Complimentarianism, Scripture, and the Trinity: My $0.02

When debating issues of Biblical importance, you can make your argument strong if you can establish your case in terms of (a) Creation, (b) the Fall, (c) the nature and character of God, and (d) provide strong link to the trinitarian relationship among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

(a) is very strong;
(b) is strong;
(c) is very strong;
(d) is checkmate.

When the Pharisees asked Jesus about divorce, Jesus began by framing the issue in terms of Creation. In so doing, He shut down most of the debate in its tracks, leaving the Disciples incredulous. (Remember, Peter would exclaim, “Then it is better for a man not to marry!” )

In the complimentarianism versus egalitarianism debate, the parties involved have sought to establish their cases accordingly.

In Scripture, the case for complimentarianism is very strong, although I am not ready to frame it in terms of the Trinity, as Bruce Ware and Wayne Grudem have done in their attempt at a checkmate.

Here are my thought processes on this….

For one thing, the Trinity is a very big and complicated deal. No human attempt to describe the relationship among Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is adequate, and Trinity is the best we can do. Are the three Members the same? Yes. Are they different? Yes. While the word “trinity” doesn’t appear in Scripture, I accept that the explication gets us as close to the mark as we’re going to get.

At the same time, when I frame cases for particular issues, I generally stick to a case that is easily-ascertained from Scripture.

A prominent example of this is sexuality: I frame it in terms of Creation. That is how Jesus established the debate about marriage and divorce, and Paul also–arguing against sexual immorality–frames the sex act in terms of “one flesh”, which is rooted in Creation.

Now for complimentarianism…

I would stop short of describing complimentarianism in terms of the Trinity. Why? When Paul makes his case for (a) the headship of the husband in the marriage, and (b) the prohibition of women in particular church offices, he does not do this in terms of the Trinity.

In (a) he makes the case of the headship of Christ with respect to the Church, and frames the marriage relationship as a portrait of Christ and the Church. An egalitarian understanding of this would put the Church on the same plane as Christ Himself. That strikes me as akin to Man attempting to do what Lucifer attempted: achieve equality with God.

While it is true that “in Christ there is neither male nor female”, that statement–by Paul himself–doesn’t refer to the marriage relationship but rather the problem among the Galatians of ascribing more (or less) honor to others based on their station in life. There was often significant contention between believers of Jewish background and those of Gentile background. Free persons were often treated better than were slaves. Men received dignities that women did not. It is that sort of bigotry that Paul confronts, and I say that because the totality of the letter to the Galatians reflects that.

When Paul precludes women from teaching or having authority over men, He gives theological reasons that are rooted in Creation and the Fall in 1 Timothy 2: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.”

The problem with attempting to frame the issue in terms of the Trinity is that neither Jesus, nor the Gospel writers, nor the Apostles attempt to do this. And while I would not suggest that the inference isn’t there, the problem with making a case like this based on an inference is that, when you are dealing with the very nature and character of God, you run the risk of muddying an already very difficult matter over which great theologians have struggled for two millennia.

I’m not going to go out and say that Grudem and Ware are wrong, but I’m just wary of the idea of going out on that particular limb. These kinds of issues take decades of deliberation, because the implications can be far-reaching.

I’m for complimentarianism, and the Biblical case for it is very strong, particularly with respect to Creation, the Fall, and the relationship of Christ and -the Church.

But framing it in terms of the Trinity? Even Paul doesn’t do that.

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