It may seem odd that theologians, who should know church history, are willing to accept this belief, but there is a perfectly logical reason for the modern acceptance of this belief. You see, because modern hierarchical theologians can no longer claim women are by nature inferior, and because Genesis 3:16 has been returned to its original position as a consequence of sin instead of a commandment of God, they are left with... nothing.
This nothingness has caused quite an alarm, for if the Bible doesn't say women are subordinated to men, why do we? There is no answer, and so, after centuries of perfect equality with the Father, the Son was relegated into a subordinated position, because if there is hierarchy within the Trinity, there has to be hierarchy within humanity.
Of course, none of the theologians purporting this belief can explain how it is possible for the Son 1) to have always been subordinated (1 Cor 11) if he was 2) made subordinated through his incarnation (Phil 2) and 3) will be subordinated once again at the end of all things (1 Cor 15). A three-fold subjection? That beats even the old two-fold subjection of the woman to the man.
But it gets better (or worse).
Philippians 2 is usually paraded as the proof text of the Son's subjection to the Father. But let's look at the reasoning why we should use this text to argue for the subjection of women to men. We are told God the Father is male, God the Son is male (he did, after all, appear as a man), and the Spirit, well, we don't really know, although the Greek word is feminine (which is why the Father must be a male, because the word "father" in Greek is masculine). But if the Son is subject to the Father and both of them are male, shouldn't it mean that all younger men should be subject to older men, or preferably their fathers, since nothing is said about women? Because of this glaring inconsistency, we are quickly rushed over to Ephesians 5 and told women should submit to their husbands because the church submits to Christ and really, all women should submit to all men, because Genesis 2 says the man was created first, and 1 Tim 2 says men have authority over women. Aha!
But what does any of it have to do with the subordination of the Son?
If the Son is subordinated to the Father, why is the Son the one with all the power and glory, having all things subjected under his feet (Heb 2:8)?
Something's not right here.
After a few moments of investigation, we find that the real reason the Son has to be subordinated to the Father is because 1 Corinthians 11 tells us the Father is the head of the Son. If the Father rules over the Son because he is the "head," then Ephesians 5 must mean the man rules over the woman because he is called the head. Case closed.
But what if we re-opened the case and said 1 Corinthians 11 does not say the Father rules over the Son, but rather that the Father is the beginning of the Son, the source? Then Ephesians 5 demands another explanation and hierarchical theologians are left once again with nothing.
Since this verse seems to be at the center stage of the whole controversy, theologians must have had something to say about it - and did they ever! But before we get there, it is worth noting that in the early church, as the inferiority of the woman was incorporated into theology, the subjection of the woman became the model for the heretical subjection of the Son (which is also true of modern theology). Thus we find that in Arian theology, the Son owes thanks to humans, for he was believed to have been made for them.
First, the Son appears rather to have been for us brought to be, than we for Him; for we were not created for Him, but He is made for us; so that He owes thanks to us, not we to Him, as the woman to the man. ‘For the man,’ says Scripture, ‘was not created for the woman, but the woman for the man.’ Therefore, as ‘the man is the image and glory of God, and the woman the glory of the man,’ so we are made God’s image and to His glory; but the Son is our image, and exists for our glory. And we were brought into being that we might be; but God’s Word was made, as you must hold, not that He might be; but as an instrument for our need, so that not we from Him, but He is constituted from our need.
Athanasius, Four Discourses Against the Arians, Discourse II, Ch. XVII, 30.
So what did the early church theologians of the patristic era have to say? They refused to make the Son subject to the Father, although they subjected the woman to the man because of her assumed inferiority. Chrysostom, for example, explicitly refuted the heresy of the Son’s inferiority and subjection, which was modeled after the subjection of the woman.
But the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” Here the heretics rush upon us with a certain declaration of inferiority, which out of these words they contrive against the Son. But they stumble against themselves. For if “the man be the head of the woman,” and the head be of the same substance with the body, and “the head of Christ is God,” the Son is of the same substance with the Father. “Nay,” say they, “it is not His being of another substance which we intend to show from hence, but that He is under subjection.” What then are we to say to this? In the first place, when any thing lowly is said of him conjoined as He is with the Flesh, there is no disparagement of the Godhead in what is said, the Economy admitting the expression. However, tell me how thou intendest to prove this from the passage? “Why, as the man governs the wife, saith he, “so also the Father, Christ.” Therefore also as Christ governs the man, so likewise the Father, the Son. “For the head of every man,” we read, “is Christ.” And who could ever admit this?
