Already this series started in part 1 with summarizing Christians’ views of male/female roles, especially as husbands and wives.
Part 2 introduced patriarchalists and asked whether their human-authority views are Biblical.
Part 3 showed how patriarchalists’ perspectives on “courtship” are based on false dichotomies between their methods and “man’s dating philosophy,” and more misreading of Scripture.
Part 4 reviewed others who’ve already been studying this topic for years, and showed how obsessing over “masculinity” further leads to “patriarchalist” men’s self-centeredness.
That can also include the idea that for “patriarchy” practitioners, a father can be in effect treated as a “priest” for his family. That is indeed the notion advocated by many patriarchalist leaders. Karen Campbell says “patriarchy” can also be called “patriocentrism,” i.e. father-centered.
And why not? Their beliefs are indeed centered around human fathers. Patriocentrists have decided that fathers are in effect high priests for their families, reverting to Old-Testament Law codes (fulfilled in Christ, our only High Priest) and even worse, pushing Old-Testament lifestyles that have nothing to do with the Law. They believe all family members must partner to fulfill a father’s “vision.” They insist daughters must serve their fathers as “helpmeets” until they get married, and so on.
Plenty of Scriptures either don’t support this lifestyle or overtly oppose it. I’ve already gone over some of those. It gets worse when you mix in something called “federal vision,” and that’s another topic entirely.
Yet as this series draws to a close, it’s time to look at some reasons why patriarchalists miss such clear Biblical truth and substitute man-made laws. To many readers, it all seems so clear that “those people” are crazy or un-Biblical, yet these are thinking people, many of whom are sincerely trying. So how do they miss it? I’ll offer a few explanations. You may think of more.
What’s especially scary is this thought: this could happen to anyone. The worst possible way we could react to “patriarchy” beliefs is thinking we have our gender-roles ideas all fixed now that we know what beliefs to avoid. After all, that’s the same reaction they have against feminism.
With that in mind, I’ll later end by asking: how can we be sure not to fall into the same traps?
Why don’t they get it?
Perhaps in the patriarchalist worldview the Problem of Feminism is just too huge, and thus their belief basis becomes “we must fix the Problem,” instead of “we must honor God and His Word.”
So instead of basing your life for Jesus Christ and the Gospel, you become increasingly aware of the things you are not: not a feminist, not pro-abortion, not liberal, not a public-school student, not one of those parents who have only two children and then stop because they’re selfish.
Is this not something that Satan and his minions would most want — to take our eyes off Christ and His Word about himself, and make Him merely an additive to Fixing the Problem?
Writing to his demonic nephew Wormwood, His Utter Subliminity Screwtape puts it plainly:
What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of “Christianity And.” You know — Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order, Christianity and Faith Healing, Christianity and Psychic Research, Christianity and Vegetarianism, Christianity and Spelling Reform. If they must be Christians, let them at least be Christians with a difference. Substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring. Work on their horror of the Same Old Thing.
Screwtape also recommends the joys (for the devils) of pushing reaction-based religion:
We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic. The game is to have them running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under. Thus we make it fashionable to expose the dangers of enthusiasm at the very moment when they are all really becoming worldly and lukewarm; a century later, when we are really making them all Byronic and drunk with emotion, the fashionable outcry is directed against the dangers of the mere “understanding”. Cruel ages are put on their guard against Sentimentality, feckless and idle ones against Respectability, lecherous ones against Puritanism; and whenever all men are really hastening to be slaves or tyrants we make Liberalism the prime bogey.
For discerning Christians, what are some of the other “main bogies” to oppose? Let’s list some. Perhaps Christianity and Environmentalism. Christianity and Faith Tolerance. Christianity and Stop Global Warming. Christianity and Egalitarianism/Feminism. On and on it goes, when professing Christians leave the Gospel far behind or mix it with all these other Social Issues — that are supposedly just as important as making God our chief joy and loving Him for saving us.
