The Grand Design: A Review

Continuing some research I’ve been doing, I recently read a new book, The Grand Design: Male and Female He Made Them, by Owen Strachan and Gavin Peacock. I didn’t read the book intending to review it. However, given the recent debate over the Trinity, I decided it was a good example of why this debate is so important. All of our beliefs and doctrines are interconnected, and necessarily so. What we believe about the Trinity will influence other aspects of our theology, and that is clearly illustrated in this book.

The book blurb on Amazon describes The Grand Design:

The world has gone gray-fuzzy, blurry, gender-neutral gray. In a secularist culture, many people today are confused about what it means to be a man or a woman. Even the church struggles to understand the meaning of manhood and womanhood. In The Grand Design, Owen Strachan and Gavin Peacock clear away the confusion and open up the Scriptures. They show that the gospel frees us to behold the unity and distinctiveness of the sexes. In Christ, we have a script for our lives. Doxology, we discover, is in the details.

The authors are Owen Strachan and Gavin Peacock. Owen Strachan is Associate Professor of Christian Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, President of the Center for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), and son-in-law to Bruce Ware. Gavin Peacock is a former professional soccer player, Pastor of Calgary Grace Church and Director of International Outreach for CBMW.

This last month there has been an important debate going on over the Trinity and specifically over the nature and roles of the persons of the Trinity. On one side of the debate there are those who hold to the Eternal Subordination of the Son (ESS), also called Eternal Functional Subordination (EFS) or Eternal Relationship of Authority and Submission (ERAS). These would include Bruce Ware, Wayne Grudem, Owen Strachan, Gavin Peacock, and others.

On the other side of the debate are those who hold to the formulations found in the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. These would include Carl Trueman, Aimee Byrd, Todd Pruitt, Liam Goligher, and many others. There have been many articles written the last two weeks. There is a helpful list at Bring the Books if you would like to read up on the topic.  I’ve written before about ESS and why I think it’s wrong: here and here.

At the heart of the debate is whether it’s correct and appropriate to speak of the relationship between God the Father and God the Son as one of eternal authority and submission. While orthodox theologians have traditionally taught that there is equality in the nature of the persons of the Godhead, they have also taught that there is a voluntary submission of the Son to the Father in the Son’s role as Mediator. This is the distinction between the ontological (the nature of who God is) and the economic (the roles each person plays in the work of creation, salvation, etc.).

Those who teach ESS/EFS/ERAS believe that authority/submission is an eternal aspect of the very nature of God. This is a departure from the historical, orthodox formulations of the Trinity as explained in the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds and Westminster Confession of Faith.

This is important because what we believe and teach about the Trinity is foundational to our faith and understanding of the gospel. But it is also important because of the applications being made from this foundation. Hannah Anderson and Wendy Alsup explain in their article, “The Eternal Subordination of the Son (and Women),” that authority/submission in the Trinity is being used to ground authority/submission of men and women.

This is where The Grand Design comes in. In The Grand Design, Strachan and Peacock ground their understanding of the complementarity of men and women on a relationship of authority and submission in the nature of the Trinity. The result does damage to the doctrine of the Trinity, distorts the gospel, and damages the understanding of men and women and how they should interact.

In The Grand Design, Strachan and Peacock teach that God the Son is by nature subordinate to God the Father:

The Son does the Father’s will: “I do exactly as the Father commanded Me,” Christ said in John 14:31. He submitted himself to the Father’s will (John 6:38). This posture of submission to fatherly authority did not begin the day Jesus came to earth. The Father is the authority of Christ, and always has been. The Son joyfully carries out the plan of his Father. The persons of the Godhead are not impersonal, with only titles to differentiate them. They are living persons, and their own love has structure and form. The Father as Father has authority; the Son as Son obeys his Father. (71, emphasis mine)

And

The Father is the Father because he sends the Son. The Son is the Son because he submits to the Father’s will. The Spirit is the Spirit because the Father and the Son send him. There is no Holy Trinity without the order of authority and submission. (89, emphasis mine)

This is dangerous because if the Son is by nature subordinate to the Father then He is not equal to Him, and if the Son is not fully divine, we’re all lost.

Having explained the authority/submission structure that they believe is inherent in the Godhead, Strachan and Peacock move on to apply this structure to men and women. The purpose is to be able to say that women are equal in value to men but also subordinate to them.

