Time for a cordial discussion of patriarchy, if there is such a thing! The word means “father rule,” and going by the technical meaning of the word, it is thoroughly Biblical. “The husband is head of the wife” (Eph 5:23). “If a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?” (1 Timothy 3:5) God has given husbands and fathers the role of leader. He is responsible for what goes on in his family.

In a culture that has given up on God’s social design, we have to seek reform wisely and with maturity. Where a beautiful painting has fallen from the wall, we can be quick to hammer it back up quickly but badly, just so it looks like we are following Scripture. But if we aren’t careful, the sloppy job can make things worse, not better. For instance:

The world despises authority, so we over-emphasize it and become authoritarian. We get wrapped up in the formal authority and forget that it is the frame of the picture, not the content. The authority is really there, and needed, to bring about loving service to others. But we can wind up focusing more on the authority we have than on the person before us who needs love. Now, we need to understand the role we have in relation to our child, spouse, or church member, so that we know how to love the person. But that role is assumed and used for a greater purpose, instead of focused upon for its own sake. This must be true, even in times when we are recovering a good and true patriarchy in a world that rejects it.

The world despises male leadership, so we over-emphasize it and become chest-thumping male chauvinists. Yes, men should be gentlemen and treat ladies with respect, not just another member of the human species. But neither need we tell them not to worry their pretty little heads about theology or zoology or politics. We get defensive when a woman can articulate her views with clarity and conviction, instead of praising God for this. A woman rightly influences her husband with her wise counsel. He must take it into account, and then decide the matter himself or delegate it to someone else.

The world laughs at the weak, bumbling, imbecile husband, smirking that his wife is really in charge. When she gives him advice on an issue before them, which he should ask for, he does not have to follow it, or be in the doghouse. That dynamic is unbiblical, and a pernicious evil that has neutered countless men in otherwise godly families and churches. But neither does he have to go against his wife to prove he is really leading. That is his own weakness showing itself. He needs to do what he believes is right, and lead his family that way lovingly. In a godly patriarchy, the husband is really in charge, not just appearing to be while his wife or children pull the strings. But he is not tyrannically in charge, making decisions just to prove he can, or making decisions better left delegated to his wife or children.

The astute reader will note that the structure of this essay has not yet risen above reacting to “the world.” We must do so. We must come to start with what God says social roles are for: service (Romans 13:4) and edifying others (Eph 4:11ff). God gives officers and offices in the church, state and family to make love possible among men. “Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God” (1 John 4:7).

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