Patriarchy On Trial, part one


What exactly is patriarchy? What is the patriarchy movement? What influence does it have within particular areas of the homeschooling culture? How has it influenced the evangelical church in recent years? Who is promoting it? Why does it matter? Where is it headed?

For some people, the word patriarchy was just that, a word, until it was introduced into evangelical vocabularies last fall when patriarch Doug Phillips, founder and owner of Vision Forum Ministries, confessed to having an “inappropriate relationship” with a woman who was not his wife. Overnight, his teachings were placed on trial in the media throughout evangelicalism only to see them now facing a similar trial in the courtroom in coming months.

Interestingly, many of the more familiar voices within the homeschooling culture are now making pubic statements about patriarchy. Kevin Swanson from Generations Radio declares: “I am not a patriarchal-ist. I have never been a patriarchal-ist, and I’ve never called myself a patriarchal-ist,” in a blog article that brings even more confusion to what exactly he now believes. James McDonald, courtship apologist and teaching elder in a church whose recommended reading list includes Doug Wilson’s Federal Husband, continues to (and proudly) embraces the word. And Michael Farris, founder of Homeschool Legal Defense Association, an organization that has advertised and promoted Vision Forum in the past, has recently stated: “It would be easy to contend that Doug’s sin was separate from his patriarchy views. I am saying the opposite. His views of women were integral to his actions.”

Judging by the intense conversations all over the Internet and within homeschooling circles, there continues to be much confusion about what patriarchy really means and how its proponents believe it should be applied.

I would like to discuss this here in several blog articles and will be starting the conversation today by offering two thoughts to get us started. As always, please share your own thoughts and ideas in the comment section or privately via email if you prefer. Please keep in mind that I am much more interested in discussing the teachings themselves and the repercussions and ramifications of them rather than considering Doug Phillips’ sordid behavior.

The first point I want to make today is that I see the most common views of men and women within the body of Christ in more recent times as being on a continuum. At the far left end of the spectrum is the radical, secular view that there are no differences between men and women and this is where those in the second wave of feminism (modern day feminists) camp out. A woman becomes the focal point, the measure or standard of all things so that even abortion on demand is acceptable.

Then at the far right end of the spectrum are those I would call patriocentrists, even misogynists, those who believe women are less than men and some even believe we are “poisonous.” They tend to believe our only function is to have babies, provide for a man’s every need, and to seek to fulfill a man’s calling rather than have callings of their own from the Lord. (Interestingly, Calvin, Luther, and many of the early church fathers believed many of these things as well.)

There are people who profess to be Christians at either end of this spectrum.

Between these two, there are all sorts of perspectives. The question then becomes “where are the lines of orthodoxy?” And further, where is someone on that spectrum who calls himself or herself “complementarian” or “egalitarian?” What theology is the foundation for those beliefs? And how are they applied in each relationship, each home? For example, Voddie Baucham, who believes women are not biblically allowed to run for public office and says men are to be “prophet, priest, and king” in their homes, calls himself complementarian. Stacy McDonald, who believes there is only one single “role” for women, that is, to be homemakers, calls herself complementarian. Geoffrey Botkin whose daughters penned So Much More, a treatise on stay-at-home daughterhood, teaches that only men are given a calling and that women must work toward the callings of their fathers or husbands, would most likely call himself complementarian. John Piper calls for a “masculine church” and drafted the first document that used the word “complementarian.” It all depends on who is using the words. And, as Doug Phillips himself has often said, “he who defines wins.”

In my first series of podcasts I described myself as complementarian because I do believe men and women are different and do complement each other. And in the truest meaning of the word, they have differing roles. (For example, only a woman can be a mother.) However, the way the word is now used is troubling to me so I no longer use it to describe myself. For the record, I also do not label myself an egalitarian. I reside somewhere in “the normal middle.”

At one time I can remember reading articles from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood that were edifying; now their website is a scary place if you are a woman. I remember reading articles there by James Boice and being so blessed by what he said about women using their gifts. He did not call for women to be pastors but he didn’t have a problem with women using their teaching and speaking gifts in the church. There also used to be an emphasis on women and where they were needed in the church. That discussion has shifted to listing all the things women cannot do outside of working in the nursery and putting on potlucks. On a personal note, I am a great cook and am never happier than when I am feeding someone AND I love taking care of babies! But I also recognize other gifts the Lord has given me, some that fall outside of the currently acceptable ones in the patriarchy camps. I recognize those gifts in many women, including other very conservative women who are valued everywhere outside of the church. George Barna has even recently noted how many women are leaving the church and I cannot help but recognize that their departure coincides with the dramatic shift to the right toward patriocentricity that has happened through the influence of the homeschooling patriarchs.

