She Rejects Role Relationships
of Men and Women
Persis Lorenti has outed herself. Her concern is not just the misreading and misuse of the Biblical texts that teach the submission of woman to man in home and church. No, she rejects the whole concept of role relationships of men and women in home and church. She objects to the teaching of God-ordained distinctions in role relationships between men and women grounded in creation, marred by sin, redeemed but not reversed by Christ. I was not surprised to find her express this view at her own Blog Tried by Fire, but nothing but the word "shock" can describe my reaction to seeing it re-published at the The Aquila Report. (Full disclosure: I may be taking my life in my hands by saying that, because six days a week I work for TAR, searching without regard to my own views but for materials they might want to published.)
She writes of male-female roles as compared to the roles of officers and men in the armed services:
On first hearing though, the concept of roles may sound reasonable. We readily accept that people have different roles such as those found in the military. But you quickly run into a logical problem. A person may have the rank of private, but he/she may be promoted up the chain of command. Likewise an officer may be disciplined and demoted. Thus role is not inherent to the person.
In support of her view she quotes from Kevin Giles' book The Rise and Fall of the Complementarian Doctrine of the Trinity:
A parallel cannot be made with the complementarian-hierarchical view of women. In this case, because a woman is a woman, and for no other reason, she is locked into a permanent subordinate role, no matter what her abilities or training may be. Who she is determines what she can do; her sexual identity determines her role… Once we ask why this is so, we must infer some permanent inability in women. It has to be understood that a woman essentially lacks something given only to men; in some way she herself is a subordinate person. Introducing the sociological term role in this argument for the permanent functional subordination of women does not negate the fact that women because they are women and for no other reason, are subordinated. Against its usual connotations, the word role is recast in essential terms. Cleverly worded phraseology cannot avoid this fact. If a woman’s role is not essential to her nature or being, then it can change. If it cannot change because it is basic to her nature or being as a woman, then it is not just a role she performs… The assertion of equality remains just that – an assertion… Construed in this way there is no way to meaningfully maintain the claim that women are created equal.Who is to blame for the introduction of the term "role relationships" to describe the roles (sorry, I can't think of a better word) of men and women in church and home? Dr. George W. Knight, III, and his book The New Testament Teaching on the Role Relationship of Men and Women.
Here, I must offer and apology/explanation. I have not had my library for several years. In my library I had the book to which Persis refers, Dr. Knight's academic commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, and a book on the New Testament gift of prophecy in which he engages and answers Dr. Wayne Grudem's view.
Dr. Knight is responsible for more than the introduction of the term "roles" to describe how men and women relate in home and church, but for introducing into evangelicalism an heretical doctrine of the Trinity. According to Ms. Lorenti:
In the first chapter of The Rise and Fall of the Complementarian Doctrine of the Trinity, Kevin Giles traces the origin of the Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS) in evangelicalism.1 He cites The New Testament Teaching on the Role Relationship of Men and Women by George Knight III as the source of this error.I believe this is wrong. Knowing God by Dr. J.I. Packer was published before Knight's book. I recall reading a portion of that book and writing in the margin "subordinationism?". I was not long out of seminary and my impression was that what Dr. Packer wrote was contrary to the Christology I had learned in seminary. (Knowing God remains one of the most important books I have ever read, including the chapter on the Son of God in which what I believe the error is taught.) I don't think Dr. Packer was by any means the first evangelical to speak of some kind of subordination in the ontological relationships of the Persons of the Trinity. But Dr. Packer wrote first and his book has been far, far more widely read that Dr. Knight's.
Ms. Lorenti goes on:
ESS (ed. note: Eternal subordination of the Son) creates a double problem. It messes with the ontology of God and the ontology of Man. The doctrine of the Trinity has been divided into Persons with inherent differences in their essence – the Father having authority and the Son being submissive. But in turn, humanity has also been subdivided as well with authority as an essential attribute of men and submission for women.
Giles writes that “Before Dr. Knight wrote, the modern word “role” had never been used to speak of the essential difference between men and women or of the essential difference between the divine three.”3 Knight may have been the first to use that expression for both humanity and the Trinity, but I was pretty sure he was not the first regarding men and women. Guess what I found in Fascinating Womanhood ©1963 by Helen Andelin?...This deserves a few notes:
1. First, let's dispose with this. Ms. Lorenti seems hung up on finding some connection between the Mormon, Helen Adelin's book on womanhood and complementarian teaching on (forgive me) roles of men and women. I was ordained to the ministry in 1972, and, while I have heard and read much about men and women in the home and church, I never heard of the Andelin book before. Let's see if this parallel works: Ms. Lorenti's view of the ontological equality of the Father and the Son (which view I share) derives from the Roman Catholic Church which handed down to us Protestants the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.
