Tag Archives: Critique of feminism

Three Views on Women in Leadership: A Hyperlinked Index

A reader of this blog requested that I compile an index that organizes and hyperlinks all the posts in my recent series on the debate between secular feminism, evangelical egalitarianism and Christian Neo-Patriarchy. This series ran through December 2016 and January 2017. I am in the process of turning this series into a book with the tentative title Three Views on Women in Leadership. I am considering giving last names to Sarah, Gloria and Abraham. I am open to suggestions. I am also open to suggestions on anything I need to add to the book to make it better.

I changed the order from the way they appeared onthe blog. Now they are ordered so that the responses follow immediately after the presentations. If you wish, you can forward this page to a friend who would like to read them all together in this new order.

 

Gloria Explains and Defends Secular Feminism

Sarah Responds to Gloria

Abraham Responds to Gloria (Part one)

Abraham Responds to Gloria (Part Two)

Abraham Responds to Gloria (Part Three)

Sarah Explains and Defends Evangelical Egalitarianism

Gloria Responds to Sarah

Abraham Responds to Sarah (Part One)

Abraham Explains and Defends Christian Neo-Patriarchy (Part One)

Abraham Explains and Defends Christian Neo-Patriarchy (Part Two)

Gloria Responds to Abraham

Sarah Responds to Abraham

Evangelical Egalitarians, Married Bachelors and Other Impossible Things

Speakers:

Gloria (Secular Feminist)

Sarah (Evangelical Egalitarian)

Abraham (Neo-Patriarch)

Moderator (Neutral)

 

Moderator: It’s hard to believe that this is our tenth session in our dialogue on the relationship between men and women in society, church and family. Abraham will now reply to Sarah’s evangelical egalitarianism from the perspective of neo-patriarchy. Perhaps Abraham can keep it brief this time.

[Note: Sarah’s talk was posted on this blog on December 10, 2016.]

Abraham Replies to Sarah

Abraham: Thank you for the opportunity to reply to Sarah and for the encouragement to brevity. Let me begin by referring back to Gloria’s critique of evangelical egalitarianism. As a secular feminist, Gloria has no sympathy for the Bible or evangelical Christianity. Nor does she betray much understanding of either one. But she has stumbled on the central problem with Sarah’s position, that is, the tension between the evangelical view of the moral and doctrinal teaching of the Bible and egalitarianism. Gloria argues for their incompatibility, and so will I. But our agreement ends at this point. Gloria rejects the Bible in order to preserve egalitarianism. I reject egalitarianism in order to preserve evangelical Christianity (and reason!). And Sarah wants to preserve both.

The Function of the Feminist Principle in Evangelical Egalitarianism

Sarah affirms her full agreement with Gloria’s feminist principle and program of reform. For your convenience I will quote it again:

 “It is wrong everywhere, always, and for everyone to forbid a woman to do something she wants to do simply because she is a woman.”

Sarah said of this principle, “I agree wholeheartedly with Gloria. What motivation other than irrational prejudice could anyone have for disagreeing with this principle?” In my reply to Gloria [Posted January 06, 2017], I criticized this rule from a rational point of view. I won’t repeat those criticisms here except to say that I demonstrated that this principle is neither self-evident nor universally applicable. It is not true that “irrational prejudice” is the only possible motivation for making different sets of rules for men and women. No one, man or woman, really believes this!

Sarah’s larger argument assumes the feminist principle without analysis or argument. It then expends most of its energy attempting to demonstrate that the Bible can be interpreted in a way consistent with or even supportive of it. Clearly, the feminist principle serves Sarah’s argument as a self-evident norm by which to measure the moral vision of the Bible. Gloria argued that Sarah’s use of the Bible is redundant except as an appeal to her evangelical audience. I think Glory makes a good point. But if the feminist principle itself is not self-evident or universal, Sarah’s entire argument collapses. She loses her infallible principle that enables her to separate the Bible’s higher moral vision (egalitarian) from its lower one (patriarchy).

