Are “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” Biblical?

Part One

In recent months, I’ve found myself re-examining a number of doctrines and beliefs that I’ve held closely for years. I’ve learned many valuable things recently, including the need to critically examine what we believe and why we believe it, as well as to ensure that what we believe lines up with Scripture.

One of the things that I’ve long believed in is Patriarchy. I’m embarrassed now to have to admit it, but I came to believe that Patriarchy was biblical without ever first having done a critical examination on my own of the supposed “biblical” support for Patriarchy. I just took the word of certain Patriarchy leaders that Patriarchy is biblical. Recently, I started doing an examination and found that the biblical support for Patriarchy is actually quite weak, or at least the biblical support that is used in the official “Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” is weak.

This isn’t to say that I believe that Patriarchy is necessarily un-biblical or anti-biblical. However, I am starting to wonder if much of it isn’t extra-biblical. I’m starting to think that Patriarchy probably falls more into the category of a personal lifestyle decision, rather than something that’s biblically mandated as many patriarchists would have us believe. Patriarchy is a personal lifestyle decision which may work well for some Christian families, but I no longer believe that Patriarchy is something that’s biblically mandated. Those who believe that Patriarchy is biblically mandated I would refer to as “hyper-patriarchs.”

Unfortunately, many of the hyper-Patriarchy leaders have attempted to make Patriarchy a necessary component of the Gospel message itself:

Egalitarian feminism is a false ideology that has bred false doctrine in the church and seduced many believers. In conscious opposition to feminism, egalitarianism, and the humanistic philosophies of the present time, 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.

In other words, for the hyper-Patriarchist, Patriarchy is a “Gospel centered doctrine.” To not embrace Patriarchy is to reject the Gospel. I believe this is errant teaching, if not heretical. In some Patriarchy circles, those who don’t go along with their agenda are consigned to the status of a “carnal” or non-normative Christian. In many hyper-Patriarchy circles, to reject Patriarchy is to be “feminist” or “egalitarian.” For them it’s an either/or. Either you embrace Patriarchy or you’re an egalitarian feminist. However, I can no longer view this as an either/or position.

Even if Patriarchy can be supported biblically, does that make it mandatory for all Christians? I don’t believe that Patriarchy can be mandatory unless the Bible specifically mandates it. But from my read of the Scriptures, I see no such mandate.

In this article, what I’d like to do is examine a document prepared by Doug Phillips, Phil Lancaster and R.C. Sproul, Jr. entitled The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy. In the Editor’s Note to The Tenets it states, “We view this as an accurate working document, and invite feedback from anyone as we attempt to improve this statement over time.” I’m grateful that they have extended the offer to provide feedback. Apparently this offer is open to anyone. My goal is help them sharpen their iron here.

The Editor’s Note in The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy also states:

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. We emphasize the importance of biblical patriarchy, not because it is greater than other doctrines, but because it is being actively attacked by unbelievers and professing Christians alike. Egalitarian feminism is a false ideology that has bred false doctrine in the church and seduced many believers.

Egalitarianism and feminism are clearly humanistic philosophies, and humanists would not deny it. In my personal view, humanism often becomes an attack on biblical Christianity. There’s nothing new about that, nor is that a “crisis” that’s unique to “this era.” Humanism has been with us for many centuries, and we should always be prepared to “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). Patriarchists have attempted to “give an answer” to a number of important issues, including the cultural influence of humanism. However, as I’ve come to see, this is a reactionary position, and reactionaries often tend to become extremists. Rather than seeking balance, it is all too easy to take things to the opposite extreme. I believe that these views of Patriarchy are an example of this reactionism, and these views are extremist, rather than biblically balanced.

In principle, I agree that radical feminism and egalitarianism have done much to undermine the family, the church, and society on the whole. The easy thing to do would be to blame women, and I know from personal experience that’s exactly what some patriarchists do. But in my view, radical feminism and egalitarianism cannot be blamed entirely on rebellious women (“Jezebels”), and their penchant for doing so only further harms families and churches, rather than restoring them to biblical balance. Rather than being Patriarchal, this is just misogyny.

Feminism and egalitarianism cannot be laid entirely at the feet of women. Much of the blame must also go to men, men who are either abusive and tyrannical, or on the other end of the scale, men who abdicate their duties and responsibilities to be godly servant-leaders in their homes and churches. Egalitarianism and feminism are often a reaction to abusive or derelict men. The solution isn’t in more extremism — reaction to egalitarian feminism. The solution will come by restoring biblical balance. I believe that rather than being part of the solution, Patriarchy is part of the problem.

