#TalkingThursday – If you don’t talk about Jesus who will?
Dear Reader, Welcome Back! We’ve been away for some time and we hope that we’ve been missed because we’ve sincerely missed you too! Hope you enjoy today’s #TalkingThursday topic!
Is there such a thing as a “Christian feminist”?
Is feminism against the bible?
These questions are difficult to answer because of the ambiguity of the feminist movement. This post hopes to serve as an introduction into the break down of the current feminist movement in order to better understand its compatibility with the word of God.
First off, the short answers are: YES, there IS such a thing as a Christian feminist and NO, scripture is not against feminism (certain aspects of it at least).
What is “Feminism”?
At its very core, taking a completely minimalist definition of feminism, we can conclude that feminism is the establishment and defence of gender equality in political, social, and economic arenas. Literally, this means
women should have equal rights and opportunities to influence and participate in government, work in the marketplace and interact with cultural norms.
Going with that definition, our Bible neither promotes nor rejects these demands. The Bible gives equal value to women, but it does not dictate that women must or should have equal rights. At the same time, the Bible does not forbid women from having equal rights. Throughout the bible, there are no laws against women moving freely through the marketplace, the arts, or the government.
Believe it or not, biblical law was actually primarily designed to ensure the protection and support of women within a dominant patriarchal society. Therefore, if these goals are promoted through equal rights and opportunities, then the definition of feminism above is biblically accurate.
Unfortunately, the 21st-century feminist movement has expanded beyond the biblical definition of feminism. The feminism of today has not always chosen what is best for women or society in general, and has come to be associated with certain themes and objectives that are “far from biblical”; hence its bad reputation amongst Christian circles.
Keeping an eternal focus, we’ll run through a number of viewpoints and arguments, most of which will be summarised, as we certainly can’t type up everything there is to know about everything when it comes to feminism. Through a quick comparison of the various camps and stances on feminism, we’ll leave it up to you to rightfully using the Holy-Spirit
who is every Christian’s common sense decide where you stand.
***Note that we use the word feminism and women’s issues interchangeably in this post.
Christian feminists are divided into 4 major camps:
Warning: Things are about to get a tad complex; if you don’t feel like reading through all the grammar and banter, just skip to the end of Biblical Patriarchy. If you decide to read on, you’ll find that your views on feminism fall within one of the four camps discussed below.
1. Egalitarian Feminism:
According to this camp, gender equality in church leadership (including pastoral roles) and Christian marriage is biblically sound. This view stems from a biblically-based belief that gender, in and of itself, neither privileges nor curtails a believer’s gifting or calling to any ministry within the church or home. The feminists in this camp do not suggest that that women and men are identical, rather they affirm that God designed men and women to benefit one another. Their sword of truth is taken from Galatians 3:28:
There is [now no distinction in regard to salvation] neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you [who believe] are all one in Christ Jesus [no one can claim a spiritual superiority].
Core Beliefs & Values: Egalitarian feminists have a number of core values which inform their views on church leadership, gender equality, abortion and all other women’s issues. According to Christians for Biblical Equality, a major Christian Egalitarian organisation, these beliefs include but are not limited to:
- A belief that scripture teaches the equality of men and women spiritually and in leadership roles within the home, church and society.
- A belief that God has given each person (male and female) gifts to be used for the good of Christ’s kingdom.
- A belief that male and female Christians are to develop and exercise their God-given gifts in the home, church, and society.
- A belief that scripture teaches all Christians to oppose injustice in whatever form it arises.
Egalitarian feminists have interpreted scriptures to mean that the manner and teaching of Jesus abolished discrimination against women in the church and in marriage. Jesus did not conform to a mentality unfavourable to women, and reacted against inequalities based on sexual differences. They consider the overarching principles of the Bible to be that men and women are equally created in God’s image, are equally gifted by God’s Spirit for service and are equally held responsible for using their God-given gifts.
Feminism seeks to advance the equality of men and women morally, socially, spiritually, and in leadership from a Christian perspective.
Feminists (they’re simply called feminists, not ”Christian feminists” because they’re basically no different from non-Christian/secular feminists) believe that God does not discriminate on the basis of biologically-determined characteristics such as sex or race.
Their battlefronts include the advancement of female ordination in the church, the eradication of male dominance in Christian marriages, and the recognition of equal spiritual abilities and reproductive rights.
