Bnonn Tennant (the B is silent)

Where a recovering ex-atheist skewers things with a sharp two-edged sword

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14 minutes to read Glenn Stanton represents a broad stream of thought about gender relations and marriage within evangelicalism, where women are seen effectively as the cause of, and the solution to all of society’s problems. Unfortunately, that stream of thought is obviously incoherent, shamelessly unscriptural, and because it ultimately amounts to gyneolatry, actually produces the precise social decline that it laments.

Glenn Stanton is an evangelical expert on gender relations; the author of eight influential books, the director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family, and an outspoken critic of the sexual revolution.

He is also a mouthpiece for gyneolatry, and a general apologist for feminism.

Gyneolatry shouldn’t be confused with goddess worship. They are on the same spectrum, but the difference in my view is much like the difference between the larval and mature forms of Ridley Scott’s alien. The latter is readily identified as a horrifying monster that must be destroyed; [For a clinical description, Wikipedia’s goddess worship entry is a reasonable start. For an example of how it is applied and promoted in an individual’s life—and the similarities it bears to the feminine-primary social conditioning we all now receive thanks to feminism—see Ben Lawson, 8 Reasons Why Men Should Worship Goddesses in The Good Men Project (June 2015).] the former is a sneaky parasite that can worm itself unnoticed into any religion and devour it from the inside. [In Glenn’s case he would obviously deny that he is engaged in gyneolatry at all, just as characters in Alien are sure they can’t be infected. Whether he is a quisling or a patsy is unclear. But for a showcase of more advanced, self-conscious symptoms—on the cusp of the sucking-chest-wound stage—see Arjuna Ardagh, Why It Is Wise to Worship a Woman in HuffPost (July 2010/April 2012).]

Glenn’s latest contribution to the feminist agenda is a tour de force of confusion. In an article sponsored by the venerable Public Discourse, he contends that “manhood is not natural”—and then, even as he rhapsodizes over the mystical power of femininity to civilize men, simultaneously laments the loss of masculinity in civilization. [ Glenn Stanton, Manhood Is Not Natural on Public Discourse (December 2017).] Because this argument reflects a broad approach to gender roles in evangelicalism, I want to dissect it thoroughly. Glenn’s whole professional life is dedicated to understanding and teaching how families form—yet he appears to be hopelessly and dangerously lost on exactly this point.

Self-confessed ignorance

The first and most important thing to note about Glenn’s piece is that it’s fundamentally an admission of both ignorance and impotence. In his final paragraph he says:

The question is, how can we recover manhood today? We must find the answer. For it is not only the fate of men that is at stake, but the fate of our women, children, and society as well.

Despite spending over 2,000 words describing the (alleged) situation with an intellectual pomposity that rivals my own, Glenn confesses that he has not the slightest clue what to do about it. He plants this wildly-flapping red flag at the very end, so by the time it hoves into view, you’re pot-committed to taking him seriously—but his helpless petition for advice from the reader is really the key takeaway here. Glenn has no solution to the problem of declining masculinity. His article is just an exercise in wind-bagging.

Needless to say, when someone claims to understand the problem but has not the slightest idea how to solve it, unless he is a medical doctor the most probable cause is that he doesn’t actually understand the problem at all. And indeed, in Glenn’s case, not only does he fail to understand it, but he is locked in the grip of a confusion so bizarre that he absolutely never could understand it. His thesis, when unraveled and laid out in the cold light of day, basically amounts to the notion that women are like alcohol: both the cause of and solution to all of society’s problems. Although he would certainly deny this straightforward inference, his argument directly implies the following vicious loop:

(1) feminism is wrecking society; (2) this is men’s fault; (3) the solution must therefore be to grant women even more power over everything (i.e., feminism).

Unnatural masculinity

Since we can all at least agree on item 1—feminism is wrecking society—let’s talk about item 2. The central claim of Glenn’s article, the title itself, is that manhood is unnatural while womanhood is not. This is a hecking tendentious way of putting things, given that God made Adam first. Right, it was not good that he was alone—he needed a helper. And it’s fair to say that one of Eve’s functions was to act as a grounding point for the wild masculine energy that God had breathed into Adam to subjugate the newly-made world. [On this point, see D. Bnonn Tennant, Prelapsarian predation, part 3: wildness in Genesis 1–2 (September 2015).] When a majority of men structure their competitive problem-solving around raising families, societies get built as a matter of course. But to say that masculinity is unnatural to this process, and that femininity is what inherently civilizes men, wildly misses the mark. One could just as correctly say that masculinity is what naturally produces civilizations, and that planning, building, and running social institutions of every kind is unnatural to femininity. Name me a single notable organization—even today—that was produced primarily by women. From politics to banking to education, they were all built by men. Men are designed to control their environments and strive for social dominance.

