What is Evangelical Feminism? And Where Did It Come From?

rolesEach week, I write a bulletin insert for our church. The topics have ranged from the structure of Genesis 1–11 to assisted suicide to discerning types in the Bible. They usually relate to the sermon or a hot topic in the culture. And though they do not exhaust the biblical, theological, or ethical considerations of any subject, they do help our church members “think Christianly” about many matters of faith.

This blog post is no different. It broaches a subject that requires far more historical, cultural, and ecclesial attention than I am able to give here. But it is a start. Addressing the matter of evangelical feminism is meant to remind us that none of live in a cultural vacuum, and that even most stalwart “bliblicist” inhabits a world where feminism is the norm.

As Robert Samuelson noted this week in the Washington Post, birth control pills, radical feminism as advocated by Betty Friedan (The Feminist Mystique, 1963), and no-fault divorce have changed the way Americans think about marriage. Family life has been radically altered by these three phenomena, and in many ways they have each contributed to the other. Therefore, witnesses for Christ must be aware of how their thinking has been (explicitly and/or implicitly) shaped by feminism and from where those presuppositions originate.

What is evangelical feminism? And where did it come from?

Feminism can be defined as “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” Evangelical feminism is the related belief that men and women can and should exercise the same offices in the church (e.g., pastor, preaching) and that husbands and wives should mutually submit to one another in the home. Such a view is common among Christians today, but it wasn’t always that way. (This view has been defended in the book Discovering Biblical Equality; it is has been opposed by Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth). Continue reading

Brothers & Sisters: Play Your Position!

Today on the CBMW  Gender Blog, Jeff Robinson provides part one of a review of the new book by Mark Chanski, Womanly Dominion: More Than A Gentle and Quiet Spirit.  Here is powerful word picture that Robinson includes from Chanski:

Due to high-powered feminist social pressures, they’ve got to keep telling themselves, ‘Play your position!'” Chanski writes. “On the field of life, women hear constant shouts from unprincipled sideline voices telling them to leave their God-assigned posts. These voices are much like the voices of misguided parents telling their goalie daughter to ‘Get the ball, honey, and try to dribble down field and score!’ But the coach has charged her to ‘Play your position’….she’s been assigned a glorious and important position in this world. But the sideline voices attempt to drown out her Lord’s words of instruction.”

Brothers and sisters, in a world of gender confusion and sexual anarchy, may we learn how to play our positions well.   May the church be filled with strong men (1 Cor. 16:13-14) and godly, gentle women (1 Peter 3:4).

Complementing this book for women, pastor Chanski’s first book, Manly Dominionchallenges men– married and single, young and old– to reject passivity and lead courageously. Check it out.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

The Mystery of Marriage: A Quasi-Ordinance

[This is a follow-up post from The Mystery of Marriage: A Parable of Christ and Church  which reflected on George Knight’s article on Ephesians 5 in Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem [Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1991], 175-76)].

From the foundation of the world, marriage was always designed to picture a greater reality.  Generation after generation of God’s covenant people knew of his marital designs and creation, but only in the fullness of time, as Jesus Christ came in the flesh and the Spirit of Christ inspired the apostles to elucidate the gospel of Jesus Christ, did the mystery of husband and wife become known.  Consider Knight’s concluding remarks:

But if this is so, then the order Paul is speaking of here (submission and love [in Ephesians 5:22-33]) is not accidental or temporary or culturally determined: it is part of the essence of marriage, part of God’s original plan for perfect, sinless, harmonious marriage.  This is a powerful argument for the fact that Christlike, loving headship and church-like, willing submission are rooted in creation and in God’s eternal purposes, not just in the passing trends of culture (176).

In our foolish and anti-Christ(ian) world, there are countless marriages that exist in rebellion against the very purpose for which they were designed.  God made marriage for his glory and the expression his covenant love with his bride, redeemed humanity.  Consequently, the establishment of marriage in Genesis 2 was intended to tesify to this reality. 

Today, unbelievers experience the mystery of marriage, but without knowing how to understand it.  They are blind to its salvific and cosmic significance.  Too non-Christian marriages are drenched in bitterness and guile, because unmitigated sin gnaws at their covenantal bond.  But unbelievers are not alone.  Christian marriages war against God’s design for marriage whenever they cast aside God’s intended order for husbands and wives (cf. 1 Cor. 11:7; Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Pet. 3:1-7).  This can be done by deliberate egalitarianism or by immature believers in need of marital sanctification.  Either way, in failing to recognize God’s wise design for husbands to lead and wives to follow, for men to love like Christ and women to submit like the church, they are dishonoring the Word of God, disobeying the Lord who bought them, and distorting God’s picture of salvation captured in the parable of marriage. 

