the home, where does that leave single women who work for a living?  Can a woman be the boss of men?  Can she even take pleasure in her work outside the home?  And when she does return to that empty home at night, what happens to her sense of “femininity” if she is then too tired to keep house like a good woman should?  
 
 
The Difficulty of Content Singleness
Contentment is difficult for singles because from our perspective, both the believing and unbelieving world seem to agree that happiness in celibacy is impossible.  In both worlds, sex/marriage has become a defining threshold between childhood and adulthood. We are children, teenagers, college-age, single, then married. When we pass 30 or 40 and are still celibate, everyone (literally) thinks something’s gone wrong.
 
 
Even popular scientific theories like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs classes the need for sex at the same level as food, water and air.  If the church does not answer, is it any wonder that Christian singles sometimes conclude that masturbation is not wrong and that pornography is at least better than the alternative?  Essentially, we come to believe that God has given us “everything pertaining to life and godliness” except a spouse. 
 
 
The God Who Satisfies 
It is just such erroneous thinking that provoked Paul’s comments on marriage and singleness in 1 Corinthians 7, the premise for which appears in the end of chapter 6.  There, as he calls the Corinthians out of their sexual immorality, Paul quotes the saying, “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food” (6:13). In other words, as the stomach is meant for food, so the body is meant for sex. Paul disagrees. The body “is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body” (6:13). This means that for the married person and the single, there is some need more pressing than sex (or food or air) that can only God can satisfy.  
 
 
“Your body is a temple” (6:19), then, is not meant as motivation to work out or eat well, but rather to keep from sexual immorality. Because the believer’s soul is united to God in a way similar to the uniting of a married couple (6:17), the sexually immoral person “sins against his own body” (6:18). We think that as long as we’re not hurting anyone else, then it’s not wrong.  But for the Christ-indwelt believer, masturbation and pornography are deeply wounding to the God who lives in us. “You are not your own,” as a husband’s body is not his own. “So glorify God in your body” (6:19-20).
 
 
This sounds serious, but the implications are radically liberating.  You don’t need to get married or have sex to live a rich life! The single person is a whole person on their own. They wait for no “better half” to live the good life.  That life is for now. That contentment is for now.  
 
 
In fact, living a content, celibate life is one of the ways that the single participates in the marriage metaphor. We know that the relationship between a man and wife symbolizes Christ’s relationship with his church.  The single reminds that church that it is with Christ that that relationship ultimately exists.  To live as a content single now, while longing for that future satisfaction, is our way of bearing Christ’s image in the world. 
 
 
The Call to Happy Christian Singleness
 Though content, celibate, singleness is certainly not easy, and though suffering well is a way of bearing Christ’s image in the world for a time, denying the essential good of singleness is calling God’s gifts bad. The Father does not give bad gifts to his children.  Ultimately, then, if you are a single believer, congratulations!  For now at least, you have the “gift of singleness.” 
 
 
Now, that claim usually gets me raised eyebrows and lots of questions.  The answers are in I Corinthians Chapter 7. 
 
 
This is the (in?)famous “gift of singleness” passage, which never uses the words “gift of singleness” at all. Instead, what we think of as “singleness” is really treated as just the baseline of the Christian calling. Marriage has added responsibilities, but everyone is first called to the ordinary, individual, Christian life.  When I am told that my apparent “gift of singleness,” of not longing for marriage makes my message irrelevant to those who do long for marriage, I am confused.  Should those who inherit the enormous ocean of Christ’s riches be characterized by
sorrow because they lack the thimbleful of marriage?  
 
 
Yet because marriage is a good thing to desire, we assume it isn’t wrong to be sad that we don’t have it. In fact, it’s almost considered a virtue in this age of equating marriage to maturity. But if we were to replace the term “marriage” with any other (an orderly house, a trip to Bora-Bora, tiny houses…) it is immediately clear that this is idolatry in disguise. Kevin DeYoung notes in his book on same-sex attraction that “A minivan full of kids on the way to Disneyland is a wonderful good, but a terrible god.”  Neither marriage nor singleness is better.  They are simply different states in which we live out our Christian calling.
 
 
Paul’s assertion in I Corinthians that singleness is better may, in fact, be his way of expressing his contentment with his own state. One who is content is often inclined to think his life happier than another’s.  Perhaps it is good for the average married person to think her life is happier than a single’s, and it is right for the single to think his life is happier than the marrieds’. 
 
 
What is the Good of Singleness?
Once I convince my friends that singleness is not inherently bad, I often find that they will admit that their singleness is good for others.  Now they have all this free time to do what married people cannot they may assume the best use of their singleness is nursery duty. While some should certainly be working in the nursery, that duty is not necessarily inherent to singleness. 
 
 
Instead, the first and greatest benefit of singleness is “undistracted devotion to the Lord.” As with every believer, a single’s work should spill naturally out of that devotion to God, but the work is not the first goal. And we must also remember that the fruit of the Spirit is varied; there are as many ways to live a godly single life as there are to live a godly married life – perhaps even more. People are remarkably unique, after all.  
 
 
So one single who is free from worldly anxieties, and who devotes that freedom to “heavenly anxieties,” may end up spending their life in a very different way from another single.  I am often told “I know singleness can be good.  There was this single lady in our church – such a happy person!  And she ran the whole children’s ministry.”  That’s wonderful. But it’s not for everyone.  I know one single woman who spent her free time becoming a professional fly-fisherwoman.  Now she travels all over the world as a fly-fishing guide to the rich and famous and has a unique ministry to them as a result. Another worked hard at a good job, bought a big house, and then in her fifties two teenage girls who needed a stable home moved in with her. There are a million other possibilities too.  So encourage singles to dig into prayer first, and then to be creative with their freedom, “only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Gal 5:13). As with all aspects of the Christian life, we are not “The Christ,” or the Savior of others – we simply live the life he gives us in quietness and contentment.
 
 
How Can I Help the Singles? How Can We Help Each Other?
And to such a life of quiet contentment should we be encouraging one another.  I’m beginning to hear married people ask what they can do to help the singles.  I find the question disarming but also problematic.  The thirty-something single has indeed lived an extremely different life from the thirty-something who married at twenty, and we should acknowledge the differences before we can understand each other. 
 
 
But after a great deal of discussion, study and prayer, it has become clear that singles are not actually that different from the married!  Responsibilities and life experience differ and should be acknowledged, but our identity before the throne of God, where believers find their worth in Christ, is the same.  In that place, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female,” neither married or unmarried, “for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
 
 
This unity in Christ means that more fundamental to the call to marriage or singleness is the call to follow Christ. The real question is how we might encourage each unique individual “to love and good deeds” (Heb 10:24). Because of the pressures from all sides to get married and have sex, it is probable that the single person needs to be affirmed as a whole person.  Dropping the “this is my better half” would be a great start. Married people are not “halves” either! 
 
 
Most importantly, do not assume that all singles (or married people, for that matter) are alike. Approach each with that loving curiosity that asks just the right question and gives encouragement unique to them. Some singles will flourish best when drawn into another family.  Let them in, if you are so called. Others may simply want to be your friend.  If so, don’t withhold from them the struggles of married life.  I have learned much about friendship through the struggles of my married friends, and married people may be surprised to discover in their single friends a more unbiased perspective than another married person can give. Mutually look for what the other married/single person can teach, remembering that we all are independent, single, set-apart people in the end.
 
 
And, Single Christian, I know, because I have felt it myself, that singleness can be intensely and uniquely lonely.  Don’t deny it when it happens, but do not think that marriage will solve it. Loneliness knows no distinction between marriage and singleness.  But let the suffering have that good effect that all suffering has for the believer.  Because we do remind the church that her ultimate satisfaction in Christ, there is a longing for heaven built into our kind of image bearing. So run to Christ with the longing, and you will find the burden lighter. 
 
 
Consider too, that all the virtues which make singleness easier are not ones that a western church tends to emphasize:  quietness in solitude, commitment in friendship, patience while working, and contented celibacy. You must be an independent thinker if you’re to live this radical kind of life.  And it is a radical, adventurous life. In our culture, this is uncharted territory. 
 
 

 

 Also, interpret kindly the well-meant efforts of your married friends. As you get to know them better, you may be surprised to hear how common the sufferings of the faithful Christian life are.  From my married friends, I have learned how to live in relationship with others; from my single friends, how to pursue God’s call with a peaceful kind of energy. Marrieds and singles have the same sin struggles, the same call, the same Lord. So drag each other heavenward, “encouraging one another and so much the more as you see the day approaching” (Heb 10:25).  And know that really, “glory, glory dwelleth in Emmanuel’s land.”
 
