As I talk to more and more Seventh-day Adventists lately, it has become increasingly apparent how deeply headship theology has infiltrated the church. Many fail to understand questions such as these:
“How can Christ be both God and human?”
“How can He be the same as the Father and yet say ‘your will be done’?”
“How can the Son not be beneath the Father if He is ‘sent’?”
It is for this reason I was prompted to try to answer these concepts and questions. However, before going into an explanation, I think it is critical to first of all acknowledge there is a difference between Christ before He came to Earth, Christ as He was on Earth, and Christ as He will be in heaven. Secondly, it is important to not bring any of the human concepts of hierarchy that we associate with gender, parenting, and children into the discussion.
My wife and I are the parents of three children. WE are BOTH parents, and to them my voice is her voice and her voice is my voice; there is no difference. When she speaks to them all that can be said is “Amen” — which translates to “let it be so” — and when I speak to them well . . . so shall it be done. This is possible because we are of one mind, one purpose, one substance, and one authority — Parenthood. That is our power and our authority.
Now, within that power and authority, there is the freedom for us to express ourselves and give guidance to the children in our own ways that reflect our personality and characters, but none of these differences can remove, nullify, or negate the source of that authority and power, and none of us wields more than the other. For example, I might come and see the children watching TV, and I might want them to go outside and play, which as every parent knows is code for “I need a break!,” but they will say to me, “But Mommy said we can watch this,” to which my response is simply to say, “Ok,” and leave the room. There are two points to draw from this:
1) I do not have the authority to override my wife, nor do I have any inclination or desire to undermine her position, and the reverse of this is also true.
2) Notice how my will has now become my wife’s will, not through any exertion of influence of power, but through choice that my wife knows what she is doing.
This is the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Heaven. All have equal say and authority, with none superseding or undermining the other. Where the Father speaks let the people say Amen. When the Son speaks so shall it be done.
How could the Father have sent Him if they have the same authority?
Well, there is an irony in using parenthood to explain the Trinity when the titles of Father and Son conjure up images of authority and position. I shall do my best to explain it, but it is important to remember that the titles “Father” and “Son” do not exist before Christ comes to Earth.
So imagine, if you will, one morning my wife and I wake up, and one of our children is sick and needs some medicine. We discuss what to do, and she asks me to go to the pharmacy and get the medicine. I have the ability to say no, and at which point, knowing my wife, she will get up, go out, and get it herself. She is that kind of person. However, let’s just say I get up and go to get the medicine. When explaining to our six-year-old what is happening, my wife could very well legitimately say, “Mommy has sent Daddy to get some medicine for you.” And guess what, she has! But has that negated my ability to freely say “no” when we were discussing what to do? Was I forced, pressured, or coerced into going? Was any authority exerted over me in my decision to go to the pharmacy? And just as important, had I said “No,” would my wife have gone and done it herself? This is how the Son was “sent” by the Father; a plan was devised and a course of action set upon where the Father remained where He was, and the Son came to Earth.
So what about Christ on Earth? How is it possible that He could be subject to the Father’s will if He has the same power and authority as the Father?
Well, as a kept man, my wife goes out to work, and I am left at home. When she does so, she entrusts the care of the children to me, and by God’s grace, when she returns, I can safely present to her in one piece (mostly) three children who are fed, watered, and cleaned (mostly). In going out to work, she has not stopped being a parent — that authority still remains hers — but she acquiesces to my knowledge as I am the parent at home with them. I have the final say on the day-to-day running of their lives until she returns home and picks up that responsibility again. This occurs not because she has less authority than I do but because when she is at work, from my position of being at home with them, I have greater knowledge of what is going on at any given time than she does. However, what happens when she comes home? Do I still possess any greater insight than she does? Or now are we once again of the same position and authority?
Similarly, my wife at work is Christ on Earth. She is still fully parent, and yet for lack of a better word, not parenting as she has another role to play. (Although paying bills and putting food on the table is very much parenting, it falls into a grey area called “adulthood.”) Christ on Earth gave up the authority He held in Heaven and left it up to the Father to decide and guide as to what was best, not because He was no longer God but because He had another role to fulfill.
So when Christ says no man knows the hour of His return, how is this possible? Well, where was Christ? What capacity was he operating in? Was He the “parent at home,” or was He “the parent at work”?
A simple parenting analogy would be to say my wife goes to work in the morning, and I decide that after school I am going to take the children to a play area. I pick up my phone, send her a text, “Gonna take the kids playground,” and then hey presto . . . off the children and I go. So now all my wife knows is that we have gone to the play area, and she has no idea what time we are coming back. But you know what she does know? That we ARE coming back. Now if my wife asked me for the information, would I share it with her? Certainly. But my wife trusts me to parent in the best interest of the children and also in line with who we are and what we decided together as parents. As a result, she does not need to micromanage my parenting, especially when she is not there for the minute-by-minute, blow-by-blow aspects of my parenting.
Christ fully trusted the Father when He gave up His authority and came to Earth and, as such, did not need to micromanage every detail regarding His second coming. Instead, He left it to someone who was in a better position to decide the what and when of His second coming while He got on with His role as sacrificial lamb.
Jeremy Storm is a father, student of theology, antagonist, and staunch advocate for equality of both race and gender.
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