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CBMW and Debating the Trinity

December 11, 2008

I have just finished a series of posts at Gender Blog for CBMW on the Trinity Debate that took place at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.  For those who are interested, the links are below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

13 Comments leave one →
  1. December 30, 2008 7:03 pm

    “Yet, over creation, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have ultimate and complete authority within each One of them.”

    Would this mean that men and women both have ultimate and complete authority within each one of them?

  2. jbstarke permalink*
    December 30, 2008 8:02 pm

    No, our being made in his image is only analogous (this is a pregnant term) not allegorical. Which I think you are doing, or think I am doing.

  3. December 30, 2008 10:44 pm

    I am trying to figure out what complementarians are doing.

    Surely it is clear that we could just as easily say that woman is of the same nature as man, and this is how “God to Christ and man to woman” is best understood. Woman shares man’s nature just as Christ shares God’s nature.

    It is the choice of complementarians to make a gospel out of male authority.

  4. December 31, 2008 1:12 am

    That is complementarians have arbitrarily decided what the basis of the analogy is. Egalitarians simply see the analogy a little differently and don’t label marriage an authority submission relatioship. I don’t think the garden of eden has historically been thought of as a place where man has perfecgt authority and woman perfect submission, but where they are in a perfectly reciprocal relationship.

    I could be wrong but I don’t think most women dream of perfect submission in the garden.

  5. jbstarke permalink*
    December 31, 2008 6:56 pm

    Well, I think we take a theological understanding of imago dei (which is historical) and align it with biblical texts (which is also historical. The fact that you say it is arbitrarily decided is an arbitrary statement. That is never how anyone has interpreted the imago dei and neither do we. You may not like Ware’s theology, but there are sharp and precise thinkers, contemporary and historical, who have thought critically on how we are analogous to God in image. From Calvin, to John Owen, Bavinck, Van Til, and even Barth. Today men like Carl Trueman and Robert Letham are doing some good thinking on this as well (not to mention Schreiner and Kostenberger). To dismiss all this thinking would be arbitrary.

  6. December 31, 2008 10:14 pm

    It is very difficult for me to pursue the main argument of some of these authors. The difficulty I have with them is that they don’t cite the original languages with exactitude. This makes it difficult for me to assess their main points. Clearly, now that I have established the points at which we differ on a linguistic level, and Kostenberger has himself shifted here also, I should move on to other points – but I haven’t yet.

    But here are some examples.

    1) Kostenberger used to cite Philodemus as evidence that authentein meant “to have authority.” I discovered from reading Linda Belleville in Discovering Biblical Equality that the Philodemus fragment is in no way evidence for anything at all. I posted this fragment on my site. Since then Kostenberger on his own blog has said,

    “in the case of the use of didaskein and authentein in 1 Tim 2:12, in conjunction with oude, it does not appear that these verbs are of such a nature that they transparently and unequivocally convey a positive or negative connotation apart from consultation of the context and syntax of the passage. Also, one ought not to underestimate the possibility that an otherwise positive word is given a negative contextual connotation or vice versa.”

    The facts are that authentein does not occur with a positive connotation until several centuries after the epistle, and then it occurs with both drastically negative and possibly positive connotation. The negative contextual connotation is overwhelming.

    What I have not seen, but I believe is in print somewhere, is an admission from Kostenberger that in his earlier works he depended on Philodemus as evidence, and now we know it is not evidence.

    2) Kostenberger also, on his blog, Biblical Foundations, 06-09-06 wrote,

    “While the senses “source” and “pre-eminent” have been proposed for kephalē, no passage is extant where that sense is favored by the context. In fact, every time one person is referred to as the “head” of another person in both biblical and extrabiblical literature, the person who is the “head” has authority over the other person and kephalē conveys the notion of authority.
    For further study see my forthcoming commentary on the Pastoral Epistles in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol. 12 (Zondervan); God, Marriage & Family; and my various other publications on Gender and Family.”

    However, this is the one single most used citation on the CBMW website for evidence that kephale means ‘authority over.’