 
Rachel Kilgore is starting her 3rd year in the English PhD. program at Baylor and is a member at Redeemer PCA in Waco, Texas. She grew up in Houston and went to the University of Dallas for a Master's degree in English. After that, Rachel taught as an English adjunct for 3 years in Dallas and Houston before realizing how necessary the PhD. was for teaching English long-term. She usually studies Jane Austen, the ethics of reading, and the development of the novel. 
Posted on Wednesday, July 20, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

This is a common teaching on headship as Christians try to work out the practical implications of Eph. 5:15-33. One wise husband who emailed me commented that he and his wife have humbly been trying to work out what this passage means for 36 years now, and he still has a lot to learn:

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,  because we are members of his body.  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

He points out an interesting comment a husband made in a marriage counseling session with Dr. James Boice (I believe he is quoting from his booklet, How to Be Happy as a Family).  More people may think this way about what headship means than possibly admit it:

“I was counseling a couple who were soon to be married, and I asked if they understood what God meant when He said that the wife was to be in subjection to her husband and that the husband was to love his wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. The wife was wise enough to remain silent. But the man blurted out, ‘That means that we are to love each other; but whenever we disagree I am to give her a hug and a kiss, and after that we're to do things my way.’" 

Ruth Tucker addresses this way of thinking in her book, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife, quoting well-meaning men who actually apply this right down to differences in opinion of where the married couple will grab their dinner for the night. She then asks, “How do egalitarians work out differences in their marriages? Who is the tiebreaker? When I asked my complementarian colleague about how his headship might look in relationship to the daily routine, I had actually expected something more significant than whether or not to eat at Taco Bell” (49). She then explains the mutuality in an egalitarian marriage when it comes to decision-making:

How do egalitarians deal with a tiebreaker situation? Let’s say the husband is offered a transfer with a substantial salary increase; the wife is settled in the neighborhood---near family, schools, and church. But the husband wants the opportunity to climb the career ladder. Or let’s say the situation is reversed, and the wife has an opportunity to climb the ladder to success. Such a life-changing decision should simply be based on mutuality, and no major move should be made until both husband and wife are fully on board. Can this lead to serious conflict? Of course it can, no matter whether the marriage is based on equality or male headship. (49)

I disagree with both her complementarian examples and the egalitarian one she offers. If no major move is made until both husband and wife are fully on board, one is already submitting---the one who doesn’t get to move. She is right, that will lead to serious conflict. I would say that the biblical model of marriage, as described in Eph. 5, would call for the husband to give himself first to sacrifice for his wife. As the head in the Christian context of the kingdom of God, he should be the first to sacrifice. But I do have a caveat. Every situation is different. If we are talking about where to eat dinner, husbands submit to your wife and sacrifice for her in that way---unless your wife seems to have no concern about pleasing you ever. If she is never willing to sacrifice and submit her own desires to please you, then you have a problem. That doesn't mean it's time to "rule over her," but it probably means it is time for a conversation about how you are to love one another. You don't demand submission, it is a voluntary gift. Wives, care about where your husband wants to eat too. Don’t take advantage of his being the first to sacrifice. But most of us already know this, right?

In a marriage, decisions are made together.

When it comes to something more substantial, like uprooting the family for a career, both husband and wife should empathize with one another. I do believe the husband is called to sacrifice first for the wife. But the first priority of that sacrifice for his wife is to consider the effects of their decision under the mission of God he is entrusted to for his family. The point of headship is unity. There is a theological mission attached to being the head of the household, and the husband is to tend to this.  It is eschatological. We are moving toward something---our mission to be summed up in Christ’s household, to be sanctified for his purposes, and to reign with him on the new heavens and the new earth. This eschatological goal shapes the mission of the household. This mission needs to reach the next generation and the ones after that. And so the head needs to ensure that our faith is articulated well, that the members of the household live accordingly, and that it is passed down to the next generation. This is true of the family, and of the household of God, his church. 

So there are other factors to consider, such as the condition of their finances, is the spouse’s job unbearable, how much time does each spouse have to spend away from the household to earn a living, how it will affect the wellbeing of the rest of the family, or how this career and move supports or sabotages the mission. As the head, the husband bears a responsibility to which the wife should lovingly submit to and not try and sabotage. In a godly marriage, the wife knows how much her husband wants to please her. She knows he's called to be the first to sacrifice, the first to love. So she shouldn’t manipulate that by her own selfishness. 

The thing is, everyone is called to submit in the tiebreakers. A marriage is a unity and decisions are made together. But the special responsibility of the husband as head isn’t about a moment in a tiebreaker decision. As Robert Wall describes, the head is to continuously “think about the mission, describe it, communicate it, keep it constantly before the group, and develop goals on the basis of it” (Robert Wall with Richard Steele, 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus, 259). This kind of care for the family will nurture mutual submission on all kinds of daily decision-making. And when the big ones come up such as moving for a job, the foundation will be properly laid.  

I do agree with Tucker that there will still be serious conflict in both egalitarian and complementarian marriages, because we are dealing with sinners after all. But I do hope that in both types of marriages, that will be alleviated by our unity in Christ and our mission to consummate that union.

But the gentleman who emailed me is right---we all still have a lot to learn.

 

 

*I've written more about this:

On Headship and Household

Niether Complementarian Nor Egalitarian: A Review

Posted on Wednesday, July 20, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian

This is a common teaching on headship as Christians try to work out the practical implications of Eph. 5:21-33. One wise husband who emailed me commented that he and his wife have humbly been trying to work out what this passage means for 36 years now, and he still has a lot to learn:

 

Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.  For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.  Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,  that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,  so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,  because we are members of his body.  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”  This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.  However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

 

He points out an interesting comment a husband made in a marriage counseling session with Dr. James Boice (I believe he is quoting from his booklet, How to Be Happy as a Family).  More people may think this way about what headship means than possibly admit it:

 

“I was counseling a couple who were soon to be married, and I asked if they understood what God meant when He said that the wife was to be in subjection to her husband and that the husband was to love his wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it. The wife was wise enough to remain silent. But the man blurted out, ‘That means that we are to love each other; but whenever we disagree I am to give her a hug and a kiss, and after that we're to do things my way.’" 

 

Ruth Tucker addresses this way of thinking in her book, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife, quoting well-meaning men who actually apply this right down to differences in opinion of where the married couple will grab their dinner for the night. She then asks, “How do egalitarians work out differences in their marriages? Who is the tiebreaker? When I asked my complementarian colleague about how his headship might look in relationship to the daily routine, I had actually expected something more significant than whether or not to eat at Taco Bell” (49). She then explains the mutuality in an egalitarian marriage when it comes to decision-making:

 

How do egalitarians deal with a tiebreaker situation? Let’s say the husband is offered a transfer with a substantial salary increase; the wife is settled in the neighborhood---near family, schools, and church. But the husband wants the opportunity to climb the career ladder. Or let’s say the situation is reversed, and the wife has an opportunity to climb the ladder to success. Such a life-changing decision should simply be based on mutuality, and no major move should be made until both husband and wife are fully on board. Can this lead to serious conflict? Of course it can, no matter whether the marriage is based on equality or male headship. (49)

 

I disagree with both her complementarian examples and the egalitarian one she offers. If no major move is made until both husband and wife are fully on board, one is already submitting---the one who doesn’t get to move. She is right, that will lead to serious conflict. I would say that the biblical model of marriage, as described in Eph. 5, would call for the husband to give himself first to sacrifice for his wife. As the head in the Christian context of the kingdom of God, he should be the first to sacrifice. But I do have a caveat. Every situation is different. If we are talking about where to eat dinner, husbands submit to your wife and sacrifice for her in that way---unless your wife seems to have no concern about pleasing you ever. If she is never willing to sacrifice and submit her own desires to please you, then you have a problem. That doesn't mean it's time to "rule over her," but it probably means it is time for a conversation about how you are to love one another. You don't demand submission, it is a voluntary gift. Wives, care about where your husband wants to eat too. Don’t take advantage of his being the first to sacrifice. But most of us already know this, right?

 

In a marriage, decisions are made together.

 

When it comes to something more substantial, like uprooting the family for a career, both husband and wife should empathize with one another. I do believe the husband is called to sacrifice first for the wife. But the first priority of that sacrifice for his wife is to consider the effects of their decision under the mission of God he is entrusted to for his family. The point of headship is unity. There is a theological mission attached to being the head of the household, and the husband is to tend to this.  It is eschatological. We are moving toward something---our mission to be summed up in Christ’s household, to be sanctified for his purposes, and to reign with him on the new heavens and the new earth. This eschatological goal shapes the mission of the household. This mission needs to reach the next generation and the ones after that. And so the head needs to ensure that our faith is articulated well, that the members of the household live accordingly, and that it is passed down to the next generation. This is true of the family, and of the household of God, his church. 

 

So there are other factors to consider, such as the condition of their finances, is the spouse’s job unbearable, how much time does each spouse have to spend away from the household to earn a living, how it will affect the wellbeing of the rest of the family, or how this career and move supports or sabotages the mission. As the head, the husband bears a responsibility to which the wife should lovingly submit to and not try and sabotage. In a godly marriage, the wife knows how much her husband wants to please her. She knows he's called to be the first to sacrifice, the first to love. So she shouldn’t manipulate that by her own selfishness. 