Yet are these the only Christianity-And problems we face? Many patriarchalists seem to think so. In all the literature about fathers and families, courtship systems, and avoiding feminism, you find little or nothing (can anyone prove otherwise?) warning against opposite dangers, such as:
Christianity and the Law. Christianity and Quiverfull Patriarchy/“Familyism.” Christianity and Homeschooling Only. Christianity and Approved Denim-Skirt Intensive Dress Codes. Perhaps Christianity and Head Coverings. Christianity and Extreme Interpretations of Paul’s Advice to Women in Churches Which May or May Not Have been All or Partly Culturally Derived (Especially the Parts about Braided Hair and Jewelry). Christianity and the Law. Christianity and Approved Curriculum. Christianity and Voting For Only My Preferred Political Party. Christianity and Quasi-Whitewashed American History. Christianity and Women Don’t Really Need to Vote.
Either way, it focuses on un-Biblical, or extra-Biblical, codes of conduct, and issues and laws that aren’t even based in the real Law. They’re not absolutely essential to the Gospel.
Even worse — these notions end up shrinking or even opposing the Gospel and God’s glory.
Stealing the Father’s glory
The following comes from the Visionary Daughters website, in an article about honoring God.
8. Give your Father your heart, learn His ways and delight in them
Proverbs 23:26 says, “Give me your heart, my son, and let your eyes delight in my ways.”
The heart, called “the seat of the affections,” is the source of all passions, desires, loves, interests, likes and dislikes, convictions and opinions. Our hearts and all that they contain need to be surrendered to our Father […] to be molded and directed. You don’t need to give your Father a perfect heart. Give Him an imperfect heart, and talk to Him openly about your struggles and your weaknesses.
How do we let our eyes delight in our Father’s ways? We should begin by wanting to really understand who our Father is and why He does the things He does and think the things He thinks. Develop an interest in the things that are important to Him, and the battles He is fighting.
By the last part you might have caught on to the fact that I actually tweaked that text just a little. You see, the original column had no capitals used for Father, as in God the Father, or pronouns referring to Him. Instead the blog item was actually talking about human fathers. All this is meant for them. To see the original version, click the link in the footnote and scroll down.
Now, I don’t want to pick on patriarchalists for only that example. I fully recognize that God can be given glory through our actions, and we don’t have to mention His Name directly or write a complete Gospel altar-call at least once an hour to others or else we’re suppressing truth.
And after all, one of the original sentences (which I cut out with the brackets and ellipsis) did read, “Our hearts and all that they contain need to be surrendered to our fathers, someday to our husbands – and ultimately to God – to be molded and directed.” Also it’s true that the post was about loving your human father for Father’s Day. But there is little on that site — not even in the blog category lists — about loving the real Father first and foremost. If this is there at all, it’s an afterthought. What about learning about Him and how to love Him? Not there. Maybe your human father will do that heavy spiritual lifting for you, while you’re fetching his slippers.
Unfortunately a lack of loving and giving glory to Christ personally is typical for patriarchalists.
Their human authorities replace divine authority, in belief and in practice. Rules and Right Living replace relationships. Systems replace God’s grace. And worst of all, despite the truth that Christ is our sole prophet-priest-and-king, the one mediator between His people and God (1 Timothy 2:5), patriarchalists overdoses on the concept of husbands imitating Christ and erect an extreme-Catholic-style notion of a father’s priestly role between his family and God.
Thus the argument against such man-centeredness is not just from Scripture’s silence, but the Bible’s clear emphasis on Christ and Him crucified, the real Gospel of grace, that overtly opposes such skewed views. Patriarchy beliefs are not only extra-Biblical and questionable; they are anti-Biblical and dangerous. Even worse, such a view fails to give rightful glory to God.
But I submit there is something even worse than that, which some Christians could fall into after they have really studied “patriarchy” and found it wanting.
One commentator, just yesterday on the excellent Quivering Daughters blog, wrote this:
I grew up in the rather prototypical patriarchal household in the 70s–before Gothard, et al, got up a full head of steam but their ideas were starting to float around the Evangelical churches I grew up in and the families we associated with–and left Christianity in my heart in the mid 80s and physically left the building in the early 90s.
