Patriarchy is not a bad word

From Wikipedia:

Patriarchy describes the structuring of society on the basis of family units, in which fathers have primary responsibility for the welfare of these units. In some cultures slaves were included as part of such households. The concept of patriarchy is often used, by extension, to refer to the expectation that men take primary responsibility for the welfare of the community as a whole, acting as representatives via public office (in anthropology and feminism, for example).

Patriarchy has been dubbed a movement, primarily by opponents within the Church. I’m not sure why they object to the idea that a wife ought to submit to her husband, since the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church. The idea is not exactly a new one and Paul, being inspired, said some pretty smart stuff.

Wives, be in subjection unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the saviour of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their husbands in everything. (Eph. 5:22-24)

Apparently they see dangers in Paul’s position. Do they think God took a break from inspiration here and Paul kept right on talking? Do they think it was a temporary plan, until we were ready for a more egalitarian system?
At any rate, many say that obeying God in this case obeying one’s husband is a bad idea because a husband might abuse his authority, taking it as an excuse to act like a jerk.
But wives are clearly commanded several times in Scripture to obey their husbands (Eph. 5:22, Col. 3:18, Tit. 2:4,5, I Pet. 3:1). There is no doubt as to the meaning of the Greek word. It is used many times in reference to angels and demons under Christ, Christians under civil magistrates, and servants under their masters.

hupotasso: hoop-ot-as’-so
be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.

In her excellent post, Patriarchs, Feminists, Complementarians, Oh My! Stacy McDonald debunks several common myths about patriarchy. I think that much of the misunderstanding comes back to three basic issues: personal responsibility in light of the failure of others, the servanthood of leadership, and the origin of authority.

Personal responsibility in light of the failure of others
The first is easily dealt with: the failure of another person to discharge their duty does not relieve us of our own duty. I tell my children frequently not to blame their sins on the sins of others. “I didn’t clean the bedroom because she wouldn’t help” is not a valid excuse for a 7yo, nor is it for an adult. “I’m not obeying him; he’ll take advantage of my obedience and act like a selfish jerk.” Wives are commanded to obey even unbelieving husbands.

1Pe 3:1 In like manner, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, even if any obey not the word, they may without the word be gained by the behavior of their wives;

If a Christian wife must obey even an unbelieving husband, how much more should a wife obey a Christian husband, imperfect though he may be?

The servanthood of leadership
The husband is not the unquestioned and all powerful despot in the Christian home.
From above:

…For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church…

and again:

Let the husband render unto the wife her due: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power over her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power over his own body, but the wife. 1Co 7:3-4

Christ came as a humble servant, working and sacrificing for the Church, and this too is the duty of the husband to his wife. He is commanded to love his wife as his own body; to cleave to her; to honor her;

Even so ought husbands also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his own wife loveth himself: for no man ever hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as Christ also the church; because we are members of his body. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the two shall become one flesh. Eph 5:28-31

Ye husbands, in like manner, dwell with your wives according to knowledge, giving honor unto the woman, as unto the weaker vessel, as being also joint-heirs of the grace of life; to the end that your prayers be not hindered. 1Pe 3:7

A husband’s authority over his wife is not license to act as an absolute dictator; his authority has limits, guidelines, and a purpose. But the fear that he might abuse that authority is not license for Christians to disregard a husband’s God-given authority.

The origin of authority
All authority comes from God. We do not obey those in authority because they demand or deserve our obedience or respect. We obey them to honor God, the source of all authority.
Our children should not obey us because we are bigger and stronger, but because God has commanded it. Our authority over our children comes from God’s command for them to obey us and from His command for us to raise them in His fear and admonition.
Likewise, we obey the civil magistrates not because we’ll get jail time if we don’t, but because God has set them in authority over us.
And a wife must obey her husband not because he is really smart and strong; not because he brings home the bacon; not because he helps with dishes and diapers. She must obey him because God has set him in a position of authority over her. She honors God by obeying her husband, regardless of whether or not her husband helps with dishes and diapers. (A little tip for the guys: helping with dishes and diapers makes it much easier and more pleasant for your wife to obey you.)