    “the whole family of the Ptolemies was exceedingly eminent and conspicuous above all other royal families, and among the Ptolemies, Philadelphus was the most illustrious; for all the rest put together scarcely did as many glorious and praiseworthy actions as this one king did by himself, being, as it were, the leader of the herd, and in a manner the head of all the kings.” Philo: Moses 2:30

    Clearly, Philadelphus was exceedingly eminent, conspicuous and illustrious. However, Philadelphus was not in authority of any kind over the other kings of whom he was the “head.” These kings include the kings in his family line, including his father. This passage is about an internal affair within the kingdom, Philadelphus treatment of the Jews. Philadelphus is more praiseworthy than the other kings.

    In no way, does “head” refer to Philadelphus position as king over Egypt although this has been stated more than one time on the CBMW website.

    I would have to say that every article I read on CBMW has a linguistic oddity of this type. This has somewhat clouded my ability to pursue the more philosophical aspects of the subordination of woman, because I no longer know what it is based on.

    I am trying to point out that citing the names of authors does not bear any influence on me because from what I have read these authors are not what I would call sharp or precise thinkers.

  7. December 31, 2008 10:22 pm

    I would also like to mention that although Barth and Owen may have been precise thinkers, but there major relationship with women may have been with women as inferiors.

    I want you to understand that I do not arbitrarily reject these authors. I examine them and when I find something that is totally unacceptable I move on.

  8. jbstarke permalink*
    December 31, 2008 10:28 pm

    I wrote this back in April of 07
    I think this is in line with how CBMW and others like-minded think on headship and how it is associated with the gospel. I wonder what you would think of it.
    Other than taking some text criticism courses, I have no expertise on quoting ancient texts. So I have no comment on Kostenberger’s use of them. When I talk about these authors, they are precise thinkers when it comes to Trinity, imago dei, ect. I simply putting some under girding to this thinking that you dismiss, seemingly, arbitrarily.

  9. January 1, 2009 6:20 am


    In the post you linked to, you did not claim that “head” means authority over, and you stay close to the text, so, no ,there is nothing to criticize that I can see.

    It is evident that “head” means different things in different contexts. But, one thing you do note, that it must be “head” of something that is organically connected. This is why Grudem changed the mention of head for Philadelphus to “king of Egypt” instead of “head of the kings” and head for David to “head of the people” instead of “head of the Gentiles.” There is no example of the word kephale used for a person being the leader of this own people, so Grudem made altered these examples slightly and Kostenberger cites them.

    But you have not depended on that. You refer instead to the other uses of head in Ephesians. I think they are used differently in each case as you also seem to think.

    What do we know about Eph. 5? Only that the husband is to sacrifice for his wife as Christ does for the church. It does not say that “the husband is head as Christ is of the church, who leads the church and is an authority over her.” The text does not say that.

    We must recognize that Paul used a framework of assymetrical relationships, but that does not mean that authority and submission are good things, it simply means that this is the framework which already existed.

    The male is not more moral than the female, so if the male has the greater right to make decisions, then the moral decision will be missed as often as not. If the male has the right to make decisions based on his anatomy, the moral decision does not need to be debated. I know it must shock you that this is how some people live, but in fact, teaching that the male has the right to make decisions does empower relationships of just this kind.

    To my mind, gender-based authority is at odds with morality-based authority. I cannot see it otherwise. Men make decisions in their own interest all the time, and sometimes to the enormous and everlasting damage of their family. The church should not condone this.

    But Paul is saying that the husband must sacrifice and behave as Christ did in Phil. 2. However, there is this difference. Christ is more moral than the church. Men are not more moral than women. This is crucial. If we seek the good and the righteous, then women must have equal voice and men must reject the notion that they have the right to decide what is the good and the righteous for women.

    Marriage represents Christ and the church in that two entities are different and interact.

    But there are huge differences.

    1. Christ can exist without the church. Men cannot exist without women.

    2. Christ is always moral and right. Men are not.

    3. Christ cannot damage the church. Men can damage women.

    4. Christ knows the future. Men do not.

    The similarities are this

    1. Men were not impeded from earning income and having legal power in that society, and women were.

    2. Men are not physically and financially dependent on someone else during pregnancy and women are.

    3. Men can provide at times for women when women need to be provided for while women are physically engaged in producing offspring for the couple.

