Examining the Premises of the Patriarchal Promises

by on August 16th, 2007

Many of you are aware that our current Journal article “Who Will Be First in the Kingdom?” has received enough interest that we put the Journal online earlier than usual. We have recently received a letter from Bob Renaud at Vision Forum Ministries answering the questions we had asked in January. Within a few days of that we received a letter from Pastor Brian Abshire, the author of “Biblical Patriarchy and the Doctrine of Federal Representation” one of the articles we quoted from on the Vision Forum website. Pastor Abshire also called last week (just as I had hit the send button with an email acknowledging receipt of his letter). I found him to be kind and enjoyed our visit by phone. I won’t be responding to his letter at any length in this blog piece but will address a couple of points as well as raise some other issues of concern about patriarchy.

In “Who Will Be First in the Kingdom?” we quote Pastor Abshire’s statement:

In regards to a woman’s right to vote; if husband and wife are truly “one flesh” and the husband is doing his duty to represent the family to the wider community, then what PRACTICAL benefit does allowing women to vote provide? If husband and wife agree on an issue, then one has simply doubled the number of votes; but the result is the same. Women’s voting only makes a difference when the husband and wife disagree; a wife, who does not trust the judgment of her husband, can nullify his vote. Thus, the immediate consequence is to enshrine the will of the individual OVER the good of the family thus creating divisions WITHIN the family.

In his letter he writes:

The very next paragraph is again, ripped from its context and illogically used to try and make me say something OTHER than what the essay actually said. You cite me discussing the PRAGMATICS of voting but you do not include the HISTORICAL background which was used to demonstrate the humanist attack on the integrity of the covenant family and the rise of individualism as a cultural force. The paragraph does NOT take away the modern women’s right to vote, nor in any way deny that women have the ability to make wise decisions, but rather is an attempt to demonstrate an underlying cultural force that breaks up what was, until very recent times, the traditional concept of family.” (emphasis in the original)

The problem is that the paragraph immediately preceding this he writes:

By the 20th century, American Christians saw the “height” of Christian activism as banning alcohol while at the same time affirming a woman’s right to vote. Both ideas were unmitigated disasters; God has not allowed the civil magistrate to outlaw wine and God does not allow women to vote (cf. 1 Tim 2:11ff).

The first thing that I have here is a question. Is women’s suffrage truly an “unmitigated disaster?” We have actual evidence that Prohibition was a disaster because not only did it fail to achieve its objective of elevating the moral level of society, but it actually fueled the growth of organized crime, its immense unpopularity made it extremely difficult and expensive to enforce, and the 18th amendment was ultimately repealed. But where is the evidence that the Constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote has failed? What specific ills have befallen society that can be proven to be a result of women voting? Why has there never been an attempt to repeal the 19th amendment? If it has failed, it would appear that no one except those few who are opposed to it in principle seem to be aware of it. It certainly has not failed in any of the senses in which Prohibition failed, and thus putting both in the same category as “unmitigated disasters” is highly misleading, and in reality only empty rhetoric.

The second thing I have here is an observation. If “God does not allow women to vote” than wouldn’t it be the case that if a woman votes she is sinning by doing that which God does not allow? Wouldn’t a husband who permits her to vote or encourages her to vote be prompting her to sin? Wouldn’t a church that encouraged women to be involved in the political process by voting be further promoting that sinful behavior?

Thirdly, I see no evidence that the passage cited (1 Tim. 2:11ff) gives biblical weight to his contention that God does not allow women to vote.

It is indeed difficult to speak to the issue of patriarchy definitively for as Pastor Abshire points out in “Biblical Patriarchy and the Doctrine of Federal Representation” there is no actual agreement on what it is:

Those who self-consciously identify themselves as supporting “patriarchy” are not yet united in just what this term entails but there are enough people affirming this view that many in the wider Christian community now believe them to a “serious threat” that needs to be addressed.