Just as there is equality of value but difference in authority and role in the Trinity, so it is with husband and wife. (71)

And,

Husbands are called to exercise leadership over their wives patterned after Trinitarian order (God the Father’s authority over the Son): God –> Christ –> Husband –> Wife (1 Cor. 11:3). A husband also exercises this headship due to creation order: the woman was made from the man (1 Cor. 11:8-9), thus giving the man primacy of leadership in the Garden as he names her “woman” and “Eve” (Gen. 2:23; 3:30).( 91)

In both of these quotes, the book mentions husbands/wives, not men/women, but as I’ll demonstrate later, Strachan and Peacock expand these ideas to encompass all men and women. Now to be clear, I believe that husbands are called to sacrificial, servant leadership of their wives and that wives are called to submit to their husbands. I also believe that ordained leadership of churches should be male.

The difference between what I believe and what this book teaches is one of essence versus relationship. It’s one thing to teach that a wife should submit to her husband. It’s another thing to teach that men are by nature leaders, and women are by nature submissive to male leadership. When you teach that women are by nature submissive to men, it has a profound effect on how you view men and women and how you expect men and women to behave.

According to The Grand Design, men were created to be:

Leaders

Men are called to be leaders by very virtue of the fact that they are created male. This is not a competency issue. It is an issue of God’s design. (46)

Providers

Men were made to work and physically provide. A lazy man who is not alert does not deserve to eat (2 Thess. 3:10), and those in his care will suffer. And he who stays home and watches the children while his wife goes out to work is not fulfilling his manly mandate. It doesn’t matter if she has more earning power; it’s about God’s design for manhood. There may be a season where a wife must step in to help, or a man may have disabilities that preclude him from certain labour. For men in general, however, the inclination to provide should be there. The biblical man’s job is physical provision. (50)

Protectors

Biblical manhood protects women, loving them through gracious leadership. Instead of taking from women as unsaved men do, godly men provide for women in appropriate ways, with the apex of this duty coming in marital provision (1 Tim. 5:8). (45)

Women were created to be:

Submissive

As we have seen, however, biblical submission is beautiful. It is a central feature of biblical womanhood. It is vital to understand that a woman’s role as a helper, her reverent attitude and her submissive response are tied together in God’s sovereign purposes from creation (as we’ve seen) but also in redemption. (82)

Respectful

Women are called to a posture of deep respect. (79)

Quiet and Gentle

Wives, for example, know that they are uniquely called to have a “gentle and quiet spirit,” a spirit that takes special expression in a marriage (1 Pet. 3:4). This teaching certainly applies most directly to married women, but we cannot miss the fact that any woman training her daughter in a godly way—knowing that marriage could be in her future—would teach her to develop by the Spirit’s power such a posture. We cannot think that it is only when a woman gets married that she seeks to exhibit such godliness. (146)

Helpers

What specifically was the woman created for? She was a “helper fit for him” (Gen. 2:18, 20). This was the unique role given by God to Eve. Adam was not created as a helper for Eve (Gen. 2:18-22 cf. 1 Cor.11:9-11). As noted in Chapter One, God created male and female equally in his image. He made Adam first but it was not good for him to be alone (Gen. 2:18). He needed someone to help him to complete the commission to be fruitful and multiply and rule over creation (Gen.1: 28). The woman was to help him do this by producing children with him and filling the earth with the presence of God’s image bearers. She was the man’s second in command. So Eve functions as Adam’s helper by virtue of creation. (65)

Life-givers

For their part, women are life-givers. Women give physical life to humanity, a task so great and so significant it cannot be quantified. God has highly esteemed women by making the survival of the human race hang on their care and nurture. There is immense fulfillment and meaning for women in this truth.( 69)

Again, I do not disagree that in the economy of marriage husbands are called to lead, provide, and protect. I also agree that in the economy of marriage wives are called to submit to their husbands’ leadership, to be helpers for their husbands, and to be life-givers, if the Lord sends children. However, I do not believe that it is Biblical to use these marriage roles to define the nature of men and women. If you doubt that this is what Strachan and Peacock are doing, please consider these quotes.

Whether a man is single or married, this biblical vision for manhood stands. (44)

And,

Manhood and womanhood are not limited to the home and church because they are not states you can switch off when you step into in a secular world. (113)

And,

Christian women have a far higher goal than that which our world sets for them: to glorify God as a woman. This involves being a helper—first in the context of marriage, and then as a principle to apply in her broader life. (76)

And,

In the bigger and everlasting family (household) of the church we all relate to each other as brothers and sisters meaning that gender-specific behavior is relevant. When we train men and women in same-sex settings, we help them understand better the very nature of manhood and womanhood. We call men to lead like Christ and we call women to respect and trust like the purified church (Eph. 5:22-33). (111)

The problem with teaching that the roles of husband and wife are actually the nature of men and women is that it stereotypes men and women, and it is contrary to Biblical examples of what men and women should be. The Biblical picture of men and women is much fuller and much harder to reduce to bullet points.

