Tag Archives: gender roles

R.C. Sproul on The Role of Man and Woman

I often say that we need to listen to others who are not like us, and in that spirit, I read complementarian articles and I tune in to complementarian sermons on marriage and gender roles.  Having been raised in a comp church tradition, I know the point of view intimately, yet am still surprised every time I hear comp teaching.  The idea of gender roles was once so clear to me, but now I feel as though scales have fallen off my eyes.  I can see how my socialization in patriarchy led me to read the Bible through that lens and to accept these kinds of sermons as being Good News.

rc sproulLast week, I listened to a sermon on gender roles by Dr. R.C. Sproul, a Calvinist pastor and Reformed theologian, author of more than 60 books, and the founder of Ligonier Ministries, which broadcasts his sermons around the world. This is a theologian with a lot of influence within Christianity, so I believe it is worthwhile to test his teachings.  The Apostle Paul told us to follow Jesus and not this preacher or that preacher, because it is human nature to adopt a favorite minister and tune into their voice religiously and not balance their influence with diverse voices.  It takes diligence to wrestle with differing perspectives, panning for the nuggets of truth.  There is no perfect teacher besides Jesus – we are all prone to error.  And ideas have consequences. Compelementarian theology has consequences that often endanger women. 

For example, Dr. Sproul’s son, R.C. Sproul, Jr., was a Calvinist minister and advocate of Christian patriarchy, even rumored to have practiced “wife spanking”.  He was found to be subscribed to Ashley Madison when that scandal broke several years ago.  Their motto was, “Life is short.  Have an affair.”  There is a slippery slope between “purity culture” and the sex industry.  Patriarchy objectifies women.  Period.  I am not sure if there is an official connection between the Sprouls and the puritanical Head Covering Movement, but there is obvious respect for their voices in that community, as these memes suggest.

Below, I am offering egalitarian rebuttals to Dr. Sproul’s sermon, point by point.  I am doing this to explain the egalitarian point of view that Dr. Sproul misrepresents for those who may be in the midst of a shift away from complementarianism.  It is when we are in a period of transition that we are most open to new ideas, which is a truly humble stance. Otherwise, we respond to new ideas by becoming defensive, even more locked into our ideology.  This is the power of confirmation bias – we dismiss information that contradicts what we already believe, and give extra weight to information that supports our ideas. Let’s bear this in mind as we pan for God’s Good News on the topic of gender roles.


Here is the sermon description from the “Renewing Your Mind” website:

In an age when the women’s liberation movement has reached all corners of society, the concept of a woman submitting to the authority of a man finds disdain. Now, more often than not, there is misunderstanding of the roles men and women have in marriage. Dr. Sproul looks at the issue in this message entitled “The Role of Man and Woman.”

Formerly, I would have read this statement and pictured  a sinister darkness spreading across a map.  In actuality, the women’s liberation movement was initiated by Christians who were offended by the marginalization and abuse of women and children by patriarchal society.  (I once responded to the assertion that feminism is devoid of God here.)  Going even further back, women flocked to the early Church because they were treated as equals there.  I challenge you to reread the New Testament, being attentive to the stories of women prophesying, preaching, teaching, and there was even a female Apostle, named Junia. “Celsus, a 2nd-century detractor of the faith, once taunted that the church attracted only ‘the silly and the mean and the stupid, with women and children.’ His contemporary, Bishop Cyprian of Carthage, acknowledged in his Testimonia that ‘Christian maidens were very numerous’ and that it was difficult to find Christian husbands for all of them. These comments give us a picture of a church disproportionately populated by women.” [source]

The sermon was broadcast on February 20th, 2017 on the Renewing Your Mind program:
The Role of Man and Woman – Dr. R. C. Sproul

I thought this was a current sermon, but I found a video which places it decades ago:

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Dr. Sproul is preaching on Paul’s household codes of Ephesians 5.  I was happy to hear Dr. Sproul begin in verse 21, as most complementarian teachings on this passage begin in verse 22 after the heading. In the original letter, there were no chapters, verse numbers or headings separating topics.  Paul had been talking about how Christians are to walk out their faith in their day to day life, and in verse 21 tells everyone to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, then continues the sentence to say, “wives, to your husbands” like this, and husbands, like this.  “Wives, submit to your husbands” does not exist in the original Greek.  “Submit” occurs in verse 21 and applies to both the husband and the wife. I recommend reading Rachel Held Evans’ post, “Submission in Context: Christ and the Greco-Roman Household Codes.”

Dr. Sproul calls the idea of mutual submission an “exegesis of despair” without any explanation of what he means.  I have searched and cannot find this term anywhere.  Who despairs under mutual submission?  If you start Googling, you will find many women despairing under legalistic, authoritarian gender roles. Start at A Cry for Justice and Spiritual Sounding Board or this post from Diary of an Autodidact on why complementarians cannot actually condemn spousal abuse.

Dr. Sproul goes on to say that you would have to apply the idea of mutual submission across the entire passage, causing confusion and disorder.  You would have to say that parents must submit to children, and that Christ is the head of the Church just as the Church is the head of Christ.  My response to these assertions:

brene brown parenting

I love Brene Brown’s Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto

First, I believe that reading the Bible with an authoritarian view (complementarianism is all about a hierarchy of authority) leads parents to, mostly unintentionally, teach their children conditional, strings-attached love.  This does not resemble God’s love for us.  It has also led to abusive treatment of children. Physical abuse is certainly rampant, but coercive control of others is abusive and might never be physical. Obedient, docile children are trophies in authoritarian comp cultures, objectified for their behavior. If you teach your children to recite Scripture and play an instrument and never talk back, you will be given honor in your complementarian church. Brene Brown would describe parenting like this as coming from a mentality of scarcity and shame rather than from worthiness and wholeheartedness.  Brennan Manning tells us that God loves us just as we are and not as we should be, because nobody is as they should be.  In this way, egalitarian theology honors children’s individuality, gifts and callings. Egalitarians do not clip their children’s wings by forcing them into prescribed roles that may frustrate them if they are not naturally inclined to fit into those boxes.  We watch our children to see their natural inclinations, we understand that their behavior is tied to their developmental stage and reveals real needs that we can meet.  Yes, correction is needed on a daily basis, but it should be about developing character, honesty, generosity, and kindness, not perfect behavior.  No parent is doing a perfect job (we need grace too!), but our theology deeply impacts how we respond to and guide our children. Young people are fleeing churches nowadays, and I don’t believe that would be the case if the ethos of the culture is worthiness and grace rather than power and control.

Second, Dr. Sproul brings us to the topic of headship.  In our modern context, we read “head” and infer “boss,” “CEO,” “authority.”  This was not the understanding of “head” in ancient times.  We now understand that our brains are in our heads, but then they thought the function of the head was as the place that food entered to nourish the body; it was the source of the fuel to run the machine while the gut was believed to be the seat of knowledge, etc.  In a patriarchal society, the father was the source of financial security for the family except in some cases where a single woman of means ran her own household. Men had nearly all of the privilege, education, financial control, and social power, and Paul is instructing men to care for their disenfranchised wives, to use their privilege for the betterment of his family, just as Jesus gave up his position in heaven to give his life for us. In this way, egalitarians understand “head” to mean “source.” Marg Mowzcko’s blog is full of insightful egalitarian exegesis, and her post on Paul’s use of “headship” is excellent.

