Feminism In The Church

Before I launch into what might prove to be a controversial topic, let me tell you that I’m taking part in the Christian Carnival once again. The host this week is All Things New. You’ll find a list of article titles and links in subjects varying from apologetics to devotionals.

The one I submitted this week is Groaning. If you’re not up for a controversial post today, perhaps you’d rather read “Jesus should not be first in your life” or “Gracious Sovereignty” or any of the other fifteen articles available for your edification.

For those of you sticking around, here goes.

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Times, they are a-changin’, you may have noticed. This is true in any number of fields, but not less so in the Church. For example you have those of the emerging church persuasion who accuse the Church of being out of touch and irrelevant (sorry, that was from the era when I was a young adult) stagnant and dull. What we need, they say, is to abandon the traditional church in favor of ongoing conversations. We need to re-image Christ, to look at him in light of who we are.

This kind of thinking may explain why our cultural proclivities seem to be creeping into churches — even my Bible-believing evangelical body. We are not immune. No one is. And for that reason, it is important for us to continually examine Scripture to see if these things are so.

The “things” I’m referring to today is feminism in the Church.

Of necessity we need to define terms. When I use “feminism” I have in mind the belief that women are equal to men in all respects, if not superior. Hence there should be no distinction in role or function between men and women.

One blogger wrote “we overwhelmingly are affected by the outside world’s view of women and their role in the church and society rather than that of Jesus or the Bible.” (Interestingly, the majority of this article gives a justification for taking the teaching of Scripture about women and their role in the church and placing it in a cultural context.)

It is this place that we give to the thinking of our culture that disturbs me most. Seemingly we are playing the “keep up with the Joneses” game, and the Joneses are those that make up the mainstream of our culture.

I believe this is the kind of false teaching that the New Testament writers warned against. Paul said to the Colossians that he was laying down doctrine about Christ “so that no one will delude you with persuasive arguments,” and that they were to “See to it that no one takes you captive with philosophy and empty deception, according to the traditions of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

Today we seem all too happy to give in to the persuasive arguments of those who discount Scripture. We seem happy to be captivated by the traditions of men.

I found a fairly clear look at the “BIBLICAL role of women in Christianity” that coincides to a large extent with what I understand the Bible to say. My aim here is not to analyze each point and each Scripture.

Rather, I believe, as another blogger said beautifully in “Christianity v. feminism,” that “Christianity allows women to be women. Allows them their femininity. Allows them their freedom.”

But the culture has said, No, Christianity has taught men to oppress women and keep women from doing and being all they can be.

I don’t doubt that down through time there were religious leaders who taught error in regard to women’s roles. However, that’s true about error in a lot of areas, such as indulgences and renting pew space.

We ought not look at tradition, as Paul said in Colossians, whether that tradition comes from religious or irreligious people. We need to align our beliefs with the sure Word of God.

The Bible is not murky about women and our role. We are equal with men in ministry (see Philippians 4:3b “…these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life”), equal in salvation (see Galatians 3:28 “there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus”), and unique in our role (see 1 Cor. 14:34a “The women are to keep silent in the churches”). Not less than but different from men.

Athletes understand this perhaps better than anyone else. In football there are “glamor” positions — quarterback, running backs, and receivers. But without linemen, the guys who literally do the heavy lifting, those in the glamor roles go nowhere. The quarterback gets sacked, the running backs get thrown for a loss, and the receivers never see the ball.

The point is, women are biologically different from men and as Scripture reminds us, we came into the creation process after Man. In God’s perfect plan, He therefore assigned men to the “glamor” positions in the Church. Not all men, of course.

Some men are to be pastors and elders, and other men are to be parking lot attendants. Are the latter to be filled with envy because they don’t have the glamor positions? Clearly not.

Why, then, should we assume that it’s OK for women to covet the glamor positions? And covet is exactly what it is.

Our culture has told us we should have something Scripture says is not meant for us. Ooooohh, sounds so Garden of Eden-ish, doesn’t it?

Published in: on September 28, 2011 at 6:21 pm  Comments (21)  
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21 Comments

  1. Love this one.

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  2. Strong thoughts on a sensitive subject. Thanks, this was Biblically solid.

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  3. But what does it mean? keep silent in the church buildings? Women aren’t allowed to speak in the building? How do you minister without speech? and buildings never seemed significant in the early church- church is the people, the gathering of the body of Christ. Is there ministry that is not an act of the Body the Church? Aren’t we all part of the body even when we go out from it in ministry to others? Is this blog which tends to minister to me, not under the Christian understanding of “Church”? Does that mean that women should not blog? or is it just verbal speech in a physical building? And if so should they not greet friends? Teach Sunday school? Read the liturgy? Lead the worship music? The most verbally gifted of our race are supposed to keep their mouths shut? I don’t get it. And it seems to be getting into legalistic thought that is contradictory to the teachings of Jesus.