Secondly, there has been much debate since last fall as to whether or not Doug Phillips’ behavior is a reflection of his beliefs and teachings on patriarchy. As absurd as it seems to me, many pastors and homeschoolers continue to defend these teachings, pointing out that adultery and abuse happen among many who do not hold patriocentric views. But here is what seems so strange to me: this perspective is coming from the same people who preach and teach because they hope and pray their teachings will take root in the lives of those they mentor and will have a profound influence on behavior! Their’s is double-minded thinking at its finest!

So, it is crucial that we examine the teachings of patriarchy and attitudes that are an organic by-product of being saturated in them. Please join me in this discussion!  Continuing……….

 photo Blog__Sidebar_Hello_zps79b9481b.png


  1. says

    As you linked to my site, I’m sure you read the totality of the. Article, including the fact that the list was written in response to questions.

    To say only that the “discussion has shifted” leaves out much.

  2. Raven says

    One effect of “patriarchy” (or “patriarchy-ism” or whatever you want to call it) is that a lot of time, ink, and blood get spilled not preaching the Gospel. I’m not saying that doctrines don’t matter, and I’m not saying that Christians should never discuss stuff that doesn’t have a direct bearing on the Gospel message. But it sends up a red flag to me when a ministry’s time is spent, say, 80% on whether they are wearing perfectly modest skirts, whether their music is holy enough, how to discipline your kids, and so on, and only 20% on actually preaching Christ and Him crucified. Surely that ratio can’t be correct; surely if we’re fighting a culture war, we’re fighting the wrong battle.

    The problem with wrong doctrine is that it leads to wrong thinking and thus to wrong practice. If I believe that God wants me to wash the outside of my cup and dutifully whitewash my crypt, I’ll be out there with the dishsoap and the whitewash every day and I won’t be doing a *thing* to actually grow in Christ or confront my own sinful heart. And when real temptation–to indulge in wicked pride, to dominate others, to indulge my lusts–comes along, I will be weak to resist it because all my focus has been on my whitewash brush–my long skirts, my perfect schedule, my homeschool curriculum, etc.–and not on the sanctifying power of Christ’s grace.

    So patriarchy’s errors mattered before Phillips’ behavior came to light and it will continue to matter, even if the people teaching error don’t actually wind up in court. But Christ did tell us to examine teachers by their *fruit*–and the fruits of patriarchy are educational to observe:

    After having about a generation to practice on, patriarchy has produced apostate children, divorce, scandal, abuse, adultery, and thousands of hurting people who were grifted out of their money and their trust. Patriarchy is a formula, and we are promised that if we apply it we will get godly children, heavenly marriages, purity, and safety. I don’t believe in formulas, but if one claims to be true, you have to look at its results and judge accordingly. If NOBODY, not even the people *selling* the formula, get the advertised results, then it’s plain that the formula is being sold by what my pastor calls “Spiritual Hucksters”.

    Sometimes the only way forward is to stop the error, turn completely around, and go back to the beginning.

  3. Richard says

    I completely fail to understand why Christians need to categorize and label themselves as “complementarians” or “egalitarian” or “patriocentrists.” It reminds me of 1 Corinthians.

  4. says

    > Richard
    I completely fail to understand why Christians need to categorize and label themselves as “complementarians” or “egalitarian” or “patriocentrists.” It reminds me of 1 Corinthians.

    Because if you’re looking for a church, it helps to know if they are on the same page as you are.

  5. Monique says

    I’m new to this whole discussion re: men and women’s roles in marriage and church. I had never heard the terms complementarianism/egalitarianism until a couple years ago when I started researching patriarchy. I don’t know where I land on the continuum, but I like the sound of “normal middle”. ☺
    As I’ve read and researched, I’ve come to believe God’s best plan for male/female relationship came BEFORE the fall, not AFTER. Men and women were both made in the image of God and made to take dominion over creation together, not over each other or any other person. If these teachers start with the premise from Genesis 3:16 as the normal, then I can see where these teachings can lead to domineering, oppressive behavior in order to fulfill these “roles”. Women are inevitably seen as inferior. So, teachings like “militant fecundity” (having as many babies as possible) become one of the most important “roles” for a woman. Remember DP’s belief about ectopic pregnancy? Didn’t he believe that it was sinful for a woman to terminate an ectopic pregnancy? Talk about piling on shame and guilt and heavy burdens.