“Rather, I think, as the consensus historically of Biblical interpreters has been…”

Yeah, let’s talk about the consensus of Biblical interpreters.  Bob Edwards provides a fascinating overview of the roots of male authority in the church here.  It is no coincidence that patriarchal theologians infused their translations and commentaries with patriarchal thought.  Edwards’ talk includes translation errors by patriarchalists that have influenced complementarian teaching.  In our post, “Quoting the Founding Fathers of Complementarian Theology,” we list some examples of sexist quotes by Augustine, Calvin, and others.  For example:

“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)

Next, Dr. Sproul says that he sees women raging about Paul’s teaching as being chauvinistic and arrogant.  He says that all authority was given to Christ, then Christ gives that authority to his apostles.  This is the law of God.  What is so controversial, Dr. Sproul asks?  Women are willing to submit to the authority of Christ, so why not to their husbands in the same way?  Dr. Sproul says that God has given a significant level of authority to husbands as the heads of the home.  If a woman resists her husband’s authority, he says she is resisting God.

Again, this comes down to different interpretations on the meaning of headship. Complementarians believe headship means “authority” and egalitarians believe headship means “source.”  Yes, Christ has all authority over heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18) and he gives authority to his followers, but that includes Christian women as well as men (Galatians 3:28).  And Jesus is still the ultimate authority.  There is no human that has authority equal to Christ.  In an egalitarian marriage, the husband and the wife submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, and Christ alone is the final authority.  Both are always seeking to honor Christ and follow Christ faithfully as the true leader of the family.

Dr. Sproul goes on to clarify that women do not have to submit if their husband is asking them to disobey the final authority of God on a subject.  If a husband tells his wife to prostitute herself, she doesn’t have to obey.  If a husband tells her to stop going to church, she should disobey him on Sundays because God commanded us to keep the Sabbath holy, but she doesn’t need to go to the Wednesday night service.  I would say that a Christian husband should not be controlling the freedom of his wife. Living in the mystery of oneness does not necessitate losing any aspect of your God-given identity.  I do appreciate Dr. Sproul’s distinction here though, as I’ve read other complementarians who say women should never disobey their husbands.

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Run away from this book!!

For instance, Elizabeth Rice Handford has said a woman should never voice her opinion to her husband unless he asks for it, and she should have an abortion, participate in sexual activities that she does not want to do and tolerate physical abuse even to the point of death if that is how her “head” directs her (in her book, “Me? Obey Him?“).

Dr. Sproul tries to lighten the burden of his teaching to women by pointing out God’s sense of humor in the translation of “submit to your own husband,” the Greek word idion being the root of “idiosyncrasy” and also “idiot.”  He offers this loose translation: “Wives, submit yourselves to your idiot husbands.”  Again, I say submit is absent from verse 22, so the Bible never says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands.”  Second, I understand his point is to say that men are not superior to women, but I don’t believe it is ever appropriate to make gendered jokes, period.  It is not OK to make fun of men or women from the pulpit, not to mention that this is not a true translation of Paul’s meaning.  Egalitarianism avoids stereotyping of men and women, leaving space for both to become their best selves apart from socialized gender expectations.  Many men do not feel freedom to live emotionally healthy, sensitive lives because complementarian culture rewards toxic masculinity and machismo.

Next, Dr. Sproul decries the 50/50 myth of marriage, saying “I can’t think of anything worse.”

umbrella-graphic-by-amber-dann-picottaEgalitarians do not teach that marriage requires 50/50 from each spouse.  In fact, we teach 100/100.  Bring your whole self to the marriage–there is room for two callings and two perspectives.  Decisions can be made together in loving, mutual submission.  It isn’t necessary to demote one half of a marriage to assistant status in order to function.  In every other context, we understand that “two heads are better than one” and that iron sharpens iron.  I personally have never witnessed an egalitarian marriage that seemed to be stuck in a “perpetual power struggle to get control,” even though Dr. Sproul believes this is inevitable.  Authoritarians worry about control, not egalitarians.  Egalitarians seek mutual submission to each other and ultimate submission to Christ.  Disagreeing with Dr. Sproul’s interpretation of marriage roles does not equal “vilifying” a teaching of the Bible.

Dr. Sproul says God settles the “perpetual power struggle” by vesting all authority and leadership in the man, and he doesn’t see this as a privilege as much as it is a “weighty, weighty responsibility.”  Women have been “bleeting” about this interpretation, but they need to understand that subordination never equals inferiority.  The Son is subordinate to the Father, the Spirit to the Son, but none are inferior.

Complementarians see subordination within the Trinity while egalitarians see mutuality. In Marg Mowzcko’s “Seperate Spheres & Distinct Roles in the Trinity and Marriage,” she says,

When Jesus came to earth as a human being, he voluntarily laid aside his divine privileges (Phil. 2:6-8) and became completely dependent on the Father’s and the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power. Jesus submitted to, and obeyed, the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Some Christians believe that wives are to display this level of dependency, submission, and obedience towards their husbands. However Jesus, in taking human form, had become ontologically inferior and thus, subordinate, to the Father and the Spirit. He was even “a little lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:9a). Jesus had temporarily lowered and limited himself by taking human form for a very particular purpose and a vitally important reason: to save the world!

Wives, however, are not ontologically inferior to their husbands. That is, women are not lesser creatures than men. So it is unhealthy for wives to emulate the same degree of dependence and submission towards their husbands that Jesus had towards the Father and Spirit while he was on earth.

After describing women as raging and bleeting about wifely submission/male headship, Dr. Sproul says we should listen to women’s cries and men should not tyrannize their wives. Great.  “But we also need to hear the cries of men” who have five times more nightmares than women and feel tremendous pressure in their role of provider.

I believe egalitarianism does in fact listen to the cries of men.  We see how patriarchy harms men too, how hierarchy privileges a few at the top and tramples on women, children, and most men.  We believe a husband and wife are a team, sharing equally the yoke of responsibility of caring for their family, trusting ultimately in our Great Provider who cares even for the sparrow and the lily in the valley.  Rather than pressuring men to be Providers, Protectors and Priests, churches should encourage us all to surrender our lives and our money to Jesus.  A couple excellent books came out in the last two years addressing the very real plight of men under patriarchy: Man Enough by Nate Pyle and Malestrom by Carolyn Custis James.

Dr. Sproul correctly blames culture for imposing these pressures on men, but does not recognize that it is the culture of patriarchy that he is in fact advancing.  He goes on to explain that it has been like this since the beginning, when woman was created as man’s helpmate.  In the original Hebrew language, Eve is describes as ezer kenegdo, which has been translated (by patriarchalists) as “suitable helper” (Genesis 2:18).  In the other instances when ezer appears in the O.T., it is referring to God as a helper to Israel, often in war.  For instance,

“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides across the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty…Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights.” (Deuteronomy 33:26, 29; NIV).

I recommend reading God’s Word to Women’s word study on ezer kenegdo in which they begin,

Usages of ‘ezer in the Old Testament show that in most cases God is an ‘ezer to human beings, which calls to question if the word “helper” is a valid interpretation of ‘ezer in any instance it is used. “Evidence indicates that the word ‘ezer originally had two roots, each beginning with different guttural sounds. One meant “power” and the other “strength.”