Deborah was a leader. Lois and Eunice lead Timothy to the faith. Ruth provided for Naomi. Believing women are told to provide for the widows in their families (1 Timothy 5). The Hebrew midwives, Jochebed, Miriam, Pharoah’s daughter, and Zipporah all protected Moses.

All believers all called to submit to God, to our church leaders, to civil authority, and to each other. Believers are also called to respect their church leaders and all those to whom respect is owed (1 Thess. 5:12, Romans 13:7). Psalm 131:2 encourages us all to have a calm and quiet soul. The Lord describes himself as “gentle” using the same word as the 1 Peter 3 passage (Matt. 11:29), and gentleness (same root word) is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23). God describes Himself as our helper in many places. Appropriately fathers are also considered life-givers (Prov. 23:22). It does take two to bring life into this world.

Because Strachan and Peacock believe that the authority/submission structure is inherent in the Trinity and in men and women, authority and submission become the lens through which they understand Scripture. This shows up in their understanding of the Fall:

Adam should have protected his wife, rebuked the serpent, and exercised his God-given dominion over a beast that creeps on the ground. He was given this powerful role in Genesis 1. But he does no such thing. He hides instead of leading and protecting his wife. As a result, the beast takes dominion of mankind, and then Eve leads Adam. The order of creation instituted by God is reversed, and the man and woman sin against the Lord, and death enters the world.( 34-35)

And,

He abdicated his responsibility to lead his wife when the serpent usurped the created order by approaching her first and not Adam. The roles reversed. She bit, he was passive, they both fell, creation was fractured, and relational crisis ensued. (43)

It also distorts the application of the Bible to believers. Verses that are clearly for all believers are applied to either men or women depending on how it fits their paradigm. It’s the Procrustean bed of theology: what doesn’t fit, gets chopped.

His words in 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 apply to all believers, to be sure, but they have special significance for men, who are called to lead God’s people, and thus are called to lead in exhibiting the five traits we explore below. (47-48)

And,

Even as he calls all believers to maturity, Paul recognises that there is a specific way that a man should act, with manly bravery. (54)

And,

A reverent woman is not assertive, loud and obnoxious. She is appropriate, meek, modest, and self controlled, bringing honor to God, not attention to herself. (77)

Because they believe the characteristics of authority and submission are part of the very nature of men and women, Strachan and Peacock don’t restrict their understanding of the complementarity of men and women to the church and the home. They believe that there are certain jobs in the workforce that a woman shouldn’t do because she’s a woman.

Christian womanhood should have meaning in the workplace as well as the home and church. This means you express your femininity in all of life in all relationships. So young women should think carefully about what kind of job they might be working towards. Will it demand a masculine, directive aggression that goes against the grain of femininity? A woman’s challenge is to avoid a thin, quasi-womanhood, which doesn’t embrace the fullness of her feminine vocation and presents what Elisabeth Elliot calls a “pseudo-personhood.” … Surely, there are ambiguities on the matter of women in the workplace. I would suggest, though, that there are certain jobs which would at some point stretch biblical femininity to such an extent that they would be untenable for her (or reversely a man). An army sergeant for instance—barking orders and directing men or a female referee in a football match. (74)

They also believe the length of our hair is important:

Women and men should grow their hair different lengths, according to the Apostle Paul. “Long hair,” he teaches, “is a disgrace” for men but the “glory” of a woman (1 Cor. 11:14-15). The man and woman united in marriage must not look the same or blur their roles in marriage. The man was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man (1 Cor. 11:9). (123)

And they give descriptions of what it means to them to be masculine and feminine that have more to do with Western, middle-class cultural constructs than Biblical teaching.

We want our boys to pursue strength, to look adults in the eye when they talk, to shake hands with a firm grip, to welcome physical challenges, to take responsibility in the home, to wear clothes that are not feminine, to play games that are masculine, to jump to their feet when a woman needs assistance and offer it discreetly and courageously, and to appropriately and within reason pursue personal appearance and behavior that is not feminine. We do not want boys to talk to girls like they are are “bros,” to embrace other boys as if they are their wives, to be snarky and passive aggressive in their humor, and to shirk from responsibility and leadership. (138)

And,

We want our girls to pursue femininity, to develop a sense of social grace and decorum, to avoid being catty or enticing in their demeanor, to welcome opportunities to develop domes tic skills, to wear clothes that are not masculine but are modestly feminine, to welcome physical exertion but avoid manly com petition, and to appropriately and within reason pursue personal appearance and behavior that is not masculine. We do not want girls to treat boys like they are “girlfriends,” to look to boys for meaning and self-worth, to be aggressive in their approach, and to shirk from a uniquely feminine manner. (138-139)

Lastly, the view of complementarity taught in The Grand Design distorts the gospel. Strachan and Peacock teach that complementarity, as they define it, is an essential doctrine. “[C]omplementarity cannot be ‘take it or leave it'” (142). They teach that if you understand the gospel, you will agree with them on their version of complementarity. They teach that their understanding of complementarity IS the gospel.