Supposing that either masculinity or femininity is inherently civilized or uncivilized is a lopsided view that insults God’s design for the complementarity of the sexes. Both were made very good to image God’s rulership (Genesis 1:27, 31), [ D Bnonn Tennant, Are women made in the image of God? (October 2018).] and both were defiled by sin to naturally seek their own ends rather than God’s (Romans 3:10–12; Jeremiah 17:9).

Nonetheless, when God cursed the couple, it was not Adam’s intersexual desire that was twisted—it was Eve’s. [ D. Bnonn Tennant, Prelapsarian predation, part 4: the curse (July 2016).] Adam would have to toil until he died—but Eve would nurse a desire toward her husband that Moses parallels with sin’s desire toward Cain (Genesis 3:16b; 4:7). The parallel is explicit in the Hebrew: in the same way that Cain must rule over sin to thwart its desire toward him, Adam must rule over Eve to thwart her desire toward him.

Glenn’s inversion of postlapsarian intersexual dynamics

None of this fazes Glenn—who, quoting George Gilder, avers:

The crucial process of civilization is the subordination of male sexual impulses and biology to the long-term horizons of female sexuality … It is male behavior that must be changed to create a civilized order.

Female sexuality, in other words, is inherently ordered toward the good of society, and must tame male sexuality, which is inherently destructive. Glenn doesn’t openly say toxic masculinity, but that is certainly the mot en vogue for everyone else. Men’s hearts may be sick beyond understanding, but thankfully women’s genitals are imbued with a sanctifying power that automatically redirects them toward the true, the good, and the beautiful. Glenn believes, as Cate Blanchett would say, that women’s moral compasses are in their vaginas. [ Rebecca Shapiro, Cate Blanchett: My Moral Compass ‘Is In My Vagina’ in HuffPost (March 2017).]

However…since, as Glenn puts it, the unique feminine power over male sexuality has a naturally domesticating influence on overall male energy and behavior, the inexorable conclusion we are forced to is that if men are uncivilized, women must not have sufficient power to exercise their sexuality.

If society afforded them greater influence, they would naturally civilize men.

Obviously this is not a conclusion Glenn consciously (or at least overtly) agrees with, because he opposes feminism in principle. But presumably this belief in the civilizing power of the vagina is why he nonetheless lets slip that he thinks absent fathers are women’s fault:

If a particular man desires to be involved in the life of his child, it is the child’s mother, and she alone, who determines whether and how he may do this.

Needless to say, although he is right pragmatically on this point thanks to the nature of the family courts, as a theological principle it is a shameless inversion of God’s law; cf. Genesis 35:18; Numbers 30:3ff; Ephesians 6:4 etc.

But then the cognitive dissonance resurfaces; since women are sanctified by their sexuality, they can only receive the credit for the good men; they surely cannot be blamed for the bad ones—and so absent fathers are really men’s fault:

If he doesn’t have to marry before having sex (and potentially fathering children), the average man won’t.

Strangely, Glenn glosses over the instrumental role women had in championing the ability of men to father children out of wedlock. The women’s liberation movement that ushered in modern feminism was not driven by men. It was certainly enabled by men, and anticipated by men (Moses Harman for example)—but it was women who wrote books like The Feminine Mystique; women who published magazines like Ms.; women who promoted casual sex as liberating and presented marriage as akin to slavery; [For a telling glimpse into the quasi-religious furor of feminism as a Marxist-style revolution, see Mallory Millett, Marxist Feminism’s Ruined Lives on FrontPage Mag (September 2014).] women who agreed en masse with this representation of affairs and took up the banner of liberation to march in the streets. How many men do you see in these old photographs?

Without the rebellion of women, feminism would never have left the runway. Girls would just have kept on getting married, having sex with their one husband, and dutifully raising families as they had done for thousands of years under the various patriarchal civilizations that have, without exception, [On the ubiquity of patriarchy, see Steven Goldberg’s summary defense of his work.] ensured the good order of society since Eden. This alone—this simple and blindingly obvious fact of history—is sufficient to put the lie to Glenn’s whole bumbling thesis of women’s inherent virtue.