2. It seems to me that those engaged in discussions and controversies about the role of women all want to introduce the doctrine of the Trinity in support of their views. Tim Bayly wants to ground the relationship between men and women in "the eternal economic subordination of the Son." ("Eternal economic subordination" seems to me a logically contradictory term. If it's an eternal relationship, how can it not be ontological?) But it appears to me that Ms. Lorenti (and others), who rejects the complementarian view, makes a logical leap to a conclusion that is not warranted: If you believe that the ontology of humanity involves the subordination of women to men in home and church, then you believe in the eternal subordination of the Son. This is a classic example of the non sequitur. I would appeal to both sides to deal with the relevant Scripture passages, but leave the Trinity out of it.
3. I have noted above that I no longer have Dr. Knight's book, but I was able to find an article available on the internet, The Role of Women in the Church. He says this about the relationship between men and women, explicitly denying an intrinsic inequality:
Our survey begins in Genesis 1:27, where the creation account says that God made Adam and Eve, male and female, in His own image. They were created essentially equal: as holy bearers of God’s image before the fall, after it as sinners equally in need of redemption, and, as we read in Galatians 3:28, as spiritually equal receivers of God’s salvation. Peter speaks of this last point plainly, teaching that the wife is an heir of the gracious gift of life with her husband, or a fellow heir of the grace of life (I Peter 5:7). Nothing in the Apostles’ teaching indicates that men are intrinsically superior to women, even in marriage or the life of the church. To the contrary, each must submit to the Lord and each must respond and relate to the other as God has ordained. Because of their essential equality, Paul and Peter call on wives to submit voluntarily to their husbands as the loving heads of their families. Husbands are not called to require their wives to submit to them, but must rather themselves submit to God, and graciously, lovingly, and tenderly lead and guide their wives and families in the love of the Lord (I Peter 3:7; Ephesians 5:23-33). Husbands are to be neither harsh nor bitter (Colossians 3:19).
Why is it that the two towering figures in the New Testament, Peter and Paul, use almost identical words when writing about marriage? Why do they describe the husband’s place as one of leadership or headship? The answer lies in their awareness that in His creation activity, God Himself determined who shall lead in marriage and the church. Paul establishes this principle in three passages.
4. What does Dr. Knight say in this article about the Trinity?
The other major argument that Paul uses in this passage is based upon the relationship between the Father and the Son: “the head of Christ is God.” Consequently, we find Jesus during His earthly ministry repeating words to this effect, “I didn't come to do my own will. I didn't come to speak my own words. I came to do the will of Him who sent me and to say what He gave me to say.” Did that role demean Christ's Sonship? Did it detract from His full deity as the Incarnate One? Was it any cause for shame or reproach? The answer is absolutely no. But God in revealing this relationship between the Father and the Son, has said to us for all times, “I require you to relate as men and women as we also relate as Father and Son. I am not imposing upon either of you, males or females, a demand that we do not manifest in our relationship to one another as Father and Son.” Hence we see that both the order established in creation and the voluntary submission of the Son provide the model for how men and women ought to relate within marriage.Does Dr. Knight believe in the ontological subordination of the Son? I do not know. But nothing he writes in this article requires that we identify him with this view: "The other major argument that Paul uses in this passage is based upon the relationship between the Father and the Son: 'the head of Christ is God.'"Consequently, we find Jesus during His earthly ministry repeating words to this effect, “I didn't come to do my own will. I didn't come to speak my own words. I came to do the will of Him who sent me and to say what He gave me to say.” Did that role demean Christ's Sonship? Did it detract from His full deity as the Incarnate One?" All of that I quote is entirely consistent with the view the orthodox church has of the subordination of Christ - the voluntary economic subordination of the incarnate Son to the the Father in order to accomplish the work of redemption.
St. Paul writes:
Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he “has put everything under his feet.” Now when it says that “everything” has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).He is writing about the Messianic Sonship of Jesus Christ. He reigns now as the victorious, ascended Christ (Messiah). This Messianic reign will continue until everything, save God himself, is brought into submission to him. When all is in submission to him, that will be the end, and he will hand the Messianic kingdom over to God the Father, and he will submit his Messianic Kingship to God, that God (including the eternal Son and eternal Spirit along with the eternal Father) may be all in all. There is an economic submission of the incarnate Son to the Father during his ministry on earth that continues even now as he sits at the right hand of the Father as the conquering Lord to whom all things must be brought into submission. But, when he was an ovum in Mary's womb and now when he is a King on the throne, he is the eternal Son of God, of the same divine nature as the Father, equal in power and glory. When the whole of redemption is accomplished the Messianic Kingship will, as it were, disappear and God shall be all in all.
The present relationship between men and women in the home and the church is based on creational ontology. Men and women really are different, and that extends to their "roles." What will be their ontological relationship in the resurrection? I don't know. But it appears the distinction between the sexes will end (no marriage says our Lord). How will all that work out? I don't know. We'll have see. But it will be very good. And we will all be happy whatever roles God assigns us in the eternal kingdom. Being there as someone who collects the trash will be good enough for me.
For now what we must note with regret is that Persis Lorenti rejects any God-ordained differences regarding authority and submission in the relationship between men and women in home and church.