The gospel creates a passion for and understanding of complementarity. You cannot divorce the two; you cannot separate one from the other. If you are to love the gospel, you cannot help but love the Christ-shaped vision of manhood and womanhood that the gospel creates. The two are one. (166)

This is extremely dangerous. While I believe that the Bible clearly teaches that Christ in His role as Mediator voluntarily submitted to the Father, that husbands are to be Spiritual leaders in the home, that wives are to submit to the leadership of their husbands, and that ordained leadership in the Church should be male, I do not believe that complementarity is equal to the gospel.

I believe that the view of complementarianism taught by Strachan and Peacock in The Grand Design is a dangerous distortion of Biblical truth. They start with a faulty and unorthodox understanding of the Trinity. They build on that foundation a narrow and unhelpfully limited view of the nature of men and women. They elevate their understanding of gender roles to the level of a first order doctrine. They distort the gospel.

I’m so very thankful for the light that has been shed on the bad doctrine being taught regarding the Trinity. It is imperative that our teaching on the Trinity be orthodox. I hope that there will be continued scrutiny of how ESS/EFS/ERAS teaching has trickled down through the complementarian movement. Men and women are hurting. Families are hurting. Churches are hurting. It’s time to pay attention to what’s being taught in the name of complementarianism.

33 thoughts on “The Grand Design: A Review

  1. Trent says:

    Mrs. Miller,
    How would you suggest a way forward that is between this patriarchy and egalitarianism? I am like you, a soft complementarian so to speak as I see Grudem, et. al. wanting all roles, especially women, micromanagemed. As one with a few close female friends it is difficult to see them the way these patriarchalists want me to see them.

    • Rachel Miller says:

      Please call me Rachel. I think the first step is affirming orthodox Trinitarian doctrine. From there, we need to consider separating who we are are men and women created in the image of God from the roles we may be called to fill in the home and church. It will require a good deal of patience and study in the Scriptures because I don’t believe there is an easy, bullet point list of characteristics for men and women.

      • Geo Philips (@geophilips) says:

        So would you say then that all male roles in society are interchangeable with female roles outside of the church and home? I have to say the (fundamentally Presbyterian) logic of two kingdoms also does not seem Biblical.

        I am not North American; I am a South Asian raised in the Middle East so I can see how culture plays a large influence in our worldview, including our theological worldview. I find therefore some of Piper et al’s views to be weird but I do not find their need to think about those things weird; as opposed to a stance which says “Yes in church”, “No outside”.

        I think that the whole notion of defining what is acceptable, what is not is ultimately unproductive. Men and women of the faith need to tackle these things for themselves and perhaps with their spiritual leaders without seeking to be too prescriptive. Secondly, we should be free to disagree with other’s opinions. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, we should not seek affirmation for everything we do which is really the biggest issue with our culture; we do not just seek the freedom to do something but also the affirmation from someone else that what we are doing is right, even desirable.

      • Rachel Miller says:

        I don’t think interchangeable is a word I use. I think there may well be careers and jobs that men are more likely to want to do and be better at, on the whole, and the same for women. But I think it’s an issue of gifting, calling, vocation, and interest.

      • Trent says:

        Thank you Barbara and Rachel.
        Now, I am curious as to the whole working outside of the house scenerio. Paul exhorts women to be keepers of the home. What about that and the current state of things in the Western World? Of course the diehard comps would say all women must be homemakers (full time stay at home) and that is what I am seeing.

    • Barbara Roberts says:

      Hello Trent, I know your question was put to Rachel, not to all readers here, but if you will allow me I would like to give my own answer to it, while recognising and respecting Rachel’s answer (bless you Rachel!)

      You asked: “How would you suggest a way forward that is between this patriarchy and egalitarianism? ”

      I believe that we need to stop thinking of it as complementarianism vv egalitarianism, at least for a while, probably a good long while. I think that the comp/egal controversy is deadlocked because most Christians are not wise about evil. Jesus to told us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. This means we must become wise about the tactics and mentality of evildoers, so we can discern them and call them out, while at the same time remaining innocent of committing evil ourselves (harmless as doves).

      I think that the church is WOEFULLY IGNORANT on these matters. And the vast majority of Christians don’t want to go there. If you talk to most Christians about evil — not in the abstract, and not just ‘out there in the world’ — but how evildoers, real people who are evil, pass themselves off as believers in the church and how they exert power and control in the church and the home ….. you very quickly find that people don’t want to listen. They want to maintain the ‘canons of niceness’.

