The breakdown of the family is a well-documented reality. But pundits, candidates, politicians, preachers, and educators alike continue to turn to statist solutions to the social ills of our day, failing to recognize that they result from a failure to abide by God’s architecture for society.
In God’s economy, the family is the primary institution that is to train individuals to become responsible participants in every sphere of life. Even among those who acknowledge the Biblical jurisdiction of the family, the sad reality is that very few have any practical concept as to how to turn things around, or even know where to begin. The book of Genesis is the necessary “starting point” (forgive the pun) in determining how this should play out in day-to-day life. With Genesis as our foundation, we can then proceed through the laws of the Pentateuch for our blueprint for social order. Only then can we hope to make any lasting difference beyond the walls of our homes.
Man, made for dominion, was to fulfill this task, not as a solitary gender, but as male and female, each with specific and individual functions—physically, emotionally, and familially. As the foundational couple, Adam and Eve were the means by which dominion would occur, as they were first to be commanded to be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth. Whenever and wherever God’s blueprint is altered or “improved upon” there will be inevitable judgment upon the offenders and their offspring. How many of the social ills of our day are a consequence of the family failing to carry out and maintain its jurisdictional role of dominion in and through the areas of health, education, and welfare?
R. J. Rushdoony in his short book Law & Liberty capably outlines the link between law, liberty, and the family’s role in the production of a godly social order. When ignored and abandoned, the social order reflects the sin of Genesis 3:5 and races ahead to a tyrannical statism. He writes:
We are today in an era of burgeoning statism. On every side, the family is under attack, and the state is assuming progressively more and more of the family’s functions, and progressively finding itself more and more prone to social disintegration and demoralization. More than ever before, the Biblical faith and law concerning the family, its functions, property, and faith, must be stressed and taught. The future does not belong to disease; it belongs to health. Because this is God’s world, it is God’s order which shall prevail. “Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it” (Ps. 127:1).1
In the last fifty years, many Christians have begun this process by reclaiming the family’s role in the education of their children. Rushdoony called this endeavor the quiet revolution2 as obedience was carried out without fanfare, except when the state stepped in to squelch this jurisdictional corrective. Much more needs to be done in the areas of health and welfare, as Christians reassert their duty under God to handle their own health and remove health care from the dictates of the state.3 Likewise, the administration of charity must be returned to the family if the command to care for widows and orphans is to be obeyed. However, exactly who is both capable and equipped to carry out these vital tasks? I submit that the Proverbs 31 woman is key to their fulfillment. First, some background.
How Did Things Change So Fast?
I was a post-WWII baby, coming on the scene in the midst of the cold war. Statism had previously made tremendous inroads into the cultural life of America with the advent of the motion picture and the ability to project a standard that could be utilized to manipulate the masses. Yet like so many baby boomers, I grew up in a social order that had as its norm a two-parent household, with extended family close by, and with the expectation that mothers would raise their own children and fathers would provide for their families.
Television, like many of the movies of the 30s and 40s, played a significant role in grooming women to shed the protections of the family and assert themselves as “just as good as men.” Up until that time, the average person was more intimately aware of his local community and conformed to the social norms that were very much tied to family life. The immigrant ghettos of the late 1800s and early 1900s, regardless of religious denomination, had a high regard for family life and the responsibility to care for one’s own. As mass visual communication became more commonplace, it became an effective tool for masters of manipulation to plant seeds of discontent and encourage conflicts within the family structure to foster the adversarial “battle of the sexes” and “the generation gap” that gained a foothold.
One such manipulator was Edward Bernays (nephew of Sigmund Freud) who, in the early 1920s, made effective use of public relations infused with a psychological component adapted from his uncle to play upon an already weakened religious faith of the people.4 Women, who, in many cases, had legitimate gripes about the lack of justice in many spheres, were directed to fight back, not with the principles of Scripture, but rather to assert and demand their equality with men. Because of skillful manipulation, these wrongs were not rectified by these “advancements” but only worsened in other, less obvious ways.
As Rushdoony points out:
The legal safeguards of the family are increasingly removed, so that again society is threatened with the anarchy of an anti-familistic state and its legalized lawlessness. In the name of equal rights, women are being stripped of the protections of the family and given no place except the perverse competition of a sexual market in which increasingly shock, perversion, deviation, and aggressiveness command a premium. The women who gain by equal rights are those clearly who are hostile to Christian law.
