Over the last forty years, the debate over gender roles in the home, church, and society has unprecedentedly escalated among Evangelical Christians—including Seventh-day Adventists—due to the introduction of an alien argumentation that grounds the permanent functional subordination of women to men ontologically in the being of God. This argument, which I have termed “neo-subordinationism,” states that women are ontologically equal but functionally subordinate to men because of a prescriptive hierarchical order that exists in the immanent Trinity and is recognizable through the economic Trinity. In this Trinitarian hierarchy the Son and the Holy Spirit are said to be ontologically equal but eternally subordinate in role and authority to the Father with the Holy Spirit also functionally subordinate to the Son. This novel argument has shifted the gender debate from anthropology and ecclesiology to theology proper, a shift that has been called the “turn to the Trinity.” While theology proper should inform all other areas of theological studies, reading perceived differences of gender roles into the immanent Trinity has serious systematic consequences. This paper argues that the unified equality of the Trinity must be preserved by excluding neo-subordinationism from the discussion on gender roles. This is accomplished first by briefly reviewing the history of the gender debate with particular focus on the emergence of modern complementarian and egalitarian perspectives and the entrance of neo-subordinationism into complementarian argumentation among Evangelicals generally and Seventh-day Adventists specifically. Second, four significant problems of neo-subordinationism for Christian theology are discussed: (1) its failure to adequately account for the whole of canonical data, (2) its inherent logical inconsistencies, (3) its inaccurate reporting of church history, and (4) its ramifications for soteriology and the character of God. Finally, the paper concludes with some recommendations for how to proceed in the gender debate without injuring intra-Trinitarian ontology.
Adventist Theological Society
Fall Symposium 2016: The Triune God
Tinkham, Matthew L. Jr., "Neo-Subordinationism: The Alien Argumentation in the Gender Debate" (2016). Faculty Publications. 863.