Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Patriarchy: The New Legalism?

The so-called Patriarchy movement is gathering momentum in Christian circles. It can be seen in ministries like Doug Philip’s Vision Forum, Philip Lancaster’s Patriarch Magazine, and R. C. Sproul Jr.’s Highland Study Center (but note Sproul’s recent defrocking!). This is a much more radical Christian response than the Piper-Grudem-esque Council for Biblical Manhood-Womanhood wing of evangelicalism. I believe it is also a much more radical approach to revival and reformation than those who are seeking church reform like Mark Dever, et al, in that it seeks a reformation in the institution of family that will, in turn, influence churches. The Patriarch movement has now engendered the "family-integrated" church movement.

The danger with any purity movement, however, seems to be legalism. Some are warning of "familiolotry." Pastor Pete Hurst of Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church in Hampton, Virginia, a PCA congregation that experienced a split over this issue, has an interesting sermon series on Patriarchy that is worth a listen in evaluating this new movement and the issue of Christian conscience.


Frank Vance said...

Thanks Pastor Jeff for this timely posting. It's obvious that RC Sproul Jr and Doug Phillips are neo-legalists (I don't know anything about Philip Lancaster, so no comment there). Both Sproul and Phillips have bad reputations for lording it over their congregations. Both men are known to have engaged in unbiblically "disciplining" their church members over minor theological disagreements and then ordering their congregations to shun the "disciplined" families. Both men operate as though they were Jehovah's Witness pastors, and so it's for good reason that both have sometimes been called "cult leaders."

In Sproul's case his ecclesiastical abuses resulted in his being defrocked. Phillips is a lot more shrewd and operates independent of any denomination so that he doesn't have to be accountable to anyone. Spiritual abuse seems to go hand-in-glove with the Patriarchy movement and it's not for completely unfounded reasons that most of the Patriarchy leaders are referred to not only as neo-legalists but also as misogynists.

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...


Thanks for posting, but to be honest I feel a little uneasy about some of your comments and do not want to pass on hearsay about either of the men you mention or their ministries. In truth I have benefited from reading both Sproul, Jr and Philips but do have some questions on their theology (particularly in the area of ecclesilogy). As the posting title indicates, I am wondering: Is the Patriarchy movement a "new legalism"? So, I am not yet ready--as you apparently are--to declare them "neo-legalists."

Redshirt59 said...

Interesting reading, albeit a lot later than you wrote it, Pastor Jeff. I didn't see a contact address, so I'm using this blog to ask you a question or two.

Here's our situation, we moved from a Florida Presbytian Church in America (PCA) church, though attended a Baptist church for 3 years before our move since there was no PCA church nearby. We're now living in the Hampton Roads area of SE Virginia. We'd been told about Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church & visited it along with all the other PCA churches in the area, and then were told about the splinter church that split from Calvary.

We aren't looking for gossip but sincerely want/need to know what the doctrinal differences between the two. We got some general discriptions of the splinter church but no church name. Some of what we heard (family oriented worship, percentage of home schooled children, holding fast to doctrinal standards, etc.) have great appeal to us and our beliefs. Having visited Calvary, however, it kind of seemed pretty much that way, too.

Just wondering, since you commented about the split as it seemed to perhaps be centered around the Patriarch movement (and we haven't found much more about the split), would you be kind enough to tell us what you do know about it?
> When did it occur?
> What were the issues that caused the split?
> What is the name of the splinter church?
> Anything else pertinent on the subject?

I might mention that, during our visit, the folks the left Calvary in the split are spoken very highly of so it seems especially curious as to what happened.

Thanks so much for your time - we have three adopted special (emotional/psychiatric) needs children (ages 8, 9, and 11) that we home school. We badly need to find a church home quickly with the least "shopping" we possibly can.

Blessings, in advance, to you for your help. Larry & Sally

Jeffrey T. Riddle said...


I do not have any insider info on the divisions at this church other than what I overheard on Pastor Hurst's sermons and what I read on the site www.patriarchy.org. I do not know anyone personally involved. I would encourage you to approach the pastor and elders for information. I wish you well in your ministry to your family and in seeking a Christ-centered church where you can grow in and serve the Lord.