 

The thing is, everyone is called to submit in the tiebreakers. A marriage is a unity and decisions are made together. But the special responsibility of the husband as head isn’t about a moment in a tiebreaker decision. As Robert Wall describes, the leader is to continuously “think about the mission, describe it, communicate it, keep it constantly before the group, and develop goals on the basis of it” (Robert Wall with Richard Steele, 1 & 2 Timothy & Titus, 259). This kind of care for the family will nurture mutual submission on all kinds of daily decision-making. And when the big ones come up such as moving for a job, the foundation will be properly laid.  

 

The thing about the tie-breaker argument is that it is over simplifying. Men can exercise their muscle and women can exercise their manipulation, which is precisely why both men and women need to heed the exhortation in Eph. 5. I do agree with Tucker that there will still be serious conflict in both egalitarian and complementarian marriages, because we are dealing with sinners after all. But I do hope that in both types of marriages, that will be alleviated by our unity in Christ and our mission to consummate that union.

 

But the gentleman who emailed me is right---we all still have a lot to learn.

 

 

*I've written more about this:

On Headship and Household

Niether Complementarian Nor Egalitarian: A Review

Posted on Tuesday, July 12, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
This is going to be a different kind of book review. Ruth Tucker’s Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife is different kind of book. It is a page turner autobiography about an educated, independent Christian woman who falls in love with the tall, handsome, charming guy who knew all the right answers at a Christian retreat. She marries him and endures 19 long years of abuse. But as the subtitle explains, it’s also her story of finding hope after domestic abuse. And did I mention her husband was a preacher? 
 
Despite the fact that Tucker’s husband “hurled biblical texts” at her while “hitting and punching and slamming [her] against doors and furniture,” despite his “terror-loaded threats” if she didn’t submit properly “from the kitchen to the bedroom,” despite feeling “trapped and fear[ing] for [her] life, while outwardly disguising bruises with long sleeves and clever excuses,” she doesn’t abandon her Christian faith. No, during this time, Tucker earns her PHD, teaches courses at Grand Rapids School of Bible and Music (as does her husband for six years) and Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and even spends some summer weeks teaching at a Bible college in Kenya. She maintains a high view of Scripture and continues in the Christian faith.
 
But there is something Ruth Tucker abandons. And that is what adds another layer to the storytelling in this book. Tucker is now an egalitarian, arguing for mutuality in marriage, church office, and society. She no longer supports the complementarian teaching that “although men and women are created equal in their being and personhood, they are created to complement each other via different roles and responsibilities as manifested in marriage, family life, religious leadership, and elsewhere.” While celebrating gender distinction, Tucker argues that complementarian teaching is unbiblical and provides fuel for abusive relationships. This argument is woven throughout her testimony of enduring and escaping abuse. 
 
I’ve read the reviews by complementarians in my so-called circles that, while having sympathy for Tucker’s story of abuse, say they cannot give their recommendation of the book, even turning their reviews into corresponding arguments of why Tucker’s egalitarianism is wrong. And that is why this is a different kind of book review. I would like to engage with the complementarian reviews of this book with my own response. I am bothered by how these reviews from within my own circles have not really listened, have not really learned, and have not really engaged with Ruth Tucker.
 
Sure, Tucker does write an argument against complementarianism in her book, and one form of engagement is to respond to that. So I’m not bothered if complementarians want to critique her theological position. I am not an egalitarian. I disagree with Tucker on several points in the book. But I was still challenged and sharpened by it. Rather than writing a review saying that I do not recommend Tucker’s book, I want to urge people to read it---especially pastors. I gained more insight into why women stay in abusive relationships for so long. I learned more about red flags that may indicate an abusive relationship. And I was enlightened by the cold reality of how pointless couples counseling is when one of the spouses is abusive. After reading this book, I am even more convinced that complementarianism and egalitarianism is not as simple as the definitions provided for us. I closed Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife challenged to learn more. Particularly at the end of the book, Tucker poses some tough questions for complementarians. 
 
Victims of abuse need to be heard. We especially need to listen as a church. 
 
So, I was bothered by the reviews that don’t recommend Tucker’s book due to her egalitarian position. One common critique among them is that Tucker’s view of complementarianism is wrong. Complementarianism does not teach abusive headship, it teaches using the model of how Christ leads his church. I think the author would agree that her ex-husband would have been abusive no matter what doctrine he held. But here’s the problem: the “that’s not complementarianism” critique doesn’t have a leg to stand on when some of it’s most well-known proponents are quoted in the book teaching devastating applications of complementarianism. And while their teaching doesn’t advocate abuse ostensibly, it doesn’t protect women who are abused---at all. It exposes them to more abuse. And so it is fuel for an abuser. These are devastating quotes that need to be addressed. We must ask---what is being taught in the name of complementarianism? Are all of its teachings biblical? That is a question I have been asking the leaders in the movement for a while now. 
 
And Tucker’s book is where I see the rubber meeting the road on the over-emphasis of an unbiblical form of authority and submission taught under the label of complementarianism. The defensiveness and denunciations in some of these reviews send the message that there is a greater fear of people reading Tucker’s book and becoming egalitarian than my fear of people reading leading voices in complementarianism and leaving Christianity!
 
Tucker opens her book with a quote from Paige Patterson when he was the president of the Southern Baptist Convention. This was from a session at a CBMW conference in 2000:
 
I had a woman who was in a church that I served, and she was being subject to some abuse, and I told her, I said, “All right, what you want to do is, every evening I want you to get down by your bed just as he goes to sleep, get down by the bed, and when you think he’s just about to sleep, you just pray and ask God to intervene, not out loud, quietly,” but I said, “You just pray there.” And I said, “Get ready because he may get a little more violent, you know, when he discovers this.” And sure enough, he did. She came to church one morning with both eyes black. And she was angry at me and at God and the world, for that matter. And she said, “I hope you’re happy.” And I said, “Yes ma’am, I am.” And I said, I’m sorry about that, but I’m very happy.” (11)
 
Some abuse”? Really? Tucker added after the quote that Rev. Patterson provided the reason why he was happy---this woman’s husband came to church afterward and responded to the invitation at the end of the service to come forward. I could spend three more posts breaking down what’s troubling here, but have to move on. 
 
Bruce Ware, who years ago was a colleague of mine at Trinity, stated the matter even more forcefully at a 2008 conference when he said that  “women victims of domestic violence were often to blame for their own abuse because they were failing to submit to their husband’s authority.” (48)
 
These are just two examples of many from the book. Are complementarians troubled by these teachings? I am! I wouldn’t stand behind that. While I do not embrace egalitarianism, I believe there is much more mutuality in marriage than many complementarians teach. We are told to submit to one another out of reverence to Christ, women to their own husbands, as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22-23), and husbands are to give themselves up in love for their wives, just as Christ loved the Church (v. 25). The type of teaching that the above quotes represent diminishes women, whom the Lord says are to be cherished.
 
While Tucker has this dual aim to argue for egalitarianism in the home, church, and society while raising awareness for domestic abuse through her own story, she focuses most of the book on marriage. It is difficult to accomplish a task of storytelling and teaching theology at the same time. Not everything descriptive is prescriptive. And while there were areas in the book where I wanted to push back on Tucker’s teaching, I realized I am reading a book from a woman who has endured and escaped horrible abuse---a book peppered with quotes from leading complementarians who blame women for their abuse, reduce complementarity to male authority and female submission, send victims back into abusive homes for the sake of submission, teach a distorted view of masculinity and femininity, and reduce women to the role of elevating men. 
 
So here’s my question: why are complementarians so quick to call out an abuse victim’s egalitarianism and yet so absolutely silent about the troubling teaching she quotes from many leading complementarians? This is why Ruth Tucker wants nothing to do with your theology---you refuse to confront the damaging errors within it. And I’d say that is not worthy of the word complementarity.
 
**UPDATE**
 
Bruce Ware has contacted me, upset that the quote Tucker has provided is misleading. It is from a blog article describing a session Ware gave at a "Biblical Manhood and Womanhood" conference in Denton, TX, 2008. The words were the blogger, Kathryn Joyce's, summation. It is fair to point that out. Joyce does provide these two quotes from Ware's talk that are just as disturbing:

"And husbands on their parts, because they're sinners, now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive, which is of course one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged – or, more commonly, to become passive, acquiescent, and simply not asserting the leadership they ought to as men in their homes and in churches."

"He will have to rule, and because he's a sinner, this can happen in one of two ways. It can happen either through ruling that is abusive and oppressive – and of course we all know the horrors of that and the ugliness of that – but here's the other way in which he can respond when his authority is threatened. He can acquiesce. He can become passive. He can give up any responsibility that he thought he had to the leader in the relationship and just say ‘OK dear,' – Whatever you say dear,' – Fine dear' and become a passive husband, because of sin."

