Men Need To Hear What Women Have To Say (Why Patriarchy Is Still A Problem)

Patriarchy has been around forever – and it is still here today.

According to Webster:

Patriarchy is… social organization marked by the supremacy of the father in the clan or family, the legal dependence of wives and children, and the reckoning of descent and inheritance in the male line; control by men of a disproportionately large share of power.

Or basically, “The dudes make all the important decisions, and the women quietly submit to them.”

Of course, much has changed in Western society – but around the world and within the church, many (dudes) are still clinging to patriarchy. In the news this week a story of 100+ school girls being kidnapped by Islamic extremists in Nigeria is a jarring reminder of what’s at the heart of patriarchy: the desire to control by force.

The dudes (members of the Boko Haram terrorist group) have recently intensified their efforts. They had been showing up at schools to warn the girls: “Go home, get married, and forget education – it’s un-Islamic.” But now, they’re using force (because that’s what is at the heart of patriarchy – the desire to control by force).

Patriarchy was a problem in Bible times too…

When Mary Magdalene went to visit the tomb where Jesus had been buried, she discovered the stone had been rolled away and it was empty. As she turned to leave, Jesus was standing there. And He gave her a message to preach: “Go tell the boys…” (John 20.17-18)

She was commissioned and entrusted to be the first one to share the Good News of a resurrected Savior.

A woman, with something to say.

She rushed to the men and gave them the message, and their reaction was priceless:

But the story sounded like nonsense to the men, so they didn’t believe it. (Luke 24.11)

mary preaching to the boys

Was it the content of the message that sounded like nonsense? Or was it the fact that a woman was telling them to believe something new?

Their reaction (What a bunch of nonsense! Silly woman with your wives tales) is cringe-worthy. Also cringe-worthy are these quotations from the church leaders and theologians through the ages…

“Woman is a temple build over a sewer.” —Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity”

“Women’s very consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame.” —Saint Clement of Alexandria

“Woman does not possess the image of God in herself but only when taken together with the male who is her head, so that the whole substance is one image. But when she is assigned the role as helpmate, a function that pertains to her alone, then she is not the image of God. But as far as the man is concerned, he is by himself alone the image of God just as fully and completely as when he and the woman are jointed together into one.” —Saint Augustine

“What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman… I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children. —Saint Augustine

“To put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil… Thus in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man. Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good.” —Saint Albertus Magnus

“As regards to the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence.” —Thomas Aquinas

“The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes.” —Martin Luther

“No gown worse becomes a woman than the desire to be wise.” —Martin Luther

These quotes are certainly troubling, but they’re not just part of some shady church history. They are still being shoveled out to the masses. Here’s what one wildly popular celebrity pastor recently said:

A husband should be the firm and responsible head of his household, the leader of a “little flock called home and family.” He should think of his wife as “a garden” and himself as “the gardener.” If you look at your garden and don’t like how it looks, just remember: “You are the gardener.”

It’s the same ol’ same ol’ – power, control by force – patriarchy.

board of men cartoon deciding on women


Patriarchy is still a problem. Every time some dude gets all bent out of shape and goes sideways in the church over some specific issue, I only ever hear from the dude. Every time.

This kind of dude never brings his wife to the meeting. He comes alone. He accuses. He demands a response (the one he wants). He comes for a showdown and he plans to win.

And every time I am in one of these meetings, I find myself thinking, “What does his wife think about this issue? What does she have to say about it?”

Again, here’s what I believe: MEN NEED TO HEAR WHAT WOMEN HAVE TO SAY.

I don’t agree with Tertullian and Saint Augustine and Martin Luther and Bill Gothard and Pat Robertson and Mark Driscoll on this issue.

I believe Mary Magdalene had something important to say.

I believe women in my church have something important to say.

I believe the women in my city and country and world have something important to say.

And I believe the women in my life have something important to say.

I want to listen. I want to learn. I want to be challenged. I want to be corrected. I want to be led…

By men and women.

Patriarchy is still a problem today.

Control by force might be the way some dudes like it, but it is not the way of Jesus – not then, not now.



This post on Angela Hagebusch’s blog, 3 Reasons I believe We Need Women In Ministry

This post, Chuza’s Wife


Q. What do you think about patriarchy?


I am a husband, father, pastor, leader & reader. I love God, love people & love life.

16 Comments to Men Need To Hear What Women Have To Say (Why Patriarchy Is Still A Problem)

  1. Great blog PB. You were/are always so encouraging to me about being in ministry & speaking. Thank you for that. Thank you for fanning into flame the gift that God has given me. You were very instrumental in building confidence in me to do what God has asked, even when others frowned on it because of my gender. I am glad that there are pastors out there like you & support women & want to hear from us. God does speak to us. God does use us. Thanks for equipping & empowering instead of belittling & shushing :)

  2. Alan Ambrose

    Well written post. I do hope we have mostly come a long way from the opinions held by those you quoted. I would suggest they are products of their culture expressing unredeemed opinions that conflict so clearly with God’s word. Patriarchy remains a problem today when we bring our culture to our interpretation of the biblical texts and don’t consider how God’s plan so often confronts and contradicts the culture it speaks to. We need to love one another in community. That means seeking the best for each member of the community and seeking the greatest fulfillment of each of their talents regardless of their gender. To inhibit the giftings of those in our community is not showing love.

  3. Really love this post. Embarrassed by how little the voice of women is heard in churches too. I’m going to a YP event and I think I’ll “borrow” (claim it as my own) some of these quotes when I talk with the YPs.

    Thanks for writing.

  4. Being married to one of the strongest women I’ve ever met, I have faced a number of “dudes”, as you called them, who felt I needed to get control of my household and put “my woman” in her place, as if she were a possession of mine, like my car or lawnmower.

