Why Do Men Control, Limit and Oppress Women in the Church? (Pt. 2: The Theology)

Read Part One: The Psychology (HERE).


One of the number one arguments I get from Christian men fighting for patriarchy and fighting against feminism is this: “We are not trying to be like the world; as Christians we are to be countercultural.” This comment makes me want to spit out my latte, fall to the floor, and laugh hysterically. Of course, that would be unladylike, so I will refrain and stick to “academic-sounding” arguments.

Fellows (and ladies), patriarchy is not countercultural.

Sure, if we interpret the Bible through the context of American Celebrity in 2015, then maybe you have a case, but wake up. Look around the globe. Read the New York Times. Open a history book. Heck, read the Bible. Patriarchy has always been what the “cool kids” were doing and, generally speaking, still is worldwide.

Feminism (simply the full equality of the sexes) is what is actually countercultural and unpopular.

Maybe Beyonce, Katy Perry, and Hillary Clinton have made us think otherwise, but have we forgotten that American celebritism is not the center of the universe?

Women are still being stoned to death for committing adultery in Afghanistan (Source Here). “Islamic State thugs are giving away abducted girls as prizes in game show-style Koranic verse reading competitions, the Daily Mirror can reveal. The twisted memory test involves jihadis reciting verse in public and the one who is judged the winner is given a kidnapped girl as a prize (Source Here).”

Yet, here in America and probably other first-world nations, we have goodhearted church women claiming that women are to be “helpmeets” to their husbands, with little to no understanding of the true interpretation of the Hebrew word “Ezer” (helper) found in Genesis 2:18.

Often these church women take no issue with their subordinate role because they are married to decent men who don’t abuse their power. They are living in the ideal state of their “biblical womanhood” illusion and take no time to consider how their doctrine could be affecting the rest of the universe.

When we don’t understand that the word “Ezer” is used to describe “God as our Helper” in the Old Testament, we miss the power of this word, diminish the female race, and give a “biblical” stamp of approval to patriarchy of all sorts – everything from “nice” complementarianism to “not so nice” radical members of ISIS.

Marg Mowczko writes,

The word ezer is used twenty-one times in the Old Testament. Twice it is used in the context of the first woman. Three times it is used of people helping (or failing to help) in life-threatening situations. Sixteen times it is used in reference to God as a helper. Without exception, these biblical texts are talking about a vital, powerful kind of help. Yet when ezer is applied to the first woman, its meaning is usually diminished to fit with traditional and cultural views of women’s roles (Source Here).

Secondly, Genesis 1:27 states,

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (NASB).

Women are full image-bearers of God.

It is illogical to claim that women are of less authority than men when woman was made in the full image of God. Adam and Eve were equals. Eve was Adam’s “helper” in the sense of companionship. There is no mention of male hierarchy in the Garden of Eden until after Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit.

Patriarchy was Eve’s consequence for disobeying God.

To the woman He said, “I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth, In pain you will bring forth children; Yet your desire will be for your husband, And he will rule over you (Genesis 3:16 NASB).”

So, why was Adam held accountable first when Eve disobeyed God first?

Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you (Genesis 3:9)?”

Well, Adam was actually not held accountable first.

He was “called out” first to explain what had happened, but when God gets the full story from Adam, God first hands out consequences to the Serpent (Satan), then to Eve, and then to Adam (Genesis 3:14-19). Woman and man were held equally responsible for the fall of humankind.

The Bible does not directly say why God got the scoop from Adam first, but we can suggest a few reasons. Perhaps it was because Adam was created before Eve. Perhaps it was because Adam had been directly warned by God not to eat of the forbidden tree, and Eve was told by Adam as second-hand information. Who knows? We were not there and the Bible does not tell us God’s reasoning.

Nevertheless, to use Genesis 3:9 to limit the leadership of women universally and timelessly is ridiculous, because the Bible names many female leaders in both the Old and New Testaments.

Since the fall of humankind, men have been ruling over women. It always goes south. Sometimes it starts out as “nice” as the enemy of our souls fights to keep us all under the curse of patriarchy. Satan knows the power of “ezer” and greatly fears women who wake up and realize who they were created to be – “equal helpers” who were made to lead as God leads, love how God loves, and change the world as God changes the world.