I did ask Ware if he would repudiate those statements, as the inference is clearly one that a man's abuse is the result or effect of the woman challenging his authority by not submitting. He denies that is the inference. He also said that men bear full responsibility for the sin of abuse. 

Unfortunately, the link provided on CBMW for the talks is now broken. But I did find another article (there are many) that covered this talk. Here is another one that summarizes more of Ware's argument. 

**Another link has been brought to my attention, from an interview Ware did on Revive Our Hearts, where he basically says the same thing.

 

 

Posted on Tuesday, July 05, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
In this guest post, Dr. Liam Goligher reflects on what we have discovered in this trinitarian debate so far:
 
If even lifeless instruments, such as the flute or the harp, do not give distinct notes, how will anyone know what is played?
And if the bugle gives an indistinct sound, who will get ready for battle? (1Cor. 14.7-8)
 
Since the first blast of the trumpet some weeks ago I have listened carefully, have spoken to participants personally, and have chosen my written words as wisely as I could getting as much help as I can from expert theologians in the field. I want to explain to ordinary people what has been going on: on the one hand you have read and heard a statement of historic Christian teaching of the Trinity---the confession of our church fathers, medieval scholars, and reformers. The doctrine of God upheld by Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Owen, Whitefield, Ryle and Spurgeon. On the other hand you have read the responses of those who are evangelical folks who affirm the words of the creed but reinterpret its meaning. 
 
When I wrote I expected to be a lone voice, as on this topic I have been for some years. But there is something about the nature of truth, when it grips the heart (especially when that truth has biblical warrant and churchly agreement, even though it may be currently unpopular and apparently irrelevant), we cannot but speak.
 
This is a minister's business, to speak up for the gospel and to do so whether it is convenient or otherwise. In this case, we are speaking up for the primary doctrine of the Christian Faith. That was always the main issue. The Blessed and Holy Trinity, God in His Sacred Persons, is the object of our most fervent worship and most heartfelt devotion. We dare not depart from the old truths just because they are inconvenient to our current hot button issues. 
 
What have we discovered in the debate so far? That the opponents of this vital matter are good men? Of course. That they have influential supporters? Yes. But we have also discovered that they have an agenda. In their Trinitarian theology they are attempting to locate authority and submission/subordination in the being and nature of God. They are doing so because they want to draw a clear line from God's essential being and that of human beings (male and female). It is this move towards inserting authority/submission in the nature of God which the church fought hard to counter in the language of the creeds echoed by later confessions.
 
Taken to its logical conclusion, regarding Christ as eternally subordinate to the Father would please Muslims and Mormons in equal measure. It is therefore a matter of enormous importance. Its implications for human relations could not be plainer. If a direct link can be made between (which is highly problematic exegetically and theologically) God in Himself and human relations, it leaves us with two image bearers of God who, strictly speaking (since they both share His image), have both authority and submission in themselves. 
 
Of course, that is not what is being argued: what is being said is that men have authority by nature and women are subordinate by nature, and that eternally. Now this pernicious error flies in the face of biblical evidence. In the economy of marriage, husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church, and wives are called to submit to their own husbands in the Lord. In the economy of the church, certain, qualified men are called to hold the offices of the church and women are prohibited from holding such offices. Outside of those limits men and women are both "sons" of God and "co-heirs" with Christ; a Mary can teach the church through her Magnificat; an Anna can prophecy of the Messiah; a Samaritan woman can be taught exalted Trinitarian truth; a Mary can sit at Jesus' feet; Martha can be given an exposition of the resurrection; another Mary can be sent to tell the apostles the glad news that the tomb is empty; that Christ is risen; and that He wants them to go to Galilee to meet Him; and in the epistles older women must teach younger women the faith, not to mention the service of Junia and Pricilla to the church. In other words the Bible teaches a proper complementarianism. 
 
This will not go far enough for the thought police, of course, and their suspicions that we have been promoting a "soft complementarianism" will be confirmed. They are wrong, and their abuse of this doctrine of God has been allowed to do dishonor to the glory of Christ and to our Christian sisters long enough. The men who use this teaching as their excuse for throwing their weight around have had their day. 
 
I am a pastor whose calling is to preach the truth; rebuke error; and stand up for the weakest in our churches. Is this feminism? Of course it's not, though they will doubtless claim it is. If men are to be true men they will nourish and nurture the women in our lives and churches. We will want to make them great for God. 
 
In my national church we are at the heart of resisting the impulse to seek women's ordination because we believe there is enough biblical warrant against it. We don't need to pervert the doctrine of God (and in so doing the doctrine of man made in His image) in order to defend ourselves. We will stand for truth whatever the cost to friendships and believe that, whether now or long into the future, Christ will be the friend to truth. 
 
Let there be no doubt of this: what is at stake is the honor of Christ and the good of His body. The call to the powerful is to act boldly on behalf of the weak. To be a man is to stand up for the women in our church who are being beaten over the head with this evil nonsense. If we stand by and say nothing we will never enjoy Christ's smile upon our work and all the conferences in the world will not bring life and healing to our churches. 
 
This debate, public as it has been, is a God given moment for reflection and repentance. It is to me one of the most encouraging and hopeful signs that younger scholars and ministers are rediscovering the exegetical tools of the early church and revisiting the very texts that laid the foundations of our Trinitarian and Christological theology. To bring these truths out of the classroom and study onto our pulpits and into our people's hearts and minds will bring true renewal to the church, will offer the best resistance to error, and will be the most precious medicine for people's souls.
 

Dr. Liam Goligher is Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church. He is the author of A Window on Tomorrow (Christian Focus, 1994), The Fellowship of the King (Carlisle, 2003), The Jesus Gospel (Milton Keynes, 2006), and Joseph—The Hidden Hand of God (Fearn, 2008).  Liam and his wife Christine have five adult children (Louise, Ruth, David, Sarah, Andrew) and nine grandchildren.

 

Posted on Tuesday, July 05, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
A wonderful outcome of this ongoing Trinity debate is that more Christians are interested in learning about the doctrine of God.  We have shared an annotated list of resources that Mark Jones has put together, dividing between introductory, intermediate, and advanced levels of learning. 
 
In addition to that, you can listen to interviews on the topic in your car on the way to whatever it is that you regularly do. Place for Truth has kicked off an engaging introductory series on the doctrine of God on their podcast Theology on the Go. Take a listen here to the first interview Dr. Jonathan Master gives of the series with Dr. James Dolezal (a Baptist!) on the topic of divine simplicity. It’s twelve minutes worth your time even if you aren’t in the car. And it will add another good book to your list.
 
Posted on Thursday, June 30, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
In my last article, I pleaded that complementarian men should respond to women with a listening ear and a resolve to better teach what headship actually means and what it does not mean. They should be reaching out to abused women, whose husbands and churches hide under the banner of headship and complementarianism, and call out the abuse and false teaching loud and clear. They should be working to help church leaders to recognize abuse and provide godly counsel and resources for those abused.
 
Perhaps if we hear from some of the women who have been through such abuse, we can improve in this area. This is a guest post from an anonymous author that I am sharing to hopefully raise awareness leading to positive change.
 
Please understand that I am not saying that the distinctive view of male-female relations which CBMW promotes inevitably leads to abuse. And I’ve said before that they have also published helpful teaching. My point is that when you make authority/submission of Father to Son the distinction between the two in eternity (ex., Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 251) and make that the paradigm for male-female relations you risk developing a position where the Christological/crucicentric pattern of the husband-wife relationship is relativized or even sidelined. And you may well end up with a monochrome understanding of marriage which misses the need for the husband to sacrifice for the wife, as well as all of those beautiful, playful dimensions of biblical love and marriage as we find, for example, in the Song of Songs.  All of these things must be part of anything claiming the name of biblical complementarianism. The current reductionism, by way of contrast, may not cause but certainly enables the kind of abuse described here. It is a pity that, in the rush to defend the barricades, so many seem to have lost sight of the human side of this Trinitarian problem.
 
Listening to Abused Women
 
When I first met my husband-to-be, it was like a dream come true. We met on a missions trip. He was kind, considerate, actively serving in the church, spiritually mature, and handsome, too. Our friendship grew quickly and within months we were meeting with the elders to get their blessing on our engagement, which they gladly gave. My parents even consulted with mutual friends as to his character as a Christian, and he passed with flying colors. But to top that, he confided to me that he received a prophetic word from God promising him a special blessing on this marriage. Who could resist that? I was in a different place theologically at the time, so I did not see extra-scriptural revelation as a problem. Rather I felt humbled and honored to be the person whom God choose to fulfill His promise to my future husband. This all but guaranteed to my mind that we would have a happy marriage.
 
