The Biblical Family: Defining Patriarchy and Why God is Masculine

When I first set out to write a series of articles about “The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy” last June, I considered myself to be a patriarchalist, although I thought that Doug Phillips was a little extreme in some areas. When I first wrote the series, what stood out most to me was the fact that while most of the tenets looked sound to me, Scripture simply didn’t back them up. Since these were “The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy,” it seemed imperative to me that they be backed up by the Word of God. That was my first shock.

As I began to process the comments, however, I wasn’t prepared for the onslaught that followed. As subject after subject was addressed first here, and then on other blogs and forums, God started exposing my own heart and I was forced to examine if all that I held dear was what God held dear as well. So many of my deeply treasured beliefs were slain on the altar of truth. Sacrifice hurts. This was not merely a sacrifice of my mind, but my whole life has been greatly altered as I’ve walked this path.

It seems that there has been nearly a relentless attack against patriarchy since I posted that series, and it has caused me to go to God’s Word, time and time again, to see what the truth is in these areas. However, the conversations that have ensued since then seem to be somewhat haphazard and focused on attacking patriarchy without providing any definitive alternative. My goal is not to offer an alternative, necessarily, but to dig even deeper and see what God truly has to say about this subject of the Biblical family. Doug Phillips presented us with a false dilemma of patriarchy vs. feminism or patriarchy vs. egalitarianism, but these are not our only options. In this series, I would like to examine what God really has to say about the Biblical family.

The first series about “The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy” was a very broad sweep of the Tenets as a whole, with a scattershot approach to examining them. As I sought to find a way to address those who desire to live only by God’s Word, and especially those who now see that this form of patriarchy is not actually God’s Word, I prayed for months about how to approach the whole subject. I think we shall go back to the beginning and take a good solid look at patriarchy first, finding what is worth keeping and rejecting what is extrabiblical. We will do this by examining each of the tenets, again, in more detail, one by one. Not only will we examine the verses used, but we may add some of our own. Then, I would like to be your interpreter for this journey. On the surface, much of what is written in the “Tenets” sounds good, but I know what it looks like in real life for Doug Phillips. That is the perspective I will bring. Others of you know what a particular tenet looks like from the viewpoint of other patriarchalists. That will now be welcomed here.

As you can see, I have changed the name of my blog to reflect a more general viewpoint. My story about Doug Phillips is still the foundation of this blog, but this blog grew in ways I never imagined one year ago, and I would like to be able to address the broader angle of patriarchy now. The underlying reasons for Doug’s behavior are his beliefs. Those beliefs are the root of what appears to be rotten fruit. But Doug Phillips is not the only one with those beliefs that end up putting believers into the bondage of legalism, or the false doctrines of theonomy and reconstructionism and dominion theology, or elevating areas of freedom and wisdom to that of absolute commands. I have noticed, however, that everyone who claims the name of “patriarchy” does not necessarily believe the same things. So when you post a comment, I would ask you to try to use more direct, attributable quotes and fewer general statements of “all patriarchalists” believe such-and-such. Feel free to give your opinion, but please state it as such. I think some unnecessary damage has been done by painting with too broad a brush at times. In order to make this a credible debate, we need to be careful to always be fair.

Even those who have stated that they believe in Doug’s version of “The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy” sometimes don’t realize that they really have a different point of view altogether. Probably the most significant aspect of this would be those who have personal preferences for certain aspects of patriarchy, but would never say that it is a sin if another believer did not adhere exactly to these areas of personal preferences. One of the main objectives of this series will be to clearly delineate which areas are strictly biblical and which are personal preferences and why. I am not at all opposed to someone having a personal preference that is different from my own, including those who call themselves patriarchalists.

Another goal of this series will be to show that we can believe and adhere to God’s Word in the area of the Biblical family without being a patriarchalist, and that there is no need to be called names such as “feminist” for believing the Scriptures. Although many on both sides of the issue have claimed to be complementarian, there are just as many who are quick to pull away from that label as well, stating that complementarians are really patriarchalists cloaked in less offensive language. I propose that we put all these labels aside now and focus on where we should be, as the Biblical family. Will we all agree? Probably not. But rather than just attack patriarchy here, I would like to now examine what God thinks. As stated in “The Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy”:

We view this as an accurate working document, and invite feedback from anyone as we attempt to improve this statement over time.

As Doug invites feedback to his document, I also invite feedback to my thoughts on digging deeper into these issues.

After we have thoroughly examined each of these tenets, I will move on to address any other areas of the Biblical family that have not been addressed in these tenets. If there is an area you would like to see covered, feel free to leave me a comment about it and I will put it on my list. Let’s begin with the very first tenet.