“The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy” make numerous bold claims about Patriarchy, including that Patriarchy is “Biblical.” The Tenets purport to be biblical because, supposedly, each of its doctrinal points is supported by multiple specific scriptural references. But as we shall see, quite often the scriptural references don’t make the case that patriarchists attempt to portray that they do. Many of the verses cited simply do not belong under the category that they were placed in because they have little or nothing to do with that particular issue. This may have been done in order to give the false impression that there is strong biblical support for the point being made, when in fact the biblical support may be quite weak, if nonexistent. Needless to say this practice of throwing Bible references like so much spaghetti against the wall to see what might stick, when many of those verses may have little or nothing to do with the “tenet,” is dishonest. Another problem that I discovered is that there has been quite a bit of prooftexting done in order to achieve the desired outcome. This, too, is just more dishonesty.

When I started going through the verses referenced in “The Tenets Of Biblical Patriarchy,” and I discovered these discrepancies, I found myself becoming very offended. I cherish God’s Word as holy and sacred, but these tenets do not seem to take God’s Word as seriously as I do. This is not a situation where Christians are conforming their lives to God’s Word, but rather they are conforming and contorting God’s Word to their personal preferences.

If patriarchists wish to continue calling Patriarchy “biblical,” then it seems to me that they need to work harder on finding Bible references that actually do support Patriarchy. If they’re then unable to identify specific biblical support for any of their “tenets,” then they need to withdraw those particular tenets entirely. Either that or they need to change their title to just The Tenets Of Patriarchy (my personal preference would be The Tenets Of Hyper-Patriarchy). It’s not for me to say that these aren’t the Tenets Of Patriarchy. I’m sure they are. I do think, however, that they haven’t made a very good case for saying that all these Tenets are biblical.

God as Masculine

1. God reveals Himself as masculine, not feminine. God is the eternal Father and the eternal Son, the Holy Spirit is also addressed as “He,” and Jesus Christ is a male. (Matt. 1:25; 28:19; Jn. 5:19; 16:13)

Matt. 1:25 – and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Matt. 28:19 – Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

John 5:19 – Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner.

John 16:13 – However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

So far, so good.

The Image of God and Gender Roles

2. Both man and woman are made in God’s image (their human characteristics enable them to reflect His character) and they are both called to exercise dominion over the earth. They share an equal worth as persons before God in creation and redemption. The man is also the image and glory of God in terms of authority, while the woman is the glory of man. (Gen. 1:27-28; 1 Cor. 11:3,7; Eph. 5:28; 1 Pet. 3:7)

Gen 1:27-28 – So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

I Cor. 11:3 – But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

I agree that God created man and woman in His own image. This isn’t said of any of God’s other creatures. Mankind also is unique in that we are the only of God’s creations with a soul. Mankind therefore has a special obligation to bring glory to God. I can only assume that these verses are included to show that the man is the image and glory of God in terms of authority. I’m not sure I understand the need to talk about authority structure in the section on being created in the image of God.

I Cor. 11:7 – For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.

Eph. 5:28 – So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.

This is a good verse, but I don’t see how it relates to being created in the image of God. To me, this seems confusing to speak of mankind being created in God’s image, while at the same time talking about “gender roles.” Are we trying to say that since a man was created in the image of God, that he should love his own body, and therefore he should love his own wife? If so, this should be stated as such. This verse probably belongs in a different category.

I Pet. 3:7 – Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

This verse seems to support the statement that they share an equal worth as persons before God in redemption, not that women are subordinate or in any way inferior to men.

So, in this category, we find clear biblical support for nearly everything except the clause (their human characteristics enable them to reflect His character), which is meant to be a logical inference of what it means to be created in the image of God, although I find no clear Scripture listed for this. Since these are “biblical tenets,” I would like to see some Scriptural support for this as well.

3. God ordained distinct gender roles for man and woman as part of the created order. Adam’s headship over Eve was established at the beginning, before sin entered the world. (Gen. 2:18ff.; 3:9; 1 Cor. 11:3,7; 1 Tim. 2:12-13)

Gen 2:18 – And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

I think this verse is clear that God intended for wives to help their husbands. I like this translation; wives are comparable to their husbands. Interesting. I wonder how difficult it is for an undereducated wife to help a highly educated man?

