The Patriarchal Movement

Dear Editor,

I want to thank Schuyler for the information regarding the Patriarchy movement and the two authors mentioned.  The answer encouraged some searching on my part about these two men.  I was therefore a little surprised to see such an adamant defense of Doug Wilson and R. C.  Sproul Jr. in a following Beacon Lights.  It is clear that these men willingly align themselves with the Patriarchy movement and even the likes of Doug Phillips of Vision Forum infamy.  True it is that you cannot believe everything you find on the Internet, but search engines operate the way that they do for a reason.  Depending on how you conduct your search, what surfaces first can be an indicator of some level of validity.

Doug Wilson may have started out fairly Reformed, but like anyone who gets caught up in an error, he may be straying from or finally developing his earlier ideas.  It may also be that his earlier teachings were sound but his current recommended applications of the teachings are no longer biblical.  Writers can change over time.  It is a known fact that even John Piper’s works have changed in recent years because of the errors he is embracing, but his earlier work is fairly decent.  I have read only one book by Sproul Jr., which enough for me.  Let’s also not forget that some writers can make their ideas sound so right.  Even Mormons can sound like us in their rhetoric, but they mean very different things while using words we find familiar, such as God, covenant, or world.  While weighing the teachings of men in the light of the Scriptures, we should also remember that even though we read with a Reformed mindset and interpret things in that understanding, the intent of the writer could be something different.  These writers should have their words weighed in the context of all of their teachings, lives, and the company they keep so that we don’t view them as more Reformed than they really are.

While I don’t have a problem with defending a book, I do have a problem with defending a man that should not be defended as a person.  When a man such as Wilson sticks up for his fellow Patriarch Doug Phillips, who fell into the sin of adultery, by trying to put some of the blame of it on the woman for luring him into sin and his being the victim of his own hormones that are ‘the very thing that made him a great leader’; we should not defend Wilson.  His logic is misogynistic.  After giving lip service to how Phillips was sinful Wilson goes on to say in his blog: “Conclusion: Testosterone is a good thing, and can be used by God as part of His gifting men for leadership, but it is not one of the fruits of the Spirit. God uses gifts, but He blesses fruit.

A man with lots of testosterone is in a position to start a dynamic ministry that speaks to thousands, that fills conference halls, and that rivets people to their seats. Taking a hypothetical, that very same man is also in a much better position to succumb to the blandishments of a stripper with a stage name of Foxy Bubbles, and all in the settled conviction that his sin will not find him out. How could his sin find him out? He rivets people to their seats.

Samson eventually had his eyes put out, but even before he lost his eyes he was not able to see what Delilah was doing with and to him. The thing that God was using against the Philistines, his strength, was also the thing that Delilah was using in a series of sexual jiu jitsu moves against Samson. It is an old trick, and it still works very, very well.” [i]  Being an Alpha male is no excuse.  Also, the young woman’s sinful yet coerced compliance does not create room for Phillips to become the victim, nor does it put her on the same level as a stripper or Delilah.  This was an oppressive situation.  That is like saying that a rape victim has no one to blame but herself simply because she is a woman.  The young woman in question originally worked for Phillips as a nanny to his children when she was fairly young, as well as for his ministry, and was a member of his church.  This church was not your ordinary church but promoted a more extreme Patriarch mentality.  The pressure for her to obey father rule (meaning also the head of the house in which she worked) was considerable, and it is a known fact that this can outweigh a person’s ability to do what they normally should do.  This particular group held very extreme and literal ideas about women being ‘silent’.[ii]  Her legal complaint is online.[iii]   Mr. Wilson’s example doesn’t even fit because he forgets that Sampson was accountable in his pursuit of Delilah. Neither was he tricked, since Delilah was the second Philistine woman he had desired.  He knew very well what he willingly gave to Delilah.  In his pride and arrogance he simply did not care because he stood in his own strength, just as Mr. Phillips did.

Another observation is that Wilson is featured on a Mars Hill website where he gets his own page,[iv] and of course it features a matching link to a leadership series by Mark Driscoll, who has recently been charged with ecclesiastical tyranny.

Doug Wilson is also a little suspect when he writes in his piece entitled, Angels in the Architecture (available on Google Books) this: “Christian Medievalism, however, presents us with a view of a whole life, full of truth, beauty, goodness, and all their nasty contraries. The medieval period is the closest thing we have to a maturing Christian culture[emphasis in the original].  It makes no sense for a Protestant man to say that the world was more godly and biblical before the Reformation in an era when most of humanity lacked access to the Bible in their language and was controlled by a hierarchically governed, oppressive church.  If anything, this further indicates that he may agree with the Patriarchy idea that elevates a lifestyle to a doctrinal level.

