Zachary Garris’s Masculine Christianity begins with “Masculinity is in peril,” and ends calling the church to the “masculine Christianity of the Bible.” His first chapters are spent developing his case historically by showing the woes of feminism. He traces feminism’s four “anti-Christian” waves. His tactic is to disqualify the views of the women crucial in each wave by three means: ad hominem, guilty by association, and hyperbole. When the 19th century suffragist Elizabeth Stanton says, “. . . we believe it is a woman’s duty to speak whenever she feels the impression to do so; that it is her right to be present in all the councils of Church and State,” Garris says, “(Stanton) wanted to overthrow the traditional practices of male leadership in every sphere.” Garris thinks the woman should remain publicly silent and at home in the “high place of honor and protection that Christian society had given to women” (16). Of the second wave, which subsumed the concern of birth control, Garris writes, “If first-wave feminism can be described as women’s desire to be independent from men, second-wave feminism can be described as women’s desire to act like men (17). Assuming that Garris doesn’t think “men acting like men” is a good thing in this case, what Garris really believes is that Christian families should “seek to have lots of children . . . order(ing) their household around supporting and raising many children” (278).
After showing that the waves of feminism are at the root of our societal ills, Garris launches into his own views of man and woman. Garris believes that the woman is subordinate by nature. He quotes Gouge’s Domestical Duties (1622), “Nature has honored the male over the female, so that where they are linked together in one yoke, it is given by nature that he should govern, and she obey. This the pagans observed by light of nature . . . Until a wife is fully instructed there and truly persuaded of it, no duty can be performed by her as it ought, for submission has relation to higher rank and authority” (99). Garris continues, “The point is that Scripture is clear that God has given men the responsibility to rule in society. Men have authority over their wives, and some particularly gifted men are to serve as pastors of churches and others as political leaders” (102). Garris is a husband and Presbyterian pastor, interested in law and politics.
In the second half of Garris’s book, he offers his exegetical evidence for his position. After briefly remarking on what men and women share in common, image and dominion, he launches into his arguments for male authority and female subordination. He writes, “ . . men and women have different natures. And from these differing natures flow differing functions.” (106). He continues, “Woman’s very being is wrapped up in her role as a helper (to the man)” (113). According to Garris, the woman provides companionship and children for the man, with the tasks of cooking, washing dishes, cleaning, laundry which “drastically increase” with children (18, 116).
Garris uses the polemical backdrop of Davidson’s Flame of Yahweh for his exegetical argument. Davidson sees hierarchy as rooted in the fall with the implication that husbands and wives should seek to submit to one another in love. Garris works through passages he views as debunking Davidson and other “egalitarians,” whom he uniquely defines as those who say that hierarchy was not part of creation. He then introduces the husband as “covenantal head” of his family, which for Garris means he leads spiritually, protects her physically and sexually, and provides for her needs.
Garris’s final case for patriarchy centers on a woman’s natural weakness. He points out that Peter calls the woman the “weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). According to Garris, this means she is “different . . . more prone to deception as part of (her) emotional wiring” (182), with “different inclinations” toward relationship, rather than analysis and doctrine (183). Garris concludes, “ . . women are more prone to deception than men due to their differing natures and proclivities, including that God designed women to follow, not lead” (186, cf. 233). This extends to all spheres of her life because it is a natural weakness (191). Garris is explicit, “1 Timothy 2:8-15 refers to men and women, not husbands and wives. Paul is prohibiting women from both teaching theology to men and exercising authority over men (193). Not only does Garris think that all women should refrain from teaching men, but he quotes Warfield, “‘That the prohibition of speaking in the church to women is precise, absolute, and all-inclusive. They are to keep silent in the churches—and that means in all the public meetings for worship; they are not even to ask questions’” (213).
In his concluding chapters, Garris again makes his case that the woman by nature is disqualified from authority, “A man’s body is better suited for communicating authority, seen in his deeper voice and larger body. A woman’s body is not built for communicating authority but is designed to bear and nurse children” (232). Finally, Garris turns his full attention to the problem of the feminized church which he associates with “grape juice Christianity,” which he, in turn, associates with “weakness” and “effeminacy” (236). The weakness of the woman prohibits her from having authority in the home, the church, and broader society. Deborah is dismissed because “. . .the two women rulers in Israel, Jezebel and Athaliah, were wicked, and Deborah was not even a typical judge” indeed, “God mocks women rulers” in Isaiah (253, 256). Neither can women be soldiers because they are unsuited by nature and the woman who wears combat gear is an “abomination” (263).
The final call is that we live according to our God-given natures. Women are to be in the home, bearing and caring for children, because children are “key players in this battle for the cosmos” (280). He concludes, “The husband holds authority over his wife. Only men may be pastors and elders. Only men may be soldiers and civil leaders. And women should help their husbands and have lots of babies. This is masculine Christianity” (281).
If something does not seem right with Garris’s approach, there is a good reason for skepticism. Garris’s foundation sets askew his entire project. His view of the woman of Genesis 1-3 makes his whole project falter. He has no eschatological trajectory for the man and the woman of Genesis 1:26, and makes no comment on the city-bride of Revelation 21-22, God’s final statement concerning the mother realm and bridal people of God. Garris ascribes the woman a different, yes idolatrous, meaning, quoting Calvin “ . . . all women are born, that they may acknowledge themselves inferior in consequence of the superiority of the male sex” (99).