Sunday, May 1, 2011

AUTHORITY: OF CHRIST OR PATRIARCH?

The beginning of Matthew is important in any discussion regarding patriarchy, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”. (Mat.1:1)

The first verse names the three foundational patriarchs “of the geneology of Christ”:

Abraham the father of Isaac, was first of the Hebrew patriarchs and a figure revered by the three great monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam :

The Bible declares that he lived approximately 175 years. Wife was Sarah. Sons were Ismael and Isaac . According to the bible Abraham and Sarah were 99 or 100 years old when Isaac was born.

Isaac Isaac the father of Jacob :

As the Bible says, he lived 180 years! Wife Rebecca. Sons Esau and Jacob. He was later told he would be called Israel.

Jacob the father of Judah:

Wives Leah and Rachel. Twelve sons and one daughter.  The Bible tells us he lived 147 years.

His name is given to all of his descendents and the land that God stipulated they should inhabit. Jacob’s having two wives means that there are four matriarchs between the  three patriarchs.

A patriarch is "the male head, ruler, or progenitor of a family, tribe, or people."

Jacob, who earned the name Israel when he wrestled with an Angel, is the patriarch, the descendants of whose twelve sons became the twelve tribes of Israel.

God’s design for these three patriarchs, through their lineage with Abraham, was that they were to establish nations under His rule, Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him, “Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.”(Gen.17:3-4).

Something else stands out as Matthew goes on. He establishes that from this line of three patriarchs, King David is a part of this same bloodline, which in fourteen generations establishes that Jesus Christ is whom he declared in the first verse as “.. the son of David” , whose life he chronicles.

Are all the males patriarchs? No. It seems not.  As far as I can see there are only two verses in the New Testament that refer to men as patriarchs, other than the three men mentioned above. In the Septuagent the term is used only five times.

Patriarch, the word, means “father rule”, or “patriarchy”, and is an elemental part of an hegemonic hierarchy, of which the New Testament knows nothing.

The use of the word, according to dictionaries, such as The Oxford , The Merriam-Webster, and the The Macmillan say among other things, that “patriarchy” means:

”a system of society or government in which the father or eldest male is head of the family and descent is reckoned through the male line.

a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it.” (Oxford)  or,

 “ 1: a social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line; broadly : control by men of a disproportionately large share of power

2: a society or institution organized according to the principles or practices of patriarchy”
(Webster) or,

“a society, system, or organization in which men have all or most of the power and influence (Macmillan)


As those claiming to be Christian, we have to take into consideration what people understand when we use words, such as patriarchy, which are commonly understood to imply "Power" or "control". We cannot simply take a word we like and apply it to a New Testament concept.

From a Christian point of view such words apply to the Godhead alone.  Christians have only one Head, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true representation of God the Father, and whose sole authority is exercised though His written word revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.

If we want to use the “archy” language, we could use the term "Christarchy", where all submit to the authority of the Lord Jesus Christs.

What a difference we would see if we understood that. Servant leaders, whether of households or congregations, and even governments, would lead, and set the example of one who submits to the authority of Jesus Christ, as is declared in the Scriptures and applied to their lives by the Holy Spirit.

Yet the very opposite is true as Dave Black says, “Christ’s claim to our total allegiance is one we seek to avoid at all costs”(ChristianArchy, x), and we avoid it by espousing the idea that, for example, a father must exercise some kind of power and authority which allows him to command how others (wife and family) behave and function.

We, fathers, avoid any hint of what the world sees as weakness, but what Christ taught was formidable strength; humble servitude, in weakness!

John Chrysostom, one of the early church fathers was spot on, when he said,

“For as long as we are lambs we conquer; even when a thousand wolves stand about, we overcome and are victors. But if we act like wolves we are conquered, for then the aid of the Good Shepherd departs from us, for He does not foster wolves but sheep.”

“…He does not foster wolves but sheep.”

In my idealistic moments, I imagine what it would be like if people who dare to call Jesus as Lord, really submitted themselves to His headship. This One whom we profess as Lord, as our “archy”, would be seen as the only authority in charge, and everyone else, husbands and wives were submissive to each other, negating any need to claim to be equal, or having authority over another.

I imagine what it would be like to live in a climate of no imposed hierarchies or command structures, no power struggles among men and women, rich and poor, young and old, with each one serving the other. I think that's what Jesus modeled for those who were His followers.

Paul was used of God, in his Epistle to the Ephesian congregation, to declare His direction for a marital relationship.

It was to be as Jesus modeled as He submitted himself totally to the will of His Father. With Christ as their model, husbands are not charged to exercise authority over their wives, but are charged to imitate Christ’s headship over themselves. Such headship demands that they imitate Christ’s obedience to God. As the husband models Christ’s obedience to the Father, so the wives are to follow.

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the church. It is he who is the Savior of the body. Indeed, just as the church is submissive to Christ, so wives must be submissive to their husbands in everything.(5:22-24)

Whether we redefine the word to suit our personal preferences or not, the word “patriarchy” indicates power and  authority over another.

If wives are called to submit to their husbands in the same way the church submits to Christ, then it cannot have anything to do with patriarchy.