    I like this explanation of this apparent contradiction: http://www.gracecentered.com/women_in_ministry.htm

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  4. How can contradictory statements be Biblically solid? Either women can be equal in ministry or they can’t.

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  5. I tried to post this earlier but apparently links need special formatting that I haven’t learned to do yet:

    But what does it mean? keep silent in the church buildings? Women aren’t allowed to speak in the building? How do you minister without speech? and buildings never seemed significant in the early church- church is the people, the gathering of the body of Christ. Is there ministry that is not an act of the Body the Church? Aren’t we all part of the body even when we go out from it in ministry to others? Is this blog which tends to minister to me, not under the Christian understanding of “Church”? Does that mean that women should not blog? or is it just verbal speech in a physical building? And if so should they not greet friends? Teach Sunday school? Read the liturgy? Lead the worship music? The most verbally gifted of our race are supposed to keep their mouths shut? I don’t get it. And it seems to be getting into legalistic thought that is contradictory to the teachings of Jesus.

    I like this explanation of this apparent contradiction:
    http://www.gracecentered.com/women_in_ministry.htm

    Like

  6. But what does it mean? keep silent in the church buildings? Women aren’t allowed to speak in the building? How do you minister without speech? and buildings never seemed significant in the early church- church is the people, the gathering of the body of Christ. Is there ministry that is not an act of the Body the Church? Aren’t we all part of the body even when we go out from it in ministry to others? Is this blog which tends to minister to me, not under the Christian understanding of “Church”? Does that mean that women should not blog? or is it just verbal speech in a physical building? And if so should they not greet friends? Teach Sunday school? Read the liturgy? Lead the worship music? The most verbally gifted of our race are supposed to keep their mouths shut? I don’t get it. And it seems to be getting into legalistic thought that is contradictory to the teachings of Jesus.

    I like this explanation of this apparent contradiction:
    gracecentered.com/women_in_ministry.htm

    Like

  7. I want to make a post that has a link- I’ve tried three times now and it won’t seem to let me. Here is my response:

    But what does it mean? keep silent in the church buildings? Women aren’t allowed to speak in the building? How do you minister without speech? and buildings never seemed significant in the early church- church is the people, the gathering of the body of Christ. Is there ministry that is not an act of the Body the Church? Aren’t we all part of the body even when we go out from it in ministry to others? Is this blog which tends to minister to me, not under the Christian understanding of “Church”? Does that mean that women should not blog? or is it just verbal speech in a physical building? And if so should they not greet friends? Teach Sunday school? Read the liturgy? Lead the worship music? The most verbally gifted of our race are supposed to keep their mouths shut? I don’t get it. And it seems to be getting into legalistic thought that is contradictory to the teachings of Jesus.

    But I found an article at Gracecentered dot com that gives an explanation of this apparent contradiction. I’d love to share the link here but this won’t seem to let me.

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  8. I like this explanation of this apparent contradiction:
    link

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  9. I suppose the the slave laws of the old south were justified too. Those unfortunate enough to find themselves enslaved, weren’t actually less than the free whites- they were equals with them- not less than, just different. And being so different needed to follow different rules. The inequality was just an illusion all along. Slaves where just coveting the rules that governed the whites for themselves.

    I don’t believe any of that (above), I’m just giving an illustration of how illogical this argument sounds. It is funny how we can rationalize incongruousness if we believe both things have to be true.

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  10. Becky, as a woman who wants to honor God and His Word, I understand and follow your argument. His Word must govern us; the world’s thinking must not.

    A response from inner conviction confirmed by the Word:
    During my time in seminary, as part of a Christian Ed internship in a local congregation, I read the Word of God on a Sunday morning before the Pastor preached. This was hard, not only because I’m shy but because it didn’t feel right. My inner conviction, or sense of things, lined up with the Bible’s teaching.

    Another from observation:
    Also, at seminary, the professors that were the least Biblical were often the women, who were as highly trained as the men. As part of a course in spiritual formation taught by a woman, we were asked to come up with our own names for God.

    Thank you, everyone discussing this!

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  11. (Just logging in to checkmark for notification of follow-ups.)