      And they wilfully downplay and ignore all the scriptures that showed how Jesus, the Apostles and the Prophets TORE STRIPS off the hypocritical wicked religious leaders. And they ignore scriptures like 1 Cor. 5:11-1 which tells us to put phoney christians who are walking in heinous sin OUT of the church.

      I co-lead the blog A Cry For Justice. My co-leader, Ps Jeff Crippen, is preaching a sermon series called Wise as Serpents. And we are publishing each sermon, including transcription of much of his spoken words as he preached it, on our blog. I encourage you to check it out. Part 23 of the series, which was published today, is titled “Take the Lord’s Warnings About Evil Seriously.”
      https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2016/06/26/wise-as-serpents-take-the-lords-warnings-about-evil-seriously-part-23-of-sermon-series/

      Now, you may wonder what this has to do with complementarianism and egalitarianism. It has to do with that debate because people on BOTH sides in that debate, especially the major players I would assert, are wilfully ignoring the fact that there are evil-doers in their own camp. And the evildoers have been wresting the terms of the debate and spinning the discussion to push their own (wicked) agendas.

      I believe that Owen Strachan and Gavin Peackock, in this book that Rachel so brilliantly reviews here, are guilty of this. What they are teaching has more in common with the misogynism of Sharia Law than it does with Christianity. It would take only a few small steps from the Strachan/Peacock worldview to put women in burkas and accord them fewer legal rights than men.

      I invite you, Trent, to read my post The Ceiling Came Down, So It’s Time To Inspect The Whole Building. (ERAS Part 2)
      https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2016/06/20/the-ceiling-came-down-so-its-time-to-inspect-the-whole-building-eras-part-2/

      In that post I explain why I think why lack of vigilance, lack of wisdom about evil, and wilful blindness about evil has derailed the complementarian camp.

      I think it is very likely that there are basically two groups in the complementarian camp.
      The first kind is people you, Trent, who are smelling a rat in the ERAS doctrine as propounded by Grudem and Ware. The second kind is people like Bruce Ware, Waye Grudem, Owen Strachan and Gavin Peacock.

      The second kind, the second group, is resisting according full respect to women because they want to maintain male privilege and all the perks that it brings them. They have actually been pushing an agenda of male authority for selfish personal reasons, and it’s ugly. They are often tacitly or actively being witting allies of domestic abusers, child abusers, spiritual abusers. Some, or many, of the people in this camp are actually abusers themselves: wife abusers, child abusers, wolves in sheep’s clothing devouring the sheep.

      And the first kind, the first group, has been blind to the evil in the camp. People like Carl Trueman, Liam Goligher and Todd Pruitt may have been dealing fairly well with individual cases of (say) domestic abuse in their own churches. But they have been blind to the corruption in the conservative church overall. They have been tacitly letting the evildoers and their allies take and maintain a LOT of control in the complementarian camp.

      I believe Strachan, Peacock, Grudem and Ware would like to keep women and wives in the position of children. I believe they are intent on not respecting women as adults. I believe they want to de-voice women, to marginalise them and keep them out of the important conversations.

      I am not motivated by any ecclesiological purpose; I do not partake in the debate for or against women’s ordination or women being elders. I don’t take part in the comp/egal debate, except to teach what Headship and Submission are NOT.

      And now, I’m partaking only to the extent of pointing out what I think has caused the log-jam in the debate, and how the terms of the battle have not yet been fully understood.

      I am motivated by a desire to see bad teaching corrected — so that both this generation and future generations will be saved from some of the erroneous positions of the past. And I am motivated by a desire for justice and truth, and a desire to bring release to the captives and the oppressed.

      Specifically, I desire to see justice and truth applied in the church to victims of abuse — spouse abuse, child abuse, spiritual abuse, psychological abuse. My own work focuses on domestic abuse (spouse abuse) but domestic abuse overlaps with those other kinds of abuse.

      I explain more about this in my post It’s Vital to Talk About Motivation in the Debate about ‘Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission’ (ERAS Part 1)

      And I hope to publish part three of my ERAS series in the next 24 hours.

      sorry for the mega long comment!

  2. hranderson says:

    So… I’ve got a question I’ve been wanting to ask without implying anyway or making a statement. I’m not Trinitarian scholar but I do see the dialogue being corrupted by false categories, and I’m wordering about the category/def of generation. ESS comps emphasize female generation as basis for submission citing “man was made for woman” and I Cor 11 that woman came from man. (Without Paul’s corresponding caveat in the very next verse that men generate from women.) I’ve also heard concern about handling of eternal generation within some ESS frames. So, I’m wondering, if these two are influencing each other? Within comp debate, I’ve never felt the appeal to generation was fully formed. Would appreciate additional thoughts from you and other readers.

