How We Talk About Authority and Submission Matter #AltonSterling: An Interview with Geoff Holsclaw

What keeps you up at night? #AltonSterling’s death kept Geoff Holsclaw up Tuesday night. It made him mad. I imagine he is still mad this morning when he learned of #PhilandoCastle.

Yesterday while drinking coffee I read a piece by Geoff Holsclaw, Subordination and #Altonsterling. After a brief explanation of his intended writing he began,

I’m mad. I’m really mad. I tried to go to bed but I just couldn’t.

I’m mad at my people, the evangelicals. I’m mad at conservative evangelicals who think they are just talking about a doctrine of God when they speak of the Son submitting to the Father. They think they are just (just?) talking about gender differences between women and men and why women should submit to men.

But conservative evangelicals, YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT POWER!

Every time you talk of authority and submission you are talking about power, and you therefore are not just talking about gender but also race, race relationships and racism. When you talk about power in any way you must understand that you are talking within a culture of white power, white privilege, even white supremacy.

I read a Bible where authority is always giving itself away. God hands over creation to his image bearers, giving them authority in all things. And when we screwed it up God does not demand obedience again, but entered as a SLAVE (Phil. 2:7) and became obedience himself (he who was Master would rather become a Slave than forcefully assert his rights as Master, so that all could be free and become children of God). That is the story I read.

It was enough for me to continue reading.

How We Talk About Authority and Submission

We need to make Inigo Montoya the Patron Saint of Conservative Evangelicals. “We keep using those words but I don’t think they mean what we think they mean.” We do not always realize what we are saying when we talk about certain subjects. Holsclaw challenges they way we talk about authority and submission.

I could not help but think of my conversation with Adam Clark or the one with Natalie Burris.

Barbara Holmes words still ring in my ears, “You tell your people.” Geoff’s thoughts would give me another angle to tell my people.

More Than Just An Academic Exercise

Speculations about the relationship between Jesus and the Father appears to be something of a polemical debate, an intramural squabble. When Geoff was putting together another post to suggest the way we talk about the relationship of the Son to the Father has implications he saw a way to get at his anger over the death of #AltonSterling. Incidentally I messaged Geoff this morning to suggest we have reason to remain mad.

As a pastor, Geoff sees the way the language of authority and submission hurts the Church and Christians who participate. As a professor, Geoff helps students think through the implications of their theological formulations, their statements, their words.

These are the issues we discuss spurred by death in hopes of pointing to life.

Keep Up with Geoff and More . . .

Geoffrey Holsclaw teaches at Northern Seminary. He is one of the pastors at Life on the Vine. He co-hosts the Mission and Theology podcast with David Fitch. He is coauthor of the book, Prodigal Christianity: 10 Signposts into the Missional Frontier with David Fitch.

Resources Geoff suggested during out conversation:


Geoff suggested following Scot McKnight and Michael Bird on the ongoing discussion over Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission, or The Eternal Subordination of the Son. Both do a good job of posting recent developments.

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About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.