  6. Dawn says

    Raven, your comment was so true; too often churches get caught up in defining the lifestyle and forget the mission. I saw this happening in Plain churches when my parents went from Pentecostal to Mennonite. So many sermons on practical living, few on the basics of faith or evangelism. Mennonites have held the ideals of patriarchy for generations. The only way that they seem to be able to make it work is that they are very separated from anything to do with current culture, and don’t get involved in politics or the military. (voting is not allowed and they are conscientious objectors.) Another thing about the generations that have come out of patriarchy and quiverfull is that most of the children are not becoming the next wave of followers. What a sad testimony to the moms who sacrificed health and quality time with their overwhelming number of children simply because they were convinced having as many as possible was the right thing to do. And now, those kids are showing the effects of being overlooked or raised in a one-size-fits-all style.

  7. jewels says

    Thatmom, I’d like to suggest that your definition of feminism may be a bit out of date. Third wave feminism is more likely to be how modern feminists define themselves.

    I’m curious to know what you have against egalitarianism? I don’t see parenthood as a role, but as a relationship.

  8. says

    jewels, I would love your take on 2nd vs 3rd wave feminism. I see some differences but am trying to simplify the end points on the continuum so readers can understand that there are so many places where they might land and to see that it can also be fluid. The problem is when one tries to determine orthodoxy. Please share your thoughts.

    I didn’t mean to give the impression that there is only one defined “role” for caring for children. I believe the parenting goal IS relationship and that we function best when practicing the one anothers toward each other without some military chain of command model. My use of the example of “mother” in discussing “role” is to differentiate between role, calling, and purpose.

  9. says

    The issue of ‘egalitarianism’ versus ‘complementarianism’ (love those multi-syllable words) does create some definitional uncertainties. There are two main categories that I think are at the heart of the discussion, at least for folks outside of the patriarchal camp:
    1. Does Scripture describe an authority structure within the family that places the husband in the primary leadership role? We are not talking about how that may be abused, simply does the NT make such a distinction? At work I have someone in authority over me (who happens to be female, I might add). Within our organization the director has the final word. (I might mention that my analogy does have some connection to the two-kingdom doctrine, which I hold.)
    2. What is the role of women in the church, specifically women as pastors or elders? To have a meaningful discussion on this topic it is essential to keep focused on this narrow aspect of men and women in the church.

    I know this topic has been discussed at length here, but I don’t think it ever hurts to readdress the topics. VF may be going away but the effects of the teaching promulgated by Doug Phillips, et. al. will remain for some time.

    As part of a confessional church (PCA) I am angered that patriarchy has poisoned the well from which Reformed & Presbyterian church sprang. I have no doubts that Luther, Calvin, Whitefield, Spurgeon, and Machen would all take great exceptions to what was/is being taught.

  10. says

    I would like to see how you, that mom, define the egalitarian position and your specific reasons for rejecting it as your position. Patriarchy is the clear label for those who believe God originally intended males to rule females. Except for a very, very small minority, almost everyone can be described as complementarian – of course, male and female were meant to complement and complete one another as the two parts composing humanity. I know that many of those embracing the patriarchal position have chosen to call themselves complementarian because it has a friendlier impression, but they would be more accurate in labeling themselves supplementarian since they believe women were created to supplement the males.

    Despite an attempt to make egalitarian a “dirty word,” I have chosen to wear it for the sake of defending the Gospel. I am a complementarian, a conservative, a wife and mother of six. However, I do not believe that God originally intended for males to rule females. I do not see it in the Genesis text. I also cannot understand your statement that rejection of the egalitarian position is the “normal middle.” As an egalitarian, I see myself as the “normal middle.” I am convinced that when the Gospel is rightly understood, no one can boast (neither male nor female) except in the Lord.

  11. Persis says

    I’m glad you will be posting on this subject, Karen. I started listening to your patriocentricity podcasts again in light of recent events. I hope God will use recent events to shine the light on the ideology regardless of the terms being used. I like the term “normal middle” because the labels are getting misused and confused.

    All this emphasis on getting the role right isn’t healthy IMO. From some of the things I’ve read and listened to, you would think that the role is the savior. But only Jesus saves, not how “right” we structure our families. Also if we have been redeemed, should’t we treat one another in the light of that redemption rather than being still rooted in the fall? I also wonder if we have forgotten that we are all human beings made in the image of God. Men and women aren’t separate species. Neither does one side need to put the other down in order to maintain its identity.

  12. says

    Christy, great questions and insights!

    First, let me be clear. I do not see egalitarianism as the same thing as feminism in terms of placement on the continuum. Radical secular feminism is at the far left, patriocentricity is at the far right, and egalitarianism is somewhere to the left of the normal middle while complementarity is to the right of it! Clearer than mud, I hope!