For the record, I am hardly suggesting that patriarchal societies are automatic bastions of virtue and flourishing. Much of the early liberation movement, for instance, was about demanding equal opportunity to sin—since society winked at men sleeping around, why not wink at women too? Obviously, however, this was quite the wrong direction to take in solving the problem.

Glenn is not entirely wrong that women’s moral compasses are in their vaginas. But he is 100% wrong about which direction they point. He shouldn’t be—the biblical doctrine of total depravity isn’t exactly obscure. Vaginal compasses swing about as close to true north as penile ones; they just lean east instead of west. But because Glenn simply doesn’t understand—or want to understand—the female sins driving the sexual revolution, he is a blind guide. Without acknowledging the dynamics of hypergamy, he is incapable of making an accurate assessment even of where we are or how we got here—let alone how to turn around or get back where we want to be.

Marriage & babies

Here’s a prime example of his socio-ethical cataracts: early in the article, he claims that the majority of women want marriage and babies, and usually quite dearly. They don’t need to be talked into them and never really have. This sounds good on the surface because it’s an excellent half-truth. But look at the facts on the ground—facts that Glenn should be acutely aware of:

  1. Firstly, speaking just of the United States for now, about 20% of all children conceived are killed with the express permission of their mothers. [ Guttmacher Institute, Induced Abortion in the United States (October 2017).] Sometimes under duress, sure, and often plied with propaganda, obviously—but ask me how much duress it would take for me to let someone burn one of my children to death with acid, or dissect them with a high-powered vacuum. And if my six year old was not fooled by abortionist propaganda, should we really excuse the quarter of all grown-ass women who, at some point in their lives, will have abortions? [ D. Bnonn Tennant, Are most women less perceptive than six year old children? (April 2016).] I believe the phrase God will use on his throne as he directs them to the crowd behind his left shoulder will be “yeah right.”
  2. Secondly, Glenn’s statement about women and babies and marriage is generally true after the age of about 28–31. But before that, as he must know, huge numbers of them are far too busy going out and having casual sex to worry about getting hitched. Their vaginal compasses point them to hookups with irresponsible hedonistic bad boys—not marriage with responsible, steady nice guys. We even know (because Science!) that their sexual impulses will lead them to rationalize these bad boys as good providers! [ Kristina M. Durante et al, Ovulation Leads Women to Perceive Sexy Cads as Good Dads in Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (May 2014).] Coincidentally, this age for women is also when the lion’s share of babies are murdered sight unseen. In short, the mystical vaginal compasses perfectly pinpoint south.
  3. Thirdly, when their beauty begins to fade, women then turn to the responsible nice guys and “discover” that they want to marry them. But despite Glenn’s foolish belief in natural feminine virtue, the natural woman (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:14) does not marry as a commitment of herself to a man. Rather, she uses marriage as a way to secure commitment from a man. [Given the elective nature of marriage today, this is not strictly necessary; she can simply become pregnant to legally secure a man’s resources. For a telling—though anecdotal—glimpse into how this works, see Latoya Gayle, ‘Child support is 18 years of easy money’: Women reveal the REAL reasons why they’ve lied about being on the Pill—and many DON’T regret what they’ve done in Daily Mail (January 2018).] If a better man comes along—or even if she gets bored, and the allure of the attachment-free income guaranteed by the divorce courts becomes too strong—her natural impulse is to leave him again. [For a representative example, see Monique Honaman, I Just Wish He Would Have an Affair! in HuffPost (March 2012).] Contrary to Glenn’s credulous acceptance of conventional feminist wisdom, it is not men who have problems with commitment: women are far quicker to leave, initiating between 70% and 85% of divorces today [E.g. Joanne Bagshaw, Who Initiates Divorce More Often? in Psychology Today (May 2017).] —which reflects a consistent trend. [ Margaret F. Brinig & Douglas W. Allen, “These Boots Are Made For Walking”: Why Most Divorce Filers Are Women in American Law and Economics Review (2000), 126–169.]

Of course, given Glenn’s governing assumptions about women’s sexuality, he has to interpret this as men’s fault. Whichever end of marriage women fail at, Glenn can absolve them of responsibility:

If they cannot find marriageable men, they often go with other choices.