The law, it must be remembered, is warfare against that which is defined as evil and a protection of that which is held to be good. In the developing law-structure of humanism, warfare is implicitly waged against the parents and the family as evil, and protection is extended to perverts and law-breakers on the assumption that their “rights” need protecting.5
Taking the Bait
The effective marketing advocating for gender equality permeated much of what Hollywood produced in the 30s and 40s with the autonomous woman, quite capable without men, becoming the epitome of womanhood.6 Even the traditional roles for women were often stereotyped or caricatured, brewing a restlessness that resulted in life imitating art.
In the 50s, television was a significant factor in shaping the cultural mindset by being the gatekeeper when it came to classifying what would be considered entertainment. A stream of popular shows invaded the households of America, which often characterized the husband/father as a buffoon with housewives who seemed to live limited, boring lives. Often the negative stereotype helped to convince women that being a wife and mother were second-class roles and they were destined for greater things. Then, in the sixties, the independent, single woman was often the focus of programming. Although equality was the stated goal, the attack against the family was the underlying one.
Discussions of equality are usually characterized by a fuzziness of language, since the term is usually a political slogan and as such is evasive of meaning…[T]herational ideal or concept of equality has been influential in modern history. In this faith, an abstract concept of man is held to be true irrespective of any and all circumstances concerning the individual. This is essentially a religious faith, but, having been affirmed by humanists who pride themselves on their rationalism, the name can be used even as its irrationality is noted. In terms of the rationalism of this school, man is logically a certain kind of being possessed of certain natural attributes, of which equality is central. This is thereality concerning man; all factors pointing to another condition are ruled to be historical, cultural, or environmental accidents. Hence the accidents must be eliminated and the reality allowed to flourish…
Sexual equality, also expressed in the feminist movement, is an assertion that the differences between men and women are accidents (in the philosophical sense), theirreality being a common and an equal condition. This concept is again a by-product of “rationalism” and humanism and presupposes that differences are invidious and uniformity ideal.7
Consider the difference between America today and my childhood in the 50s. Most families were two-parent households and, except for extenuating circumstances, mom cared for the children, and her children and extended family were her primary focus. They also were vital to the functioning of church and the greater community with their volunteer efforts. How different the situation today. Even with financial security, women become restless if they cannot return to work after a short maternity leave, claiming they will go crazy if they are forced to remain at home. Over my lifetime, slogans like: Why shouldn’t women have the same opportunities as men? Why shouldn’t certain arenas (the boardroom or the battlefield) be suitable places for women? Why must women be bogged down with raising children, when their gifts and talents can be better utilized elsewhere and suitable caregivers hired in their stead? In the campaign to gain gender equality, the right to murder the unborn was placed in the hands of women thanks to an effective propaganda machine.
Eliminating the Proverbs 31 Woman
As I have examined elsewhere, Proverbs 31 is credited to a king’s mother, outlining for him the qualifications of an excellent wife, a virtuous woman. Everything she does and manages begins with her looking well to the ways of her household. Those who claim that this woman engages in business and various enterprises as justification for women pursuing status and recognition apart from a family context fail to realize that, when you remove the woman as the household manager, the structure and functions of the family are compromised, as well as the structure and function of the extended culture.
Not only does Genesis clearly give God’s purpose for creating a suitable helper for Adam, but repeatedly in Scripture a worthy woman and wife is credited with being the most cherished and expensive of all gifts. As modern culture demeaned God’s order and relegated the high calling of women, the church did likewise. Yet it did so by demanding a wife’s total obedience to her husband as the countermeasure. This set families back and resulted in abusive relationships, among other things.
The directive in Titus 2 for the older, more experienced Christian woman to make it a priority to teach the younger ones to love their husbands and children, is a recipe for an intact culture that has as its purpose the pursuit of the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Not only do many younger women take more of their counsel from daytime television, women’s magazines, and social media, but often older, seasoned women are unwilling to make themselves available for counsel and assistance. The result is a fractured society with women being preyed upon and devalued more so than in any other generation in America.
Cases in Point
Military service is an area where women have fought for equality. How many Americans are aware of the alarming statistic of the rape of women in the military that often goes unreported and unprosecuted because the system is rigged in favor of the predators? Many women join the military to serve their country, often exchanging their service for promised education and career opportunities. Has this push for equality benefited them or left them unprotected and unable to achieve justice? In the push for equality, they have been the recipients of brutality and degradation. And now plans are underway to make military service mandatory for women.
