Smash the Patriarchy
A Fathers Day Sermon
It is well-known that there is a massive difference between Mother’s Day sermons and Fathers Day sermons.
Preachers tend to gush over the mothers in their congregation. They praise them for their sacrifice and hard work. And I think that’s good. Faithful mothers should be praised.
But Father’s Day sermons are often used as an opportunity to critique men. To highlight the failure of fathers. More often than not, men are illustrated as useless oafs. Men are made out to be like Homer Simpson or some other sitcom dad.
Moms get a rose on Mother's Day, dads get a kick in the hind side on Father’s Day.
So when I accidentally, did a Mother’s Day sermon a few weeks back entitled, “Christian Women Sin.” It generated some interest online... even a little outrage.
Believe it or not, our church sermons, a church of six months, have already been downloaded around 6000 times. And that sermon has been downloaded about 5x more than any other East River Sermon.
Now, why? Well, most pastors subscribe to a myth I like to call “masculine devils, feminine angels.”
It’s the idea that men are somehow more sinful than our feminine counterparts.
It’s as if women are more pure and holy simply by being females. It wasn’t always this way. There were some very negative views of women in the ancient world and during the medieval period. But that has shifted over time, especially during the romantic era. Both men and women are equally fallen and equally need the grace of God.
Nonetheless, these days most pastors pander to women and rarely correct them for sins specifically related to them. So the sermon title piqued interest.
Now why were some people, even Christians, outraged by the concept of such a sermon without even listening to it? Simply put, the church has been overran by feminism of one sort of another. And pastors aren’t allowed to hold women accountable for anything. Women, they’ll have you know, are victims of the patriarchy.
How dare you critique women when there are so many evil men in the world and women who have been suffering under their reign for centuries and centuries!
We must smash the patriarchy!
And it so goes.
Consequently, most pastors say very little of the failures of women or mothers and much of the failures of men and fathers...especially on Father’s Day.
Seeing how we live in a reactionary time, there is a temptation to flip the script and to lay heavy criticism on women or mothers and heap praise on men or fathers. But that is simply driving the car from one ditch into the ditch on the other side.
What the church needs is a more thoughtful and more biblical doctrine of sexuality which is taught in such a way that it can be applied to issues of our day.
With that in mind, let me throw you a little curve ball. What if I told you the feminists were both right and wrong?
They are right that there is a patriarchy that needs to be smashed. Destroy. Crush into dust.
But they are wrong that patriarchy is evil. Quite the opposite, it is the key to solving the issues of our day both within and without the church.
And just as I primarily spoke to women on Mother’s Day, today I’ll primarily speak to the men.
So let me explain...
Patriarchy is inevitable. God has built it into the fabric of the cosmos. It is part of the divine created order. You could as soon smash it as you could smash gravity. It is natural and irrevocable. Cicero was right: “Custom will never conquer nature; for it is always invincible.
Men were made to rule. They always have and always will. Nothing can change that. Nothing will. It is not a question of whether men will be ruling, but which ones and how.
This is what patriarchy is: the natural rulership of men. The term comes from Greek, and means simply "father rule.”
The history of mankind begins with patriarchy: with a man, Adam, commissioned to be fruitful and to multiply and to rule over the earth in God's stead. That man failed to uphold the name of his Father. How he ruled quickly turned bad. But that he ruled could not be changed. Fathers by nature rule, and he was the father of the human race. This had dire consequences for all those under his fatherhood. The Westminster Shorter Catechism explains:
The covenant being made with Adam, not only for himself, but for his posterity; all mankind, descending from him by ordinary generation, sinned in him, and fell with him, in his first transgression.
Though the woman ate the forbidden fruit before the man, we did not fall in Mother Eve. We fell in Father Adam.
Thus mankind was plunged into an estate of sin and misery by the failure of the first patriarch.
But God, being rich in mercy, made a promise of redemption—a promise handed down through the fathers of his people. He himself told Moses, “I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob” (Exodus 3:6). Consequently, Scripture traces the “promise made to the fathers” until their fulfillment in the finished work of Jesus Christ (Romans 15:8). It is through the work of the Son of Man that man is reconciled to the Father, and we can all become sons of God, fitted to rule on his behalf as Adam should have, and as Jesus does. Fitted to be patriarchs.