      • Hannah Anderson says:

        The point that is bothering me is that female generation in Genesis account argues for sameness–that Eve is taken from Adam ensures that she is same substance as he is. Bone of my bone, etc. As I understand it, this is what generation does within Trinitarian theology as well. Eternal generation ensures sameness of Father and Son. But as ESS comps use it, generation becomes a source of difference and subordination. And by losing a firm grip on eternal generation in context of Trinitarian theology, it opens window for ontological errors.

  3. Stephanie says:

    I wonder if we don’t need to stop trying to extract specific guidelines and as you say, bullet points, for our behavior, identity, etc. Instead, why not concentrate on absorbing Scripture, knowing our Lord, and being in relationship with Him rather than defining ourselves? Personally, I will not align with any of the labels concerning the relationship between husbands and wives and between men and women. It’s my opinion that God says plenty on men, women, and wives and husbands in Scripture. And to what He does not say, I do not need to add anything. The danger is as you say: most of these standards for behavior are cultural, not Scriptural. There is a huge danger in blurring the two–it is just as the Pharisees did– constructing a fence around the law until we will not be able to distinguish culture from what God said anymore. Also I think you made a great point about the absurdity of defining all men and all women within the roles of husbands and wives.

  4. hughbo86 says:

    Hi Rachel,

    Thanks for your review – I too would share concerns about some areas of application.
    However, I do feel you have somewhat unfairly presented the current debate in two particular areas.

    1) You say, “on the other side of the debate are those who hold to the formulations found in the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds.” This is unfair. Both sides of the debate affirm the creeds, and I’ve yet to see a critique of anyone involved which clearly shows where they are not holding to those creeds. It’s a serious charged which is yet to be proved!

    2) You say, “Those who teach ESS/EFS/ERAS believe that authority/submission is an eternal aspect of the very nature of God,” and “Strachan and Peacock teach that God the Son is by nature subordinate to God the Father.”

    Yet, both sides affirm equality in nature – as the creeds do. The ESS side point to authority/submission in the relations between the persons, that is distinct from nature in the technical usage of that word. The quotes you refer to speak of persons not nature/substance/essence – I feel (and I haven’t read the book) but from what you’ve quoted it’s unfair to say they’re talking about nature. You may not accept that distinction, but no one in this debate is saying that there is subordination in God’s nature.

    Thanks,

    Hugh

    • Rachel Miller says:

      Hi Hugh,

      1. Ware openly denies eternal generation and eternal procession. That is outside the creeds. See Ware “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” Pg 162: Footnote section

      “3. The Western church adapted the Nicene Creed to say, in its third article, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father “and the son” (filioque) and not merely that he proceeds from the Father (alone). While I agree fully with this additional language, I believe that this biblical way of speaking, as found in John 15:26, (But when that Comforter shall come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth of the Father, he shall testify of me.), refers to the historical sending of the Spirit at Pentecost and does not refer to any supposed “eternal procession” of the Spirit from the Father and the Son. The conceptions of both the “eternal begetting of the Son” and “eternal procession of the Spirit” seem to me highly speculative and not grounded in biblical teaching. Both the Son as only-begotten and the Spirit as proceeding from the Father (and the Son) refer, in my judgment, to the historical realities of the incarnation and Pentecost respectfully.”

      Also see Carl Trueman’s article http://www.mortificationofspin.org/mos/postcards-from-palookaville/fahrenheit-381#.V2wvzVUrKM8

      2. When they say “The Father as Father has authority; the Son as Son obeys his Father.” and “The Father is the Father because he sends the Son. The Son is the Son because he submits to the Father’s will.” Those are statements about the nature of God. This is also a point that the ESS/EFS/ERAS guys are not denying. They believe in ontological submission. I suggest you read up on the many posts out there.

      • hughbo86 says:

        Thanks for the Ware quote, I’ve not seen that, it certainly bares some consideration.

        I disagree on point 2. For them, submission clearly followers out of the identity of the person and their relationship to the other person, not the nature. As I say, you may not accept that distinction but that’s the distinction they seem to be making. If you can point me to a quote where they *on their own terms* ground submission in nature then I’d love to see it!

  5. hughbo86 says:

    Again this author is seeking to make that distinction…

    “Three persons are equally God” – same nature
    “if a hierarchy exists among the Three Persons of God” – submission relationships between the persons.

    I repeat. You may not accept that distinction, but that is the distinction which is being put forward.

  6. Tiribulus says:

    You said numerous times in here Rachael: “complementarity, as they define it”

    How serious do you find the denial of complementarity to be, as YOU define it?