Let’s take stock of where we stand. I have made it impossible for Sarah to continue using the feminist principle as the unquestioned norm for her biblical interpretation. Even now her entire argument lies in ruins. It cannot be resurrected without extensive revisions. And without the presumption of the self-evidence and universal nature of the feminist principle her case can never return to its former glory. But now let’s look at Sarah’s argument from another angle. Let’s examine her claim to have preserved evangelical Christianity in her argument for egalitarianism.

Treachery of Feminist Hermeneutics

Sarah claims to be an evangelical Christian and she claims that one can defend evangelical theology while affirming the feminist principle. She gives a brief definition of evangelicalism:

We believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, crucified for our sins and raised bodily from the dead. We accept the Old and New Testament Scriptures as the inspired Word of God, the authority for faith and practice for the Christian church.

Of course Sarah admits that many texts in this “inspired Word of God” fall far short of affirming egalitarianism. The Old Testament law makes different rules for men and women, some of which sound to modern ears highly disparaging to women. Jesus chose only men as apostles. Paul speaks of man as the “head” of woman, and he gives different rules for women and men when they speak in the assembly of the church (1 Corinthians 11:1-16). He tells women to be silent in church and to ask their husbands any questions they have when they return home (1 Corinthians 14:34-38). He speaks of the husband as “the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church,” and enjoins submission of wives to husbands (Ephesians 5:1-21). Peter speaks of women as “the weaker partner” (1 Peter 3:1-7). In 1 Timothy 2:11-12, women are forbidden to “teach or assume authority over men.” The rulers of the church, elders and bishops, must be men (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1).

Secular or religiously liberal feminists, neither of whom submit to the authority of the Bible for faith and practice, can easily dismiss these texts as products of ancient patriarchy. They don’t need the Bible to support their moral vision; they get their morals from progressive culture. But evangelical egalitarians cannot take this easy option. They must find a way to subordinate the “patriarchal” texts to the “egalitarian” ones without denying that Scripture is “the authority for faith and practice for the Christian church.” How can this be done?

There is only one way. Evangelical egalitarians must argue that the “patriarchal” rules and restrictions on women do not express the essential moral vision of the Bible rooted in the facts of the gospel of Christ. Instead, these regulations are conscious or unconscious accommodations to patriarchal culture or situationally determined applications of such other principles as good order or time-sensitive apostolic judgments that can be revised by the church. My concern with this approach to interpreting the scriptures is this: despite evangelical egalitarian claims to the contrary, many people will conclude that one can remain a good Christian while ignoring or discounting the clear moral teachings of the scriptures. If we can find a way around the apostolic teaching about the roles of men and women in the governance of the church and the family, can we not follow the same procedure when the subject is same-sex marriage or homosexuality or abortion? In other words, I think evangelical egalitarianism opens the door to so-called liberal Christianity.

Galatians 3:28 Again

Sarah and other evangelical egalitarians argue that Galatians 3:28 (“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male or female.”) articulates the essential egalitarian message of the gospel whereas the submission and restriction texts do not.

You may be surprised to hear that I agree with Sarah up to a point. In biblical interpretation and doctrinal application it is very important to distinguish the central gospel message and Jesus’ high ethical vision from the detailed applications the apostolic church had to make from day to day and situation to situation. Surely everyone believes that Paul would agree that it’s much more important to believe the gospel and love your neighbor than to keep women silent in the churches. Is it still important for women to wear a head covering and for men to keep their hair cut short? Matters such as these have to be debated and judgments have to be made in every generation. They cannot be settled in advance.

And I agree that Galatians 3:26-29 articulates a central gospel principle:

26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

This text states plainly that gender, social status and ethnic identity do not determine one’s relationship to God. Faith and baptism unite people to Christ. But evangelical egalitarians are mistaken to deduce from Paul’s clear affirmation that the means of justification apply to all without distinction the conclusion that all distinctions in society, church and family must be abolished. Justification deals with something all people share regardless of gender and social standing: all have sinned and everyone needs a savior. Here there is no difference. But people are not the same in all respects. And Paul and other New Testament authors take these distinctions into account in their moral teaching about social, ecclesiastical and familial life. And I believe they are right to do so.

