Recently I got in an online discussion about patriarchy. I was told that “Patriarchy is NOT the historic teaching of the church.” Whether this is right or wrong depends to a large degree on the definition of patriarchy. In the discussion patriarchy was defined as women submitting to men in general. It was assumed that wives should submit to husbands and that women could not be pastors. But men do not have a headship over women in general. By the logic put forth in other discussions, if this was the case, we would find men ordering women around everywhere they went.
There are several issue at play here. But in this post I simply want to quote John Calvin who clearly does assert that men are heads of women in general. And I doubt this led to the men in Geneva ordering all the women around. This quote comes from a sermon on I Corinthians 11:4-10.
Now St. Paul is not speaking here of individuals, or of particular households. Rather he has divided the human race into two parts, as was indicated in the previous sermon. So there is the male, and the female. I say this, because even though a man may not be married, he still has this privilege of nature: he is a head. Of whom? Of women, because we are not merely to examine one house, but the order that God has established in the world. In the case of a widow, or of a young woman who has yet to marry, the subjection of which St. Paul is speaking still pertains to them. Why? Because it applies to the entire feminine sex…From this we see the stupidity of some who have expounded this text of St. Paul as if it referred only to married women. For, as I have already indicated, he is not dealing with each individual in particular, but with the general order.
You may disagree with Calvin. I do not. However, that is not the point. The point is a historical one. Calvin clearly did hold to the general submission of women to men. He did not restrict it to wives and husbands only. He says the same thing in his commentary on this passage.
Does this make women less than men? Are they not also made in the image of God? Does Christ relate to men in the same way as women? See this blog post where Calvin affirms that women are made in the image of God and salvation is fully their’s in the same way it belongs to men. In Christ, we are equal and all are made in the image of God. But “in this passing life” [Calvin’s term] there is a need for order. And God created men to rule.
This is a re-post, with a few edits, from last summer.
When Christ and His gospel are preached in all their fullness men and women are set free, not from rules and obedience, but from man’s rules and from obedience as the road to salvation. The gospel says that satisfaction has been made for all our sins. There is nothing we can do, say, think, implement, or learn that will take away our sins. Our sins are completely taken away in Christ. We now have an easy yoke and light burden. Our King is not a tyrant. His laws are not burdensome.
But bondage is always out there stalking us like a pack of wolves. There are always men and women rattling chains, but claiming they are keys, slave traders promising freedom. They say, “Our yoke is better than Christ’s.” But the yokes of men are always iron. Continue reading
One the advantages of reading those from the past is you realize that the question you are asking is not new and has been answered before. You may disagree with answer, but at least you are kept from the proud idea that you alone or your generation alone has asked the question. For example, how can Christ be Savior of both men and women and yet Paul says in I Corinthians 11:3 that Christ is the head of man? Here John Calvin’s answer to that question. Brackets are mine.
There you have what we need to observe concerning St. Paul’s statement here, that the head of man is Jesus Christ. He is indeed the head of both men and women, as I have set forth. It is through him that we are joined with each other and united to God so as to be recognized and avowed as his children, and to have our refuge in him with complete confidence. Yet, be that as it may, as regards policy and order belonging to the present life, and without which men would be as dumb animals, Jesus Christ exercises the office of head over men. And let us observe that our Lord Jesus Christ thus affords us a double blessing: namely the eternal salvation of our souls [which applies to men and women equally], and the blessing of order for this passing life [in which Christ is head of men and men are head of women]. Both of these things are quite useful, once one understands.
Calvin sees two levels at which Christ is working. First, Christ and the salvation he offers, as well as the benefits of that salvation are offered to and given to men and women equally. Men are not more saved than women. They are not closer to Christ than women. We are all God’s children. But in this life order is required. Order demands hierarchy. This hierarchy is put in place by Jesus to guide us through this life with order and decency. Therefore men are the head and rulers in “this passing life.” Calvin states this another way in the next sermon on I Corinthians 11:4. Continue reading
Earlier in the week I sent this Tweet:
As with most Tweets it lacks clarification and nuance. A friend of my said as much, so I decided to post a follow up explaining what I meant. By conservative, I mean religiously conservative, not politically. The description below will flesh that out a bit.
