The Relational AnalogyIt should be evident we do not approach the Trinity according to eternal relations of authority. However, it should also be evident we believe the ERA theologians have wielded some persuasive arguments for their position. In the final installment of our series on Trinity and Authority, we propose a way forward that may help diverse conservative evangelical theologians unite in their desire to affirm both orthodox Trinitarianism and gender complementarianism. However, we first examine the context and issue a warning about the limits of the relational analogy.
The Context of the Relational Analogy
Bonhoeffer's interpretation is attractive for many reasons, but perhaps mostly because it is grounded in divine grace and intended for divine glory. The analogy begins with God and ends with God, with humanity as the recipient of the grace and the conduit for God's glory. The woman is given to the man as a grace so she might help him "live before God—and we can live before God only in community with our helper" (Creation and Fall, 99).
The Limits of the Relational Analogy
This is why transcendence-oriented theologians refer so often to the concepts of analogy, apophaticism, and eschatological reserve, as well as the doctrines of grace, revelation, and progressive sanctification. We do not have space here to unpack these concepts and doctrines, but to note they demand humility in the theological task. (See Keith Whitfield's forthcoming Trinitarian Theology for more).
An analogy consists of both a conjunction and a disjunction between the object and its comparison. The key is determining where the conjunction ends and the disjunction begins. This is not easy to do, but it is necessary.
The Relations in 1 Corinthians 11:3
This example suggests there are significant exegetical qualifications required before drawing anthropological conclusions from analogies. The relations of authority analogy is helpful and necessary, since it is divinely revealed. But it must be utilized within its appropriate limits.