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.

When we examined this tenet the first time, I was really caught off guard. I have been so far to the right in my biblical thinking that I didn’t realize there were those who would disagree with this statement. Now that I’ve had time to think about it, I do agree that God does reveal Himself as masculine. Jesus did not tell us to pray to “Our Mother, who art in heaven,” but He constantly referred to His Father. As the Son, Jesus is obviously masculine also. And John 16:13 clearly delineates the Holy Spirit as being masculine as well. If we believe in the trinity, then it seems to follow logically that the triune God-head would be not only the same gender, but that there might even be a purpose for declaring that gender to be masculine.

Doug Phillips, and and certain fellow patriarchs, apparently believe that the purpose of God stating His gender to be male has to do with it being the foundation of patriarchy. If Doug can establish that God Himself is masculine, and I agree with his basic assertion here, then we all know that God is superior, God is the head of all, God is in charge, God is the authority, and that God has many other characteristics that Doug will attempt to attribute to men only on the basis that God is masculine. This is a red herring. Doug is attempting to assert that patriarchy, in having the family centered around the man, is biblical because God is masculine. Nowhere in Scripture are we given this foundation for the family. Nowhere in Scripture are we told that because God is masculine, anything having to do with patriarchy follows. My whole excommunication got started because I called Doug on some logical fallacies. Now I will attempt to show that Doug is basing his whole belief system on logical fallacies as well.

It is my personal opinion that God refers to Himself as being masculine, in triune unity, because our relationship with God is mirrored in our marriages. God had a chosen people in the nation of Israel. He was married to them. Since marriage is between one man and one woman — God’s idea — God chose to take on the masculine role and had the nation of Israel take on the feminine role. This in no way emasculated the men of Israel at all. Then God divorced them. Now God has a bride, and that bride is the church. A bride is feminine, so God needs to be masculine. God planned this from before time was created, so He chose to take on the male aspect of marriage and gave us the feminine aspect of marriage. I hope to develop this more fully as we work our way through each tenet.

So, my conclusion regarding this first tenet is that while God is indeed masculine, this is superfluous to our understanding of the biblical family as a stand-alone proposition. However, I would allow for something like this:

1. God reveals Himself as masculine in His triune God-head, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As He has also set forth marriage as being between one man and one woman, therefore God is the [masculine] groom and the church is His [feminine] bride.

This is definitely a working document, so I welcome any and all feedback on this statement as well.

Defining Patriarchy

Since this is not as controversial as some of the other tenets, I would like to examine the use of the word “patriarchy” here as well. Since Doug always taught us to use only biblical terminology, I decided to look at all the Scriptures which use the word “patriarch.” Most versions only use it four times, but I did find that the ESV uses it six times, so we will use that version here:

Acts 2:29
Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Acts 7:8-9
And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs. And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him.Romans 9:5
To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.

Romans 15:8
For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God’s truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs,

Hebrews 7:4
See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils!

Putting these passages together, we can clearly see that Abraham, David, and the twelve sons of Jacob are called patriarchs in Scripture. The patriarchs belong to the Israelites (Rom. 9:4-5) and the promises of the old covenant were given to the patriarchs (Rom. 15:8). I will confess that I at least thought Isaac and Jacob were patriarchs! Just for argument’s sake, we will include them as well. So, the Bible is clear that the patriarchs were all Israelites and the only Israelites that God calls patriarchs are Abraham, possibly Isaac and Jacob, the twelve sons of Jacob, and David.

If “the Gospel centered doctrine of biblical patriarchy [is] an essential element of God’s ordained pattern for human relationships and institutions,” then why don’t we see the term “patriarchy” being used more frequently in Scripture? If even all Israelites were considered to be patriarchs, why don’t we see it? It is interesting to me that the only verses that use the term “patriarchy” are New Testament verses, all referring back to certain leaders in the Old Testament. The New Testament does not in any way affirm that “patriarch” was a current cultural term for men in the New Testament. If the New Testament is gospel centered, and it is, and biblical patriarchy is gospel centered, as Doug Phillips asserts here, why don’t we see any verses connecting the gospel with patriarchy? Likewise, if patriarchy is an essential element of gospel centered doctrine, where are the verses proclaiming it as such? I have listed all the verses in the entire Bible having to do with patriarchy and I just don’t see it. If patriarchy is God’s ordained pattern for human relationships, where is this taught in the Scriptures? If patriarchy is God’s ordained pattern for institutions, where can I find this? This statement: “Gospel centered doctrine of biblical patriarchy as an essential element of God’s ordained pattern for human relationships and institutions” appears to be without any biblical foundation at all. Although this is not one of Doug’s official “tenets,” it is stated as a foundation to why he even has these tenets of “biblical” patriarchy to begin with. I find his foundation to be on extremely rocky soil here and wonder how he can hope to build a whole doctrine upon a statement that has absolutely no basis in Scripture whatsoever.

