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Soft Complimentarianism or No Complimentarianism? Part 2

May 24, 2009

Part 1 discussed Steve Tracy’s misuse of Wayne Grudem’s arguments on headship and authority in marriage in the upcoming book Marriage at the Crossroads.  Tracy  seems to have misrepresented and manipulated Grudem’s words to fit his agenda.

It would be helpful to develop how Tracy explains “headship” as a soft complimentarian.  He sees the authority of Christ over the Church in Colossians 2:19; Ephesians 4:15 and Ephesians 5:23 and the relationship of the Father and Son in the Gospel of John as particularly helpful in understanding a husband’s headship over his wife.  Interestingly, Tracy does not see an emphasis in any passage on Christ’s authority over the church, rather Christ is “the head over all things for the church” (Eph. 1:22).  According to Tracy, the context of these passages highlight “not so much Christ’s authority over the church but over other powers that might threaten the church” (p.63).  He is not dismissing authority all together, but “it is greatly de-emphasized” (p. 64).  Instead, we should see the headship of Christ as a “source of salvation and/or spiritual nourishment”.  Tracy suggests that this way of thinking of headship still denotes some sort of authority.  How does this relate to husbands?  Tracy writes:

They have a measure of authority, but based on the texts we’ve looked at, this authority would be used more toward other individuals or forces that might threaten, than it would be used over wives (64).

An Evaluation  

Tracy’s argument that Christ’s headship emphasizes “source” rather than authority is not a new argument.  It is an tired egalitarian argument that has been answered by authorities so I do not need to add much to them.  Here are two definitive articles on the subject:

(1) The True Meaning of Headship, by David Kotter

  • Part 1
  • Part 2 
  • Part 3 
  • Part 4
  • Alternative View Part 1
  • Alternative View Part 2 

    (2) The Meaning of Kephale (“Head”): An Evaluation of New Evidence, Real and Alleged, by Wayne Grudem.

    Let me parallel two passages that emphasizes Christ’s headship as an authority over all things and the Church:

    1. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1:22) 
    2. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23)

    The same headship that Christ has over other authorities and powers that might threaten the Church, he has over the Church.  This headship is an authoritative lordship.  The authority is certainly different over the Church than it is over the reset of the world, but it certainly does not de-emphasize authority.  In fact, the Church is part of the kingdom of Christ the King.  Kingship cannot get anymore authoritative than that (other than God, which he is well).  It is difficult to differentiate Tracy’s soft complementarianism from evangelical egalitarianism.  Tracy also has some troubling remarks about the relationship of the Father and the Son in relationship to the headship of the husband, which I will pick up on in Part 3.



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