Patriarchy is not the Problem

My wife saw this article posted on Facebook. She sent me the link and asked my thoughts.

Patriarchy Has Got to Go

It may be helpful to provide a bit of background to the article so as to bring everyone up to speed.

VFAnyone who homeschools recognizes the name Doug Phillips.This is especially true if you are a Reformed homeschooling family.

Phillips founded a ministry called Vision Forum that published and sold Christian books and homeschool curriculum, as well as an array of really cool politically incorrect toys like Nerf swords, cap guns, bows and arrows, zip lines, and k-bar knives with compasses in the handle.

Somehow my wife and I got on their mailing list and at least twice a year we would receive their latest catalog. We both were amused by the catalog because along with the products Vision Forum sold, they seemed to romanticize the idea of living life during American colonialism.

For instance, Phillips would often use pictures of his sons dressed up in buck skin outfits and carrying flint lock rifles and his daughters in long dresses wearing bonnets. I even recall seeing an ad for a series of videos that taught you how to live as a mountain man or in some rustic fashion. Believe me, bearing any unforeseen apocalyptic event that turns America into a Mad Max like wasteland, I have no desire whatsoever to live like a trapper in the 1780s, nor any real practical use for learning how to build a canoe out of a birch wood tree. I love my bed and my air conditioning. But I digress…

We also felt kinda sorry for his kids, because Phillips had named them these quasi-American patriotic names like Justice, Liberty, Independence, and Constitution. And we thought we were out of the ordinary naming our kids after a Bible character and a famous person from church history.

LARPI likened a lot of what Phillips promoted with LARPers. The difference being he put his Christian spin on everything and instead of dressing up like an elf prince or a dragon rider for just a couple of times a year for a Medieval festival, he never took off the fake, pointy ears and kept the costume on all the time. He genuinely tried to live out what he believed in everyday life.

Along with homeschooling, Phillips and Vision Forum promoted such things as large families, the integrated family model of church (which means there is no Sunday school or youth groups and your fussing kids sit with you all throughout church), the husbands are the head of the household, women are to be keepers at home, and theological dominionism and reconstructionism (see HERE to get some info on that).

Last October, Vision Forum issued a statement by Phillips explaining that due to a moral failure, he was stepping down as the president of the ministry. The statement was vague, but it was clear that he had cheated on his wife in some fashion, though he claimed it wasn’t adultery, as in a sexual encounter involving intercourse, but more of an “inappropriate” relationship with some unnamed woman, whatever that meant.

Needless to say, as the weeks went by, and the Vision Forum haters danced on Phillips’s grave, more info came out that his “inappropriate” relationship was with a nanny who lived with his family. I was more irritated that he never bothered to tell folks he had a nanny that helped his wife, but instead gave all the stay-at-home mothers the impression that his perfect Proverbs 31 wife did all the child raising and home keeping by herself.

Though my wife and I may share some of the family raising convictions promoted by VF and Doug Phillips, we have never been big fans of them. We certainly didn’t allow ourselves to be discipled by their views on life, considering them to be more of a curiosity than anything else.

While I find it tragic that Phillips’s behavior has brought reproach and shame upon Christ and his church, contrary to the author of the article I linked above, I don’t believe his adultery was “caused” by his so-called patriarchal ideology. Let me highlight a few of his main points of concern and offer a response.

Declaring God as solely (absolutely, literally, no-doubt-about-it) “masculine” is odd, really. He’s God. I find it just as odd as when feminists push the pronoun for God as “she.” Insisting on a gender for the creator of the universe is political, agenda-driven and theologically shallow.

It is just a matter of exegetical fact that God has revealed Himself as masculine and Rachel Held Evans can soak ten thousand pillows through with her tears, but that reality will never change.

In both Hebrew and Greek, biblical writers describe God as masculine. They also use masculine pronouns. God created Adam first and then Eve as his help-meet. Both Jesus and Paul confirm this created order throughout the NT. God sent His Son to redeem sinners. Jesus was a man, not a sexless Ken doll uniperson. To suggest that God isn’t masculine or that it is theologically shallow to say God is masculine denies the fundamental revelation of Scripture.

Whenever patriarchs would speak of “gender roles,” they really meant “gender hierarchy.” Women could never lead, and in some patriarchal circles they couldn’t even speak. I know patriarchal families where women are quiet mice, hardly the great women I believe God wants them to be.

genderIt certainly is true there are a number of husbands who so dominate their marriage that they cow their wives into silent, eye-pleasing, false obedience. I have personally known a few over the years. Many of those couples have profound problems with their marriage, even several regrettably ending in divorce. But that doesn’t mean we abandon the divinely ordained roles of men and women that are intended for the family.