But Doug believes that he who defines, wins, so let us give him a little slack and examine his use of the word “patriarch” a little further. I always use Webster’s 1828 dictionary when I define anything from Doug’s perspective because I know that is his favorite dictionary. So let’s check out the old Webster’s:

1. The father and ruler of a family; one who governs by paternal right. It is 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; as the patriarch of Constantinople, of Alexandria, or of Ephesus.

Well, the first definition might apply to what Doug is attempting to define here, except for the fact that Webster mostly agrees with the biblical use of it. I don’t think the second definition is something Doug is wanting to encourage in the least. And knowing how much Doug detests anything remotely Catholic, I am laughing at the third definition! But let’s look at that first definition a little closer. Let’s pretend that Webster doesn’t agree with my biblical use of the term and let’s just examine the first sentence of definition number one: “The father and ruler of a family; one who governs by paternal right.” A ruler. One who governs. When we get right down to it, isn’t that what Doug is proposing here? Doesn’t patriarchy really empower men to rule and govern their families? As we examine each tenet in turn, let’s refer back often to this term and see if Doug did actually choose the correct term after all, and then let’s see if that is truly what men as New Covenant believers want to be known as — rulers.

Or maybe this is all just a propaganda appeal to tradition. We like hearing the heroic stories of the Old Testament saints. If we could just be like them …

And Doug Phillips is here to help you do just that.


47 Responses to “The Biblical Family: Defining Patriarchy and Why God is Masculine”

  1. Morgan Farmer Says:

    God revealed God to mankind in ways that mankind could understand. Men understand the concept of ‘personhood’ in terms of male or female, since we as human are either male or female.

    God revealed to us as humans the Godhead as Male, Father, Son & Holy Spirit. It is what is it is…the way God revealed the personhood of God to mortal men. God chose to reveal God as male. What would have become of our understanding if God had revealed the trinitarian Godhead as The Older Person, the younger person and the person that helps you?

    We understand God as male because that’s the way HE revealed Himself to us…as male.

    Before God revealed Himself, did anyone have an idea?

  2. Jen Says:

    Well, Morgan, that is an interesting question. Since God walked with Adam in the garden, I wonder if Adam knew then?

  3. Psalmist Says:

    Moses tried to pin God down as to just who was sending him to demand the seemingly impossible from Pharoah, and God gave the highly enigmatic “I am who I am/Iwill be what I will be” response. Hardly the “I am the Father” response that might have been expected, had God’s supposed masculinity been the most important thing for Moses to know.

    I don’t think we can accurately say that God is “masculine.” God is God. How God chooses to be revealed to us is another matter, since we tend to be unable to wrap our pea brains around what it means that God is God. That we have primarily (not exclusively) masculine forms of God’s self-revelation in Scripture, probably says more about the limitations of human language and intellect than it says about God.

  4. Morgan Farmer Says:

    ..wrap our pea-brains around what it means that God is God…yeah THAT nails it 🙂 …..thanks

  5. Morgan Farmer Says:

    Patriarch? Feminist? Complementarian?

    Again humans show their propensity to label and categorize. Why can’t two partnered (married) people just do the things they must do to make the partnership a success?

    Income? Do the utility companies and grocery stores worry about HOW the money was earned when one goes to pay? No….but some churches sure do.

    Housecleaning and laundry? Do the clothes care, does the house care or do visitors care who cleaned the house if it is clean when they arrive? No…but some churches sure do.

    What to do…what to wear…what to say…blah blah and more blah….

    If churches spent more time preaching what God told them to preach…that is the gospel…… I can state with sure knowledge…that all of this extemporaneous extra bibliology
    (is that a word????) would not even exist. (One can’t call it THEOLOGY).

    So maybe we should just all say” IT’S THE GOSPEL STUPID!

  6. Psalmist Says:

    Morgan, the way I see it, all that “stuff” is so we can all be “human DOings,” and avoid the harder part, which is to be “human BEings.” If we conform outwardly to a law, no one’s going to concern themselves with whether we’re being inwardly conformed to Christ. If it looks good, that’s all that matters. So we set up all these codes of law for one another, getting into each other’s bedrooms and kitchens and workplaces to see if the “right” person reigns there, and if we’re following all the “right” rules and if the “right” systems of controlling families is being followed.

