Reader 7817 shared what I believe to be a newsletter from Bnonn and Pastor Foster. Whoever is the author, they mistakenly claim that women are powerless to create patriarchy (emphasis mine):
…a much more serious error is implied in the second—that women have the power to achieve the biblical ideal of patriarchy. The reason we don’t have patriarchy now, in other words, or the reason the church (not to speak of society) is imploding under feminism, is that women are not submitting. If they would only return to their proper place, patriarchy would be restored.
This relocates the locus of control from its biblical center in men exercising their innate father-rule on behalf of God, to an ironically feminist-sounding and entirely false center in women’s virtue. It is a functional denial that patriarchy is actually built into creation; that men are always the ones with the power, even when that power is being bent toward the aims of women.
In this way, many of those fighting feminism fall into a mirror image of it. Just as genuine gender equality is most useful to feminism when it remains an ideal that is never realized—let alone lived out—the same becomes true for patriarchy under those fighting feminism. Claiming to believe in patriarchy, to paraphrase Paul, they nonetheless deny its power.
This self-contradiction is especially obvious if one suggests that men need to take responsibility for women submitting to them. How often will this be glossed as blaming men for women’s faults (which is indeed a common problem in the church among those afraid to criticize women). But holding men accountable to the role God gave them is not equivalent to winking at women’s sins. On the contrary, calling men to require women’s submission is exactly to hold women accountable to submit!
Parts of what they argue above are correct. The last bolded part is mostly correct. It is right to expect pastors to teach wives to submit to their husbands, and to exercise church discipline when required. Long time readers of this blog know that I’ve focused probably 10-1 on challenging men vs women in this regard.
But it is false to claim that Christian wives lack the power to create patriarchy in their own marriages. For this is exactly what the Apostle Peter tells wives to do in 1 Pet 3:1-6 (ESV):
Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3 Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
Note that what Peter is telling wives to do is take unilateral action and make their husband their ruler. Peter follows up in 1 Pet 3:7 telling husbands to love their wives, but neither instruction (to wives or husbands) is conditional upon the other. Peter even specifically states that Christian wives are to create patriarchy in their own homes even if their husband doesn’t obey the word. The hope of course is that the wife will win her husband over without a word through her submission and demonstration of fear and reverence, but this doesn’t change the fact that Peter is telling wives (like husbands) to take unilateral action*.
And wives aren’t the only women with the power to create patriarchy. In Titus 2 the Apostle Paul instructs Titus to have older women teach younger women to submit to their husbands (ESV):
2 But as for you, teach what accords with sound[a] doctrine. 2 Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.
This brings us to every complementarian’s favorite biblical fact: neither husbands nor pastors are instructed to tell wives to submit. This is true but beside the point, because both husbands (1 Cor 14:35, Eph 5:26) and pastors are instructed to teach the word, and the word repeatedly tells wives to submit to their husbands. Moreover, the Apostles Peter and Paul both set examples in their epistles by directly telling wives to submit to their husbands.
Nevertheless, complementarians persist in claiming that husbands especially must not tell their wives to submit**. This is a fundamental tenet of complementarian theology. When accused of violating this tenet, Pastor Steve Camp was outraged at the charge:
I’ve never once said in my entire life that a man should tell a woman to submit- ever.
So while Bnonn and Pastor Foster are incorrect in stating that wives don’t have the ability to create patriarchy in their own marriages, they are right that Christian leaders need to be rebuked for decades of false teaching on the matter.
*That husbands can do things to make submitting to them easier and wives can do things to make loving them easier doesn’t change the fact that each is assigned a specific task. Neither can accomplish (or be responsible for) the other’s task, but it is loving for us to try to make each other’s burdens lighter as we focus in patience on doing what we are respectively called to do.
**What could be more unchivalrous?
Update: Cane Caldo has written his own excellent response to the newsletter: When All Else Fails Read the Instructions