Anonymous said...

Praise God that people are being loosed from this deception. I was once under some aspects of this thinking...and it grew into greater and greater legalism in my own life. It is interesting how a truth- we have left gender roles- can be used by the enemy of our soles to create a greater error...the oppression of legalism, with all of the heaviness, pride, and judgment that follows. I harshly judged women who did not wear the long skirts...not just skirts- but LONG ONES... Saints, be aware- a LITTLE LEAVEN leavens the whole lump. I am not commenting on the men and teachers named here but I encourage all to return to the Word to see Jesus' view and teaching on women and family. (And I am not a feminist...I believe the Word is inerrant)However...in Christ...there is no male or female...and we are to love Him more than our natural families. A key word...UNBALANCED. Which has opened the door to an error that only seems to grow, and ensnare more and more sisters, brothers and families. Lord Jesus, please set your people free!!!! Please watch 50 signs of a Pharisee by Zac Poonen...on YT and may you all be loosed as I was- from a heavy yoke that was not of Christ. I'd also like to note that legalism is the trap that ensnares the most sincere believers...the ones most wanting to please God...which is why it is so dangerous. I was offended by the term "legalist" when I was under it...but one day prayed Isaiah 56 "that God would loose me from any yoke that I didn't even know about."Well He really did answer that prayer! Praise His holy name!

Anonymous said...

I only wish that christians would learn to accept the differences we have within ourselves. Some are fat and some are fit. Some live in the city, some in the country, some are rich, some are poor, some homeschool, some send their kids to public school. Some christian families are large, some small. Some love animals, some don't. Some drive SUV's, some drive hybrids. Some drink wine or beer without thinking it is sin, some would never touch it. Some love the beach, others love the mountains. Some women wear pants, and others wear dresses. We all have one thing in common, a savior who met us where we were with all our sins and faults, problems and troubles and without judging us freely offered His sacrifice to pay our sins. Then He said a few important things- "Love God. Love your neighbor. Follow Me." He did not say follow Gothard, patriarchy, quiverfull or any movement that has come and gone since Paul started writing as moved by the spirit.

Isn't it interesting how God does not repeat Himself? There are millions of species that have been created with hundreds of ways of procreating, eating, moving, sleeping, within their environment.
Here are a few on God's One-Time-Only Wonders....There was only one Abraham who by faith believed God's promise to make him a nation (and he had only one son from Sarah), only one Moses who led the Israelites out of Egypt and witnessed the one and only parting of the Red Sea, only one Noah who rode out the flood with all the animals on the one and only ark, just one David who using only one stone, brought down a giant. And one Mary who was visited by the one Holy Spirit to become mother of the one and only Jesus who proclaims that HE is the only One by whom salvation can be had. None of them attended any Gothard seminars and large home taught families was their only way of life because there was no birth-control. Nor were there cars nor electric lights back then but we use them now without feeling sinful. And God has made only one YOU and one ME...an incredible distinct personality found lost and wandering that He will paint and frame into one masterpiece! And that masterpiece will look like no other!

polymathis said...

You may be interested in the well-researche articles on this movement at ChristianNurture.blogspot.com

What is a Family Integrated Church?
Review of the Movie and the book
Mr. Brown's "Regulative Principle of Discipleship"

If one just evaluated their historical arguments alone, they would be found wanting and discredited

It has now spawned a new denomination (Covenant Presbyterian Church)!


susan's saddle stands said...

could you write an article of the dangers of following the writings to those who promote patriarchy such as Biblical Gender Roles and (The) Transformed Wife...both of these write and endorse that God's only role for women is wife, motherhood and house keeper --that a career is basically sin or at least not God's will for them.

Both say education can interfere with a woman's role as wife, mother etc and they are to have as many kids as they can. BGR recently called woman pigs if they dare to interrupt or say something contradictory to what their husband says while in public with him.

Careers outside the home are looked down upon, the exception being a widow or divorcee who must work. BGR goes so far as to say it is ok for a Christian man to view porn because that is how god made him to be.

Any Christian seeking to follow and grow in god must be warned away from sites like these as following what they say is god's will can lead to abuse.