The classes I have taken in Biblical Counseling and in Systematic Theology have been spiritually and intellectually invigorating, really revolutionary. I have always loved to learn, but there is something incredible about the regenerated mind exposed, by the enabling of the Holy Spirit, to the intricacies and implications of Biblical truth. Having earned, before my regeneration, a Master’s degree in American Studies and a Doctorate in Counseling Psychology, I have eagerly and excitedly scrutinized numerous secular theories and philosophies. But nothing compares with the absolute integrity of God’s Word as it elucidates His plan and design. For me, these discoveries are thrilling, compelling, and so fulfilling. There are no inconsistencies, no gaps or chasms in coverage, and no superficiality; in depth and breadth, all that I learn holds together and is born out always in my experience.
One exquisite aspect of God’s design is what theologians have called “ontological equality with economic subordination.” This term refers to the status of and relationship between the members of the Trinity and, as Scripture reveals, is mirrored in the status of and relationship between husband and wife in marriage. Ontology is ” the branch of metaphysics that studies the nature of existence and being.”1 In being and essence, we see in the Bible that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are equal. The three persons of the Trinity are equal in importance. It is the same in marriage; the husband and the wife are equal in their being, their essence. One is not more important or valuable than the other. Both are made in the image of God.
So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. (Genesis 1:27 NKJV)
Both man and woman thus posses equal dignity and “may reflect and reproduce at our own creaturely level the holy ways of God.”2 Neither man or woman is imbued with more dignity than the other.
Economic subordination refers to the fact that the members of the Trinity have different roles and relate to each other differently. No member is superior or inferior to the other, they just have different functions. It is the same in marriage. The husband and the wife have different roles, different functions that beautifully complement and enhance the other. As with the Trinity, “the complementary nature of the genders is meant to lead to enriching cooperation.” 3
It is a beautiful design that functions best when embraced with faith in, trust of and obedience to our wonderful Creator. Sadly, we live in a world that, as it rejects the One true God, is systematically rejecting these beautiful truths and replacing them with the dismal, dysfunctional and disastrous “wisdom of men.” For a very long time, this divine design of “ontological equality with economic subordination” has been misrepresented, misunderstood, attacked and, of late, destroyed.
I plan to write more about God’s design for men and women, marriage and families because when faithfully embraced, it is a powerful witness for Christ as well as a beautiful, productive and nourishing way to live. But here I just want to point out what I see as a fundamental flaw in the secular thinking about roles of men and women in marriage.
Today, we are all about “equality” but the faulty premise that equality means sameness is foolish. The initial idea that women were unfairly barred from the workplace because they were considered inferior to men seems to me a considerable distortion (which I will go into in a future post). Nevertheless, to propose that the solution is for women to try to be just like men and to ignore the profoundly obvious differences between men and women in nature and physiology, not to mention God-given calling, is just, well, not very enlightened. Our world has not valued the differences and has given one gender more power and value over the other. But a better solution would have been to recognize and reclaim the incredible and equal power and value of married woman as helper-suitable, home-keeper and child-nurturer, rather than further devaluing that vital role by short-changing or abandoning it.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8, 9 NKJV)
God’s thoughts and ways are simply breathtakingly brilliant. Oh, how I praise Him”
2. Wayne Grudem
3. John Piper