Sunday, July 8, 2007

A defense against Patriarchy (part 1)

This is an answer to my first request for a specific topic to cover. I'm grateful to finally have a group of steady readers and I hope this proves useful and helpful.

First off, people aren't actually being excommunicated for violating patriarchy. Rather what is happening is that people in very conservative churches and woman that are part of the home-schooling movement are being made to feel unwelcome if they don't support patriarchy. Woman who don't have the same submissive inclinations are having their self esteem undermined as they are being told that the biblically correct way for them to live is in a state which is unnatural for them.

A good introduction to the doctrine, is posted on vision forum ministries:Biblical Patriarchy and the Doctrine of Federal Representation by Brian M. Abshire, and a more "catechism" oriented version Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy. If you are unfamiliar with the topic start by reading those two articles.

Abshire says things like,
"In effect, Western civilization was a ‘patriarchy’ up until recent times and assumed as the normal means of governing not only households, but also entire nations.”

Central to the crisis of this era is the systematic attack on the timeless truths of biblical patriarchy. This attack includes the movement to subvert the biblical model of the family, and redefine the very meaning of fatherhood and motherhood, masculinity, femininity, and the parent and child relationship. ... the church should proclaim the Gospel centered doctrine of biblical patriarchy as an essential element of God’s ordained pattern for human relationships and institutions.

Or David Gray, "Well in this instance drawing the line so that it embraces egalitarian rebellion shrinks the church as it excludes 2000 years of Christians who didn't dream of such folly."[cite].

That is the simplified argument for patriarchy comes down to the following (3) points:

1) That God has command patriarchy
2) That this belief is clear in scripture and there is no room for debate on scripture's meaning
3) That this belief was upheld by the church and understood by all until the 20th century

Again, this blog has a strict no theology policy, so we will not analyze the theology of patriarchy. We will take no position as to whether it is or is not God's position that woman should be silent in church, submissive in the home and unemployed for life. The web is full of this debate and it will not be repeated here. Point (1) will not be addressed.

Points (2) and (3) however are simple questions of fact and history. We don't have to speculate on what the Church believed regarding sex roles and gender they have left us a long written record. Not only are the views of the patriarchy movement not universal, as far as I can tell, there is no point in history until recently where Christians held the views that are being claimed. Which in my opinion is quite logical. Despite themselves, the patriarchy supporter's views are very 20th century, a reaction against 20th century feminism and not ancient at all.

That is we will argue:
People from hundreds (or thousands) of years ago are do not have a position in a modern debate since they don't share our assumptions, nor are they confronted with our issues. We argue that scripture as read through history is highly ambiguous on the nature of gender and sex roles. We will prove that the Christian community has had an evolving understanding of sex and feminism over its 2000 year history, and moreover the commonalities that do exist by and large do not agree with the patriarchal view. Arguments as to what scripture command are made by these early authors and they come to entirely different conclusions about what God desires for the family and from woman.

To actually understand what Christians thought through time would be a book and not just a few web articles. However we will look at a few selections:

We will show that:

1) In part 2 we will look at the In the first 2 centuries (prior to the emergence of authoritative scripture normative throughout the Christian community) Christian views of gender and sex were mixed. These were active areas of disagreement. None of them held views remotely similar to either side of the current debate. We examine works like the Didache, Acts of Paul and Thecla, and the teachings of Valentinus to understand the breadth of the pre 180 CE church's views on gender and sex. By in large the Christian view is very hostile to family, marriage leads to sex and childbirth and lead one away from God. However, fornication is far worse than married sex. Christians are mixed whether procreative or non procreative acts are more damaging to one's relationship with God.

2) By the time there is normative scripture in the early 5th century, the classical view (the supremacy of virginity and chastity) has become the undisputed norm. Part 3 looks at this 5th century Christianity which is mildly hostile towards the family, and mildly hostile towards procreative acts within the family. Augustine and Jerome will be typical sources, though other church fathers will be considered.