Conclusion:
The husband and wife relationship presents a beautiful image of Christ and the Church. Many want to pity the wife and criticize the pattern that God has laid out, but to do so questions His own goodness and reduces Him to a petty tyrannical god fashioned after our own fallen nature.
Rather than judging God’s plan based upon our own shortcomings, we need to see the relationship for what it is designed to reflect, however imperfect that reflection may be. We must strive for perfection, not give up without trying because others are imperfect.
We are created in God’s image, and we must obey God. Rather than fretting or arguing about what might go wrong with His plan, we should obey Him in faith, trusting Him for the outcome.

Comments

  1. Alan Harstone says:

    Great Post!

    You might actually find my recent post “Bad Dads” to be a good compliment to your post.

  2. MissHailey says:

    Wonderful Godly post!

    I am going to link to it and I hope that’s ok!

  3. Spunky,
    You said,
    “Hyper-patriarchy is nothing more than what Mr. Abshire calls binding without ‘lawful warrant.’ If you prefer that term we’ll use that. But whatever you call it for a father to abuse his authority and impose requirements upon his children which the Lord does not allow needs to be addresssed. His example of sports and a son was simple…”

    I think your definition of hyper-patriarchy is highly ambiguous, and begs many questions. I also think it is rather obvious that you define many terms differently than Mr. Abshire and therefore force an unnatural and ill-fitting meaning into his words. I believe that words have objective meaning and we may not import our own meaning to them. I also believe that the 9th commandment requires that we interpret the words of others with charity and as accurately as possible. You have done neither with Brian Abshire.
    How do you define abuse? At what point do you deem that a husband or father has overstepped the lawful limits of his authority and must be held accountable for that sin? How do you define the binding of conscience? Whose conscience is being bound in your definition of hyperpatriarchy, and to whose conscience do you think Mr. Abshire is referring?
    In order to have an honest, edifying discussion, we must begin with Biblical definitions and presuppositions. So how far does the authority of a husband or father extend?

  4. Genevieve,
    My statement was imprecise. What I should have said was:
    “I suspect that hyperpatriarchy as a teaching or doctrine is largely imaginary, due to misconceptions, misunderstandings, and outright sin.”
    Any authority may be misused, misunderstood, or misapplied. But is this good reason to look with suspicious eyes at all who exercise authority or at those who teach about authority? Do we reconsider whether we really ought to have parents, police, pastors, judges, and doctors because some might not use their authority properly?

  5. Kim my point is exactly as you stated, “Your point seems to be that men will be sinners and will misunderstand and misapply Biblical teachings, resulting in so-called “hyperpatriarchy.”

    That is exactly my point. And Mr. Abshire’s essay supports this assertions as well. He said,

    “Thus, we ought to expect that in the process of trying to rediscover biblical patriarchy, some men will struggle with finding the proper balance. Some will confuse their own personal values with Scriptural ones-attempting to bind other’s consciences without lawful warrant. Some men will no doubt err by being too protective of their children. Yet the solution is NOT to undermine the concept that the father is the federal representative of his family, both to God and to the world, but rather instruct him in his duties before God and encourage him in fulfilling his divine mandate.”

    This quote is not taken out of context, it is the whole paragraph. He admits some men will struggle to find the proper balance and bind others without “lawful warrant.” It is in what he calls “binding another’s conscience without lawful warrant” that I would call “hyper-patriarchy.” He cites the possibility of being “too protective” which again would be an example of what others call hyper-patriarchy.

    Mr. Abshire sees the potential for abuse of authority as well. He gives the example of a father who “values personal pride” over the calling of his son.

    “Some men might be tempted to value their personal pride over the calling of their sons – just as some former athletes insist that their sons must play sports, even if the sons do not have the gifts or the desire. However, the abuse of power does not negate the legitimate authority God delegates to any institutions; even David refused to assassinate the murderous Saul because he was “God’s anointed.” In the end, who is best qualified to help a young man find his calling- some stranger with unbiblical values, or his own father who loves and wants his son to be a success?”

    He appears to be saying, the father is wrong but don’t touch God’s annointed. Where is the admonitition for elders and teachers to correct the sin of the father? It isn’t there. Where is the instruction to the son or wife to seek out a remedy from those in the church who must hold this father accountable? It isn’t there.

    His example is of “over-protection” is a common one for some who claim to be applying the principles of biblical patriarchy in their home. However in my experience the abuse of power is much more than just determining the calling of the son; the results are devastating to a family.

