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.