3) In part 4 we example the dark ages. In the dark ages the concept of family undergoes a metamorphosis. A family no longer consists of a breeding pair of adults and their children but rather people arranged in bonds of property and status. The issue of legitimacy for children becomes paramount for reasons of inheritance. This configuration where property not descent defines the family last for centuries. The Christian focus shifts as well and this can be seen easily in both normative church law and papel rulings. At this stage we do see patriarchal marriage as a societal norm and the Christian reaction is a rejection of it.

4) Part 5 examples the high middle ages. In middle ages the church begins attempts a synthesis of the two previous views. (Aquinas). As an aside its in this section where the most damning piece of evidence is presented. Aquinas does a survey of previous writers and shows no evidence of ever having heard of anything resembling the current patriarchal view. I can think of no stronger disproof of the belief that the modern patriarchal view is the clear view of scripture and the normative behavior of Christians than the fact that Aquinas is utterly ignorant of this position. We will also examine Dante to see a less academic view on family relations.

5) Within a few centuries of Aquinas, Europe experiences a population boom. As the economic value of chidren decreases while the costs of raising them increase, horrific poverty makes family planning normative. Literature of this time starts to view children as a burden rather than a blessing and the notions of illegitimacy as a source of poverty becomes the majority view. Marriage is seen as destructive for woman leading to poverty and death in childbirth. Reason, industry and chastity are strongly supported by Christianity over family.

After this period we have the romantics. The notion of romantic love rather than property or sexuality being the core of healthy marriage begins to emerge. This romantic view of marriage and its effects is the topic of part 6. Children are associated with purity, innocence and love. Wealth increases and children no longer induce starvation. Fathers begin working outside the home to increase income, and sometimes mothers as well. We quickly arrive at essentially the modern debate. Its at this point we can can potentially argue that the "traditional view" is something even remotely like what the patriarchists are supporting.

Obviously all the above needs to be proven. However it is my hope that understanding that patriarchy is a reaction against capitalism and 2nd and 3rd wave feminism and not a traditional viewpoint at all allows those woman who wish to reject it the support they will need. For those woman who do want to play dress up in 19th century clothes, be silent and submissive; congratulations on finding your own version of Roissy that works for you. Please, however, don't lost yourself completely in the fantasy and fail to educate your daughters.


Jen Fishburne said...

CD Host, this sounds like a fascinating journey through history. I will admit that I know nothing about the history that you have outlined, but I just finished talking to Don Veinot of Midwest Christian Outreach, who is also exposing Patriarchy, and he says that there was indeed an ancient period of what was called "father rule," which is very similar to today's patriarchy movement. You might want to consider including that in your research as well.

This sounds like a lot of work. I'm curious as to your interest in it.

Anonymous said...

>Or David Gray, "For 2000 years all Christians have understood scripture's plain teaching on the matter. Now Roger Nicole has discovered that no Christian before the last couple of decades understood scripture. But he does. That only appeals to those who want a fig leaf for their rebellion."

Flattered as I am to be quoted the quote you selected was addressed to the subject of women's ordination, not patriarchy. Presumably you do understand the distinction between the two, which while related, are not the same, patriarchy being the wider of the two in application. If you do understand this distinction then I'm at a loss to know why you quoted me as you did. If you don't understand the distinction you should probably leave the subject alone.

Now you may well be able to find a quote from me addressing the subject of patriarchy or if I found sufficient time on my hands I could manufacture one but till then let's be straightforward in the matter, please.

CD-Host said...

David -
The reason I quoted you was because it was in the context of a debate about feminism and patriarchy and it had the 2000 year line explicitly. Further it was occurring on a blog of a well known apologist for patriarchy. In other words I took it broadly. I'll delete if you object, I'm not looking to quote anyone saying anything they don't believe.

CD-Host said...

Jen -
It comes from the general interest in church discipline. Pretty much, my specific interest is what I said in the introduction. Patriarchal biblical arguments are being used to demean people. I'm good at apologetics and so this is something I can help to counter.

Corrie said...

CD Host,

Interesting way of looking at all of this. I don't think I have ever read where someone has laid this topic out as you have but I would think it be worth our look into history to see if the patriarchy of today is actually the patriarchy of the past.

The other part of this is that taking multiple wives was very much an accepted part of patriarchy. I wonder how this aspect all fits in and why that is no longer the case with today's patriarchy?