    Before we decide where we are and under which label we choose to camp, we have to look at how we live and in light of what we say we believe. This is why I think it is so difficult to label anything! In the series I wrote about complementarity, look at how many differing views there are of it. A friend of mine recently joked that we need a point system for patriarchy, much like Calvinists have for TULIP! And then you have those who claim to be soft comps and those who are hard comps.

    In reality many who say they hold to a complementation position actually live like egalitarians. This is why I think having hard labels is really impossible. Except maybe for people like the Bayly brothers! Ha!

  13. says

    I completely agree that God’s original intent is one anothering and that is the intended response for the redeemed! I also think that part of the woman’s curse, to “desire” her husband is that women will always be tempted to find their fulfillment and purpose in a man but that it is idolatry. Patriarchy makes it the standard for godly women, which is just the opposite. We are to find our fulfillment and purpose in God alone. I agree, we need to start living like the Redeemed!!!

  14. says

    Christy, I realize I didn’t define egalitarianism per se. I don’t know how to define it, the same way I can’t define complementarity. Does the continuum perspective help at all? I think the trick is to define the borders of orthodoxy. I know they do not include either extreme on the spectrum. Also, I think the continuum within evangelicalism is probably a bell-shaped curve within the boundaries of orthodoxy.

    Oh how I wish I could show what I mean on a white board!

  15. Ladycelt says

    Wow, so much I could say here. Karen, I totally relate to what you said about now seeing yourself in the “normal middle”. My husband and I have recently been discussing the scandals in patriarchyland, and he said that he always had considered himself complementarian, but now is starting on wonder about that (as am I). When the self-appointed flagship organization of CBMW has people who believe in some form of eternal marriage and eternal submission of women to men in the new creation, Piper teaching the permanence view of marriage and divorce, married mothers not allowed to work outside the home, the abominable way Sheri Klouda and her husband were treated, late teens and twentysomethings now must marry as young as possible or they are in sin, most forms of contraception are becoming off limits, etc. we are being given some serious pause here. We’re not comfortable with the egalitarian label and the baggage that comes with it; ditto for patriarchy-but now what was the middle-of-the-road concept seems to have gone off the rails.

  16. Monique says

    Another aspect of patriarchy that has been so destructive is the push to make it universally accepted as the standard for Christian living (at least in the homeschooling circles I participated in). VF’s Tenet’s of Biblical Patriarchy clarified their beliefs. This document was authored by Phil Lancaster (Patriarch magazine) and affirmed by Doug Phillips and R.C. Sproul Jr. According to these men:

    “…. the church should proclaim the Gospel centered doctrine of biblical patriarchy as an essential element of God’s ordained pattern for human relationships and institutions”

    “Biblical patriarchy is just one theme in the Bible’s grand sweep of revelation, but it is a scriptural doctrine, and faithfulness to Christ requires that it be believed, taught, and lived.”

    So, patriarchy is “the Gospel centered doctrine” and to live a faithful Christian life we must believe, teach and live it. Living out your Christian life becomes following a their formula for the picture perfect family. This can sound so appealing to new (and old) homeschooling moms. But you lose your unique identity that God gave you and your family. Instead of pointing others to look for direction and guidance from the Lord for themselves, they have taken it upon themselves to pronounce how you are to structure and live your life. And they take advantage of the fact that we are prone to lean to religion and rules instead of trusting that we can hear and be guided by the Holy Spirit.

  17. says

    I’ve written two essays on portions of VF’s ‘Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy’ emphasizing what I believe is the inherent errors of the document:
    1. Their hermeneutical method; theonomy/Christian Reconstructionism.
    2. Poor exegesis or questionable application of the cited texts; especially inconsistent application of the OT, and proof-texting
    3. The logical error of begging the question

    If you decide to read them it is best to start with the critique of tenet 22 & 23 first, then read the one on 16 – 21. These are lengthy (17 & 10 pages) and a bit technical.

  18. says

    ThatMom, unfortunately your answer did indeed seem as clear as mud to me. You did not define what you mean by egalitarianism, yet you say it is definitely left of “normal middle” – another position you also left undefined. In some cases staying in the middle is a “balanced” place to be, but some issues require us to take a stand in order to be correct.

    Should Christians own slaves? Believers were hotly divided in the 1800s. Many abolitionists were branded by their opponents as radicals, leftists, and heretics (and some were), but there were others who opposed slavery, not because of social injustice, but on the basis of Scripture alone. Today almost all right-wing conservatives take it for granted that slavery is unacceptable, and some even boast that (abolitionist) Christians of the 1800s took a leading role in the abolishment of that evil institution.

