Recently, the refresh button in my Gmail account revealed an e-mail that contained this request:
Hope you are well! I have a few questions relating to women’s rights, feminism, God’s view of women how to approach homosexuality without alienating the people you’re trying to reach. I have heard many ideas (many pretty derogatory) from pastors to women’s teachers and I want to know the TRUTH. I didn’t want to turn to the internet, I did and I found this article. (Link is at the bottom) I’d love to hear what you know/find out.
Research and preparation to reply to this e-mail made clear that to do so in any real detail would require a series of blogs or even a book. Many issues became evident and each could be and need to be discussed from a biblical perspective.
On these particular issues of women’s rights and feminism, many may find themselves internally conflicted. In one way, they resonate with the desire to protect and fight for the right treatment of women, and in another way they disagree with many of the positions – such as the pro-choice view of abortion – that those in the women rights and feminist movement often promote. This internal conflict can be traced back to a partial truth on which both the feminist and the Christian can agree. However, the conflict arises when this partial truth is divorced from the more complete truth that includes rather than excludes the Creator. For the sake of brevity, this piece only deals with the partial truth I found to be most foundationally crucial to answer biblically all the other issues that arise from the above e-mail.
The Partial Truth: Women and Men are equal.
All Christians should affirm this truth. One’s dignity, worth and value does not depend on if he or she circles the “M” or “F” when filling out a form. Male and Female equally make up humanity made in the image of God. This leads us also to condemn the mistreatment of others simply because they are female. Equal opportunities in education, healthcare and the work force – among others – should be affirmed and worked towards. Religions, societies and individuals that treat females as inferior to men do not reflect the equality of men and women taught in the Bible.
The Potential Error: Women and men are equal; therefore, they are free to be their own authority.
While Christians can and should affirm the equality of men and women, we must be very careful not to be deceived by this partial truth as are many both in and out of the church. As I listen to many on social media and mainstream news outlets discuss the issue of women’s rights and equality, I cannot help but notice that the belief that men and women are equal leads them to conclude that they should then be equally free to do as they see fit. If we dig a little deeper, we will see that when many argue for the equality of women to men they are arguing that women should not have any authority restricting them from doing what she wants. Equal rights means equally able and free to do or choose what she wants to do.
In an interview, Planned Parenthood’s Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens defended a woman’s right to abortion, “Women deserve [have the right] access to the full range of reproductive health care and that includes safe, legal abortion… Women have their own views on whether or not they want to be pregnant… all that Planned Parenthood has ever said, is that every woman should make their own choice.” When the interviewer asked her to define the tissue identified by her as the fetus she again appealed to the right of the woman to decide for herself, “I think that’s up to each individual to decide what they believe.” For this advocate of women’s rights, equality is synonymous with the equal freedom to choose for one’s self what is right and wrong. In her mind, anything and anyone that seeks to limit the options of a woman or anyone for that matter should be fought against. From this perspective authority does not exist to uphold right and wrong but to simply secure the freedom for all people to do as they please. For example, in the case of abortion, the government should not speak to its rightness or wrongness for that would be putting one’s opinion (i.e. the religious) over another (i.e. women). Both those who favor pro-choice and those who favor pro-life should have equal opportunity to hold to views and live out their choices unhindered. If they are hindered, the hindered party has been unfairly treated and oppressed.
The Completed Truth: God created men and women; therefore, women and men are equally under the authority of God.
Glaringly, in this whole debate, one major factor has often been left out – God. Many times the argument follows this logic:
- Women and Men are equal
- Equals cannot assert themselves in authority over each other
- Men nor anyone else should have authority over women
While the argument of equality might seem to free one from the authority of men or tradition or cultural norms, the same logic cannot be used before God. While the woman may claim equality with man, she – nor the man – can claim equality with God. My view and his views are not equal. I nor anyone else has the freedom to look God in the eye and suggests, “Well God, we must agree to disagree!”
When it comes to women’s right and feminism, the church must not forget that men and women stand equally under the authority of the Creator who has the rights over his creation. Yes, I have no basis in and of myself to hold another to my opinion, perspective and views. However, this does not mean the Creator of the universe lacks that same authority. As the church fights for the right treatment of women, it must not sacrifice the authority and goodness of God’s design on the altar of individualism and equality. If God has spoken into the situation to give his design and instruction, disregarding his Word would move us beyond claiming the equality of humans in relationship to one another to claiming equality of humans with and in relationship to God.
For Christians, this may seem obvious in the discussion over abortion, but in other areas we may be more prone to be deceived by this partial truth. Consider marriage and family. What if God created women specifically to fulfill a role in the family and society? What if that role includes a married woman humbly and willingly subjecting herself to the authority of her husband? What if God commands the wife to submit to his authority? What if God calls the woman – as he also does the man – to abandon her individualism to be united to her spouse or her church community? What if God says to women as he does to men, “Your body is not your own, but God’s?”
As the church speaks into the issues of our day, we must not promote our own views but the view of the Creator. When we enter the debate, we must speak not on our own authority but with the authority of God as he has revealed his Word in Scripture. Our position must be so clearly established on God and not ourselves that our call to the world is not a call to adopt or reject our opinion but to reject or acknowledge the authority of the Creator and his design.
Three Actions the Church Must Take
Action #1: Know and Teach God’s Design Publicly
God created all things and declared them to be very good. He did not just create every individual thing in the world, but he also created them to function and relate to one another in such a way that his glory would fill the earth! Women are created beings. They have been created by God with a design to function in a role in relationship to the rest of creation so that God’s glory is known and enjoyed. We as the church would be wise to know the role in which God has placed them and how he has uniquely created them to fill that role in a way no other created thing could. Once we know what Scripture says, we must teach it and proclaim it. Because of sin, men and women do not think correctly. As a matter of fact, Scripture says that our minds are hostile toward God and his design. We must work hard to carefully articulate God’s design and order of things including his design of women and their relationship to the rest of creation.
Action #2: Walk in God’s Design Individually
The greatest proof that God’s design should be preferred over all others will be found in those who by faith walk in his ways. The world should be able to see in the church how the female functions properly in the context of family and community and find something desirable. Obedience to God’s design for women in the church should lead to such glory and flourishing that the world would be led to ask, “How does that work?” To which the church could reply, “We simply follow the good and wise design of God!” Unfortunately, God’s design has been altered in the church as well. Men and women both have perverted his good design to serve their own glory rather than his. This has led to devastation and brokenness that mirrors the brokenness and devastation found in the world.
Action #3: Promote, Uphold and Defend God’s Design Socially
Our position in the conversation should not be to promote the female, her individuality and her freedom; instead, to promote and proclaim the good and wise design of God in creating her for his glory. We must not sit quietly on the sidelines unwilling or afraid to engage in the social issues of today. We should speak out against the degrading of women. We should rebuke men – even if they hold high political offices as a member of our preferred political party – when their actions and words degrade and devalue women to anything less than the value God gave them when he created them in his image. We should seek equal opportunities for women in areas such as education. We should proactively defend and protect women from being harmed and oppressed from those with greater power and strength. The church should join with anyone and everyone who will fight for these things while boldly advocating God’s design when allies in controversial issues oppose him.