Saturday, June 18, 2016

Over at Triablogue, Steve raises the problem of how eternal subordination/eternal generation of the Son ends up being superfluous to the complementarian position if complementarianism isn't supportable at the level of biological/social reality

I'd like to comment on a subset of complementarians who ground their position in the eternal subordination of the Son, which, in turn, is grounded in eternal generation. For discussion purposes, let's stipulate eternal generation.

i) The direct way to underwrite complementarianism is to say that while men and women are alike in many ways, and can do the same things in areas where they are alike, men and women are naturally dissimilar in certain significant ways, and social structures ought to reflect and respect those differences. Men and women have certain physical and psychological differences which, at least in part, undergird complementarianism

Another way to potentially put this, perhaps, is to suggest that if complementarianism can't be established on the basis of some form of "natural law" or observation about nature then  ...
ii) The question, then, is whether these natural differences are sufficient or insufficient to justify complementarianism. If sufficient, then the eternal subordination of the Son is superfluous to complementarianism. The natural differences between men and women are adequate to warrant different treatment. Treat like things alike, and unlike things unalike. That's a stand-alone justification for the position. It requires nothing else.

iii) But suppose the natural differences are deemed to be insufficient. In that event, appeal to the eternal subordination of the Son functions as a makeweight. If, however, the natural differences are insufficient to justify complementarianism, then it's hard to see how invoking the eternal subordination of the Son will shore up that deficiency. [emphasis added] ...
I'm translating a bit here, so to speak, but the proposal is that if complementarianism can't be defended at the "lower level" of anthropology then trying to raise the bar or defend it at the higher level of intra-Trinitarian dynamics won't get the job done, either, especially since by definition we Christians have to grant that the being and nature of God is frequently incommensurate to what we can say about ourselves as humans.
Something else Steve has mentioned that's worth quoting is the observation that while a consensus report has had it that this has been an intra-Calvinist debate ... :
ii) Some commentators have framed the issue as an intra-Calvinist debate. But that's questionable. For instance, Bruce Ware is an Amyraldian Molinist who denies divine impassibility. Likewise, I don't know if all the various contributors to One God in Three Persons: Unity of Essence, Distinction of Persons, Implications for Life are Calvinists. By the same token, I don't know if Denny Burke is a Calvinist. 

iii) In addition, I suspect many or most contemporary NT scholars reject eternal generation (and eternal procession) because they reject the traditional interpretation of the standard prooftexts for eternal generation (and eternal procession). If so, Calvinism is not the differential factor. 
In other words, let's not be too quick to assume this has been an intra-Calvinist debate since Amyraldian Molinism isn't exactly traditionally Reformed.  Now it does seem like it might be slightly safer to say that there's been some differences between Baptists and Presybterians in some settings, perhaps, but this is still a sweeping generalization, too. 
The trouble is that sweeping generaliations are kind of what humans make on the internet. It's hard to shake it even if you're trying not to and many people aren't trying not to.

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