    People can support the right position for the wrong reasons. Therefore it is important to focus on whether our reasons are biblical or based on traditions or even peer pressure. What you may think is left of “normal middle” today may be what everyone recognizes as right (normal middle) in a few decades.

  19. says

    Christy, I think what you are describing is what William Webb calls the “redemptive hermeneutic” and applies it to both the slavery issue and women as well as views of corporal punishment. Again, I still think it is hard to define. How do you define complementarity and egalitarianism? Is there fluidity in your definitions?

  20. says

    First of all, I would discard the label complementarity all together because it does not address the real issue. As I said before, most of us can be described as complementarian. We acknowledge that male and female were created to complement and complete one another as essential members of the human race. The proper word for those who believe that God originally intended for males to rule over females is patriarchy. If that is your belief, then you are a patriarchalist. An egalitarian does not believe that both sexes are the same and interchangeable. But we do believe that it was not God’s original intention for males to rule over females. Patriarchy is a fruit of the Fall. We also believe that in God’s Kingdom, every member is equal in value and fitted in the body as the Lord assigns his/her giftings.

  21. says

    While I understand what you are saying, Karen, about the continuum and the “normal middle” I have to agree with Christy that there is a certain point where a person has to fall one way or the other. There is no such thing as a soft egalitarian, for example. I agree with the definitions Christy shared. It really boils down to whether we believe that God intended for men to rule over women. Do we believe that God created women to always be under men? People can label it however they want (comps, patriarchy, etc.) but that’s what it boils down to.

    I believe God made male and female on purpose. I just don’t see that He created one to rule over the other. Can I provide an airtight explanation of the elder question? No. But that’s the only tricky point for me. I think comps/patriarchalists have a number of tricky points.

  22. says

    Why do so many of you insist upon using the term ‘rule’, which in the context of this topic has a very purjorative meaning, instead of something like, ‘have a leadership role’?

    My boss does not ‘rule’ over me, but she certainly does provide leadership and exercises the authority of her position.

  23. says

    Grandad – Complementarians and patriarchalists alike ALL point back to Genesis 3:16. That is a key part of their view. The word there is rule except when it is translated dominate.

    I just quote the Scripture and that’s what that camp insists on.

  24. jewels says

    Re 3rd wave feminism, here’s a start:

    Re mothering as a role: you used it as an example, which tells me that you believe mothering is, in fact, a role. Do you believe the same about fathering, I wonder? Do you think relationships *are* roles? Or perhaps you could define your meanings more fully for each of the terms you have used.

    I also agree with Christy, I fail to see how egalitarianism is not the normal middle. I think it would really help the discussion if we could all agree on a term. That’s not contradicting a continuum, terms can overlap to some degree, but if we can’t agree on what the term encompasses, then we can’t have a meaningful conversation as we’ll be talking past each other.

  25. says

    “An egalitarian does not believe that both sexes are the same and interchangeable. But we do believe that it was not God’s original intention for males to rule over females. Patriarchy is a fruit of the Fall. We also believe that in God’s Kingdom, every member is equal in value and fitted in the body as the Lord assigns his/her giftings.”

    By this definition, I am egalitarian. I am just not sure this is THE definition, just as what Granddad describes as complementarian is THE definition. And I would agree that yourdefinition of egalitarian is in the normal middle.

  26. says

    I know many husband/wife pairs that, while agreeing about the role of women in the church (specifically as pastors/elders) and the leadership role of the husband, are very much opposed to the extreme views of those within the patriarchal movement. Maintaining a leadership role in the family and at the same time recognizing the biblical requirement to be mutually submissive is, in my view, the predominate pattern within conservative churches. It is an unfortunate fact that the extremes garner all the attention.

    Arriving at an agreed-upon definition for either position is not likely to be too successful. I do think, however, that we can all agree that extremes in either direction are dangerous. I make no apology for my view on women in the church and how husbands are to lead their families in such a way as to reflect how Jesus leads and cares for his bride. I do bristle a bit when this position is equated with the patriarchy of Doug Phillips.

    While discussing this difficult and troubling topic we should not fall into the same pattern as VF, et. al. by mishandling the scriptures and engaging in faulty exegesis. VF has a troubling hermeneutic; some articles I’ve read (not necessarily here) from the opposite end of the spectrum also have a questionable hermeneutic.

    We all agree that the patriocentric position espoused by Phillips, Swanson, etc. is a great distortion of scripture. Can we also agree that within those who oppose this position there are some differences of opinion?

  27. says

    Orthodox, aberrant, and heretical. Tough words to deal with. Since the early ’70s I’ve studied and taught about groups whose theology is heretical, the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example and about groups such as the Word-of-Faith people who combine all three. I once thought about trying to write a book that outlined what are the doctrines about which Christians can disagree and which ones make the individual a non-Christian. Never got around to actually starting it.

