Beyond Culture Wars…Again

Michael S. Horton
Friday, May 1st 2015
May/Jun 2015

I get it. I'm trying to be the spiritual leader in a home with six sinners who trust in Christ, repent of their sins, and look for something beyond this present age as our hope. God calls me and my wife to do our parts. I am all ears when brothers (yes, usually brothers) encourage me and tell me how to pull that off. But, frankly, a lot of it is, well, unhelpful.

It is simply antinomian ("against law") to shrug off the responsibilities of obedience in leading our families. But there is also a tendency in some circles to confuse cultural traditionalism with the faith. There are the denim skirts, hard patriarchy, girls brought up to eschew college and simply to focus on marriage, and so forth.

In fact, it's girls who have the toughest time in our circles. They're expected’even by "Type A" Christian parents’to excel at everything. They have to prove themselves, especially to our pagan friends who think that "patriarchy" is the great disease bequeathed by Christendom. But they also have to be "Proverbs 31" women-in-the-making, the disciple of the Virgin Mary who will necessarily be the amazing Christian princess and eventual soccer mom.

We have to admit it. There are simply areas where our "go-all-out" hype has made the actual living of the Christian life a tyrannical and oppressive vision for folks, especially young ladies. There are aspects of "traditional culture" that are not really Christian, but twisted and distorted assumptions of an unbaptized patriarchy. Fathers don't have to die and be reborn, but daughters do. Sons also are expected to be mirror images of the beard-wearing dad who aspires to the role of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (though hopefully not to the actual moral character of these men).

We desperately need wisdom on this issue. Christianity affirms the primacy of the Father, but in ways that defy the "patriarchalism" of groups that look and act like they belong on a fundamentalist Mormon compound. On the patriarchal side, I've seen examples that differ considerably from "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" who "so loved the world that he gave…" I've seen versions of Ephesians 5 that underscored submission of wives to husbands, but made little of "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Eph. 5:25). Subdued, sullen, and appearing as if they had surrendered their personhood to their husbands, many such women evidence little of the joy of their salvation’and of the communion of saints. Ironically, so do their husbands, the little patriarchs who fancy themselves heads of Israel. Everything is kept in order, tightly controlled, like goslings behind the lord of the manor. These men also miss out. They miss the wonderful surprises of a woman who has some sense of who she is, apart from her husband. The two become "one flesh," not one person.

We must move beyond the "Left"/"Right" politics that often determine more of our family and church life than we even realize. The culture is bankrupt. Abortion, same-sex unions, and the increasing encroachment of the state on the life of the family, the church, and the schools are evidence of Leviathan. Nevertheless, the church has to say more than the denim-clad mom and youngsters behind their great high priest. It has to show how following Christ, the true High Priest, makes us all, male or female, "one in Christ" (Gal. 3:28).

Photo of Michael S. Horton
Michael S. Horton
Michael Horton is editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation and the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary California in Escondido.
Friday, May 1st 2015

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

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