As many of you know, Doug Phillips of the Vision Forum/Vision Forum Ministries, a religious extremist and promoter of Christian patriarchy, recently confessed to having an inappropriate relationship with a woman who is not his wife. I did not write on this because I considered it just to be a-n-o-t-h-e-r case of a man who spent his life telling other how to live but couldn’t live that way himself. Phillips is just another, in a long line of, moralizing Christian men who couldn’t keep their pants zipped up. (and no I don’t believe his story that he didn’t “know” the woman in Biblical sense of the word) Do I find some sort of perverse joy when people like Phillips get caught with their pants down? Sure. When men who take the high moral and ethical ground get caught acting like the rest of us unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines, I find great amusement in their peccadilloes.
The Homeschoolers Anonymous blog recently had a post on Doug Phillip’s and his “I did not know the woman in the Biblical way” problem. I read this blog on a regular basis and I, in general, support what they are trying to do. In the comment section, a woman asked:
How on Earth did the Patriarchy movement grow out of what Our Lord came to accomplish?
‘patriarchy’ seems more like a cult that worships masculinity . . . and the price? the human dignity of women who must cater to the narcissism of these ‘patriarchal’ men . . . no one wins in such a world.
Read the Old Testament. Read Christian Church history. Look at the structure of the NT church. Look at the writings of the Apostle Paul. Look at how there were no female disciples and no female church leaders. Patriarchy is not some new, aberrant belief that has all of sudden shown up. It is the Biblical NORM not the exception.
The Bible itself, promoted masculinity, calls women a weaker vessel, tell them to be silent in the church, and tells them their highest calling is motherhood and keeping the home.
In short, the Bible is the problem. I commend Christians who try to hang on to Jesus and jettison the rest of the stuff. However, when taken as a whole, the Bible is a misogynistic book that promotes patriarchy from Genesis to Revelation. This is not my personal opinion. There is no other way to read the Bible. It is fine to take a cafeteria approach to the Bible but let’s not deceive ourselves into thinking that the beliefs of Doug Phillips and others like him were created out of thin air. They weren’t.
A woman named Donna responded:
The Patriarchy Movement and Vision Forum’s theological AND political beliefs grew out of the OLD Testament system of laws and culture, not the NEW Testament. Big difference, and that’s where the problem is.
Uh, the ecclesiastical structure and the prohibitions against women that are part of the patriarchal belief system come straight from the writings of Paul. Last I knew his writings were in the NT.
Even Jesus did very little, if anything, to buck the patriarchal power centers of his day. Jesus can hardly be seen as the great liberator of women. Many Christians believe the Bible is a divine text given to humans by God. (Jesus) If this is so then Jesus approved of the misogynistic writing of Paul.
Then another woman by the name Teresa responded:
I come in peace but I feel a need to say this. We get that you are not a believer, in fact, you are an enemy to the cross. The problem is not Jesus Christ, his grace, salvation, God or the bible. The problem is extremism and poor hermeneutics of the bible. Doug P takes one extreme and you take another.
Bruce, you have a very warped view of the bible, God and Jesus Christ….how sad for you.
Bruce, as you say yourself, you are an unbeliever, so it makes sense that you wouldn’t interpret it the same way Christians do. I get that.
The fact remains that the New Testament does NOT model the same patriarchal system of the Old Testament and Hebrew cultures. According to our Constitution, as an American citizen, you have the freedom to NOT believe that, just as I have the freedom TO believe it. ;o) “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7) I’m sure you have faith in something, Bruce… if not the Bible, then in something else. Even if it’s just in yourself, a fallible human being.
Yes, I have faith in human reason and rational thought. I also am a theologically-trained man who spent 50 years in the Christian church, 25 years as an Evangelical pastor. While we certainly have the “right” to believe what we want, we should not confuse this “right” with being the same thing as a particular belief being a fact.
I could write a long ,long comment on this but I won’t. Doing so would distract from the purpose of this blog (which I heartily support since we were home schoolers for 15 years) and this particular post. Please remember that the original comment I responded to was a person who wondered where people like Phillips get their patriarchal beliefs. I answered her based on the accepted historical interpretation of the Bible and Church history. The view I advanced is taught in countless seminaries and Bible colleges.
I do appreciate you being decent in your response. Unfortunately, Teresa could not do the same. Instead she attacked my character. She did not bother to address any of the issues I raised. Instead, I am an enemy of the cross, an extremist, have a warped view of the Bible, Jesus, and the Bible and I should be pitied. I filed this under…if I had a dollar for every time a Christian said….
To deny that the Bible is part of the problem with patriarchy (and many other things, IMO) is to deny reality. I have often wondered if many Christians rue the day that the early church said, hey, let’s make the OT part of the canon. Modern Christians who believe the Bible is the authoritative, inspired Word of God are now left with the task of defending things that most of us now consider abominable and immoral. I suspect Thomas Jefferson got it right when he took scissors to the Bible. Unfortunately, we live in country where the Evangelical view of the Bible dominates the religious landscape and it leads to abusive beliefs like patriarchy, authoritarianism, and egomaniacal, controlling pastors and church leaders.
Well, I suspect I have said all I can say. This discussion has provided me with some fodder for a blog post so…
Again, I appreciate your civility.
This discussion is a reminder that we live in a day of revisionism, where old, accepted interpretations are thrown out and past history is ignored or explained away. All of a sudden, the Bible, a patriarchal book from cover to cover, is reinterpreted to be a woman-affirming, non-patriarchal book. I think many Christians think, or want to think, that Jesus, if he were alive today, would be at the forefront of the modern feminist movement. Or that Paul, misogynist Paul, would somehow now welcome woman as pastors and women leaving the home and entering the workforce. This is well-meaning, but delusional, thinking.
The Bible is a book that promotes subjugation; the subjugation of slaves, people groups, the environment, non-Christians, and women. It is a book that promotes authoritarianism, and, for the life of me, I don’t understand how any woman would want to continue to be a part of the institutional church. I know of no sect, certainly not Evangelicalism, where women are truly treated as equal to men. Even in sects that now have female clergy, women still run into the proverbial glass ceiling when it comes to gaining access to the upper echelons of ecclesiastical power. In the Evangelical church, women are, for the most part, considered inferior to men. After all, they ARE the weaker vessel, right? They need to be protected by men. They are subtly, and not so subtly told that God says they are best suited for marriage, bearing children, keeping the home, and putting out whenever her knight in shining armor demands it. No wonder young men and women are running from the Evangelical church in droves. As young people become more and more egalitarian and reject the cultural warring of their church, pastor, and parents, they are leaving the church for more progressive/liberal churches. Many of them are leaving religion altogether. The fast growing segment of atheism is young adults.
While I do not think atheism is going to become a dominant social and intellectual force any time soon, I do think Evangelical churches are turning countless young adults into people who have no interest in religion. They may still believe in some sort of God, but they most certainly no longer believe in THAT God. Evangelicals will continue to stand their ground. How can they not? Once you hitch your wagon to the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God, you are forced to defend beliefs that many moderns now consider abominable, indecent, or immoral. It is becoming increasingly harder for them to defend the God of the Bible and the teachings of men like the Apostle Paul.
Here’s to hoping that when my great-great-grandchildren come of age decades from now, Evangelicalism will be a mere footnote in the page of human history. Here’s to hoping we grow beyond our need to subjugate people in the name of the Christian God.