    The strength of her personality made it difficult for her early in our marriage because she felt as if maybe I felt like they did and just kept my feelings to myself in order to keep peace. After I explained to her that (1) I don’t feel threatened or intimidated by the strength of her personality, I actually respect and admire her for it; (2) I value her input on the decisions we make; and (3) I don’t really care what these “dudes” think about our relationship. The truth is, most of my closest friends have very strong personalities. I like being around people who inspire me to be a better man – and that is what Shelly does – not by asking or nagging, but by being a person of exceptional character who possesses great passion for her convictions.

    I also point out that I do not shrink back and let her make decisions for us. The truth is, I am not one who needs to have my own way on most issues that I don’t deem critical. I’m pretty easy going on most things, so most of our decisions are easy teamwork. There are issues from time to time, however, where I will not bend or compromise. That she chooses to defer to my will in the times when she may disagree is quite humbling.

    I believe scripture places men as the head of the household, in the position of responsibility for leadership and accountability. To me this is more of a humbling thing than any sort of gender driven priveledge. I am responsible for showing Shelly, our children, and now our grand-children how to follow Christ. It is only after I have loved her the way Christ loves His bride (the church) and give myself for her like He did, that I have any right to demand her submission (I will let you know if I ever get there). The responsibilities far outweigh any perks, in my opinion, so I seek her input actively. If the years have taught me anything, it’s that I have blind spots – and the beauty of spending a lifetime with Shelly is that she sees them and helps me avoid the pitfalls that go with them. I need to hear what she has to say – she makes me a better man.

    As for women in the Church, the truth is there would not be church in America if not for women. The patriarchal ministers you referenced would not have a ministry if not for women – because, for the most part, American men like the perceived perks of their patriarchal notions, but deny the responsibilities that go with them. America’s preoccupation with materialism, sex, and escapism is, I belive, directly attributable to the leadership of males “whose god is thier belly (their passions). It is seldom a man will turn to Christ, then lead his wife and family to faith as well. It is almost always the wife who loves and prays her husband into a relationship with Christ.

    I don’t think I need to apologize for being a man, and I don’t think that is what you are implying here, but you are absolutely right, we all need to hear what each other has to say, “male or female, Jew or Greek, bond or free.”

  5. Ouch + hallelujah. So hard to read those quotes …

    And it’s always bothered me so much that the disciples responded in that way to Mary Magdalene.

    Thankful for how you want to listen and thank you for addressing this. We need men and women to speak up, YES.

    I love men, but I hate patriarchy, because, as you said, it’s a system that perpetuates control and abuse of power. I am thankful that is not my God’s heart.

  6. Excellent! It was no surprise for me to hear what some “dudes” said about women. Thank you for puting your thoughts into words, so ALL can benefit from them.

  7. Man and women were created by god to compliment one another. Man is useless without woman and woman useless without man. We both have very different roles and as long as we are aware of this we can be very helpful to each other, and accomplish much more than we would sitting around trying to figure out who is more awesome. It is our unique perspectives that together allow us to find the truth.

  8. Fantastic post and great thoughts. Thanks so much for the support. When women and men work together, talking issues through and discussing the way forward, the Body of Christ has a far better chance of being healthy and well. Kudos.

  9. Danielle P.

    I have a question for Saint Augustine, “Would you still think the same way if Jesus had been a Jewish Woman?”

    It’s not impossible to assume that a woman, having been allowed to study the Jewish laws and teachings, could have interpreted them in such a way which would have emboldened her to act within her society the way that Jesus did. It’s not impossible to believe that a woman doing such things, would have offended the government & religious leaders in the same way which He did. In all probability, it’s understandable that if she Did live Like Jesus Did, she might end up getting herself executed with the rest if the common criminals, insurrectionists, and potential usurpers. Just like Jesus did.

    In fact, I would go as far as to say, that given the huge following Jesus attained there must have been at least one, and probably numerous, women who were indeed killed by crucifixion, for following Jesus’ Way. Another question I have for Saint Augustine, which I really wish he could answer, “If the Messiah Christ had come in the form of a woman, would the sacrifice have still been sufficient enough, to purchase free relationship with the Father for Everyone?” If anyone wants to take a stab at that one go right ahead, since The Saint is dearly departed.

  10. Danielle P.

    This blog is so funny. Lol, sorry but I’ve just been thinking about it today, and Today I happen to find it very funny :-D I guess it’s just one of those “coincidence” things, but it’s come up numerous times today and I reflected back on this to see if anyone else has commented. No one has, but still, I had to laugh.

  11. Thank you for seeking to break down walls and build bridges of mutual respect and love between men and women in the church. I’m convinced that if we can cross this bridge together, the best days for the church are ahead of us.

  12. A note re: Luther’s quotes (above) were written pre-marriage and were earlier writings. He married a very strong-willed ex-nun, Katherine, who pretty much ran the house. She had a lot to say about theology, Luther, and interactions. The lucky fellow became more mellow after marriage.

    Enjoyed this blog. Thanks, Brian. Each of us gets to choose for every interaction whether to be like Jesus or not. Our behaviors shape the lampshade of the light of Christ shining through us. From some, the light and generosity of a relationship with God shines brightly. In others, there’s a lot of layering around the message – including patriarchy.

  13. Callie Bergstrom

    Brian, thanks for writing this post. I admit, it is very hard to read what some of the earliest church “fathers” said about women, if this is the foundation of the church we are in trouble. But you remind me and us that Jesus is the true foundation of the church. I am very glad to be a new member of NW Life and see the leadership you share with men and women in embracing their diverse perspectives.

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