Friday, February 23, 2007

Fighting Feminism

I've noticed a couple of articles recently that touched on a topic I've written about before: feminist conceptions of motherhood. The Boston Globe recently published a piece in which a mother who had returned to the workplace after four years away to care for her children celebrated her career due to its lack of messiness, its ease, and its relative solitude. A New York Times article chronicled the efforts of mothers to fight for better workplace benefits. Both caught my eye, and both prompted me to want to respond to them.

Before I do, let me briefly lay out a very few brief propositions so that I'm not misunderstood.

1) I do not believe it is wrong for a woman to work.
2) My wife works.
3) I do believe that the Scripture-mandated role for women is that of wife and homemaker.
4) There are certain times in a woman's life when it is entirely appropriate to have a job if she wishes--for example, after all of her children are out of the house.
5) Women should sharpen their gifts and abilities through collegiate educations.

I'm sure there are more I could think of, but that's a solid base. With this base in place, I want to say that these articles trouble and even anger me. They represent the modern woman's rebellion against the biblical role for women. There is now a whole generation--no, two generations--who fight with the mothering role. The Globe piece represents thinking that essentially despises the God-honoring work of childraising. Women who have been trained to be careerists will tolerate such duties for a spell, perhaps, but then they must rush back to work, or else the goals the feminist movement has set for them--higher salary, higher achievement, beating men--will go unfulfilled. This trend proceeds from utterly secular roots. It has utterly secular results.

I'm most concerned with Christian women who unwittingly have been trained in the feminist mindset and who thus espouse and live by its doctrines. As is characteristic of so many of us, I don't think that Christian women who live by feminist principles even understand that they are doing so. They have simply been indoctrinated in feminism and raised in a culture in which feminism is simply a matter of fact, and so they live by feminist ideals, all the while obscuring the glory of God and rebelling--whether unintentionally or not--against His created gender roles. It is an ugly thing to see. We can only hope for a recovery of the biblical vision for women and especially that Christian women will cease to assume feminism and begin to practice complementarianism. After all, it is not my view that women should not work, but merely that complementarianism would hold first priority for a woman and that women would esteem and prioritize the role of homemaker.

Men and women are not in competition, but feminism says they are. The biblical vision for women is not oppressive, but feminisim says it is. Like other modern ideologies, feminism is so destructive, and so far-ranging. The idea of complementarianism is of great importance. Christians who downplay the significance of complementarianism are entering dangerous waters. The family is the essential unit of life. All that is proceeds from it. It is thus vitally important to make sure that we understand the Scripture's teaching on the family. It is equally important that we then put into practice those teachings. It's a terrible thing to rebel against God, whether you know you are or not.


Blogger Dad said...

Here is an interesting verse:

ESV 1 Timothy 2:15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing- if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

Al (Not Owen's Dad and not that other "Al".)

9:49 AM  
Anonymous jay c said...

Well said. The Proverbs 31 woman is engaged in textiles, produce, and real estate ventures, yet she does those things in support of her primary roles as wife and mother. Her first priority is her family.

1:34 PM  
Blogger Ryan Hill said...


I haven’t read your posts about feminism, but I agree with the propositions you stated. I also think you are totally right when you said, “I'm most concerned with Christian women who unwittingly have been trained in the feminist mindset and who thus espouse and live by its doctrines. As is characteristic of so many of us, I don't think that Christian women who live by feminist principles even understand that they are doing so.” I also wish that more women would prioritize and esteem the role of homemaker and wife.

But, are there some instances in which a wife and mother must work to help support the family even when though the husband/father is working hard as well? The reason I ask is because I have a real interest in church planting/pastoring in the Northeast (hence my interest in Gordon-Conwell). But, I have also heard how expensive living in the Northeast can be (I think Rachel might have told me you are originally from Maine so if that’s true then I’m sure you understand the expenses much better than me). Let’s say I finish my education and plant a church or become the pastor of a tiny one, but they cannot support me full-time. So, I then take another job but even that job cannot meet all the necessary expenses for my family and me to live. Then, because of that, my wife has to work 30-40 hours a week and she is not able to spend the time with the kids that I wish she could. Do you think we would be sinning if that had to happen? I’ve also heard some preachers/leaders that want to make hard rules (not just guidelines) like “A wife and mother should not work when her kids are living at home.” Would you agree with hard rules like that or do you think something like the previous statement could maybe serve as a guideline but not a rule? Sorry this question is so long.