And conclude,

The woman was never meant to be an assistant or “helpmate” to the man. The word “mate” slipped into English since it was so close to the Old English word “meet,” which means “fit to” or “corresponding to” the man which comes from the phrase that likely means “equal to.”

What God had intended, then, was to make a “power” or “strength” for the man who would in every way “correspond to him” or even “be his equal.”

The Torah Study for Reform Jews says, “From the time of creation, relationships between spouses have at times been adversarial. In Genesis 2:18, God calls woman an ezer kenegdo, a “helper against him.” The great commentator Rashi takes the term literally to make a wonderful point: “If he [Adam] is worthy, [she will be] a help [ezer]. If he is not worthy [she will be] against him [kenegdo] for strife.” This Jewish study also described man and woman facing each other with arms raised holding an arch between them, giving a beautiful picture of equal responsibility

Dr. Sproul says he believes women have the easy role within this complementarian doctrine.  He wishes that “all he had to do was submit.”  At the same time, he recognizes his leadership ability and chooses “precious few” others to follow.

e4c2e61dc0186b4ebe317ab0bcc67f33We are socialized to associate stereotypical masculine characteristics as leadership qualities, i.e. decisiveness, assertiveness, even lower vocal registers; whereas, the same qualities in a female are not recognized as leadership identifiers.  Girls are in fact socialized away from these qualities.  Again, egalitarians avoid stereotyping.  Each person is an Image bearer imbued with authority since the beginning in the Garden, when God gave both Adam and Eve the command to rule creation (Genesis 1:28).  Singling a few out as leaders and ignoring the gifts and voices of the majority is the common practice of churches but this does not best advance the Kingdom.  Throughout the New Testament, the message is to submit to one another, to consider others greater than yourself, to avoid lording authority over others but to become a servant of all. Serving others involves giving others opportunities to use their gifts and to follow God’s calling on their life, and having the humility to follow others.  We are all called to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

Dr. Sproul says that having a husband that loves his wife as Christ loves the Church, who is willing to give his life for his wife, liberates women.  Jesus never exploits, tyrannizes, abuses or batters his Bride.  Amen to that, but would Dr. Sproul feel liberated if he was never given opportunities to follow his call to ministry?  He then says that in living out “your own part” of the passage, things naturally work out – if husbands love their wives, wives submit; if wives submit, husbands love their wives.  Then he says something I find particularly dangerous and offensive: “I think if she dedicated herself to being a helpmate, that would be returned with sacrificial love and she would never be tyrannized.”

Patriarchy fuels abuse, and our churches are steeped in a silent epidemic of hurting, hopeless women.  I believe awareness is growing, through the work of Leslie Vernick and Boz Tchividjian and many others, but pastors have been remarkably ignorant of the plight of many women in their congregations.  Dr. Sproul is placing a millstone around the necks of victims of abuse, blaming them for their own victimization.

Divorce is the ultimate evil in many churches, and when women seek advice about controlling and abusive husbands in complementarian churches, pastors frequently direct them to stop complaining about their husbands and start submitting more, essentially silencing them so that they do not ask for help again until they are in real danger.  Gary Thomas posted a powerful article about this, “Enough is Enough” that has gone viral.  We shared a Facebook post from Naghmeh Abedini exhorting the Church to face the epidemic of domestic abuse, along with several resources for victims here.

One way for a woman’s voice to find a platform in complementarianism is for that woman to tell other women to make themselves small.  Dr. Sproul gives a shout out to a “woman who understands men,” Marabel Morgan who wrote “The Total Woman.”  In this book, which is written with advice to wives on how to keep their husbands happy and faithful (as though that is a wife’s responsibility), she says, “Women, here’s a secret. Your husbands don’t want your advice.  They want your admiration.”  Dr. Sproul points out that men have fragile egos, and that may very well be true for a man who is saddled with dangerous messages about masculinity and manhood, not only from our sexist, patriarchal society at large but also from his spiritual leaders in churches touting complementarian theology of gender roles.

Dr. Sproul wraps up by saying that “this isn’t a battle, this isn’t a competition for authority.  This is that place God created where the two become one flesh.  Paul goes on, this is the mystery.  My job is to nourish her.  In that, Christ is honored and marriages are made whole.”

safe_imageAs an egalitarian, I believe that Christ is honored when we love one another and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  I disagree that God has given husbands alone authority over their families and men alone authority over the Church, not because I rage or bleet against teachings on submission but because following Jesus with integrity means obeying him, and he has never told me to not use my God-given authority for the sake of the Kingdom.  In fact, I believe I would dishonor Christ by living in the box that complementarians give to women, and I do not want my husband to live in the box that complementarians give to men.


Sheesh, that was long!  Thanks for hanging in there to the end!  Kate Wallace wrote a beautiful poem, They gave me a box, that you will love.  If you belong to a tradition that teaches gender roles, I pray that you find freedom in Christ to live out your true identity and calling.  You are a gift to the world and God has prepared good works for you to do.  God bless!

Oh, and you can find us on Facebook if you’d like to read all the links we find from around the web concerning gender equality in the Church.

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Q&A on Christian Feminism

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On Christmas Eve, I received a comment on a post I wrote in 2015 responding to the Girl Defined article, “Why Christianity and Feminism Can’t Mix,” and I noticed this morning that I had received another comment on the same post that I promised to respond to and never did.  So I will post these two comments, my replies, and links to more resources.  I am very grateful for this opportunity to engage with women who come from different perspectives and want to say first of all, thank you, Nancy and Cassidy, for reading my original post and for taking the time to ask your questions!


Nancy

The ending quote was: “My advice to Christian women is to marry a man who will be a friend, not a ruler.” Why must it be *either/or*? Why not marry a man who will be a friend AND a ruler. After all, earthly marriage is the very image of the ultimate marriage which is between God and His bride, the church. God is our ruler AND our friend. Works beautifully. He, laying down His life for His bride, edifying His bride, lifting her up, purifying her, etc. While ruling the union with love, truth, grace, and strength… while she sees Him worthy of her love, trust, respect, service (help) and submission. Why not allow the earthly image God created (human marriage) truly reflect the ultimate heavenly reality? That’s the way it was designed by Him after all.

Nancy is quoting a pastor’s wife, Andrea, who had commented on the Girl Defined article and then I pasted her words at the end of my post.  After years of counseling Christian women in abusive marriages, she began to study the Bible to better understand God’s design for gender roles, and came to the conclusion that God designed men and women to be equals.  My initial response to Nancy was to share a link to this excellent article by Bob Edwards to learn more about the origins of the headship/submission marriage model:

Seeing Male Authority as God’s Design: Where Did This Idea Come From? 

Edwards shows us how Plato influenced Augustine, who influenced Calvin, who influences complementarian theologians today, like John Piper.  The pipeline of patriarchy in Christian scholarship.  Many are unaware of the Platonic lens that they are reading their Bible through, and the inferences these gender teachings come from rather than clear Biblical directives.  I highly recommend reading more of Bob and his wife Helga’s work!

Egalitarians believe that husbands and wives are created equal and are both called to love and submit to their spouse.  This involves treating each other respectfully, helping each other, trusting each other and all the other “one another” directives that Paul gives to all believers.  In the Ephesians 5 passage that pastors often teach “Men need respect, women need love” from, it is all part of a larger section that involves instructions to love one another and submit to one another, “…wives to their husbands” (the verb “submit” does not occur in verse 22 as a directive to wives but the idea is linked from the earlier verse saying “submit to one another”).

