Christian Patriarchy Movement

Dear Schuyler,

I am writing in response to your answer to the anonymous question regarding the “Christian Patriarchy Movement and its dangers.”  I do not disagree with your answer in its entirety, but some parts of your answer concerned me enough that I decided to write.

First, I had never heard of the Christian Patriarchy Movement either.  This surprised me, since I am familiar with a number of books written by Mr. Wilson, and I have occasionally heard Dr. R.C. Sproul, Jr., on the Renewing Your Mind radio program and read some of his articles published by Ligonier Ministries.  I am aware of Mr. Wilson’s promotion of the Federal Vision heresy.  At the same time, I have profited from what he has written regarding the Christian family.  While both Mr. Wilson and Dr. Sproul, Jr., use the term “patriarchy,” it seems that the “Christian Patriarchy Movement” has been so named by individuals who do not believe that the Bible teaches “father rule.”

My chief concern with your response is the source of your information regarding the so-called movement.  You cite Mr. Wilson and Dr. Sproul, Jr., as its main advocates, but note that your research was done online.  As I’m sure you know, anyone can publish anything on the Internet, and more often than not, things associated with conservative Christianity are misrepresented to the extreme.  When I Google “Christian Patriarchy Movement,” I find much about the dangers that you note in your article.  Those positions may very well be held by the farthest right of this so-called movement.  However, none of those extreme views are supported by anything that I have read that is authored by Mr. Wilson.  A few excerpts from his book Reforming Marriage will demonstrate this.

With regard to a husband’s temptation to abuse his authority, Wilson saddles that authority with responsibility—so much so that he makes husbands ultimately responsible for every problem in every marriage, and men in general responsible for the feminist movement.  He notes that Paul in Eph. 5:23 does not command husbands to be the heads of their wives, he simply states that they are the heads of their wives.  What is the imperative for husbands, according to Wilson?  “Husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church” (p. 24) and “to love and lead with a servant’s heart” (p. 38).  He notes that a husband’s realization that he needs a helper in order to fulfill his God-ordained vocation should move him to a “holy terror” (p. 32), and he warns against a husband’s tendency to exploit his wife rather than honor her as the weaker vessel.  “A husband’s top priority should be her spiritual and emotional contentment.  She should be in his prayers, and she should know that she is.  She should be frequently held, comforted, counseled, and taught by her husband from the Word of God” (125).

Since this particular book is on marriage, Wilson addresses the calling of wives, not unmarried women.  But even regarding wives he writes: “The Bible does not teach that the woman’s place is in the home; it requires that the home be her priority, but she is not at all limited to the home” (49).  With regard to child-bearing and child-rearing, Wilson emphasizes parents’ very weighty calling to teach their children the fear of the Lord.  “Large, obedient families are a blessing.  But when the children are disobedient, the more there are, the worse it is.”  Nor does he disallow birth control or promote homeschooling exclusively.  Indeed, the example he gives as a potentially godly use of birth control involves a couple’s difficulty paying for their children’s Christian school tuition (p. 127).  Wilson’s wife, Nancy, a gifted author in her own right, states this in her book The Fruit of Her Hands:  “Another example of this crucial distinction between principle and method regards education.  Christians must agree with the biblical principle that parents are responsible before God for their children’s education.  Now if one family chooses to home school and another chooses to enroll their children in a Christian school, we ought not get worked up over it.”

I hope those examples sufficiently demonstrate that Mr.Wilson cannot be held responsible for the dangers associated with the CPM.  The same is true of Dr. Sproul, Jr., another man whom you named as one of its main advocates.

There are two other comments in your response that I question, Schuyler.

First, I disagree that the Bible teaches that father and mother have equal authority in the home.  Both father and mother have authority, no doubt.  The fifth commandment and many other scripture passages command children to honor their parents, in the plural.  But if the husband is the head of his wife, is he not also head over her in the area of child-rearing?  A home cannot have two heads.

Second, you write that we must not legislate for others with regard to contraception.  Then you state, “Married couples must decide before the Lord, based on their circumstances (especially the health and well-being of the mother) how many children they are able to receive.”  To say that married couples must decide how many children they can receive is to make a law that I do not believe can be supported with scripture.  Perhaps we may make such a determination, but I am glad that that is a determination that my husband and I do not have to make.  After all, in most circumstances it is the right of the giver—not the recipient—to determine what gift he will give.

In the end, all that any movement ever does is exploit the dangers already present in our own sinful hearts.  I am tempted to resist my husband’s authority not because I associate with the feminist movement, but because I was conceived and born in sin.  Likewise, my husband is tempted to abuse his authority as head of our home because he is a son of Adam, not because some distort the Bible’s teaching regarding patriarchy.

Thanks, Schuyler, for taking the time to read my response and for your work on behalf of Beacon Lights.


—Sarah Mowery



Many thanks to the sister who took the time to write. I appreciate both the content and the spirit of her response. The sister’s concerns expose one of my weaknesses: I do not want to refuse or decline to answer any questions sent to me, but sometimes I am as ignorant about the topic as the original questioner is. I do not claim to be an expert.

In such cases, I have little choice but to do some research. This research will of necessity be online, unless I want to buy books on every new subject. That is why I included a caveat: “Please bear in mind that the movement is varied and this summary of necessity must be general.”

Research on the internet has its pitfalls, but, first, let me assure the sister, that I did not consult anti-Christian websites. Although I do not have a record of all the websites I consulted, I can assure the readers of the Beacon Lights that, as much as possible, I consult primary sources (i.e. the CPM websites themselves) and, where the sources are secondary, I prefer Reformed websites with good, Christian, biblical, Reformed commentary.

I am happy to concede that the sister knows more about Mr. Doug Wilson’s writings than I do. The quotations she offers from Mr. and Mrs. Doug Wilson’s books are helpful, especially the comments on the education of children. Bear also in mind that Doug Wilson is an advocate of the Federal Vision. Therefore, his books (even on the family) ought to be read with careful discernment. Undoubtedly the sister does this already.

I left the impression, by calling R.C. Sproul, Jr. and Doug Wilson the “main advocates” of the CPM, that they are responsible for the main dangers associated with it. That is regrettable. I called them the “main advocates” only because they are the best known promoters of the CPM. This does not mean that they are necessarily promoters of its most extreme ideas. My research does not permit me to reach that conclusion.

Finally, the sister has a couple minor disagreements.

First, she questions my statement that “the father and mother have equal authority in the home.” Certainly, I agree with her that the final authority is the father’s. Eventually, after a husband and wife have thoroughly discussed all options, the husband/father has the final word: his is the responsibility, or, as the saying goes, “the buck stops here” (with the husband/father). My impression of the CPM was that it downplayed the important role of the wife/mother, as if she was simply there to agree with the husband/father. I would contend that the wife/mother must give her input, and a wise husband will listen to her.

Second, the subject of contraception is controversial. We believe that God sovereignly gives and withholds children as it pleases him. Contraception is not necessarily sinful, however. Abortion and abortifacients are, of course, sinful and forbidden in all circumstances. Perhaps if I had written, “Married couples may decide before the Lord …” instead of “Married couples must decide before the Lord …” the disagreement would have been avoided.

The sister is absolutely correct that “all that any movement ever does is exploit the dangers already present in our own sinful hearts.” We would be foolish to try to blame movements for our sins. Perhaps we can say that as God uses means for our sanctification, so the devil seeks to use means for our corruption.  We must avoid falling for his temptations, whatever means he may use.