Progressive/Liberal/Extremely Right-Wing feminist groups often stand for one or more of the following:
- A woman’s right to abort
(aka murder)her unborn baby (views on this issue vary between groups, some support the “right” to abortion in ALL cases while some do not; offering support only in special circumstances such as rape, child pregnancy, in cases where there is a risk to the health/life of the mother or instances where the baby has a (severe) genetic disorder or physical disability).
- Lesbianism and the right for women to marry women (this varies between groups, some do not support lesbianism at all, while some support monogamous ‘Christian’ lesbian relationships, some support lesbian celibacy i.e. you can be a lesbian and take an oath of celibacy or something along those lines, idk, things started to get blurry and confusing here).
- Freedom from traditional gender roles in marriage ( get rid of any and all kinds of banter about male headship at this point, it does not apply to this camp of feminists).
- The removal of barriers in church leadership on the basis of gender (thus permitting females to ANY leadership role within the church).
3. Complementarian Feminism
This is a theological view held across several religions outside of Christianity, most notably Judaism, and Islam. Complementarians believe men and women have different but complementary roles and responsibilities in marriage, family life and religious leadership.
Complementarians believe in a God ordained hierarchy of authority within the church and the family. Christian complementarians believe that biblically-prescribed, separate roles preclude women from specific functions of ministry within the Church. Complementarians assign primary leadership roles to men and supporting roles to women. They believe that while women may assist in the decision-making process, the ultimate authority for the decision is the male. This applies whether in family, marriage, courtship or church administration.
The Christian complementarian view of marriage asserts gender-based roles. A husband is considered to have the God-given responsibility to provide for, protect, and lead his family. A wife is to collaborate with her husband, respect him and serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.
Complementarians assert that scripture instructs husbands to lead their families as the Head of the Household, and to love their wives as Christ loves the Church while wives are to respect their husbands’ leadership out of reverence for Christ.
Complementarians view women’s roles in ministry, particularly in church settings, as limited. By their interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:9-15, [emphasis on 11-12] women should not hold church leadership roles that involve teaching or authority over men.
A woman must quietly receive instruction with all submissiveness. I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet [in the congregation].
The Council On Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, the leading complementarian organisation, holds the view that “in the church, redemption in Christ gives men and women an equal share in the blessings of salvation. Nevertheless, they strongly believe that certain governing and teaching roles within the church are restricted to men.” In this view, women are just as gifted as men, but there are biblical restrictions on the exercise of some of those gifts, such as not teaching men from a position of authority, and not occupying the office of pastor or elder.
This view is backed using scripture such as (1 Corinthians 11:2-16 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15). Therefore, most complementarians believe that women should not be ordained as a pastor or as an evangelist, while a few believe that it is acceptable for women to be evangelists but not pastors.
4. Biblical Patriarchy
Biblical patriarchy is the forerunner of Complementarianism. While Complementarianism holds exclusively male leadership in the church and in the home alone, biblical patriarchy extends this to include the civic sphere as well, meaning that women should not be civil leaders and indeed should not have careers outside the home. In all other areas, they hold the same views as complementarianism.
From all the camps so far, it’s safe at this point to at least conclude that there is such a thing as Christian feminism. If you read through the four camps, you probably already have one in your mind which subscribes to most of the things you believe in.
Christian Feminism Is Not An Oxymoron
Of the four camps, I am currently somewhere between egalitarian and complementarian. Any Christian with sound doctrine can easily rule out the feminist and patriarchy camps. You can’t agree with God’s Word and 100% agree with either of those camps at the same time. They just don’t mix. If we threw all their ideologies into the same pot, and boiled it under the fire of scripture, it would probably evaporate 99%, so there’s just no way those two camps measure up. That leaves us with the egalitarian and complementarian feminist camps. Before we jump into the key issues that divide these two camps, there are two more things we need to remind ourselves:
- Christian women do not need feminism to inform us of our worth and value.
Why do some Christian women feel they need feminism? God already says we’re equally valuable. We don’t need to climb the rooftops shouting, “I am a feminist” at the top of our voices to promote the idea of equality. It is sound biblical teaching that men and women are equal, and there is absolutely no doubt about that. What we need to do, is let our actions portray our feminism, we need to lovingly show ALL women, no matter their background, how valuable and precious they in God’s sight (especially those who have been taught or treated otherwise). Many ladies support feminism on social media but go out and live the opposite by daily backstabbing fellow women and girls with envious, covetous and wicked thoughts/actions.
How’s that going to get anyone anywhere?