Rather than tossing out and changing how God has created men and women to function in the family, and ultimately the society, wouldn’t the better approach be to disciple those men who are misguided in this area of leadership? Confront and rebuke them about their abusiveness and exhort them to serving their wives and families like Christ does the church? I would also add a similar word to women who do similar things against their husbands as wives.

When my wife and I got married, she expected me to set the spiritual tone for our relationship and eventual family. Being the spiritually uxorious husband that I was, I wanted to meet her gender role expectations. She in turn also wanted to do the same for me as my wife. When we walked in the Spirit, serving one another with gladness, the gender roles God had designed for us naturally fell together. Train those men and women to seek Christ, be filled with the Spirit and God’s Word, serve each other, and they will naturally fulfill the roles God has created for men and women to fulfill.

I’m becoming more and more repulsed at the use of the patriarchal idea of “dominion.” I have always took the biblical term as more of a conservationist view of addressing the environment (its root from Genesis 1:28). Doug Phillips took this verse and ran with it, declaring it his Christian duty to take over all areas of society, government and church culture. Phillips’ idea of “dominion” was an extreme abuse of Genesis 1:28 into whatever the patriarchy movement wanted. The idea of patriarchs literally taking over the world has got to go.

I couldn’t agree more. However, dominionism is not a symptom of patriarchy, nor is patriarchy a symptom of dominionism.

Dominionism is essentially theonomic postmillennial reconstructionism of the Rousas Rushdoony/Gary North variety, and while I would agree that their theology is exegetically untenable and problematic for a number of reasons, the patriarchal view of the family structure is unrelated to it.

I’m a premillennial Dispensationalist and have nearly an exact opposite understanding that Doug Phillips has of God’s kingdom and His divine purposes as they play out in redemptive history.  Yet I still believe in gender roles, husband leading their families, and wives being keepers at home.

I am also a presuppositionalist. One of the most well-known articulators of presuppositionalism was Greg Bahnsen, whose material on apologetic methodology I would recommend to anyone. He, too, was a theonomist and postmillennial dominionist, yet I am not going to toss out his apologetic theology just because I profoundly disagree with his theonomy.

People within patriarchal communities don’t seem to realize how controlling the ideology is. Children (especially daughters) are expected to stay within the home until married. Phillips discouraged military service, employment, even missionary work outside of the fathers’ direct oversight. Mothers working outside the home was akin to moral failure.

As a husband who decided with my wife, even before we got married, that the best thing for our family would be for her to stay home once she had children, even dramatically reducing the income we live on as a family, I couldn’t disagree more.

Doug Phillips lecherous behavior aside, why is it wrong to discourage my daughters from joining the military? Or pursuing a career? Of course I distinguish between “employment” as in getting a job that brings her extra income, but can be eventually abandoned when she is married and starts a family, and “career” which means she pursues a life course that keeps her outside the home, away from her family just so she can compete effectively with other males and make a ton of money.

I believe God has ordained gender roles. I believe His Word clearly teaches that women should be keepers at home and husbands the leader of that home. Why then would I NOT want to instill in my sons and daughters a desire to pursue the way God has seen best for men and women? The comments here come dangerously close to sounding like a femi-Nazi who believes women staying at home and raising children is akin to sex-slavery or something.

He then concludes with these remarks,

In a strange way, Phillips’ moral failing is an opportunity for home educators to re-calibrate their focus, turning away from the harmful ideology of patriarchy on toward a more wholesome perspective of faith, family and fun.

Who’s to say that the maligned ideology of “patriarchy” isn’t a wholesome perspective of faith, family, and fun? Because of Doug Phillips’s adulterous behavior? Richard Dawkins would take it a step further and say his moral failing is an opportunity for people to turn away from the harmful ideology of theism. If people would stop believing God is real and the Bible is His Word, well there wouldn’t be any women sexually abused anymore. Of course, we all know that is sheer fantasy.

What we can take away from the Vision Forum scandal is quite simple: Men are sinners. The ideology of patriarchy was no more of a reason for Phillips’s adultery as his belief in Scripture alone as his sole rule of authority.  He gave an occasion for the enemy.  If one does not heed closely Paul’s words to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12-16, well then anybody could potentially fall into the snare that Phillips set for himself by not guarding his heart.

