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Patriarchy versus Feminism

By Martin G. Selbrede
March 01, 2010

In the war of the worldviews, we now find ourselves wedged between exposés of feminism launched by patriarchalists and exposés of Biblical patriarchy published by feminists. The Biblical family and its defenders stand on one side of the fixed chasm, and the autonomous individual woman and her defenders stand on the other side. The chasm is infinitely deep, but not so wide as to prevent arrows fired across it from reaching the other side.

Among the arrows launched from the feminist side is the publication last year of Kathryn Joyce’s book, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement.1 It would do Joyce a disservice to associate the inside of her book (which I read cover to cover) with the incendiary promotional barbs spicing up the back of the dust jacket (particularly Michelle Goldberg’s attributing “misogyny taken to sadomasochistic extremes” to the proponents of Biblical patriarchy). On the spectrum of responsible secular reporting and scholarship, Joyce is closer to the Jeff Sharlet school of investigative journalism than she is to the more judicious approach of scholar Michael McVicar. Sharlet’s ideas have been examined here before.2 He didn’t respond to our sincere offer to initiate a correspondence to clarify the issues. McVicar, on the other hand, delights in digging through original source materials, and the fascinating results are evenhanded enough to warrant publication in this periodical despite McVicar’s divergence from our views.3 For the record, we officially extend the offer to correspond with Kathryn Joyce here and now. In the meantime, an examination of her book and its significance is in order.

The Inherent Weakness of Books on Both Sides

The problem that comes to light in reading books like Joyce’s is that firsthand reporting like this tends to generate a mass of anecdotal evidence.4 Joyce unfolds a cornucopia of stories reflective of the problems generated by the patriarchy movement. But Joyce’s opponents can produce just as much anecdotal evidence of the evil effects of feminist thinking on women. So Much More,5 written by Anna Sofia Botkin and Elizabeth Botkin, weaves such anecdotal evidence in and around the two authors’ attempt to put Biblical legs on their primary thesis.6 If every story Joyce puts forward detailing how a woman has been harmed by a specific expression of patriarchal thinking has a corresponding story by the Botkins and other writers7 of how women have been harmed by feminist thinking, we are left at an impasse.

The only way to discriminate between the two theses is by comparing the stated worldview commitments of the respective sides.8 Joyce, however, isn’t equipped to evaluate the opposing side’s consistency with its stated Biblical worldview. For this reason, she misses many critically important details. In the meantime, however, each side accuses the other of living as chained-up slaves in Plato’s cave.

Joyce clearly discounts the idea that the Botkins’ book accurately sets forth the feminist worldview, dismissing the sisters’ summary as “a collection of contextless feminist quotations.”9 Not surprisingly, Joyce’s perspective on Christian Reconstruction is vulnerable to the same criticism. Had she simply examined R. J. Rushdoony’s essays on “The Family,”10 “The Attack Against the Family,”11 “The Failure of Men,”12 and “The Place of Women”13—essays that arc across the chasm between the respective camps —she would have seen what she was missing.14 She would have recognized that the second- and thirdhand information she appeals to is a sad caricature of Rushdoony’s position.

Joyce reveals some animus and cripples her projected objectivity by labeling the Botkins as “Dorothies in a perpetual Oz.”15 She alludes to a link between patriarchal teachings and Calvinism16 but fails to make it rigorous.17 She finds grist for her critical mill in a host of Titus 2 ministries (many of which do vastly overreach the text they’re based upon, but Joyce isn’t theologically adept enough to recognize it). Her critique of mandates for large families (her book’s title comes from Psalm 127’s martial description of the blessings of fathering many sons) culminates in the Andrea Yates tragedy,18 and the untold misery of women forced to stay in abusive or deadly marriages is laid at patriarchy’s doorstep.19

The “No Exit” Marriage

Here is a jarring tale about one church’s response to a woman whose husband secured a Mexican divorce to marry another woman to indulge in drunken sex orgies:

A lawyer advised the original and Godly wife to get a divorce, since her state did not recognize Mexican divorces, and consequently she could lose her hard-earned house.
The home church did not condemn the husband but the wife. She was expected to sit by the window with a light on, praying for her husband to return. The prominent, nationally known and published pastor told her to leave the church; they wanted no divorced women. Moreover, he said, she was probably guilty and drove him to sin by “keeping her legs crossed” … This all happened thirty years ago. Since then, the ex-husband has twice eluded warrants for his arrest for swindling aging widows of large sums of money. His ex-wife is still abused by the church for “her part,” but nothing is said about the man.20

There are many similar stories in Joyce’s book, except for one thing: this particular story didn’t come from Joyce’s book, it came from R. J. Rushdoony’s The Cure of Souls. Rushdoony has for decades consistently indicted the no-divorce-ever ethos as an abomination. Joyce (like almost all journalists) fails to make distinctions among the players on the stage, lumping them together. This failure further weakens her book.

