The Arrogant Patriarch
by Frank I. Snyder
Used by permission.
original post here.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.