The semantics of this may be mostly relevant to me, but I think the principles are definitely worth some airtime on this blog.
When studying the topic of women in ministry, you instantly run into two big camps of thought. Complementarians believe that, although men and women are equal in their personhood, they are inequal (but complementary) as it pertains to their proper roles in life. Egalitarians believe that men and women are equal in their personhood and are not limited to specific roles/functions. Within these two broad categories, I would technically fall into the second, most particularly as it pertains to ministry.
If you’ve tracked with this blog very long at all, you’ll see that I’ve been doing a study on this subject lately. I’m still at it — albeit slowly — and currently I am studying through a particular complementarian book to try and see both sides of the argument. Now this particular book almost never refers to egalitarians as “egalitarians”. It prefers the term evangelical feminists.
I don’t want to read more into that term than was intended by the authors, but I have to admit it makes me squirm.
Feminism by itself — especially what feminism has become today — is not a good thing. I’m all for women being able to vote, get an education, get jobs that pay them in a consistent manner, etc. Some good things have happened because at one point in our nation’s history, a bunch of people (both men and women) rose up to say that “women are people, too”. And on the simple level, I agree with that statement.
However, feminism, “pro-femininity”, has a very critical flaw: women, apart from Christ, are fallen, depraved, unjust people. When Paul said “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells…” (Rom 7:18), that’s just as applicable to any woman today as it was to him back then. Exalting femininity means idolizing sinful people, which is a bad idea on a whole host of levels. Neither men nor women “deserve” any kind of special rights, or even good treatment. We all deserved eternal punishment, and it is the sheer mercy of God that any of us don’t get it. Again, it’s very good for men and women to treat each other well. But it is ungodly to constantly be bitterly fighting for our own rights, our own respect, etc.
Even beyond this, though, feminism today takes a stand for many ungodly things. Many feminists are fiercely campaigning for gay rights. In fact, many feminists would be happy to do away with the whole institution of marriage. Most feminists are passionately pro-choice. God is adamantly against all three of those points.
I was prompted to write this post due to some internet research I was doing today. On the one hand, I found an egalitarian blog. I agreed with many of the articles. But I was rather troubled by some of the comments I read, which talked about everything from the supposed injustice of women being the ones to change their name in marriage (really? I think this sounds like fun), to the supposedly backwards-thinking misogynists who propagate complementarian theology (the majority of whom are actually sincere believers).
On the other hand, I knew I had to write this post when I saw this feminist/egalitarian confusion brought to a horrifying head. On a visibly extremely complementarian blog, I stumbled across an advertisement for a conference, with one of the sessions titled: “Abortion: The Blood Sacrifice of Egalitarianism.”
I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to cry or throw up. Maybe both. The idea of the legalized slaughter of babies is apalling to me. Accusing other believers of willfully spilling that blood through their theology is equally repugnant — especially when the main point of the theology is something as innocuous as women being allowed to preach.
Which is why I wanted to write and say as plainly as I can say: I am not a feminist — evangelical or otherwise.
I seem to be simultaneously introducing this post and getting ahead of myself in it, so let me get right to the point. There are a number of reasons I am not an evangelical feminist:
- Feminism is flawed because it is all about promoting the cause of a bunch of sinners (which is all of us). See above.
- Feminism, by extension, promotes a number of outright sinful practices such as sexual immorality and abortion. Again, see above.
- I do not want to take a position that necessitates my opposition to all complementarians on all points. Lots of awesome believers are complementarians, and most of them are correct regarding something I can learn from.
- The most important reason of all: Jesus is not a feminist.
That sounds funny to say, but it’s true. He’s not a feminist. He’s also not a misogynist. He’s not complementarian. He’s not egalitarian. He’s neither a democrat nor republican. He is not a revolutionary, a communist, a capitalist, an environmentalist, a humanist, or a philanthropist. Seriously. Pick any “-ism” that you like, you won’t find Jesus among their card-carrying members. Does Jesus care about the above political, economic, social, and environmental issues? You’d better believe it. He cares way more than any of us do. But He is not on their side.
Often times, when people get involved with any of the above causes, we try to pull Jesus into our camp. We pick a few verses in the Gospels, point to how they support our cause, and then say, “See? Jesus was liberal / conservative / egalitarian / complementarian / other”. Or perhaps if someone hates Jesus, they might try to push Him into the other camp to try and discredit His name. Either way, we desperately want Him to belong to the camp that benefits us most. A few proof-texts and a lot of rhetoric can go a long way towards this end.
However, we need to all step back and take a cue from Joshua. Joshua was near the city of Jericho when he saw Someone standing across from him with a drawn sword. He then asked a very reasonable question, given the circumstances. “Are you for us or for our adversaries?” (Josh 5:13)
The Lord’s reply? “No” (Josh 5:14).
Jesus doesn’t pick sides. Even when one of those sides are His own chosen people, as in this story, He doesn’t pick sides. As He told Joshua, “No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come” (5:14). He is His own “side”.
Joshua’s response is definitely one we should model. “And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, ‘What does my Lord say to His servant'” (5:14)?
Since Jesus is not on our side, wisdom says we need to stop our endless arguing and debating, do some carpet time, and wait to hear what He has to say. He can’t be rallied to our cause. We must hear His voice, know His heart, and rally to His.
This is where all of our -isms get radically off-track, losing sight of the Just One in the name of justice, and trying to buy off the God of Gods who shows no partiality nor takes a bribe (De 10:17). Humility and teachability are the first things to fall when we are convinced that God conforms to our convictions, rather than trying always to conform our convictions to God. We end up with an argumentative, confused, prayerless mess, with nobody actually benefitting from all our valiant efforts, and no justice actually being done.
Which is why I’m not an evangelical feminist. I hesitate to even call myself an egalitarian. While I am not so naive as to think that I can take a theological position without winding up classified under some sort of label, I am deeply interested in not joining a side that Jesus isn’t on. And Jesus isn’t a feminist. He definitely cares about women, and He definitely cares about how women are treated, but He’s not a feminist. He is the Commander of the army of the LORD. He is on His own side.
If we do this — if we humble ourselves, worship, and listen to Him — we will find ourselves caring about what He cares about, seeing clearly what is righteous versus what is wicked, praying more, and actually equipped to make an impact in the area. Bringing true justice starts with being a friend of the Judge. We can only be aligned with truth when we stop pleading our own cause and start pleading His. If we want to see the wrong things made right in the earth, we must stop trying to drag Jesus over to our side, and fall in line behind His.
By His grace, I am committing to reach for this as I continue in my study. Prayers to that end will be gladly received.