    Do you feel, for instance, that the communion table should be denied to those who proclaim straight up egalitarianism if the rest of their theology is within historic orthodoxy?

    On the other hand:

    If Ware, Strachan, Grudem _______________ affirmed Nicene trinitarian tradition and had never embraced eternal subordination, would you want them to be denied communion on the basis of their views of gender roles alone?

    I promise you. I regard you as a voice well worth hearing and have said so repeatedly in the past. I simply want to know exactly where you’re at in terms of the gravity of these various positions.

    • Rachel Miller says:

      I do not believe that anyone should be denied communion based on their views of gender roles. I expect the ordained leadership of my denomination to affirm what our denomination teaches regarding male ordination.

      I believe that Nicene Trinitarian doctrine is more essential than gender roles.

      • Tiribulus says:

        Thank you Rachael.

        In my view no egalitarian OR truly misogynistic hyper-partriarchalist would go near the communion table where I had anything to say about. Gender roles are God’s prescription for both church and home and the corruption and perversion of them either way is a full frontal assault on His created order and can only bring the disastrous results we are seeing.

        Also there most certainly ARE basic differences between men and women in general which have nothing to do with authority and everything to do with biblically informed, godly common sense.

        Years ago when I lived in New York, the debate about female firefighters was raging. I heard a presumably pagan woman call in to a pagan radio talk show (Bob Grant) and say that if there were a fire in her high rise apartment building, she wants the biggest strongest men there are to come and carry her and her 4 children out of that fire.

        That has nothing to do with denigrating women and exalting men or political correctness on any level. It has everything to do with simple life observation and the will to survive.

        I don’t care primarily about men and women and what either gender thinks about anything. I care about faithfulness to the mind and will of the LORD our God as set forth in His enscripurated word.

        I have NO problem learning from women. I have NO problem learning theology from women. I can’t count how many times I’ve linked somebody to your piece about everything wrong with NT Wright in one paragraph. Not because you’re a man or a woman, but because its’ the best piece I’ve seen for it’s purpose.

        This does not negate the inescapable fact that male and female ARE foundationally very different by God’s design in ways that have nothing to do with asking directions to the post office for Pete’s sake. They are however fundamental and set in the stone of God’s word.

        I find in today’s church just the opposite of what some on this page find. I see the pressure of modern American feminism bending the church into conformity far more than cultural chauvinism being the problem. There ARE crackpot bible butchering abusers of both scripture and women out there. While wrong in some areas, I don’t see the CBMW as being in their camp.

        I could be wrong, but I’ve been in the Lord since 1984 and have been doing what amounts to full time online ministry for several years. I don’t see these patriarchal oppressors of women any more often than I see people who just don’t like biblical gender roles and define anybody who upholds them as an abuser.

        Both are wrong.

  7. Tiribulus says:

    Forgive me Rachael, I accidentally jacked up my tags. Only this line should be bolded:
    —————————————————-
    “complementarity, as they define it”

    • Dee Parsons (@wartwatch) says:

      On the firefighter issue, let me offer another POV not covered by the pagan woman on a talk show. My daughter was a firefighter for a few years. She was quite small, on the order of 5’4.” Because of he size, she was able to be sent in thru tiny windows as well as to crawl into tight spaces in which the big, brawny guy who is able to carry 5 people would never be able to go.

      Her size complemented the larger size of the males on the squad. There are far more examples that I could provide in which women complement traditional male roles a prison guards, in the military, etc.

  8. roscuro says:

    Thank you for this review. I do not agree with the teaching of EFS; but if, for the sake of argument, it was correct theology, it would not justify the interpretation that these Strachan and Peacock give to the roles of man and woman. There is no logical line to follow from Christ’s submission to the Father to the instruction, for example, that women should act in “a uniquely feminine manner”, whatever that nebulous phrase means.

  9. Spencer Tuttle says:

    Hi, Rachel. Thank you for your research and your efforts to keep us in the loop. I am strongly committed to the authority and inerrancy of scripture, thus, I believe that in the church, as well as in marriage, there are SOME (a few?) role differences between men and women. I’ve also concluded, based on scripture and life experience, that God has created SOME masculine and feminine distinctive. (I know: Duh, right?) But what I’m detecting in the Complementarian Movement is an overreaction to gender-leveling which seems to have swerved into legalism.

    Rather than being content to acknowledge and celebrate our uniquenesses as male and female, and simply apply the very brief instruction of the scripture regarding these matters, some complementarians are multiplying rules to help keep us holy! Or to assist us in our quest to be “all that we can be” (apologies to the US Army), or attain “maximum fulfillment” or have “the ideal(ized!) marriage,” etc. This is known as going beyond the scripture.