    We shouldn’t wonder that the Holy Spirit’s being crowded completely out and people aren’t hearing the voice of God speaking anymore. Who needs to hear from God when John Gray and the Pearls and James Dobson and Wayne Grudem can tell you how it needs to be done?

    (Disclaimer: I don’t mean to say that the named individuals have nothing good to say about various things. I object to their being appealed to as authority and their advice/teachings being elevated to the level of instruction manual or checklist. We can and should be more discerning than that, IMO.)

  7. Morgan Farmer Says:

    Psalmist…I thought I was the only one that objecting to the level(s) that advice and teachings were elevated to. I’m not alone! Thanks..I really enjoy your comments!

  8. Psalmist Says:

    Likewise, Morgan. But don’t pay me too much mind. I’m the “odd aunt” who’s really a crazy heretic–there are people you could ask who would tell you so–but folks here so far have been too kind to say so. (grin)

  9. Cynthia Gee Says:

    “What to do…what to wear…what to say…blah blah and more blah….”

    Jesus already TOLD us not to worry about all that!

    He said:
    Luk 12:11 And when they bring you unto the synagogues, and [unto] magistrates, and powers, take ye no thought how or what thing ye shall answer, or what ye shall say: Luk 12:12 For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say.

    Mat 6:25 ¶ Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? ……..
    Mat 6:31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? Mat 6:32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. Mat 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

    It’s mind over matter: when your heart is right with God, you don’t mind, and all that worldly who-does-what stuff doesn’t matter. God has it all under control anyway.

    Mat 6:34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day [is] the evil thereof.

  10. Ann Says:

    What about when God said, “Let us make man in OUR IMAGE?”
    He made Adam first, then later made Eve to be Adam’s helpmate.
    I agree that God is so much more than we can comprehend, but if he wasn’t masculine, He wouldn’t have said what He said when he created Adam.

  11. sarah Says:

    Male and Female were created in God’s image. Christ, there is no male or female.

    I think God, in reality, is both male/female, or “neuter.” I agree with Morgan that God communicates with humans in cultural terms they can understand. Middle Eastern culture at the time of the Bible was probably fairly patriarchal.

    I don’t think it matters if God has a gender, or, if so, what that gender is. Above anything else, we know definitively that God is love. The most important thing is to love one another. Regardless of your position on patriarchy, all Christians are called to love each other and husbands are called to love their wives as Christ loved the church. When people begin to consistently and deliberately act in an unloving fashion, that stems from sin and human nature, not from their view of God’s gender.

  12. Cynthia Gee Says:

    Ann wrote,
    “What about when God said, “Let us make man in OUR IMAGE?”
    He made Adam first, then later made Eve to be Adam’s helpmate. I agree that God is so much more than we can comprehend, but if he wasn’t masculine, He wouldn’t have said what He said when he created Adam.”

    Actually, Ann, you are mixing up your creation stories. The one where God says, “let us make man in our image ” is not the one where God creates Adam and later takes Eve from his side.
    Here is the first one:
    Gen 1:26 ¶ And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. Gen 1:27 So God created man in his [own] image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

    And here is the Adam and Eve version:
    These [are] the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, Gen 2:5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and [there was] not a man to till the ground. Gen 2:6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.
    Gen 2:7 And the LORD God formed man [of] the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.

    • Jessica Says:

      Cynthia, you are right. Two completely different creation stories, written by different groups of people hundreds of year apart. People try to conflate the two story in order to make them one. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

  13. Lawrence Says:

    Two accounts of the same event not two stories. Gen 1 is more global in nature, Gen 2 more specific to set up for Gen 3.

    Although there are plenty instances were God reveals Himself in the masculine in Scripture, I do not think you can go there on that particular section of verses in Genesis without having trouble on the other end of things. The original language text doesn’t seem to go there. The Hebrew plural for females only is feminine in form, but if even one male is present it goes masculine form. One could argue for the masculine only in Gen 1:27 only until that pesky “male and female” text comes along and clarifies that both genders are included.

    Where the purely masculine interpretation of Gen 1:27 runs into real trouble is at salvation. Church fathers for centuries argued that Jesus could not redeem what he did not assume. He redeems us by having assumed all that is human including that which is the image of God in us, a human soul. Thus a masculine only reading of Gen 1:27 would create a the woman without the image of God (a soul) and leaves women without salvation at the cross. We know because there is neither male nor female in Christ that this is not so.

  14. Light Says:

    Masculinity and femininity are terms relating to human sexuality. I think there is a danger bordering on idolatry to say that God is male (except in the Incarnation, as a human male) or masculine. Deuteronomy 4 warns us about this.