Just like that, women’s irresponsible behavior becomes men’s fault. Since women are holy and naturally civilized, the blame cannot be laid on them. They can’t be responsible for shacking up with bad boys who leave them. Their bad decisions are forced upon them by a lack of good men. Unwillingness to marry has nothing to do with marriage being seen as superfluous to requirements, which in turn has nothing to do with feminists’ original push to jettison it as a patriarchal institution of oppression. Neither can women’s deferral of marriage until late into their twenties and thirties have anything to do with young men no longer competing to be good providers so as to secure the best wives. All of this is invisible to Glenn because, in his mind, women are naturally civilized, naturally know the right thing to do—are naturally sanctified by the holy power of the Feminine Mystique that issues from their nether regions.

Manhood must be taught

Although Glenn believes, contra Scripture, that positive femininity just happens (cf. Titus 2:3–5), he does correctly note that positive masculinity must be taught. And it must be taught by men. This is really where the self-contradictory nature of his views becomes most acute.

On the one hand, he is sure that women civilize men with sex. But on the other hand, he can’t figure out why the more socio-sexual freedom women get, the less civilized those pesky men become!

Here’s the reason, Glenn: manhood must be taught. But the more society is conformed to accommodate feminine imperatives, the less it can accommodate masculine ones. As Rollo Tomassi puts it, For one gender’s sexual strategy to succeed the other gender must compromise or abandon their own. [ Rollo Tomassi, The Cardinal Rule of Sexual Strategies on The Rational Male (July 2016).] This really isn’t rocket surgery: the more women are able to shape and dictate social conventions and mores, the less socially acceptable masculinity will become. Normal masculine energy will be diagnosed and medicated; boys will be taught from a young age to identify with feminine values and despise masculine ones; playgrounds will be sanitized; the concept of trials by ordeal and rites of manhood will be shamed and eradicated as dangerous and uncivilized; naturally-male spaces will be invaded to establish a feminine presence there.

Masculinity, in short, will become toxic in whatever respect it does not directly serve feminine ends. So positive manhood will no longer be taught. (Ironically, neither will positive womanhood, because the restraining influence of masculine command on hypergamy will disintegrate.)

All of this has plainly and straightforwardly happened in society—including in evangelicalism—as the feminine imperative for security and collectivism has smothered the masculine imperative for dominion and competition. When masculinity is society’s lodestar, as intended, women do indeed function as helpmeets; a man’s chief asset becomes a wife. Every man has the opportunity for sexual access by channeling his competitive instincts into acquiring a wife. Once he has one, his sexual gregariousness is constructively constrained, while at the same time he has the opportunity for rulership—channeling his authoritarian instincts into the right ordering of his household.

But when femininity is the lodestar, permanent marriage is jettisoned in favor of serial affairs; men have no reason to strive for marriage since their wives can evict them while keeping their children and income; eventually they either abandon the notion of household altogether, or become listless, powerless and suicidal. [On the reasons for men committing suicide at 4–5 times the rate of women, see Rollo Tomassi, Men and Suicide on The Rational Male (December 2017).] The center cannot hold and we get the slow-motion collapse into cultural hysteria that we’re witnessing today.

This is the inevitable result of Glenn’s subordination of male sexual impulses and biology to the long-term horizons of female sexuality.

The solution

Whereas Glenn is baffled about what to do, the Bible is not. It articulates clearly how society should be ordered: patriarchal households.

Not complementarian households—patriarchal ones.

Patriarchy is a dirty, shameful word in a feminine-priority culture, but one which simply means:

  1. A social system in which the father is the head of the family;
  2. A family, community, or society based on this system or governed by men. [ Patriarchy in American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2016).]

This father-rule is straightforwardly the teaching of Scripture (Ephesians 3:14–15), both didactically and by example—starting with the creation of man himself in Genesis 2, all the way through to the letters of Peter and Paul (e.g. 1 Peter 3:1–9; 5:1–7; 1 Corinthians 11:3, 7–9; 1 Timothy 2:12–15 cf. Isaiah 3:12).

In an earlier version of this article I simply gave patriarchy as the solution here. Having observed the effects of patriarchy in isolation, and developed my understanding of the Bible’s teaching on intersexuality and the creation mandate, I believe it is the household which is the grounding element in a well-ordered society, with the patriarch merely being its representative ruler. [Cf. D. Bnonn Tennant, What is the kingdom of God? Part 1: representation and rulership (January 2017).] When this is not clearly in view—as when one speaks of patriarchy simpliciter—one tends to swing too far in the other direction from feminism. Keep this in mind when reading the comments.