Giftedness

Sarah admits that some distinctions must be made in roles, offices and activities in the church. But, she argues, these distinctions must be made according to “giftedness” and not according to gender. What about this principle? What is “giftedness”? It is a power, native or learned, natural or supernatural, that enables one to perform a task. It’s called a “gift” because whether in a natural way or a supernatural way this power derives from God and is given by grace. To be consistent with her egalitarian assertion, Sarah would have to insist that being created a woman or a man is not a gift, because if it were it could rightly become a basis for assigning roles and functions and offices in the church! But according to Sarah, to be given that set of characteristics and powers entailed in being a woman or a man implies nothing about church roles, offices and activities. And for the church to consider maleness or femaleness a gift and make distinctions accordingly would be wrong.

I find Sarah’s exclusion of maleness and femaleness from the category of “giftedness” implausible and arbitrary. As I argued in my response to Gloria, being a woman or a man is not a superficial characteristic like eye color or height. The differences between men and women are profound and are bound to have consequences for the order in society, church and home. Hence the apostolic rules differentiating the roles and functions of men and women in the church and home cannot be presumed without examination to be in violation of the Pauline principle of justification by faith or the evangelical egalitarian principle of giftedness. In fact, they are rooted in the created order, which can be discerned to some extent by reason, and they are intended for the good of women and men.

Moderator: Thank you, Abraham. Next time we will hear Sarah’s and Gloria’s replies to Abraham.

The Myths of “Male Privilege” and “Women’s Experience”

 Speakers:

Gloria (Secular Feminist)

Sarah (Evangelical Egalitarian)

Abraham (Neo-Patriarch)

Moderator (Neutral)

 

Moderator: Welcome to the eighth session of our dialogue on the relationship between men and women in society, church and family. This evening Abraham will conclude his critique of secular feminism.  Abraham, could you make your next two points a bit briefer? We are running short of time.

Abraham: Okay. But you are the one who asked me to address issues I had not planned to speak about.

 Moderator: Touché!

 

 “Women’s Experience”

 Abraham: (2) Gloria asserts that “women’s experience” is an authoritative source of truth. According to her, when women feel oppressed and think they are being treated unfairly, men should accept their perspective as a revelation of truth and acquiesce to their demands. Sarah agrees. I disagree.

If the subjective feeling of being unjustly treated is a moral norm, why limit it to women’s experience? Men have experience too! And if women’s experience can be used to instruct men about their moral blindness, why can’t men’s experience instruct women in areas where women are morally blind? If women’s experience can refute men’s views of women, why can’t men’s experience refute women’s views of men? If women can insist that men accept women’s experience as a revelation of truth and acquiesce to their demands, why can’t men insist that women accept men’s experience as a revelation of truth and acquiesce to their demands?

Unless there is an objective standard of moral truth, justice and goodness, appeals to experience lead to a stalemate. One person’s desires are set against another’s with no objective standard by which to judge between them. But if there is an objective moral standard, neither women’s experience nor men’s experience can be used as a moral norm. At best, they are beginning places for a discussion about how to achieve a mutually acceptable approximation to justice and goodness in this relationship.

 “Male Privilege”

 (3) Gloria asserts that:

 Secular feminists demand that every tradition, ideology, theology, or philosophy that justifies male privilege be rejected as false, anti-human, and evil.

Gloria here begs the question. She assumes that “male privilege,” that is, giving a right to men that is not given to women, is always wrong. But this is the question to be decided! It cannot be assumed! I can be brief in my response to this assertion, because I have already demonstrated in point (1) above [Posted on January 06] that in some situations giving men a privilege not given to women is the rational and right thing to do. Hence male privilege is not always wrong! We need to deliberate in society, church and family about when it is appropriate. There are no easy answers!

One last point. The whole discussion focuses on male privilege. What about female privilege? Aren’t women given some rights withheld from (or irrelevant to) men? Don’t women want to be treated differently from men in some cases? But if male privilege is always wrong, female privilege is always wrong as well. Does anyone think women would be better off in a society where they must compete with men under the exact same set of rules?

Moderator: Thank you Abraham for your thoughts. Next time Gloria and Abraham will present analyses and criticisms of Sarah’s presentation of evangelical egalitarianism.

Programming note: Gloria’s response to Sarah’s presentation of evangelical feminism will be posted on Friday, January 13. The title of that post is “Is the Bible irretrievably Misogynous?”