Gen. 3:9 – Then the LORD God called to Adam and said to him, “Where are you?”

This was right after they both ate the fruit. Does this determine headship? Or is it just inferred here?

I Cor. 11:3, 7 – But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. … For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.

I Tim. 2:12-13 – And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve.

If we put these Scriptures together, I think it is clear that the husband is the head of his wife, and that the wife is to help her husband. I’ve been taught to look at things in light of all of Scripture, so remember this point later on.

4. Although sin has distorted their relationship, God’s order of authority for husbands and wives has not changed, and redemption enables them to make substantial progress in achieving God’s ideal for their relationship. (Gen. 3:16; Eph. 5:22ff.)

Gen 3:16 – To the woman He said: “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children; Your desire shall be for your husband, And he shall rule over you.”

Eph. 5:22, 25 – Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. … Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

This is basically sound, but this interpretation sounds almost defeatist to me that we can only make substantial progress in the marital relationship. What of those who aren’t called to marry? What hope do they have of their personal sanctification? In the world of hyper-Patriarchy, daughters must remain under the “headship” of their fathers in perpetuity.

The Authority of Fathers

5. A husband and father is the head of his household, a family leader, provider, and protector, with the authority and mandate to direct his household in paths of obedience to God. (Gen. 18:19; Eph. 6:4)

Gen 18:19 – For I have known him, in order that he may command his children and his household after him, that they keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice, that the LORD may bring to Abraham what He has spoken to him.”

In context, God says here that He knew Abraham in order that Abraham should become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth would be blessed in him. This is a promise given specifically to Abraham. Is Patriarchy claiming Abraham’s promises for themselves? Is that why they call it Patriarchy? They want to be like Abraham? Abraham is certainly seen as the Patriarch in Scripture. Are all men commanded biblically to be patriarchs as well? If they are, then it seems to me that, in order to be biblically consistent, all men would have to do everything that Abraham did, including taking multiple wives (polygamy), have servants (slaves), etc.

Eph. 6:4 – And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

This one applies to at least one aspect of this point. In light of all of Scripture, since a wife is to help her husband, I think it would include helping to bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord as well.

It seems that Scriptural support is missing for a great deal of this particular point. Is the father really the head of his household? Is he the family leader? Is he told to be the provider? Is he to be the protector? I’m not saying that I necessarily disagree with this. I’d just like to see the verses for these since these are called “Biblical” Tenets.

This section is about the authority of fathers. Why is the husband part included here? Surely they don’t mean that a husband is to exercise the same authority over his wife as a father would over his children, do they?

6. A man’s authority in the home should be exercised with gentleness, grace, and love as a servant-leader, following the example of Jesus Christ. Leadership is a stewardship from God. (Ps. 103:13; Mal. 3:17; Matt. 11:29-30; Col. 3:21; 1 Pet. 3:7)

Ps. 103:13 – As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him.

This verse speaks of the natural pity a father feels for his children, a prime example of prooftexting. Mothers, too, obviously pity their children.

Mal. 3:17 – “They shall be Mine,” says the LORD of hosts, “On the day that I make them My jewels. And I will spare them As a man spares his own son who serves him.”

These are not “tenets.” These verses are simply stating how things are. In fact, these verses are really about God’s attitude toward us.

Matt. 11:29-30 – “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Jesus is gentle. This verse does not tell a man to be gentle. This verse does not even specifically tell us to be like Jesus, although certainly Jesus is our example. More prooftexting.

Col. 3:21 – Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.

I Pet. 3:7 – Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered.

Finally, we get to two verses that are direct commands to men. While I agree with this principle of men being a servant-leader, the Scriptural support here is very weak. I would think this section could be bolstered quite a bit with appropriate verses.

7. The authority of fathers is limited by the law of God and the lawful authority of church and state. Christian fathers cannot escape the jurisdiction of church and state and must be subject to both. (Rom. 13:1ff.; Eph. 5:21; 6:4; Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 2:13ff.)

Rom. 13:1 – Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

This verse says “every soul.” I wonder why in Patriarchy only the fathers are to be subject to the jurisdiction of church and state?

Eph. 5:21 – submitting to one another in the fear of God.

In context, this is a “one anothering” passage written to believers on how they are to treat one another. This has nothing to do with being subject to authorities of any kind.