2:18 PM  
Blogger Dad said...

Look at this, everyone is in favor with what you are writing.

Ryan's questions are interesting, and I'll like to toss out a couple of ideas. First, as a younger man, and even now, I did not, nor still, not do, do everything Biblically, but hopefully I've learned a few things over the years, from the Lord.

Yes, I think there are exceptions, but don't rush to be one.

First, if God is calling you to be a church planter, and you think it is greatly questionable regarding being married, raising a family, etc., than maybe you have made a choice somewhere that is not right? Maybe you should not be married or maybe you should not put your family priorities so low as to sacrafice them 'for the Lord's sake'!

Paul's description of elders/pastors kind of gives the idea that these people are not to be young men, but family men. Believe me, most of us learn a whole lot about pastoring by being a father/husband and learning to rule our house, first.

I read somewhere, and think it is good enough to repeat: as a kid/teen, learn to be a man, ie. learn a trade, etc. and prepare to be a husband, according to the will of God. Next do those things, don't rush to be God's servent to other people's families, serve your own family and of course teach them how to love and serve others in the name of the Lord. After you have learned, matured, etc. and your own family is leaving, you now have time, energy, maybe even money and hopefully, Biblical maturity to serve as missionaries, church planters, etc. And you will not have to decide between so many competing issues as a young family man.

End of my 2cents worth, or whatever.

Al, (Not Owen's dad and not that other "Al".)

7:56 PM  
Blogger Drick Boyd's Blog said...

When I was in seminary I was a graduate assistant to Dr. David Sholer, who now is at Fuller Seminary. At the time Dr. Sholer was one of the leading evangelcial New Testament scholars advocating a more balanced and open view of Biblical womanhood. At the same time (the late 1970's) Dr. Paul Jewett (then at Fuller) wrote Man as Male and Female in which he challenged the traditionalist view of Biblical womanhood. While I have not kept up on all the scholarship in this area, I am sure many things have been written since. At the time the work of Sholer and Jewett was considered 'breaking new ground" in evangelicalism. You now refer to it as "feminism."

There is a Biblical feminism that is often overlooked (see the work of evangelical scholars Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen, Roberta Hestenes, and Gretchen Gabelin Hull). Such folks are not advocating the full feminist agenda (I am thinking here of the National Organization of Women agenda) of abortion and lesbianism, but rather a view of Biblical womanhood that recognizes the fullness of their gifts from God to the church. While there are passages in Ephesians and Timothy that speak of women in a subservient role, there are also references to women leaders such as Priscilla, Euodia, Syntyche and Phoebe. Women such as Lydia started churches (Philippi) and others found a new freedom in the message of Jesus. Even Paul who is often quoted by the anti-feminists, challenged the traditional view of women as property of their fathers and husbands. In fact Paul set in motion a dynamic that allowed women to become full partners with men in all aspects of life. In Ephesians 5.22 there is an introduction to Paul's discussion of marriage, he writes the revolutionary phrase "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ." There is no hierarchy in marriage, but mutual servanthood.

My wife (your aunt Cynthia) and I from the beginning conceived of our marriage as shared headship. We were told by our more conservative friends, such a view was unBiblical and impractical; We even had to convince Dr. Gordon McDonald who officiated at our wedding that we weren't theological rebels. 27 years later we are still working on it, but we still share the headship rather than locating in one place based on an anachronistic view gender.

I enocurage you to look beyond the scholarship that affirms your view to those evangelical scholars like Sholer, Jewett and Van Leeuwen, who have found a kind of feminism that is liberating for both men and women, and Biblically coherent.

6:02 PM  

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