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  12. Maria, your experience lined up with traditional teaching. When what we believe goes against what we are doing it feels wrong, no matter if the belief is true (from God) or not. People can feel strong conviction for the most ridiculous things, and that conviction doesn’t come from the Holy Spirit, but from cognitive dissonance. People who believe they should not cut their hair would have the same, seeming to confirm the belief experience, if they get their hair cut against their background of belief. It only confirms that you believe what you believe and not that there is any truth in that belief.

    I believe your experience with professors is due to the fact that women who hold more traditional beliefs are less likely to go into the ministry- regardless of God’s calling on their life. So you get the sampling that you get- it was predetermined to be that way based on the very subject we are talking about.

    Becky, here holds very traditional beliefs, and in most cases tradition doesn’t seem too far off track. I hold Becky in high regard as a trustworthy minister in my life. I am thankful that she boldly speaks out in truth often. What is the difference if it is typed on the internet or spoken in a building? There is not a difference. I believe she is speaking in the Church as God intends for her to do. I also believe there is a traditional misunderstanding of 1 Cor. 14:34 that goes against everything Jesus and Paul have taught.

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  13. Patrick, thank you for taking time to answer carefully! I want to think about my response because by nature I’m a waffler…
    Maria

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  14. […] some ways, the previous post on this subject was more about the influence of culture on the church than it was about feminism in […]

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  15. Patrick, though I should be relaxing over lunch I’ve got to respond.

    When what I’m doing goes against what I KNOW to be true from the Bible, this is bound to feel wrong to me. If I disobey God, I’ll experience various levels of discomfort, from mild embarrassment to deep shame.

    You said: “I believe your experience with professors is due to the fact that women who hold more traditional beliefs are less likely to go into the ministry- regardless of God’s calling on their life. So you get the sampling that you get- it was predetermined to be that way based on the very subject we are talking about.”

    You’re right that women who hold more traditional, Biblical views are less likely to go into ministry; that I got the sampling I should have expected. Predetermined in a sense? Yes. Still, you had to be there to experience the shock of being called on to come up with a name for the Lord, when His Name is holy, and He revealed it as WHO HE IS. It’s like saying on an infinitely smaller scale, “I think I’ll call Patrick ‘randy.'” However, I have to be honest and say that there was a man who taught there too who was just as unsettling in his un-Biblical views..

    I’m glad you like Becky’s blog–so do I!

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  16. Patrick and Maria, thank you both for participating in this discussion, and thank you for your kind words about the blog. God is good and uses even opposing views to teach us. I especially appreciate the moderated tone and the high regard for Scripture. Both are important in what could be considered a hot-button topic. Thank you.

    As you both know, I responded to much of these thoughts in my post yesterday. More to come. 😉

    Becky

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  17. Sally and Matt, thanks for your feedback, too. I appreciate the encouragement.

    Becky

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  18. Patrick, I don’t have time (or desire) to get into a long argument, but one thing you said kind of jumped out at me. You suggest that if I say women are equal but different that’s not different from saying slaves are equal but different. I don’t think women are to be treated with disrespect and forced to work at things they don’t want to work at. I don’t believe slavery is OK.

    I think of it more like this: My children are my brothers and sisters in Christ. They are equal before God. They are able to rebuke me when I sin (and they do this often–gently and with respect) and they are able to teach me spiritual things by telling me something they picked up in scripture or heard at church. But they are not to have authority over me. If I handed over authority to them, I’d be sinning against them and against God.

    The Bible clearly teaches that wives are not to have authority over their husbands and women are not to have authority in the church. This does not mean they are “less than” or that they can’t speak or teach, but that they don’t have that special authority that God has given to elders who must give an account to God for how they oversee our souls.

    Hebrews 13:17, “Obey your leaders and submit to them; for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account.”

    to include a link you can copy and past the URL. If you want to make the URL shorter you can go to http://tinyurl.com/. If you want to make a clickable link look at this page: http://w3schools.com/html/html_links.asp

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  19. Thanks for your feedback, Sally. And the educational links. Looks like all those posts that I couldn’t get to post have now come through after a day or so- guess I just needed to be more patient.

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  20. I can explain about your other posts, Patrick. For some reason they went to spam. I didn’t think to check, but Sally’s went to moderation and when I approved hers it got me to thinking, so I opened the spam file and there were yours. I can’t explain why it flagged them, and it doesn’t seem to take many that are legitimate. At any rate your perseverance got the conversation rolling. Thank you.

    Becky

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  21. […] and the various passages of Scripture we’ve looked at in the previous posts on this subject ( “Feminism In The Church”, “Feminism In The Church, Continued”, “Women As Leaders Of The Church?”) […]

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