There are likely gradations with in the patriarchal camp of those on the one end who like the word and view it as more or less the family tie breaker in a difficult decision to the other end where everything revolves around the father. In those settings the daughter is the property of the father and even God defers to the father. Sarah Faith Schlissel from The Chalcedon Foundation write in her article in “Daddy’s Girl: Courtship and a Father’s Rights”:

The order of God, as indicated in his word, is that God himself defers to the will of the father when it comes to his daughter. God says, “You heard your father. The answer is no.”Thus, the will of the father regarding his daughter IS the will of God.

We are not told why it is that the father knows better how to care and decide for his daughter than God does but there you have it.

She affirms for the reader that daughters are property owned by the father:

Beyond being an X-chromosome donor, may we think of the “-’s” in “Daddy’s” in the possessive sense, and affirm with legitimacy that Daddy is my owner?

Any man seeking to beg, borrow or steal a daughter’s hand without her father’s endorsement is seeking to gain, in unlawful ways, “property” not his own.

Others view patriarchy as the dividing line between true Christians and non-Christians:

“I am convinced that the fight against patriarchy represents a modern plumline [sic] that separates the faithful from the faithless churches.”

Pastor Abshire’s paper “Biblical Patriarchy and the Doctrine of Federal Representation” states:

The word “patriarchy” simply means “rule by fathers” and stands in opposition to such alternative ideas as “oligarchy” (rule by elites), “monarchy” (rule by one-usually a king), “aristocracy” (rule by a privileged class), or “democracy” (rule by the “people”) etc. In all the above “systems,” rule by SOMEONE is inevitable; somebody must have the final authority for making decisions.

While the word “patriarchy” is sometimes used in the sense that Pastor Abshire indicates, these days it is more often used in the broader sense of a culture characterized by male control or dominance. But the word “patriarchy” is not a biblical word, while the word “patriarch” is found only in three New Testament contexts (Acts 2:29; 7:8-9; Hebrews 7:4) where it simply means “father of a nation” or “ancestor” (cf. Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, and Frederick W. Danker, eds., [Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 1979], 636. Note: the fact that the NIV uses “patriarchs” to translate the Greek word for “fathers” in John 7:22, Romans 9:5, 11:28, and 15:8 obviously has no bearing on this discussion). It cannot be tied to any specific form of government, since three times it refers to the head of a family (Abraham, in Hebrews 7:4, and sons of Jacob in Acts 7:8-9), and once it is used of the king of Israel (David, in Acts 2:29) whose rule was above that of the multitude of fathers who were spread across the nation’s twelve tribes. However, using the word patriarch and patriarchy gives the air of biblical credibility to the claims of those involved.

Where will the patriarchal movement go? It is hard telling. It seems very likely that it will continue to become more strident as others look at their writings and challenge their conclusions. It is beginning to and if it continues in the direction it seems to be headed will become the “plumbline” by which true Christians (those who practice patriarchy) will separate themselves from false Christians (those who don’t). Along the way to creating modern day fiefdoms many will be hurt and the cause of the gospel will suffer in an increasingly pagan world.

12 responses to “Examining the Premises of the Patriarchal Promises ”

  1. Jen says:

    Don, I believe you have given us just the barest glimpse into this new “movement” that threatens to harm so many, especially women and children. In fact, Doug Phillips, one of the greatest proponents of “Patriarchy,” claims a motto from the story of the Titanic: “Women and Children First.” I really don’t think these patriarchs have a clue as to what that really means.

    Thanks for using quotes from various sources within the movement. I definitely see differences between certain “leaders” in patriarchy and it is good to note that even they do not all agree. Even though Brian’s thoughts on voting are extreme, I have found Brian to be FAR less extreme in most of his views of patriarchy than, say, Doug Phillips, with whom I acquaint hyper-patriarchy. It sounds like the Schlissels are on the extreme end of patriarchy as well.

