Friday, December 07, 2007

Head as Source or Authority?

I want to pick up here the thread I started on November 29, 2007. I was discussing Chapter 22 "Man as Male and Female" of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology. In November I discussed points of agreement, parts A and B of the chapter. Here I will concentrate on part C, which presents only the "complementarian" point of view.

It should be noted that throughout Systematic Theology, the main text generally presents both points of view on issues where evangelicals disagree; then Grudem makes a case for the point of view he sees as preferable. On issues regarding men and women, Grudem breaks from this pattern, in this chapter and others, and gives only the complementarian view. If the egalitarian point of view is mentioned, it is mentioned briefly in the footnotes. This is consistent with Grudem's position as a well known complementarian, but does detract from the balance of the textbook.

2.C.1 Male headship and the Trinity

I affirm male headship. Paul mentions it is Colossians, Ephesians, and in Corinthians. However, I think it is important to make sure that we interpret Scripture in light of other Scripture. This is especially true in the Epistles, which were written in another language to specific people or churches for specific reasons in a culture removed from ours by many miles and years. Grudem mentions 1 Corinthians 11:3: "But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." What does "head" mean here? The Greek word in question is "kephale," which is literally the part of the human anatomy above the shoulders. Here it is a metaphor, but of what? Does it mean head as in "head of the corporation," the person in authority? Does it mean head as in "head of a pin," the part on top? Does it mean head as in "head of the stream," the source from which something takes its origin?

First, what is most consistent with the context of this verse? Sadly, that does not clarify the issue in this case. 1 Corinithians 11:3 is part of a section (1 Corithinians 11:1-16) that can be understood several ways. The overall message seems to be that men and women should not dress inappropriately in church. Verses 7-12 suggest that Paul bases his arguement on head coverings on origin or source. But verse 10 appeals to a sign of authority on or over her head "because of the angels." Thus, head could have something to do with authority. Paul may also be using a pun here, speaking of head metaphorically and then literally as a head covering. Who knows? This may be a humorous allusion (perhaps scathing is a better word, given the tone of the letter).

Second, what is consistent with other Scripture and theology. Although complementarians and egalitarians rarely put it this way, this debate is minor compared to central doctrines of the Christian faith. The trinity, the divinity of Christ, salvation. We must not reinterpret the minor in light of the major, but interpret the minor to be consistent with the major. As I discussed in a previous post, Jesus has equal authority with the Father in the trinity; the Son does have his source in (is "begotten" from) the Father. Contrary to Grudem, that is the orthodox teaching of the church from Athanasius to modern times (see Giles 2005). Thus, headship cannot mean authority in this verse without damaging the concept of the trintiy, and by extension the full deity of Christ and our assurance of salvation.

In my next post, I will try to be brief in discussing section C.2.a-i.

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