Redemptive history is therefore patriarchal history. This is why the societal structures in Scripture, too, are patriarchal: because they all are derived from the original, prototypical household. Before there were nations, there was the original ruling family— headed by Adam. Nations are headed by men because they are made up of households that are headed by men. In the same way, before there were churches, there was the original worshiping family—headed by Adam. Churches are headed by men because they are made up of households that are headed by men. Indeed, a man may not rule in the church unless he can manage his own household well—for how else can he be competent for the greater task of managing the household of faith (1 Timothy 3:4)?
All leadership, whether in the Old or the New Testament, whether civil or domestic or ecclesiastical, is exclusively male. Mary Daly, a feminist scholar, once quipped, “The bible is hopelessly patriarchal.” She was right. But it is not just the Bible. The world itself, being created by the same author, is also “hopelessly patriarchal.”
In no society, anywhere or at any time, have these realities been absent... In every society that has ever existed one finds patriarchy, male attainment, and male dominance.
If you’d like would like an academic treatment of the subject read, Steven Goldberg,
Why Men Rule: A Theory of Male Dominance... even the famous feminist anthropologist Margaret Mead wrote an endorsement for the book.
Patriarchy is the natural and inevitable state of the world. But just because something is natural doesn’t mean that it will always be virtuous. Good things can be perverted by sin. Whereas unnatural things are always evil—because they are contrary to God’s design—natural things, though created good, can nonetheless be turned to unnatural ends.
For example, Homosexual desires are always wrong; heterosexual desires were designed to be good, but they can be twisted by sin.
For a man to be attracted to a woman is natural; for a man to lust after her is sin.
Natural things must therefore be ordered toward the ends God intended for them. They must be conformed to his law.
So it is with patriarchy. Male rule is natural, and so it is inevitable—but when it is not governed by God’s law, it will be wicked.
Because it is natural, it cannot be destroyed—but it can be twisted.
This gives birth to an evil patriarchy: the rulership of wicked fathers, who do not represent the Fatherhood of God. Although our culture treats all patriarchy as evil, God’s father-rule is good. Evil patriarchy is that which does not reflect God’s loving authority. Evil patriarchy hates those under it; it is not so much anti-women as it is anti- everything, and especially anti any threat to its own power.
In fact, you can understand redemptive history through the lens of these warring patriarchies: the power of good patriarchs conflicting with the power of evil ones.
Consider the example of Pharaoh. It was inevitable for Egypt to be ruled by a patriarch. But it was not inevitable that he would be good. The king who ruled in the days of Joseph gave honor to Israel and his sons. But the king who arose in the days of Moses did no such thing. He saw the sons of Israel as a threat to his reign—and he determined to do something about it. At first he tried hard labor, but when this didn't crush their spirits and prevent them from being fruitful and multiplying, he commanded the Hebrew midwives:
When you are helping the Hebrew women to give birth and see them upon the birthstool, if it is a son, then you shall put him to death; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live” (Exodus 1:16).
Pharaoh knew that the young men of Israel, unlike the women, were a threat to his reign. Why? Because all men are potential patriarchs. Men are designed for conquest and rule—and their combined strength could be sufficient to break the chain of even a mighty dynasty like Egypt. So Pharaoh tried to use the Hebrew women against the Hebrew men. But in one of the great ironic reversals of redemptive history, Shiphrah and Puah, the godly midwives, did not comply with the schemes of a corrupt ruler as Eve had done. Rather than being deceived into unwittingly abetting him, they resisted Pharaoh by deceiving him:
But the midwives feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live. So the king of Egypt called for the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this thing, and let the boys live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not as the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife can get to them.” So God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them (Exodus 1:17-21).
Thus, Pharaoh was forced to find another way to murder the future patriarchs of Israel, and "commanded all his people, saying, 'Every son who is born you are to cast into the Nile, and every daughter you are to keep alive'" (v. 22).
Young men are always the target of an evil patriarchy. Because God has made them to rule, they are a threat to existing rule. Therefore, evil patriarchs always try to to do one of three things.