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18 thoughts on “Patriarchy is not the Problem

  1. Nicely put Fred. I have never been a fan of his theology — but it saddens me that he has given the enemies of Christ another opportunity.
    The more information that comes out about this, the more it turns my stomach. His children especially have to be suffering because of his behavior & the enablers around him. What a waste.

  2. I agree that it’s quite hypocritical of Doug Phillips to have a nanny while making all the other Quiverful moms raise 12 kids on their lonesome. But how exactly is actually having a Nanny a more grievous hypocrisy than sexually assaulting aforesaid nanny?
    As for God being uniquely masculine, Gen 1:27 says that both male and female are made in God’s image. That means I, as a woman, reflect certain aspects of God that you don’t. Just as you, as a man, reflect certain aspects of God that I don’t. God does use imagery of mother and child about Himself regularly. Is 66:13, Is 49:15, Ps 131:2 are just a few examples among many.

    I think it makes remarkable sense to refer to God in the masculine. Because ever since the curse women have been abused and powerless in pagan and even in Judeo-Christian societies. God is all-powerful. So in order for Him to communicate that fact, of course He would refer to Himself in the masculine.

    Also you were more rude about Rachel Held Evans than Doug Phillips and which of those two exactly were caught sexually assaulting the hired help? Even if you don’t agree with women as pastors should you really have more harsh words for a woman leading people to Jesus through her preaching than someone in grievous sexual sin? In Phil 1:17 the apostle Paul says that he’s happy even when people preach Christ out of selfish ambition because people are hearing the gospel.

  3. Anne Garboczi Evans on April 22, 2014 at 2:37 pm said: “I think it makes remarkable sense to refer to God in the masculine. Because ever since the curse women have been abused and powerless in pagan and even in Judeo-Christian societies. God is all-powerful. So in order for Him to communicate that fact, of course He would refer to Himself in the masculine.”

    So God is all powerful because he is the ultimate male abuser of women. Now I am assuming you were trying to be sarcastic there instead of just ignorant but correct me if I am wrong.

    As for “Phil 1:17 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment” so your saying that its good that Rachel Held Evans a wolf in sheeps clothing should afflict the male preachers with her liberal nonsense? Or were you actually trying to quote verse 18 which says What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.Well I think your right I think it is a pretense for Rachel Held Evans to preach. And I think Paul would tell her to quit it. (1 Tim. 2:12)

  4. Like you, I never knew what to make of Vision Forum’s catalog…and their overpriced CD teaching series. I don’t even know how they got my information…

  5. Anna,
    Thanks for stopping by and engaging the discussion. If I may, let me respond to some of your questions/comments.

    You write,
    But how exactly is actually having a Nanny a more grievous hypocrisy than sexually assaulting aforesaid nanny?

    You obviously didn’t appreciate my sarcasm. Sorry.

    Moving along,
    As for God being uniquely masculine, Gen 1:27 says that both male and female are made in God’s image. That means I, as a woman, reflect certain aspects of God that you don’t. Just as you, as a man, reflect certain aspects of God that I don’t.

    Image has nothing to do with gender or even “being.” Us being created in “God’s image” has more to do with our spiritual connection with the Lord, what would be our ethics and morality than anything else. It is the ordained gender roles God has created men and women to uniquely fulfill that make you special and different as a woman. God can be masculine and create men and women differently.

    continuing,
    Is 66:13, Is 49:15, Ps 131:2 are just a few examples among many.

    In none of those references you cite does God ever liken himself in a feminine fashion. Psalm 131:2 is the author, David, likening himself to a child, not the LORD. In Isaiah 49:15, God merely points out that just in the same way a mother will not forget her children, he too will not forget Israel. Similar language is employed in 66:13. He is using analogy to convey truth about His faithful character, not making a statement about his gender or in this case, androgyny. Ironically, in Isaiah 66:14, in the very next verse, masculine pronouns are used describe what God will do to *HIS* enemies.

    Continuing,
    God is all-powerful. So in order for Him to communicate that fact, of course He would refer to Himself in the masculine.

    I am not sure if I understand what you mean here. Is this supposed to be a comment about what YOU genuinely believe about God and Scripture or are you meaning to be funny describing my position? Can you clarify?

    And then finally,
    Even if you don’t agree with women as pastors should you really have more harsh words for a woman leading people to Jesus through her preaching than someone in grievous sexual sin?

