The most interesting thing about the Covid year so far is the display it’s made of the failure of churches, pastors, and elders to teach respect for authority. Some churches have made an effort to teach the authority of husbands and fathers in the home, but almost to the detriment of authority in the church and society. It’s as if they took a look at the current cultural hatred for authority and decided it was a hill too high to teach Christians to honor authority, generally, so they decided to avoid the matters of church and civil authority, and just seek to restore the authority of the patriarch.
Now of course, such men would deny they have made any such retreat, but the proof is in the pudding and that pudding has been on full display throughout Covid in a way it’s impossible to deny.
We’ve said repeatedly that those men railing against the civil authorities over face masks would never allow their wives to rail against them. No one’s ever disagreed with us on this. They’ve simply acted as if they hadn’t heard us and quickly moved on.
But consider. What if the men railing against the civil authorities requiring face masks found their wives and children railing against them for forbidding their wearing of face masks (in submission to their civil authorities)? How long do we think the wife and children’s railing would last? Is there any single reader here who believes the patriarch of that home would encourage his wife to think for herself, weigh the risk of her face mask scepticism, medically, and the basis of her rebellion, theologically, and decide for herself?
Or say the man has decided his household will submit to the elders of his church who have decided to honor the civil authorities’ decree that churches should use face masks while entering and exiting the sanctuary, but not during worship. This man’s wife, though, is refusing to do so, saying face masks accomplish nothing, medically, and furthermore the authority of civil authorities does not extend inside the church-house, so the elders are sinful in deferring to them and her husband is sinful in his deferring to the elders in their deferral to the civil authorities. And, watching their mother’s rebellion, all the children are saying the same, inundating their patriarch with denouncements of the illegitimacy of his decisions and authority.
Not one single reader here thinks all these railers against civil authority in our churches would turn to that wife and mother, and her children, and say, “You betcha, sister; assert your higher authority and don’t let your patriarch get away with such violations of Scripture! Scripture’s the authority over your husband and when he violates Scripture, you have no duty to submit to him. As a matter of fact, it’s your duty to submit to Scripture by repudiating his unlawful commands. Such faith is what your children need to see from you right now in the time of your husband’s rebellion against God. Have faith and refuse his unlawful rule!”
This is precisely the nature of these arguments being trotted out by patriarchs and their pastors against the authorities above them presently. “Your civil magistrates are not the authority over you. The Constitution is the authority over you and you need to hold your civil authorities accountable for their violation of the Constitution. In fact, it’s your duty to reject their orders and assert the higher authority of the Constitution! It’s the same with your elders: if they require face masks, it’s your duty to object. Your duty, you understand. If they’re authoritarian about it, you must refuse to submit to them. Go find a church that agrees with you in your repudiation of the authority of your elders and civil authorities. They are unfaithful and you need to take your wife and children somewhere else to worship!”
But think carefully, dear reader. If the father agreed with the elders and asked his wife and children to mask up entering and exiting the sanctuary because this is what their civil authorities have requested—and the elders believe Scripture teaches obedience to such requests made by the civil authorities—isn’t sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander, also? In such a case, is the wife not duty bound to resist her husband’s authority, leading her children to resist him, also?
So then, why don’t we hear the railers among us calling wives and children who suffer under such authoritarian husbands and fathers to leave their husbands and fathers and find another church that is faithful to the Sacred Text?
What’s interesting and depressing about the present Covid face mask schism is not face masks. Face masks are boring except in putting on full display how gossamer-thin and weak the church’s commitment is to the authority of presidents, governors, mayors, elders, fathers, and husbands.
The authority of fathers and husbands?
Well yes, because the vast majority of Evangelical churches right now refuse to teach and preach submission to husbands in marriage and fathers of households. That’s awful enough, given the perfect clarity of God’s Word in this regard.
But almost worse is the refusal of churches still teaching and preaching the authority of husbands and fathers also to teach and preach the authority of elders and governors. It’s the second coming of complementarianism which has always been defined by denying male authority anywhere outside the home and church while being insistent on it in the privacy of Christian contexts. We’re always trimming God’s Word in order to scratch our people’s ears where they itch.
If you were to ask me what I really believe, it is that those churches and pastors who have given over their churches to chest-thumping patriarchs know which side their bread is buttered on, and while they are wide-mouth frogs in support of obedience to the authority of the father of the household, they turn into small-mouth frogs when it comes to the authority of the governor and mayor. This authority they deny by means of sneaky claims that every individual citizen is only under the authority of whatever he thinks the Constitution says—and into the sewer with any authority who tries to tell him otherwise!
So, very conveniently, the chest-thumping patriarch can continue his chest-thumping pointing to his submission to his elders as his higher authority for refusing to submit to those civil rulers God has placed over them all.
But keep your eye on the ball, dear reader. Not for one moment do those patriarchs believe what they say.
First, neither they nor their elders and pastors would ever, ever allow wives and children to use the same arguments and evasions in support of their own rebellion against their husbands and fathers. And here, note how authority from above is subject to the judgment and agreement of subordinates whereas the authority that flows down from the husband and father is subject to no one at all. There is no appeal against it by any wife or child that can ever be legitimate.
Second, watch any of these patriarchs of households when they are even slightly admonished by their elders or pastors. The admonishment comes concerning some matter unrelated to the Constitution of their state or country which is clearly delineated in their church confession and Scripture. The slightest “no” to this man from his elders yields instant defiance and rebellion.
Authority is of a fabric, as Scripture says so clearly:
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. -1Peter 2:13-15
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. -Romans 13:1-2
Truthfully, pity those men growing their churches from the ranks of totalitarian patriarchs. They have struck a bargain that will yield the steady attenuation of God’s authority delegated to the elders of their congregations so that, along with their elders, they will find it impossible to guard either the good deposit or their sheep.
But who knows? Maybe that’s precisely as they wish?