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Soft Complimentarianism or No Complimentarianism? Part 3

May 30, 2009

Tracy continues on writing on headship in marriage.  He contends that the foundation of the male’s headship is the Father’s headship over the Son.  While he does not explicitly express this, it seems that Tracy think that the authority/submission relationship of the Father and Son is only during the incarnation.   He argues that the Trinity provides a model for marital headship.  He writes, “We believe this is best done in an incarnational model.  By incarnational we mean that nature of the Father’s relationship with the Son during the earthly life.”  So then, it seems Tracy would argue that the submission of the Son to the Father is only during the incarnation.  Headship in the Trinity, for Tracy is not a “power intensive, top-down hierarchical authority that is assumed and asserted by many Christian writers” (p. 65) –  I think we are to assume that he includes Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware at this point.  

How then are we to understand this model of headship in the Trinity?  Tracy writes, “The Fathers share with the Son and their is amazingly mutual and interconnected” (p. 65).  The Father gives the Son all authority in heaven and earth.  What the Father has (authority) is given to the Son.  After the Son’s obedience to the Father at the cross, the Father exalts him above every name.  So then, after the Father exalts the Son, there is a mutuality of authority.

This is a troubling understanding of the Trinity.  While complementarians affirm that the relationship of the Father and Son is a model of headship for the male, we would affirm that this relationship is eternal and never changes.  Though the Son puts on flesh and becomes man, orthodox Christianity would historically affirm that his Person and divine nature never changes.  Rather, he puts on flesh.  His Person and divine nature remain unchanged.   Also, his authority never changes.  It is not as if the Son relinquishes his authority as God over creation and then regains it after his obedience to the cross.  This smacks of Adoptionism.  Tracy would have to adhere to some sort of divine kenosis or deny the eternality of the Person of the Son (pure Adoptionism).  Complementarians never affirm that the Son has different authority over creation as God the Father.  The Son has all the authority of God over all things created.  Yet, within the Godhead, the Son submits to the authority of the Father (functionally), though they remain equal in essence.  Tracy seems to argue that the Son does not have the same authority over creation as the Father until the Father empowers him.  This in troubling and does not seem to be faithful to Chalcedonian christology.

The idea of faithful Chalcedonian christology does not seems to be a concern for most who deny the submission/authority relationship of the Son.  Most theologians would at least assume a submission of the Son during the incarnation.  Yet, what about eternity?  Those who deny this relationship throughout eternity must hold to a change in substance/essence of the relationship of the Father and Son.  Here are the options you would have to assume:

  • During the incarnation, the Person has mutual authority with the Father, but the human nature submits – a schytzophrenic Christ.
  • During the Incarnation, the Son assumes a divine kenosis during the incarnation, then being re-glorified at his resurrection or ascension.  Or,
  • Pure Adoptionism.  

None of these option remain faithful to Chalcedonian christology.  I don’t know of any theologian who can account for this change of authority at the incarnation while remaining Chalcedonian.  Certainly not Tracy.

These three posts are only looking specifically at Tracy’s idea of headship in his new upcoming book Marriage at the Crossroads, not his entire understanding of Complementarianism.  Yet, looking specifically at his understanding of male headship, I would say he is no Complementarian.

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