Higher education is another area wherein women fought for equality—both academically and athletically. Here as well, the incidence of sexual abuse and rape on college campuses is significant. Often when reported, the school administration closes ranks, especially if the perpetrators are athletes who bring in sizable revenues for the sports programs. As a culture we have so devalued the covering and protection that the family provides, that we send off a new crop of college co-eds every year to be subjugated to this degrading treatment. In many cases, predators can spot those who are outside the care of family. One would be hard-pressed to call this a net gain.9
A Truly Biblical Solution
Rather than attempt to legislate our way to a morally sound culture when those in power display their utter disregard for Biblical morality, it is time for women to consider whether or not they have traded their birthright for a bowl of porridge. We can engage in the rhetoric that asserts that women are just as capable as men and that abusive transgressions against women must not be tolerated. However, these are not the underlying issues. They will not get to the root of the problem and will only serve to foster more deadly societal weeds.
It is not enough to identify the problem; we need to take the reins in pursuing the godly directives for women to value the high calling the Bible outlines for them. Women won’t be able to do their part to restore the Biblical family and a godly social order until they embrace: the value of chastity, identify that sexual expression is reserved only for marriage, make family (immediate and extended) their highest priority, and affirm the unique position they hold to create cultural change by reclaiming those areas usurped by the state. As Rushdoony notes,
We have removed the Bible and its faith and morals from our schools, our courts, our medical clinics (and from too many churches), and then we act indignant when we encounter corruption and hypocrisy in high places and low. But we have asked for it, paid for it, and required it by our exclusion of God and His law-word from our lives, and our indignation has a dishonest ring.
Under similar circumstances, Isaiah 8:20 gives us a standard of judgment: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”10
Our need is for the grace and saving power of God and the authority of His law-word. Men are not saved by knowing how evil the times are but by the sovereign and saving power of God.11
Christian women, we are poised to reclaim the crown rights of Jesus Christ in our society as we return to our creation commission. It is no accident that God gave women the privilege of bearing children and raising them. St. Paul states in 1 Timothy 2:14–15 that although the woman (Eve) was deceived in the transgression, women will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety. This is anything but a lowly and second-class undertaking. By her bearing and rearing children, and extending her hands to those in need, while clinging tightly to the law-word of God, and supporting her husband and family in the dominion undertaking, she is poised to be the gatekeeper of a culture that truly honors the Creator. Rather than attempt to rectify injustices and social decay by using the methods of the world, the power of God is at our fingertips, if we will but use it.
Proverbs 31:17 reads, “She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.” I have always taken that to mean that a woman should be physically fit and strong. However, here is an additional perspective. The very act of childbirth requires tremendous strength and effort on the part of a woman. Nothing quite compares to it. What’s more, from the outset of the baby’s life, she holds and carries her child. What begins as a six-to-nine-pound infant is often carried as a toddler and child up to thirty-plus pounds and for three to four years. In the course of that time, not to mention when you consider multiple children, a woman’s arms get quite strong, not to mention her ability to balance and multi-task the day-in and day-out demands of motherhood. The Proverbs 31 woman receives strength as she fulfills her calling under God. Is it any wonder that God’s remedy for Adam’s longing for a suitable partner, resulted in a helper whose focus is supporting others?
Woman are a vital and necessary component of the dominion mandate and Great Commission in and through their responsibilities in the family and beyond. This is within our reach because obedience to God always brings about further blessing to obey. Our strong arms are tied into our creation as women and it is high time we realize that the privilege we’ve been given is great.
[This article first appeared in Faith for All of Life magazine (July/August 2016).]
1. R. J. Rushdoony, Law & Liberty (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books,  2009), p. 103.
2. See R. J. Rushdoony, The Philosophy of the Christian Curriculum (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books,  2001).
3. See R.J. Rushdoony, Faith & Wellness (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2016).
4. See documentary series: The Century of Self, available on YouTube. The earlier episodes are the most informative.
5. R. J. Rushdoony, Institutes of Biblical Law, vol. 1, (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1973), p. 208.
6. Movies with Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Rosalind Russell, and others highlighted women who manifested an autonomous view of life rather than one which embraced family life. Moreover, the emphasis on sex appeal and physical beauty became how men viewed women and how women viewed themselves.
7. R. J. Rushdoony, This Independent Republic (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books,  2001), pp. 61–62.
8. See Andrea Schwartz, The Biblical Trustee Family, Woman of the House, A House for God, and my soon-to-be-released book Empowered: Developing Women for Kingdom Service—all available from Chalcedon.edu.
9. See documentaries, The Invisible War, and The Hunting Ground—both by the same director. While not agreeing with these films’ statist solutions, the statistical information and the first-hand accounts are decidedly troublesome.
10. ibid., p. 75.
11. R. J. Rushdoony, A Word in Season, vol. 4 (Vallecito, CA: Ross House Books, 2012), p. 79.