Previous | | Next | | E-Mail | | Contents | | V&FT
What do we mean by "Patriarchy"?
In a nutshell, we mean a sociey without the institutional church and without civil/political "government" ("the State").
As we try to explain in our 95 Theses on the State, all human beings are created in families. The creation of the State was a rebellion against a family-centered society. The institution we now call "church" was a temporary, pedagogical priesthood, and was not meant to survive God's destruction of it in AD 70. Social order is a product of families obeying God's Law.
We also explain this vision in our exposition of the prophecy in chapter 4 of the Book of Micah. What we see is a culture of peace, harmony, health, abudance, and the true worship of God. It is a time when all families own property and are secure on it, able to serve God according to His Word.
It is a time which very closely resembles that of Abraham in Genesis 13-14, yet without the presence of rival empires and war-lords, because these men of violence have been subdued by the Messianic Prince of Peace.
It is a time in which the acts of dominion and service which were prefigured by the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament have come to replace those ordinances, along with the pedegogical priesthood which administered them.
We call it PATRIARCHY.
Micah's Messiah has come; "Joy to the World!" His Kingdom has been established; His reign is now spreading from shore to shore.
In this series of essays we want to investigate the details of Micah's prophecy. We pose this question:
What kind of government shall we expect as the world-wide triumph of the Gospel unfolds, and as responsible Families observe the requirements of the New Covenant between God and His People?
In an age of "Feminism" and "Women's Rights," it seems at least archaic to champion "Patriarchy." In addition, the thoughtful student of Scripture may wonder how well that concept harmonizes with Christ's Government in the New Covenant. There are several reasons to prefer the term.
First, the term is clearly Biblical. The New Testament refers (not disparagingly) to the "patriarchs" of the Old Testament (Acts 2:29; 7:8,9; Hebrews 7:4). The word is ultimately derived from pater, "father" (cf. Matthew 6:9), but its closer derivation is patria, "family." The Bible tells us that the Family is father-centered: every family in heaven and earth is named after the Holy Family, in Whom God is the Father (Ephesians 3:15; "the whole" = "every"). Patriarchy is thus an inescapable concept.
The Law of God is directed primarily to the Family. The laws He has given are comprehensive: they address every area of life. All the laws a society needs are those given in the Bible, and these are given to the Family. The laws given to the "State" (as traditionally interpreted) are either typological, and therefore designed to strengthen the Family (and then give way to a more mature fulfillment [Gal 3:23 - 4:9], or they are merely laws of restraint -- commanding the king not to become more like Babylonian dictators than he already is. The real work of cultural reconstruction and social order is the task of the Family.
If Christians do not work to see that the Family conforms to the Heavenly Model described in God's Law, then God's Law will be replaced by man's law. The Family will be replaced by the State. The Father will be replaced by Caesar. The State is thus inescapably "pater-nalistic." It is vain to expect otherwise; the State is God's judgment on mal-functioning families.
Second, the word Patriarchy has, until recently, had an almost universal connotation of moral goodness and maturity. Many dictionaries define a "patriarch" as "a man of great age and dignity." We are not surprised to find such synonyms as "polite, civil, mannerly, courteous, gracious, gentlemanly, chivalrous, gallant, honorable, upright, virtuous, estimable, admirable, worthy, respectable" attached to one who is an "elder, senior, wise man, dean, statesman, master, pillar of the community, emeritus, mentor," or "teacher."
Unfortunately, we think a great deal in terms of Greco-Roman thought which was "re-born" in the "Renaissance" of Humanistic thought several centuries ago. But outside of the Romanized West, the Eastern Orthodox Church uses "patriarch" to denote a very high ecclesiastical office. In the West we follow Roman tradition, in which the "father" was a descendant of one of the original Roman senators. "Patrician," a word related to "patriarch," might well carry the thought of reverence, but reverence obtained by force, coercion, or political duplicity. Indeed, since Imperial Rome, "patriarchal" government has been oppressive and coercive.
This explains why a sometimes perceptive and sometimes less imbalanced feminist does not use the term, even though she considers it "appropriate." She says that "widespread indiscriminate use of the term has led to the blurring of significant social and cultural distinctions among various 'patriarchal' societies." We shall not use the term "indiscriminately"! We shall reserve the term "Patriarchal" for those families that truly reflect the Holy Family; those that do not partake of the characteristics of the Empire-State. Non-patriarchal families, such as atomistic "nuclear" families, are both dependent upon the State and force the State to increase in size to take up the slack of such impotent and crippled families.
Third, we cannot think of another term which adequately and simply expresses the form of social organization which is required by Scripture. The Family is clearly (biologically) the basic form of social order ordained by the Creator. His Word in the Bible affirms the preeminence of the Family as a theologically preferred concept. Individualism is inadequate, and "church"-centered systems are inevitably imitation-States (in Scripture, "the Church" is the trans-dimensional Assembly of saints, the Body of Believers). Physical identifications or manifestations of saints are predominantly Family-centered (e.g., Romans 16:5; I Corinthians 16:15,19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 2; Acts 2:46) (although we may still speak of the saints [or that part of the Church] in New York or L.A.).
It should be noted that Family-centeredness does not necessitate macho-male domination. Other writers have commented on the "motherly" characteristics of God (e.g., Isaiah 66:13; 49:15) and the role of women in the apostolic age (e.g., Romans 16:1-7; cf. Galatians 3:28). True Patriarchy does not derive its power from brute force (Zechariah 4:6).
The kind of father-centered dictatorship which some picture when they hear "patriarchy" is clearly a violation of Biblical Law. First, the nuclear Family, although culturally sub-Biblical (when isolated from other generations, dependent upon the State, and standardized into the world [Romans 12:1-2]), is still a juridically sovereign unit (see Genesis 2:24).
Second, it is only when fathers violate the Law of Christ and seek to become their own gods (their own State, more to the point) that "Patriarchy" becomes oppressive. Christian fathers are called to serve, not domineer (Philippians 2:3-8). The "patriarch" violates the sovereignty of the nuclear family only when he is attempting to be like Gentile kings (Luke 22:24-27). The problem is Statism, not Patriarchy. This shall be a central theme in the PATRIARCHY series.
While their motivations may be sincere, the antinomianism of both "liberals" and "conservatives" renders them anti-Patriarchal, and hence anti-Family.
The feminists on the "left" sincerely and rightly oppose macho irresponsibility and male dominance. But their policies move us from a perverse familial personalism (the "patriarchy-as-State" caricature) to an equally perverse non-familial impersonalism (State day-care, homosexuality, bureaucratic welfare).
On the "right," the patriotic defenders of the atomistic State-dependent "nuclear family" sincerely oppose increasing crime, illiteracy, joblessness, and lack of moral character (and resultant State-dependency). But by resisting God's commands to adopt, teach, apprentice, and render personal, face-to-face charity, they inadvertently eliminate Christian culture, make families dependent upon the State, and move us toward Socialist Totalitarianism by strengthening the State rather than "Patriarchalizing" the family. They speak of "strong families," but they end up with a perverse personalism (the bullying by the "patriarch") and yet in fact have very impersonal families, with very little Christian personalism being shared with those outside the family.
The genuine problems perceived by both left and right are not solved by strengthening the State. They are solved by strengthening the Family.
We are looking forward, therefore, to rehabilitating PATRIARCHY as we expose the demonic and destructive results of those who fail to champion Patriarchal obedience to Biblical Law in every area of life, both "liberals" and "conservatives."
1. Phyllis Bird, "Images of Women in the Old Testament," in Religion and Sexism, ed. by Rosemary Radford Ruether. [Retrun to Text]