Despite discussion of divergent fringe subgroups, Joyce treats the patriarchy movement in a functionally monolithic way. By implication, R. J. Rushdoony and Bill Gothard (who figures repeatedly in Joyce’s book) are birds of a feather. But the divide between Gothard and Rushdoony on divorce was a deep and abiding one. Gothard proposed using Rushdoony’s Institutes of Biblical Law as a resource for his massive ministry; the sheer volume of the resulting sales would have made Rushdoony both rich and famous. Gothard’s condition for moving forward on this was letter-simple: Rushdoony merely needed to remove the section on divorce from his book, and the highly profitable deal would be sealed.

Rushdoony refused the offer.

Therefore, when Joyce writes that “there’s a temptation to look for Rushdoony’s influence in the wrong places,” she’s quite right.21 But she needs to take this to heart more seriously in respect to her own work.

In her introduction, Joyce points to the Ted Haggard scandal and the “perfect Christian wife” Gayle Haggard is expected to be, regardless of her husband’s conduct.22 Gayle Haggard’s recent appearance on Oprah likely corroborated Joyce’s concerns, while dovetailing with Rushdoony’s thesis, “On Feeding a Hungry Tiger.”23 This Buddhist tale of a Bodhisattva, who threw himself down a cliff so that a hungry mother tiger with unfed and hungry cubs could kill and eat him, sets forth a theology of self-sacrifice that “regularly presents itself as true Christianity,” but which is anything but, as Rushdoony repeatedly demonstrated.

Male Responsibility

Consider the following two quotations. First, this one:

The lack of men’s responsibility or culpability for their own actions and the acceptance of male “urges” as irresistible forces of nature is the understructure of Christian modesty movements and their secular counterparts: seeing women’s bodies as almost supernaturally perverse and corrupting.24

And now this quote:

Because of their generally undisciplined nature, it is common for young males (and older ones as well) to believe that sex in men is an ungovernable drive and urge. Such a belief is an indictment of God; it is an insistence that chastity is a physical impossibility. I recall … hearing an arrogant pastor treat male sexual offenses lightly, insisting it was all due to those “male gonads.”25

The first is by Joyce, the second by Rushdoony. The modern modesty movement lurches dangerously into the fallacy of “environmental determinism,” which takes the moral component in man’s being off the table to blame the things around man as the sources of temptation and “stumbling.”26 The spirit of direct personal responsibility illustrated so clearly by Job is tragically missing from our modern dialogue:

I made a covenant with my eyes not to look lustfully at a girl. (Job 31:1 NIV)

When I introduced these points to a Bible study group in 2007, the blowback was swift and predictable,27 and the reversal of true responsibility was total—“turning men into moral zeroes” as Rushdoony puts it.28

Self-Abnegation

Joyce hammers the theme of woman’s self-abnegation under patriarchy quite a bit. The logic, as she sees it, is clear:

It should be a lesson to outside observers of the patriarchy and submission doctrines as well that to follow these ideas to their conclusion can mean, in very real ways, to disappear.29

One possible answer to Joyce can be found in Noelle Wheeler’s fascinating book,Daughters of Destiny, which details the prominence of many Christian women in ways utterly inconsistent with Joyce’s hasty conclusion.30 Wheeler’s book puts to rest the caricatures that Joyce has prematurely universalized; perhaps Joyce would see things differently after reading it.

This deadly self-abnegation, as Joyce reports, takes several forms, including a prohibition against women owning property.31 But Moses acknowledged that the daughters of Zelophehad indeed owned property (Num. 27:7, 36:8) that could not be alienated and absorbed by another tribe, while Proverbs 31:16 is self-attesting in this regard, despite tendentious revisionists who feel justified in rewriting the Biblical text.

