Feminists of every stripe want to dispatch the patriarchy. Some of them want to smash it, while others would probably be content if it would just go away quietly. Now in this world of ours, the word patriarchy happens to be an all-encompassing term. Anything that preserves the scriptural understanding of a divine imprimatur on sex roles is the enemy, along with various distortions of the scriptural understanding. They are the enemy too. Orthodoxy, along with various free-riding heresies, are all the enemy.
And that means that the self-confessed patriarchs of hard right homeschooling world would be included. The softest of the soft complementarians are included. The exasperated men of the Men Going Their Own Way movement are included. And in addition to the activist men on the MGTOW picket line, I would also include all the men who have gone on strike in other passive and less noticeable ways.
The feminists are opposed to toxic masculinity, which actually means that masculinity itself is the enemy—in the feminist lexicon masculinity is toxic even in trace elements. This includes the flamboyant offenses of the patriarchs who don’t want their women to get any more of an education than will enable them to read the instructions on the side of a biscuit box, and extends all the way down to the micro-aggressions of the soft complementarians who were trying to stand up to the feminists by flattering them incessantly.
Now it must be said the feminists take equal delight in coming up against the hard right of the patriarchy and the soft left of the patriarchy. On the one end we have Elias One-Tooth, presiding over his compound filled with adoring females, and on the other we have Caspar Milquetoast, presiding over his next qualified apology. Feminists love the hard right because they are such an easy target. They love the soft left because they are so easy to steer.
And of course things have gotten so muddled that if Caspar starts to grow a backbone, he can be accused of wanting to join forces with Elias. And if Elias starts to have second thoughts about some of his more outlandish idiocies, he can quite handily be accused to kowtowing to feminism.
So what shall we call the biblical position? With regard to the heart of the issue, if we limit ourselves to the denotations, to the dictionary definitions, biblical Christianity is most certainly part of the patriarchy that the feminists want to smash. Not only so, but the apostle Paul is their chief villain. We must therefore do nothing that even looks like we are inching away from our commitment to whatever the Scriptures teach us on this subject.
At the same time, words like patriarchy do have accumulated cultural connotations, and those connotations are not simply manufactured by the feminists. In other words, biblical practice is caricatured by the feminists, sure enough, but there are more than a few self-professed advocates of the biblical understanding who do their level best to live out the caricature.
So this means that when you come across some rabid feminist online who was brought up in a prairie muffin jumper, and who had her hair in a bun for a couple decades, but who is now a lesbian queer theorist, we have to keep in mind the fact that when she attacks the patriarchy as an absurdity, she is quite possibly doing so as someone who grew up in the middle of such absurdity, frequently presented to her on a daily basis and in technicolor. In other words, she is not necessarily hallucinating. What she is rejecting is actually out there.
Now some women have abandoned their conservative upbringing out of simple rebellion, and they justify that rebellion by lying about how they were brought up. Women are sinners also, and are capable of rationalizing their sin just like other people. But other women are not lying about anything—they grew up among genuine weirdos, and their taunts have actual targets. Their mistake is that they (too conveniently perhaps) ascribe the errors they have known personally to absolutely everyone who ascribes to the label they reject. She grew up with her mother browbeaten and harassed by her jerk of a father, the kind who would use Ephesians 5 as a club, and so she simply asserts that any married couple that seeks to live out Ephesians 5 must be doing exactly the same thing her parents did.
But of course, stupid people don’t disprove the existence of wise people. Hateful men don’t prove that loving men are a chimera. Demented and disobedient family structures in the name of Pauline rigor do not exclude sacrificial and loving family structures that display true Pauline rigor. Counterfeit money does not demonstrate that genuine currency does not exist. The reverse is true actually. Nobody counterfeits brown paper Safeway bags. They do counterfeit something that has genuine value. It is true, as the gent once put it, that hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue.
Now even when we factor these various distortions in, it needs to be stated in the strongest possible way that the caricatured cartoons of authority and submission in marriage do exist in reality. I have seen it. I have seen plenty of it. There are men who think that Paul gave them license to be selfish pigs.
Now, with that said, a couple weeks ago, I posted 21 theses on submission in marriage. This generated some comment.
When an unedifying discussion broke out in my comments (currently at 408) on whether it was appropriate for a husband to enforce submission by means of corporal punishment, I took it as my responsibility to write another post on that.
In the meantime, my original 21 theses had apparently been responded to here, which I just now read in the writing of this post, and I am afraid my response to the corporal punishment aficionados was taken as an assertion on my part that any disagreement with me from my right must be coming from wife beaters. Such poisoning the well would be a bad thing, and so for any readers who were disappointed in what they considered charitably to be uncharacteristic squid ink, please know that I did not do this thing. I was not responding to any possible conservative critic in that second post. I was responding a particular problem in my own comment thread.
So just a quick couple notes on some blunders in the Dalrock thread. My example of Merlin kneeling before Ransom was obviously not an example of homoeroticism, but rather was Lewis reinforcing his point that the entire universe is hierarchical, all the way up and all the way down. That hierarchy runs through the relationship of the sexes, but it is not limited to it, or by it. The counterpart clinch between Frost and Wither could easily have had homoerotic elements, given the devouring nature of all perversions, but even so the lusts involved there would have gone well beyond that.
There was also a jab at my ignorance of things Lewis. A correspondent said that “Lewis’s phrase ‘erotic necessity’ is not from That Hideous Strength . . .” My defense, such as it is, would be as follows:
“You do not fail in obedience through lack of love, but have lost love through lack of obedience . . . No one has ever told you that obedience—humility—is an erotic necessity” (That Hideous Strength, p. 148).
But on to the weightier matters, areas where I would have a more substantive difference with the Dalrockians. I do not maintain that a husband has responsibility but no authority. Of course he is to lead his wife (Eph. 5:27). He is to teach her, washing her with the water of the word (Eph. 5:26). He is to love her sacrificially (Eph. 5:25). If she is not there, he is responsible to get her there, and he has the authority from God Himself to accomplish it. This is an authority that commissions and equips him in the task. But please note the italicized phrase: “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered” (1 Pet. 3:7). The comments I was interacting in my post on wife-beating were with men who were functioning according to ignorance, which is not what Peter said.
And so this brings us to what I would call the position I am arguing for. The Pauline name for it would be headship. “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). I freely acknowledge that I am part of the patriarchy that feminists want to smash—but I also acknowledge that there are aspects of the patriarchy that God wants to smash also. Now what? But He does not want to smash the words inspired by His Holy Spirit, given by inspiration to the prophets and apostles. His work in that department is to smash the selfishness of men and the rebelliousness of women in such a way as to make it possible for two sinners to live together in harmony. And that is what He does in all biblical marriages.
Whatever is meant by the phrase in Genesis “thy desire shall be to thy husband,” the following rough-hewn phrase, “and he shall rule over thee” is unambiguous. “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Gen. 3:16). This is part of the curse, and so it is lawful for us to labor to ameliorate the effects of the curse—but only in Christ. Every attempt to undo it in other ways (outside of Christ) will result in nothing but carnal sorrow for everyone involved. But in Christ, the rough aspect of the man’s rule is ameliorated, but make no mistake. The headship of the man over the woman is not softened, but rather strengthened. This point could easily be misrepresented, so I will have to ask my critics to refrain until I get to a fuller treatment of it. Or at least keep misrepresentations to a minimum . . .
In the meantime:
“Likewise, thou son of man, set thy face against the daughters of thy people, which prophesy out of their own heart; and prophesy thou against them” (Eze. 13:17).