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.