More—Scripture also articulates clearly the way to attenuate and overcome the innate sin of both men and women in establishing, building, and rightly ruling these households: the cross of Anointed Jesus.

The thoroughgoing solution that Glenn is seeking is, in fact, the gospel. [For a primer on how the mission of the assembly impinges on socio-political issues, see D. Bnonn Tennant, What is the kingdom of God? Part 9: the Great Commission as a directive to conquer (July 2017).] It is the triumphant message that our supreme Father has chosen his perfect Son to rule, disciple and sanctify the nations through innumerable male-led households, and that he is placing all of his enemies beneath his feet until the world is transformed into one great household. I wonder what would happen if Glenn started preaching that, instead of gyneolatry. Sadly, he exemplifies the very lack of good men that he laments is destroying society. As Nathan once said to David, “You are that man!”


Gloria Urban

I am in the process of reading The Other Half by Carolyn Custis James after hearing her speak, and while I wish to answer this, I can only say her take on Patriarchy is something that is eye opening. She goes back to Eden and where Adam and Eve were both called to rule. I will come back when I am finished, but I cannot let it go that Patriarchy may not be the answer that you think.

Still studying.
Gloria Urban

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Hey Gloria. My question would be, why are you listening to Carolyn Custis James when she is disobeying the clear command of Scripture that women are not to teach the assembly?


Hi Bnonn. I definitely agree with your article here. The Bible clearly teaches Patriarchy. It is sad that many Christians reject this. I have one question for you. Do you think it is always wrong for a women to hold elective office? I know that here in the US, there have been times I have supported a woman for Congress because she is pro-life, while her opponent is pro-abortion. Now, I wish there could be a man in that race who is pro-life, rather than a woman. But, I still think its better for a pro-life woman to be in office than a pro-abortion man. I am just wondering what your thoughts are about that.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Thanks Rob. I think it’s always wrong for a woman to hold elective office in the sense that it contravenes God’s design. But one of the obvious facts about sin in society is that as it increases, the range of good choices God offers us constricts. (This is a fact many evangelical leaders don’t seem to have come to grips with—coughTGCcough.) Eventually, we’re left with the demand to distinguish rubbish choices from appalling ones, without becoming so inured that we begin to think rubbish is actually good.

It seems obvious to me that a man who would sacrifice children on the altars of Mammon and Demos is utterly unqualified for leadership (comparing Exodus 18:21; Deuteronomy 16:18; Proverbs 16:12; 29:2 with Leviticus 18:21 etc). There are plenty of women, on the other hand, who are pretty good leaders in terms of both their psychological aptitude and their moral convictions. The fact that a woman ordinarily ought not to lead doesn’t seem to remotely overcome the fact that, in this case, she is the only reasonable choice. This is especially true given that a man who is pro-abortion is also, beyond doubt, going to be a feminist. So do you cast your vote for the destruction of the patriarchy, or for the destruction of the patriarchy and the innocent? To ask the question is to answer it.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned, a lot of Christian leaders today have lost all moral clarity on the issue of voting. But that’s a broader topic for another time :)


Thanks for the response Bnonn. I agree with you. In this fallen world, our options are sometimes less than ideal.

steve hays

Unfortunately, under the current regime, marriage is like a man who marries the beautiful daughter of a Mafia Don. In that marriage it’s the father-in-law who’s the ultimate decision-maker. The couple never have to develop a working relationship, never have to compromise, make mutual adjustments, adapt to each other. At the first sign of disagreement, the wife can always appeal to her father, and her husband dare not cross the Don.

Likewise, in a system where there’s no-fault divorce, divorce is usually initiated by the wife, the wife usually gets custody, and the wife usually gets alimony, the husband is like a man who married into the mob. He has all of the responsibility with none of the authority or autonomy.

Ripken Holt

I’m not a Hebrew scholar but am curious about your comment on Genesis 3:16. Would you translate it, “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he ‘must’ rule over you”?
I could not find any translation that had done so but that certainly would have a different meaning. I often see that verse used to say that women have a desire to take power from their husbands and husbands have a tendency to harshly rule over their wives. I haven’t seen anyone read that verse as an imperative to men to rule over their wives.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

I think the ESV gets it basically right:

Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.