Another reason that Doug Wilson should be read with discretion is that his teaching on marital sex does not reflect what we are taught in 1 Corinthians 7:1–5.  Not long ago Wilson made headlines with a statement he made about marital sexual relations where he indicated that it was ungodly if the activity were done for mutual pleasure.  His actual words are a bit too crass for Beacon Lights.  His blog also does not seem to be the careful, succinct style of his earlier books; rather it seems sometimes cavalier and rash.

Several sites and different bloggers also indicate that Wilson is self-ordained and started his own church because he did not have the credentials to get a pastorate in an existing church or denomination. There is indication that he is also schismatic.[v]

As a side note, Sproul Jr. was defrocked a while back for ecclesiastical tyranny and the theft and illegal use of a church denomination’s tax ID number.[vi]  Is he another  “ruling father” with a double standard?

Several links that express the tenets of the Patriarch ideology have been taken down after the leader of the Vision Forum’s scandal broke the news last year, so they cannot be readily documented.  There is a defense of Wilson regarding his not espousing patriarchy here:; but it also is gone.

I am not recommending that everyone toss out the Wilson books that they own. I have the one entitled Standing on the Promises, and I recall agreeing with most of what I read.  In fact I considered it fairly commendable if read with our understanding of the Scriptures.  I totally agree with Sarah [Mowery—Ed.] in her encouragement of the use of discretion.  Only let us be careful about defending men simply because we might like some of what they write.

In addition, I assumed Schuyler to mean that if a couple decides on family size, they must decide it before the Lord and not leave him out of the decision in any way.  Besides, I think the couples with larger families are making a decision just as much as those with smaller families are.  It just happens to be a different decision.  Just making an optional interpretation available for consideration.

I thought the information on Patriarchy from Schulyer was interesting.  One of our ministers had touched on it a few months ago in the Standard Bearer.  After some researching of my own, I found the Patriarchy ideology to be an old idea.  It has in fact been around since Aristotle taught it and the Greeks embraced it during Paul’s time.  It is very pronounced in Asian and Near East societies.  It is much more than a derogatory label put on conservative Christians by alarmed liberals, feminists and egalitarians, as Sarah implied.  It is a real movement here in America, and it is a dangerous mindset just as Feminism was and still is.  It may be a fringe element and strongly connected to the evangelical groups, but some in the Reformed camp are noticing a growth of it in their midst and are concerned.  It is extra-biblical and should not be belittled or ignored.  Many women promote it because women are trying to find a definition of what submission looks like for all the right reasons.  It is easily and sometimes unwittingly embraced by people with a white-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant background because much of it rhymes with a lot of what they and many of us were taught and believe is a “good” lifestyle.  Most of this lifestyle would be acceptable and biblical, but it is not doctrinal or actually part of the gospel message and should not be held as such.   Father rule could lead to Phariseeism, and it can also cause marriage itself to become an idol to the people and especially women.  It can also have a Judaizing effect in the church by marginalizing the daughters of the King.  Some women and children have been so broken by it that, sadly, they have left the faith altogether.  Today’s Patriarchy is a theological error that holds a distorted view of the covenant as being basically made up of one’s own family and where there is an unhealthy focus on the dominion of men and the limitation of the roles of women. The subservience of women to men has been raised by the stalwart Patriarchists to the level of a fundamental doctrine of the faith, equal to a belief in the deity of Christ.

The more I read, the more I realized that father rule and Patriarchy is not at all the same thing as Biblical male headship especially when it comes to marriage and the covenant family; and the terms probably should not be used interchangeably.  If it is not understood properly for the error that it is, it could creep into a well-intentioned Christian’s mind.  Others have been studying Patriarchy more in depth, and Rachel Miller, news editor of the Aquila Report, is working on a book about it.  Our preaching has been thorough in its instruction against Feminism; let it also be equal in showing us the errors of Patriarchy.  I look forward to the continued and hopefully expanded instruction to us on what true headship, leadership, and authority is according to the Scriptures in future preaching or articles.

In my delving, I noticed that there seems to be several quasi-biblical ideologies out there.  The Patriarchy movement seems to have a cousin called the Quiverfull Movement.  I see potential for reinstating the “Truth vs Error” rubric in the Beacon Lights.