Joyce repeatedly asserts that patriarchalists uphold the husband’s allegedly unlimited right to sexual access to his wife.32 But Rushdoony was clear that Leviticus 20:18 “placed the woman beyond the man’s use for regular intervals of time … No man can thus make a woman his creature, nor can any woman make herself a man’s creature.”33 Ezekiel speaks of such relations as an evil, unjustifiable humbling of the woman (Ezek. 22:10).34 Joyce keeps suggesting that the problem before her eyes is too much Biblical literalism, but the truth is that the problem is actually still not enough Biblical literalism!

One problem is that Joyce seems to think “dying to the self” to be the sole lot of women, whereas this general concept applies equally to both men and women.35 This idea is found upon the lips of the greatest man born of women, John the Baptist, who made it clear that “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). This statement by John the Baptist naturally brings us to a consideration of a key prophecy about him found in Malachi 4:6: “[H]e shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.”

Turning the Hearts of Which Fathers?

Malachi 4:6, a text sloganized by various patriarchy groups, is referenced by Kathryn Joyce several times.36 Patriarchalists routinely quote this prophecy about John the Baptist’s coming because they believe it concerns the strengthening of family ties between fathers and sons and between fathers and daughters. The problems with this view are fairly serious: (1) there is no New Testament evidence that John the Baptist did any such thing; (2) it is based on the Septuagint reading that St. Augustine expressly said was a false rendering of the Hebrew; (3) the sin that would lead to the curse is that described in Malachi 3:5, not 4:6; and (4) the term “fathers” in this prophecy should refer to the “fathers in the faith,” Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, while the “children” were their ungodly descendants in the current generation (see also Malachi 2:4–9 and verse 10, “… every man against his brother, profaning the covenant of our fathers”). John the Baptist did call upon his generation to repent, challenging their claim of having Abraham as their father (Matt. 3:9).

These conflicting expositions of Malachi 4:6 often appear side by side, sometimes literally from the same pulpit, as they did at Chalcedon’s Atlanta Conference in 2005 when the intra-family interpretation was referenced by Doug Phillips and the cross-generational interpretation37 was disclosed by this author.

Doug Phillips, to his credit, has affirmed that after several generations of neglect, there will inevitably be growing pains involved in putting legs back under a Biblically informed relational consensus. Said he, “We’re still working out the details, and we’re likely to make mistakes, but we’ll learn from them and ultimately get it right.” We suspect that Malachi 4:6 will be part of this corrective process as well.

Among issues that will be corrected (sooner than later, we trust) is the projected use of boycotts. Boycotts by the patriarchalists are touched on at least twice in Joyce’s book,38 but there is strong Biblical evidence that boycotts are illegitimate weapons for Christians to use.39

Pronatalism (an emphasis on large families) provokes Joyce to quote Doug Phillips’s observation that had past generations of Christians been fertile, the people of God would now outnumber the secularists, and “the army of God would be more powerful in this hour.”40 She quotes an anonymous doctor who claimed that for patriarchalists, “the womb is seen as a weapon of demographic warfare.”41 But since God is in control of the womb, He can and will supernaturally impose antinatalism on the wicked, as in Psalm 109:13: “Let his posterity be cut off; and in the generation following let their name be blotted out.” In contrast to this, God’s people have the blessing of “declaring his righteousness to a people not yet born” (Ps. 22:31).

The Ultimate Problem: A Conflict of Interest

After all is said and done, Kathryn Joyce has a fundamental issue with the idea that the family is the basic unit of society. She considers it axiomatic that the individual is the basic unit of society. For her, the family should serve and equip the individual, and in her telling of it, patriarchalists invert this and subsume the individual completely under the family, causing the “de-selving” of the females in the family.

We have here, then, an asserted conflict of interest between the family and the individuals comprising it, and not a harmony of interests. The assumed conflict of interest is then decided either in favor of the family (patriarchy) or the individual (feminism)—familistic collectivism versus atomistic individualism and egalitarianism.42

Rushdoony has clearly demonstrated that God’s law specifically protects and upholds the family and its rights. Nonetheless, Rushdoony is no less stringent in extolling the Bible’s forthright protection of the individual, of women in particular, and has shown that the rights of a woman often trump the husband’s or family’s prerogatives. Within Rushdoony’s exposition of Scripture, a trueharmony of interests prevails. And only within a balanced, totalistic Biblical worldview is a true (rather than synthetic) harmony of interests possible. Just as unity and multiplicity are equally co-ultimate in the Trinity, both find equipoise in God’s law respecting families and individuals.