    Orthodoxy must not be confused with orthopraxis. I think some patriarchal folks do.

  28. says

    Definitions are tricky.

    While I would classify myself as egalitarian, this does not mean that I can’t make room for those who lean more complementarian (defined as the father taking the major leadership role). I’ve seen families where the father was a strong, reasonable, and compassionate leader and it worked well for them. The wife and children were not oppressed and all flourished in this arrangement, largely due to the maturity, consistency, and love of the father and the mother not minding playing second fiddle.

    What I bristle at is the implication that this is the ONLY way a family can work, that a more egalitarian family is LESS biblical and is the reason for the moral decay of our nation and our world.

    My hope is that those that lean more towards father-as-leader would also make room for those who don’t see this as a scriptural mandate but rather as one way of doing family. It was the only way they did family back during Paul’s time. It was all they knew. But that doesn’t make it all that there ever could be.

  29. Avelinn says

    Okay, so I’m hesitant to offer my opinion here, because it is not my heart to be divisive. I, in no way, defend Doug Phillips, and I’m definitely not a part of the patriarchy movement. I see real problems there, and find no fault with analyzing the issues and concerns raised by this somewhat polarizing movement. As I’ve said before, however, I have very real concerns when people attribute Doug’s behavior as only being connected with his patriocentric views and values. I know I’ve brought this up here before and have been one of the only dissenting views. And while I know, thatmom, that you feel a call on your life to expose some of the false and harmful teachings in this movement (rightly so) I really do see this particular issue as a widespread issue within evangelicalism right now. It is happening all over the place. And while I don’t deny that Doug’s treatment of women could be connected to his sometimes ungodly perspectives of them, how then do we explain the many instances of this happening all over evangelicalism? It’s happening on a national level, and I’ve seen something emerge similar where I live in the last year at a local church in my area. It also isn’t unusual to see this outside of the church, but being as we are believers, it’s worse when it happens in our community. What is happening in the church at large, that we are seeing these men in powerful positions, taking advantage of vulnerable people they are expected to be shepherding and caring for? What is happening that mainstream evangelicals are flocking for more extreme movements within the church, whether to the right or to the left? I guess I just fear that by focusing too much on Doug Phillips and his, albeit very troubling behavior, we are somehow missing the bigger picture of a problem that is widespread in our Christian community. It’s like having the perspective that it’s “them” and could not happen to “us” because we don’t have their warped theology. And I don’t think that’s true. The entire evangelical movement is vulnerable to this type of thing right now. Doug is just a manifestation of a wider problem. And again, I am not saying that his beliefs have nothing to do with his behavior. But if that was all there was to it, we wouldn’t be seeing this sort of thing all over the church.

  30. says

    Good question, Avelinn.

    I can only answer for myself.

    My little country church is somewhere in that normal middle, leaning a bit towards husband/father as leader. But it’s that more healthy version I mention above.

    This ‘patriarchy creep’ has been going on for some time. First it has taken over huge portions of the homeschooling movement. Then it started making inroads into bigger areas of evangelicalism. One way that they were creeping in was through the movie “Courageous”. When I tried to sound the alarm about where that movie came from, my pastor looked at me, blank-eyed, and wondered what my problem was with this family loving and supporting ‘ministry’.

    I’m hoping now, that my pastor sees that this source that claims to support the family is really just a crock and a money maker.

    The way these groups are able to sell their wares is through making enemies to the family (those evil feminists and dastardly homosexuals) vilify them and anyone who might half-way look like them and then claim that the methods, books, teachings, and resources they are selling will stem the tide of these evil enemies of the family.

  31. Avelinn says

    Mara, thanks for your response! I completely agree that many of the teachings of this movement have been creeping into the wider home schooling movement. I’ve seen it myself and it has caused me great concern as well. I have been a home schooling mom for six years now (my oldest are in seventh grade) and I have never been to the home schooling conference in my home state of Virginia mainly because of some of these groups and their teachings. It’s been astounding to me just how pervasive their presence has been and it gets worse every year to the point that I have friends who have always been mainstream evangelicals, teetering on the brink of joining these movements. And I guess for me, the question is why? That’s the bigger issue for me. And I think a lot of it is fear. Fear of a number of things, really, whether it’s a perceived threat from President Obama, or fear about the direction of the country, or just an overly lack of community found in their local church. People feel alone and lonely and this movement gives a sense of community for people who are desperate for it. Honestly, that is a widespread thing I’m seeing in the church. People are hungry for a connection with other people. And while that’s a normal feeling/emotion, it can sometimes make us vulnerable to extremes. The trouble too is, there are good people in these movements. People who, whether we understand it or not, this lifestyle is working for. And that can sometimes make things confusing.

