In 1998 Wayne Grudem wrote “An Open Letter to Egalitarians” and in the letter he gave six questions that he said have never been satisfactorily answered.
This is the first in a six part set of posts addressing Mr. Grudem’s questions.
First of all I will reprint the “Open Letter” that is found on Mike Seaver’s Role Calling blog. Right after that comes the refutation of Mr. Grudem’s question #1 by Suzanne McCarthy and after that I pose my own question to Complementarians on the error of their teaching that there is an eternal subordination in the nature of the Trinity.
An Open Letter To Egalitarians
by Wayne Grudem
“Here Are Six Questions That Have Never Been Satisfactorily Answered”
Dear Egalitarian Friends,
We know that many of you within the evangelical world hold your views because you have been convinced that egalitarianism is what the Bible teaches. You tell us that our differences on male and female roles are just differences in interpretation, and that Biblebelieving Christians can honestly and fairly interpret the Bible to support complete equality in most or all roles for men and women in the family and the church. You say that you are sincere in adopting your views not because of modern cultural pressures but because you think that the Bible itself supports your position. In response to this, we want to say that we appreciate your sincerity in these matters and we believe that you are telling us the truth about your motives.
There are, nevertheless, certain questions of fact that come up frequently in your writings. We focus on these specific questions in this letter because they do not involve detailed arguments about interpretation, but involve only matters of factual data. We are simply asking to see the evidence that has convinced you about certain key interpretations of Scripture passages. If you can point out this evidence to us, then we will be able to understand more fully how you have come to your understanding of key passages. But if you cannot point out this evidence, and if no one among you can point out this evidence, then we respectfully ask that you reconsider your interpretations of these passages.
Here Are Our Questions:
1. kephale: Where the Bible says that the husband is the “head’’ (kephale) of the wife as Christ is the “head’’ (kephale) of the church (Eph. 5:23), and that the head of the woman is the man (1 Cor. 11:3), you tell us that “head’’ here means “source’’ and not “person in authority over (someone).’’ In fact, as far as we can tell, your interpretation depends on the claim that kephale means “source without the idea of authority.’’
But we have never been able to find any text in ancient Greek literature that gives support to your interpretation. Wherever one person is said to be the “head’’ of another person (or persons), the person who is called the “head’’ is always the one in authority (such as the general of an army, the Roman emperor, Christ, the heads of the tribes of Israel, David as head of the nations, etc.) Specifically, we cannot find any text where person A is called the “head’’ of person or persons B, and is not in a position of authority over that person or persons. So we find no evidence for your claim that “head’’ can mean “source without authority.’’
Does any such evidence exist? We would be happy to look at any Greek text that you could show us from the 8th century B.C. to the 4th century A.D. (a span of 12 centuries). In all of that literature, our question of fact is this: Will you please show us one example in all of ancient Greek where this word for “head’’ (kephale) is used to say that person A is the “head’’ of person or persons B, and means what you claim, namely, “non-authoritative source’’?
If you can show us one example, we would be happy to consider your interpretation further. But if you cannot, then we suggest that you have no factual basis for your interpretation of these key verses, and we respectfully ask that you stop writing and speaking as if such factual basis existed. We would also respectfully ask that you also reconsider your understanding of these verses.
Answer to Mr. Grudem’s Question #1 from Suzanne McCarthy
Dr. Grudem writes,
Specifically, we cannot find any text where person A is called the “head’’ of person or persons B, and is not in a position of authority over that person or persons.
One occurrence of kephale that Dr. Grudem often cites is,
- The King of Egypt is called “head” of the nation in Philo,
- 2.30, “As the
- is the ruling place in the living body, so Ptolemy became among kings.”
The full citation for this is,
- 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. Moses 2:30
Philadelphus is described as the head of all the kings, because he is the most illustrious. The kings, of whom Philadelphus was the “head,” are the other kings in the family of the Ptolemies. This reference includes Ptolemy 1 Soter, who was the founder of the Ptolemaic dynasty and the father of Philadelphus.
Philadephus was, for two years, a co-regent with his father, but he was not the authority over his father. This passage also refers to the descendants of Philadelphus, who were kings and queens after him. The king of Egypt was not the “head of the nation” as Dr. Grudem cites, nor was he the authority over the kings that he was head of.
We can rightly say that,
- Person A, Philadelphus, was called the “head” of person B, Ptolemy Soter, and Philadelphus was not in a position of authority over his father, Ptolemy Soter.
Now to the corresponding question for Complementarians on this same issue:
Question #1 for Complementarians by Cheryl Schatz
1. If you say that “head” (kephale) means authority of one person over another and that this also means that God is the authority over Christ (1 Cor. 11:3), then can you show us where in the nature of the Trinity that one person of the Trinity takes authority over another person of the Trinity? Where in the Old Testament is the Word of God (outside of the incarnation) ever placed under the authority of the Father? If you can point out this evidence to us, then we will be able to understand more fully how you have come to your understanding. But if you cannot point out this evidence, and if no one among you can point out this evidence, then we respectfully ask that you reconsider your interpretations of these passages.
The fact is that Jesus is both God and man. In order to become man, the Word of God (the second person in the Trinity) humbled himself so that he could become man (Philippians 2:7). Yet in eternity in the nature of the Trinity, the Word of God was never under the authority of the other persons of the Godhead. He was not in an eternally humbled position but voluntarily humbled himself in order to become man.
Our DVD set on the Trinity called “The Trinity Eternity Past to Eternity Future” refutes the false teaching of the Eternal Subordination of the Son. See several short clips from this DVD set on youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JLe-qF2nptA
The correction against the false teaching of the eternal subordination of the Son has not been refuted. We would like to ask that you consider the evidence and either refute the complete Sovereignty of the Son of God or turn from this false teaching.
(More information on the DVD set is found at http://mmoutreach.org/trinity.htm)
Question #2 will be in the next post.