    But this difference now pertains purely to the act of childbearing and is not a lifelong condition. Women in the scriptures and now, are often providers and protectors, single mothers and wage earners, those who care for parents and relatives. Women are full adults and at all times need to be thought of and treated as those who are designed to function as full equals with men.

    However, in childbearing women enter into weakness and they then need the sacrifice of the husband to enable them to flourish for the sake of producing and rearing offspring. This does not mean that women are subordinate, but that they are full and equal team partners, with a different but fully equal role in decision-making. The mother has many important and vital insights into the needs of the family and makes good decisions for the family.

    There is no way at any time when a male should make a decision to override his wife, unless he has actually married a woman under 18.

  10. January 1, 2009 9:07 am

    PS unless he has actually married a woman under 18.

    I wouldn’t condone that either.

    In any case, I am not arguing with you or your personal position but with CBMW and the way the woman’s role is presented on that website.

  11. jbstarke permalink*
    January 1, 2009 4:27 pm

    Suzanne, I think you are again reacting against the abuse of this biblical teaching. Headship cannot be seen so different with Christ and the husband that it no longer means authority with the husband. Also, you see authority as something other than loving and sacrificial. The husband has the biblical mandate to have the final authority over his family before God. Loving and sacrificial leadership is an authority that God has granted to the husband. This authority doesn’t include arbitrary decisions, but loving and thoughtful decisions for the best interest of his family, not his. I hope it does not seem that I am arguing for something other than biblical headship that is found in CBMW. There is godliness that is needed in male headship. That is why the local church is so important. Along with godly wives who desire to follow their husbands (not into sin, but in righteousness). No one at CBMW thinks the headship of the husband is saving as it is with Christ. But their similarities that a robust understanding of the imago Dei provides. Anyways, happy New Year!

  12. January 1, 2009 5:13 pm


    I am afraid that for me I see no scripture which gives men a biblical mandate over his family that the wife does not share. There is no verse which puts the father over the mother that I have ever read.

    You have inserted the word “authority” into scriptures which say “love and sacrifice.” What you present is an interpretation that makes sense within the worldview that women are under authority. You do not prove that this worldview is godly. It is simply a worldview and a very human one at that.

    I have a worldview that authority can be good or evil and that women have equal access to making authoritative decisions for their own life and for that of their children because women are full adults and full children of God. This is my worldview.

    Since authority is so vulnerable to abuse, it is not a good, in and of itself. And there is nothing that makes male authority better than any other kind. Authority is a kind of power, and to give one person more power on the basis of physical attributes disrespects the moral centre of a godly life.

    You reiterate CBMW’s position but you have not demonstrated how it is good or godly. For the person who experiences authority as raw power, or violence, nothing about male authority is good. It is not mandated and it is not good. It can be used for good as any authority can be.

    If I were to present Christianity to those who are not Christians, and I had to pick only one point as a human ethic to present, I would not want to present the concept of female subordination and male power, but I would want to present a notion of mutual respect and treating others as one wants to be treated oneself. I would want to be able to present a form of Christianity that others can see is consistent with both the teaching and life of Christ. I do not think that the world would see the subordination of women as a worthy representation of the death and sacrifice of Christ.

    I was deeply touched by Susan Hunt’s writing and I see that it advocates the leadership of women and the listening and learning role of men who are the formal leaders. I would like to see this given greater attention. Women need other women to be their protectors and defenders. Hunt is very clear on this, that women are the defenders and protectors of women.

    Hunt’s writing actually speaks to abused women. No one else in CBMW does that. Since women of this kind are a significant portion of the population, I would think that Christianity should be made relevant to them.

    I think it must be accepted that women who are the victims of rape and violence really are not interested in male authority and may never be so interested. It just does not relate to them any more. It will never appeal to them and why should it. Why can’t they become Christians without bowing to a male? They have already done that.


  1. How We Know the Trinity and How the Trinity Knows Himself « John Ploughman

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