    As far as examples of hyper-patriarchy teachings directly from the source, that is a separate discussion all together and would require an agreed upon idea of what is biblical patriarcy. Your definition in the original post addresses the definition for the wife, but other teachers extend beyond the definition beyond that point and would require a whole new comment at a different time.

    The question I am addressing here and in my previous comment was the original one you asked which was “I really wonder about so-called hyperpatriarchy. We often hear about it, but how many of us have actually known such people within the body of Christ?
    Not only is it a straw man argument irrelevent to the subject at hand, but I suspect hyperpatriarchy among Christians is also largely imaginary, due to misconceptions and misunderstandings.”

    Hyper-patriarchy is nothing more than what Mr. Abshire calls binding without “lawful warrant.” If you prefer that term we’ll use that. But whatever you call it for a father to abuse his authority and impose requirements upon his children which the Lord does not allow needs to be addresssed. His example of sports and a son was simple, my experience extends beyond the simple to the profoundly sad.

  6. GenevieveJoy says:

    hyperpatriarchy “largely imaginary”? either its real or it isnt.

  7. Spunky,
    The issue here is the Biblical teaching of patriarchy. Even though you have taken the words of Mr. Abshire out of context and misapplied them, you still haven’t proven your points.
    You claim that he excuses or justifies sin in a head of house who abuses his God-given authority; rather, his point seems to be that a godly household headed by a sinner is less grievous than a household steeped in secular humanism.
    Nor does he seem (in your quote) to “instruct ‘teachers’ in the church not to ‘berate’ a father who doesn’t get patriarchy completely right and applies the teaching to the extreme.” His admonition is that teachers ought to correct such men by addressing their sin rather than blaming God’s plan for authority within the family.
    Your other quotes are similarly full of uncharitable commentary and leaps in logic.
    Your point seems to be that men will be sinners and will misunderstand and misapply Biblical teachings, resulting in so-called “hyperpatriarchy.” But can you show an example of hyperpatriarchial teachings directly from the source? You did not in any way do this with Abshire. Every quote you used was butchered from its original context and then used in misleading ways. I would strongly encourage readers to spend some time reading Mr. Abshire’s article in its entirety.
    I don’t pretend that teachers are perfect, but I do believe that, as I stated in an earlier response, hyperpatriarchy among Christians is largely imaginary, due to misconceptions, misunderstandings, and outright sin, and you have done nothing to disprove that.

  8. Lindsey @ Enjoythejourney says:

    Sadly, I know several families that are in to the eyeballs with HYPER Patriarchy.

    Thankfully, though…I know many more families who are not.

    I am with Spunky. I wish it were as simple as calling it a straw-man argument, but it isn’t always that easy. I am glad to know you don’t have any friends who are personally being harmed by it. It is a sad thing to watch.

    Good discussion. And again, my fault doesn’t lie with patriarchy itself. I believe in Biblical submission. I don’t believe in making up our own rules to stick on top of it. God’s plan is always best, so why we feel we have to make it a little bit better by adding our own “stuff” is beyond me.

  9. “We often hear about it, but how many of us have actually known such people within the body of Christ?”

    Kim I’m glad to know that you don’t know of such people. But sadly I have known more than one family with a father that takes these teachings to the extreme.

    Honestly, I wish I could pretend that this wasn’t happening, but I can’t. This is real and it’s happening in the body of Christ.

    The devastation is traumatic and cuts to the very heart of why proper teaching and accountability is necessary when talking about patriarchy.

    My experience is not just personal, but often I get letters in my in-box from women who have read my blog and are suffering at the hands of fathers and husbands who apply the teachings of patriarchy in a way that God never intended. They are searching for someone to help them and are willing to make themselves vulnerable to a stranger because their “real life” friends do nothing but blame them for the wrongs taking place in their home.

    Kim, this is real and it’s serious. It’s easy on the internet to read and dismiss someone’s concerns about “hyper-patriarchy” as a straw man. But these men are real. They are not made out of straw. These men of hear the teachings of patriarchy and apply them as the head of their home believing the mandate allows for complete authority.

    Even Mr. Abshire who has written on the subject of Patriarchy, acknowledges that there are men who apply the teaching to the extreme, but in a startling statement excuses it because the alternative is “worse.”

