True Woman 101: Divine Design — book review by Rachel Miller
Miller is concerned that the Kassian and DeMoss have an unorthodox understanding of the Trinity, and their unorthodox understanding affects their notion of biblical manhood and womanhood:
There are serious foundational problems with the teaching in this book. The most serious are discussions of the Trinity. The authors then use their understanding of the Trinity as the foundation for their teaching on biblical manhood and womanhood.
For many centuries the Athanasian Creed has been affirmed by Christians. When talking about the Trinity, the creed says: “in this Trinity none is afore, nor after another; none is greater, or less than another.”
But DeMoss and Kassian — following suit with the ’eminent’ theologian Wayne Grudem no less! — teach a contrary doctrine. They say that in eternity, since before the beginning of time, the Father has authority and the Son is in submission to the Father.
Here are Wayne Grudem’s assertions when he was interviewed at DeMoss’s website Revive Our Hearts:
The idea of headship and submission never began; it has existed eternally in the relationship between the Father and the Son in the Trinity. It exists in the eternal nature of God Himself. …
The Father has an authority that the Son does not have. …
The idea of headship and submission began before creation in the relationship between the Father and Son in the Trinity.
And here is DeMoss, backing up and extending Grudem’s unorthodox assertion, in that same interview:
This [i.e. headship and submission ] is something that is rooted in the very nature of God. It’s rooted in the Trinity, and the relationship that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have with each other.
And in this most basic of all relationships, authority is not based on gifts or ability. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in all attributes and perfections, but authority is just there. Authority belongs to the Father, not because He is wiser or a more skillful leader, but just because He is Father. Authority and submission is the fundamental difference between the persons of the Trinity.
The doctrine which Grudem, Kassian and DeMoss articulate is known as ‘The Eternal Subordination of the Son’. As should be obvious to any high school child, this doctrine is in contradiction to the crystal clarity of the Athanasian creed — “in the Trinity none is afore, nor after another; none is greater, or less than another.” Hence, it is not orthodox Christianity. In my considered opinion, the fact that Grudem (and other big names at CBMW) teach this doctrine and so few conservative evangelical Christians clamourously object to it shows how atrociously off track the ‘c’hurch has become.
Rachel Miller rightly points out that orthodox Christianity articulates a difference between the ontological Trinity and the economic Trinity:
When Reformed theologians speak about the Son’s submission to the Father in the work of redemption, they are generally speaking of the economic Trinity, i.e. the way the persons of the Trinity work together in the acts of creation, redemption, etc. This is distinct from the ontological Trinity which concerns the very nature of God. The problem with Grudem’s formulation here and its subsequent use in the True Woman 101 book is that by saying God the Father has supreme authority “just because He is Father,” he is making an ontological statement about the very nature of God.
… the book teaches that there is an inherent inequality in the nature of the Godhead. This is troubling. And it appears to be the result of a desire to ground the complementarian understanding of the relationship between husband and wife in a “deeper truth.”
We completely agree. I (Barb) have been watching this sickening saga for years — the spread of the doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son — and I affirm Rachel’s perception. It appears to me that the doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son has been concocted through the back door, so to speak.
Here is what I think has happened. Grudem and others at CBMW have been so obsessed with their notions of biblical manhood and womanhood that they have made it an idol. They do not see they have fallen into idolatry, and they would resist the idea if you put it to them. They have justified their obsession by imagining their version of ‘biblical manhood and womanhood’ teaching is a cure-all to the ills of our morally decaying society. And in their passion they have sought to make their gender-roles teaching unassailable by cable-tying it to doctrine of the Trinity in eternity. It then becomes a circular argument: if you want to object to their hard-line legalistic take on manhood and womanhood or any of its paraphenomena like the Permanence View of Marriage, they can cut you off at the knees with their doctrine of eternal subordination of the Son. They simply accuse you of not holding to the doctrine of the Trinity, and they’ve stymied you. — Unless you are educated in theological nuances to understand the difference between the Father and Son’s relationship in Eternity, versus the Father and Son’s relationship in creation, incarnation, redemption, ascension, the second coming, and the Judgement, you will be easily bamboozled by Grudem and his followers, DeMoss and Kassian et al.
Rachel Miller is further concerned that DeMoss and Kassian apply this peculiar teaching not just to the relationship between husband and wife, but to all relationships between men and women; and they claim that anyone who disagrees with them is influenced by feminism. (What a handy thought stopper the F word is!) Miller writes:
Probably the next most troubling thing is that the authors use the relationship between husband and wife as the model for all male/female interactions. And while they recognize that some Christians may disagree with them about what they teach, they consider any disagreement to be the result of the feminist movement’s influence on society.
Additionally, Miller exposes the false dichotomy that Kassian and DeMoss create when they claim that feminism in all forms is rebellion against God’s design for women and fail to acknowledge the part that patriarchy (the assumption of male privilege based not on merit but on simply being male) contributes to the distorted view and abuse of women.
Miller is also concerned about Kassian and DeMoss’s lack of biblical application of grace or gospel and the legalistic tenor of their teaching.
My final concern about the True Woman 101 book has to do with the practical applications. This has three basic parts: divorce, abuse, and a lack of grace/gospel. These are the ways in which the book’s teachings will impact and hurt women, families, and churches.
First, the True Woman manifesto, which all book study participants are encouraged to read and sign, teaches a permanence view of marriage. That means that divorce is not allowed in any way for any reason. The view would say there are no biblical grounds for divorce, not adultery, abandonment, or abuse. This teaching is dangerous. It’s contrary to the Bible, and it’s contrary to the teachings of my denomination.
Second, because of their belief in the permanence of marriage, their teachings on the nature of women to submit, and their dismissive attitude to the dangers of patriarchy and men who misuse their authority, the book creates a perfect environment for abuse to flourish. Instead of recognizing that men can and do abuse women even in the church, Kassian and DeMoss make a point of sin-leveling which makes abuse just another of the many sins in a relationship and we’re all sinners. …
The authors would do well to get to know the very real women and children who have been hurt and abused by men who have taken teachings like True Woman 101 and used them as support for their abuse.
When men are told they hold the authority and reflect the authority of God the Father in their relationships with women, there are bound to be men who see this as just the affirmation they need to treat their wives and children in abusive ways. Combine that with women being told they must be soft and amenable and deferential to all men and that divorce is never an option, and you have women who are conditioned not to speak up and not to get help. …
The whole of True Woman 101 is filled with commands, musts, shoulds, and questions designed to show women how far they are from the “biblical womanhood” ideal. The weight of the failure of marriages and society itself is placed on women acting in rebellion to the picture of femininity that Kassian and DeMoss hold up as the standard. And once a woman is feeling terrible over how far she has missed the mark, the solution the book gives is not to turn to Christ but to work harder.
Rachel Miller has done an excellent job of exposing some of True Woman 101‘s false teachings; we want to help spread the review as DeMoss and Kassian have a large following and many women — especially women in abusive relationships — have been subjected to these authors’ bad doctrines. We invite you to visit Rachel’s blog and read the review. And we encourage you to leave comments at her post, as we want to support her efforts.