I would not characterize the marriage as being difficult initially. Just the normal friction that happens between two normal people. I was not perfect, but I believed that everything would always work out because God brought us together. I wanted to be a good wife, so I was determined not to usurp my husband's authority. I deferred to him in just about everything. I trusted that if he was wrong, God would correct him in His time. My job was to be obedient. I never teased him or joked about him. That behavior was too disrespectful. But over time, it became clear that I would never live up to his expectations. I think only perfection would have only satisfied him, not a normal, fallible human being. Even when the children disappointed or embarrassed him, it was my fault because I was not doing enough to raise them properly.
 
After more than a decade of marriage, my husband began slowly to withdraw emotionally. First it was little things like deliberately not holding my hand and failing to open doors for me. As he grew colder, I asked what was wrong. He said it was his problem and not mine. Then one evening, he told me he no longer loved me. He never really loved me and had obviously misinterpreted the prophecy. It was more than my needing to improve. I was wrong. He said that he had tried all these years to make things work. He even said he believed that he loved me as Christ loved the church to which I blindly agreed. I asked if we could go to counseling, but he said most counselors would encourage us to divorce. I was relieved that he wasn't talking about divorce, but it shut the door on any help I could possibly get. 
 
The family continued to function normally at least on the outside. Not even the children suspected because we hid it from them. We hid it from our friends. I hid it from my family. I did not ask for prayer because it would be a sign of disrespect towards him, and the Bible told me that he could be won without a word. I was also afraid of what he would he do if people found out. Would it drive him further away or to divorce? So I suffered in silence and prayed with all my might that God would save the marriage. But things got even worse.
 
He barely showed me any physical affection but was quick to hug the wives and daughters of our friends. He praised others. I got back-handed compliments. I tried to say, as gently as I could, that it wounded me when I saw him show affection to our friends. His response was to tell me to stop trying to control him. From then on I just kept silent as the contempt grew. He would work late, stay up late, and sleep on the couch. I retreated to the bedroom in the evenings because conversation stopped between us unless necessary. I still begged God for help and cried myself to sleep night after night. I lost weight and could hardly eat. There were brief moments when I would get a rare smile or even a kiss on the cheek. This gave me hope, but these signs were becoming fewer and fewer to the point of being nonexistent. I felt like a mistreated family dog who did not know whether it was going to get a kick or a pat on the head. But like the loyal dog, I was so starved for affection that I would endure the “kicks” in the hope that my husband would finally love me. The word “abuse” never even crossed my mind at that time, but this was what was going on all along – emotional abuse. 
 
After what seemed like ages, the blow fell when my husband said we should separate, telling me to move out and leave the children with him. I was crushed. I refused his offer and finally broke my silence. Friends and family were stunned because we seemed like the perfect Christian family. They talked to him and encouraged us to fight for the marriage. I was more than willing to do this. But he said staying married to me would be a slow emotional death, and he needed to be free to be himself. If I would not go, he would move out even though several Christian men confronted him on multiple occasions. I still cry when I remember how devastated our children were when he broke the news that he was leaving. He lied and said he just needed time away to think and pray. They weren't fooled. Not one bit. At first, I thought their tears would move him to reconsider. But when the tears finally stopped, he suggested we all go out for pizza. Perhaps he wanted to celebrate having crossed that hurdle. We still held hands as a family while he thanked God for our food. He was all smiles. The rest of us were dying inside. What a travesty and total lack of empathy. 
 
Eventually the truth came to light. He had found my replacement and felt completely justified in pursuing her. She was God's will. I was not. The remaining time until the divorce was finalized was no better even though he was gone. The intimidation was played out in the courts rather than in person. Even after the divorce, there were other avenues to get back at me through the children such as refusing to give permission for health care and trying to minimize child support.
 
There may be some readers who immediately recognize the warning signs that I completely missed. There may be other readers who are thinking, “He didn't hit her, so it really wasn't abuse.” or  “Everyone has problems. She's over-dramatizing this to get sympathy.” or “It takes two to tango. Obviously this is just her side. Maybe she did something to provoke him.” For the skeptics, let me give you a brief lesson on emotional abuse.
 
Abuse is primarily about power and control. An abuser feels entitled to wield power over others. He is so special that the rules don't apply to him. He is so special that it is “normal” for others to be at his disposal. So he feels justified in using whatever is necessary to gain the control that feeds his sense of self-importance. This on-going pattern of behavior can include physical violence but not always. In my case, humiliation and intimidation were enough to keep me cowering. But prior to this overt behavior, I had also undergone years of “gas-lighting.” This term is taken from the old movie “Gas Light” where the heroine's husband attempts to drive her crazy. While my ex-husband did not attack my sanity, he subverted my sense of reality. He was an expert at manipulation. He was a like a chameleon who could turn into the character admired by the person he wanted to charm. I just assumed this was proof that we were meant to be together. He did the same for the other woman by changing his taste in music among other things to suit her. He won me over by telling me all the woes from his past. But now that he had me as his wife, I was the only person who could appreciate him for who he really was. When it came to any disagreement, he always managed to convince me that he was right and I was wrong. Even God thought he was special by promising him an extra blessing on his marriage. If I failed, then I must deserve his mistreatment for not only failing him but failing God, too. There were times when I would beg his forgiveness just in case I had offended him in some way. He told me he forgave, but they were just words. There was no grace, only a growing record of my faults that were held over my head. The reason why I agreed that he loved me as Christ loved the church, while he said he never really loved me in the same breath, was the result of being brainwashed to the point where he determined my reality. If you don't believe me, please read these two posts:
 
 
I could give you more examples from my story for every trait mentioned in these posts and not one of them requires raising even so much as a finger against the victim.
 
To put it another way, what I experienced was no different from the emotional bullying that is far too common today. The bully does not need to punch his victim. Threats, name-calling, and intimidation via social media are enough to drive victims to the point of suicide. Would any right-minded person go to grieving parents and tell them their child was not abused because the bully never hit her? Would you tell them that she should have had a little more courage and stood up for herself? Would you tell them that it takes two to tango and maybe she provoked the bullying? Absolutely not! 
 
Yet I have heard stories of women who were told to go back and submit no matter what their husbands did, while still maintaining a reverential attitude toward their abusers. There may have been some exceptions if there was a pattern of violence, but never permanent freedom from the abuser. And what makes a pattern?  Once? Twice? How much was too much? They were told to stop being so emotional and exaggerating their situations especially if there weren't any bruises as evidence. They were told that God was for their marriages so they needed to pray harder. And wasn't she as much of a sinner as her abusive husband? If she deserved Hell, wasn't she getting better than she deserved? I was told that I didn't tell my husband I loved him enough. This is telling me I needed to give a narcissist what he wanted, which is like trying to fill a bottomless pit. This was also like a punch in the stomach from someone I trusted, so I felt betrayed all over again. 
 
I'm probably not the first abuse survivor to ask “Does anyone really care about abused Christian women? Then why won't you listen to us? Is it because you believe I am just as worthless as my husband thinks I am?” We're not asking the world. We are asking the church. And I think it's time we are given some answers.
Posted on Tuesday, June 28, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I am pleased to share another guest post by Liam Goligher, regarding all of the uproar over the word heresy:
 
Since my first posts on the reinvention of Trinitarian theology in the church I have had the opportunity to have personal discussion with two of the main players in the debate, Drs. Ware and Grudem. Both conversations were pleasant and helpful in clarifying our different positions. Dr. Grudem particularly agreed that public debate over publicly expressed positions was entirely acceptable. Publicly expressed error must be addressed publicly. Where they expressed concern was in my suggestion of heterodoxy. For me the primary consideration in this debate has been the honor and glory of God; it was that which drove me to write as I did. On the other hand I would also want to be sensitive to my duty to brothers in Christ not to dishonor them unjustly in any way. Knowing the institutions in which my brothers work they have not infringed any doctrinal commitments they have undertaken. I don’t want to be seen to be saying what I am not saying about Drs. Ware and Grudem and I can’t speak for their respective ecclesiastical settings, but again, the honor of God is at stake. 
 
Part of the problem has been that in using the word ‘heresy’ (which I didn’t but do now) we have been talking past each other. Heresy is not a word to be used carelessly and hurled indiscriminately at anyone who dares to disagree with us. In confessional bodies, such as Episcopal, Reformed, Presbyterian or Reformed Baptist churches, heresy is a formal charge of preaching or teaching error. In such churches, confessional subscription carries more weight than in broadly evangelical churches or general Baptist churches. To teach something that strikes at the heart of the creeds and confessions of the church makes one, at least formally speaking, guilty of teaching heresy. It doesn’t declare one an unbeliever, nor does it immediately disqualify one from teaching. Church courts exist to adjudicate in such matters. Teachers in the church are justly held to a higher standard of orthodoxy (especially Trinitarian orthodoxy) because of the trust placed in them and their impact of the laypersons that read or hear their views expressed. While I cannot speak for whether or not Ware or Grudem’s views place them outside of the pale of their ecclesiastical confessions, I do believe their teaching contradicts the Nicene Creed as well as the major Reformed confessions. A couple of implications follow, given my role as a Presbyterian minister of the gospel. I have the responsibility to make sure that my parishioners are aware of the problematic nature of this teaching, since these views are widely published. I also have the responsibility to make sure that men who hold these views are not ordained within my denomination. Thus, to address the viability of this teaching over against the creeds and confessions of the Reformed churches is not to meddle in someone else’s business but to address issues of practical pastoral import.
 