In the creation narrative, God created mankind (both man and woman) in His image and gave both dominion and authority over creation.  “Help” is an inadequate translation of the Hebrew word ezer, as it connotes a subordinate position in our English language but more literally means something like “counterpart”  God is often referred to as Israel’s ezer throughout the Old Testament, and is clearly not a subordinate in relationship to His people.  It is in the curse in Genesis 3 that the Bible says men will rule over their wives.  As Carolyn Custis James says, “Patriarchy is the cultural backdrop of the Bible–not the message of the Bible.”

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Love this image from Amber D’Ann Picota

Another word that is misunderstood in English is kephale, translated “head.”  The problem with this translation is that “head” has more than one meaning.  In modern English, we hear “head” and immediately think “CEO,” “boss,” or “authority.”  But in ancient Greek, kephale did not connote authority.  On a body, the head did not appear to have any use except as the place where we put food, the source of life.  In ancient Greek culture, husbands were the “head” in the sense that their households were completely dependent financially and socially on the patriarch, just as a body is dependent on the head to receive food.  The body metaphor also teaches mutuality rather than authority/submission because every part of the body is dependent on each other, and directives come straight from the head, who is Christ, and is not channeled from one part to another.  Jesus is our “umbrella” and women have direct communication and covering from our Messiah, not from any male human.  Marriage is often elevated as the glue of the Church but in fact, Paul teaches us not to marry for the sake of the Gospel.

There is a great podcast on mutuality in marriage by Nick and Allison Quient that I recommend checking out:

Split/Frame of Reference Podcast: Episode 4: Ephesians 5:18-33, Mutual Submission, and the Mystery of Marriage

And an article by Egalitarian scholar Marg Mowczko that I link to all the time on women as ezers:

A Suitable Helper (in Hebrew)

As Nancy points out, it is a common teaching in complementarian

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Um, no.

churches that Christian marriage is meant to mirror a heavenly relationship between Christ and His Church, so that the world can better understand the Gospel with this tangible metaphor.  We are taught by complementarian pastors that wives’ submission to their husband and to “Biblical gender roles” point the secular world to the Good News.  But the early Church was striking to ancient secular society as counter-cultural by defying patriarchal gender roles.  In a society where women were property, Christian husbands treated their wives as equals and loved their wives as their own bodies.  Women were elevated to equality in the early Christian Church and ministered alongside the men.  The modern conservative Christian Church has swung back to patriarchal teachings in reaction to the growing egalitarian values of our Western culture, who now look at the Church and do not see anything “good” in the way Christian women are subjugated.

Here are the “Biblical gender roles” for women that are actually in the Bible:

25 Biblical Roles for Biblical Women – Marg Mowczko

And an excellent article from Kristen Rosser:

Is Marriage Really an Illustration of Christ and the Church?


Cassidy Shooltz

I must ask a question; you make an interesting statement at the beginning of the post:

“This is a testament to the diversity of thought within Christianity and how beliefs are shaped by personal experiences, relationships, community, cultures, socialization and more.”

Do you believe it is God’s will for the foundation of our lives to be built upon personal experiences, relationships, community, cultures, and more? I believe it is God’s intent for us to build our lives solely upon His word. If you are living and believing based on the whims and ideas of others opinions, then how are you distinguishing between right and wrong?

You stated in this post that you and the girls from Girl Defined are both followers of Jesus, but it is very clear that the core of feminism is self – not Jesus Christ. I really can’t see how someone can live a life that is both feministic and Christ-centered – because feminism is about the exaltation of the female (and not Jesus). The Christian life is all about Jesus, and no movement that works to defy His design will be able to stand before His word – the concept of feminism literally falls apart at the seems when our hearts are aligned with His word.

I would not be surprised at all if the “Christian” feminists one day wake up and decide that they no longer agree with anything the Bible says. Someday y’all may very well wake up and go pro-abortion, fight for gay rights, and leave your walk with Him behind. Of course, I pray so very much that such will not be the case for you girls, and that you will instead turn to Him in this area of your life.

First of all, I am not saying that it is God’s will that we base our beliefs on things like the cultural norms of our “tribe.”  It is just a fact that this is how we come to most of our beliefs.  I have heard Tim Keller say this same thing.  The Bible is an ancient book that is not clearly and perfectly understood by any flawed human being.  Scholars fluent in Hebrew and Greek who study the Bible faithfully have different opinions on doctrines and the meaning of difficult passages.  I believe we should come to theological conversations with humility and grace for those who have different perspectives.  I am not saying that all perspectives are correct.  I am saying that your perspective and my perspective and our favorite pastor’s/theologian’s/author’s perspective is flawed in some way.  And so beyond core doctrines (i.e. The Apostles Creed), we ought to be gracious in our discussions.  Of course we should all seek faithfulness to orthodoxy and orthopraxy.  But we should also bear in mind that in issues like gender roles, we have been socialized to infer certain beliefs into the text because of the culture of patriarchy that we live in.  My biggest beef with the Girl Defined post (and honestly, your comment), is the demonization of Christian brothers and sisters who see things differently.  I was attempting then and now to demonstrate that a Christian identifying as a feminist probably is doing so out of love for those who suffer the most under the darkness of patriarchy.

I have already linked to Bob Edwards in my reply to Nancy, but here is another link to a transcription I did of a video he shared, and an excerpt of his description of the process of socialization:

Bob Edwards’ Fascinating Discussion on the Origins of Male Authority in the Church

Bob discusses how gender socialization impacts our perception/understanding of the bible.

Socialization is a process that occurs throughout our lives.  We are socialized by the cultural norms present in our environment.

People are socialized by three essential processes:
1. cultural norms are modeled for us
2. overt instruction
3. reinforcement – reward/withhold rewards, encourage/discourage behavior

Put these together, and people are socialized to make the norms of their environment their own internal norms.

Socialization takes place in regards to gender.  We have role models that show us what it means to be a man/woman in a particular society (leadership may only include men).  Often we are taught overtly (in Christianity, we are taught that men are leaders, protectors, providers, and that women are supposed to be helpers of men.  Men have authority and women do not, and must submit themselves to male authority.)  And there is reinforcement (if you don’t do what is expected of you in this environment, we’ll make that painful for you).

Socialization is sometimes affected by people who act as if certain things are simply true.  People may act as if women are less capable of leadership and decision making.  They act like that simply by not allowing women to make leadership decisions.

The end result of the socialization process is that the norms that exist in the culture around us become the norms that exist in our own minds.  The external norms become internal norms.

Some researchers, particularly in the field of social sciences, cognitive psychology and the psychology of perception, talk about cognitive lenses by which we make sense of the world around us.  If I’ve been socialized to believe  that men lead, women follow/submit, if I’ve been socialized to believe that men are more fit for certain positions in the church and home, then I am going to internalize those norms and I will automatically assign certain meanings to the word “man” and to the word “woman.”  And we do this by association.  I may automatically think “leader” when I hear “man” and “helper” when I hear “woman.”

These associations we make take place in the brain (according to researcher Milo Fridga) in .00007 seconds.  That’s fast.  And so, we don’t always realize that socialization is at work when we’re looking at the world around us.

