I Timothy 2:11 Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. 12 And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.
These texts, and others like them, provided a foundation for social order for Christian civilization in the West for 2000 years. These texts can be summarized by the word “patriarchy” which simply means “Rule of the Father.”
Patriarchy as a social order — a way to organize a society — grew up out of the text of Scripture and because of that has been roundly hated by those who hate the Scriptures. Indeed, so hated as patriarchy been that we have spent the last 100 years or so seeking to strip ourselves of this idea that God intended for men and women to each have their respective domains of hegemony. The Man as he who fights to provide and the Woman as she who is head of hearth and home under the protection and guidance of her husband. So hated has been this idea of biblical patriarchy that the whole biblical notions of roles for men and women have been so eclipsed that now we are living in a culture where not only roles for men and women have been denied but so have the idea of sexual distinctions between men and women legally disappeared.
That the idea of Biblical patriarchy is to be overcome for an egalitarian social order has been seen repeatedly in our culture. This desire to reverse God’s intended order for society goes way back. Indeed, one might say that in the Garden, with the serpents bypassing of the male covenant Head for Eve what was seen for the first time was this attempt to be rid of God’s assigned patriarchy.
The desire to rid social orders of patriarchy has been characteristic of every Revolutionary Movement. In the 18th century French Revolution, it was Mary Wollstonecraft writing her “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” This was, comparative to today, a rather mild statement, wherein Women’s rights in the new Revolutionary order was championed. At one point Wollstonecraft, whose own life and marriage was shipwrecked on her Revolutionary views wrote,
“It is vain to expect virtue from women till they are in some degree independent of men.”
― Mary Wollstonecraft, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
Mrs. Cady Stanton’s “Women’s Rights” championed for Woman to be freed from her subordination to man! This freedom was to be seized from men who were seen as dictatorial if they did not agree with Stanton. Freedom was to be grasped by women as she makes herself independent of man.
That Stanton was at war with Christianity is seen by just a couple quotes,
“We found nothing grand in the history of the Jews nor in the morals inculcated in the Pentateuch. I know of no other books that so fully teach the subjection and degradation of woman. “
“The whole tone of Church teaching in regard to women is, to the last degree, contemptuous and degrading. “
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
And yet it is only in Western Civilization, formed and shaped by Christianity wherein women escaped the degradation found in the harem of the Muslim. It was only in Christianity where women were esteemed and protected and so delivered from being merely objects as you find in much of paganism. It was not Christianity that put widowed women on the funeral pyre with their deceased husbands (sutee). And as sure as night follows day, as Christianity and Biblical patriarchy is eclipsed, women will return to slave status.
Kollentai was one of the noteworthy Bolshevist Revolutionaries of the Russian Revolution. Early on she was known for her role in attacking what was then called the “bourgeiose family,” which was in point of fact the family based on Christian principles. She advocated the simplification of divorce, and for access to birth control and abortion,
‘In my opinion, as a Feminist and a Communist, the fundamental importance and value of birth control lies in its widening of the scope of human freedom and choice, its self-determining significance for women. Birth control means freedom for women, social and sexual freedom, and that is why it is so feared and disliked in many influential corners today … [it] is the beginning of the end of a social system and a moral code.’
Kollontai following previous Revolutionary Feminists argued,
“To be truly free woman must throw off her contemporary, obsolete, coercive form of family that is burdening her way.”
“In sight of the whole the home fire is going out in all classes and strata of the population, and of course no artificial measures will fan its fading flame.”
“Patriarchy perpetuates oppressive and limiting gender roles, the gender binary, trans phobia and cissexism, sexual assault, the political and economic subordination of women, and so much more. And it is of the utmost importance that we prioritize dismantling the patriarchy in our intimate lives, as well as in a larger systemic sphere.”
It has been argued by some Christian Feminists (Virginia Mollencott) that patriarchy is not biblical because patriarchy was merely the cultural soil out of which God’s revelation was given to us. Never mind that we find patriarchy in the garden of Eden before the fall. In this argument patriarchy is merely the culture wherein Scripture originated. Virginia Mollencott for example as argued that “We cannot assume that because the Bible was written against the backdrop of the patriarchal social structure patriarchy it is the will of God for all people in all times and in all places.” And from there she calls for the necessity to de-absolutize the culture of the Bible.