God’s illustrative purposes for marriage is what makes it a mystery.  Just as the heavens testify to the glory of God, so marriage captures something of his grandeur–something that is seen in the best of marriages, to be sure.  Likewise, as baptism and the Lord’s supper resemble the salvation of Christ’s disciples, so marriage images something about Christ and the church.  In this way, marriage is a kind of quasi-ordinance.  It is not restricted to the church; it is rather for all people.  Yet, in its global enjoyment it testifies to heavenly realities and God’s cosmic plan of redemption in Christ.  In this way, marriage is perhaps one of the largest and potentially broadest means of sharing the gospel, as marriage itself can be called upon to witness to Christ and the church.  The impact of marriage biblically arranged and gloriously incarnated has great evangelistic potential.  Soberly, couples that disregard God’s word concerning marriage, cannot have such effect. 

God’s designs are not new, they are from before the foundation of the world.  Neither is Satan’s attack on marriage.  He attacked Eve in the Garden and he is still advancing towards marriages today.  May we who love the gospel and the biblical vision for marriage, fight to protect our homes from the corrosive effects of an anti-marriage culture, and may we by the power of the Spirit embrace and embody God’s glorious designs for marriage.  So that perhaps, the world around us might come to know Christ by the testimony of our marriages which point to the message we proclaim–Jesus Christ is Lord!

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

Intimate Allies (pt. 5): A Message I Don’t Approve

In the season of platform messages and political adds, I feel that it is important to assert that I approved of the first four messages that Tremper Longman and Dan Allender present in their book Intimate AlliesTheir emphasis on spiritual warfare and the kingdom of God, evangelism and discipleship, as well as biblical theology to undergird our understanding of marriage is very helpful.  However, there is a message in their book with which I do not agree, and which is, I believe, fundamentally opposed to biblical marriages, biblical discipleship, and spiritual warfare.  It is the culturally accepted notion of feminism and the ecclesial/anthropological matter of egalitarianism as it pertains to the roles of men and women.  (For an outline of the issues see The Danvers Statement).

Without so much as a definition, an argument, or an admission of an egalitarian agenda, Longman and Allender presuppose and assume that an egalitarian reading of the Bible is normative for the evangelical Christian.  (For an opposing view, to which I wholeheartedly subscribe, see The Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood).  Concerning the Genesis command to fill the earth and subdue it, they write:

In marriage, we are both kings and queens who rule by ordering creation to enhance the glory and pleasure of each other.  We are to rule through sacrificing on behalf of one another (86).

At this point, I am in total agreement.  However, in there next supporting paragraph they deny any kind of intended order in the creation of man and woman.  They continue:

Further, we must recognize that the job description is given equally to men and women.  At this point, God makes no distinction about who is to do what.  Women are not the slaves or servants of men; men are not the slaves of servants of women.  Men and women together fill, subdue, and rule over all of creation (86).

By failing to cite a biblical reference, include a footnote, or make an argument for the assertion, “At this point, God makes no distinction about who is to do what,” they disregard biblical testimony to the contrary (cf. 1 Tim. 2; 1 Cor. 11, see Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood for biblical corpus of articles that examine and exegete the relevant passage in Scripture ) and contemporary scholarship that argues for gender complementarity.  Instead, they casually assert their culturally sympathetic appeal and assume it will not cause any problems  This is not an isolated incident either.  In a later chapter, once again discussing the account in Genesis 2, they argue:

Once again, this passage [Gen. 2] is misread if either Adam’s statement of Eve’s derivative creation is understood to mean that the woman is subordinate to the man.  The man is not in any way better, superior, or closer to God than the woman is.  Indeed, the passage could not be clearer: the man needs the woman as much as the woman needs the man (216).

Though I disagree with their conclusion, in this instance Longman and Allender make an argument for egalitarianism, instead of propounding an assumption.  Their argument is feminist reasoning that supposes that worth in the eyes of God is dependent on hierarchy or perceived status.  For instance, a CEO is more valuable than his secretary.  In other words, if men and women cannot assume all the same functions within the home and the church, then they clearly cannot be equal.  They fail to take into consideration that God himself is equal in the Godhead and yet with distinctive roles (see Bruce Ware’s book Father, Son, and Holy Spirit: Relationship, Roles, and Relevance). 

Moreover, their argument makes a semantic range fallacy.  They speak of authority (i.e. “subordination) and then proceed to define it in terms of worth or significance (i.e. “better, superior, or closer to God”), when in fact the ordered world illustrates all the time that hierarchy and worth are distinctive spheres of meaning.  A sergeant in the army and a luitenant in the army have different degrees of authority, but the same ontological value; parents and children, in the eyes of God, have distinctive roles of authority and accountability, but both are equally loved by their Father in Heaven; and employers and employees have unique roles, but the same intrinsic value.  To disregard or expunge these roles is to move towards anarchy. 

