How “Biblical” Patriarchy Perverts the Gospel

We recently attended a local conference on biblical manhood. We were so excited to go, but were disheartened by some of the teachings there.

It was a tremendous blessing to hear Dr. George Grant and Voddie Baucham preach the Word faithfully. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for the other speakers. There were some good things said, and I believe they tried to be faithful to Scripture, but they hugely missed the mark.

“Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.”

– Charles Spurgeon

Throughout the conference, I was on high alert knowing about the conference’s affiliation with Doug Wilson and his Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (CREC). Wilson has been involved in several serious scandals and though he somehow remains well-respected within the reformed community, in my opinion, he is not even qualified to be an elder.

Throughout the conference, there was a strong emphasis on “biblical” patriarchy as the hope of families and society. By their account of things, it is man’s responsibility, by ruling their homes properly, to “fix the broken world.”

Within “biblical patriarchy,” there is a wide range of beliefs. While I believe Baucham and Grant hold this view, it seems they are on the opposite end of the spectrum as Wilson and his followers.

The Theological Problem

One of the speakers was describing a man’s role to love his wife like Christ loved the church. Everything sounded good until he concluded his thoughts with, “and it’s the wife’s job to give him something worth dying for.”

My jaw dropped. There were hearty amens, but I wanted to cry. Don’t they know what the gospel is all about?

The Gospel Solution

Marriage is meant to reflect the gospel, so we must first rightly understand that sweet good news if we are to rightly understand marriage. The church didn’t *give* Christ anything worth dying for. God’s people were wretched, rebellious, unfaithful, and undeserving.

The “marriage” of God and Israel was so horribly marred by the people’s unfaithfulness that He created a new covenant to make reconciliation possible. But God loved them unconditionally, so much so that He was crucified on their behalf.

She could not possibly muster up any worth in her own strength – her value was assigned at the cross because of the price God paid for her. This is the foundation of the church: His faithfulness, not our’s.

His love is not based on our merit or desirability. Quite the opposite. A husband’s love for His wife is to emulate the kindness and selflessness of Christ. The scripture says it’s God’s kindness that draws us to repentance. So, husbands, if you want your wife’s heart, you must be kind, drawing her in with selfless and sacrificial love.

Likewise, wives are to submit – or yield – to their husbands’ leadership and pursuit. It is not a patriarchal rule that wins a wife’s heart, but Spirit-led servant-based pursuit that cultivates a desire for willing submission in her heart. This gospel – and this marriage – is beautiful.

The warped view of marriage that says women must give something to earn their husband’s obedience to Christ’s command, is a self-serving perversion of Scripture. The enemy delights in the bondage and suffering this kind of theology reaps.

I direct these spiritually abusive men to 1 Peter 3:7 which says, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”

My Testimony

I remember early in our marriage there were a couple of times I was so angry with my husband that I tried to sleep on the couch. I don’t even remember what happened between us, but I felt justified. I wasn’t. It was rebellious and unfaithful of me to leave his side so adamantly.

Nevertheless, despite my waywardness, he pursued me. After first giving me time to cool off, he came to me and carried me back to bed. I was cold toward him, but his unconditional love and kindness won my heart. I loved him so much more because of his radical devotion to reconciliation. It was beautiful.

I do not recommend testing the limits in this. It would have been better to not have that drastic separation between us at all. But alas, God truly works all things together for our good and His glory. He used my husband to mirror Jesus’s faithful pursuit.

In Conclusion…

With such a warped view of the gospel taught so casually, how can we know who to trust for sound teaching? We visit many good books and listen to many good preachers, but we must abide in Christ – Who is the Word of God. Stay in your Bible. Get familiar with the whole counsel of Scripture so you can know God more fully.

Would I recommend this conference? Because of its affiliations with Doug Wilson, CREC, and New Saint Andrews College, that’s hard to answer. There’s certainly room for caution. I can say I’m glad I went, and the conversations it stirred amongst brothers and sisters made it well worth attending for me. As always, all Christians should be like the Bereans who searched the Scripture daily to test whether what they heard preached was true.

How to counsel the woman whose husband is caught in sin

I am grieved by the number of godly women who have been counseled to simply be more submissive in hopes that their husbands will be “won without a word by their good conduct (1 Peter 3:1),” without also being taught the true nature of their role as a helper.

When encouraging women whose husbands are ensnared by sin, we don’t want to guilt trip her to action. We want to empower her with the truth that equips her for battle.

While submission is both an essential and lovely part of the marriage dynamic (Ephesians 5:22-24, 1 Peter 3:1), it’s not the end of the story.

To better understand marriage, we must first rightly understand the Godhead – the Trinity. Within God, there is God the Father, God the Spirit, and God the Son. In Himself, there is perfect harmony and fellowship among His three persons. While the relationship of Father and Son is seen clearly throughout the earthly life of Jesus, Holy Spirit’s relational role is less obvious.

Jesus teaches His disciples about the Spirit in John 16. He says He will come to, “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.” He is called “a helper.”

In Genesis 2:18, God said it was not good for man to be alone, so He made a helper fit for him.

What is the true nature of a helper?

“The Hebrew word used here is ezer meaning help, succor, or aid. This word is used 21 times in the Old Testament, and it is most often used to describe God in His relationship to His people (haleyjmaddox.com).”

Holy Spirit is a helper, and so is woman. The ideal family dynamic reflects the Trinity: fathers reflecting our Heavenly Father, mothers reflecting Holy Spirit, and children reflecting Jesus.

That seems foreign (and perhaps even shocking) to us, being that our families are so ravaged by sin it can be hard to imagine how they truly ought to be. We must keep our eyes on God, not the world around us.

The wife’s role as helper is more akin to a military aid than a household servant. This biblical truth empowers women to walk confidently, nurturing the spiritual wellbeing of the people in their families. While anyone can cook and clean, our identities as soldiers of Christ are innately tied to God’s will for our lives.

She is his necessary ally in the war against sin.

Instead of feeling stunted in her faith when he finds himself ensnared, she can be used mightily of God to help him out. While his sin is never her fault, she longs to see him freed from its grip.

Submission does not mean passively leaving him to continue in sin. Neither does it mean nagging or berating him for his sin. It means lovingly, patiently, fiercely assisting him in his battle against the flesh.

I believe her primary weapon in this war is prayer. She does not have to wait for her husband to step into the role of spiritual leader to approach the throne in prayer. She has direct access to God through Jesus.

Wives are not doormats to be walked over or toys to be used. Neither are they second-rate citizens in the kingdom of Heaven. There are none. Every citizen is vital and beloved. Both men and women are co-heirs of grace (1 Peter 3:7).

Their enemy is Satan, not one another.

Satan desires to destroy marriages. One of his main tactics is to sow discord between husbands and wives. To combat this, they must remember the true nature of the battle they’re engaged in.

It is not husbands versus wives, nor right versus left, nor black versus white, nor oppressed versus oppressor; the real battle raging in the world is the kingdom of light versus the kingdom of darkness. Keeping this eternal perspective reminds husbands and wives to fight against sin with one another’s help, not against each other.