I think against might be a better word than contrary. But the general idea is right. I wouldn’t take ruling as an imperative; just a statement of fact.

Gloria Urban

Just a thought on “patriarchy”. I don’t think God takes that into account when he calls you. As an example, let’s look at David. In a patriarchal society, he certainly would not have been the blessed one. His older brother would have been chosen. In David’s house, his son, Solomon, who took over when David died, was not the one chosen for the blessing. Not to mention the women who laid their lives on the line for the sake of saving men, i.e. Rahab, Deborah, Jael. To blame women for the wrongs of the world is pretty pathetic. Yes, they have their share, but you men are barking up the wrong terebinth tree putting your thoughts in that. When Jesus met the woman caught in adultery, it was the men who were quick to stone her, Jesus wrote in the sand and they changed their minds. Jesus freed her. The woman at the well certainly qualified for a stoning but Jesus, going against the mores of society, brought her the living water. She became the first evangelist. Complementarism seeks to keep woman pregnant and in the kitchen but our Father has called us to tell others about His grace, love, salvation. You can blame us, you can call us names, but you can’t keep us from loving the Lord and wanting others to know him and to believe in Him and to serve Him.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Gloria, interpreting this article as my “blaming women for the wrongs of the world” indicates that you aren’t reading in good faith. So I’m not responding so much for you as for others who may be reading—

1. David and Solomon were both men. Rahab and Jael were not leaders. And Deborah judged at a time when Israel was in shambles with everyone doing what was right in their own eyes.

2. The pericope adulterae is not original to John’s gospel, so I wouldn’t hang anything off it. Nonetheless, implying that the Pharisees are representative of all men in wanting to stone the woman is absurd—as is implying that Jesus did not agree with the law (cf. Matthew 5:17, 19). The reason he didn’t condemn her is because they weren’t following the law (read Leviticus 20:10 and see if you can spot what is missing in John 8:3–5)—it was a kangaroo court set up to trap him. The woman was a patsy. Why would he play into that?

3. The woman at the well was not caught in adultery, so no, she didn’t qualify for stoning. Moreover, as Jesus himself said, he did not come to judge the world, but to save it (John 12:47). Judging comes later (Revelation 19:11–16).

4. I don’t consider myself a complementarian, since complementarianism typically means the kind of nonsense promulgated by people like Glenn Stanton. That said, consider what you’ve just charged against us:

Complementarism seeks to keep woman pregnant and in the kitchen but our Father has called us to tell others about His grace, love, salvation.

And now consider what God himself actually says:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (1 Timothy 2:12–15)

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. (Titus 2:3–5 1)

So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. (1 Timothy 5:14)

Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. (1 Peter 3:1–2)

This is how women are called to love and to serve the Lord. Yet you treat it like a patriarchal conspiracy.

Blake Reas

Hey Bnonn,

Tightly argued article as always! I am going to play devil’s advocate here. Couldn’t it be argued that we cannot overlook the changes that technology has brought into society? For instance, sure in the ancient world women needed to stay home because the work that needed to be done required a certain amount of physical strength and stamina, and women weren’t privy to CrossFit gyms and sterioids so they naturally couldn’t come close to the strength attainments of average men. The Bible simply reflects an earlier time plagued by the harshness of pre-industrial civilization. Also, most work was subsistence level. But now most of our economies are service based and most jobs do not require any strength or stamina, which opens up job markets to unwed women. Also, since modern society delays marriage because we aren’t threatened by early death on average, children aren’t needed to tend farms and livestock, and rearing children has become cost prohibitive it seems the biblical model just doesn’t fit the modern context. Sure it worked for people in earlier times, but as you say “Science!”has changed all that.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Hey Blake, I haven’t argued that women shouldn’t be allowed to enter the workforce; nor that they must not marry late; nor that they must have lots of children.

That said, while we have to be aware of cultural accommodations in the Bible, I don’t think that argument works here.