If you truly appreciate your worth according to scripture, you’ll realise the same value is being offered to every other woman on the planet, and in good faith, you should be excited to pursue and reveal this worth to every woman you meet who is unaware of her true value.
- Feminism isn’t offering a solution the Bible hasn’t already provided.
It is a shame that in this day and age, we as Christians have to define feminism within the parameters of scripture under headings such as: Christian or Biblical feminism. It shouldn’t even be a thing! The inerrant Word of God, not feminism has ALL the answers we need. In Jesus Christ, we (both men and women) find all the fulfilment, worth, value and purpose life has to offer.
The aggressiveness of the current feminist movement is not the solution to resolving the existing dominance of patriarchy.
We don’t need to paint our bodies, join the free bleeding or free nipple movement, get into petty fights/arguments on social media or go on worldly protests about things that are of no eternal value to prove any point. Instead, how about we get in our war rooms and begin to work out the change we want to see in society, starting with our very own lives and attitudes.
We have to educate our men on women’s issues.
We’ve been teaching ourselves about ourselves for far too long, and it’s led to a lack of inclusion of men in women’s issues. By leading and including men in women’s discussions, we eradicate the societal stereotypes that suggest a woman is unfit for certain roles in the family, church or civil life. The discussion on women’s issues must be led by women, and so help us God, Christian women. We talk to men about marriage and fail to talk to them about everything else.
We must not shy away from including men in our discussions on rape, abuse, sexuality and even menstrual cycles.
Just look at Jesus, His teachings and actions were radical when it came to dealing with women’s issues. He forgave women of ill repute (John 8:1-11), spoke respectfully to a Samaritan woman (John 4:4-42), and willingly interacted with an unclean woman (Matthew 9:20-22). No rabbi, priest, or Pharisee of His time would have dared do any of those things.
Jesus ignored culture and the pressures of expectation to honour and show love to women and we do well to follow in His footsteps.
Now that we’ve informed ourselves on the basics, there’s a whole lot more to cover. If you made it this far, I thank and congratulate you. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at lines that divide the egalitarian and complementarian feminist camps (they are mostly divided on the issue of female ordination i.e. women pastors). But other issues/questions we may possibly* look at include:
- Are Women Spiritually Deficient compared to men?
- Understanding the role of men within the feminist framework.
- Ordaining Women: How much is too much?
- The Bible and Modern Feminism.
- Meet Sophia: The Truth Behind Advocating a Female Deity.
- Marriage For The 2st Century Feminist: Must I Take My Husband’s Last Name?
- Proverbs 31 as A Model of Christian Feminism.
- Gender Roles & Decision Making in Marriage/Family.
- Rape, Abortion, Sperm Theft & Artificial Insemination: Who Has the Final Say on Reproductive Rights?
- Identifying Female Disciples (and Apostles?) in the New Testament.
Tell us which of these topics you would like to see via twitter or in the comments!
*Emphasis on possibly because the degree of focus on each of these things will vary. It is difficult to type up in words our position on certain issues as hypothetical things are often better discussed or answered when phrased as direct questions. You can send questions via Facebook: @gossip4jesus, Twitter: @TG4JInitiative
Jesus is a feminist and so am I.
The manner in which Jesus treated women in His social era was revolutionary. He gave them respect, dignity and worth. His behaviour meshes perfectly with the definition of feminism given at the start of this post. His life and ministry embodied the belief that “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.“ (Genesis 1:27).
We are equally valuable humans and we should be treated equally.
You’ve probably heard the saying, what a man can do, a woman can do better. True, but a half-truth. Women can do better, in nearly every situation and circumstance. While that’s motivating for the woman to hear, the question is no longer whether the woman can, it’s whether the woman should do better.
I know you can, but should you be doing it?
The man and the woman were created by God to be equal in value but different in roles. God didn’t design us to be the same, and with good reason. He didn’t design us to do the same things. We might be capable of doing the same things, and in some areas, be more qualified than our male counterparts, but what we often forget to ask ourselves is:
Is God really calling us women to do certain things, or is it our fleshly desire for titles?
On that note, we hope you’ve enjoyed this albeit long introduction into what we hope will be a great series! Until next time,
2 thoughts on “Feminism: Is It Biblical?”
Detailed in an awesome manner. I love it!
You unfortunately cannot hold to egalitarianism and complementarianism at the same time like a middle ground. These are both opposed to each other. One idea clearly shows no distinction whatsoever while the other idea clearly shows distinction.