Another issue in our debate where we are talking past each other relates to Biblicism. There is a recognizable shift in some quarters of the evangelical world to an atomized reading of Scripture cut off from the church’s tradition of exegesis and biblical interpretation. The Creeds are dismissed without due regard to the very thorough exegetical work done by the fathers and reformers. This movement is found in general evangelicalism and in movements emanating from Sydney and London. Treating the bible as if it landed on my doorstep this morning, instead of reading it in fellowship with Christ’s church is a failure to recognize the communion of the saints and is to breach the command of the apostle concerning the ‘unity of the faith.’ It was in the pursuit of this unity that the church sought early on to affirm its faith in God as Trinity. The reformation did not involve eschewing tradition, but refining the relationship of Scripture to that tradition. Sola scriptura is not solo or nuda Scriptura. Bannerman in his magisterial work on the church clearly defends the role of doctrinal standards in evaluating doctrine and identifying error. 
 
Here is the state of play thus far. There are, as I wrote in my first post, those who are revisiting and revising the creedal and confessional affirmation of our Trinitarian faith. Whether they are promoting a popular agenda, engaging in academic speculation, or formulating a new Trinitarian model they are nonetheless moving from orthodoxy. Let me be specific:
There is no argument generally about how God relates to us in the economy of redemption (how He chooses to reveal Himself to and relate to His creatures in the created order). The issue remains the ad intra being of God; God as He is in Himself. There are attempts to argue univocally from our created order and understanding back into the being of God. For example, there is an attempt to project something akin to male/female relations back into the relation of Father and Son. The incomprehensibility of God should warn us off from speaking univocally from our experience back into the being of God. Early Christian theologians spent time addressing the nature of divine self-revelation and of corresponding theological language to testify of him before addressing the nature of the triune life (see, e.g., Gregory of Nazianzus’s famous theological orations).
 
There is openly expressed dissatisfaction with the language of ‘only begotten’ or of ‘eternal generation’.  My concern is not with those who use subordination language in any form (though there are questions to be raised there as well), but most significantly with those, specifically, who are employing it while denying key tentposts of Nicene Trinitarian theology. Everyone affirms the deity of the Son (that he is homoousios with the Father), but it is noteworthy to highlight that the second paragraph of the Nicene Creed calls for belief in much more and some significant figures seem to deny other key elements. For some doing so, the language of “Father and Son” refers to a hierarchical relationship akin to a Father and son in a patriarchal setting. Intrinsic to the Godhead is Authority and submission (albeit loving submission). Yet what do the Creeds and the Orthodox Reformed Confessions teach? They confess One God and use the relational language of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They teach that in the eternal life of the Godhead there is perfect life and perfect fellowship. The Father eternally communicates His life to the Son; the Son has ‘life in Himself;’ is His Word; His radiance; His image; and Father and Son eternally communicate this life to the Spirit who proceeds from their mutual love and eternal fellowship. The Creed uses four clauses to stress this point: 
 
‘I believe…in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.”
 
The category of "relation" is used by Christian theologians--not only because that's what the names "Father" and "Son" appear to describe, but because this is the (only) way of describing a real distinction without subverting the numerical unity of God's being and operation. This also is why one can't have "consubstantial with the Father" without "begotten not made." Eternal generation describes the mode of being in which one divine being is shared by two persons. Any other scenario divides the divine being, an impossibility given divine simplicity (another foundational commitment of pro-Nicene theologians).
 
There is a failure to grasp what Nicene Christians mean when they say that God’s being and operations are ‘indivisible’ or ‘inseparable.’ They seem to use the word ‘deity’ in a generic sense to refer to a ‘secondary substance’ – something to be shared out by the members of the Trinity and divided among them. Yet the Creed affirms we believe in ‘one God;’ the Larger Catechism says that there is ‘but only one’ God (WLC 8, 11), numerically one being, numerically one operation, shared by three persons, three agents. This immediately challenges those who argue for three wills or three centers of consciousness in the One being of God. 
 
Pro-Nicene Trinitarianism and Reformed Orthodoxy require us to confess: the analogical nature of theological language, divine simplicity as classically articulated by Gregory Nazianzus and others, the one divine will, the inseparable operations of the triune God, and the eternal generation of the Son. To reject or recast these truths is to move out of Christian orthodoxy into heresy. This is where the chips fall. The church has given us words to say so that we can then be silent before the mystery. 
 
While there will always be room for growth in our knowledge of the triune God and, therefore, in principle, there will always be room for doctrinal development, true doctrinal development always occurs within the parameters of the truths summarized in the church’s creeds and confessions. This, as I understand it, is how a doctrine like the pactum salutis (as treated by, e.g. Owen) could be described: a deeper understanding of the internal relations of God with respect to the plan of salvation, but one that seeks to honor the Nicene settlement. Just as the pactum salutis is a development internal to the Nicene  doctrinal exposition, so Calvin’s teaching on autotheos is within that faith (and not outside it or a replacement for it).These matters then go to the heart of our Christian faith; they are matters of life and death; the good of God’s church, the honor of God’s Christ and the glory of God’s Name are at stake. These matters should be of utmost importance to those who say they love the gospel.
 

Dr. Liam Goligher is Senior Minister of Tenth Presbyterian Church. He is the author of A Window on Tomorrow (Christian Focus, 1994), The Fellowship of the King (Carlisle, 2003), The Jesus Gospel (Milton Keynes, 2006), and Joseph—The Hidden Hand of God (Fearn, 2008).  Liam and his wife Christine have five adult children (Louise, Ruth, David, Sarah, Andrew) and nine grandchildren.

 

Posted on Thursday, June 23, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
We’ve been betrayed. This is something that has disturbed me, as well as a handful of other women writers, for a while now. We’ve tried to respectfully engage, and we have been ignored. Completely. So I put a few rocks in my snowballs and threw them out, hoping the sting would provoke some men to wake up and say something. Some have. That’s why I was so pleased to share Liam Goligher’s guest post. All of a sudden people are listening. And asking questions.  
 
CBMW in particular owes a lot of women an apology. They haven't acknowledged one woman* who has critiqued their fringe teaching and asked for them to think of its practical consequences. And they wouldn't answer my one reasonable question about their stance on Nicene Trinitarian confessions. It has made some wonder whether they are even interested in listening to women. This is not complementarity according to how I thought of the definition of the word. It seems that “complementarity” has been reduced to nothing more than authority and submission, one inherent in men, the other in women. 
 
Women have been betrayed by the packaging and mass selling of hyper-authoritative teaching under the guise of complementarity. Men who know better are just helping to perpetuate it. And women who know better are also silent. Why is that?
 
Are there just some things we are not allowed to say or question? It seems the more friends you make in these parachurch organizations, the trickier it gets. The unspoken notion is that if you want to build or keep your platform, if you want to write and sell books, then you need to know your place. You also need to know when to be quiet. And that silence is heard and received on the Internet as approval or indifference.  
 
But apparently it is okay to teach in opposition to historic Nicene faith regarding EFS and eternal generation. You can even teach about hair length. You can go on and on about being micro-managed by your husband right down to the number of soap bubbles you missed on his dishes. And you can write all kinds of applications of about how women should relate to the postman, whether she should strength train, or if it's feminine to compete in Mixed Martial Arts.
 
We have been betrayed---betrayed by the gospel-centered, Christian industrial complex. These last couple of weeks we have focused on theology proper, as Trinitarian orthodoxy is a first order issue. Interestingly though, and as Liam has alluded to in his very first post, the guys still swinging at the fences on ESS/ESF/ERAS are the ones with the gender agenda. Their teaching is so intertwined with it. And it’s taught under the banner of “The Beauty of Complementarity.”
 
So here we are now. CBMW has made no statement affirming Nicene Trinitarianism. They’ve made no retractions of the teaching of those who have taught ESS/ESF/ERAS under their brand. They have made no retractions, although I have personally asked them to, of troubling teachings such as Sanctified Testosterone or Soap Bubble Submission. Has anything changed in the last two weeks? Will there be change? And if so, will it be driven by a love for truth, or simply because they’ve been called out in public over issues they have known about for years?
 