As Jen pointed out, the MCOI article discusses the Roman position that fathers were law and they could decide whether or not a child lived or died. The wife had a status of that of a slave.

">Or David Gray, "For 2000 years all Christians have understood scripture's plain teaching on the matter. Now Roger Nicole has discovered that no Christian before the last couple of decades understood scripture. But he does. That only appeals to those who want a fig leaf for their rebellion."

Hi David,

I just want to be clear. Are you saying that the quote only deals with women as pastors and not to patriarchy? That this quote does not hold true in regard to wider issue of patriarchy?

CD-Host said...

Corrie -

Polygamy is an interesting one because the bible itself doesn't really condemn it. On the other hand Christianity has a long history of wiping the practice out very aggressively. With the exception of Luther (who was still rather opposed) I can't think of a single major protestant leader that's has even been tolerant of polygamy on an ongoing basis.

simplegifts3 said...

cd-host, I find these two, very short pages, by Peter Leithart (who is no egalitarian by any means) fascinating, in that he claims Paul's command for women to be silent actually frees women to speak. I don't know enough about history to speak about your blog entry, nor take a firm stand for or against what Leithart is saying -- just that it strikes me as incongruous for a complementarian man to be saying this: Here, and and here are the articles. Very short reads. The one on the silence of women in the church is especially interesting to me.

CD-Host said...

Simplegifts --

Well if we are talking (off the record) theology here, then there is also a problem with the language in 1Cor 14:33-36. It sounds like 1Tim which is non Pauline. I don't think Paul wrote this at all. This strikes me as having much more to do with 2nd century issues. ( ).

I'm also not sure what you meant by, " just that it strikes me as incongruous for a complementarian man to be saying this"

David Talcott said...

Perhaps I'm just unclear on what you mean by Patriarchy, but it seems that Aquinas was extremely familiar with patriarchy within the family (see his answers to the first few articles of Q.64 of the supplement to Part III).

I'm open to hearing about how new issues have arisen which the ancients didn't have to face. But, it seems like the ancients certainly did deal with similar issues that would be relevant--I mean, if women weren't speaking inappropriately in Church, then Paul wouldn't have had to write in order to say "hey, don't talk like that," right? So, I think you've set up a pretty massive hurdle for yourself in saying "People from hundreds (or thousands) of years ago are do not have a position in a modern debate since they don't share our assumptions, nor are they confronted with our issues." I don't think anyone's made the claim that ancients thought exactly the way that we do on this issues. The claim is just that, on questions like "Is the husband the head of his house? Should men and not women be the highest (human!) spiritual authorities in the church? Should men, not women, hold public offices and be political leaders?" the ancients would all agree and contemporary complementarians/patriarchalists (don't think that's even a term, but guess I'll use it :) would agree with them.

So there's not 100% identity of positions, but there is identity of positions on an important range of theological and practical questions.

CD-Host said...

David T --

I'm not sure if I follow how your Augustine reference disproves my point? If anything Aquinas is actually taking a fairly moderate position on the issue.
I think you might want to take a look at the two intro articles. This apologetic is written for woman (who essentially hold fairly right wing views) as a defense against some men who hold slightly more to the right views. Its a debate between the complimentarians and the patriarchals not one with the 2 of them against the feminists.

For example its not should there be woman priests but rather should husbands act as priests (i.e. serve communion) to their wives. Or you political office one is a good example (I think). I think the complimentarians are not opposed to woman in high political office. Moreover I don't know that the church was uniformally opposed to woman in office. To pick an extreme example, Joan of Arc is a saint.

Anonymous said...

What a horrible post...I'll try to read through the other you "don't write about theology" yet make distinctly theological claims is quite an exercise.

If I wanted to critique your post without writing theologically, it would look like this:

....................... THE END

Anonymous said...

Thank you for taking the time and doing the research to address the issue of Patriarchal forces at work within many Christian circles.

I sincerely believe this patriarchal influence is behind a lot of abusive practices. The more we know about it and the more it is openly discussed, the better for all of us.

I have been in a Patriarchal systam and it is, indeed, oppressive.