But I’ve always been a mystic, a Seeker of Truth wherever it may be found, and I found that, once I abandoned the dogma of You Must Believe Doctrines, I could commune with the Divine in the way I had always sensed possible while in the church but the doctrine got in the way.
Perhaps the writer didn’t mean it this way, but at the least professing Christians ought to be more careful with our language.
When people ignore true doctrine, you can’t “solve” the problem by throwing out more doctrine — that makes no sense. Yet many people have done this very thing, committing the same error of the patriarchalists: they’ve equated lies with truth, and decided that because they know what lies to avoid, they can gladly go completely opposite.
But Christians cannot “commune with the Divine” without doctrine — truths about Him.
If “doctrine” is taken to mean lifeless, pointless teachings about fine points of philosophy or something, I could understand that. Yet Christian doctrine should include the truth that persons are valuable, that God is merciful and does not tolerate human authoritarianism. Through true, Biblical teaching about God’s nature and actions (doctrine), we know He is love.
While the above commentator may not have meant she has rejected any teachings about what God is like or has done, others formerly buried in patriarchy have sadly gone this far.
Anyone who’s read my previous writings knows where I have been, what I’ve believed, practiced and taught. Here’s how I see it now:
The Bible is an ancient text written in a time and culture radically different from our own. It was written by men who were privileged enough to know how to read and write ~ and it establishes a self-serving, male-dominated religion which uses the promise of Heaven and the threat of Hell to keep the disenfranchised content in their servitude. (OMG ~ I sound just like Karl Marx.)
It seems crazy that thousands of years later, we should be trying to emulate the family structure and gender roles of an ancient society which viewed women and children as property.
Clearly we can’t be sure we have all our beliefs fixed just because we reject “patriarchy.”
Instead Christians must sort lies from truth, ensuring we don’t commit this same sin of the “patriarchs”: overcorrecting from the lies we’ve identified, and swinging wildly into a whole other ditch of lies and un-Biblical notions. We must turn from the lies and turn to God’s truth — which Christians believe can only be found in Scripture.
Both egalitarianism/feminism and “Biblical patriarchy” contain bits and pieces of Scripture. But the pieces are split off from the main truth, taken elsewhere and used to build a whole system of belief and practice that may be consistent with itself, but not with Scripture.
Our aim should not be to avoid one or the other. Nor should it be to cry “avoid Christianity” any more than patriarchalists cry “avoid the world.” Who should be in our center? Jesus Christ.
Last year my wife and I (before we were married) began a study of Ephesians 1.
Like all the Bible implicitly, and the New Testament explicitly, this book and passage focuses exclusively on Christ, His supremacy and His centrality.
I highly suggest reading this as I found myself doing — thank God! — slowly, carefully, doing your best to take in every incredible detail. And please, consider how different Paul’s Christ- and grace-centered message is from that of man- and moralistic machine-centered views.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 1: 3-14
In a very similar text, the Apostle Paul repeats such truths, presenting and rejoicing in this amazing Jesus Who saves His people from their sins. Then Paul zooms in on applying this truth. He doesn’t even directly rebut whatever legalistic beliefs the Colossian church members had been accepting — instead, Paul shows Jesus, Who He is, what He does, and above all His glory.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.
Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.
If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations—”Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch” (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings? These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
Colossians 2:8 – 3: 1-4
Sometimes I catch myself reading passages like these through new eyes.
It’s almost like I now see why God’s has purposed to allow false views to infiltrate the world, and even the Church. They compel us to re-examine Scripture, and not just so we can beat the bad guys or think ourselves better, but to remind ourselves of His glorious truths and grace.
When compared with the dull, black-and-white man-centered perspectives of patriarchy, the awesome and glorious living color of the Bible and especially God’s glory shines even more bright and incredible.
And thanks to Him, it reflects truly Biblical views of children and parents, husbands and wives, families and churches, that truly honor His Word, His grace and Himself.