    In a startling sentence Mr. Abshire for any biblical teacher to make he says, “Even the worst examples of modern “patriarchy” show more biblical warrant than the unconscious adoption of secular humanism commonly held by many “Christian” families.”

    Excusing extreme sin in patriarchy by comparing it to secular humanism is unfortunate. One should never justify a distortion of truth as better than an outright lie. They are both lies and should be declared to be so. Such dissection of theology leads men to justify the most extreme actions in their home.

    Further, some teachers of patriarchy offer confusing teachings which lack clarity on how to treat a man who tyrannizes his wife or family. Teachers like Mr. Abshire acknowledge the problem, but appear timid in their willingness to correct them. They appear cautious, not wanting to undermine the divinely authorized family structure and a father’s headship in the home. Quoting again from Mr. Abshire’s essay,

    “Granted, many wicked men can (and have) abused their lawful authority, treating their wives with contempt, condescension and not always governing their homes according to God’s law. Yet do irresponsible or even sinful fathers justify undermining the divinely authorized family structure?”

    and further in the essay he states,

    “Thus, we ought to expect that in the process of trying to rediscover biblical patriarchy, some men will struggle with finding the proper balance. Some will confuse their own personal values with Scriptural ones-attempting to bind other’s consciences without lawful warrant. Some men will no doubt err by being too protective of their children. Yet the solution is NOT to undermine the concept that the father is the federal representative of his family, both to God and to the world, but rather instruct him in his duties before God and encourage him in fulfilling his divine mandate.”

    and here,

    “However, “teachers” in the church are supposed to assist godly fathers in their dominion duties, not berate them because sometimes not every father gets it completely right. Yes, there are individual men who are insecure, intolerant and imperious; but the problem is not “patriarchy” but personal sin.”

    So Mr. Abshire instructs “teachers” in the church not to “berate” a father who doesn’t get patriarchy completely right and applies the teaching to the extreme. He seems to say yes he’s sinning and carrying things to an extreme, but give him time to learn and let’s not undermine his authority.

    But what about the suffering of the wife and family, while he is in the process of learning how to “get it right” and others are gently instructing him rather than confronting his sin. Must a family suffer because a father doesn’t get it right and a church leaders fear undermining his authority and allow him time to realize he’s gone too far?

    The damage is as real as the hyper-patriarchs themselves and should not be dismissed as a “straw man” argument or that the alternative secular humanism is worse.

    Thankfully atleast Mr. Abshire and I agree that hyper-patriarchs exist even if he doesn’t use that term. However, he believes that extreme examples of hyper-patriarchy are not the fault of biblical patriarchy, but the sin of the man. He’s right to a point.

    I believe some responsibilty is also on the part of the teacher of biblical patriarchy. While we should not dismiss the personal sin of the man, we should also not dismiss the potential for error on the part of the teacher. How a certain man defines and teaches biblical patriarchy will affect those that seek to apply it. Since the teachings come from fallen men, we must examine their words as well as those who seek to apply them to ensure both are accurate and true. Simply because a man stands a podium and titles his talk “Biblcal Patriarchy” does not make it biblical or patriarchy.

    Thus while sinful men may misapply biblical patriarchy as Mr. Abshire rightly asserts, we must also leave open the possibility that sinful men are also teaching on the subject and misapplying scripture. Teachers of biblical patriarchy do not caution the listener of this potential danger.

    For your part Kim, I appreciate that you’ve opened up the discussion of patriarchy on your blog. I heartily affirm a belief in biblical patriarchy, but I also affirm the existence and the need to address the existence of hyper-patriarchs and some teachers who appeal to those extremes.

  10. lindsey,
    I’m glad you agree, but I really wonder about so-called hyperpatriarchy. We often hear about it, but how many of us have actually known such people within the body of Christ?
    Not only is it a straw man argument irrelevent to the subject at hand, but I suspect hyperpatriarchy among Christians is also largely imaginary, due to misconceptions and misunderstandings.

  11. Lindsey @ Enjoythejourney says:

    I’m with Jema. I have absolutely no problems with submission as taught in a Biblical context.

