A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Eternal Subordination of the Son and Biblical Patriarchy — by Rachel Miller ( a reblog)

In this post Rachel shows how Debi Pearl, Jasmine Baucham (daughter of Voddie Baucham), Bill Gothard, R C Sproul Jr, and David Bayly all believe in the Eternal Subordination of the Son. We are reblogging it because we know quite a few of our readers have been harmed by what those folks have taught. You can find Rachel’s original post here.


Continuing the series on ESS/EFS/ERAS in various books and articles, today I want to look at a different set of authors. Each of the authors quoted here has self-identified with the Biblical Patriarchy movement. Unfortunately, this is one of the overlaps between the Biblical Patriarchy movement and mainstream complementarianism.

Debi Pearl, and her husband, Michael, have been popular authors within homeschooling and patriarchal circles for some time. There have been many articles written responding to various aspects of their teaching.

In her book, Created to Be His Help Meet, Debi Pearl makes several troubling statements about the Trinity. She believes that there are three type of men and that this reflects the differences between the persons of the Godhead. According to her, each type of man is made in the Father’s image, the Son’s image, or the Spirit’s image:

I have become aware that there are basically three types of men. The different types are just as marked in one-year-olds as they are in adult men. It seems that God made each male to express one side of his triad nature. No single man completely expresses the well-rounded image of God.(p. 75, Kindle Edition)

A little later in the book, Debi Pearl explains that the pattern of women submitting to men reflects the “heavenly pattern” of the Son’s submission to the Father:

God is focusing our attention on the heavenly pattern. the emphasis is not on women submitting to men, but rather on women showing, here on earth, the heavenly pattern of the Son submitting to the Father. (p. 117, Kindle Edition)

As noted in the article on Eternal Subordination of the Son in books for youth, Jasmine Baucham wrote about ESS in her book for stay-at-home-daughters, Joyfully at Home. She gives Wayne Grudem’s explanation for 1 Cor. 11:3

In one section of his book, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth, Dr. Wayne Grudem gives ten arguments that prove male headship in a marriage before the fall: … The parallel with the Trinity: The equality, differences, and unity between men and women reflect the equality, difference, and unity in the Trinity (1 Corinthians 11:3). (24)

Jasmine Baucham’s father, Voddie Baucham, also wrote defending ESS in his book, What He Must Be: … If He Wants to Marry My Daughter:

One of the things that grieve Kunsman is the insistence by “Complementarians” that the Son is somehow subordinate to the Father in the Trinity. Kunsman says that this heterodox teaching “emerged in the 1970s in response to feminism, but only gained popularity recently through the publication of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology in 1994.” And here I thought the apostle Paul taught this doctrine in 1 Corinthians 11! (p. 88, Kindle Edition)

In Voddie Baucham’s book, Family Shepherds, he wrote that the Bible is clear in teaching headship within the Trinity:

The Bible makes it clear that Christ is equal to the Father in every way (John 1:1; 5:18; 10:33; 2 Cor. 4:4; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:15, 19; 2:9), and yet there is headship even in the Trinity—a point that Paul brings in as he also discusses the headship of husbands in the home (Kindle Locations 1570-1572)

Bill Gothard’s organization, Institute in Basic Life Principles (IBLP), has many online resources to explain their teaching on different topics. One of them addresses “What are God-ordained authority structures“. IBLP’s answer explains the authority structure they see in the Trinity:

The orderliness we find in structures of authority reflects the order of God’s own nature. God is a Trinity: the Father, the Son Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. The Father sent the Son into the world as Savior and Redeemer. (See I John 4:9.) Jesus was obedient to God the Father.

Each member of the Trinity works within the structure of authority and fulfills a specific role, perfectly complementing the others and demonstrating God’s glory. The members are not independent of one another, but God the Father is recognized as the authority Who directs and empowers the Son and Holy Spirit to carry out His will.

R.C. Sproul, Jr., who helped write Vision Forum’s Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy, wrote about the authority of the Father and the subordination of the Son in his book, Bound for Glory. According to Sproul, Jr, the Father gave the orders to the Son and Spirit and explained their roles to them:

We affirm that in His counsels before all time the Father spoke to the Son something like this: “This is the plan; this is what we’re going to do. I’m going to elect a people for you, a bride. Son, you’re going to take on flesh and you’re going to tabernacle among them. You will obey all of my revealed will, keeping my law. But, you will receive the wrath due to the sons of disobedience. I will curse you, forsake you, such that those whom I have chosen will have their sins covered. Your righteousness will be deemed their righteousness.” The Father then explained to the Spirit His role (Kindle Locations 720-721)

He also wrote that in this way, the Son is subordinate to the Father in the covenant of redemption:

Who is giving the orders here? In the covenant of redemption it is clearly God the Father. The Son is in a subordinate role to the Father. (Kindle Locations 721-725)

He explains that the subordination doesn’t mean the Son and Spirit are lesser:

