The Eternal Subordination of the Son and Divorce in the Southern Baptist Convention

HT: Scot McKnight

Wade Burleson — I’ve seen very few willing to state the matter so boldly and to point the finger not only at false thinking but also at the condition of marriages in the SBC:

How can the divorce rate in every state in the union be declining while at the same time the Southern Baptist divorce rate is accelerating? Because divorce rates are in the culture at large are declining, if Southern Baptists were “accommodating culture,” then our divorce rate would be also declining.

Pay close attention to this categorical statement in the resolution:

“The acceleration in rates of divorce in Southern Baptist churches has not come through a shift in theological conviction…

I disagree. I propose one of the major reasons for the increasing divorce rate in the Southern Baptist Convention is precisely because of a shift in theological conviction during the 1990′s and early 2000′s.

Many of those who were in positions of leadership during those years promoted a doctrinal error called The Eternal Subordination of the Son.  Few Southern Baptist lay men and women even know what that doctrine is, but when you go to a church led by a Southern Baptist pastor who believes it, the emphasis of the teaching will be on “the authority of the husband” and “the subordination of the woman to her husband.” This pastoral demand that a Christian wife alone (not the husband) is called to be subordinate and submissive is based on the false belief that Jesus the Son is eternally subordinate and submissive to the Father.

The Word of God teaches a mutual submission of husband and wife to Jesus Christ–the creator God who became Man (Emmanuel)–and a mutual submission to each other (see Philippians 2:3, 5-7; and Ephesians 5:2 and 5:21).

When the emphasis in any Christian environment–be it a church, home, or ministry–is on one’s alleged superior authority and demand for another’s unconditional submission, a separation in relationship is imminent.

A desire to exert power, control others, and demand submission is unnatural to God’s design for His creation. …

Here’s the catch. Southern Baptist leaders have made the tragic error of believing that a husband should rule and a wife should be submissive because the Bible demands it. Truth be known, the Bible calls any desire to control and dominate–be it the husband or the wife– “the curse.” The divorce rate increases when Southern Baptists call “the norm” what the Bible calls “the curse.” When the first man (Adam) sought to rule over the first woman (Eve), Adam was manifesting a curse, not meeting a commandment (Genesis 3:16).

Jesus came to reverse the curse. Redemption causes curse-filled people to become grace-filled people. Those who seek to rule over others by exerting authority, when they come to see what Jesus says about life, will turn loose of trying to control other people and will only seek to love and serve, NEVER exerting any alleged authority. Again, Jesus said that “the Gentiles lord over others” and “exert authority,” but “it shall not be this way among you”(Matthew 20:24-26).

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2 thoughts on “The Eternal Subordination of the Son and Divorce in the Southern Baptist Convention”

  1. I think that’s quite a tendentious interpretation of “the curse” and Genesis 3:16. I’m not saying I agree with the view he’s writing against…just not convinced that’s a great or even good reading of Genesis.

    1. I totally get what you are saying Josh – I think the key phrase in his understanding of the genesis passage is “rule over.” That is language that none of the NT passages which imply the husband leading tend to use. I believe he is pointing out the nature of that leadership – the first kind of leadership is a leadership within the context of mutuality, while the other is leadership as “rule.” Not sure though…

      Either way – the trend in evangelicalism to move towards eternal subordination and away from eternal generation is a disturbing trend – with some really important practical implications.

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