    Like I said, I don’t have a problem analyzing the problems within this movement. I see evangelicals all over the place flocking away from the “mainstream” to movements that either veer, to what could be called far right or far left. I do, however, feel concerned about attributing all of the behavior that we see from Doug Phillips to the patriarchy movement, when it’s widespread in the church. What is going on with the church in America that so many “Shepherds” are taking advantage of their flock? And what is going on that so many Christians are vulnerable and joining these movements? Again, to me, Doug Phillips is just one manifestation, albeit a very concerning one, of a wider spread problem.

  32. says

    I think you nailed it.
    It’s fear.

    Times are changing and they are scary. There is a certain nostalgia of days gone by. People are wanting to go back there without realizing that those days also had their problems. It is as if people are scrambling to recreate the old days, grasping at anything that might do it. They are desperate to protect and shield their families from all these dangers. Because of their desperation, that makes them easy targets for the narcissists, the wolves in sheep’s clothing.

    I think people need to realize that even though times change, God never does.
    His grace is sufficient for us in these frightening modern times. Grasping for other things to save us is not faith. It is displaying our lack of faith.

    God makes Himself known to every generation that looks for Him. We need to keep looking for Him and not the latest silver-bullet-cure-fad that comes down the pike.

  33. Avelinn says

    Mara-I’m glad our conversation served as inspiration for you. That was a very interesting analysis. I never would have thought to contrast the two that way. By the way, I LOVE The Croods. Absolutely love it.

  34. Lydia Strickler says

    Thank you for a good article.

    I would like to recommend the writings of Hannah Anderson, especially her newly released book: Made for More – An Invitation to Live in the Image of God
    She also blogs at

    Anderson’s book has been called “theologically dense and word rich”. The book describes the doctrine of man to help women find their identity in Jesus Christ.

  35. Ladycelt says

    Mara is right about the nostalgia for days gone by. You can see it on some of the homeschooling mom blogs with the glorifying of periods like the antebellum or regency eras (complete with dress patterns!). At one time the two primary patriarch blogs were promoting agrarianism or at least small businesses as THE way for Christian husbands to make a living. Their homeschooled sons and daughters would not be going off to college either; instead they would marry young after parent-led courtships and have full quivers of Christian children. It’s hard to imagine how following all these imperatives would not end up impoverishing the very families who were supposed to “take dominion” and eventually win back the USA for God, or something.

    I also wonder how far the influence of R.J. Rushdoony’s reconstructionism went with some of these would-be patriarchs.

  36. says

    Granddad: “We all agree that the patriocentric position espoused by Phillips, Swanson, etc. is a great distortion of scripture. Can we also agree that within those who oppose this position there are some differences of opinion?”

    Absolutely. And I believe there can be varying views that all fall within orthodox Christianity.

  37. says

    Mara: “God makes Himself known to every generation that looks for Him. We need to keep looking for Him and not the latest silver-bullet-cure-fad that comes down the pike.”

    Yes, and this is why we should not be fearful. Diligent and watchful, yes, but not fearful of these folks!

  38. says


    LOVE your review of The Croods. I had many similar thoughts as I watched it. Do any of you remember Coneheads? I hadn’t seen it for decades until it was on Netflix the other night. It, too, reminded me that fathers caring for their daughters and being concerned about the next generation and the affects of the culture is a universal theme. Part of the problem with the patriocentric movement is that they think they invented concern for children within this culture. Its a though no one else cares! You summed it up well here:

    “The way these groups are able to sell their wares is through making enemies to the family (those evil feminists and dastardly homosexuals) vilify them and anyone who might half-way look like them and then claim that the methods, books, teachings, and resources they are selling will stem the tide of these evil enemies of the family.”


  39. says

    An area that concerns me, and one that does not come only from the obvious patriocentric groups, is the view that daughters need not attend college, especially college away from home, since they should not be considering any post-high school activity other than marriage and motherhood. This may even extend to how serious homeschooling parents are about making certain their daughters have a solid and well-rounded primary education. I must quickly add, however, I do know families who while they would not encourage daughters to seek secondary education do provide really good primary education.

  40. Anthea says

    In the UK, every — and I mean EVERY — institution has been hit by an abuse/fraud/control scandal. It has got very weird, and husband and I were discussing how all our childhood memories of popular entertainers were being blown apart. Within the BBC/church/Parliament, what was striking was the extent of cover-ups and shoulder shrugging. People just looked the other way, because Mr X “did so much for charidee” … That’s the next discussion, how the bystanders justified their collusion with the abuser.

