Challenging Kevin De Young's Defence of Patriarchy
Over at Desiring God, Kevin De Young has written on, “Death to the Patriarchy? Complementarity and the Scandal of ‘Father Rule’.”
KDY is upfront that he stands for biblical complementarity, “As a conservative, Reformed, evangelical Christian, I applaud the vision of ‘equality with beneficial differences’ and stand resolutely opposed to all forms of domination, exploitation, and oppression.”
KDY says he also rejects patriarchy if patriarchy is conceived as “male supremacy that operates at the expense of women.” He soberly acknowledges that, “If sexual differentiation, subordination, and role distinctions are prima facie evidence of exploitation, then patriarchy, of any sort at any point in history, is going to be undesirable.”
Despite that, KDY wonders if complementarianism is really sufficient for a biblical vision for male and female roles because “complementarianism, for many Christians, amounts to little more than a couple of narrow conclusions about wives submitting to husbands in the home and ordination in the church being reserved for men.” Complementarianism perhaps needs to be anchored in a broader and bigger reality like patriarchy.
Thus, KDY wonders if we have been too quick to dispense with patriarchy. He muses: “We should be careful not to banish patriarchy to the ash heap of history too quickly. For starters, we should question the notion that patriarchy equals oppression.” The problem as KDY sees it feminists want to interpret everything through the lens of oppressor and oppressed.
Further, KDY points out, “To defend patriarchy, as presently and popularly understood, is to defend the indefensible. And yet, most complementarians do not realize that in rejecting patriarchy, they have, according to the contemporary rules of the game, rejected the very reality they thought they could reclaim by an appeal to complementarity.”
In other words, patriarchy may not be popular, but complementarianism needs it!
Well, KDY claims that patriarchy has been a social constant in human societies where family roles were stable with males in charge and women in subordinate home-making roles. Patriarchy is sociologically ubiquitous because it is hardwired into our biology.
For KDY, patriarchy of some form is necessary to reify our biological differences, thus he warns, “To ignore, minimize, or repudiate the differences between men and women is to reject our creational design and the God who designed it.” KDY, borrowing from the work of Steven Goldberg, then makes his main point. Patriarchy is the result of our divinely designed biology. Men, because of their biological characteristics, are suited to rule, which is why there are far more male CEOs and presidents than women. Patriarchy is necessary as it “reflects innate differences between the sexes, then we would do well to embrace what is — while fighting the natural effects of sin in the way things are — rather than pursuing what never will be.”
KDY notes too that “where patriarchy is already absent, dysfunction and desperation have multiplied. That’s because patriarchy, rightly conceived, is not about the subjugation of women as much as it is about the subjugation of the male aggression and male irresponsibility that runs wild when women are forced to be in charge because the men are nowhere to be found. … Fifty years of social science research confirms what common sense and natural law never forgot: as go the men, so goes the health of families and neighborhoods. The choice is not between patriarchy and enlightened democracy, but between patriarchy and anarchy.”
KDY expectedly concludes: “The biblical vision of complementarity cannot be true without something like patriarchy also being true.”
Do I have any thoughts on this? Well, much like my response to KDY’s acidic criticism of Beth Allison Barr, “Why yes, yes I do!” I have four points of contention:
1. KDY is insufficiently Calvinistic.
2. KDY is insufficiently biblical.
3. KDY moves from biology to application and misses everything in between!
4. KDY posits a false dichotomy.
Let me explain …
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