The Dance of Life
The fall of Adam and Eve is one of the stickiest theological wickets we encounter in the Bible. How could both of them, whom God had declared good, do bad? But there is a stickier wicket still, perhaps made so by the fact that it’s not in the Bible. For an event of such cosmic proportions, the Bible is surprisingly silent. How did Lucifer, the angel of light, come to be the Serpent, the father of lies? Some suggest that it was pride that got in his way, that he aspired to the very throne of God, and when he could not have it, he was cast down. Along a similar note, some suggest that it was his pride, but that it was a being lower on the chain that tripped him up. That is, it wasn’t that he wanted to be God, but that he refused to serve man. Some suggest that he balked when God revealed His plan, including the call of the angels to serve man. Man, after all, was made lower than the angels. Why should the greater serve the lesser? It seems it was the devil himself who first determined it’s better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.
If the latter theory is the right one, we know who was the first to confuse ontology and economy, being and doing. But he was by no means the last. There is something in all of us that makes it seem somehow not right for the greater to serve the lesser. That something is pride.
The modern feminist movement, whether secular or “evangelical” suffers from the same sort of pride. The rejection of the plainly biblical affirmation that wives are to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22) is driven by this objection — “how can I be equal to my husband, when I am called to submit to my husband?” Equals do not submit to one another, the reasoning goes, they are equal.
Sadly, too often husbands reason the same way. They also see the plain teaching of Ephesians, and they conclude that since their wives are called to submit to them, that they as husbands are the superior being, that they are imbued with greater dignity and worth. That foolishness also feeds the foolishness of the feminist movement.
Egalitarianism in all its forms flows out of the same notion. We are a culture that is fast losing any sense of manners, indeed, any sense of honor. We seem to believe that showing respect to another is a denial of the equality of men. Worse still, we seem to go out of our way to show disrespect, that we might prove our own equality. Or we go out of our way to push away the respect directed toward us. While I am busy trying to teach my children to address adults as “Sir” and “Ma’am”, too many sirs and ma’ams are teaching them not to, asking my children, “Oh, please don’t call me that. It makes me feel so old.” I suppose if growing older doesn’t bring with it a greater level of respect, that I can understand why so few people want to grow old.
Of course some older folks are foolish. On their merits, respect is the last thing they would deserve. In like manner, some husbands are buffoons. But without exception every older person is an older person, and every husband is a husband. Role relationships do not exist in a way that perfectly mirrors objective qualities. The race doesn’t always go to the swift. Every soldier knows that not every superior officer is actually superior. But every soldier is taught to “salute the uniform.” Honor is due to the office, even when not due to the man in the office.
If we would dispel the destruction of honor in our day, we would do well to start by dispelling the myth that to serve is to be less, and to be served is to be greater. And there is no greater argument against such folly than God. One of the benefits of a careful study of the covenant of redemption is that it makes this very point. God the Father not only does the work of electing a bride for the Son, but He does the job of making the assignments. With respect to the persons of the Trinity, He is in charge. The Son, we confess, proceeds from the Father. The Spirit, we confess, proceeds from the Father and the Son. But we also confess this, “That these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory” (Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 6).
The Son does not proceed from the Father because the Father is smarter than the Son. They, along with the Spirit, know all things. They are all equally omniscient. Neither is it because the Father is stronger than the Son. Each of the members of the Trinity are equally omnipotent. With respect to their ontology, or their being, each member is the equal of the others. But with respect to their work, there is genuine submission. If the feminists are correct in saying that submission means inequality of being, then the Unitarians are also right. There can be no Trinity.
If then, these roles are not determined by ability, by what are they determined? Both the covenant of redemption and the covenant family operate the way they do because such is what manifests the glory of God. For the dance to proceed, one must lead, and others must follow. Anything else may seem more “fair,” but it won’t seem like a dance. And that, more than anything else, was what enraged the devil.