In fact, socialization affects how we see, how we perceive, and how we make sense of the Bible.

Secondly, I do not believe that Christianity and feminism have to be at odds.  Certainly there are extremist feminists just as there are extremist Christians who I do not wish to be associated with.  I do believe that I did a decent job explaining this in my post.  Here are a couple pertinent quotes:

Christians can partner with environmentalists, humanitarians, economists, social workers, politicians, educators, health professionals, counselors, scientists, and even feminists, in the work of redeeming God’s creation to it’s pre-curse state.  A feminist, atheist, Democrat, you-fill-in-the-blank is a person created in God’s image and loved dearly by God…I personally couldn’t call any imago Dei “devoid of God.”  There is common grace among all of humankind.   And has the Bible already solved all of the world’s problems and restored us to God’s design and will for humanity?  Clearly there is much work to be done, and Christ has given us that work to do.  Do I agree on all issues that all feminists tout?  No.  Do I agree that patriarchy is from the curse and has no place in Christ’s redeemed Kingdom?  Yes.

I didn’t come to feminism through a desire to usurp the authority of men.  I came to egalitarianism (I believe through God’s direction) and some of my conservative Christian friends began cautioning me about the slippery slope that I was on, and began jokingly referring to me as a feminist.  Not because I was arguing for abortion rights or burning my bras, but because I was asking questions about gender roles in the Church.  “Feminist” is a slur in the context of my upbringing.  Looking back, I understand that this negative response can be a powerful deterrent to keep group members from challenging the status quo of patriarchy.  It didn’t take me long to adopt the title feminist, as I couldn’t shake it and I was becoming more and more impassioned to see change in the world for women who are marginalized and abused by systems of patriarchy.

President Jimmy Carter says that gender inequality is the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation.  I am posting these two links again for more information on the desperate need of feminism to liberate women and girls around the globe from the worst forms of patriarchy.  I would love to see Jesus’ followers at the forefront of this battle:

Christian Compassion or Complicity: The Abuse and Gendercide of God’s Daughters – Dr. Mimi Hadad
We Need Feminism – Rachel Held Evans

Thirdly, is Christian feminism about elevating women?  Certainly.  Because women have been down-trodden and denied equality, justice involves elevating them to their dignified and rightful place alongside their brothers in Christ.  Is Christian feminism anti-male?  Certainly not.  God made men and women for dignity and dominion.  We bear His image as His representatives on earth, ushering His Kingdom in by shining a light in the darkness. Not as “girls” and “boys” but as Beautiful Kingdom Warriors.

I thank you for your prayers and leave off with a prayer for you as well:

love-may-abound


Thanks for visiting us here at The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors!  Check us out on Facebook too, where we share links from around the web pertaining to women in ministry, mutuality in marriage, the abuses experienced by disenfranchised women and girls, etc.

An egalitarian and a complementarian walk into a blog…

I noticed that our post, “The Theology of Empowering Women: Part 1,” which is a transcription of a Kris Vallotton sermon, gets a fair amount of traffic, so I was scrolling down taking a fresh look at it this morning and saw in the comments section this interaction I had with a complementarian.  I want to share it in its own post because it seems to cover a broad spectrum of differences of perspective between the two ideologies, and also the misconceptions that complementarians have of egalitarians.

Your commentary is flawed in several areas.

  • Thank you for your comment, Jed. Can you show us how? This is a transcription, not my own commentary. I welcome yours.:)

    • The first and most obvious is that the author seems to distinguish between the extent of inspiration of Paul’s writings and the writings recorded about Christ.

    • He never says anything about inspiration. He talks about context. Paul was writing letters to specific congregations with unique cultural contexts. He is not suggesting that Paul’s words were uninspired. His words were just what those churches needed to hear – the intended audience for his letters was narrow, not larger like the Old Testament books of law, etc.

    • To generally make Paul’s writings only temporary and cultural has the same effect as destroying their authority which is gained from their inspiration. If one can dismiss Paul’s teaching about headship as only cultural and because of male dominance then the impact of the headship teaching is destroyed.

    • Yes, absolutely. But I wouldn’t say that Paul’s teaching is destroyed…only an incorrect interpretation of his meaning. Which is a good thing, if you’re misunderstanding someone’s meaning, to come to a right understanding.

    • Of course, there is the rub. What did Paul actually mean? Did he mean what thousands of people, hundreds of commentators over centuries have taught, or did he mean what some recent reinterpretation, in my opinion, diminution, of his teaching is now propounded. Modern reinterpretation is not necessarily better, indeed it could be argued to be worse, than is traditional teaching. If women should now be elders, in spite of hundreds of years of other teaching, then inherent to that teaching is the assumption that all of those commentators and all of those men and women over the centuries have been wrong. That seems to me to be a bit bordering on, if not outright, egotistical. “We now know better than did all those poor uneducated, culturally enslaved, predecessors of ours.”

    • I believe that highly educated people can be predisposed to see something from a culturally socialized perspective. we have deeply ingrained beliefs that stem from our environment and what has been modeled/taught to us. I’m learning that to see an issue from another perspective takes humility, not pride. Here is an excellent explanation of how this happens:https://thebeautifulkingdomwarriors.wordpress.com/2014/06/20/bob-edwards-fascinating-discussion-on-the-origins-of-male-authority-in-the-church/

    • While I don’t have the time now to respond in detail, what I do see is that the question Pilate asked, “What is truth?’ is still very much with us. If when Eve was created God did not intend for her to be a “helpmate” (older English) to her husband, why did the author of Genesis write it that way. If the Holy Spirit inspires God’s word through human authors, then He knows the future and the cultures of the future. He gave a trans-cultural principle in the creation of Eve. She was a helper to her husband. That in itself does not define male dominance, but it does speak to the Christian husband/wife relationship. Sorry, don’t have time right now for more. I do see a very dangerous slippery slope away from truth and inspiration to re-definition from a modern cultural perspective.

    • JN, I really appreciate you taking time to interact with me. I understand your concern. I come from a complementarian background myself, interpreting the Bible through that lens for nearly 30 years, as well as through my seminary years. I have only been studying this issue for the past four years after I was baffled by a call from God to co-pastor with my husband. Here is an egalitarian explanation of our understanding of “helpmate” that I found to be very ‘helpful’:). Again, thank you so much for your comments. I am enjoying our conversation!http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/a-suitable-helper/

    • The following Stott commentary gives a deep sense of the Biblical intention of the husband/wife relationship. The stereotypical condemnation of those of us who see equal value but differing roles is unfair and consequently without merit. One needs only to look at the human body to see the differences. If biologically we are different then emotionally, sociologically and spiritually we are different. Why to women want to be men or women want men to become women, as seems to be the case with some feminists and even some Christian feminists? For husbands to fulfill their God-given responsibilities they must be different than their wives. This by definition is complementarian. I know the Stott comment is long but I believe it will be helpful to keep this discussion Biblical not so strongly cultural. There is much more to be said, but this is already too long.

      THE MESSAGE OF EPHESIANS. A Commentary by John Stott.
      Ephesians 5:21-33 Summary.