Harness them. Why waste all that masculine energy, after all, if it can be turned toward the ends of the evil patriarch? This is the first impulse of any patriarch, since he is a leader of men, regardless of how wicked or righteous he is. Most nations have done this to some degree, through inculturation and education— especially patriotism, military service, and formal schooling. We see Nebuchadnezzar doing this with the Israelite noblemen (Daniel 1). Our own recent history is replete with examples, from legitimate patriotism that honors the fifth commandment, to vile programs that pervert it, like Hitler Youth, or the Islamic radicalization of disaffected men in America. Pharaoh, too, tried to harness the sons of Israel; we can detect the strong cultural influence of the Egyptians in the idolatry of the Exodus generation.
Pacify them. If the energy of men cannot be harnessed by an evil patriarch, it often can be sapped by channeling it into pursuits that leave them impotent to rebel. This can be done by putting them to work as slaves, as Pharaoh did, but often it is by offering them bread and circuses—fruitless pursuits to escape into, rather than doing the hard work of fighting. Sex is an obvious choice here, as in the case of the Philistines trying to pacify Samson through Delilah (Judges 16:5). In our day, the technique has been perfected with porn, and to a lesser extent video games. Men who are hooked up like junkies to the dopamine drip of virtual fornication and fake dominion are worthless for the task of being fruitful in real life, and imposing genuine order on their worlds. Karl Marx, following his father the original liar, famously said that religion is the opiate of the masses. Not so. It is religion, true religion, which is the one thing that sets the masses free from the actual opiates of fake dominion and fake fruitfulness. When this happens, there is only one option left for evil patriarchs…
Destroy them. Young men who cannot be harnessed or pacified must be crushed. They are too dangerous to an evil patriarchy to be allowed to live. This is why the most godless regimes are always the most murderous. Communism is well-known for its ruthless hunt for dissidents in its own ranks—typically men. Pharaoh determined to kill every baby boy among the Hebrews—even though it would decimate his labor force. Herod, too, sought to have the young Jesus killed by slaughtering the innocent (Matthew 2).
Throughout all of history, we see manifestations of this war between the patriarchies. Men will always rule—but which men? In an evil patriarchy, many men fail to overcome the harnessing, pacifying, and destructive forces arrayed against them. Many men fail to become patriarchs—and many more fail to become good patriarchs, ruling well over the domains God has given them. For many men, either their authority is taken away by those with power over them, or it is twisted. Either way, whoever controls the men controls the culture.
Sometimes the way this war is waged is overt, as in the case of Pharaoh, but sometimes it is more subtle. Consider the example of Absalom. He had his eye on his father David’s throne. He wanted to rule Israel, and he knew the importance of men in achieving his goal. So he hatched a plot.
Men would visit Jerusalem every day to bring legal cases requiring the king’s judgment. Some didn’t feel heard. Maybe they were—maybe they weren’t. Either way, Absalom saw an opportunity:
Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the way to the gate; and when any man had a suit to come to the king for judgment, Absalom would call to him and say, “From what city are you?” And he would say, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “See, your claims are good and right, but no man listens to you on the part of the king.”Moreover, Absalom would say, “Oh that one would appoint me judge in the land, then every man who has any suit or cause could come to me and I would give him justice.” And when a man came near to prostrate himself before him, he would put out his hand and take hold of him and kiss him. In this manner Absalom dealt with all Israel who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole away the hearts of the men of Israel (2 Samuel 15:2-6).
Absalom was able to steal the kingdom from David by stealing the hearts of the men. He invested time in them, took an interest in them, sided with them, and defended them.
Every age has its Pharaohs and its Absaloms. But Absaloms are especially prevalent in times of disruption and disorder. They wait for a power vacuum created by weak and ineffectual patriarchs.
Such is our time. The Absaloms are many. And while that is cause for concern, God is pleased to also raise up bold and godly patriarchs. Consider one last example: Nehemiah.
Centuries after Absalom, that great city where he sat in the gates was reduced to smoldering rubble. Its walls were broken down by Nebuchadnezzar, and its gates were burned with fire. When Nehemiah saw it, he wept. He wept because he knew that a city is protected by its walls, and guided by the men who sit in its gates. Jerusalem had neither. She had been reduced to a chaotic ash heap.