1. Marrying young is a simple matter of wisdom, and not just in cultures where mortality rates and life expectancies are less favorable. Simply put, it is foolish to wait until you are past your sexual prime before seeking a sexual relationship. Obviously this doesn’t apply to the scores of young hussies out there who don’t believe sex is designed for marriage, but we are talking about what God would have women do, not the way which is right in their own eyes. It is also foolish to wait until you are past your optimal child-bearing years before seeking to have children. And it is especially foolish to delay marriage when the very thing your husband is designed to find most arousing and satisfying is your youth (cf. Proverbs 5:18). It’s probably worth mentioning, too, that the more a woman ages, the more naturally independent (and culturally conditioned) she tends to become, and thus the more likely she is to chafe against her husband’s headship. Proverbs has dark things to say about such a woman being like water torture and bone rot.

2. The Bible doesn’t suggest, to my knowledge, that women should tend their homes because they are too weak to take on jobs elsewhere. In fact, we know that ancient women could be involved in much harder labor than most modern women could stand, and the Bible doesn’t suggest that they can’t take on hard agricultural tasks or whatnot. Rather, women’s primary role in the family should be tending their households because that is what is fitting to their nature; to their design. Managing the home is how a woman loves her husband and subjects herself to him as the helpmeet God intended (Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 11:8–9). It also helps ensure that she avoids the sins that women are especially prone to: idleness and gossip; Paul is explicit about this in 1 Timothy 5:13–15 (cf. Titus 2:4–5).

3. In the same way, having children is what is fitting for a woman because that is fundamental to her nature. Child-bearing is the thing that most defines and sets women apart from men. Whatever Paul means in 1 Timothy 2:15, he certainly means at least this much. He may well also be angling at the fact that children are a primary means by which God builds his kingdom on top of Satan’s (e.g. Acts 2:39). Not that all children of believers are made citizens of the kingdom, but certainly a large proportion of them are—provided their parents do the job of raising them up in the knowledge of the Lord. And who does that task typically fall to, at least during the week, given that husbands today must frequently work away from home? It falls to women—for whom I think Lois and Eunice are given as implicit examples (2 Timothy 1:5; 2:14–15). I also don’t think we can write off the many scriptural observations that children are a blessing as being mere remarks on their utility as laborers! Having children ourselves, I expect you’ll agree that they are a blessing in many other ways; and their blessedness to us will only increase as we age and become less able to support and care for ourselves (cf. Exodus 20:12; Genesis 45:9–11; 1 Timothy 5:4). Indeed, this particular piece of God’s wisdom is going to become a powerful witness in the next few decades if euthanasia laws continue apace, as unbelievers have relatively fewer children who have not been raised to honor them.

Btw, there’s a significant question in my mind about whether it is fitting for a woman to do something like crossfit. I certainly think women should look after their bodies, and work out if possible, but a woman’s workout is not like a man’s, and crossfit is inherently butch. It produces women who look like men, with four-packs and giant legs. That’s an obvious inversion of feminine characteristics, and is quite unattractive.

Blake Reas


Thanks for the response. I get that push back frequently when I talk about these issues, so that was helpful. You should right a book on it. The blog keeps getting better!

Oh, and yes I agree, children are a blessing in an intrinsic way.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Thanks Blake. My aim is really to build the blog out to the point where I feel I have satisfactorily spoken to the fundamentals of each issue I want to talk about, and then arrange those posts into books with the hope of reaching a wider audience and building a virtuous cycle of readership.


Hi Bnonn. I just wanted to make a comment about the patriarchy/complementarianism distinction you made. I agree that a lot of complementarianism is so “soft” that it barely registers as such. But using “patriarchy” has its own pitfalls. Not so much because of the stigma that feminists have associated it with, but because of the “Christian patriarchy”/Quiverfull/Vision Forum movement that promotes some pretty extreme stuff like normative stay-at-home daughterhood, no college for women, weird “courtship” rules etc. They take a lot true things about headship and take them way out of the bounds of what is written. I think that avoiding the term patriarchy might be useful in order to differentiate oneself from that crowd. Reformation21 has a pretty good article on the issues with this movement:

What do you think?

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

Hey Yana, it’s a valid concern, but not having exposure to that movement myself I don’t have the same associations in my head.

Overall, I think patriarchy is a much more useful term for confronting feminine rebellion than complementarianism is. The latter is a word literally invented to avoid presenting the biblical view as patriarchal, so it originates in compromise with feminism. I think it’s easier to confront feminine rebellion by starting with a word that accurately describes the biblical view (father rule) than one designed to compromise it. It’s not that I want to be associated with Quiverfull types—I don’t. They’re cultic. But if someone makes that association, it’s easy to say, “No, that’s not what patriarchy means. Patriarchy is simply the combination of two Greek words: pater and arche, meaning father and rulership.” And if you’re talking to a Christian, you can add, “Do you not believe that God the Father rules?” Because that’s the real question at hand: does the person accept God’s rulership, and how it is reflected in creation, or do they rebel against it?