    As someone who used to be part of the holiness movement, I understand how rules can be misused in the pursuit of a more godly life. What I’m hearing from the quotes you cited is something like, “If you really want to be a godly woman, you’ll dress a certain way– act a certain way– think a certain way.” The same for being a godly man. The problem is, complementarians truly seem to be going beyond the scripture in what they’re prescribing. It is a dangerous business to play Holy Spirit for people!

    Worse yet, it seems that the complementarian view is being set forth as a test of orthodoxy! The quote you included from page 166 {“The gospel creates a passion for and understanding of complementarity. You cannot divorce the two; you cannot separate one from the other. If you are to love the gospel, you cannot help but love the Christ-shaped vision of manhood and womanhood that the gospel creates. The two are one.”} suggests that loving the gospel REQUIRES a passion for complementarity. So now a “passion” for complementarianism is a proof of salvation? Good grief. This is ghastly.

    Anyway, thanks again for your efforts and very well written post.

    Adios!

    S. Tuttle

    • Tiribulus says:

      In the Chantry article that Pruitt links to HERE, Chantry declares point blank that egalitarians are not Christians. A denial of God’s crystal clear prescriptions for the function and design of gender, in His ancient foundational social unit of family, and in the spiritual and theological leadership of His church bride, IS a denial of gospel orthodoxy.

      I’m trying to understand people who are champions of historical theological orthodoxy, who state plainly that they believe God has restricted the leadership of His church and families to men, but then say that denying this is of secondary importance.

      The doctrines are crucial and sacred, but who is commissioned to guard and proclaim them is not?

      Let me be crystal clear. If the word taught that men were never to so much as utter a syllable in public and that our wives to lead us around on leashes, I would embrace it with joy as the will of our God. I could not possibly care less about protecting any pet view. All I care about is what that bible actually says.

      These areas are not optional and open for good Christians to disagree on. Both egalitarianism and the patriarchal oppression of women are an abomination and sin to be repented of.

      99% of the time when I hear somebody saying “well, I just don’t like these categories and we all need to step back and take a deep breath and get a larger view,” there is the father of lies propagating his scheme of egalitarianism under the post modern guise of groovy tolerance and a mangled version of “liberty.” It is the exact same tactic he uses with homosexuality. Exactly. You can copy and paste the sentences interchangeability.

      Let me please reiterate once again. I long to see more theologically sophisticated women and look forward to seeing faithful female warriors in the coming persecution in this country. Frankly there’s’ many of them I’d rather go into battle with than many of the men. Men and women stand side by side in the war that is not against flesh and blood. That army cannot function however where idolatrous unbiblical pet agendas are crippling the ranks.

      • Rachel Miller says:

        Yes, I know that many would say egalitarians are outside the faith. I’m not willing to go that far. There may be egalitarians who deny the faith, but many are faithful Christians with whom I disagree. I think they are wrong, in the same way that I believe credobaptists, Arminians, and others are wrong. But they do not deny that Jesus Christ is Lord. I won’t go further than Scripture in regards to who is as believer, even if they hold erroneous views.

  10. Tiribulus says:

    Rachael says: “Yes, I know that many would say egalitarians are outside the faith. I’m not willing to go that far. There may be egalitarians who deny the faith, but many are faithful Christians with whom I disagree. I think they are wrong, in the same way that I believe credobaptists, Arminians, and others are wrong. But they do not deny that Jesus Christ is Lord. I won’t go further than Scripture in regards to who is as believer, even if they hold erroneous views. “
    As I said in the comments under Todd’s post. I’m not ready to declare a person outside the faith (yes, we can do that) on that basis alone. It’s a case by case basis I also am not ready to declare a modalist ipso facto on their way to the lake of fire on that view alone if they claim a fully divine Jesus as Lord. Nor a person in gross sin such as reported in 1st Corinthians 5 for that matter.

    I can’t know if they’re of the elect or not. However, like 1st Corinthians 5 and some of the heretics Paul addresses, I can know what their present testimony is and they need to be put out. For their own good and the good of the body. So, while we can’t pass judgement on them, we can and are commanded to judge their current status and act accordingly.

    Two honest observations Rachael from the heart. Truly. Take them for whatever they’re worth. I do think you push the scriptures the other way a bit farther than they go. On the other hand, I also see you get ALLLLLLLL worked up when other areas of doctrine are under attack too. Meaning you’re not a one trick pony. This is not all you’re about and your passion for biblical truth is readily apparent across the board. That gives you large credibility in my eyes. Like I say, whatever that’s worth. Which may be nothing, but it doesn’t cost anything to say it. (or hear it) 🙂

  11. Dorah A. K. says:

    Funny how disputations of theology among believers finally boil down to attitudes of legalism or grace.
    “for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
    (Galatians 3:26-29 ESV)

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