Awakenings / Culture / Theology

Dismantling Patriarchy to Recover the Blessed Alliance (Part 2)

*Editorial Note: Part 1 of Carolyn’s piece, “Dismantling Patriarchy to Recover the Blessed Alliance,” published on Tuesday, May 21st. It can be read here. ~CK


The Great Collapse

Tragically, God’s mission for humanity falls apart before it even starts. The Enemy invades and the Blessed Alliance is his first target. With a single conversation, Satan cuts God’s Image Bearers off from their Creator and divides them from each other in accusatory shame (See Genesis 3:1-7). The rest is history.

In Genesis 3, God is not unveiling a new and improved social order, but rather making a prophetic announcement of a total collapse. East of Eden, patriarchy is born! Human power is corrupted, becoming over other humans versus alongside, caring for creation. Now, instead of a Blessed Alliance, the man will rule over the woman. The ezer-kenegdo recedes in the biblical narrative. Thereafter, a mere 10% of biblical characters are female.


Patriarchy is not the Bible’s message. It is the fallen cultural backdrop that sets off in the strongest relief the radical nature and potency of the Bible’s gospel message. ~Carolyn Custis James, Malestrom Click To Tweet


We need to understand patriarchy much better than we do, if we hope to unleash the revolutionary message of the Bible and Jesus’ gospel for human beings today. Patriarchy empowers men over women and children, but also over other men. Ironically, patriarchy can be as destructive to men as to women. Here are three biblical examples that show how the scriptural narrative is clear from Genesis to Revelation: The Bible dismantles a patriarchal system.

  1. The Old Testament, beginning with Genesis, dismantles patriarchy.

Primogeniture is “the linchpin of patriarchy that necessarily results in “disadvantage” for most males.”6 It bestows a man’s first-born son with crown prince status and family leadership, including double the inheritance of his younger brothers. Daughters are excluded.

God doesn’t conform to patriarchal rules. Repeatedly, God overthrows primogeniture and patriarchy with it, choosing Abel over firstborn Cain, Isaac not Ishmael, and Jacob not Esau. Among Jacob’s thirteen sons, Jacob chose Joseph, son number twelve; God chose Judah, Jacob’s fourth.

By the time Genesis ends, patriarchy is dismantled at its heart. But this dismantling doesn’t stop with Genesis. It runs straight through the Bible. God chose David, Jesse’s seventh son, to be Israel’s King. God repeatedly raised up women to advance his kingdom purposes — Hagar, Deborah and Jael, Ruth and Naomi, Esther, Mary of Nazareth, Mary of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, to name but a few. 

Patriarchy is a fallen destructive social system that violates God’s blueprint for Imago Dei humanity.


God doesn't conform to patriarchal rules. Repeatedly, God overthrows primogeniture and patriarchy with it, choosing Abel over firstborn Cain; Isaac, not Ishmael; and Jacob not Esau. Among Jacob's 13 sons, Joseph, his 12th, is chosen! Click To Tweet


  1. The Apostle Paul continues to dismantle patriarchy. 

Paul’s mission was to take Jesus and his gospel into the first-century Gentile Roman world — a full-fledged patriarchal culture characterized by powerful men and powerless women, children, and slaves. Yet, when addressing a mixed audience of Gentile believers who represented those demographics, Paul makes this radical statement: “You are all sons in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). 

In the interest of inclusiveness, English translators have historically changed “sons” to “sons and daughters” or “children.” But Paul’s wording here was already inclusive — in fact, Gospel revolutionary. Against the patriarchal cultural context, where sons matter, and daughters and slaves don’t count, Paul says, “You are all sons in Christ Jesus.” 

In God’s family — we are all sons!


Patriarchy empowers men over women and children, but also over other men. Ironically, patriarchy can be as destructive to men as to women. It is a fallen destructive social system that violates God’s blueprint for Imago Dei humanity. Click To Tweet


  1. Jesus dismantles patriarchy once and for all.

But the best and most important news is that the Bible contains two matching sets of blueprints: God’s creation vision and Jesus who is “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) and “the exact representation of his being” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus embodies God’s creation blueprint as the perfect Imago Dei. 

Jesus came to embody and restore God’s original creation vision by reconnecting us with our Creator and showing us of how we are to live as Imago Dei. Jesus came to rebuild the Blessed Alliance through his sacrificial death, a mission that requires all we all have to offer as men and women working together in unity.

The Blessed Alliance was God’s vision in the beginning and Jesus’ prayer at the end. We read in John, “May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me” (John 17:23). 

If we ever hope to end this appalling pandemic of patriarchal abuse, we must put patriarchy in its place as the cultural backdrop of the Bible, not the gospel message itself. And then, as the Imago Dei, we must get to work recovering those original blueprints!

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Carolyn Custis James is an award-winning author who thinks deeply about what it means to be a female follower of Jesus in a postmodern world. Her books include Malestrom: How Jesus Dismantles Patriarchy and Redefines Manhood (2022 edition), Finding God in the Margins (2018), Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women (2015), among others. As a cancer survivor, she is grateful to be alive and determined to address the issues that matter most. Her speaking and writing ministry is dedicated to addressing the deeper needs which confront both women and men as they endeavor to extend God’s kingdom together in a messy and complicated world. She is an adjunct faculty member at Missio Seminary in Philadephia and a consulting editor for Zondervan’s Exegetical Commentary Series on the New Testament. She also serves on the Board of Advisors for Logia, an initiative of the LOGOS Institute of the University of St. Andrews, UK committed to seeing women academics become more visible and valued in the academy and the church. Carolyn is a Leading Voice of Missio Alliance.


If we ever hope to end this appalling pandemic of patriarchal abuse, we must put patriarchy in its place as the cultural backdrop of the Bible, not the gospel message itself. Click To Tweet


Footnotes    

1 Walter Brueggemann, Genesis, ed. James Luther Mays, Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox, 2010), 209—210.


*Editorial Note 2: The plenary keynote lecture above, entitled “Dismantling the Patriarchy to Recover the Blessed Alliance,” was given by Dr. Carolyn Custis James, a Missio Alliance Leading Voice. ~CK

  • Purchase the “Dismantling the Patriarchy to Recover the Blessed Alliance, video plenary here.
  • The full Awakenings 2023 Gathering bundle is available here.

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*Editorial Note 3: Awakenings 2025 returns to the DC area this coming March 6th-8th, 2025! Our theme for our 6th biennial National Gathering will be “Wholeness and Beauty in the Life of the Church.” Missio Alliance is thrilled to announce that our first featured speaker is none other than the esteemed Dr. Willie James Jennings.

Sign up here to be notified via email when registration goes live!

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