Look out for Part 3: “The Anthropology.”

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  • Good points about global patriarchy. But I’d have to say that patriarchy/complementarianism is definitely countercultural, at least in my context. Simply reviewing the last two communities I lived in, I couldn’t think of one household out of thirty or so that practices patriarchy/complementarianism.

    And I loved the insight on “ezer.” Such a beautiful picture!

    • Thank you Brad. Yes, from where you are standing, patriarchy may be countercultural, but as Christians, we are to be globally minded.

      Also, I am not sure it really our goal to be countercultural anyways, but to become all things to all people (as the apostle paul says) so that we might win them to the Lord Jesus. What do you think?

  • Good thoughts, Jory, but I’d prefer saying “some” men are controlling, rather than paint all men with the same brush of patriarchy. There really are Godly men who “get it.”

  • The more I think about it, the more I must doubt that complementarianism is ever truly good. I can for certain say that it is not God’s best. I believe that God can give grace to those who chose to walk out their lives in that way, and He can make it less damaging. Ultimately complementarianism/patriarchy is a dangerous system because it makes women physical, financial, and spiritual dependents of sinful men.

  • Get it girl!! I watched the NFL games in awe last month as each team went pink in support of breast cancer awareness. I plan to write my next post on the potential power of pink on the church if we would only set God’s daughters free!

  • Not sure what to think of the definitions of authority, patriarchy, and leadership. My wife and I have been married for 21 years and have three great kids. We’re both Christians that are ‘broken’ and submitted before Christ. I can buy the argument that women should be in authority in the Church. If God calls them – they need to serve. I can also buy that patriarchy system is a not a good set up – men should not have all the power and mostly benefit themselves. I would say that leadership in the home is primarily my ‘job’. At least, that is how I view it for now. I realize this is a little touchy as usually emotions get involved. I would say that I let my wife lead where she is strongest (usually communicating with others outside the family, scheduling things and such). I wonder what you think of the verse Genesis 3:20, “Then the man—Adam—named his wife Eve, because she would be the mother of all who live. ” Does that very act imply leadership? Curious.

    • Hi Jason. Yes, Eve was birthed from Adam and he named her (as she was bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh) and she came out of him, but “the second Adam,” Jesus, was birthed by a woman (and every human that has been born has been birthed by a woman and often named by her). In other words, woman came out of man first, but then every man since that has come out of woman. Men and women cannot exist apart from one another. This is only one reason I believe in mutual leadership in the home, but it is a big one.

      With that said, I do think husband’s have a unique responsibility to sacrifice for their families as Christ did for the Church (laying down his rights for the good of the family), so in a sense, this is how a husband leads…But the Word is clear that husbands and wives are to submit to one another. I think we have to be very careful in teaching women “one-way” submission. It puts women in a very vulnerable place in the face of patriarchy being a curse we are redeemed from.

      Also, a husband sacrificing and loving his family above himself can look like a “stay at home dad.” We have to be careful not to put all men in boxes some don’t fit in.

      Thanks for asking.

  • Very good points. Any decisions that I make for the family are made through the lens of “Is this what’s best for my wife? Is this what’s best for our children? Short-term and long-term implications.” I am in a unique position with our oldest son who is thinking about dating. I keep asking him, “As a Christian, what makes you different from any other guy a woman has talked to or ‘dated’? What does it look like to treat a woman with respect and honor?” What an honor to train sons how to relate to the other half of God’s image.

  • I’m going to begin with taking issue with the tag-line “Why Do Men Control, Limit and Oppress Women in the Church? ” What a negative set-up! If one was to disagree with your article, are they at once guilty of “controlling, limiting and oppressing women in the church”? We should stay Biblical and present our positions with grace and love. My view of the substance of complementarianism comes from Jesus Himself as totally equal with the Father yet who willingly and lovingly submitted Himself to the Father. With this in view, can you see how Paul could tell the churches that women mustn’t teach or take authority over a man and still be completely respectful of the person-hood of women? There is no difference in “sonship” or “daughter-ship” of children of God. However, the Bible does delineate roles among Believers.

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