Tag Archives: church fathers on women

Quoting the Founding Fathers of Complementarian Theology

There is an AWESOME list of quotes from theologians spanning the ages who have spawned and perpetuated the teachings of complementarianism, on Amazon.com of all places (responding to a negative review of Sarah Bessey’s book, “Jesus Feminist”).  The author of this awesomeness is Bob Edwards, whose articles are frequently featured on The Junia Project.  Here is the link to the actual Amazon page, and here is Bob’s awesome reply to the “Jesus Feminist” hater:

50 of 50 people found the following review helpful

5.0 out of 5 stars In response to a one star review, posted by a reader named “Steve.”, Feb. 7 2014
This review is from: Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women (Paperback)
This is actually a review of a review. It is a response to a critique of Sarah Bessey’s book by a reader named “Steve.”Steve’s Criticism:
“First, Sarah Bessey loves to go after the straw man [i.e. a position that someone doesn’t actually hold]. Even the subtitle betrays this tendency: Exploring God’s Radical Notion That Women Are People, Too. Did Sarah seriously believe her complimentarian [sic] (Biblically minded non-egalitarian) friends would think it a radical notion that women are people too? Who has ever suggested they are not?”My Response:
Who indeed Steve? Here are some quotes from the architects of complementarian theology, and from those who continue to perpetuate it today:

“[For women] the very consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame.”–Saint Clement of Alexandria, Christian theologian (c150-215) Pedagogues II, 33, 2

“In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die… Woman, you are the gate to hell.” –Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)

“Woman is a temple built over a sewer.” –Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)

“Woman was merely man’s helpmate, a function which pertains to her alone. She is not the image of God but as far as man is concerned, he is by himself the image of God.” – Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354-430)

“Woman does not possess the image of God in herself but only when taken together with the male who is her head, so that the whole substance is one image. But when she is assigned the role as helpmate, a function that pertains to her alone, then she is not the image of God. But as far as the man is concerned, he is by himself alone the image of God just as fully and completely as when he and the woman are joined together into one.” –Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354-430)

“Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his. Therefore she is unsure in herself. What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. … Thus in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man. Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good.” –Saint Albertus Magnus, Dominican theologian, 13th century

“As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence.”–Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, 13th century

“The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes.” – Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

“No gown worse becomes a woman than the desire to be wise.” – Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

“Men have broad and large chests, and small narrow hips, and more understanding than women, who have but small and narrow breasts, and broad hips, to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children.” – Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)

“Thus the woman, who had perversely exceeded her proper bounds, is forced back to her own position. She had, indeed, previously been subject to her husband, but that was a liberal and gentle subjection; now, however, she is cast into servitude.” –John Calvin, Reformer (1509-1564)

“Even as the church must fear Christ Jesus, so must the wives also fear their husbands. And this inward fear must be shewed by an outward meekness and lowliness in her speeches and carriage to her husband. . . . For if there be not fear and reverence in the inferior, there can be no sound nor constant honor yielded to the superior.” – John Dod, A Plaine and Familiar Exposition ofthe Ten Commandements, Puritan guidebook first published in 1603

“The second duty of the wife is constant obedience and subjection.” – John Dod, A Plaine and Familiar Exposition ofthe Ten Commandements, Puritan guidebook first published in 1603

“The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” — Pat Robertson, Southern Baptist leader (1930–)

“Women will be saved by going back to that role that God has chosen for them. Ladies, if the hair on the back of your neck stands up it is because you are fighting your role in the scripture. –Mark Driscoll, founder of Mars Hill nondenominational mega-church franchise. (1970–)
(above quotes retrieved from […])

“It is the natural order among people that women serve their husbands and children their parents, because the justice of this lies in (the principle that) the lesser serves the greater…. This is the natural justice that the weaker brain serve the stronger. This therefore is the evident justice in the relationships between slaves and their masters, that they who excel in reason, excel in power.” (St. Augustine, Questions on the Heptateuch, Book I, § 153, as cited at […])

“Let the woman be satisfied with her state of subjection, and not take it amiss that she is made inferior to the more distinguished sex.” (John Calvin, as cited in Oliphant, J. (2011). AQA Religious Ethics for AS and A2. New York, NY: Routledge)

“It means that a woman will demonstrate that she is in fact a Christian, that she has submitted to God’s ways by affirming and embracing her God-designed identity as—for the most part, generally this is true—as wife and mother, rather than chafing against it, rather than bucking against it, rather than wanting to be a man, wanting to be in a man’s position, wanting to teach and exercise authority over men.” (Bruce Ware, as cited in Taylor, S. (2013). Dethroning Male Headship, p. 109. Auburndale, FL: One Way Press)

Mark Driscoll explains that women are restricted from positions of teaching and authority at his church: “Paul forbids women to teach and exercise authority as elders-pastors…. So at Mars Hill Church, only elders preach, enforce formal church discipline, and set doctrinal standards for the church.” (as cited from […])

“To be a woman is to support, to nurture, and to strengthen men in order that they would flourish and fulfill their God-given role as leaders.” (Owen Strachan of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, as cited from […])

The New Bible Commentary, 21st Century Edition, interprets Ephesians 5 as stating that husbands are to be regarded as the “masters” of their wives, and that wives are commanded by God to “obey” them (Wenham & Carson, 1994).

To summarize, women have been depicted as less than fully human, more evil than men, inferior, less intelligent and born for a life of subjection to male authority. Their place, according to these authors, is in the home to bear and raise children for husbands that they must “obey” as their “masters.”

Does Sarah Bessey really “love to go after the straw man” as Steve suggests? I don’t think so.

Sadly, those with a prejudice—in this case against women–are often the last to see it. That is why they may think that others are arguing against a “straw man.” The straw man isn’t made of straw in this case at all. Some complementarians simply appear unable to recognize the deeply ingrained sexism of their worldview. Just because they can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there:

Sexism
[sek-siz-uh m] noun
1. attitudes or behavior based on traditional stereotypes of sexual roles.

2. discrimination or devaluation based on a person’s sex, as in restricted job opportunities; especially, such discrimination directed against women.
([…])

“Jesus Feminist” is a refreshing contrast to the sexism that is so prevalent in church history and that lingers on in a patriarchal (i.e. complementarian) worldview today. Sarah Bessey’s work is poetic and inspirational. She communicates a passionate view of the impartial love of Jesus with grace and eloquence.

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