    This is a very dangerous movement, Don, and needs lots of exposure. It attracts those who seem to truly love the Lord and desire to obey Him, but the rules grow and change and get ever tighter and tighter as time goes on. Remind you of any other group in particular? Seems like Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for this exact same thing.

    I hope you do much more of this kind of exposure, Don. “Coincidentally,” I posted on this very subject today as well.

  2. Lynn says:

    “If ‘God does not allow women to vote’ than wouldn’t it be the case that if a woman votes she is sinning by doing that which God does not allow? Wouldn’t a husband who permits her to vote or encourages her to vote be prompting her to sin? Wouldn’t a church that encouraged women to be involved in the political process by voting be further promoting that sinful behavior?”

    Don, YES! Whatever God does not allow, if you go there, you are sinning agaisnt God.

    And I am going to eagerly vote during the next election, by the way, for I firmly do NOT believe I am sinning against God.

    “But the word ‘patriarchy’ is not a biblical word, while the word ‘patriarch’ is found only in three New Testament contexts (Acts 2:29; 7:8-9; Hebrews 7:4) where it simply means ‘father of a nation’ or ‘ancestor.’”

    This is the case of what the Bible describes, or what is culturally normative, is automatically presumed to be what God prescribes as binding on all peoples for all time.

    I’ve often wondered what the difference is between “the common judgment of mankind” and “argumentum ad populum” is, but nobody has even attempted to discuss this with me when I’ve brought it up.

  3. Sonya says:

    Regarding the will of the father being what the daughter is to do… how is that different from whatever a pastor decides is God’s will for a sheep they will do it and not question authority. Sorry but this thinking is STILL rampant in the church. It is called the ‘shepherding’ or the ‘shepherding movement’ (florida five) or think ‘Moses model’ style of church gov’t. The dynamics are the same.It is abusive.
    It is NOT new covenant theology! and has no place in the church today.

  4. anon says:

    Please keep addressing this issue. I was caught up in patriarchy for several years and it was only by God’s grace that He opened my eyes before my life was completely ruined.

  5. Corrie says:

    Great article.

    I am very concerned that a pastor would pronounce that God doesn’t allow women to vote and then gives 1 Tim. 2:11 as proof. That verse has nothing to do with voting and everything to do with the worship service IN the church.

    And, Don, you are absolutely correct. If this is against God, then it is a sin.

    Also, Sara Schlissel, in that same article, tells us that God takes a “back seat” to the father when it comes to the daughter.

    I think the operative word in Mr. Abshire’s comments to you is “tradition”. He is basing all of his opinions concerning women voting on tradition and the doctrines of men and not on God’s word.

  6. Fr John says:

    “But where is the evidence that the Constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote has failed? ”

    Umm, look around you. Modern society and the whoredoms of modern women, up to and including some Evangelical ‘christians’ (one thinks of Tammy Faye Bakker’s eyelashes, for instance) to see the modern “jezebels” that have arisen, rather than be a quiet spouse at home, raising the children in godliness.

    What specific ills have befallen society that can be proven to be a result of women voting?

    OMG. have you looked around you? How many millions have died in the Holocaust of Abortion, ALL becuase it was purported to be a ‘woman’s right to choose’? And why did politicians (and supreme court judges GO there) to curry favor with the ‘feminazi’ vote. DUH!

    Why has there never been an attempt to repeal the 19th amendment?

    Because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans One

    Pot calling kettle, come in kettle. You castigate patriarchy, and then assume modern evan-jelly-goo culture is NORMATIVE?
    Please, spare me your myopia!

  7. Brett Rollins says:

    Don,

    I appreciate the gracious way in which you have responded here to Brian Abshire. On the other hand, I don’t appreciate the demeaning and arrogant way in which Abshire has addressed you. I’ve already posted a comment regarding some of my concerns elsewhere. All I can say is that I’m very disappointed with Rev. Abshire. He could have and he should have addressed his concerns with you far more charitably. I also believe that he’s probably capable of addressing these issues in a far more intelligent fashion, as well. If his objective was to champion the cause of Patriarchy, so far he’s failing miserably. As I stated in the comment that I linked to above:

    He has yet to respond to Jen Epstein’s critiques here, and here and here. Jen isn’t a seminary trained theologian. She’s just your average home school mom. Yet she appears to have blown Doug Phillips, RC Sproul Jr and Phil Lancaster right out of the water. Since Brian Abshire is apparently a proponent of Patriarchy, and evidently even a defender of Doug Phillips’ own personal version of Patriarchy, it seems to me that Brian Abshire’s time would be better spent attempting to defend what Doug Phillips has posted about Patriarchy.

    From my perspective, it appears that no one, not even the scholarly Dr. Abshire, is capable of defending Patriarchy as “biblical.” So rather than even trying, the best that Abshire can do is to attack Don Veinot with silly and irrelevant arguments.

    Thank you, Don, for everything that you’re doing. May your efforts produce much fruit in releasing God’s people from the bondage of such legalisms as Patriarchy, and expose the deceptive methods of cultic leaders, such as Doug Phillips.

  8. Lynn says:

    Brett thanks for giving the link:
    http://countercult.wordpress.com/2007/08/28/doug-phillips-the-secret-g12/

    And here is a link to Abshire’s response to Don:
    http://www.christian-civilization.org/Responsetodonveinot.html

    Brett, I know you copied in another part of your response, but I think this quote of yours from the first link is worth repeating as well:

    “There’s a lot about Brian Abshire’s letter to Don Veinot that I don’t get. For example, criticizing Veinot because his article lacks footnotes for every detail that Abshire would like to see substantiated, as well as expecting verifiable Barna-like statistics to substantiate every allegation, is an absurdity, particularly for a brief seven page article.

    Abshire’s demands are made even more absurd in light of Abshire’s attack on Veinot for not footnoting his allegations about Bill Gothard. Apparently Abshire is unaware that Veinot is one of the leading experts on all things Gothard, and that Veinot has written an entire book on Gothardism. Veinot has already well documented his allegations on the Bill Gothard cult. But in Abshire’s world a man like Don Veinot is still required to carefully footnote everything every single time he writes anything at all, even if it’s just a brief article, even though he’s written an entire book about the subject, and carefully footnoted it all in his book!”

    And here is my response, as comment #4 in thst link:
    “Abshire’s accusation against Don for his lack of citations about Bill Gothard is indeed amusing in light of the fact that A Matter of Basic Principles has been out for over 5 years now, but it is not amusing on account of Abshire doing the EXACT SAME THING, only not with another man, but with God above.

    Probably the most serious thing about Abshire’s article, which VF reposted, and Don cited in his Journal article is not Abshire’s belief in representative government, which would include only allowing the heads of households to vote, but that Abshire unequivocally declared God Almighty does NOT allow women to vote in government elections. To support this claim, he cited I Timothy 2:11ff.

    Talk about lack of proper citation for an assertion! That takes the cake.”

  9. Mary says:

    Try holding a modern American election without the assistance of the League of Women Voters, and see if there even IS an election.

    Women have the right to vote because finally, in the twentieth century, enough people accepted the truth: women are human beings endowed with brains and the ability to use them, just as men are, and therefore had the same right as men to determine who their political leaders ought to be. Women have always been taxed; pre-19th Amendment women were taxed without representation.

    Oh, that’s right…according to the Federal (re)Visionists, a woman IS represented–by her husband. Unless, that is, her husband DOESN’T represent her, or she represents him, or she doesn’t have a husband, or any of the other situations in which a woman’s basic rights as a human being make it abundantly clear that a woman doesn’t NEED for a man to represent her, since she IS a human being with the same basic rights as her husband, brother, father, neighbor, and every other human being.