Longman and Allender disregard these cosmic structures, just as they reinterpret biblical passages that clearly teach that men and women are equal, yet different (see Alexander Strauch’s helpful book by that same title, Men and Women: Equal Yet Different).  After explaining their understandings of Ephesians 5 and 1 Peter 3, Longman and Allender summarize on page 191:

We have already pointed out that this commmand [“wives submit to your husband as unto the Lord,” Eph. 5:22] must be understood in the light of the mutual submission commanded by Paul in Ephesians 5:21.  We have also seen that Peter urged men to a submissive attitude toward their wives when he told them to “be considerate” toward them (1 Pet. 3:7). 

Here again, Longman and Allender are twisting meaning and common sense.  When you go to the doctor, you want him to be “considerate” but you don’t want your visitation to be a collaborative effort!  If in consideration for your feelings, he asked you to take the lead on your colonoscopy, you wouldn’t stay with his practice long.  You expect, and for good reason, that he or she be an authority in medicine.  Your responsibility is to submit, even if it is a woman!  (This hierarchy structure is different than that of the home or church). 

Or, to give another example, this time from Scripture, Jesus is the kind and compassionate head of the body, but this does not undermine his absolute authority.  The analogy of head and body only works because the healthy human body is controlled by the head.  When limbs, under their own initiative begin to lead, something is wrong.  Therefore, consideration and submission are not synonymous, as Longman and Allender suppose.

Throughout their otherwise faithful book these explicit egalitarian appeals arise.  They are exegetically reinforced in Chapter 11, “Submitting to One Another in Love,” and they are seen at work in at least two personal testimonies that portray their wives as spiritual co-leaders in the home (38, 52).  In short, while helpfully setting marriage in its discipling and warfare locus in the kingdom of God, they weaken their kingdom-worldview by denying God’s gender roles.

So overall, I commend the four aspects of the book I previously considered (Warfare, Evangelism, Discipleship, and Biblical Theology), but I do not commend their egalitarian agenda.  Intimate Allies is a book I would recommend to well-read Christians who want to see how their marriage fits into God’s eternal strategy of the Great Commission and spiritual warfare, but it is not a book I would ever use for (pre)marital counseling or that I would commend carte blanche.  There are too many other good books out there that are more faithful to God’s Word.  Finally, I am tremendously appreciative of Tremper Longman’s work, I look to him as an expert in OT and Biblical Theology, but in this instance, I cannot universally commend Intimate Allies.

My name is David Schrock, and I approved this message.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

Marriage: An Evangelistic Conversation Starter

A good friend of mine, Jedidiah Coppenger, who happens to be the new basketball coach at Boyce College, and who blogs with some quality brothers at Baptist21, recently posted a reflection on trends in evangelism that he has experienced as a cell phone salesman.  Throughout more than two years of work three things stood out as counter-cultural evangelistic conversation starters: family, work, and marriage.  His thoughts on marriage correspond with many of the things I have reflected on over the last couple months.  Listen to what he says:

First, a biblical view of marriage seems to be a significant place for evangelistic conversations. Sadly, it seems like most Christians look at marriage the same way that they look at the American Post Office. They don’t care how the Post Office orders itself, just as long as it delivers. Likewise, they don’t care how the marriage is ordered, just as long as it lasts. There is something attractive about this approach in light of the divorce-ridden culture in which we live. After all, some say, with as much divorce as there is, do whatever you can! This type of attitude will be well accepted by your lost coworkers and the culture at large.

But cultural accommodation isn’t the goal. After all, you won’t find a Bible verse saying, “Marriage is so hard that you should do whatever works best for you personally. The ordering that works best your marriage may or may not work for another. Just make what you can of it. Good luck.” Instead, you’ll find very clear directions from the Apostle Paul on the most volatile part of marriage, how the couple should relate to one another. The Apostle says that “the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph. 5:23) and that wife should submit to her husband as the church does to Christ (Eph. 5:24). So the husband is placed in a position of authority and the wife in a place of support. Both, of course, stand before God as equals (1 Pet. 3:7), but they serve distinctly.

Will this solve all of the marital problems? Of course not. We are all sinners. But with more Christian husbands seeking conformity to the headship displayed by Jesus as he gave his life for the good of his bride on the cross, the role of the husband as leader will look less like a privilege and more like a glorious burden. And if more Christian wives joyfully submit to their husband’s leadership like the church does to her husband, Jesus, then the role of a submissive wife will look less like a prison and more like a place of freedom and joy. Marriages like this won’t make you popular, but they will be used of God to make you holy. And, by God’s grace, as more Christian marriages conform to the Christ-church picture in the midst of a culture that will continue to glorify christ figures (husbands) who forsake their brides, the curiosity of more unbelieving coworkers and neighbors will be awakened. Hopefully, through consciences that know something has been lost, these friends will ask us for the reason for the order in our homes. And maybe, just maybe, we’ll be able to point them to the order in the household of God.