The term complementarianism gets us bogged down in questions about roles. The term patriarchy cuts to the heart of the matter, which is a question about rule.


I see your point. It is a matter of exposure, though. Not so long ago I was pretty deep down that rabbit hole, and so hearing “patriarchy” just makes me wary. Those teachings are more common in Reformed circles than you might think.

Father-rule seems pretty ambiguous, though. People don’t know what it entails. I certainly don’t. At least complementarianism is somewhat well-defined (feel free to contest this point). Feminism has confused things so much that even many of those who want to return to some form of patriarchy do so according to the tyrannical stereotype that feminists espouse, or by imitating Victorian times or the 50’s. But what does it actually mean, in everyday 21st century life, for the father to rule? For the wife to submit? What does it mean for the unmarried daughter or son? I just feel like these principles (headship, submission, etc.) are so difficult to apply, and that there is so much cultural leeway in how they play out. Maybe I’m foolish for wanting hard and fast rules. That’s a recipe for legalism.

Also, isn’t there a genuine danger of making women more vulnerable to abuse and disenfranchisement in a patriarchal society? Don’t the feminists kind of have a point about the way women have historically been treated and seen as morally and intellectually inferior?

Maybe you should do a series on it, lol. Sorry for all these questions.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

I take your point, so I’ll meet you half way. How about we always insist on biblical patriarchy, rather than “mere” patriarchy?

Biblical patriarchy answers the questions you pose, both explicitly in the directions of Scripture, but also implicitly in the example of God. When I speak of biblical patriarchy, it is a model that derives from and reflects the paradigm of fathership: God.

Is God’s fatherhood tyrannical? Is his rule abusive? I think we can agree it is not; and that following it faithfully will therefore lead to the kind of rulership that loves women and children, and promotes their flourishing.


>The woman at the well was not caught in adultery, so no, she didn’t qualify for stoning. Moreover, as Jesus himself said, he did not come to judge the world, but to save it

didn’t he judge things? i’d say he judged pharisees with some harsh words, he judged the salesmen in his father’s temple by assaulting them and extricating them. so what do you mean by this. also, is the part of being “caught red handed” important here, or are you just mincing words

>it was a kangaroo court set up to trap him. The woman was a patsy. Why would he play into that?

to give a clear answer to the question charged to him. i don’t think just not answering a question counts as a logical refutation, even if the argument set forth is a “trap.”

to be clear I implicitly agree with Jesus (and like your blog); the mosaic law only had application as long as the Father ordained, and that ordinance ended around the time his son began his ministry, it seems. I just don’t really understand his actions or your justification of them/use of them in your points.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant

To clarify:

1. The law required two or three witnesses to condemn someone. Therefore, with regard to the woman at the well, even though Jesus knew perfectly well everything she had done, he was not legally able to stone her.

2. Jesus certainly did judge, but did not come to judge as king or ruler. He didn’t have any formal civil authority, so he didn’t have any real say in a court case.

3. Jesus is under no obligation to answer any question. Merely asking someone a question doesn’t mean they have a duty to answer it. And when the question is contrived in such a way as to make you look wrong even when you’re right, obviously you shouldn’t answer it. Jesus is a highly tactical debater. Compare Luke 20:1–8.

4. Since this passage isn’t part of Scripture, I don’t see the point in wasting time on it like this.


Thanks. To what passage are you referring in point 4?

>when the question is contrived in such a way as to make you look wrong even when you’re right, obviously you shouldn’t answer it.

That presumes that you’re the one to judge whether you’re right or not. I consider you to be a person very skilled in the socratic arts, so I wouldn’t think this defense would be sufficient for you.

The defense I’ve ever used for myself is not to place pearls before swine. It’s disrespectful of the word of god to bring it into a discussion where it is not welcome and will be treated with contempt, and it will hurt the conversion rate rather than boost it. I think that’s a more ironclad reason, not as subject to personal bias.

That’s a great point about the difference between judging in the colloquial sense, and judging with (the presumption of) power/authority to enact punishment.


I completely forgot about that. Good catch. That does help things along when you can just completely exclude the text from being divinely inspired.