Eph. 6:4 – And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

If this is the passage that limits a father’s authority, then it is greatly limited indeed. I wonder why they don’t follow these limits.

Heb. 13:17 – Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

The word “rule” is this verse actually means “to lead or guide.” “Those” is probably referring to elders, hence this verse is talking about the church part.

I Pet. 2:13 – Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme,

And the government.

I agree that fathers should be subject to governing authorities. I just wonder if the mothers and children and all men and women everywhere ought to be as well. Are you seeing the pattern here of the heavy emphasis on verses that seem to elevate men to a degree higher than God intended?

(The other tenets will follow later in a later article.)


This is an interesting hermeneutic. Some patriarchists teach that if we see a “pattern” in Scripture, we are to follow the pattern. They teach that patterns in Scripture are as binding as direct commands, unless those patterns are what they would call “non-normative.” What I didn’t perceive while I was in patriarchy is the glaring weakness in this hermeneutic — there are so many “non-normatives.” They can’t clearly explain why there are so many “patterns” in Scripture that, in a patriarchist’s view, are non-normative. They can’t clearly explain why some “patterns” are “normative” and other “patterns” are “non-normative.” It just seems to come down to a matter of personal preferences, and twisting Scripture to comply with those preferences.

Just a few months ago, I probably would have looked at these verses and said that they did fully support these “Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy,” and largely because I had unwittingly adopted this hermeneutic. However, because I’ve become involved in an intensive Bible study group, I’ve learned how to study Scripture more accurately and to more rightly divide the Word of Truth. I still believe that we must base our lives upon Scripture, but I no longer believe that we are commanded to live our lives according to all “patterns” that we find in Scripture.

We also need to differentiate between commands that are for us as believers today and those that were given specifically to others. Furthermore, just because God may have permitted the Patriarchs to engage in certain kinds of behavior four thousand years ago doesn’t mean that we too are permitted, let alone commanded, to do as they did. Just because God gave certain commands to Abraham does not mean that all Christian men suddenly become patriarchs as well. In fact, I find it quite arrogant that some men have decided that God is speaking directly to them when He commanded Abraham to do certain things in order to establish a new nation.

I do not see that God is suddenly establishing multitudes of new nations, all stemming from the new group of “patriarchs” today. In fact, even the definition of “patriarch” is quite arrogant to apply to a Christian father today. I like to quote from Webster’s 1828 dictionary to define terms because this is a favorite dictionary of patriarchists:


1. The father and ruler of a family; one who governs by paternal right. Usually applied to the progenitors of the Israelites, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the sons of Jacob, or to the heads of families before the flood.
2. A learned and distinguished character among the Jews.
3. In the Christian church, a dignitary superior to the order of archbishops. (Webster’s 1828 dictionary)

I wonder which of these three definitions applies to the “Patriarchs” of today?


For this article only, I would like to request that comments here only address “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy.” The authors have invited feedback on their tenets and I would like feedback on these verses as well. What do you think? Do these verses support these tenets as being biblical? Does the Bible teach these tenets? When you leave a comment, to help us follow your thoughts, please address the tenet number and the Scripture reference as well. If you have additional Scripture you would like to add to help patriarchists support these tenets, please do so. This is NOT a debate about personal beliefs, but only how these tenets can be supported biblically.


311 Responses to “Are “The Biblical Tenets of Patriarchy” Biblical?”

  1. CynthiaGee Says:

    “moonshine and bullfeathers….”

    David, welcome back! And I love that phrase.

  2. Jen Says:

    Micah, thanks for the examples. It sounds like that would work well for a couple who were both committed to the Lord. I am very glad God has blessed you with such a delightful sounding marriage. I am sure that is exactly what the Lord desires.

    Micah, you can reply to the “be fruitful and multiply” part here. It is tenet #15.

  3. molleth Says:

    I’m not sure if anyone has said this or not (lots of comments here!), but the historical church position on the gender of God has been that God does *not* have a gender, though chooses to use human terms in order to communicate with us (hence “He,” etc). In teaching that God *is* masculine, Doug is departing from the historic Christian view of God.

    (It is interesting to note that in Hebrew, the word for Spirit is grammatically feminine. And it is also interesting to note just how many “feminine” atttributes God has–consider the verses where God is speaking of birthing children, nurturing them at the breast, etc).