    15 You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, 16 so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, 17 or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, 18 or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below.

    There’s an old saying that speaks to mankind’s sinful propensities when we try to force God into nice neat little human categories: “If God is male, then the male is God.” For if we are going to say that God is masculine and not feminine, then the only conclusion we can come to is that men are more like God than women. Do we really want to go there?

  15. Cynthia Gee Says:

    “For if we are going to say that God is masculine and not feminine, then the only conclusion we can come to is that men are more like God than women. Do we really want to go there?”
    Unfortunately, all too many people over the centuries have gone there, done that, and got the Tshirt.
    Thankfully we have Galatians 3:28 as an answer to sexism, kinism, and all that silly sinful nonsense. What amazes me is the gall of the people who are trying to sneak all of that nasty stuff back INTO the church.

  16. Psalmist Says:

    Say, Jen, you mention the heroic stories of the Old Testament. Funny how Sarah, Miriam and her mother and the midwives, Deborah and Jael, Huldah, Abigail, and a host other Hebrew Bible mothers are ignored or denigrated or explained away by most of those who are supposedly so pro-heroes. Maybe these women are simply too heroic for the modern patriarch to handle; who today is behaving as heroically as they did? (Hint: It’s not the modern patriarchs, as far as I can tell.)

  17. Lawrence Says:

    Galatians 3:28 is hardly the key to unlock every door. Some, but not all. It needs the full force of the whole counsel of God and tradition behind it to do what you are going to want it to do.

    BTW regarding your last comment, you could try Matthew 18.

  18. Lawrence Says:

    My last comment was in response to Cynthia not to the post itself.
    Sorry Jen.

  19. Cynthia Gee Says:

    “BTW regarding your last comment, you could try Matthew 18.”
    Not a bad idea if I do say so myself, Lar.

  20. Cynthia Gee Says:

    Oops, sorry Lar, the link didn’t come through.

  21. Cynthia Gee Says:

    And the profile on Heartofmyhusband’s webpage is this one.

  22. Psalmist Says:

    I would caution that insisting that we have the weight of tradition behind interpretation on this issue is highly problematic. The tradition in Western society has been for women to be chattel and the church has been viritually indistinguishable from the world in this matter; in fact, in very recent generations, much of the church has continued to advocate subjugation of women while society is waking up to the wrong that represents.

    We could easily say that church tradition supported slavery, could we not? And looking at it carefully, the subjugation of women is not so very different from the tradition of enslaving marginalized people.

  23. Cynthia Gee Says:

    Apparently this attitude is still alive and well in certain parts of Christendom.

  24. Jen Says:

    Lots of good comments here!

    I am left wondering, though, why some females are willing to admit that although Jesus was obviously a male, why the Father isn’t masculine. God the Father is very often referred to as the “Father,” and never the “Mother,” so why is that so hard to admit? Although I agree that the Holy Spirit is only referred to a few times as “He,” He is still a he. Why do we try to force something that is at odds with what Scripture tells us?

    I do not think that just because God reveals Himself to us in the masculine form that that in any way makes humans males more like God than females are, just as it does not follow that human females are more like the bride of Christ than males are. Two can play that game, and it doesn’t work.

    The masculine God has a feminine bride and in order to help us understand that relationship, God put that very model into the essence of our human relationships. Marriage is such a huge part of our lives that God must have really wanted us to understand His relationship with us. This is a beautiful picture of how much God cares about even the little details of our daily lives, just as in a good marriage, the husband and wife care about the details of each other’s daily lives. The interaction all throughout the day between a husband and a wife is meant to remind us that we are to have that same kind of a relationship with God as well. This is a picture to encourage us, not to show that men are superior in any way. If anything, men are held more responsible for treating their wives the way Christ does His bride.

    Light, I think that passage in Deut. 4 is referring to idolatry and in no way is telling us that we shouldn’t call God male. It is talking about making an image and worshiping it.

    Psalmist, you are right that there are many female heroines in the Bible as well. But I think we should be just as careful about elevating them above men, too. I remember growing up, hearing the stories of the Bible, and I didn’t separate them into stories about men and stories about women. I wonder why we feel the need to do that now. Just a thought as I try to escape this world where the differences between men and women are grossly exaggerated to the point that it penetrates all of life. Why can’t we just be us?

    Now, I am all for the biblical roles of male and female, but how much of Scripture emphasizes those different roles? Shouldn’t that be about equivalent to the amount of emphasis we give it as well? In refuting patriarchy, we need to make sure that we do not overemphasize the woman’s role and let that pendulum swing too far in the opposite direction there either.

