The Arrogant Patriarch

The Arrogant Patriarch

Over the years I have met a generic person. I know this sounds a bit strange and the term “generic” may be a bit confusing, so let me explain. A generic person is not one person, but a kind of composite of people who share characteristics or traits. So this person is a composite of certain traits in people. These people are not all the same. They are different in many ways but they do share commonalities.

This person is ageless. One would think that this person would typically be “old” simply because we expect some of these traits from older people. Surprisingly, though, the people that have fit this generic description are not confined to the older generation. They are often younger people. Perhaps that is why they have caught my attention so readily. They have not been what most folks would typically consider “old.” I have witnessed these traits in people as young as 15. Most of them, however, have been between 17 and 55, the majority in their 30’s and 40’s.

This person is also genderless. I have witnessed these traits in both men and women.    I will concede, however, that most of the ones who have evidenced these traits have been men. But please understand that I refer to this person with masculine pronouns more for convenience sake than to imply that these traits are only witnessed in men. Hence I have called this person the “the arrogant patriarch”.

The traits of the arrogant patriarch are as follows:

A confidence in his own intelligence: I do not mean to imply that he is intelligent. He may be very intelligent. But what defines him is his belief in his intelligence. Sometimes he is neither intelligent nor educated but still believes he is intelligent. Along with this comes a certainty about his views and opinions being correct.

I have encountered this phenomenon in a man with a PhD from Harvard and a man that was illiterate. The PhD, a professed born again Christian, questioned the biblical account of Creation and other accounts and justified abortion to the 9th month gestation. The illiterate man insisted to me that the Bible was full of errors. When I challenged him to show me one, he left the room. Then his wife whispered to me that he could not read. But that did not stop him or the PhD from rendering an absolute opinion. These folks tend to have an opinion about most topics. He is so certain and confident about his viewpoint because he believes in his own intelligence.

The student /teacher dynamic: This trait is more felt than easily defined. But the subtle idea conveyed by him is that he is the teacher (or should be) and you are the student. He may not actually say that he is the teacher and you are the student. He is not necessarily abrasive. He just acts like he is (or should be) the teacher. It is connected with his belief in his intelligence. Some folks will readily accept him as the teacher simply because they are swayed by his manner. He believes he should be in charge and acts like it. This in part leads to the next characteristic of the arrogant patriarch.

The tendency toward conflict with others: Conflict comes with others because he tends to act upon his belief in his own intelligence. He believes that his viewpoint is the correct one and his decisions are the best. Therefore, it is only natural that others should do what he suggests or do things as he would do them. Any other way is deficient. When conflict with others arises because of this, it is not his fault. Other people are just too sensitive, or are jealous or threatened by his superior giftedness.  The problem always resides in others. It could not be in him.

The inability to follow: This guy is often perpetually unemployed or he is in business for himself. The reason for either circumstance is that he just cannot work for someone else. If he has a job, he is often in conflict with his superiors or disdainful of them. In a church situation, he is someone that has difficulty recognizing the leadership authority of a pastor (Hebrews 13:7, 17). Typically, he embraces the plurality of elders viewpoint in church governance, not because he believes it is biblical, but because it fits his personality. Complete equality in authority means less infringement on his independency. The truth is he is no more in deference to a plurality of leadership than he is to one leader.


One such man with whom there had been persistent issues in a local church was asked if he could follow the pastor’s leadership. His reply was, “A man is not a pastor because he says he is. He is a pastor if he is pastoral.” And who determines if he is pastoral? The patriarch. He was saying that if the pastor met his expectations, (the only correct criteria), then he would recognize his leadership. The problem is that all pastors have flaws and given enough time, the patriarch will find them. It is his justification for ignoring the counsel of a shepherd and following his own judgment. In his mind, he does not need pastoral leadership.


The tendency to pontificate about one or select Biblical topics: Often this person “goes to seed” on some area of theology or biblical interpretation. Often he becomes an expert on some biblical topic such as prophecy, family living, evangelism, election, living by grace or the nature of the church. It really does not matter what the topic might be, for he has mastered it. He is an expert and people who do not agree are ignorant or willfully rebellious against what he knows to be the truth. He outguns those who are ignorant of or not as studied in areas where he is a specialist. He rarely will deal with someone as studied as he. This, of course, confirms his belief in his opinions and ultimately his superior understanding.

A desire to limit exposure of his family or comrades to only his views: This trait appears virtuous as certainly all family heads, leaders and loyal friends should desire to protect those close to them from error. But this goes further than that. For when a family member, friend or loved one begins to be swayed by opinions other than the patriarch’s, he will often begin to resent the intruder’s influence. He will take steps to withdraw his family or friends from opinions he deems to conflict with his leadership. He will pull his child out of a class, require his family to sit only with him, or withdraw his family and go to another church. Sometimes no church is good enough because, to him, they are all in error or bound by unbiblical traditions. So he may form his own “church” where he is the pastor and where people can get the truth. If he stays in a church, he stays on the perimeter of involvement so as to retain control of information. This person will often home school / home church his family so as to “protect” them. But it really is not about protection of his family. He is protecting his patriarchal position.

A condescending attitude toward the opposite sex: If a man, he treats his wife or women in general not just as the weaker vessel but as the lesser vessel. If a woman, she tends to regard men as generally stupid and needy and takes a condescending attitude toward them. A man tends to think of most women as inferior beings by design and regards his role not just as protector but as director. Whether a man or a woman, this person tends to want to control the partner either by force of will or manipulation – all of this because of a basic belief in his superiority and of the partner’s inferiority. This is not to say that the patriarch does not love or care for the individual. He very well may love them. He is still manipulative and controlling.

These are seven common characteristics of this generic person that I have referred to as the arrogant patriarch. If you are one of them I am sure that you will not have kindly thoughts toward this writer. If you are not one of them, beware. You could easily become such.


  1. Hello! I read this article on the Arrogant Patriarch awhile back and really, really appreciated it! It not only explains a specific situation we have had to deal with, it also succinctly describes the dreadful phenomenon we’ve been seeing in IFB churches (and many other places) for some time. Thanks so much for writing it.

    I am planning to link to this, but I’d like to know if I can actually copy it to my page critiquing the “Biblical Patriarchy” movement. Of course, I would make an emphasized link back to your page and give clear credit. I understand if you would prefer that I not do that. I ask because I’ve discovered that things have a way of disappearing sometimes, and this is so exceptional I would hate to see it go away. 🙂 I really want my readers to see it.

    Thanks again for this. We live in Texas where “Biblical Patriarchy” has had a very strong hold due to the presence of some of its famous promoters here, so we’ve seen this very up close and personal.

    By the way, Michigan is my home state. I was born in Kalamazoo. 🙂

    • cbcqmi

      Dear Mary,

      Thank you for writing. I am glad that article has been a source of blessing to you. Of course you may use it, link to it, etc. This movement and its attitude has been divisive and harmful, I think, to the cause of Christ. I would be pleased if others were warned and directed away from it.

      Your Servant and His,

      Frank I Snyder

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