Is God Patriarchal?

“It’s well known that the fall came through Eve.” As Adam claimed, “It was the woman you gave me, she gave me to eat.” This is a double accusation, not just against the woman, but also against God. It portrays the human nature, present in both Adam and Eve: to point the finger at others.

Part of the result of this fall was a patriarchal society that missed God’s intention. We need father and mother figures in our families, but the power of the male can get out of balance. This was reflected right through Genesis. Men with power began to take women, as many as they wanted, whenever it pleased them (Gen 6). That’s a terrible statement when you think of it for a while. (This continued after the flood, sometimes in a more civilized fashion with kings and their concubines: especially Solomon. The Song of Solomon is partly a critique of this false love and false power.)

Judah took a prostitute just for his own pleasure, but when he found out Tamar was pregnant out of wedlock he wanted to stone her. When it was disclosed that Tamar acted more nobly than Judah, out of frustration from the terrible patriarchal laws on inheritance excluding women, Judah confessed his sin, but no one called for Judah’s stoning. This culture continued right through to the Pharisees’ time, who wanted to stone a woman caught in adultery, but there was no mention of the man, who was present.

This pattern has continued to some degree through our Christian patriarchal societies. Though monogamy is an improvement, there has been a hierarchical structure in our societies that has favoured the powerful.

Now enter Jesus and the kingdom of God. Aha, Jesus is a male, so that closes our discussion! I could say Jesus embraced many qualities in character which we may traditionally ascribe to either male or female, reflecting in himself more fully the image of God. But he was also conceived in a virgin: Joseph had no part in this conception, but Mary did. So the woman who was blamed in the Garden becomes the one through whom redemption comes. See how God brings male and female together in redemption, that neither is complete without the other. This mutual respect, honor and love is God’s plan in his kingdom.

We see this also in the resurrection. The first to witness it and to preach the gospel of Jesus’ risen Lordship was a woman, but not just a woman, a former prostitute, out of who came seven demons. This is quite deliberate. What God is saying here is that his new kingdom, which has come into the world through the resurrection, is one which turns our cultures upside down. It makes the powerful the servant, just as Jesus served on the cross. It heralds finally the transformation of our cultures, through a new heart.

Now we get to a sticky point: the Catholics veneration of Mary. I’m not a Catholic, so it’s hard for me to comment on this (better to point a finger at myself than at others.) But I suspect Catholics have different motivations, as well as different levels of veneration. To some it would be idolatry, to others it would be respect. And these others rightly and firmly stand in the redemption of Christ alone. But that is not my point here. In Protestantism, we have an all male view of God coming to save us. In the scriptures we have a God who endorses both male and female in his actions.

This should mould our cultures today. In our zeal to correct others we should not ourselves lose all that God is saying. In the gospel we use our fingers for better things than pointing: to wash each others feet.