Then Nehemiah said to them, “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach.” (2:17)
We find ourselves in a similar situation. Western society is burning. The structures that led to her prosperity have been broken down. You see this in many realms, but none so clearly as the state of our men. Like the inhabitants of Jerusalem in the days of Nehemiah, our men are in “great distress and reproach” (1:3).
We are living in a world of fatherless males who don’t know how to rebuild the walls of society. They know how to build, explore, and conquer—in video games. But they must turn to YouTube to learn how to jumpstart a car, tie a half-windsor knot, and do a proper push-up.
Social skills are even harder for them. They scour the internet to learn how to stand up for themselves, make friends, and talk to women. The knowledge which is normally transmitted from father to son has been lost. They have to rediscover it for themselves.
As if being fatherless wasn’t bad enough, they are being born into a radically unstable cultural situation.
Masculinity is shamed. Strong men are vilified as toxic. Fathers are portrayed in mass media as unnecessary buffoons—little better than one of the kids. Male suicide is heading for the skies. Male T-counts and grip strength is plummeting. Men are truly weaker and under attack.
All of this would have seemed absurd just fifty years ago.
Yet here we are. Our culture has become like Jerusalem, burning—and so have our men. More correctly, our men have become like Jerusalem, burning—and so has our culture. The men of the West have become ruined cities, and our real cities, states, and nations have followed.
Like a city that is broken into and without walls Is a man who has no control over his spirit. (Proverbs 25:28)
How did we get into this situation? Well, primarily through the failures of fathers who failed to be godly patriarchs. And, of course, there are the evil patriarchs who have harnessed, pacified, and destroyed both men and women.
But regardless, this mess is ours to fix. We are the ones now living in burning Jerusalem, and we are the ones who must rebuild the walls. We are the ones who must overcome the evil patriarchs of our day, whether in the deep state or the media- industrial complex. We are the ones who must refuse to be turned aside to their will by deception and gaslighting, refuse to be numbed by their offers of cheap pleasure, and refuse to be cowed by their intimidation and oppression.
Jerusalem is indeed burning. Many men in the church know it, and they are tired of living in the ash-heap. The conditioning of our culture cannot conquer their masculine nature—they want to fight. But they crave guidance.
When the Babylonians burned Jerusalem, God raised up Nehemiah to rebuild it. But where are the Nehemiahs of our day? Where are the pastors who build with a trowel in one hand, and fight with a sword in the other? Where are the Christian leaders who can rally men with words like this—and mean it?
When I saw their fear, I rose and spoke to the nobles, the officials and the rest of the people: “Do not be afraid of them; remember the Lord who is great and awesome, and fight for your brothers, your sons, your daughters, your wives and your
houses.” (Nehemiah 4:14)
The church is not known for such men. And so in the absence of godly Nehemiahs, young men are turning to Absaloms. Someone must help them repair what is broken, and rebuild what has been lost. The orphans are groping for fathers. And so they find Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, pickup artists, and secular men’s rights advocates. They discover that these men listen. These men understand. These men advocate for them and defend them. These men are trying to fight and build. They have a hammer in one hand, and a firearm in the other.
And so these men steal their hearts.
The church is in danger of losing another generation of men. We are in danger of prolonging our time in exile. We need Nehemiahs who will lead men in the work of rebuilding—but they are few. Many leaders in the church won't even acknowledge that Jerusalem is burning at all. And the ones that do often can't honestly explain why. They are blind guides, prescribing solutions that not only fail to address the core problem, but create more of that problem.
Men... Brothers... Fathers...
What are you going to do about these evil men? These evil patriarchs..this evil patriarchy.
Are you going to let them steal your sons? Oppressed your daughters. Make you their slaves. Or will you smash the evil patriarchy?
Listen, the devil is the father of lies. Step number one for men is to reject his fatherhood and humble yourself before Father God.
He will strengthen you.
And we need fathers to stand up and fight. There is a spiritual battle going on. It’s intense.
As Paul says in 1 Cor 16, you need to be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, and be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.”
Fathers, a lot rides on your faithfulness. We must step up. Lead ourselves, lead our families, lead our churches, and our communities. Take heart, our God has made you to lead. Do it.