    My problem lies with hyperpatriarchy, where MAN adds in a bunch of “thou shalls” and “thou shall nots”. There are certain movements, some more than others, that are taking patriarchy to the extreme where man is exalted, not God.

    I’m a firm believer in submission the Biblical way. When that is taught and practiced accurately, I’m on board with it.

  12. The Ramblin' Rat says:

    Thank you so much for this post Kim. I really, really needed to read that today.

  13. Bravo, Kim! Great post.
    Kathleen

  14. jema,
    You are right, but I think it’s important to note that these tend to be straw man arguments. This a perversion of the Biblical model of the family which often comes from a misunderstanding rather than actual practice or teachng.
    These misunderstandings may have many sources: as you suggest, many probably see men who are failing in their roles as providers, protecters and leaders; others may jump to conclusions because in talking to women, we talk about the woman’s duty but don’t go into detail on the man’s duties.
    How many of us have actually known a church to preach that the father holds absolute and uncontested authority over those in his house?
    To the contrary, churches which hold so-called patriarchal views also teach that no authority is absolute except God’s. They teach that the head of the house is subject and accountable to the elders of the church for how he exercises that authority.

  15. I think most objections to Patriarchy are actually objections to some of the extremes that some patriarchal movements have gone to, suppressing women completely, not letting them even speak at all at church (not in front, just speak at all), holding women in this iron fist. THAT is not God-ordained patriarchy, yet that is the picture many women get when they haven’t been modelled a Biblical model. With divorce so prevalent — and often (certainly not always) because the men WERE idiots and were not doing their Biblical duty to protect, serve, love, and cherish their families, it’s no wonder most women have no idea what a Patriarchal family should look like. I think many, myself included for many years, see it as the barefoot, pregnant, run-down, never having an opinion, miserable existence for women. That is certainly NOT what God intended.

  16. Kim, what a wonderful, biblical post! I saw this on Doug’s Blog and thought, what a great opportunity to get this message to a multitude of believers! Good job, Girl!

  17. Rob and Erin says:

    Great post. It took me awhile to get to the point where I could be the submissive wife that God wanted me to be. Now, my relationship with my hubby is a thousand times better. I will definitely be sharing this with my sister….it’s been hard finding ways to talk to her about it. But this is a great, straight-forward way. Again, great post.

  18. The post covered both sides of the issue – husbands also must submit to the Church and Christ. I would like to add to mrsw’s post that emotional abuse is also a time for the wife to prayerfully consider seeking Biblical and professional counsel as to her Biblical responsibility to her husband, the Church, and God. (Building on what mrsw said, emotional abuse is not just disagreeing with your husband, etc. But, please do not be fooled that emotional abuse is not real just because it leaves no physical marks. It is indeed very real, very hurtful, and a very hard, long road to emotional and spiritual healing.)

  19. ladyofvirtue says:

    Per usual, your posting in timely and edifying. Thank you for your links.

    Sherry

  20. Good post. But I would always say that for women who find themselves their husband’s punching bag, that is not the time to submit … but to seek help from their elders and/or the police. (but I’m only talking about physical abuse here … husband saying no to the desire for another activity, vacation, etc is NOT abuse!)

  21. Stephanie says:

    Wonderful post, my friend.

    Personally, I never understood why some women have so much trouble with the idea of submission. I rather like the idea that I’m not the one who’s ultimately responsible for all the tough decisions in my family, or for taking the lead, or for answering to God for the spiritual leadership I’m providing my spouse. What a tough job those husbands have! (And trust me, this is true despite my control-freak tendencies.)

  22. Christine says:

    By assuming, or outright saying that your husband is not able to lead has an immediate negative impact on his growth as the leader of your home.

    It’s funny how so many women are so negative when it comes to their husband’s leadership, but would absolutely freak out and feel completely devalued if he tried to tell them how to mother.

    It really has everything to do with selfishness. I should know. Unfortunately, I can be the Queen Bee of Me! Me! Me! 🙂

  23. [email protected] says:

    Great post, Kim!

  24. Mommy Reg says:

    Exactly. I talk to women all the time who say that they won’t obey their husbands because they believe their husband is an idiot. And I have two questions for them, first is why did you marry him? And second is do you think that God put a condition on this? No, it doesn’t say women obey your husbands if… if just says obey.

Don't just think it: say it!

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