    None of that was meant to be directed at you, Psalmist. Your comment was just the catalyst that got me thinking. 😉 There certainly is a time to talk about women or men specifically, and sometimes the women’s stories need to be pointed out when we discuss patriarchy, but I just want to be biblically balanced here.

    Lawrence, thanks for the Bible teachings on this. I really appreciated how you tied Gen. 1:27 in with the work done at the cross.

    Some of the things discussed here will be dealt with in more detail as we work our way through the Tenets, so I will leave those areas for later.

    Psalmist, why do you say that the church advocates subjugation of women?

  25. Psalmist Says:

    I said that much of the church advocates subjugation of women, Jen, not all of it. I have no problem at all with saying that is precisely what the advocates of patriarchy are doing.

    I am also not elevating stories of the female heroes of Scripture above those of the male heroes. The problem is that routinely, the patriarchalists are denying or attempting to explain away the heroism of the female heroes, to the point that they tell only about the male heroes. They try to convince people that only men can be valorous and strong as heroes. That is not what I find in Scripture. I think it’s admirable that you didn’t think of male vs. female relative to the heroes’ stories. Far too many people, however, are teaching that hero=exclusively male. Not so.

    I keep wondering just what this “male roles” vs. “female roles” is all about when it comes to scriptural teachings. People keep claiming that men must adhere to the “male roles” and women to the “female roles.” Just what are the roles, where are they explicitly given to us in Scripture, and by whose standards are we supposed to ignore the obviously admirable qualities shown to be godly, just because the person(s) illustrating them in Scripture are specifically male or female? For example, should men be allowed to disrupt their teachers or grasp for authority they don’t merit, just because it’s only women who are told to learn quietly and not usurp authority? Or should women be exempt from loving their husbands, because it’s only husbands who are told they must love their wives as Christ loves the church? Aren’t the commendable qualities commendable for us all, without superimposing a pink vs. blue filter onto them?

    Recognizing that male and female, masculine and feminine are qualities of humans and that both male and female are created in the image of God is a faithful reading of Scripture. So is recognizing that God is the creator of, not bound by, our human characteristics of male and female. Yes, God is our heavenly Father. God is also our Rock, our Fortress, and above all, God is love. God is BEYOND masculinity, not limited to it. I deny nothing that is genuinely found in Scripture. “God is masculine,” however, is not found in Scripture, but read into it. If God were masculine, that which is feminine could not be godly, women could not bear the image of God, and that would be contrary to what is clearly written in Scripture.

  26. Jen Says:

    Psalmist, I agree that patriarchy subjugates women; I just didn’t think it was very prevalent in the church. That was the basis for my question. Perhaps I have just seen the extreme side of it, so everything else looks relatively neutral to me! I visited a blog this weekend that talked about women not being treated equally in a different denomination and it did sound rather tame, but I’m sure that it must be equally frustrating for those women.

    You are correct that many patriarchalists see the stories of women in the Bible as being non-normative. I always wondered if that verse about men wiping the dishes was non-normative as well. 😉

    I think you bring up a very good point about the roles. Are we really that limited? Of course not, and that is what I will be attempting to prove in this series. One example that comes readily to mind is why I was excommunicated. When I wrote that letter to Doug about voting in the presidential election, even though Doug invited responses on his blog, I was later told that it would have been fine if my husband had written the letter instead of me, even though I sent it with my husband’s full blessing. Perhaps by insisting that women don’t need as much education as men, they can keep us from having opinions of our own!

    The problem for Doug is that he has become so wrapped up in delineating the roles that it appears that he truly thinks men to be far superior to women and so when a woman questions him, his ego is bruised for more than one reason.

  27. Light Says:

    I think the only thing we can say with any certainty is that masculinity is that which is derived from being male, and femininity is that which is derived from being female. What may look feminine to us in our day (wigs, makeup, ruffly things at the neck, silk stockings, and high heels) were considered the pinnacle of masculinity in France a few centuries ago. Human fathers are masculine because they are males. Of course, Jesus in the Incarnation was a male, and masculine. But we cannot say the same of God the Father. He is spirit, not human.

    If we are going to say God is masculine, then how can we refer to him as being like a hen who gathers her chicks under her wings, or like a mother bear. If God is masculine, why does the root of El Shaddai encompass the meaning of a mother’s nourishing breast? What about verses like Job 38:29 “From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens?”

    I would really like someone to show me scripture that lists what the masculine character attributes are and what the feminine character attributes are.

  28. Lawrence Says:

    Jen I
    Jen, a bit of house keeping here, if I may.

