Sub-Ordination or Ordination of Women?

by Annick M. Brennen

Human experience has taught us that it is perillous to ascribe to humanity, the characteristics of the divine and vice-versa. For example, God's jealousy cannot be compared to human jealousy. We use those terms to illustrate a point, but God's jealousy is not polluted by sin and is of a totally different nature than human's jealousy. And so is His wrath. His wrath is his abiding opposition to evil, but He also knows how to mix in perfect balance justice and love when His wrath is directed toward the sinner. We humans, have yet to learn to exercise justice and mercy because our best efforts at reconciling justice and love are polluted by sin and our imperfect understanding of events and of human nature.

And so, Christ's subordination to the Father is exercised in a relationship that knows no sin, and where equality really means equality. The Trinity will always be a mystery to humans and we shall never comprehend in its fullness what it really means for the Deity to be three persons in one, equal in being, sharing the same power, etc. As humans, we cannot ascribe all of these attributes and characteristics to us without due consideration to our limited understanding and of the results of sin on our psyche.

And so subordination and authority have a total different meaning and application in the divine realm. Human subordination and authority are not the same as divine authority and subordination because they have been polluted by sin and are exercised in a totally different context than that of the Trinity and Deity. We live in a sinful world, whereas the Trinity lives in an atmosphere of light, beauty, love, and perfection, and SINLESNESS. Our very HUMAN definition of the terms and our exercise of them prove that they are coercive in nature.

The dictionary defines authority as: the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues; the right TO CONTROL, COMMAND, OR DETERMINE; power or right delegated or given; person or persons in whom authority is vested, as a governmental agency. Authority, control, influence denote a power or right TO DIRECT THE ACTIONS OR THOUGHTS OF OTHERS; authority is a power or right, usually because of RANK, or OFFICE to issue commands and to punish for violations; to have authority over subordinates; control is either power or influence APPLIED TO THE COMPLETE AND SUCCESSFUL DIRECTION OR MANIPULATION OF PERSONS OR THINGS; ETC.

The dictionary further defines subordinate as: Placed in or belonging to a LOWER ORDER or RANK; of LESS importance; secondary; subject to or under the authority of a SUPERIOR; SUBSERVIENT or INFERIOR; subject; dependent; to place in a lower order or rank.

It seems to me that the aforementioned definitions are negative and are not exercised that way in the Divine realm. Yet, in the human realm that's how we have defined and exercise them because all the fibers of our beings have been polluted by sin. "All of our righteousness is as filthy rags." "There is none that doeth good, no not one." "The thoughts of men are continually evil."

Did God really intend for women to be treated as subservient, inferior, dependent subject? Did God really intend for men to be superior and to manipulate women's thoughts and actions? Can men transcend their human nature and even attempt to exercise authority in exactly the same way as the Divine exercises it?

Again, the answer is no. Even with Divine help, man is totally inadequate to the task for its psyche has been perverted by sin and the dynamics of human relationships are on a different plane or sphere than that of the Divine. There exists a tension in male and female relationship that will not be erased, no not until Jesus comes. This tension does not exist in the relationship of the Godhead.

In the Divine sphere, there is no sexual union. Even though, Paul compares marriage and the sexual union to the relationship of the Godhead, the two are not the same.

In the human sphere, where sin has corrupted male and female relationships, sexual union of a man and woman takes a totally different meaning. In a relationship where one is the superior and the other subservient, there cannot be true sexual and spiritual union. For one is "superior" and the other is the "subordinate." This is a corruption of the sexual union. How can two become truly one in such a relationship--when one is subjugated by and to the other, and when the actions of one are controlled by a superior other? Can women be truly free to express their sexuality in a coercive relationship? Only two persons of equal value, rank, office, mind, etc. can have true spiritual and sexual union. I call the sexual union of a head and a subordinate prostitution because a woman exchanges sexual favor for the protection, leadership, and econonic security a man offers.