CD-Host said...

Debra --

Glad to see you got an account for yourself! I think you'll get the biggest kick out of the 2nd half of part 5. Where "courtship" came from.

Anonymous said...

Femdom is a tool of feminism to enslave men and make them weak and submissive.The funny thing is those who do femdom many a times revert back to other extreme-maledom.It does’nt take much intelligence to understand that this BDSM is only a sexual perversion designed to cause physical and mental trauma to people engaged in it and thus cause degeneration of society.Masonic(freemasons) writers for the last 200 years have written feminist and femdom sexual utopia in protestant countries under the secret guidance of catholic Jesuit preists.They promoted feminism and these sexual perversions only to destroy your protestant nations.Freemasonry is a secret society developed by Jesuits to enslave men and women of protestant countries through feminism and femdom and thus destroy protestantism secretly,results of which you can clearly see in mainline protestantism today.That is why you see masonic lodges only in predominantly protestant areas,never in catholic areas.

CD-Host said...

Hello Neo --

Welcome to the blog. You are presenting an interesting view regarding Freemasonry which arguably fits in better with part 6 of this series where I address the 18th century movements directly. You might want to take a look at part 6.

Anonymous said...

Do you know Kevin Craig? he pushes a form of anarchy which he calls "patriarchy". I like the anarchism part, the patriarchy not so much.

CD-Host said...

Hi Mark welcome to the blog! No I don't know Kevin Craig but I just read his site. I use Patriarchy for those who go well beyond Complementarianism and Kevin Craig qualifies. He argues that all the functions of the state including criminal justice / capital punishment belong to patriarchs who are kings. He arguably goes considerably further than most other patriarchs in the degree of father rule he would permit but I think it is fair to group him in, though as a minor figure.

Anonymous said...

Kevin is/was my friend, and a pacifist like I am, but he's also trying to be a theonomist and along with that a Republican. He openly teaches justification by works, and doesn't bother with the nuances and ambiguities of the "federal vision".

In the latest book on "Christian anarchism", Kevin also gets some attention as being a "minor figure" in the world of those who would rather live without the arkies.

I Cor 15: 23 But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. 24 Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet

Unknown said...

Please read and think about Your lord , the creator, the sustainer, all knowing - God. The God who is unique, The God who can only be compared to himself, The God who does not begets and he is not begotten, The only God who is not male or female, nor he is partial to any gender. The God who is the only one who is the most just and he does not oppresses anyone in any way, and he does not like anyone who oppresses or misuse any of his creations. The only god who has the right to make laws for his creations & no one has the right to ignore them. The God who is not limited by time, not limited in strength, not limited in resources, not limited in knowledge.
The God who will judge people good or bad ( reward able or punishable in the afterlife) based upon their Religion; Not - Country, race, nationality, language, color, beauty, riches, education, culture - They does not help if there is anything against the law of the religion.
All of us will die and will return to his kingdom in the skies. Then men & women will have to go to heavens or to hells.
Surrender yourself to the will of god, surrender to the laws of his Religion ( In Arabic which means Islam). Pray and supplicate to your God, so that you may be guided to the real truth. Have love & fear both for your God - The only God who is to be worshiped alone ( In Arabic he [God] is - Allah ) .
Idol worshiping or praying to or hoping to gain rewards & blessings from other than the one true God, worshiping or praying to demi-gods or deity worshiping of animals or stars or trees or man or woman or saints or pious people, is the worst sin of all sins.
Showing respect to pictures / status / sculpture / mural etc showing respect to pictures / status / sculpture / mural etc, is the greatest sin of all sins. God was not born, nor is someone child of God.
Everything is God's creation. Nothing / no one can be compared to God (Allah) in any aspect. Only God (Allah) has the real control & Knowledge over all good or bad or any future event.
Thinking that God (Allah) is unjust, any law, system, or lifestyle other than by GOD is better is one of the greatest sins.
Thinking that, laws, systems, or lifestyle from GOD is not good anymore or cruel- is one of the greatest sins.
By learning and teaching our children to sacrifice our own benefits for others, we can solve many of the problems. May God help us all. Please copy and save this message for future.