    Honestly, you do not know as much as you think you do about the situation, either then or now. You can follow a Matthew 18 process and find answers that will force you to reconsider some of your choices, or you could continue down this path, play the fool, and lose all credibility. The choice is yours. For your own benefit, please discuss this with your pastor before you go any further.

    You are correct in that certain sections of the church have been notoriously unkind to women. Others have not, at least not early on and as early as the middle ages although women could not be ordained – women saints held great influence on the church and those who were abbesses sometimes had power equivalent to bishops. The all or nothing nature of the Reformation which destroyed the orders because they smacked of Rome was an overreaction that we still feel the effect of today. It is unfortunate. The tradition I speak of is the early tradition of the church. As a frame of reference, I am referring specifically to the first five centuries of the church.

    The Trinity is of the same essence. I would say that in his humanity (how he is expressed to us) he is masculine, I would not say he is masculine in his divinity because although that is how he often choses to reveal himself. You are correct that he does also reveal himself in feminine ways occasionally, I had not thought of Job, but rather of the “gather you under my wings” comment. These occasions help remind us that God is more, which mankind sometimes seems to forget in their hurry to explain away all the mystery of God.

  29. Jen Says:

    Lawrence, you need to stick around! I appreciate how your seminary training is giving us many good insights here.

    Light: “I would really like someone to show me scripture that lists what the masculine character attributes are and what the feminine character attributes are.”

    I agree that too much is made of this. I am not thinking of all the different attributes of masculinity and femininity, but rather that God identifies Himself as masculine. That should be good enough for us, without equating Him as being more like males and less like females. I think, possibly, that marriage is just intended to be a picture of our relationship with Christ and that we were never meant to focus on His masculinity.

  30. Psalmist Says:

    I still disagree that God “identifies himself as masculine.” God chooses to be called Father, along with many other attributes, some human, some not. God never says, “I am masculine.” However, God does challenge the notion that he is a man or even that he is human. Masculinity is a human male characteristic, not a characteristic of God.

  31. Psalmist Says:

    We can say definitely that in the Incarnation, God came among us as Jesus the Son of God, a male human being.

  32. Light Says:

    I agree with Psalmist. Nowhere does God identify himself as masculine. He refers to himself as “I am who am.” If you think God is masculine, I challenge you to dig deeper. What, exactly, makes Him masculine? What are God’s masculine attributes? His power? His glory? His love? His mercy? Do only males possess these attributes? Or do females possess them too?

  33. Jen Says:

    Is not the term “Father” masculine? I don’t understand the disconnect between Father and masculine. Yes, I agree that God never says He is masculine, but “Father” is definitely a masculine term. Light, I think you are pushing the envelope too far in wanting to anthropomorphize God in this aspect in trying to make your point. I don’t see that God is saying that He has inherently human male characteristics, and not female ones, in identifying Himself as masculine. The attributes of God are His alone. Some of those He chooses to bestow upon us, all believers, as well, but some are simply divine. I do not think God has human male attributes just because He is a He. God is God and we need to respect the fact that He has chosen to identify Himself as masculine without alienating females in any way whatsoever.

  34. Psalmist Says:

    I think saying “God is masculine” is what’s anthropomorphizing God. God is no more masculine than God is feminine. God is God and humans — who ARE masculine and feminine — are NOT God. It sounds to me as though by saying “God is masculine,” you’re attributing to God those things that make human males masculine, and coding it to mean that God does not have those attributes that make human females feminine. Why is it so important to make the Heavenly Father into what sounds, to me, simply like a bigger version of human fathers? God is NOT a human being, and that includes whatever we can say about human masculinity. IOW, masculinity is not an attribute of the Divine, but merely of the human. God had to take human flesh to become masculine while the Christ walked this earth. Are we putting our faith in God’s masculinity, or God’s divinity?

  35. Psalmist Says:

    We should respect God, period. Respect should be for God, not our mere ideas about God being supposedly masculine.

    Our thoroughly divine God chooses to be known, among many other forms of address, as our heavenly Father. That does not make God masculine. God remains God, even while graciously permitting us a relational way to understand better who God is through a human-familiar means of address.

    There’s simply not any way to say “God is masculine” without it meaning that human males are more like God than human females are. The fact is, we all bear the image of the One who created us male and female, in the image of God. Neither masculinity nor femininity is an attribute of God; both human males and females REFLECT God’s image (including in our own human masculinity or femininity). We must NOT make God in our own image.

  36. Cynthia Gee Says:

    Honestly, you do not know as much as you think you do about the situation, either then or now. You can follow a Matthew 18 process and find answers that will force you to reconsider some of your choices, or you could continue down this path, play the fool, and lose all credibility. The choice is yours. For your own benefit, please discuss this with your pastor before you go any further.”