    RHE’s apostasy goes beyond her believing in women pastors and other egalitarian nonsense. She openly mocks the Scripture and the Lord. She is the worst spiritual abuser than Doug Phillips will ever be, because she leads people to the eternal destruction of their souls. Just yesterday, she was openly praising Matthew Vines, a man in desperate need of repentance and salvation, because he has a book published that lies about what God has clearly told us about homosexuality and inordinate affections. She basically put a mill stone around his neck and tossed him into the sea along with everyone else who read her gushing tweet about him who erroneously believe she represents Christianity. She should be exposed and rebuked for the false teacher that she is.

  6. Thank you for replying fivepointer!

    No sarcasm was intended at all about God being all powerful. I was stating my position that referring to God in the masculine is an anthropomorphism that God uses so that we will more fully understand His omnipotence. (An anthropomorphism rather than a statement that God is actually male like you are male.)

    I don’t think you can so easily explain away God likening His love for us to a mother for a child. God is saying that He has in His nature characteristics that mothers reflect BETTER than fathers. I don’t believe God is either a man or a woman; obviously He’s God. But feminine characteristics that mothers portray such as a mother’s nurturing love definitely are derived from God.

    I also don’t think you can so easily eliminate any sense of gender in the imago dei. If the imago dei is not related to our gender at all why did God specifically say “MALE and FEMALE” are created in His image? Why not just say all people I create are in My image.

    I do not agree with Rachel Held Evans on all issues. I assume when you refer to “eternal destruction of souls” you are talking about her pro-homosexuality stance? I do not agree with her stance on homosexuality. BUT I think it is very wrong and incredibly arrogant for you to call her not a Christian or her followers not Christians because of that.
    The apostle Paul, who was guided directly by the Holy Spirit, did not even question the Corinthians eternal salvation because of their gross immorality. (1 Cor 5). He did harshly berate them for their sexual sins, but he didn’t call them unbelievers or “gentiles.” Instead, he said Corinthian believers were worse sinners than the gentiles/unbelievers. And God did not remove His Spirit from the Corinthian believers for their gross sexual sins. Instead, they had a ton of spiritual gifts like speaking in tongues.

    As for Doug Phillips, while I sincerely hope to see him in heaven someday (just as I long to see all men saved), Biblically we have more reasons to question his salvation. Matthew 7:15-20 says you will know false prophets by their fruits. Sexually assaulting a nanny for 5 years is the worst of fruit. And remember that in the gospels, Christ had more harsh words for the pharisees for their self-righteous legalism than for the sexually immoral of the day.

    Anyway, again, no sarcasm intended in any of this. I don’t find sarcasm particularly helpful in respectful debates between fellow Christians.

  7. Keachfan, no sarcasm intended. I was saying (as I explain to fivepointer) that in a society that abuses women if God referred to Himself in the feminine they would not fully grasp His omnipotence. So masculine pronoun is an anthropomorphism. I don’t believe God has a gender in the way humans do. He is God after all. I mean does God actually have hands in the way humans do? I don’t think so, even though the Bible often refers to God’s hand sustaining us etc.

    I was saying that in Phil 1:17-18 Paul said he is happy even when people preach the gospel in pretense. I do not believe Rachel preaches in pretense, but you obviously do. How can you therefore say that Paul would tell her to quit it? Paul said he was HAPPY people were preaching Christ in pretense.

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  9. Anna writes,
    … I was stating my position that referring to God in the masculine is an anthropomorphism that God uses so that we will more fully understand His omnipotence. (An anthropomorphism rather than a statement that God is actually male like you are male.)

    Pardon my slowness, but how exactly is God using a male anthropomorphism demonstrate His attribute of omnipotence? You’re losing me here. Is that the same for all the other “omni” attributes?

    continuing along,
    God is saying that He has in His nature characteristics that mothers reflect BETTER than fathers. I don’t believe God is either a man or a woman; obviously He’s God. But feminine characteristics that mothers portray such as a mother’s nurturing love definitely are derived from God.

    Other than that being a borderline sexist remark about men and their abilities to be nurturing fathers, I am still at a loss of how God NOT being masculine somehow makes Him a better creator when it comes to women. And I do have to point out the irony of you attributing to God masculine pronouns while you say he is neither a man or a woman.

    Continuing,
    I assume when you refer to “eternal destruction of souls” you are talking about her pro-homosexuality stance? I do not agree with her stance on homosexuality. BUT I think it is very wrong and incredibly arrogant for you to call her not a Christian or her followers not Christians because of that.