      Taking the husband first, what Paul stresses is not his authority over his wife, but his love for her. Rather, his authority is defined in terms of loving responsibility. To our minds the word ‘authority’ suggests power, dominion and even oppression. We picture the ‘authoritative’ husband as a domineering figure who makes all the decisions himself, issues commands and expects obedience, inhibits and suppresses his wife, and so prevents her from growing into a mature or fulfilled person. But this is not at all the kind of ‘headship’ which the apostle is describing, whose model is Jesus Christ. Certainly, ‘headship’ implies a degree of leadership and initiative, as when Christ came to woo and to win his bride. But more specifically it implies sacrifice, self-giving for the sake of the beloved, as when Christ gave himself for his bride. If ‘headship’ means ‘power’ in any sense, then it is power to care not to crush, power to serve not to dominate, power to facilitate self-fulfilment, not to frustrate and destroy it. And in all this the standard of the husband’s love is to be the cross of Christ, on which he surrendered himself even to death in his selfless love for his bride. Dr. Lloyd-Jones has a striking way of enforcing this truth, ‘How many of us’, he asks, ‘have realized that we are always to think of the married state in terms of the doctrine of the atonement? Is that our customary way of thinking of marriage?… Where do we find what the books have to say about marriage? Under which section? Under ethics. But it does not belong there. We must consider marriage in terms of the doctrine of the atonement.’
      As for the wife’s duty in the marriage relationship, it surprises me how unpopular this passage is among many women. When it is read at a wedding and it provokes a feminine outcry, I find myself wondering how carefully it has been read and in particular whether it has been read in its total context. Let me spell out five points which will, I hope, demonstrate that it is not the blueprint for oppression which many think, but rather a charter of genuine liberty.

      a). The requirement of submission is a particular example of a general Christian duty.
      That is, the injunction ‘wives submit’ (verse 22) is preceded by the requirement that we are to ‘submit to one another’ (verse 21). If, therefore, it is the wife’s duty as wife to submit to her husband, it is also the husband’s duty as a member of God’s new society to submit to his wife. Submissiveness is a universal Christian obligation. Throughout the Christian church, including every Christian home, submissiveness is to be mutual. For Jesus Christ himself is the paragon of humility. He emptied himself of his status and his rights, and humbled himself to serve. So in the new order which he had founded he calls all his followers to follow in his footsteps. ‘Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility towards one another.’ (1 Pet.5:5). Should not the wife even rejoice that she has the privilege of giving a particular demonstration in her attitude to her husband of the beauty of humility which is to characterize all members of God’s new society?
      This is specially so when it is seen that her self-humbling is not coerced but free. It must have been very obvious in the ancient world. The wife had no status and few rights, as we have seen. Yet the apostle addresses her as a free moral agent and calls upon her not to acquiesce in a fate she cannot escape, but to make a responsible decision before God. It is this which ‘begins the revolutionary innovation in the early Christian style of ethical thinking.’ Voluntary Christian self-submission is still very significant today. ‘Jesus Christ demonstrates rather than loses his dignity by his subordination to the Father. When a person is voluntarily amenable to another, gives way to him, and places himself at his service, he shows greater dignity and freedom than an individual who cannot bear to be a helper and partner to anyone but himself. Ephesians 5 supports anything but blind obedience or the breaking of the wife’s will. Rather, this chapter shows that in the realm of the crucified Servant-Messiah, the subjects respect an order of freedom and equality in which one person assists another – seemingly by renouncing rights possessed, actually in exercising the right to imitate the Messiah himself…A greater, wiser, and more positive description of marriage has not yet been found in Christian literature.’
      ________________________________________
      The John Stott Bible Study is taken from The Message of Ephesians: God’s New Society. The Bible Speaks Today John Stott. Used by permission of Inter-Varsity Press UK, Nottingham. All rights reserved.

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    • I think it is important to note that the earliest copies of Ephesians do not repeat the word “submit” in verse 22. Paul wrote in vs. 21 to all Christians to submit to one another, and goes on to describe what that would look like in marriage. There were also no verse numbers or titles when Paul wrote his letters, so vs. 21 and following were more clearly connected thoughts. The injunction, “wives submit” was edited later on and does not come from Paul. I agree with Stott’s commentary about mutual submission, which I think this passage in Ephesians is fleshing out.

      I would also like to say that I do not condemn complementarians. I respect your viewpoints and I understand your heart in the matter – you love Jesus! You love God’s Word! You are here talking with me because you care about truth. It would be unjust of me to think poorly of you and not give you the benefit of the doubt.

      And I don’t think the idea is to make men women and make women men. Feminism is about equality between men and women. Egalitarianism is a worldview that believes God’s heart on the matter of gender roles is that there is no more male or female, we are all one in Christ. Not that biologically we are not different, but spiritually God gives gifts and callings regardless of gender, and leadership in the Church is open to women.

    • No male nor female clearly is not a statement of redefinition of cultural roles or Paul would be denying himself. The matter of value is the issue. Men never were more valuable spiritually before the Lord, but you cannot read Scripture and not distinguish role differentiations. You have not Biblical basis to say that all Scripture was tainted by culture and is therefore invalid when the culture changes.

    • I never said Scripture was “tainted” by culture, or that it is invalid when the culture changes. I said you have to consider culture when you are interpreting the meaning of a particular passage. We all read Scripture through a cultural lens, interpreting according to our deeply ingrained cultural associations.

      What would Paul be denying himself of? I don’t think Paul’s spiritual authority came from his maleness. It came from God.

    • Paul cannot both say there is not difference in everything in one place and there is a difference in other aspects in another place.

    • There is the question that first bothered me as a complementarian. If male-only authority is the rule, then why are there so many exceptions to that rule throughout the Bible?

    • What exceptions? If you are referring to the female judge, she herself was reluctant to exert that authority. Almost every principle has a few exceptions. Is there ever a time to lie? The pretend beggars with worn clothes and dried bread lied. The mothers of Egypt lied when they hid their male babies. So, obviously there are exceptions to good principles.

      The clear historical teaching of Scripture is the male headship of the home. The male eldership in Israel. The male eldership in the church. Why does the modern feminist movement believe it has the right to contradict the Bible. Male leadership is not male dominance nor female subservience at its core, it is order. The human body has a head. The visible church in the world has a head (the group of male elders). Why does anyone think that what God prescribed in the Old Testament and described in the New Testament is less acceptable now because we have feminism demanding “equality.” There is no such thing as equality in function. Equal value, yes, but never equal function.

    • Here are some more exceptions: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/the-propriety-of-women-with-authority/. This article talks more about N.T. female church leaders:http://godswordtowomen.org/pastors.htm. And this is an excellent post about women’s leadership in the early church:http://www.christianitytoday.com/ch/1988/issue17/1706.html.

      I would highly recommend reading this article by Dr. Walk Kaiser, former president of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, on the Biblical teaching on women:http://www.cbeinternational.org/files/u1/resources/14-kaiser-pdf.pdf.

      And here is an article on Paul’s main point in Ephesians 5:21-33: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/pauls-main-point-in-eph-5_22-33/.