I wholeheartedly agree.   May we who love the gospel order our homes and our marriages in such a way that our lives confront disinterested family members, co-workers, and neighbors with a kind of marriage that does not fit the 21st Western mold.  By ordering our marriages and conducting ourselves according to a heavenly logic, we can better tell the world of the Christ-church mystery that they were created to enjoy.  As Jed asserts, this won’t make us popular, but perhaps for those who have eyes to see it will make the gospel persuasive–which is far more important.  Lets pray and work towards that end!

You can read the rest of his post here.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss

Gender-Specificity and the Gospel of Jesus Christ

When Paul speaks in Titus 2:1 about sound doctrine, he immediately turns to relationships. Rather than expatiating a systematic theology, Paul says that theology is worked out in the context of distinctly masculine and feminine roles, in youthful and elderly stages of life, and in varying spheres of leadership and influence (i.e. masters and slaves).  Clearly theology that is genuine is incarnated in the daily life of Christians.  In regards to husband and wife relations, Christopher Ash in his book Marriage: Sex in the Service of God  picks up this same idea– theologically-infused living– when he comments on another Pauline passage in 1 Corinthians 11.  He writes:

Paul’s teaching here (1 Cor. 11:2-16) seems to be conditioned by women (perhaps reacting against the abuses of patriarchy) behaving as if they can ‘go it alone’ in their behaviour, whether by ceasing to be gladly feminine or by reluctance to cooperate in the marriage partnership. By their contentious and disorderly behaviour they bring disrepute on the gospel. In the absence of proper order (which includes Christian subordination of the wife to the husband, and headship as sacrificial serving authority) there will be rivalry rather than partnership between the sexes. Perhaps in Corinth the women needed reminding both of their interdependence with the men and that they were made ‘for the sake of’ man, as partners in a shared God-given task. Disorder (and in particular a wrong attitude of subordination) leads to rivalry in which the weakest go to the wall; the task will be neglected. Proper order will promote sexual relations in the service of God (302).

Ash does not only address women but men as well.  Writing later in his book, he furthers his argument of gender-specific gospel living by saying:

The love of husband for wife is to be modelled on the cross. It is to be self-sacrificial love and not the self-serving enjoyment of some misguided privilege. Christian headship in marriage is marriage in the shape of cross; most contemporary debate misses this central point. For Christ to be head of the church was not a cheap or comfortable calling; it involved crucifixion (322).

The purpose of marriage then, says Ash, is that “the husband takes upon himself the goal of being such a husband whose love will lead his wife into growth in personal and spiritual maturity (for there is not dichotomy between these two), so that his greatest aim in marriage is not his self-fulfillment but the blossoming of his wife. ‘Husbands should be utterly committed to the total well-being, especially the spiritual welfare, of their wives’ (Peter O’Brien 1999:422-424). This might sound a little self-righteous, as if he from his Olympian spiritual height can raise up his wife to his level; it is in fact deeply humbling. No husband can take responsibility seriously without himself being deeply conscious of his own need for cleansing, holiness and growth in grace” (324).

Both headship (expressed in sacrifice) and submissiveness (to unjust authority) are expressions of the way of the cross (327).

In these bold and counter-cultural statements, Christopher Ash is saying something twenty-first century Christians need to hear.  Both expressions of headship and submissiveness adorn the gospel of God and manifest, in part, the inner workings of the Trinity. In fleshing out male and female roles, husbands and wives, become more like the men and women God created them to be.  In other words, they more accurately display the gospel of Jesus Christ when they bear the fruits of biblical masculinity and feminity in the roles of head and helpmate.  Just as Jesus came as the perfect second Adam, so too married men and women, when they gladly take on their biblical roles, dignify humanity and call men and women living outside of God’s moral order to return to the truth. 

Realistically, the world’s response may not be commendation and praise, but rejection of the gospel light reflected in these godly marriages.  Nevertheless, when the world encounters a gracious patriarch willing to lay down his life for the care and protection of his family and gentle feminine companion unwilling to usurp his authority or combat his leadership, the world encounters something different, perhaps even transcedent.  When the world encounters a 1 Corinthians 11 woman or an Ephesians 5 man, it encounters a picture of Christ and the church! This is a powerful testimony and one the world can only hate. It cannot deny its Spirit-wrought reality!

May who claim the name of Christ all grow in grace and godliness, not as androgynous saints, but as brothers and sisters manifesting distinctly masculine and feminine godliness in the marriages God has given to us.

Sola Deo Gloria, dss