    I do not believe RHE is a Christian. She needs to repent. She is no more a true Christian than Arius, or Joseph Smith, or Harry Fosdick was. She can use all the religious, Christian lingo she wants, but that doesn’t make her a Christian. She has done more than just supported homosexuality, but has written blogs and books that mock the Scripture, and ultimately God. On the flip-side, I think it is incredibly naive and foolish, displaying a profound lack of discernment, to think people can support grievous sin soul damning sin like homosexuality, applaud it and affirm it openly, and claim they are Christians.

    Continuing,
    The apostle Paul, who was guided directly by the Holy Spirit, did not even question the Corinthians eternal salvation because of their gross immorality. (1 Cor 5).

    In the first Corinthian letter, Paul was correcting their factiousness and divisiveness. The situation with the man marrying his step-mother was the first time that he spoke to them about that issue. We learn later in 2 Corinthians 2, that the church had responded to his instruction by removing the guy, but now they were overreacting to their discipline by not reconciling him back to the church. Yet even at the end of his second epistle, Paul wondered about their salvation 2 Cor. 13:5. So you would have a point if RHE was repentant after she had been corrected about her sinful position on homosexual sin. But she isn’t repentant, but defiant and strong-willed against the truth, which is a hallmark of a false teacher and false Christian.

    Then finally,
    Christ had more harsh words for the pharisees for their self-righteous legalism than for the sexually immoral of the day.

    Indeed, Christ did have words against the Pharisees, because he dealt primarily with Pharisees. However, His apostles, especially Paul, had extremely harsh words about sexual immorality and his words are just as authoritative and binding as God’s revelation as Christ’s. You can say “Jesus didn’t really talk a lot about sexual immorality so it doesn’t count” when confronting RHE and her sin of affirming perversion.

  10. You didn’t address my point about Paul being glad the gospel was preached even in pretense. Phil 1:17 Were you agreeing?
    And I am certainly not of the camp that would say God doesn’t care about sexual morality because Jesus didn’t talk about it. I would never trivialize the magnitude of any sin. To sin=to disobey God and that ALWAYS creates problems. Just look at what one bit of the apple did to all humankind?
    But first to Rachel Held Evans benefit, she’s not in any sexual sin. She’s just teaching it’s not wrong for others. Doug Phillips, however, was in sexual and abusive sin for at least the past 5 years. So would you label him a false teacher who isn’t saved?
    And second, we have to all realize that there is more than one kind of sin in the world. Just because sexual sin has never been my struggle doesn’t make me flawless. Many Muslims lead chaste sexual lives, but that doesn’t mean they have access to Jesus’s free forgiveness. In 2 Cor 13:5, Paul writes to examine yourself to make sure you have the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t say it’s impossible for them to be saved because of their sexual sin.
    Every Christian should be showing the fruits of the Spirit more and more each day they walk with Christ. But we have to remember that the gospel is “Jesus died to save us” NOT “we’re saved because of how righteous we started acting after we were saved.” Also we have to remember that pride is on those lists along with sexual sins. I know many Christians pridefully not sexually sinning while other Christians humbly sexually sin. Is either God’s best? No. Is one sin really better than the other? I don’t think so.
    In the anthropomorphism comment for the masculine pronoun, I was saying that males have typically been more powerful than females in every society. Hence the masculine pronoun showing God’s omnipotence.
    As for calling me borderline sexist, hey God is the one that chose to say mother’s love. If He’s so intent on having humans know He is masculine, why wouldn’t He say father’s love? B/c as you point out, fathers can be very nurturing.
    As for Arius and Joseph Smith, they both denied the deity of Christ, His death and resurrection, OR the Trinity. Is homosexuality to be the new benchmark for salvation instead of pleading the blood of Christ? I don’t say that to be sarcastic, but because I believe fundamentalists in striving to uphold virtue can cease to emphasize that it is ONLY by grace that we are saved, not works.

  11. I appreciate this post, but by definition (and not to mention all of the accompanying baggage that goes with it), patriarchy absolutely does need to go, for the sake of the Gospel, — and to be replaced with Biblically defined roles for men and women.

    “Patriarchy” does not accurately describe maleness and femaleness as the Bible describes them. Especially, in this day and age when preaching the Gospel and reaching all ethnes requires us to have a message that is not based on “be more like the Duggars”.

    Thnx.

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