In like manner, the Spirit is subordinate to the Father and the Son. Both the Father and the Son send forth the Spirit. Should we then conclude that somehow the second person of the Trinity is less than the Father in terms of dignity, power, and glory, or that God the Holy Spirit is somewhat lacking, at least in comparison to the Father and the Son, in holiness, in graciousness, or in sovereignty? Of course not. (Kindle Locations 728-729)

He believes the Father made the assignments in the covenant of redemption:

We need to understand that as the Father is making these assignments in the covenant of redemption, He is not doing so on the basis of particular strengths or weaknesses. … No, the roles are not assigned on the basis of differences among the members of the Trinity, simply because there aren’t any differences. (Kindle Locations 731-733)

Lastly, Sproul Jr, connects the authority and subordination in the Trinity with the husband/wife relationship:

Just as with the members of the Trinity, while there is an equality of value, and a distinction of authority, there is also a distinction in calling. While husbands and wives work together in the building of the kingdom, their work is not identical. (Kindle Locations 776-778)

David Bayly of the Bayly brothers’ blog wrote during the Trinity debate this summer to voice his support of ESS and patriarchy:

Two men I regard as friends recently came out against the subordination of Christ to the Father. Now, Doug Wilson and Liam Goligher say that they oppose only the eternal subordination of the Son, not the economic, yet this distinction presupposes a well-defined line between the economic and the ontological Trinity that doesn’t exist. No creed of the Church or passage in Scripture spells out the boundaries of this division, nor is there general agreement on where the ontological ends and the economic begins. In fact, the distinction is fraught with challenges. At what point did the covenant of redemption leave the realm of ontology and enter the realm of economy? No one has answered this question–and no one can when the Son was slain from the foundation of the world. Yet critics of Christ’s submission act as though it’s a settled issue.

Really? Fatherhood is not a social issue? Is not rooted in the Trinity? The inner life of Father and Son does not support patriarchy?

Interestingly, Doug Wilson is on record as both for and against ESS. In his first post, he seemed to deny it. That’s the post referenced by David Bayly above. In his later post, Wilson states his agreement with Grudemregarding authority and submission in the Godhead. He also explains that the Son’s “existence is obedience” and the Father’s “existence is authority”:

I agree that true and ultimate authority/submission must be grounded within the Godhead. I agree with Grudem there.

Now someone will point out that they don’t see how it is possible to have “authority and submission within the Godhead coupled with complete ontological equality” without that position logically entailing three wills, which would then be heterodox. I frankly confess that it would be heterodox, and that I don’t know how there can be anything resembling authority and submission with only one will. I get the problem. But I also don’t see, and on exactly the same grounds, how there can be anything like a Father and a Son with only one will. If I could do the math on this kind of thing, I would be a good deal richer than I am.

So Fatherhood is ultimate, and Fatherhood is ad intra. The Fatherhood of the Father did not come into existence after the decision to create the world. It is not in any way dependent upon the decision to create the world. And so there should be no more difficulty in saying that the Son is eternally obedient than there is in saying that He is eternally begotten. His existence is obedience — eternal obedience, obedience that could not be otherwise. The Father’s existence is authority.

One of my concerns about complementarianism is the overlap it has with the Biblical Patriarchy movement. The ESS/EFS/ERAS debate is an example of why such concern is valid. There are relatively few confessional Christians who have come out in support of ESS/EFS/ERAS. For those who have, many are part of the Biblical Patriarchy movement. Not all of the authors quoted here claim to be Reformed and Confessional but several do.

As with all of the articles in this series, it is my hope that this will be a resource for those who are interested in how widespread the ESS/EFS/ERAS teaching is.


Related post by Rachel Miller:

The He-Man Woman Haters Club has met again and declared me an “Angry Feminist”

This is pertinent to the current situation in which so many people, both male and female, have been labelled as ‘feminists’ because they’ve been speaking out against the doctrine of ESS/EFS/ERAS.    [Yikes! where’s the garlic! sprinkle the holy water and annointing oil before we pick up the feminist infection!]

Rachel says:

This is really not about whether or not I’m an “angry feminist” who decries God’s fatherly rule over creation. This is what happens when someone dares to stand up against bullies, especially the patriarchal sort. They deny patriarchy, as practiced by today’s “Biblical Patriarchy” movement, is inherently abusive. But then they treat women who disagree with them in this way.

… If it’s true that you are known by your enemies as much as your friends, then I count it a badge of honor to have been singled out by these guys. They have done nothing more than prove my point on the Gospel denying, soul-numbing dangers of patriarchy.


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  1. 3blossommom

    Though my husband never quoted scripture to me and never quoted Grudem, he did tell me before leaving that his treatment of me (abusive, but not likely by the standards of these men) and numerous affairs were because I just didn’t follow enough of what was in the books by authors like Debi Pearl (he liked the Pearls). He justified himself by their writings. He could treat me horribly and be unfaithful, because I wasn’t consistently submissive (read perfectly) on the level preached by these people.