That's why sexual union with animals is not permitted. Humans are of a different order and rank than animals. Indeed, the Bible says we have been made "a little lower than the angels," but we are not animals. To place women in a subservient, dependent, subordinate role is to corrupt them and to corrupt men also. For as I said before, human power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts even more. How can sexual union be achieved in such a context of power and control? of superiority and of subordination? of headship and of subordination? God's government is based on love. His love never seeks to coerce, dominate, and control. Indeed, he allowed sin to take its course on earth because HE WOULD NOT VIOLATE our power of choice. HE WOULD LET HUMANS DETERMINE their destiny and reap the consequences of their choices.

The headship theory where males are in authority and females are subordinate (in role, function, etc.) was developed by men to further males' interest. That's why it is so hard to be dismantled. Which man in its right man would want to overthrow something that is totally for his convenience and his favor?

We women, who are more relational in nature, have decided that we no longer want, nor accept this kind of a relationship. I understand it is men's nature to think in term of hiearchy and rank. It is not so with women. Men compare marriage to a business, an army, and war. Women do not. Women see marriage as a friendship/love relationship not comparable the least to a business. The traditional structure of a business is that it is hiearchical and authoritarian in nature. Even though, we promptly agree there are differences among organizations and in the way power is exercised, we all must agree that a coercive organization will be very hierachical (i.e, prisons), those with utilitarian goals (e.g., businesses) will differ slighltly, and those with normative goals (schools, universities, church organizations, etc.) will be less hierarchical. Where does marriage fit in? Marriage is not a coercive organization, is not purely utilitarian in goals, and is more than normative. Marriage is also relational, where two persons become one, yet remain two unique and separate individuals. The structures that exist in a business cannot be transferred to the marriage relationship without due consideration to its relational, affective, and emotional aspects. Mrs. White says the will of the wife is not to be swallowed in that of the husband.

I love to compare marriage to the wheels that Ezekiel saw in his vision: a wheel within a wheel, yet it worked with perfect order and harmony because it was upheld by the Divine. God was in the middle of the wheel sustaining and preserving. The imagery of the wheel is a beautiful one, because a wheel has no sharp point, no vantage point, no position of pre-eminence, no head, no sharp angle, and no breaking point. It is a circle that indicates completeness, wholeness, mutuality, equality, continuity, and a perfect flow of communication. This is my concept of marriage.

Those who are in tune with their times, must have observed that technology, and more particularly technology as it relates to management information systems (MIS), is revolutionizing the very structure and nature of business organizations. In organizations where MIS is implemented, it has been observed that one of its by-products or even goals is "to decentralize power down to lower-level workers to unleash the creative talents of millions of employees." People become more interactive and more creative when MIS is implemented because they have strategic access to information, and hiearchy as it is traditionally known becomes diluted. Indeed, some levels of management are totally replaced by teams of experts who do their projects and are later dissolved.

We are not saying that all the structures have been erased because people in general are resistant to change. However, smart managers realize that the success and the very survival of their enterprises depend on the competitive advantage that MIS offers.

If Management Information Systems can accomplish this, why can't the Holy Spirity in the life of believers break down all gender barriers, distinctions, and hiearchies? Indeed, Christ in His sacerdotal prayer prayed to the Father that we should become ONE. His emphasis was not on the subjugation of people but on UNITY. And so it is in marriage. The emphasis is not on the so-called "divine order of male headship and female subjugation and subordination", but it is on UNITY. Isn't it also what Paul meant when he said that Christ came to "break down the barriers of partition between Jews and Gentiles, between the rich and the poor, and between MALES AND FEMALES?" Why do we insist on putting up barriers when the Holy Spirit wants to break them down? As the imagery of the wheels indicates, there can be perfect unity and harmony (inspite of appearant confusion) without a human authority figure in charge of a relationship. The only authority figure needed is that of the Holy Spirit directing, controlling, and subduing our human passions and tendencies to control and to have the pre-eminence.

Annick Brennen