Ken Harrison, CEO and chairman of Promise Keepers, has a new book out: The Rise of the Servant Kings: What the Bible Says About Being a Man.
This is a tough space for a modern Christian leader to break into. The field is already quite crowded, and I suspect there is more than a little “man up fatigue” as we are now fully in late stage complementarianism. With this in mind, promoting “servant leaders” to “servant kings” is a nice way to rebrand the idea that headship means husbands must nebulously “lead” but have no authority.
I did a quick search of the book on the amazon “look inside” feature. “Headship” comes back with no results, but submission comes up with a segment titled Our Role as Leader (emphasis mine):
As the church submits to Christ, so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of the water by the word. He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:24-27)
God gave man the role of leader of his family, but what does that look like? The world often tells us that leadership and authority are the same thing, but this is not so. Authority is that influence that the law gives to a police officer or a military commander. Authority says, “Sir, please exit the vehicle,” or “Grab your backpack and sit down.” Authority offers no reward for obedience, only punishment for disobedience.
We are not called to be in authority over our wives; rather, we are called to lead them. Leadership creates a space for a person to choose whether or not to follow. Notice that a woman is commanded to submit to her husband, not to obey him. I obey the commands of a police officer out of fear of punishment, but do not submit to him. This is because submission involves equality and choice. Obedience involves a hierarchy and offers no choice.
Note that by implication Harrison is asserting that Christ has no authority over the church! This would explain why he left off verses 22 and 23 and started with verse 24. He appears to be quoting the HCSB translation, so the full quote of Eph 5:22-27 would be:
22 Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, 23 for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[g] her with the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless.
Lastly, notice that he offers a perfect example of what I call the Headship sleight of hand. Scripture says the husband is the head of the wife. We can then deduce from this that if he is the head, then he has an obligation to lead. The Bible doesn’t state that husbands have this obligation, the husband’s stated obligation is to love his wife, and the wife’s stated obligation is to submit to her husband. But leaders clearly have an obligation to lead. The specific nature of this obligation is another question, but the basic deduction is solid.
Harrison follows this implicit logic, but ends by denying that a husband has authority. He pretends that the Bible tells us a husband must lead (which it does not), and that modern readers infer that since the Bible says the husband must lead that he must have authority. But what is happening is the precise opposite. He infers that a husband must have the obligation to lead since the husband has authority. Then he tells us the husband has no authority, only an obligation to lead.