This is the third post in On a way Toward an Ecclesial and Trinitarian Exploration of Sexuality and Gender. If you haven’t read that intro or the first post on the Household in Ephesians 1 this post may not make much sense. Go read those first.
Our exploration into the trinitarian and ecclesial dimensions of gender and sexuality, begins with metaphors, images, and analogies of Households, Fathers, Sons and heirs. In Ephesians Paul begins with the male dominated institution of the household and inheritance in a household.
Already then at the beginning we are on risky ground: we are firmly in the realm of patriarchy. Yet, there are clues that if we take this as affirming patriarchy and male dominance we may not be paying attention to the ways in which Paul’s use of the concept of the male dominated household, hardly is a one to one correspondence, or intended to shore up the male dominated household.
If one reads this such that because only men inherit (or usually only inherited) from the father in a household that what Paul is saying that in the ecclesia only men are true inheritors of God, there’s little to support that view in the text itself. Gender is important here only because it is bound up in the particular economy that Paul uses as an analogy of a divine economy, but the gendered aspect of the household isn’t the salient feature for its analogical use in the first chapter of Ephesians
We are in a difficult place for Father and Son don’t immediately name for us the relationship it names for Paul in Ephesians. Just as “mother and “daughter” don’t show the relationship Paul here in Ephesians at least is invoking. The problem is deepened in that we don’t have a relational economy that fits Paul’s analogical use of the male dominated household of the Roman Empire. There possibly is no translation for what Paul is describing. At least in this opening of Ephesians Paul’s use of ‘Father” and “Son” don’t have equivalents in our culture and economy.
We don’t have in the first chapter of Ephesians troubling of gender, nor something gender queer. But we do have something peculiar.
What we are left with is something other than our notions of fatherhood and being a son, and our sense of being a parent and child, or mother and daughter. Here is something peculiar, Paul isn’t saying that God the Father and God the Son are Father and Son because they are like the Father of a Household and the son of a household. Rather Paul uses an analogy that is suggested by the naming of God he has inherited, Father, Son and Spirit to give us a glimpse into our relationship with God in Jesus Christ and by the Spirit through an analogy that can’t capture what Paul wishes us to experience.
Paul is using the expectations of the Household and inheritance to elucidate the relationship between God the Father and God the Son into which members of the ecclesia are incorporated through the Spirit.
The analogy of the household breaks down as what Paul is seeking to describe bursts the walls of the household and inheritance. Inheritance in this peculiar household doesn’t happen at death of the Father(as in a human household), but through the death of the Son we become heirs with the Son. The inheritance isn’t a possession, but full inclusion in the life of God Father, Son and Holy Trinity.