      Also, this article on “Kephale and Male Headship in Paul’s Letters.: http://newlife.id.au/equality-and-gender-issues/kephale-and-male-headship-in-pauls-letters/

      I strongly disagree with you that Egalitarians (this is not a feminist movement) believe they have a right to contradict the Bible. People have had different views on many issues since the beginning of Christianity. Egalitarians are not demanding “equality” because of a new cultural viewpoint on the Bible, they are demanding equality because they strongly believe God’s design is not hierarchical, that hierarchy is a result of the fall. They are trying to work with God towards reconciling the world, abolishing the effects of sin. I am sharing these articles to demonstrate the Egalitarian perspective. It doesn’t come from an agenda but from an interpretation of Scripture. Both complementarians and egalitarians have a high view of Scripture. In fact, we have a whole lot in common. Just not the idea of male-only authority.

    • Dr. Walt Kaiser is a fine scholar. I however do not agree with his interpretation of the Genesis passage. Without that interpretation his extended arguments are much weaker, if indeed they can be maintained at all. The fact still remains that all the elders of the OT and the NT were men. All the description of responsibilities in the NT are for men. Paul does not say the elderess should be the wife of but one husband. He does say the elder should be the husband of one wife (technically, a one-woman man and not a one-man woman).

    • As you said, it comes down to interpretation. We can continue to go back and forth, but we are coming from very different perspectives and it is unlikely that either one of us is going to change our mind today. I was hoping more than anything to demonstrate that egalitarians are sincere followers of Jesus and that this is not a matter of rebellion towards God and His design. Jesus prayed that we would have a spirit of unity, and I believe that you and I can still affirm each other as brother and sister in Christ and go on with genuine love for each other despite our differences. I appreciate your interaction here on the blog and hope you continue to be a reader.

    • I have no problem with fellowship as open doors make such possible.

      What I do have a problem with is that there seems to be a willingness on the part of egalitarians to assume that we complementarians have a low regard for women. I don’t think that is fair nor do I think that women who are complementarians are in any way, for that reason, limiting themselves.

      The matter of headship is not only a Biblically correct thing, it is a freeing thing. As Christ is the head of the church, we are freed to respect his responsibilities toward us. As the husband is the head of the wife, she is freed to allow him his role. If his role is filled with love, it is not an onerous thing. It does bring order to the home as the head brings order to the body and as Christ being head brings order to the church body. If she “reverences” her husband, he will be strengthen and able to lead in a humble godly way as he should.

      But as you say, we will not likely persuade each other. Minds that are made up are hard to change.

    • I wholeheartedly agree that we shouldn’t assume negative things about other people. Egalitarians should not assume complementarians have a low view of women, and complementarians should not assume egalitarians have a low view of Scripture. Because you know what happens when you assume something? You make an “ass out of you and me.”:)

      Thanks again and God bless.

    • URW


      Please Follow our blog if you enjoy learning about gender issues in the Christian Church, and “Like” us on FB for related posts from around the web.

      Also, I had to Google “URW” – in case you are also unsure what that means, it is “You’re welcome.”  I appreciated having this very civil conversation with JN!

A Response to Girl Defined – Is Feminism Devoid of God???

Last month, a dear friend sent me this picture, which linked to this article, “Why Feminism and Christianity Can’t Mix”, by Kristen Clark:

11206008_837632299619184_8099788202025688119_n

That’s a pretty polarizing image that begs for a response, don’t you think?!

The blog Girl Defined has the tagline, “getting back to God’s design,” so my first impression was that Kristen Clark and The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors share a passion for the very same thing, and yet our primary messages are drastically different.  This is a testament to the diversity of thought within Christianity and how beliefs are shaped by personal experiences, relationships, community, cultures, socialization and more.  We are both sincere Christians, passionate for God’s Kingdom and God’s design to reign supreme.  We are also both defensive against what we perceive to be heresy that impedes God’s will.

Fundamentally, the difference between Kristen Clark’s and my ideology comes down to our respective Biblical interpretation of gender roles.  By “God’s design,” Kristen means that in the Genesis narrative, God created man to be “head” and woman to be man’s “helper.”  There is a hierarchy with God over Christ, Christ over men, and men over women and children.  Men have authority and women submit to men.  Though men and women are of equal value, their roles are different.  This is the teaching of complementarian (i.e. patriarchal) theology, which is explained thoroughly in this video by Pastor John Piper (one of the founders of the Center for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.  Kristen links to a CBMW review of “Jesus Feminist” by Sarah Bessey in the comments section, with the explanation that she respects the theologians and writers on that site.), in which he says,

The intention with the word “complementarian” is to locate our way of life between two kinds of error: on the one side would be the abuses of women under male domination, and on the other side would be the negation of gender differences where they have beautiful significance. Which means that, on the one hand, complementarians acknowledge and lament the history of abuses of women personally and systemically, and the present evils globally and locally in the exploitation and diminishing of women and girls. And, on the other hand, complementarians lament the feminist and egalitarian impulses that minimize God-given differences between men and women and dismantle the order God has designed for the flourishing of our life together.

Egalitarianism in short.

Egalitarianism in short.

So Piper would lament feminism and egalitarianism (the Christian theology that God created man and woman equal, with shared authority; see this article or this one or this video, all from respected and notable theologians, for summaries of egalitarian theology) as ideologies that “dismantle God’s design.”  Often, egalitarians also identify as feminists due to the shared goal of demolishing patriarchy, which egalitarians see as a heresy in opposition of God’s design and will for humanity.  Egalitarians believe that God created man and woman in His image (literal translation of ezer being “corresponding strength” rather than “helper”), gave both authority over creation, and hierarchy came as a result of the curse in Genesis 3.  Throughout the Bible there are women functioning outside of complementarian gender roles, and in the New Testament we see the Holy Spirit falling on both men and women, and women serving alongside men in leadership in the early church.  Here is a good response to John Piper’s masculine view of Christianity.

While Christians have always held different views on many theological issues from the advent of the Church, it is common for complementarians to treat their view of gender roles as a critical aspect of the Gospel and to besmirch their egalitarian brothers and sisters with accusations of insincerity and rebellion. The Whartburg Watch wrote a post this year called, “Owen Strachan, CBMW, John Piper and David Platt: Gender Whackiness on the Rise” demonstrating this trend of elevating gender issues to be on par with the Gospel.

the-patriarchy (1)

But back to Kristen’s polarizing image and characterizations of feminism.  Is it true that at it’s root, feminism is devoid of God?  If so, why are so many Christians identifying as feminists?

First of all, it is true that “feminism wears many hats” and cannot be flatly defined, in the same way that Christianity comes in many forms, traditions and political leanings.  For example, Baptists.  There are over 1,400 Baptist denominations in the United States.  To some who hear the word “Baptist,” there is a visceral, biological response because of their negative experiences with Baptists, who can be judgmental, unloving and legalistic.  I have personally known Baptists to gossip, to be gluttonous and proud.  It can be controversial to bring up the topic of  Baptists.  It can be polarizing to identify yourself as a Baptist.  So it is probably best not to identify with that word.  Just call yourself a Christian!

See what I did there?  I could change “Baptists” to “Pentecostals,” or “Episcopalians,” “Methodists,” “Congregationalists,” or “Presbyterians” for the same effect.  And if I really did believe that Baptists were misguided and I wanted to deter others from becoming Baptists, I could utilize that tactic.  Playing word games doesn’t really prove anything.  The fact is, there are no perfect denominations, political parties, or social movements.  But there are lots of social activists making positive change in the world towards values that I believe are in line with God’s redemption work.  Christians can partner with environmentalists, humanitarians, economists, social workers, politicians, educators, health professionals, counselors, scientists, and even feminists, in the work of redeeming God’s creation to it’s pre-curse state.  A feminist, atheist, Democrat, you-fill-in-the-blank is a person created in God’s image and loved dearly by God…I personally couldn’t call any imago Dei “devoid of God.”  There is common grace among all of humankind.   And has the Bible already solved all of the world’s problems and restored us to God’s design and will for humanity?  Clearly there is much work to be done, and Christ has given us that work to do.  Do I agree on all issues that all feminists tout?  No.  Do I agree that patriarchy is from the curse and has no place in Christ’s redeemed Kingdom?  Yes.