    PS Are you allowed to discuss “live” court cases in the US? We have this thing called ‘sub judice’ , which means that a case can collapse if publicity is felt to have prejudiced the proceedings in either direction.

  41. says

    The O.J. Simpson case was discussed everyday and it certainly didn’t make the case collapse (unless you call letting a guilty man go free ‘collapse’).

    I am unaware of any such restrictions after the case has gone to trial. Defense attorneys can request a change of venue pre-trial if there has been a great deal of publicly locally.

  42. Anthea says

    Thanks for the info, Karen. Our media are allowed to report on what was said during the proceedings in court, but generally have to be very careful about anything else. Generally, the journos tend to treat civil and criminal cases in the same fashion. It’s really really strict — including no televising of court cases**, jurors are banned from discussing the case thereafter and must remain anonymous etc. About 2 or 3 years ago a case collapsed because of coverage in a national paper. Another collapsed recently because a juror had looked up info on the internet during the trial. On another occasion one juror got done for writing about the case on Facebook or somewhere — it’s a criminal offence. Don’t mess with the guy in the wig!

    ** No photos in court, either. We have court artists who provide sketches of the courtroom for the media. They have to draw from memory after they leave!

  43. Ron Stauffer, Sr. says

    You closing comment below is not logical. Of course teachers hope their teachings will be accepted by the listeners. But the fact that the speaker commits an act which is contrary to his own teaching is lamentably common. Such hypocrisy might be actually the result of succumbing to the temptation of Satan as he works to discredit the teacher. Any one of us is vulnerable to this, though we may speak the purest of doctrine. He that thinks he stands invulnerable to this should take heed, lest he (she) fall.

    Below is the excerpt I question…

    “Secondly, there has been much debate since last fall as to whether or not Doug Phillips’ behavior is a reflection of his beliefs and teachings on patriarchy. As absurd as it seems to me, many pastors and homeschoolers continue to defend these teachings, pointing out that adultery and abuse happen among many who do not hold patriocentric views. But here is what seems so strange to me: this perspective is coming from the same people who preach and teach because they hope and pray their teachings will take root in the lives of those they mentor and will have a profound influence on behavior! Their’s is double-minded thinking at its finest!”

  44. says

    Hi Ron and welcome to the discussion.

    I am not claiming that Doug Phillips or Bill Gothard acted contrary to their beliefs. I believe they lived out the end result of seeing women as inferior to them. Doug’s behavior as alleged in the lawsuit is clearly the work of someone who believes man can do whatever he wants with whatever he owns. His attitude toward pregnant women and ectopic pregnancy which he taught and groups like Samaritan Ministries embraced is only another facet of viewing women as less important. The same is true of the young women under Gothard’s authority. My point is that those who stand in support of patriarchy are the ones claiming that your teachings don’t necessarily have a baring on your behavior. I strongly disagree.

  45. Michelle says

    I have just subscribed to blog updates from you: I look forward to reading more.
    Christy beat me to asking you about something that was my concern–on a continuum, patriarchy is on one end, matriarchy would be the other end, and egalitarianism in the middle.

    For what it’s worth, I agree with Christy that yes, egalitarians believe in complementarity of the sexes without hierarchy. If you look around at Christians for Biblical Equality and Equality Central Forum, and other places, this is a general consensus. There is a variety of patriarchal/”complementarian” practice when it comes to what is acceptable and what is off-limits. With egalitarianism, what a person is “permitted” to do comes down to gifting.

  46. says

    I went to the CBE International Web page. I find their first Statement of Faith lacking ( “We believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, is reliable, and is the final authority for faith and practice.” ) because it omits what I consider to be essential elements – inerrant and infallible.

  47. Jennifer says

    Interesting research by Richard and Katherine Clark Kroeger on I Timothy 2:12. The evidence overwhelmingly shows Paul is forbidding false doctrine concerning myths in this verse. Ancient culture was full of mother-goddess cults. And “authentain” which is interpreted “To exercise authority” can also be interpreted “to be the originator of, or to be final authority of”. The verse can also be translated Paul “forbids that ones teaches the woman is the originator, or final authority of man.”


  1. […] In part one of this series, I attempted to simplify what I believe are the central problems in identifying and understanding the patriarchy movement. As everyone who has studied or been touched by this group within the homeschooling world knows, this is a large beast that has many tentacles and my few short paragraphs cannot do it justice! Combined with my patriarchy/patriocentricity podcasts, I hope to whet your appetite just enough for you to dig further! […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.