(Homilies on First Corinthians, XXVI)
Chrysostom argued that it was impossible for kephale (head) to mean “authority over,” for had Paul meant to speak of rule and subjection he would have used the example of a slave and a master instead of marriage. Neither did Chrysostom agree with those who found a similarity between 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5, for if we were to understand kephale in the same way in both, “extreme absurdity will result.” Therefore he argued that we should reject “these particulars,” and “accept the notion of a perfect union, and the first principle,” and even here recognize that which is “too high for us and suitable to the Godhead, for both the union is surer and the beginning more honorable.”
Unity instead of hierarchy.
Other theologians agreed.
Tertullian rejected the subjection of the Son due to the impossibility of the proposition.
Since therefore he [Marcion] is obliged to acknowledge that the God whom he does not deny is the great Supreme, it is inadmissible that he should predicate of the Supreme Being such a diminution as should subject Him to another Supreme Being, for He cases (to be Supreme), if He becomes subject to any. Besides, it is not the characteristic of God to cease from any attribute of His divinity – say, from His supremacy.
Five Books Against Marcion, Book I, IV.
Basil argued in his comment on John 5:19 that the Son would be lower than the humans he created if he is subject to the Father’s authority.
If freedom of action is better than subjection to control, and a man is free, while the Son of God is subject to control, then the man is better than the Son. This is absurd. And if he who is subject to control cannot create free beings (for he cannot of his own will confer on others what he does not possess himself), then the Saviour, since He made us free, cannot Himself be under the control of any. If the Son could do nothing of Himself, and could only act at the bidding of the Father, He is neither good nor bad. He was not responsible for anything that was done. Consider the absurdity of the position that men should be free agents both of good and evil, while the Son, who is God, should be able to do nothing of His own authority!
Basil, On John V. 19. The Son Can Do Nothing of Himself
Ambrose refuted the concept because he saw the subjection of the Son as something that exists in time, not eternity.
For if He were made subject through His nature, He would always remain in subjection; but since He is said to be made subject in time, that subjection must be part of an assumed office and not of an everlasting weakness: especially as the eternal Power of God cannot change His state for a time, neither can the right of ruling Fall to the Father in time. For if the Son ever will be changed in such wise as to be made subject in His Godhead, then also must God the Father, if ever He shall gain more power, and have the Son in subjection to Himself in His Godhead, be considered now in the meantime inferior according to your explanation.
Three Books on the Holy Spirit, Book V, XIII-XIV
So how should we understand 1 Corinthians 11:3?
Augustine would explain it to us this way:
Begetter, the latter the Begotten; the former not of the Son, the latter of the Father: the former the Beginning of the latter, whence also He is called the Head of Christ, although Christ likewise is the Beginning, but not of the Father; the latter, moreover, the Image of the former, although in no respect dissimilar, and although absolutely and without difference equal.
A Treatise on Faith and the Creed, Ch 9.18.
Also the council of Ariminum and Seleucia (A.D. 359) gave the word "head" the meaning "a beginning" when rejecting the belief that the Father and the Son are identical.
The Creed according to the Council of the East. “If any man says that the Son is incapable of birth and without beginning, saying as though there were two incapable of birth and unborn and without beginning, and makes two Gods: let him be anathema. For the Head, which is the beginning of all things, is the Son; but the Head or beginning of Christ is God: for so to One who is without beginning and is the beginning of all things, we refer the whole world through Christ. To declare the Son to be incapable of birth is the height of impiety. God would no longer be One: for the nature of the one Unborn God demands that we should confess that God is one. Since therefore God is one, there cannot be two incapable of birth: because God is one (although both the Father is God and the Son of God is God) for the very reason that incapability of birth is the only quality that can belong to one Person only. The Son is God for the very reason that He derives His birth from that essence which cannot be born. Therefore our holy faith rejects the idea that the Son is incapable of birth in order to predicate one God incapable of birth and consequently one God, and in order to embrace the Only-begotten nature, begotten from the unborn essence, in the one name of the Unborn God. For the Head of all things is the Son: but the Head of the Son is God. And to one God through this stepping-stone and by this confession all things are referred, since the whole world takes its beginning from Him to whom God Himself is the beginning”
Hilary of Poiters, On the Councils, Or the Faith of the Easterns, XXVI, 59-60
In conclusion, because of their need to find something - anything - to subject the woman to the man from creation, modern hierarchical theologians have resurrected an old heresy that theologians spent centuries refuting. It is kind of fitting really, for it is impossible to defend a lie using the truth.
The truth tells us we are all equal, just as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are equal.