  2. Jeff Crippen

    I have had personal contact with abuse victims who have been harmed by the teachings of the people named above, and in some cases actually harmed by personal interactions with those people, accused, berated, and compelled to return to their abuser. This is not harmless stuff. This crowd of ESS loyalists hurt people and enable the wicked.

    • Survivor

      Agreed! 100% !!!

    • Stronger Now

      I would count myself as one who has been harmed by this teaching, most assuredly. It is definitely not harmless stuff. It is dangerous.

  3. Avid Reader


    Thank you for holding these leaders accountable.

  4. Still Reforming

    “I have become aware that there are basically three types of men. The different types are just as marked in one-year-olds as they are in adult men. It seems that God made each male to express one side of his triad nature.” – Debi Pearl

    Interesting how a foundational doctrine can be developed from someone’s “becoming aware” of an idea of her (or his) own. It is even declared as though it is gospel truth – as if one stands against such a “theological” position, even using Scripture, one is standing against God Himself.

    Satan’s ways and means have not changed one bit. Take the true Word of God and twist it to mean what he and his children want.

    • Lea

      Seriously. What nonsense!

  5. Heather Black (formerly H)

    I just read John 10 today and was shocked to find a blatant, obvious refute of all this father authority nonsense straight from Jesus’ mouth.

    For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have recieved from my Father.

    So Jesus is plainly stating that HE HAS AUTHORITY. “No one,” doesn’t that include the Father? No one takes it from me. And the Father doesn’t begrudge that Jesus has authority in himself to either lay down his own life or to pick it up again. The Father doesn’t grumble that HE should have the authority to decide if Jesus should lay down his life or pick it back up… It’s just the opposite; the Father DELIGHTS in Jesus for that very REASON, that Jesus lays down his life by his own authority. So we have the Godhead delighting in equal authority, rather than begrudging it. So if we are to model marriage after the Godhead, let’s at least get it right, eh? Let’s have husbands who love that their wives are separate dignified beings and delight in them making their own choices. Then any sacrificial act of love becomes a beautiful willing thing instead of some coerced manipulation.

    “This charge I recieved from my Father,” I’m assuming that ESS folks would say, Ah-ha, there it is, he has this authority UNDER the Father? But how I read it is the “charge” is referring to their acts in redemption. He doesn’t say “this authority I recieved from the Father,” although he uses the word authority multiple times, so if he meant authority, why didn’t he just say so? The word choice of “charge” seems to indicate he’s talking about something different in that verse…. So here we have the orthodox view of the Son’s submission to the Father in the economy (in His incarnation and work of redemption) but it is not talking about the ontology. But I’d love to hear from Pastor Crippen on these couple of verses. [Note, Barb altered the wording in this last sentence slightly, in order to remove the term ‘chain of command’ which is triggering for many of our readers].

    And just to finish it up, the previous verses are so precious and applicable:

    Truly truly I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in another way, that man is a thief and robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.

    Truly truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

    He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them up and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

  6. Heather Black (formerly H)

    And does anyone know what those “three types of men” are? Sounds ridiculous. My first thought is that if it’s all about authority, then she’s probably married to a God-the-Father type man, not one of those lesser (but equal) beings.

    • Song of Joy

      The “three types of men”…

      Moe, Larry and Curly. 🙂

    • JayD

      I can’t remember all three types, but the “God the Father” one was called command man. And yes her husband is a command man. Sadly if you read the list of characteristics she supplies for a command man, it’s basically describing an abusive man.

      • Yep I second that. Many years ago I tried to read Debi Pearl’s book. I couldn’t finish it, but I did get far enough to confirm that what JayD says is correct.

  7. NutMeg

    These beliefs are dangerous. And I’m sorry to say that the conservative “christian” college that I went to had a professor who got dangerously close to teaching ESS in his “family life” class. He made us read articles from the Piper and Demoss camp and wouldn’t discuss the articles in class. It’s fuzzy but I remember him asking me what I believed about ESS in class. I had no idea what it was. I don’t remember where the conversation went from there. I mentioned before that he even gave us the charts that Grudem made. They didn’t claim to teach it but it was obvious he admired the theology. And even if a college doesn’t support ESS openly that doesn’t mean they haven’t fallen for some of the beliefs. Be careful a lot of people have been duped by this stuff and are teaching it to the next generations of Christians. My school watered it down a bit but it’s still dangerous.

    • Even if they don’t support ESS openly that doesn’t mean they haven’t fallen for some of the beliefs.

      That was worth repeating. I’m going to tweet it.

      Be careful a lot of people have been duped by this stuff and are teaching it to the next generations of Christians.

      • NutMeg

        That’s suppose to be generation without the S. The keyboard on my iPhone messed up.

  8. Gothard Survivor

    H, so funny! I am married to the lesser kind–the one that doesn’t lead, provide, or protect, but sure knows how to play the submission card!

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