Among many conservative Christians, the word “feminist” is spit out with disdain and horror.  Feminists are accused by conservative pundits and pastors of  ruining our country with their liberal agendas.  They are compared to militants who see their gender as superior – “feminazis.”  I am not familiar with the categorizations that Kristen uses to describe feminists.  Her primary attention goes to addressing “equality feminists” though, so that is what I would like to respond to.

Like Kristen, I was a complementarian for nearly thirty years.  I respected the same theologians and teachings that she points to in her writings.  I won’t go into detail about my change to egalitarianism, as I already posted that story here.  In short, it was at God’s prompting that I began reading about women in ministry and egalitarian theology, and I became convinced that the complementarian theology of gender roles was wrong.

I didn’t come to feminism through a desire to usurp the authority of men.  I came to egalitarianism (I believe through God’s direction) and some of my conservative Christian friends began cautioning me about the slippery slope that I was on, and began jokingly referring to me as a feminist.  Not because I was arguing for abortion rights or burning my bras, but because I was asking questions about gender roles in the Church.  “Feminist” is a slur in the context of my upbringing.  Looking back, I understand that this negative response can be a powerful deterrent to keep group members from challenging the status quo of patriarchy.  It didn’t take me long to adopt the title feminist, as I couldn’t shake it and I was becoming more and more impassioned to see change in the world for women who are marginalized and abused by systems of patriarchy.

Kristen Clark’s term, equality feminism, sounds to me like a euphemism for egalitarianism.  I believe she is using this term, which is considered deviant in conservative Christian circles, to paint egalitarianism in sinister terms.

povertyI began to see that “fighting theological battles” (i.e. blogging) like egalitarianism vs. complementarianism is critical to liberating women and girls around the world who suffer the most from the systems of patriarchy and poverty and war, etc.  Becky and I share articles every day on our FB page detailing the horrors and injustices of the world’s most vulnerable inhabitants.  If it is feminist to care about these issues, then yes, I’m a feminist.  For important reference points on gender issues around the world, here are two excellent articles:

We need feminism – Rachel Held Evans
Christian Compassion or Complicity: The Abuse and Gendercide of God’s Daughters – Dr. Mimi Haddad

e4c2e61dc0186b4ebe317ab0bcc67f33And in thinking about the roots of feminism, which Kristen Clark says are devoid of God, it is a fact that many of the earliest feminists were Christians who were trying to improve the lives of impoverished, disenfranchised, suffering women and children of their day.  The blog Making a Track, by Rev. Jonathan Inkpin, celebrates the lives of early Christian feminists and is an excellent resource for learning about inspiring Beautiful Kingdom Warriors.

I am going to leave off with a comment that I found under Kristen Clark’s article from a wonderful Beautiful Kingdom Warrior who took the time to advise her Christian sisters in the better way, skipping right over the references to feminism (i.e. egalitarianism?) and getting to the heart of the matter–gender roles:

I too used to believe in the headship/submission form of marriage. But now, in my 50’s, I have changed my view. Please understand- I am in love with Jesus more than ever before, am pro-life, am a pastor’s wife, home school mom, been married to the same man for 27 years, teach Sunday school, and lead worship at our church. But I now believe that God created husbands and wives as equals, friends and co-heirs in the promises. After counseling many women who were verbally and sometimes physically abused by their Christian husbands, I studied the verses that cause so much pain. What I learned is this:

1) Eve was Adam’s helper, but this didn’t mean servant or maid. We don’t see Eve helping Adam by washing his clothes or cleaning his house; she was created to help Adam rule the world. As woman, she was given equal status as part of “mankind.” She had equal responsibilities and equal blessings. It appears that as salt is to pepper, peanut butter is to jelly, Eve was Adam’s Helper in that she helped to complete the set: man + woman = mankind. This was God’s beautiful, original design for husbands and wives.

2) At the fall, Eve was cursed, with all women, to be ruled by her husband. Ever since the curse, in nearly every society, women have been ruled by men. In some cultures, women are the legal property of their husbands and can be abused, sold, or even killed.

3) In the Old Testament, slavery is always mentioned as a curse, never part of the blessings for God’s people.

3) Jesus broke that curse, along with every other curse, at the cross. Christian women are now free- co heirs with men once again to enjoy all the blessings and promises of God.

4) In 1 Corinthians and 1 Timothy, Paul has many rules for women.  They are told to keep silent in church, wear head coverings or wear long
hair, and never teach a man. Paul says women “are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law.” But why would Paul, who in Galatians says
that “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law,” and now “there is neither male nor female; you are all one in Christ Jesus,” and “if you are led
by the Spirit, you are not under the law,” now put women (half the church) under the law? I think Paul was trying to jolt these churches back into grace. This
makes sense considering how in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 Paul tells the people that he can’t talk to them as Spirit filled believers; because of their carnal
behavior, he must speak to them as people still under the law.

5) In Philippians 4 and Romans 16, Paul mentions many women who were ministers, deacons, teachers, laborers, co-prisoners and co-workers for the Lord! These women were anything but silent. It seems these women broke the rules of 1 Corinthians and Paul was very happy for it! Why? Because they lived in grace, not legalism. Remember, the law kills but the Spirit gives life! It is for freedom that Christ set you free, do not be burdened again with the yoke of slavery!!

6) When Paul tells wives to submit, he tells husbands to love (agape) their wives. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that agape love is patient, kind, and doesn’t demand its own way. This is, of course, the very heart of submission. So, in reality, Paul is telling husbands and wives not to demand their own way… submit to the desires of the other, just like Christians are supposed to act with all people at all times.

7) The husband is head of the wife, as Christ is head of the church… How is Christ our head? Is He demanding or patient? Is He angry or loving? As Christ gave us the example of how to agape love, husbands are to usher this kind of love into the marriage. They are the heads in that they are to be the model of agape love for their families. Nabal was “head” by being an angry, demanding
tyrant that no one could reason with (1 Samuel 25). Clearly God was not pleased with Nabal’s behavior!

Solomon, however, was “head” by not being demanding…. When his wife was tired and turned him away one night, Solomon didn’t throw a tantrum and demand his own way, he quietly turned and left. King Lemuel, husband to the Proverbs 31 woman, also ushered this Godly love into his marriage. His wife was an intelligent woman who pursued many interests during her lifetime. Lemuel gave her the freedom, one fellow human to another, to follow her creative desires. He was “head” by being respectful to her, considerate of her needs, and proud of her talents. She, in return, loved him dearly and did him no harm all the days of his life.

My advice to Christian women is to marry a man who will be a friend, not a ruler.

 Amen.

Thank you for visiting The Beautiful Kingdom Warriors!  Please “like” our Facebook page where we post articles every day regarding gender issues from around the world and the church.  God bless!