I have been a pastor in a conservative church in a conservative denomination for almost ten years. I home school and interact with the homeschooling community frequently. I have a wife and six boys. The point I made in my Tweet is one that I have seen in my own home, church, and denomination, as well as other conservative communities. Boys can have a hard time becoming men in conservative settings. The problem is not universal. Many, maybe even most, conservative moms and dads are doing a good job raising masculine boys. But the problem is not rare either. This is not just the fault of these moms, of course. The culture, both broadly and in our churches, pastors, and dads all share the blame. However, mothers can and do undermine masculinity in boys.
Why did I single out conservative moms instead of liberal ones? Well first that is my audience. I would rather preach to the individuals I know than the masses I don’t know. But also because they have a difficult time seeing the part they play in the emasculation of their own boys. Conservative moms view themselves as going against the flow and fighting against the feminism in our culture. Many of them are stay at home moms or part time stay at home moms who have rejected a career to raise children. Most home school or send their kids to private school. They go to worship and are active in their church. They submit to their husbands. They read their Bible and pray. They dress modestly. These are all good things. But as Doug Wilson has taught me when you go to algebra class you get equations. When you go to biology class you get problems about dissecting frogs. And when you have conservative Christian mothers you get women who do not see how they could possibly be a blockade to manliness in their boys and husband. They are the ones doing it “right.” These women are the ones least likely to believe they are the problem. I know many conservative mothers who are doing well at raising boys. But in conservative churches this is an issue and pastors ignore it to their own peril. Continue reading
Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles: A Case for Gender Roles in Ministry by Kathy Keller
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I knew I would disagree with Mrs. Keller before I started. However, I do not automatically give those I disagree with low ratings. If a person makes a concerted effort to address differing viewpoints, etc. I will give a higher rating to them despite my disagreements. I also realize this is a booklet and not a full length treatment of the topic. But this book does more harm than good by running with too many unproven assumptions to make sweeping generalizations about men, women, and the church. This is easy to do in a booklet of this size. But when your position is in a minority in your own tradition you should be more persistent in proving your point and address dissenting view points. Perhaps this comes from her own skewed view of her position. She sees herself as a conservative on male/female roles and in some ways she might be in our current context. But overall her position of a woman can do anything an unordained man can do is not conservative when it is placed against the backdrop of God’s people in the past. I might write a more lengthy review later interacting with her exegesis of the two passages she primarily looked at.
I find it ironic that this book is consider non-egalitarian/complementarian when it is close to being full egalitarian and would not be recognized by most of our fathers in the faith as being true to the Scriptures or to the reality of the way God made the world.
My Rating System
1 Star-Terrible book and dangerous. Burn it in the streets.
2 Stars-Really bad book, would not recommend, probably has some dangerous ideas in it or could just be so poorly written/researched that it is not worth reading. Few books I read are 1 or 2 stars because I am careful about what I read.
3 Stars-Either I disagree with it at too many points to recommend it or it is just not a good book on the subject or for the genre. Would not read it again, reference it, or recommend it. But it is not necessarily dangerous except as a time waster.
4 Stars-Solid book on the subject or for the genre. This does not mean I agree with all that is said. I would recommend this book to others and would probably read it again or reference it. Most books fall in this category because I try not to read books I don’t think will be good. There is a quite a variety here. 3.6 is quite different from 4.5.
5 Stars-Excellent book. Classic in the genre or top of the line for the subject. I might also put a book in here that impacted me personally at the time I read it. I would highly recommend this book, even if I do not agree with all that it says. Few books fall in this category. Over time I have put less in this category.
View all my reviews