A Look Inside the Mind of “Christian” Patriarchy
I (Jeff) was trained in conservative evangelical churches. The seminary I went to was conservative in its theology. Ultimately I embraced reformed theology and still hold to the reformed confessions of faith (I am a reformed baptist). Over the years in our present church (we have been here nearly 24 years now) most of the families chose to home school their children and most all of them have done a fantastic job.
But in the midst of this church culture, unknown to me, “certain persons” as Scripture warns us of “crept in among us.” They were disguised as devoted, eminent, holy Christians. They were at every church gathering. They served. It all looked great because the rest of us really were in earnest about wanting to serve the Lord in truth. We wanted nothing to do with the widespread compromise of the faith seen in so many churches then and today. That zeal for the Lord is commendable, but it must be guided by truth or it easily goes wrong.
The ones who “crept in” among us brought baggage with them. Not only personal, emotional, and spiritual baggage, but theological baggage that was a distortion of God’s truth in Christ. It was legalistic. It was used to control others and to bring praise to the ones proclaiming it. Our church is free of that now, though we must always watch and be on guard. Satan really is prowling around you know.
But my point here in this post is to share with you just a few of the indicators that, specifically, are signs that an unbiblical doctrine which I would call “patriarchy” is being promoted by someone. I look at them now and think, “Jeff, how could you have not seen these errors earlier?” There are a wide variety of reasons for our blindness to such things — the deceptive nature of the “creeps” who creep in, the erroneous teaching we have received in school, from pulpits, in the “Must have” books we read — all of which lead us into a mindset that wrongly functions on the assumption that certain basic tenets we hold to really are God’s truth, when in fact they are deceptions. I suppose a fish that lives in the ocean may well not have any idea of “saltiness” if you could talk to him about it. “Saltwater? What’s that?” The things we have been immersed in are usually not questioned. And that is dangerous.
Side note by Barb. Here is an example I found recently that illustrates how books can influence us without us even realising it. It comes from the ESV translation of Numbers 5:19-20, which is in the passage known as ‘the ordeal of bitter water’ — the law Moses gave as a way to test whether a wife had committed adultery:
Then the priest shall make her take an oath, saying, ‘If no man has lain with you, and if you have not turned aside to uncleanness while you were under your husband’s authority, be free from this water of bitterness that brings the curse. But if you have gone astray, though you are under your husband’s authority, and if you have defiled yourself, and some man other than your husband has lain with you …
Notice that the phrase ‘under your husband’s authority’ occurs twice in that ESV translation? Now let’s look at the KJV:
And the priest shall charge her by an oath, and say unto the woman, If no man have lain with thee, and if thou hast not gone aside to uncleanness with another instead of thy husband, be thou free from this bitter water that causeth the curse: But if thou hast gone aside to another instead of thy husband, and if thou be defiled, and some man have lain with thee beside thine husband…
Check it in the Blue Letter Bible. The KJV’s instead of your husband is quite a valid translation. The Hebrew text can have the sense ‘under’ but it doesn’t have a word for ‘authority’ in those verses. Possibly the ESV translators used the word ‘authority’ because of the concentration of male-authority salt in their ocean.
Here are some statements that I (Jeff) have heard these patriarchists make which I hope you will be able to identify as serious error if you every hear them. Patriarchy, by the way, is the philosophy/theology that, to state it simply, men are superior to women. Husbands are superior to wives. The husband/father of the family is not only to lead his wife and children in the worship of God, but their worship of God is essentially mediated by the husband/father. God is particularly concerned with the commission He has given to the man, and the other family members are to support the man in that mission. These kinds of things to one degree or another define this false and enslaving beast we are calling patriarchy.
Listen then to these statements:
- “I told my wife that she must obey me.”
- “As the father and husband, I am the priest of my home.”
- “Women do not function well in the workplace because they should never be in the workplace. They are to be workers at home.”
- “Well, you know what women are like.”
- “You say that you are worried about a guy flirting with your wife? Well, you need to fight for your marriage. Fight for your wife. She is YOUR wife.” [Note: that sounds good, and I suppose if stated by the right person it would be. But what a patrarchist means by “she is YOUR wife” is that she is YOUR property].
- “When a guy’s wife works at a job and makes a salary, he has to watch out because she will start getting pretty independent.”
I am sure there were more of these kinds of statements made over the years, but these are some of the more typical ones. No doubt you all can provide some more examples in the comments here.
A wife, you see, in such a warped and twisted system (all “supported” by the warping and twisting of Scripture of course) really is no different than a child when it comes to her relationship to her husband. This is one of the errors you will find in the Puritan writings on marriage and family (though there is MUCH sound doctrine and practice to be gleaned from the Puritans as well). The wife is one of the children you see.
Now, all of this created an inner conflict in me and in others in the church, though it was sometime before we realized it was there. A conflict I say because I did not relate to my own wife in this manner. I would never have told her “you must obey me,” or claim some kind of exalted priesthood for myself. My wife has worked outside the home most of our marriage and I am very glad that she now has some great job skills that are benefiting us, all the while ministering in the music ministry of our church faithfully all these years on top of that. I have never viewed her as “my property.” And yet — here is the catch — I suppose for some years until the lights really came on for me about all this, I felt guilty to an extent for not being “the kind of man God calls me to be.” Or rather, the kind of tyrant the patriarchist creeps insist that God calls me to be. I hated going to men’s conferences (still do) because I could not relate to what was being taught in most all of them.
Turns out I hated them because they so often promote some aspect at least of “men are superior to women.”
Well, here is my point. Watch out for those kinds of statements such as I have listed here and recognize them for what they are. They are clues that a perversion of the good Word of God has come in among you. And be sure of it, if it is not opposed and rejected, it WILL spread among you. It will create an oppressive, legalistic, bondage-making culture in your church.
Ultimately we did see it. We did confront it. And as a result our church is much smaller now numerically. But if I could do it all over again, I would have openly and firmly exposed and confronted it right on the spot. “Hold it! Stop right there! Hey everyone, let’s sit down and talk about what this fellow just said. He commanded his wife that she must obey him. He claims to have a Scripture verse for that. Let’s search Scripture and see why he is wrong and why he is distorting God’s Word.”
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