Women have been betrayed because we have read their works with a heart to learn more about living in a complementary relationship with our husbands, church officers, and other men in our lives. We see that both women and men distinctively reflect the image of God. We wanted to live biblically. But trusted names have endorsed troubling teaching that isn’t biblical. While there has been helpful teaching that has come from CBMW, other teaching reduces women to ontologically subordinate roles. And some husbands have even used this kind of teaching to fuel abuse in their relationships. I get emails from women who have been in these relationships, thanking me for speaking out. Some hate complementarian teaching now because they were never heard.
 
I don’t see how CBMW can move forward from this in a healthy way without cleaning house and publicly apologizing to those it has misled. How can CBMW speak to a culture with “widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity” (from the first rationale in the Danvers Statement) when there is diverse teaching on both first order doctrine and complementary differences within their own council? And why should women be told to learn about biblical womanhood from men who base their teaching on gender and relationship on an unorthodox view of the Trinity? Furthermore, I know there are men in CBMW who do not agree with this teaching. Why are you quiet?  To quote Dr. King: "In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
 
Why do I get emails from a few, privately encouraging me to speak out while they remain publicly silent? Is it complementarian to encourage a woman to take the hits? Is it?
 
Complementarian men should respond to women with a listening ear and a resolve to better teach what headship actually means and what it does not mean. They should be reaching out to abused women, whose husbands and churches hide under the banner of headship and complementarianism, and call out the abuse and false teaching loud and clear. They should be working to help church leaders to recognize abuse and provide godly counsel and resources for those abused. And if they truly believe in complementarity, they above all should want to invest in women with solid teaching, since they know their value to the church.
 
But instead, when women like me plead for change, we are accused of being feminists or egalitarians or ‘thin complementarians.’ We are blacklisted and ignored. We are treated like women who won’t fall in line. Is that the beauty of complementarity?
 
 
 
*Here are some other articles written by women on this issue:
 
 
 
Posted on Monday, June 20, 2016 by Aimee Byrd on Housewife Theologian
I am pleased to share another guest post from Liam Goligher, with a request where maybe we could move forward:
 
Professors Ware and Grudem,
 
Thank you for your quick, gracious and clear responses to my recent posts. I have no desire to cause either of you hurt or harm, and grieve that you have felt I did. If I may, I will for this reason avoid heightening the tension by focusing on my own account of the faith once delivered to the saints and inviting your critique. 
 
Our view of God is the very highest hill on which we must be prepared to die for the gospel. That view is articulated in creedal and confessional Christian churches in terms of the Nicene - Constantinople Creed of 381AD. These creedal deliverances are exegetical conclusions, the church’s way of formally expressing its submission to Scripture. Others have cited spokesmen from the 350”s arguing for some kind of authority/subordination within the Trinity, and there is no doubt that there were subordinationist strains among some of the fathers (and as you know every possible articulation of the Godhead was considered and examined under the microscope of the Word before being rejected). Tertullian spoke of the Father as ‘all being’ and the Son as a ‘tributary,’ but he also distinguished between the incarnation of the Son and the Son’s eternal generation. Novation taught that He ‘always existed in the Father.’ The councils of Nicea 325 and Constantinople 381 affirmed the full deity of the Son and (381) of the Holy Spirit. 
 
It is the ecumenical councils themselves (as secondary standards) that become the test of the orthodox understanding of God. John Calvin as a young man famously pulled away from using Nicene language, but with the maturing of his theological understanding he returned to this most basic mooring and gladly resumed using the language of the classical Christianity.
 
God ad intra
 
We agree that God, as He is in Himself, is a holy mystery. The Westminster Confession says ‘There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of his own immutable and most righteous will, for his own glory’ (2.1). The Baptist Confession of 1689 adds ‘whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself (2.1)… not to be divided in nature and being, but distinguished by several peculiar relative properties and personal relations’ (2:3). God as He is in Himself is a simple being – not made up of bits or parts – He is one God. He is incomprehensible and immense to us as creatures. It is this doctrine of incomprehensibility that has often been raised by correspondents flowing from this debate. Yet we find it everywhere in Scripture, He asks us, “To whom will you compare me?” (Isa.40:18). What God is, in His divine essence, is not at all like what we are. There are limits to our human comprehension, ‘Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!’ (Romans 11:33). It was Eunomius, an Arian, who argued that there is nothing in God that is not perfectly known and comprehended by the human intellect, but this view was rejected by the church. Will we ever comprehend God as He is in Himself (in se)? No, not ultimately, for we are creatures and He is the Creator, and He extends beyond all our categories. Calvin said, His essence is incomprehensible; so that His divinity wholly escapes all human senses.’ This should at least give us pause before we read patriarchy back into the inner being of God (or anything else drawn from the creaturely realm, realizing that at best it is only analogously true of God) for when we do so we are acting as if we think Him to be entirely like ourselves, only bigger perhaps. 
 
Though God cannot be known in His fullness, yet we can know Him by special revelation; we may know Him truly but not fully. The Bible teaches and the church maintains both the unity of the divine substance (what it means to be one God) and the distinction of the persons (what it means to be God in His inter-Trinitarian relations). ‘Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is One’ and yet we are to baptize in ‘the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’ When we meditate on the inner life of the Triune it is incomprehensible to us. Yet we may dwell on the One or on the Three; what God is as one God and what God is as three in mutual relations within the Godhead. We may also dwell on His being as Father, Son, and Spirit. The Father is unbegotten; the Son is begotten and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. The personal names of ‘Father,’ ‘Son,’ and ‘Spirit’ refer to relations of origin rather than relations of authority (we must not read human paternity back into divine paternity; much less human patriarchy back into the eternal God, for He is not altogether like us). The divine ‘name’ is the ‘name of the Father, and the name of the Son, and the name of the Holy Spirit (Matt.28:18). 
 
The fathers were very anxious to affirm that the Son was ‘begotten not made.’ The Father and the Son are ontologically related to one another in that the Father is only the Father in relation to the Son and the Son is only the Son in relation to the Father; the divine persons exist as who they are only in relation to one another. The Father only exists eternally by giving Himself wholly as Father in the begetting of His Son. Read prosopologically, Psalm 2 records a divine conversation before the dawn of time when the Father addresses the Son and says, ‘Today I have begotten you’ (this method of exegesis is favored by Jesus, Peter, Hebrews, and the fathers). Psalm 110 makes the same move. When David begins: “The LORD said to my Lord.” he is reporting a conversation that was past tense to David’s own location in history. In that conversation the first LORD is undoubtedly Yahweh the covenant God of Israel; the most high God. Then the Most High designates a second person ‘my Lord’ (Adonai (MT) a word used to vocalize the unpronounceable covenant name Yahweh). In the LXX both are designated kurios, Lord. The second Lord in the text can be distinguished from the first Lord but is identified with Him. Both are divine but are distinguishable. 
 
Who then is this One whom David calls “My Lord?” Mark 12 leaves no room for doubt. Jesus argues that since David hails the Messiah as Lord, then Messiah is not David’s son but God’s Son – His lineage is more exalted than that of David. In fact, Simon Gathercole of Cambridge University points out that verse 3 speaks of this Savior (David’s Lord) as having been begotten of God before even the morning star was created. The LXX reads, “With you is the sovereign authority on the day of your power in the midst of the bright splendors of the holy ones; from the womb, before the dawn-bearing morning star appeared, I begot you.” This Greek translation, which was favored by Jesus and the early church for its accuracy, says that before the dawn of time itself, the Christ was begotten, not created or made, and that His human birth, ‘from the womb’ would take place in an unusual fashion and that God is here giving a hint of what He was going to do – and all would be fulfilled when Messiah would be born ‘from a womb’ of a virgin. 
 
Jesus’ enemies then knew precisely the point He was making; in fact this was the last straw in a series of claims that had his enemies whispering ‘blasphemy’ – that He, a mere man should claim to be God Most High. “According to the church’s doctrine of the Trinity, it is the personal properties of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, specifically eternal generation and spiration, that explain the distinctions we are able to discern. When these personal properties are denied, the three persons are separated from one another, and tritheism makes its appearance.” (Bavinck II.292). 
 
The homoousion (which you gladly affirm) was a way of further unpacking what it means for the Son to stand in relation to the Father (as begotten) rather than in relation to creation (as a creature). It is impossible to affirm the homoousian without affirming eternal generation. The specific lines in the creed that express eternal generation are “begotten of the Father before all worlds,” “begotten not made,” and also “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God.” More time is spent expressing this specific shape of personal differentiation among equals then expressing same substance. This affirmation of eternal generation steers us carefully between Arius (who said the Son was less than the Father), and Sabellius (who denied distinction of persons). The homoousian stresses eternal relations not eternal roles or functions within the Godhead. The very talk of roles and functions inside God’s one being is anachronistic; it is to read from the economy back into the ontology or into the immanent. 
 