If some patriarchal groups run roughshod over the individual, it’s not because they’re applying God’s law, but rather because they are not applying its every jot and tittle. The resulting conflict of interest that arises is thus based on a false dichotomy. Feminists and patriarchalists then play a dialectical game, taking their thesis and the opponents’ antithesis and creating a synthesis that’s arbitrarily bent in their camp’s direction. They necessarily talk past one another.

Yes, Rushdoony undisputedly held that the family was the basic unit of society. That statement can be found hundreds of times throughout his voluminous published works. But what Kathryn Joyce missed was Rushdoony’s equally emphasized idea that the fundamental government in the world is self-government. Because Joyce evidently thinks in comfortably statist categories (the framework where feminist political power is ostensibly wielded), this self-government concept is quite alien to her and is never properly integrated into her research. Therefore, she sets forth the prevailing conflict of interest and asserts her side’s agenda in terms of it. The patriarchalists will also ratchet up the conflict of interest as well in the name of emphasizing the famed “antithesis.”

We will know we’re on the right path when a trueharmony of interests prevails. Such a harmony will arise only when God’s law is treated totalistically, for only then shall both family and individual find their ultimate footing. Until then, both sides will continue to hammer square pegs into round holes.

1. Kathryn Joyce, Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement (Boston: Beacon Press, 2009). It is noteworthy that Joyce never sailed under false colors when “infiltrating” groups and meetings, making it clear to others that she was an unsaved nonbeliever. Such candor is all too rare.

2. Martin G. Selbrede, “The Emperor’s Continued Nudity: Jeff Sharlet’s Critique of Historiography Examined,” Faith for All of Life, Mar/Apr 2007, 16f. See also Selbrede, “The World in God’s Fist: The Meaning of History,” Faith for All of Life, Jul/Aug 2008, 23f.

3. Michael McVicar, “Working With Pygmies: R. J. Rushdoony, Christianity Today, and the Making of an American Theologian,” Faith for All of Life, Jul/Aug 2008, 14f. See also McVicar, “‘First Owyhee, Then the World’: The Early Ministry of R. J. Rushdoony,” Faith for All of Life, Nov/Dec 2008, 18f.

4. It would be a disservice to Joyce to fail to acknowledge the considerable evidence she brings to light, but the same disservice applies the other way as well when evidence put forward by critics of feminism is disdained. In point of fact, neither side’s evidence should be dismissed because their mutual indictments are two sides of the same bad coin. Both sides see their opponents as tendentious and biased; ironically, they’re both right in making that judgment. Arguing across presuppositional systems generates this kind of inherent fruitlessness: the tendency to talk past one another is all but guaranteed.

5. Anna Sofia Botkin and Elizabeth Botkin, So Much More: The Remarkable Influence of Visionary Daughters on the Kingdom of God (San Antonio: The Vision Forum, Inc., 2005–2007, 4th printing).

6. Our readership would naturally extend charity and grace to the authors in deference to both their youthfulness and the circumstance that many of their ideas are, in the nature of the case, admittedly derivative. However, writing in terms of moral mandates that bind the conscience is no small matter. In the interest of full disclosure, I acknowledge that I do count the Botkin family as dear friends. Nonetheless, So Much More warrants revision, not only due to trivially mundane issues (e.g., a disruptive twenty-one-word typographic instruction on page 198 has yet to be removed after four printings) but also with respect to substantive issues, such as those identified in the main text of this article. Furthermore, while the Botkins’ book quotes Rushdoony’s works, the connection between the quotes and the Botkins’ application of them is sometimes tenuous and strained. This flaw marks far more mature authors too, and so we’d expect the Botkins to take constructive criticisms to heart as they plan the tightening up of this first effort, one significant enough to catch the attention of critics like Kathryn Joyce.

7. John Piper and Wayne Grudem, 50 Crucial Questions: An Overview of Central Concerns about Manhood and Womanhood (The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, 1992). Appropriately, Joyce directs attention (pp. 16–17, and elsewhere) toward the CBMW, publisher of this booklet and issuer of similar manifesto-like statements that bear on the patriarchy question, seeing such ideas as ultimately justifying the oppression and “abject submission” of women (p. 43).

8. One must note that one side believes the millions of lives lost in abortion clinics, half of whom were unborn women, should likewise be placed on the scales when measuring relative “harm” being done by the opposing side’s agenda, but worldviews invariably predetermine the admissibility of such evidence.

9. Joyce, 226. Joyce correctly asserts that the Botkins pulled these quotes from “the antiabortion Web site Fathers for Life.” See Botkin & Botkin, 329–333. Original source citations would have reflected better on the two authors, who (perhaps wisely) placed this material in an appendix. While the quotations are prima facie quite damning against feminism, they stand to divert our attention from the primary focus of this essay.

10. R. J. Rushdoony, Roots of Reconstruction (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1991), 34f.

11. Ibid., 111f.

12. Ibid., 168f.

13. Ibid., 215f.

14. Rushdoony points out that “one reason for the uneasiness of many men at the feminist challenge is that the indictment strikes home” (Ibid., 172). The women’s liberation movement he saw as demanding the same irresponsibilities for women that men had claimed for themselves (p. 169); he consequently sees the solution in terms of reasserting responsibility, not institutionalizing yet more irresponsibility. Further, Rushdoony consistently undermines bald appeals to 1 Peter 3:1–7’s teaching concerning Sarah’s relationship with Abraham by emphasizing the narratives of Genesis 16:5 and 21:12 concerning Sarah’s ultimatums to Abraham (which God endorsed). Rushdoony notes of Genesis 21:12 that it is a passage “men rarely if ever use as a sermon text!” (p. 215). An extended exhibition of Rushdoony’s refusal to be pigeonholed by the commonly assumed strictures of patriarchal thinking can be found in the DVD series The Ten Commandments for Today. His interlocutor, Rev. Brian Abshire, tries unsuccessfully to get Rushdoony to agree with him that women must only work as housekeepers at home. Rushdoony, seeing the bigger picture of economic harm inflicted on families by unbiblical statist policies, repeatedly confounds Abshire’s expectations, showing that while the questions may have been scripted, Rushdoony’s answers definitely were not.

15. Joyce, 222. Ms. Joyce’s rhetorical excesses usually arise when “speaking to the choir,” her target audience, something she has in common with many of her opponents. We are grateful to her for providing the correct plural form of Dorothy, of which we were previously unaware.

16. Joyce, 13, 26, and elsewhere, including the back flap of the dust jacket.

17. She could have done so had she been familiar with Rev. Scott Brown’s book, Family Reformation: The Legacy of Sola Scriptura in Calvin’s Geneva (Wake Forest, NC: Merchant Adventurers, 2009). Brown collates the bulk of Calvin’s writings on the question of family, women, daughters, and marriage. The text in many places contradicts assertions reported in Joyce’s book, e.g., Calvin’s view of a daughter’s consent to marriage (p. 242). Brown informs us, “Feminists tell us that a wife under submission is a doormat and a slave. Calvin believed otherwise” (p. 127). Had Joyce dug deeper, she’d have found the correct roots of Biblical patriarchy and could have identified inconsistencies that had since accumulated in the movement. She reports but fails to analyze or synthesize the data except as it supports her preconceived thesis concerning “good, solid, patriarchal, male supremacist theology” (p. 85, quoting Andersen). She therefore cites (favorably, it seems) Andersen’s revisionist creed that “Everything that we read in the Bible isn’t from heaven” (p. 88).

18. Joyce, 161f. The influence of the cultic Woroniecki, “who believes that only he and his family are saved among all the world’s Christians and non-Christians alike” (p. 162), is properly acknowledged by Joyce as the dominant factor in the Yates tragedy.

19. Joyce, 83f (the entire eighth chapter of her book, entitled “Submission and Abuse,” is apposite).

20. R. J. Rushdoony, The Cure of Souls (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2007), 214. See other cases Rushdoony cites on pages 131–132, 200–201, and elsewhere in this landmark posthumously published volume. The prevailing pattern Rushdoony reprehends is laid out on page 230: “Of late, several women have consulted me, and have provided documentation of their victimization by their husbands and their churches” (more egregious illustrations follow this statement).

21. Joyce, 26. The full quote reads, “There’s a temptation to look for Rushdoony’s influence in the wrong places, aligning his thought with the clumsily crusading Bush administration and the publicity of a Christian political class determined to take power in any way possible.” Joyce credits McVicar for these important insights.

22. Joyce, xi–xiv, esp. xiii. The hint of “the possible resurrection of [Ted’s] good name” is astonishing on theonomic grounds, let alone the clear teaching of Ezekiel 34:10 where such shepherds are permanently removed from tending the flock so that they may no longer feed themselves as shepherds.

23. R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. 2: Law and Society (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 1989), 478f.

24. Joyce, 80.

25. Rushdoony, The Cure of Souls, 200.

26. Joyce, 38, describes the “modesty survey” on the Rebelution blog in precisely this way. Such thinking on the part of Christians evidences a studied ignorance of St. James’ argument concerning the true source of temptation: one’s own lusts. Evil is always a moral concern, never a metaphysical one. To hold to the latter is to adopt Manichaeanism over Christianity.

27. When the women in this group upheld their dress as “modest,” I pointed out that if we had brought St. Paul back from the first century and dropped him into this church meeting room, he would likely have assumed all the women present were prostitutes. For a better than average evaluation of these questions, Phillip Kayser’s booklet, Dressed Up for Church: A Contrarian Rag on Appropriate Clothing (Omaha, NE: Biblical Blueprints, 2006, 2009) has some useful insights. Although Dr. Kayser is a friend of mine whom I hold in high esteem, I do not find his exegetical/theological case to be particularly strong, but in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. Dr. Kayser’s orientation is impeccable, even if his execution doesn’t quite bring this difficult topic under control.

28. Ibid., 229f. It should also be pointed out, as an aside, that if men don’t look, demand is reduced and supply will fall accordingly. Men’s failure to “hold their vessel in honor” and maintain a covenant with their own eyes invariably creates the demand. For a different perspective, see Jeff Pollard, Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America (San Antonio, TX: The Vision Forum, Inc., 2004–2008), esp. pp. 63–69. As it turns out, Pollard quotes the passage from Job 31 (pp. 49, 51) but doesn’t let it divert him from his thesis or from essentially charging any would-be critics of “mental gymnastics not befitting a Christian” (p. 65). Canvassing the justly revered works of the Puritans, Pollard cites (among others) Thomas Manton to the effect that women’s failure to fully cover up “lays a snare for the soul” of men (p. 67). Unfortunately, this again plays into the heresy of environmental determinism: at this point, the Puritans had a blind spot no less serious than their inadvertent adoption of the hegemony of autonomous reason over revelation via Thomas Aquinas. Nonetheless, Pollard does us a service in attempting to lay out a Biblical argument. The validity and exegetical soundness of his intriguing arguments (esp. regarding Genesis 3:21) and backup documentation can then be evaluated on the merits. Although he mentions the robes given to the saints in Revelation 6:9–11, he doesn’t touch on the fact that they were apparently unisex apparel (setting aside the question of what a disembodied soul is able to wear in the first place).

29. Joyce, xiv.

30. Noelle Wheeler, Daughters of Destiny (Bulverde, TX: Mantle Ministries, 2000).

31. Joyce, 28: “And women would certainly be second class citizens, not property owners.”

32. Joyce, 53, 79, 136.

33. R. J. Rushdoony, The Institutes of Biblical Law, Vol. 1 (Cherry Hill, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 1973), 429. The entire section, pp. 427–430, is apposite.

34. Ibid., 428.

35. Joyce, 12.

36. Joyce, 223 in particular.

37. Ernst W. Hengstenberg, Christology of the Old Testament, Vol. 2 (MacDill AFB, FL: MacDonald Publishing Company, n.d.), 1234–1238. This exposition dominates Reformed commentaries on Malachi.

38. Joyce, 33, 170.

39. If ever there was occasion for a boycott from today’s ill-considered perspective, it was in Nehemiah 13:15–21, but Nehemiah never objected to transacting business with unbelievers who used the proceeds for evil purposes, he objected rather to transacting business on the Sabbath. Christians have reversed this completely, glibly shopping on the Sabbath while boycotting companies because of what they do with their money, in forgetfulness of Ezekiel 18:1–5’s clear assertions about direct individual responsibility. Use of such carnal weapons (2 Cor. 10:4) entails their use in revenge against Christians, since those who live by the sword will likewise die by it.

40. Joyce, 157. The thought Doug Phillips (a staunch Calvinist) expressed is inadvertently anti-Calvinistic and deals in “heretical hypotheticals” primarily for their rhetorical (teaching) effect. Joyce may not have caught that didactic nuance. Joyce repeats this charge on page 201: “[T]he pro-family movement’s focus on procreation … requires a world of women to dedicate their lives and wombs to demographic battle,” a view no less dangerous, in Joyce’s telling of it, than Yassir Arafat’s opinion that the wombs of Arab women are his secret weapon, or, more ominously yet, the mindset driving the Nazi Lebensborn breeding program. Joyce also draws attention to the concept of a demographic winter. All these numbers games miss the point: if those who adopt the name “Christian” actually took the Bible seriously, the battle would already be won for Christendom. The poor quality of today’s Christians is hurting us far more than the numerical quantity of Christians!

41. Joyce, 185.

42. The issue of political power for women often lies at the heart of the egalitarian question. Patriarchalists cite the third chapter of Isaiah to prove that “women in power over men” is a sign of God’s judgment on a nation. As a bald fact, this is true enough. However, from a practical point of view, patriarchalists regard the placing of women into political office as the cause of God’s judgment, rather than a consequence of His judgment. But taking Isaiah 3 contextually, God decimates the land of competent males (the “stay and the staff”) so that the best rulers remaining are women. This reflects on something that Rushdoony calls “The Failure of Men” (cf. note 12). Women in power are the medicine God dishes out to Israel to shame the men. To reject God’s prescribed judgment on the nation is to compound that judgment. Some patriarchalists treat it as axiomatic that no Christian should vote to put a woman into political office, even if the woman adopts rigorously Biblical positions across the board, because her gender represents an instant disqualification. Such patriarchalists are forced to abstain from voting altogether, or knowingly vote for a male candidate who will undermine justice and further enslave them. More commendable would be attempts to raise up better men for office who will honor their oaths of office and uphold justice, and to take one’s medicine in the meantime. Israel refused to realize they’d reached a point of no return (Deut. 1:41–46) and tried to reverse the judgment against them presumptuously. Although they were instructed to accept the ignominy of the later Babylonian exile (Jer. 29:4ff), and warned that fighting against the Babylonians would be fruitless (Jer. 32:5, and elsewhere), many still refused to take their medicine, to their own hurt. Theonomically, the standard for a ruler (“being just and ruling in the fear of God,” where justice is defined wholly with respect to God’s law) would be the one to apply (meaning that I’m obviously not referring to Sarah Palin or any other statist), and if a woman fills that criterion better than any male candidate, that is the form that God’s judgment is taking on that people. There is, therefore, some authority for regarding any subsequent vote for the male candidate as an attempt to defang the divine judgment laid out in Isaiah 3. This egalitarian question is exacerbated in the case of women attorneys who work tirelessly to save lives in futile care and right-to-life cases, often doing so in a vacuum where no men are laboring, and yet the woman is excoriated for usurping male prerogatives. She valiantly fights Christ’s enemies in front of her, and is shot from behind by Christ’s friends. “The LORD looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene” (Isa. 59:15b–16a NIV). But some think God would be more appalled if a woman stands in the very gap that men failed to stand in, an attitude at least somewhat akin to the Sanhedrin’s reaction to Christ’s cleansing of the Temple (they knew it should have been cleansed, but were offended when Christ cleansed it before they got around to it).


Topics: Biblical Law, Church, The, Culture , Family & Marriage, Justice, Theology

Martin G. Selbrede

Martin is the senior researcher for Chalcedon’s ongoing work of Christian scholarship, along with being the senior editor for Chalcedon’s magazine, Faith for All of Life. He is considered a foremost expert in the thinking of R.J. Rushdoony. A sought-after speaker, Martin travels extensively and lectures on behalf of Christian Reconstruction and the Chalcedon Foundation. He is also an accomplished musician and composer.

More by Martin G. Selbrede