Biblical Patriarchy: An Introduction

Biblical Patriarchy: An Introduction July 17, 2015

Since the rise of feminism in the early twentieth century, conservative Christians have attempted to give Biblical answers and alternatives to societal movements that are opposed to Biblical ethics and the Biblical family structure. Some have adopted an egalitarian approach, thus capitulating to the norms of contemporary society. They argue that the church has been wrong about the family structure all along. Husbands and wives do not have distinct roles within the family, the church, or society. It is purported that women can justifiably be pastors, or the head of the household. A father can stay at home with the children, and a mother can work full-time. This perspective, however, tends to defend itself, not from the text of Scripture, but with appeals to the ever-changing cultural norms of the time. Thus, such a view has been rejected by those seeking to retain the creational structure of man and woman as taught in the Bible and Christian history.

Most conservative Christians have contended for the complimentarian view of the sexes. In this perspective, God created men and women in unique ways. Their roles in the church and the family thus cannot be interchanged for one another. The male is given a unique position of authority in the family, as the head of the wife, mirroring God’s headship over humanity. Yet, man’s primary role toward his wife is that of self-giving love, in view of Christ’s own self-donation. Woman then must submit to her husband, and respect the unique authority into which he has been placed. The mother and father then are both placed in a role of authority over the children. Thus, the role of authority is a shared one with respect to their offspring. Similarly, though God values male and female equally within the church, there is an established ecclesiastical structure in which the man alone can be placed into the pastoral office. Females are not given the call to public ministry.

In recent years, a more extreme version of the complimentarian view has arisen. This has been labeled “Christian Patriarchy,” or “Biblical Patriarchy.” The movement itself is a broad one, encompassing perspectives from a variety of theological traditions. Yet, there are some common themes which unify various ministries and theologians under the “Patriarchy” banner. Proponents of Christian Patriarchy argue that feminism has destroyed the traditional Christian family structure. Thus, they promote the idea that Christians, to be faithful to Scripture, must live a counter-cultural family centered lifestyle.

As the name suggests, proponents of Christian Patriarchy emphasize the place of male leadership within the family. Like the complimentarian perspectives, Biblical Patriarchy suggests that the husband is in a leadership role over the wife. They also argue, however, that it is uniquely the husband who is the head of the children as well. They tend to discourage women from attending college and having a career outside of the home. It is the woman’s role to be a homemaker and bear children. They also argue that due to this unique feminine role, women should not be in authority over men in any sphere of life. This includes the state and the workplace, along with the church and family. Adult daughters who are not yet married must be under male authority, and thus should remain at home under the roof of their father. According to most associated with this movement, homeschooling is the only viable option for Christian education. The movement is not identical to, but is closely associated with, the Quiverfull movement which argues against any type of family planning as unethical.

There are a number of organizations and pastors who have promoted these and other views associated with Christian Patriarchy. Prominent among these groups is Vision Forum, which is defunct as of 2013. Doug Phillips, and others associated with this organization, published several books, videos, and homeschooling materials which promote these views from a Reformed perspective. Another organization which is part of this movement is No Greater Joy Ministries led by Michael and Debbi Pearl. Michael is a fundamentalist baptist pastor outside of Memphis, Tennessee. He and his wife have published popular books of child discipline and the roles of husbands and wives within Christian marriage. The National Center for Family Integrated Churches also promotes Christian Patriachy, along with church practices which involve age integration in congregational ministry. Though not a denomination, this group connects like-minded congregations, and publishes material that promotes this perspective. Other popular proponents of Biblical Patriarchy include R.C. Sproul Jr., Douglas Wilson, and Voddie Baucham.

In the next post, we will begin looking at and examining some of the claims of Christian Patriarchy.

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