Dave Black speaks of ,”…any other Christian “reformist” movement (patriarchy, agrarianism, age integration,etc.) The trouble is that such moralizing can be done sheerly in the flesh. We can get so caught up in the idea of raising modern knights or returning to the land or asserting male headship when oftentimes all that is actually happening is that our little archy is becoming more and more impressed by it’s own importance as a revolutionary cause.” (Christian Archy p.14)

I cannot agree more, especially when Dave says on page 14, “The Enemy of the church always seeks to turn it aside from the cross in order to make it follow its own way”.  Remember the church is men and women.

The thought that Christ would command submission to His headship is erroneous to say the least. If  there is any compulsion at all for Christ’s redeemed to obey him, it is solely through love and thanksgiving alone, as an act of worship.

The love of Christ controls us, for we are convinced of this: that one person died for all people; therefore, all people have died. He died for all people, so that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for the one who died and rose for them. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

When calling wives to submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ, then they are called to respond to their husband’s modeling of Christ’s love and self-sacrifice. They are  to submit to such amazing love, not to the authority of the husband.

 By the way, Paul says nothing about the husband’s “rule”. The headship Paul refers to is the authority to serve God by serving others, which leads to God’s blessing on the relationship.

Christ’s own submission to the Father was spelled out in His parable as He rose from supper.

Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was returning to God,got up from the table, removed his outer robe, and took a towel and fastened it around his waist.Then he poured some water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to dry them with the towel that was tied around his waist. (John 13:4-5)

There could be no missing what Jesus explicitly taught on that occasion, unless we purposefully, and willfully choose another explanation. The Christ’s washing of feet revealed the quality of his Lordship, and set the example for those who follow him, who were to emulate this kind of authority, a humiliating servant role, which entailed, authority to wash feet, authority to sacrifice themselves to demonstrate God’s grace to others.

It’s very difficult for the Adamic human mind to grasp that servant-hood has “authority”.
Consider Jesus, who had the God-given authority to sacrifice himself for His people as an act of amazing love.

Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

When someone receives Christ as Savior and Lord, we  submit to His authority.

That is exactly the kind of headship a Christian wife is called to submit herself to. Not that of a patriarch, but that of a husband who is called to love her with the same Holy Sprit endued attitude as Christ revealed in His love for His church.

She is called to follow him and his example as he follows Christ. It is not easy, as Peter showed when Jesus wanted to wash his feet. It’s what Paul knew was a necessary part of God’s transforming grace, when he told the Romans,  “I therefore urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercies, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices that are holy and pleasing to God, for this is the reasonable way for you to worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but continually be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you may be able to determine what God's will is—what is proper, pleasing, and perfect.” (Rom.12:-2)

As a wife responds to the example of her husband, she lays aside her will as her husband has laid aside his, so they serve Christ as one, as a picture of  the gospel (Ephesians 5:32).

Husbands and wives, one or both, who care more about imposing their own authority or desire than submitting to the headship and example of Christ, not only personally  act like a drunken person, but they cause those to stumble for whom they are supposed to set the example, each other, their children, and their brethren.

When a husband incorrectly understands his role as head of the family, as that of  a patriarch, one called to rule and uses that as an excuse to dominate, he stumbles like a drunken man. A wife, who  takes advantage of her husband’s servant-hood does likewise.

Nowhere does the Bible show us that God is interested in improving a Christian husband’s authority and rule. Likewise He is not interested in helping a Christian couple rule their family as equals.

God is interested in restoring His rule. 

As a couple grow in Christian marriage, husbands  cease to live in a mindset of patriarchy, and becomes faithful stewards demonstrating the reality of the Lordship of the One who said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them and their superiors act like tyrants over them. That's not the way it should be among you. Instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave. That's the way it is with the Son of Man. He did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many people”.(Matt.20:25-28)

In a Biblical marriage such as this, a husband will inspire his wife and children to “follow me, as I follow Christ”. This is not patriarchy past, present or future!

As Dave Black says in his book, “We must have the courage to say flatly that human archys are nothing less than the contemporary resurrection of the pharisaic ethic”. (p.31)

Let Vernard Eller conclude, as he writes in ChristianAnarchy, “..that worldly arkys are of the "all" that "in Adam" dies and are no part of the "all" that "in Christ" is made alive (1 Cor. 15:22). Consequently, worldly arkys must die (and we must die to them) in order that the Arky of God (his kingdom) might be made alive in us (and us in it).”

Important Addendum:

I have, in the last few minutes discovered a good article on Wade Burlesons blog, in which he refers to a book by Jon Zens for which Wade has written the  Forward.
  
The book is entitled: "No Will Of My Own: How Patriarchy Smothers Female Dignity & Personhood "




3 comments:

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

Great post.

I think Jesus being the only "arky" [I love that] intended is verified also in Eph. 1:22 where all things are under His FEET which is the biblical metaphor for the one who is in charge or rules. The husband is not ruler, as you point out, nor is both husband and wife rulers together. There is only ONE ruler for any Christian.

This...."As Dave Black says in his book, “We must have the courage to say flatly that human archys are nothing less than the contemporary resurrection of the pharisaic ethic”. (p.31)"...just about says it all.

Thanks for a great read.

Aussie John said...

Paul,

Brother! Thank you for you comments. You're so right regarding Eph.1:22. Even under the Old Covenant King David understood that truth in that beautiful prophetic psalm 8:6.

Such a thought causes heartache when observing much of the modern self-centred, self-sufficient Christianism of today.

craigbenno1 said...

I love it. There can be no hierarchical rule amongst servants!

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