When Jesus speaks in John 5, He says, ‘the Son can do nothing of Himself, but only what He sees the Father doing’ (5:19), when He says this He is referring to mode of action and not being or nature, He acts from the Father. Then, so we don’t imagine that there is thereby inequality, He at once adds: ‘for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.’ And again, He states their equality by saying: ‘For just as the Father raises the dead and grants life, so the Son grants life to those whom He wishes,’ then, so we don’t deny that the Son is begotten, ‘as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself’ (5:23). He adds, ‘the Father Himself judges no one, but He has given all judgment to the Son.’ What the Father has, the Son has; what the Father does, the Son does; the ‘name’ of the Father, is the ‘name’ of the Son and the ‘name’ of the Spirit. 
This led Gregory of Nazanzus to write in Oration 40, that each of the three Persons is fully God Himself:
 
…neither increased nor diminished by superiorities or inferiorities; in every respect equal, in every respect the same; just as beauty and the greatness of the heavens is one; the infinite conjunction of three infinite Ones. Each God when considered in Himself; as the Father so the Son, as the Son so the Holy Ghost; the Three One God when contemplated together; each God because consubstantial’ one God because of the Monarchia.’ 
 
Gregory taught that to subordinate any Person of the Three is to ‘overthrow the Trinity”: ‘For he [Arius] did not honor the Father, by dishonoring His offspring with his unusual degrees of Godhead. But we recognize one glory of the Father, the equality of the Only-begotten; and one glory of the Son, that of the Spirit. And we hold that to subordinate any of the Three is to destroy the whole’ (Oration 43;29). Calvin said that Christ was both ‘of the Father’ and ‘of Himself;’ ‘from the Father’ and ‘from Himself,’ and thereby HE asserts Christ’s self-existence, He has ‘life in Himself’ as does the Father (Calvin, Opera Calvini, VII.322; 323.4; XII.18). . 
 
When we think of God ad intra we think of the Divine simplicity; the eternal generation of the Son and processions of the Holy Spirit; the inseparable operations of the Three; and the one divine will because there is but one God. There is no room for any kind of social Trinitarian model there. We need to bow to the mystery of God ad intra; in Himself He is immortal, invisible, incomprehensible and unapproachable. The will of the Trinity is one will, and the operations of the trinity are inseparable and indivisible. There is no hierarchy; and there are not three centers of consciousness. When we worship God in Himself we are reminded that He and we are different in kind; He is the Creator and Ruler of all things, and we are creatures. If there is to be any understanding of who God is and what He is like, then He must first make something outside of Himself and then relate to us at a creaturely level. This He has deigned to do. 
 
God in the pactum salutis
 
What we call the economy is rooted in the eternal decree, where God freely wills that the Father send the Son to be Mediator and the Redeemer of God’s elect. 
 
Is there any biblical evidence of the pactum salutis or covenant of redemption? In John 13-17 the preoccupation is with the glory of Christ. That theme begins in Jn.12:23-28, ‘The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified... Father, glorify your name. Then a voice came from heaven: I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’ Immediately, we have two quotations from Isaiah (53&6) followed by the comment on both the Isaiah texts, ‘Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.’ The ‘glory’ is a descriptor of Jesus in His divine glory. In Isaiah 6 the prophet sees the Lord God Almighty ‘sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up’ the object of heavenly worship. In Isaiah 52 the Lord announces of His Servant, ‘he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted’ John identifies both these exalted figures with Jesus and His glory. In the first He sits eternally in heavenly splendor; in the second He is to be exalted (in the future) to heavenly splendor. 
 
What has changed between Isaiah 6 and 52/53? The divine Lord has become the humble Servant and has obediently finished His task and will resume His state of exaltation. This leads immediately to the footwashing incident (Jn.13) and its location in Jesus’ knowledge that He had ‘come from God and was returning to God.’ This statement explains the significance of the acted parable: He leaves His place, puts on the servant’s towel and washes His disciples’ in a parable of salvation (“if I wash you not, you have no fellowship with me”), then resumes His garments and returns to His place. Now this movement of glory to glory and God to God is picked up at in John 17. There He speaks to the Father about glory shared (“the glory I had with you before the world existed”), times set (the ’hour has come’), promises made (“the people whom you gave me out of the world”), obligations undertaken (“the work you gave me to do”), and equality stressed (“All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them”). This snippet of a conversation confirms other Scriptures which hint at this eternal pact or covenant. 
 
Does the idea of the pactum militate against God’s one will? Not if we can agree that the one Triune will decreed there would be something external to Himself and that in this external reality (the economy) His will be enacted according to the’ tripersonal manner of subsistence’ (Allen & Swain, Christian Dogmatics, 122) within the Trinity. John Owen expounds this:
 
‘Such is the distinction of the persons in the unity of the divine essence, as that they act in natural and essential acts reciprocally one towards another – namely in understanding, love, and the like; they know and mutually love each other. And as they subsist distinctly, so they also act distinctly in those works that are of external operation…The will of God as to the peculiar actings of the Father in this matter is the will of the Father, and the will of God with regard to the actings of the Son is the will of the Son: not by distinction of sundry wills, but by the distinct application of the same will unto its distinct acts in the persons of the Father and the Son’ (ibid. p121). 
 
God ad extra
 
We must start our contemplation of God by remembering that He is immense, invisible and incomprehensible. We can never know God ad intra in all His fullness; we can only know Him ‘after a creaturely fashion’ through the work of the Mediator. In making the universe ‘out of nothing’ and in peopling it with creatures both angelic and human God then begins the business of revealing Himself to them. Here we move to the economy of redemption. 
 
The move of the Son of God is highlighted in the gospel of John in a variety of ways. In John 1 the emphasis begins with the co-equality, co-eternity and con-substantiality of the Word and God, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This is immediately followed by this enormous move: ‘And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only [begotten] Son from the Father, full of grace and truth… No one has ever seen God; the only [begotten] God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.’ 
 
His incarnation begins His life of active obedience to His Father. ‘But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” (Gal.4:4). John 6:38 reads ‘For I have come down from heaven (He is speaking in the present, that is, in the economy), not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.’ Here Jesus stresses that in the economy of redemption, as the second and last Adam He has brought his human will and placed it under the will of the Father (which in the economy the man Christ Jesus is bound to obey). John frequently uses this language to emphasise the move ‘from God to God’ (Jn.13:1); He left His place (Jn.13) to take on the badge of the servant and wash His disciples’ feet. In Phil.2 He is already equal with God and is God but He empties Himself by taking the form of a servant in order to be obedient to death. In Hebrews 5:8 it says, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered.” 
 
In His human flesh (acting as the second and last Adam, the true and faithful Israel, and the appointed and anointed Messiah) Jesus voluntarily placed Himself under the authority of His Father. The kingdom referred to in 1 Co.15:28 is one He holds, not only as the Son of God, but also as Messiah by virtue of his messianic appointment, obedience, and reward. There is another authority given to Him on account of His obedience. In Rev.5:9 He is given the throne precisely because He purchased people by His blood. There is a kingdom over which Christ reigns as Redeemer on the basis of the work of redemption He did on His people’s behalf. He reigns because of it; and it is this mediatorial kingdom which, one day, when it has achieved its goal; He will surrender to His Father. 
 
In His work as Redeemer and Mediator He is most certainly subordinate to His Father. The Mediator is the Servant of the Lord; He is the Last Adam; and as long as He remains human His subordination is unavoidable. Yet in His exaltation, as Paul affirms in 1Cor.15:27, the only one not subject to Him is God the Father. Hence, in Rev.5:6 we see the Lamb where we expect to see God the Father – Lord of all; revealing and implementing the Divine plan for history. 
 
Professor Donald MacLeod however points to complexity in the future unfolding of God’s purposes. The members of the Trinity seem to vie with each other for the privilege of serving. There is a subtle indicator of the relationship between the Lord and the Lord of Psalm 110, that is, the Lord God and the Lord Messiah: In v1, ‘The LORD says to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand.”’ In v5, the Spirit through the Psalmist says to the Messiah, “The Lord is at your right hand…” This is a unique insight into the inter-relationships within the Godhead as the Father comes to the aid of His Son in the battles with the world, the flesh and the devil. Jesus testified to this in John 16:32, ‘I am not alone, for my Father is with me.’ In Col.1:12 we find the Father actively involved in this kingdom work long before it is handed back to Him, as Paul urges the church to give thanks to the Father who ‘has rescued us form the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves.’ And in Heb.2:5ff the writer interprets Psalm 8 prosopologically as referring to the role assigned to the Son of man: “You made Him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under His feet.” The new creation will be ruled by the Father through the Son in the Spirit. 
 
In my account thus far I have moved from what God is in Himself to what God in to us in Christ by way of the covenant of redemption. I believe that by introducing the covenant of redemption we might find ground on which we might possibly stand together for the gospel. But gospel unity is impossible if we don’t agree about the God of the gospel. Might you be willing to import your speech about God into the pactum rather than place it in God in se? This covenant flows from and fits with God’s character. In other words, it is the first of God’s works; while we really do see God manifest in this (and all His works), this is His work and not Him in ipse.