    If denying the human rights of another human being is such a great thing, let these Federal (re)Visionist men take the lead they’re so vocal about needing to have, and deny their own rights first. They claim to be such worthy examples to their wives and children; let them deny themselves and show what it REALLY means to follow a human being as flawed as themselves. If subordination is such a gift for women, let the patriarchalist men illustrate the practice in all its fullness.

    (I’m not holding my breath…)

  10. Lynette says:

    Am I nuts or is this whole “Patriarchal” thing nothing more than a slicked up Biblical “justification” for misogyny?

  11. Brett Rollins says:

    Lynette, you’re not nuts. However, it’s important to keep in mind that there are different shades of “Biblical Patriarchy.”

    Doug Phillips peddles the extreme form, a form that has very little if any genuine biblical support. You’re correct to view Doug Phillips as a misogynist.

    There are also some who identify themselves as “Patriarchal” who probably aren’t misogynists at all. I used to call myself a “Patriarch” and was very comfortable with the title. But then my views on the subject are very mild in comparison with misogynists like Doug Phillips. I’ve always held women in very high esteem, starting with my mother.

    Doug Phillips, on the other hand, thinks very little of women, starting with his own mother. Considering the fact that it is women who make most of the purchases from his Vision Forum catalog, I find this very strange. It seems very foolish to me that he would think of his most significant patrons as being so inferior to himself. It seems even stranger to me that women continue patronizing a misogynist. Doug Phillips makes a very lucrative living off of women, and it simply makes no sense to me. Are there really that many women out there that think so poorly of themselves that they would financially support a bigot and chauvinist?

    Jen Epstein has referred to Doug Phillips as a “hyper-patriarch.” I think that’s proper and better describes his extremism. Thanks to the likes of Doug Phillips I can no longer call myself a Patriarch. He’s completely ruined something that once had a positive connotation. Now I identify myself as a “complimentarian.” Just give Phillips a little time though. He’ll ruin that term too.

  12. CD-Host says:

    I mentioned before on Jen’s blog that there was something in Abshire’s posts that didn’t smell right, My doctorate is in the sociology of religion; specifically in how religious beliefs affect the formation of cultural values and how those values then influence the development of a particular society’s institutions (e.g., marriage, family, work, recreation, politics, etc.).

    That is he is making a claim about a secular degree he has and how this influences his beliefs.

    Are you willing to debate with me (or anyone else) the influence of Sumerian marriage customs on patriarchal practices in 18th century BC culture as revealed in Genesis? Do you know HOW Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’s views are DIFFERENT from their surrounding culture just because of special revelation from God? How familiar are you with actual Israelite marriage and family customs from the 14-8th centuries BC and can you discuss, intelligently, how they impacted what we see in the Scriptures?

    In the secular world there is no theory of 14th-8th century BC Israelite marriage practices because there is very little secular evidence for even the existence of Israel prior to about the 6-5th century BCE. Secular historians will make quips about how various ideas are or are not found in the bible but that’s it. This discipline that Abshire claims to be a secular expert in simply does not exist at all.

    Now as for Sumeria, secular historians hold that the state of Sumer has ceased to exist centuries before the 18th century BCE. Now it is true we actually have knowledge about Sumerian marriage customs. And if we examine the bible we have some fleeting information about “israelite” marriage customs. But if we are talking purely secular, the bible shows strong Babylonian influence and so all we are looking at (at best) is Sumerian influence on Babylonia which no one contests.

    Now perhaps in his “I have a PhD and you don’t” speech Abshire was being a bit cavalier. But as written his comments sound much more like someone pretending (badly) to be an expert than the work of an actual expert.

    I’ve also done a search for Abshire on academic websites. I see no journal articles, I see no conference proceedings, I see no references to his work / citations…. Where did this doctorate come from? Who was his advisor? Where is this scholarship? I don’t see these articles he’s talking about at all.

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