The problem there, of course, is that in calling for the end of patriarchy by de-absolutizing the culture of the Bible what Mollencott has done instead is to absolutize the culture of modern feminism as the grid through which Scripture should be read. So, for Mollencott and people like her what the State must do is pass laws that strip patriarchy from our social order and boy howdy have they done that. From women’s suffrage at the beginning of the century which had the effect of a wife potentially negating her husband’s vote as head of the family, to the encouraging of women en mass to leave the home and enter the work force as Rosie the Riveter, to our embrace of easy divorce laws and abortion in the 70’s to redefining marriage in the summer of 2015 to the embrace of all things Transgender we have been at war with all forms of patriarchy for decades. Indeed when viewed objectively the 20th century has given us an arc that clearly communicates the desire to be done with father rule. Indeed, the State and too often the Church are working diligently to overcome the crowning outrage and inconsistency of patriarchy by correcting God’s mistake of not letting woman become a man because He made her a woman.
In our current culture what R. L. Dabney said over a century ago has come to pass. With the absence of patriarchy
“Women have the natural right to do all the particular things that a man does if she can … to shave her beard, to serve in the army and ride astraddle, to preach sermons and to sing bass.”
This is not the way of Scripture,
Clearly, the Scriptures that have been elucidated teaches a Biblical patriarchy where the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is head of the Church. Clearly, Scripture teaches the central importance of a Trustee family inasmuch as Scripture teaches that children are a blessing from the Lord. Clearly, Scripture teaches explicitly that God hates divorce. Clearly, Scripture teaches that parents are uniquely responsible for the rearing and teaching of their children. All of these patriarchal truths are now increasingly denied in and by our patriarchy-hating culture.
This also has not always been the way our Christian Fathers and Mothers have thought. Susan Fenimore Cooper, writing to resist the women’s suffrage movement could write,
That language in today’s culture is almost grating on our ears and yet this was the mindset of our Christian Fathers and Mothers. And what have we made of ourselves since we have overthrown this kind of Patriarchy?
We send young ladies to college apart from the oversight of their Fathers and,
Among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.
Relationships between young men and women have devolved into what we now call “the hook up culture.”
According to “projections based on census data, when today’s young adults reach their mid-40s to mid-50s, a record high share (25%) is likely to have never been married,” Pew Research noted in a 2014 study documenting the decline of marriage in the U.S.
- Percent of all births to unmarried women: 40.2%
We have sown the wind of anti-patriarchy and have reaped the whirlwind of broken homes, fatherless children, and a shattered social order.
And all this because we abandoned God’s Word for the Family.
Many will blame all this on Feminism but I believe in the end, this is the fault of men who desired the irresponsibility that comes with not having to rule. If God has designed men to be rulers then when ruling fails it can only be because men abdicated their place of ruling well as God’s representatives in the family.
Has Biblical patriarchy been perfect? No, precisely because it is implemented and lived out by creatures who are fallen. I myself in up close and personal ways have seen the failure of patriarchy. I’ve seen husbands out of control damaging their wives and children in the name of “being in charge.” But, this is once again the case where we dare not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Unbiblical Patriarchy should not determine our attitude towards Biblical patriarchy. Just as we would not conclude that terrible marriages, therefore means we should get rid of marriage completely we should not reason that all because we have witnessed bad patriarchy therefore, we should get rid of biblical patriarchy.
In this message, I have challenged many assumptions of the post-Christian West. In doing so, I realize that a sermon like this might be deemed “controversial.” But if any of it is controversial it is only controversial in the light of the Enlightenment project called modernity where egalitarianism has been the ruling motif. Overall, the point here is that in God’s social order men and women are not interchangeable cogs in a machine culture. They have each been gifted differently for the glory of God and for the good of one another.
The healing of all this begins with men and women being regenerated by the spirit of the living Christ. Regenerated men and women have their minds awakened to God’s revelation and begin incrementally to challenge the assumptions of an age that have been at war with God since the fall of the Bastille. Only by the Cross can the family be restored. Apart from the finished work of Christ we can only expect more of this conflict of interest between men and women. We can not legislate our way out of this mess unless we are first turned to trust Christ. We can not muscle our way out of this unless we are first turned to trust Christ. Our only hope in restoring both individual lives and from that our larger social order is by once again being tutored by Christ.