    Lar, you’re right, I don’t know everything about the situation. But I do know that your wife claimed to be a kinist on her older blog, and links to kinist sites on one of her two current blogs, and I know that her older blog’s profile description lead to YOUR profile, which tells me that you KNOW that she is a kinist.
    I wouldn’t care all that much — it’s your business, after all, but I am also a member of the Anglican communion, and I really hate to see this kind of rot creeping into my own denomination. We have quite enough trouble with all the goofiness perpetuated by liberal left, without racism sneaking in from the other side.
    As for Matthew 18, I live North of the Mason Dixon line, praise be, and outside of Reformed circles, we don’t do that kind of bullying “up Nawth.”

  37. Light Says:

    Psalmist, thank you. I was struggling for words trying to convey my ideas, and you did it so much better than I could have! Jen, I meant to say exactly what Psalmist did. She just said it first. 🙂

  38. Cynthia Gee Says:

    BTW, Lawrence — I don’t mind talking about this privately. Jen has my email address, and I don’t mind if she shares it with you.

  39. Lawrence Says:

    That works for me. Thanks.

    Jen could you forward that on?

  40. sarah Says:

    Cynthia said: “As for Matthew 18, I live North of the Mason Dixon line, praise be, and outside of Reformed circles, we don’t do that kind of bullying “up Nawth.””

    I’m laughing so hard. Thanks Cynthia.

  41. Hutch Says:


    I know this is off topic, but I just wanted you to know that Doug’s book-Biblical Principles of the Ballot Box is available for any donation to Vision Forum!-Grin.

    It states that it is: An Answer for Fearful Christians in an age of politics!

    Everything is so dramatic and so scary!

  42. Jessica Says:

    I will begin my comment by stating, openly, that I do not adhere to orthodox doctrine. Furthermore, I am on the very liberal end of the already liberal Episcopal Church. So, my worldview is, undoubtedly, different from most people’s on this forum. I earnestly believe that God communicates with God’s people through a variety of means — reason, personal experience, Church history, and scripture. I find it interesting that some people limit God and try to put God into a nice, neat, little box. I can definitely see the appeal of doing so. After all, it makes this vastly confusing and — at times — scary world more manageable. I cannot do this though. (Sometimes, I wish I could). My years of formal training both in a seminary (Pittsburgh Theological Seminary), a secular university (University of Pittsburgh), and a Jewish university (Hebrew Union) has convinced me that God cannot and will not be limited. We cannot limit God to the pages of a book, an organization, a sex, or a gender. God does not submit to human categories. I have written many articles on bibliodolotry — the act of worshiping the Bible. Many Christians, in my opinion, are guilty of this sin. To limit God to a collection of writings is, in my opinion, dangerous and perhaps even sinful (I use the term sinful here to mean “missing the mark.” I truly believe that assigning a gender or sex to God is inappropriate and unnecessary. It is sinful because, I maintain, it “misses the mark.”

    • Jen Says:

      Jessica, while I appreciate your honesty in telling us that you are coming from a different perspective than most of the readers here, I also am interested in hearing your thoughts, whether I end up agreeing or not. Please explain why you believe that God is not masculine, since that is the subject of this particular article. Thanks!

      • Jessica Says:

        I believe God is not masculine because I cannot imagine God being limited to a certain set of human-defined qualities or characteristics. For instance, I assume we are talking about gender and not sex. What are masculine characteristics? Even that is up for grabs. But let us just go with the standard definition: Masculinity: “having qualities or appearance traditionally associated with men, esp. strength and aggressiveness.” Is God portrayed in the Hebrew Bible or New Testament as being strong and aggressive? Sometimes yes and sometimes no. If we are going to look at the other members of the trinity, such as Jesus, we might ask ourselves, was Jesus strong and aggressive? I would say quite the opposite — no, he was not. I would maintain that, more often than not, gender roles are culturally defined. So, in order to really answer this question, we would have to look at an ancient Hebrew and ancient Greek definition of Masculine in order to determine what characteristics are associated with each. I can direct you to more articles on the matter but, in Jesus’ culture, his message and actions (peace, forgiveness, turning the other cheek,passiveness, asexuality, etc) were more closely associated with feminine characteristics than masculine ones. Yet, I would not call God feminine either. Regarding sex — well, I am not going to venture a guess at what biological parts God possessed. God is beyond sex or gender, in my opinion.

        • Jen Says:

          Jessica, I have a difficult time getting around “Our FATHER, who art in heaven …”

        • Jessica Says:

          Does the term father describe sex or gender? If a homosexual couple adopts a child, they are both called “father” but are they both masculine?

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