    I wrote about this very subject in response to my own struggles with VF’s patriarchal tenants a while back, including some quotes and links regarding historical church teaching here:


  4. Cindy Kunsman Says:

    Good stuff, on your site “molleth” Molly!

    (I wish I could figure out this hypertext/html/typing in website boxes so as to figure out how to get Greek letters in the non html text boxes.) I’ll have to start taking more Adventures in Mercy.

    God bless you!

  5. Corrie Says:


    “What I have to say may totally blow some minds, and would result in the Vision Forum staff publically lynching me, or at least hanging me in the gallows in the Alamo. (are there gallows in the Alamo?)”

    If they don’t, I am sure that something can be arranged! 😉

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on “be fruitful and multiply”.

  6. Fred M. Schmid Says:

    I’ve been a traditional patriarchist, but since studying the New Testament, my views are changing. In my view, feminist theology is not a bad thing. I think rereading of the text from a different lens can be useful. I would highly recommend authors such as Phyllis Trible and Letty M. Russel (who co-authored a very fine book called Hagar, Sarah, and Their Children) These are some of the leading feminist scholars and its best to “hear it from the horse’s mouth” before too harsh commentaries are made.

    Second, the New Testament as well as the Old Testament have conflicting messages concerning the role of women. For example, one of the recordings of the decalogue list women in 10th commandment…where all of the rest of the property is listed. This is offending to our culture today, but it was a norm at one point in oriental antiquity. Now, take the example of Isaiah’s wife. What was her function? A prophet! What is the role of Esther? Redeemer of her people! Who is it that found the scroll of Deuteronomy? A woman prophet! Women were very active in roles of leadership, functioning as saviors and prophets of their people. In the New Testament we see examples of women leaders as well. Junia (who for years lost her gender to patriarch theologians) is listed as an apostle. The Greek alpha ending here is clearly feminine. Further, Phillips daughters are listed as prophets. Prescilla should also be given concern as an early leader in the church.

    In conclusion, I believe that patriarchy was a cultural reality, but certainly not a bilbical mandate. Too often we forget that the Bible is a document from antiquity!! Women step up!!!!!!

    Peace and Blessings!

    Fred Matthew Schmid <

  7. Jen Says:

    Hi Fred! Welcome. It’s good to hear from a man who used to be a patriarch. I have not read those particular authors, so I don’t know what they are advocating, but I don’t think patriarchy vs. feminism are our only choices. I think patriarchy has added to Scripture, definitely, but rather than going to another extreme, I am advocating that we stick solely with Scripture. You have listed some good examples of women in Scripture.

    You mentioned that women were considered property in the OT. That’s right. But Christ elevated the position of women in the New Covenant to not only being co-heirs through Christ, but to that of willingly placing ourselves under our husband’s authority. Now we are no longer property, but someone who is cherished and loved.

    “I believe that patriarchy was a cultural reality, but certainly not a biblical mandate.”

    Yep. Absolutely correct.

  8. HeavyDuty Says:

    I’m getting in late in the game here, but I’d like to say that I’m glad I’m not you come Judgement day. 1. Your basing your whole argument on something that is a total FARCE to debase the American family. Second wave feminism is a C.I.A. black op. Gloria Steinem admited it herself. Both she and her magzine were funded by the C.I.A. 2. God is neather male nor female.

  9. If Vox’s relationship advice were any good, why would he need to rape? (Vox is wrong about women, part 4) « Looking around and trying to understand Says:

    […] comments) Vox has a world view called Christian Patriarchy, a system of cherry-picked Bible verses (here and here) for putting a religious cloak on misogyny. His view that all men he know are rapists like […]

  10. Open Letter To Chalcedon Foundation Regarding Its Defense of Doug Phillips | Jen's Gems -- Doug Phillips' Ecclesiastical Tyranny and Abuse Says:

    […] my knowledge, Jen Epstein was the first to launch into a diligent survey of the “Biblical Patriarchy” espoused by Doug Phillips. Her multi-part series motivated other home school moms to do the same, moms just like her with no […]

  11. Christine Erikson (Justina) Says:

    Great article so far, I just bumbled onto this. I have to take issue with this, however “Mankind also is unique in that we are the only of God’s creations with a soul. ” no one has a soul. we ARE souls. and that includes animals just different kinds of souls. God breathed the breath of life – which is more than just oxygen – into Adam and he BECAME a living soul. breath of life, which makes one a living soul, is also ascribed to animals that died in The Flood.

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