Patriarchy in the Civil Order
"My people—infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them."
Over the last several posts I have argued that the next Christendom will be built upon the recovery of masculine leadership in the home and the church, or it will not be built at all. Of course, this must be a godly masculine leadership, a godly patriarchy. For patriarchy is inevitable, but its character is not. A godless patriarchy may take the form of overt tyranny (dictators, abusers etc.), or it may masquerade behind and beneath feminism. In the latter case, men promote a destructive doctrine and worldview that encourages women to embrace responsibilities, fight battles, and otherwise operate in ways contrary to their nature, to the benefit of the same men. The “liberation” of women in the latter half of the 20th century has led to culture of promiscuity in which men get sex without the attendant responsibilities of marriage. Some “liberation.”
Regardless, it is always men who rule, but it is rare that they rule well. The next Christendom will be built by men who rule well, as defined and depicted by Christ himself.
This godly patriarchy will not emerge from the top down, through our public leaders. Rather, it will begin in households and churches and Christian institutions. As local communities are saturated with more and more godly patriarchs, eventually—and quite naturally—such men will emerge as civic leaders. They will become mayors, councilmen, commissioners, sheriffs, judges, legislators, and governors. This will not be the result of some plot to take over all our civic institutions. It is simply the consequence of a godly society. As Joseph de Maistre quipped:
Every country has the government it deserves.
In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve.
Or as I like to say: Eventually we get the politics we deserve. A godly nation will find itself ruled by godly men. An ungodly, and especially an apostatizing nation, will find quite the opposite.
Welcome to America.
Let’s return to the quote which heads this publication.
My people—infants are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, your guides mislead you and they have swallowed up the course of your paths.
For context, consider these words in light of chapters 2-4. Beginning in 2:6 and continuing through 4:1, Isaiah prophesies God’s judgement on Jacob (Israel), and especially Judah and Jerusalem, which are the heart and soul of the faithless nation. The judgements are varied and the descriptions lengthy, and plopped right into the middle of the litany is this judgement of being ruled by women and children. Like the judgements in Romans 1, which we might call the natural consequences of idolatry, this judgement in Isaiah reads less like a threat (“I’m going to make women and children your rulers!”) and more like a description of what happens to a nation that is already under God’s judgement. Such a nation exalts the folly of youth, promoting as wisdom the foolish desires of children—like a family that shapes itself according to the tantrums of its toddler child. This nation lacks good men, and so women are thrust into positions of leadership against their nature.
Am I importing too much meaning into this judgement? Consider how this entire section of judgements concludes:
And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach.”
The judgements in this section are many and varied, but they conclude with an anecdote underscoring the utter breakdown in society as represented by a lack of patriarchs. In this condemned society there is a dearth of men who will even commit to marrying a woman—any woman—much less provide for her. And if there is such a lack of men to marry a woman and govern a household, how much less are there good men to rule society? So the vacuum of authority is filled with women and children, and this is described as God’s judgement.
Now let’s be very clear: the Bible is not anti-women any more than it is anti-children, and the two are presented in parallel in this judgement. The Scriptures teach us that children are a blessing from the Lord (Ps. 127:3), and that a woman is the glory of her husband (1 Cor. 11:7), not to mention the crown jewel of creation (Gen. 2).
No, the Bible is not anti-women or anti-children. Rather, it is anti-disorder and anti-unnatural. It is unnatural for a child to rule his home, much more to rule a nation. It is disordered for a woman to rule over her husband, much more to command soldiers in battle or enforce the execution of the law.
Aside from the judgement from Isaiah 2, the line of argument boils down to this: if it doesn’t make sense in the home or the church, then it won’t make sense in society—which is the product of the home and the church. If my earlier posts about covenant and patriarchy in the home and church are sound, then they extend into the larger sphere of society.
In other words, Isaiah 2 confirms what we would naturally conclude based on the Bible’s instructions regarding men and women in the home and the church.
What About Deborah?
Some may point to the period of Deborah’s rule as evidence that it is natural for women to rule in the civil order. In fact, the case of Deborah proves the opposite.
In Judges 4, Israel is in a state of apostasy, doing what is wicked in God’s sight. As is the case throughout the book, the nation is in a cycle of rebellion, judgement, despair, and deliverance. We find Deborah ruling over a portion of Israel in the midst of Israel’s apostasy, not when they were faithfully keeping covenant with the Lord. Furthermore, the narrative underscores the unnaturalness of the woman ruling in that, when she calls Barak to come and lead the people to victory in battle, which God has promised to give him, he acts like a complete pansy:
Barak said to her, “If you will go with me, I will go, but if you will not go with me, I will not go.”
To which Deborah replies:
“I will surely go with you. Nevertheless, the road on which you are going will not lead to your glory, for the Lord will sell Sisera into the hand of a woman.”
What this story teaches us is not that it is good for women to rule in the civil order, but that when the civil order is broken down women find themselves in positions of authority, which is a less-than-ideal dynamic. Now, as was the case with Deborah, some women will steward their charge faithfully and do an admirable job of it, given the circumstances. Others will not. In any case, the narrative does not present relational dynamics we should aspire to, but rather from which to learn.
Consider the Magistrate
In the civil order, the magistrate is ultimately responsible for one thing, namely, to execute justice by punishing wrongdoers and rewarding the righteous.
For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.
The civil magistrate—whether he is making a law, executing a law, or judging a lawbreaker—is to act as God’s servant. And what is the point of his service? To punish evil and reward good. How? Evil is punished when godly laws are instituted and enforced. Good is rewarded when godly laws are instituted and enforced.
The same mechanism applies to both evil and good? Yes. Let me explain.
Evil is restrained through the enforcement of godly laws—defined as those laws which accord with God’s word—because the magistrate bears the sword. Such sword-bearing not only brings punishment on the evildoer, but also acts to deter others from conducting wicked acts for fear of punishment.
In the same way, good is rewarded through the enforcement of godly laws, for the honest, upright, and just actions of the righteous are not diminished or destroyed by lawbreakers whose lawbreaking goes unchecked. Instead, the good can flourish because the evil does not. The magistrate doesn’t allow it.
A Rhetorical Question
Now I ask: when it comes to the home and church, who does God make responsible for discipline?
And if God so ordered the home and the church, then let us reason the same applies to society which is comprised of the home and the church.
Fathers. Priests. Magistrates.
Patriarchy is inevitable. Though we endure an age of evil patriarchy in its various forms, good patriarchy—righteous father-rule—will be recovered, and will be a pillar of the nest Christendom.
Until next time,