There are two ways to view scripture. Either it’s the word of God to humankind infused with the living Spirit of God whose fruit is always abundant life, or it’s the dead letter of religious law-keeping, the fruit of which is always condemnation and spiritual death. The first view is rooted in the sure knowledge of New Covenant grace and redemption by Christ’s Blood. The second is rooted in an Old Covenant mindset of legalism that has failed to grasp the difference between the letter of the law and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 3:6; Rom. 8:2)
One area in which these two opposing views continually clash is in the area of women’s role in church and home life. As soon as one voice is raised encouraging women into ministry and/or leadership on an equal footing with their brothers and husbands, up jump the legalists wielding their familiar hammer of ‘it is written’ quotes on the heads of any woman (or man for that matter) daring to interpret scripture differently from them. This subject is possibly the most divisive doctrinal issue in the institutional church today.
So great is the fear of ‘feminist’ infiltration that rarely is any attempt to sincerely listen, pray, or humble oneself displayed by those who are convinced of the God-given right of males to lead, rule and organise. No matter that their constant hammering of “the Word” has crushed half the church into subjugation for nearly two millennia; no matter that the church is hindered and denied the fullness of its potential in gifting, ministries and subsequent fruit; no matter the evidence that countless women and girls continue to suffer emotional, sexual, physical and spiritual abuse at the hands of a male-dominated hierarchical religious system that bears no resemblance whatever to Christ’s command to serve rather than rule. The hammer must keep being pounded because those who wield it are so desperately afraid of losing something only known to them.
In over 40 years of church life I’ve seen more than enough abuse of women and girls in the name of Christianity. And I’ve been around long enough to know the greatest danger to healthy church life is not so called ‘feminism’. It’s the adultery, pornography, domestic violence, child sexual abuse and spiritual abuse too often hidden and protected behind the ‘only males are chosen to lead’ teaching. But we’d all rather not talk about that stuff, right?
When any section of society is constantly told they are specially chosen to always govern and another section of society is constantly told their role in life is to submit without question, you have a recipe for disaster, but more to the point this is not even what the Bible actually teaches. And yes, I’ve heard the one about men and women being equal in being but unequal in function which is simply a nice way of saying we’re all equal but some are more equal than others.
I don’t regard myself as a Christian feminist. I find the label unnecessary and limiting. To me, “feminism” is a political term. Nor am I much interested in the current battles taking place in some denominations over women’s ordination. Personally I think it’s a waste of time and effort to seek official recognition and acceptance in an institutionalised religious system that is far more political than spiritual.
I am, however, sure of who I am in Christ. A woman yes, but more than that: a son of God, a called, anointed and sent servant to the Bride of Christ, a friend of Jesus, and a fully functioning, equally serving member of His Body. If anyone has a problem with that I’m happy for you to move on and leave me to do what I’m called to do with those who don’t. God and I don’t have an issue about it.
It’s time the Body of Christ grew beyond viewing ourselves through gender-defined roles to seeing ourselves, and each other, for who we really are: our Father’s children. Women and men are different, yes, but in Christ those differences do not define us (Gal. 3:28). We are defined as new creations, a brand new race of spiritual beings created IN Christ Jesus, and joint heirs, male and female, together.
There is now abundant evidence provided by far greater minds than mine that many traditional interpretations of certain scriptures regarding women are fundamentally biased, even to the point where some words, phrases and names have been deliberately translated inaccurately to favour a pre-conceived mindset of male headship and leadership. This evidence can be argued convincingly and accurately from the perspective of language, culture, and history. These resources are available in full supply on the internet and in Christian bookstores for anyone who sincerely wants to get into the nitty gritty of what Paul was really saying, or what really happened in Eden. There comes a point when if you’re going to argue this issue you need to do it from a fully informed perspective.
And then there comes a further point where the argument becomes redundant and boring and the Spirit beckons onward.
My purpose here is not to prove something that doesn’t require proving. Rather it’s to encourage the many women struggling to emerge from under the hammer of law and religious tradition, to jump in, the water’s fine. Sure, you’re most probably going to face opposition, subtle and overt, some of it from very close quarters, but the Spirit beckons and it’ll be OK. There are many of us ready to support, encourage and cheer you on.
You will be told that Paul said you should be silent despite the fact that the first person Jesus sent with the gospel message was a woman; you will be labelled unsubmissive and rebellious, despite the fact that when Mary of Bethany took a male disciple’s position at Jesus’ feet He said what she had chosen would not be taken from her; you will be ostracised by those sure they have the order of things all worked out, despite Jesus having taught the first shall be last and the last first. You may even be cursed and verbally condemned to hellfire by some (as I have been), but take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus too was called evil.
Legalism with its unending condemnation will always vehemently oppose all that the Spirit of God is doing, saying and facilitating. Here’s the thing: this male as leader/woman as helpmeet boat is actually being rocked by none other than the Spirit of God Himself. Right now He’s calling ‘woman, you are needed. It’s time to rise up from the crushing bondage of gender-based condemnation and come fly with Me”, and the legalists are in a tail spin over it. That looks and sounds like God to me!
Some places you can find further resources on this subject: