Misogyny vs. Godly Patriarchy

Once in a while, I run across a comment or article from a “conservative” Lutheran chiding us for sometimes being misogynistic.  Here is one example from a couple years back.  The chide is sometimes directed toward the first person plural.  “We conservative Lutherans need to admit that we have a misogyny problem.”  We do?  Do we have an overflow of pastors and laymen not allowing their wives to have any more children?  Or is this referring to our stance on what the Scriptures give men and women to do in the church and home (1 Cor 14; 1 Tim 2; 1 Pet 3)?  The problem I often find with this claim of misogyny is that it is not an argument from Scripture.  It is rather an emoting argument from vague allusions to men not being nice enough when they talk about the roles of women and other such things.

Let’s get some things straight.  God created man male and female.  The woman was taken from the man.  The husband is the head of his wife, and as such he should love her as Christ loved the church.  The wife is the body of her husband, and as such, she should not have any authority over either her husband or the other men in the congregation.  This is why St. Paul teaches quite literally that women should not speak publicly in the assembly (1 Cor 14:34).  Of course, this doesn’t include singing with the rest of the congregation, as this is something Paul clearly tells all to do (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16).  It includes what St. Paul tells Timothy to do (1 Tim 4:13), to devote himself to the public reading, admonishing, and teaching.  These are the things women are not supposed to do in the assembly.

Now, St. Paul also teaches Timothy to treat all older women as mothers and all young women as sisters (1 Tim 5:2).  He tells Titus to have the older women teach.  Teach whom?  The younger women.  Teach them what?  What it means to be Christian wives and mothers (Titus 2:3,4).  Paul also explains that when women confess that they are not the heads of their husbands by their outward customs, such as covering their heads, then they are actually confessing the gospel, which tells us that Christ is our gracious head who also willingly submits to the Father (1 Cor 11:3; cf. 1 Cor 15:28).  Thus, submission is a glorious thing, under which is hidden what is most precious to God, a gentle and quiet spirit of faith and godliness.  Christ’s submission to the Father gained for us our eternal righteousness to stand before God without spot or wrinkle, clean from sin and free from condemnation.

This is only a quick rundown of what we can call godly patriarchy.  But one of the most important things to remember is that godly patriarchy, which teaches us not simply how to obey in this life (law), but who our Father in heaven is (gospel), is not recognized by the world.  The world can recognize the law part of patriarchy, but they will only hate it.  Because they don’t know the gospel!

So with this in mind, when some non-theological “conservative” Lutheran tosses around the term misogyny, what is his main concern?  Consider the example above.  The author’s main concern is our conservative Lutheran image before the world.  It is not about what is true and how we can be clear about what is true.  It is rather about what “seems” to the outside.  “Why does it seem that so many conservative gentlemen . . . seem like misogynists?”  He then goes on to say this: “I wish my political party wouldn’t trot out the Palin’s and Bachmann’s of the world as tokens but rather highlight and praise the likes of Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe (you can go ahead and google them now).”  I did google them.  Both have been longtime pro-abortion candidates, not to mention proponents of perverted marriage.

I’ve been meaning to respond to this particular article since it was first written, but then it came and went while other issues or non-issues have arisen.  But I wanted only briefly to return to it today since it only serves as an example of how desperately people want to be acknowledged by the world.  We are not to conform to the world just enough to get them to glorify us.  We are to show forth our good works so that God would be glorified by those who actually come to fear and trust in him.  This simply means that we speak the truth clearly and with humility.  Pandering to those who hate God the Father Almighty is a far cry from speaking clearly and not setting any unnecessary stumbling block before outsiders.

The stumbling block is the cross.  We “conservative Lutherans” all agree on this.  But consider this also.  The cross alone is our theology, so says Luther.  This doesn’t mean, however, that the rest of theology, which isn’t specifically talking about Christ’s death, is not our theology.  It means the opposite, namely, that all of our theology is centered on the cross.   To him, all the prophets bear witness (Acts 10:43).  If this is the case, then what Moses records about men and women bears witness, mysteriously, to the gospel.  This is a conclusion St. Paul makes more than once (Eph 5; 1 Cor 11).

So if you are going to throw out the word misogynist to describe “some of us conservatives,” then first consider the theological arguments being made.  Are some guys more legalistic?  Sure!  But what does that prove?  First, what does the Bible say?  Next, is it possible for us, in Christian freedom, to express what the Bible says when we participate in what we often call adiaphora, things neither commanded nor forbidden?  Is it possible to be a jerk and force ceremonies down throats without teaching the doctrine they represent?  Of course!  But is this necessarily misogyny, or is it just being foolish and/or legalistic?

“Misogyny” is a lot like the word “racist,” “bigot,” and “anti-Semite.”  While they do mean something, and they certainly describe people who do actually exist, their often flippant use in our society renders them almost completely meaningless.

So does judgment begin at the household of God (4:17)?  Absolutely!  Should we take the plank out of our own eye (Matt 7:5)?  Most definitely!  Should we judge ourselves lest we be condemned with the world (1 Cor 11:31-32)?  That’s the point!  God is the one who judges!  So let’s judge ourselves according to his Word.  Let’s make sure that we actually acknowledge what God’s Word says.  Let’s strive, by God’s grace, to be theologians, clear in the truth we confess.  And I don’t care if your portfolio doesn’t include a theological degree.  After all, if theological theses, treatises, and academic articles amount to nothing but pages of nerd-notes with zero theological assertions, then they are worse than useless.  But a theologian confesses.  This is what it means to be a man, by the way.  And I think I can at least speak for my wife when I say: Women love it when their husbands talk like men.

About Pastor Andrew Preus

Pastor Andrew Preus is the pastor of Trinity Lutheran/St. Paul Lutheran, Guttenberg/McGregor, IA. He is the eighth of eleven sons, with one sister. He received his seminary training at Concordia Lutheran Theological Seminary, St. Catharines, ON (MDiv) from 2009 to 2013, and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN (STM) from 2013 to 2014. His main theological interests include Justification and Church and Ministry. He is married to Leah Preus (nee Fehr), and they have four children: Jacob, Solveig, Kristiana, and Robert.


Misogyny vs. Godly Patriarchy — 15 Comments

  1. Great article! You’ve put your finger on a problem we’ve had in the Missouri Synod for a very long time. We’re so concerned about how we’re perceived by people who reject what we teach. Better to be concerned about teaching God’s teaching with clarity, as you have been doing on this topic, and let God deal with such matters as how we are perceived.

  2. Thanks, Pastor Preus for writing this article. It is much needed to clarify things and you do a great job of it!

    We are not to strive to be man-pleasers. We are to follow God’s Word no matter the consequences. God’s Word promises that we will be persecuted for it.

    Exactly what is mysogynistic about Ephesians 5 where Saint Paul tells husbands to “…love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…” Christ DIED for the church and likewise men are to DIE for their wives! I don’t know a higher position that God could possibly have given to women!

    Blessings in Christ Jesus,
    Ginny Valleau

  3. “We are not to conform to the world just enough to get them to glorify us. We are to show forth our good works so that God would be glorified by those who actually come to fear and trust in him.”

    This should be the header on the Steadfast Lutherans website. Wonderfully expressed. Keep up the good work!

  4. I checked my dictionary. “Misogyny” does not mean “not allowing [one’s] wives to have any more children.” Let’s not build on straw and stubble.

  5. The point of the article is not built on straw and stubble, but here was the point not to be missed or ignored:

    “The problem I often find with this claim of misogyny is that it is not an argument from Scripture. It is rather an emoting argument from vague allusions to men not being nice enough when they talk about the roles of women and other such things.”

  6. @William M. Cwirla #6

    I’m simply pointing out that the charge of misogyny could easily be leveled from the other side if we really want to dig for it. I teach that wife and mother are the highest offices bestowed on women, which inform how we should treat women even if they are not actually wives and mothers. Those who speak this way are seen as being misogynistic. Actually, no. They are seen as _seeming_ misogynistic in _how_ they talk about this. But where is the outcry against the culture teaching our churches to despise the gift of children? How is it misogynistic to say that the womanly offices God instituted, by virtue of being instituted by God, are the highest and noblest and most important offices women could have, while it is not misogynistic to deny to women what God has revealed in his Word he desires to give them? That’s the irony.

  7. Wife and mother are not “offices.” An office is a position of authority into which one is place, and can leave or be deposed from. Wife and mother are called Stand (German) or genus vitae (Latin) in the small catechism. Never Amt or officium. Again, definitions matter where texts matter.

  8. To the point: The linked and cited article by Daniel van Voorhis in no way disparages women as wives or mothers. His point is that the rhetoric used to defend “biblical patriarchy” often treats women as inferior to men, which would be an aspect of misogyny, properly speaking. Before one can speak of any particular ordering of husband and wife, one needs to acknowledge the equal priestly dignity of male and female before God (Genesis 1:27).

  9. @William M. Cwirla #9

    There is no distinction I have ever come across between officium and status, besides the fact that officium more often means duty. In fact, here is an example when they are used interchangeably — Apology XIII, 15:
    “Quodsi matrimonium propterea habebit appellationem sacramenti, quia habet mandatum Dei, etiam __alii status seu officia__, quae habent mandatum Dei, poterunt vocari sacramenta sicut magistratus.”
    “But if on that account matrimony shall have the title of sacrament, because it has the mandate of God, then also __other stations and offices__, which have God’s mandate, can be called sacraments, just as the magistracy.” Status and officium are used to describe the same thing, including both matrimony as well as the civil government.

    Also, mothers are in a position of authority, as are wives. And they can be deposed. Jesus gives the example of Adultery. A mother commits a heinous crime and she is put to death, thus removed from her office as mother.

  10. @William M. Cwirla #9

    Actually, Luther uses the word “Ämter” (along with “Berufe,” which also happens to be the word used when speaking of the Divine Call auf deutsch, nicht war?) in the subheading to the Table of Duties in the Small Catechism, which directs the Christian to the divinely instituted offices of wife and parent.

    Great article, Andrew!

  11. “Your desire will be to control your husband.” Gen 3:16
    Radical feminists also desire to control all men.
    It’s a curse.

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