Tilting at windmills...

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Over on a conservative Reformed blog, a couple men have been arguing that the church today is being threatened by some who are taking father-rule (they call it "patriarchy") too, too far. No one really wanted to be specific, but when pressed by the esteemed brothers Craig French and RCJr., the following list of practices was submitted as proof of this grave threat.

We are told that the men who pose this threat within the Church are those "suggesting..."

1. Suggesting that Christian mothers must home-school instead of public school to be faithful to God, even when those mothers are not gifted to do such.

This is a problem, but not of those who preach father-rule. It's the homeschool movement that falls into this error. But you know, everyone believes everyone else should do what they do--particularly with our children. Feeding on demand or by schedule; almost every mother will tell you which is necessary for the lifelong wellbeing of your children.

Not only is homeschooling militancy not the fruit of wacko father-rule, but for years I've found some of the most intense matriarchy within the homeschool movement and families. Lip service is paid to the rooster ruling the roost, but make no mistake about it: the hen rules the rooster. Let the elders of a church try admonishing some homeschool mothers and stick around for the show.

2. Suggesting that federalism, which traditionally has meant the doctrine of the federal headship of Adam and Christ, includes the idea of federal headship of husbands so that husbands are seen as representing their wives before God.

If by this the writer means praying for our wives and working toward their sanctification, I've seen this some and rejoiced at it. But that can't be what he means since Scripture commands those things. So what on earth is he talking about? Has he seen a husband who takes the Lord's Supper for his wife and eats it himself? Who attends worship and forces his wife to stay home? Who doesn't allow his wife to pray, telling her that he prays for her? I mean, this seems ridiculous and I've never seen anything even approximating it.

3. Suggesting that any church or denomination that sees the Scripture allowing for women deacons must be egalitarian and in rebellion against God.

Calvin and Warfield held similar positions in support of deaconesses. My wife and I grew up in a church that had an excellent Board of Deaconesses whose work and position were never confused with the work and position of our male deacons. Thus, I've always supported deaconesses, including back in the nineties in a "Table Talk" piece.

The problem now is that churches like Redeemer have confused the simpleminded. Redeemer uses woman deacons--not deaconesses--as Trojan horses to promote woman exercising authority over man so there are many who understandably conclude that the only two options are Redeemer's egalitarianism or no deaconesses.

It's the error of the excluded middle and this serves the purposes of egalitarians quite well. "You're against woman deacons? What's wrong with you? Don't you know John Calvin believed in woman deacons? You're wound pretty tight, aren't you?"

So yes, as long as Redeemer is seen to represent the pro-deaconess position, people will believe they must oppose Redeemer's egalitarian feminism by opposing deaconesses. It's shameful, but it's not the fault of the simple.

It's Redeemer's fault. Which reminds me of Chesterton saying, "To be wrong, and to be carefully wrong; that's the definition of decadence."

4. Suggesting Christian wives and mothers that seek any employment outside the home are unfaithful to God.

Off the top of my head I can't ever remember hearing anyone make this argument. Maybe others have, but as I said, I get around and I haven't.

What I have heard is those of us who argue that the Titus 2:5 command that women be "domestic" or "workers at home" has radical implications for the sort of work outside the home that women should and should not do are then accused of saying that we think a woman should never work outside the home. Once again we have the excluded middle. There is something in between women working as doctors while having their children cared for by others and a woman never earning any money outside the home.

In our feminist age, had we not already read the Holy Spirit's command to wives to "be domestic" found in Titus 2, if any pastor or Apostle gave this command, he'd be misrepresented as "suggesting Christian wives and mothers that seek any employment outside the home are unfaithful to God."

5. Not allowing wives and communicant daughters to vote in churches.

There are a maybe one and a half or two churches in these United States that do this, but really, it doesn't seem to be taking the world by storm. Women vote at ClearNote Church of Bloomington, but I think RCJR makes a good Biblical case in his response:

If the Bible forbids women to rule in the church, something I trust we can all agree on, and if a vote from the congregation, in certain circumstances, is binding, then would one have to accept the label “extreme” if one humbly suggested that in such circumstances women shouldn’t vote with the congregation? Or to put it another way, how would one reconcile a conviction that women are not to rule in the church (presumably why we don’t have women elders) with women voting in binding circumstances?

Thing is, who cares about the Creation Order any more? What we're all trying to do is stand precisely where we can make a show of being faithful to Scripture while avoiding any practice or preaching that would cause us to be labelled patriarch-monsters. What a terrible environment for reform--all of us falling over our own feet trying to get away from anyone accusing us of being patriarchs-gone-wild because we're the ones who normally read the Bible after supper.

6. Teaching that the Bible requires fathers to administer courtship rituals for their daughters instead of allowing dating (or courtship) at their own discretion.

This one's written so inexactly that it's impossible to deal with constructively. I'll simply say that the dating mess is real and we all know it. It's called fornication and reform hasn't been easy work. There have been many who claim to have found the solution and then fall off the other side into a Bill Gothardish engineer-run-amok scheme with flow charts attached. Still, this is not so much the fruit of preaching father-rule as mothers trying to control their daughters through their compliant husbands.

It's always been difficult to pry a mother's claws off her children so they're free to individuate, matrimate, and propagate.

7. Suggesting the Bible teaches the father is responsible to find marriage partners for their daughters.

You mean like Abraham? Or does that not count because it's a patriarch doing it, and that's what we're trying to avoid? Or does it not count because it's a son he's choosing a spouse for--not a daughter? That's funny, right?

What father doesn't work to find spouses for his children? What godly father doesn't pray for godly spouses for his children from the moment of conception; and after the child is born, every single night until the wedding ceremony? What godly father in his daughters' wedding ceremonies forbids the pastor from asking, "Who gives this woman to be married to this man?"

* * *
Had I been writing this list, I would have had examples I've actually seen. Let me give one.

There are men who refuse to allow their wives to participate in women's Bible studies. They justify it by citing the Holy Spirit's command that women should ask their own husbands at home in order to maintain silence in the church (1Corinthians 14:35). This is a real problem, today, and should be dealt with firmly. The simple solution is to cite Titus 2:3-5 commanding that older women teach the church's younger women, followed by a rather exhaustive and painfully practical curriculum for that instruction.

It's no violation of the Word of God to obey the Word of God.

(TB, w/thanks to Craig and RC)