I have a question about feminism and what the Bible has to say about it. I consider myself a feminist. When I say that, I mean I believe that men and women are created equal and should have equal opportunities in the workplace and home. I do, however, believe that men and women have different roles in the church and home and that if I became a wife, I would submit to my husband as the spiritual leader of our family. Is that right?
Many Christians, especially men, tell me that I can't be a Christian and be a feminist, and I've noticed that Christian men especially don't like the idea of dating/marrying a feminist. What are your thoughts on that? Should I stop saying I'm a feminist to keep the peace?
Thanks for asking such a provocative and timely question. Actually you've asked a lot of questions: What does the Bible say about feminism? Can you be a Christian and a feminist? And should you change your language to keep the peace with potential suitors? There's one big question, however, that you haven't asked — what is a feminist? — the answer to which is key to resolving all the rest.
You may argue that you have answered it, but in truth, you've only said what feminism means to you. And what you say it means — men and women created equal, deserving of equal opportunity, but with different roles in the church and home — is not what the dictionary, our culture, or most people say feminism means.
A word like feminism has as many meanings as there are people saying and hearing it. But there is a discoverable, knowable meaning to the word feminism, and it is rooted in the word's history. If you are going to apply this label to yourself, you should find out what it means. What is the identity you are taking on?
The New Oxford American Dictionary defines feminism as "the advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men." Though equality was the original goal of feminism and what feminists worked for, feminism has evolved far beyond giving women the right to own property, vote and earn an equal wage for equal work. In her book Radical Womanhood, Carolyn McCulley tells her own story of earning a women's studies degree in college where, she says, "Feminism taught me that men were the problem."
According to EverydayFeminism.com,
Feminism strives to end the discrimination, exploitation, and oppression of people due to their gender, sexual orientation, race, class, and other differences and supports people in being free to determine their own lives for themselves.... By engaging in feminist thinking and action, we can free ourselves to make meaningful choices in how we live our lives and pursue what makes us happy and fulfilled as human beings.
Whether as a feminist you believe men are the problem or that the problem is not being able to define yourself and your own happiness, the ideology of feminism is contrary to biblical Christianity.
For all the ills in the world, men aren't the problem; sin is. Christ didn't come to save women from men, but to save us all, male and female, from our sins. Feminism would have us believe that redemption is power over men. Scripture reveals that redemption is reconciliation with God (1 Peter 3:18). Feminism says the solution is to outperform men. Scripture reveals that our desire to dominate men is part of the curse of sin (Genesis 3:16). Feminism celebrates women who gain dominion over men. God calls us to have dominion together with men for the flourishing of His creation (Genesis 1:26-28, 2:18-25).
The feminism of our day is utterly incompatible with a biblical Christian worldview.
Still, it's not surprising that you call yourself a feminist. McCulley writes,
Feminism is a given. We breathe it, think it, watch it, read it. Whenever a concept so thoroughly permeates a culture, it's hard to step back and notice it at work. Feminism has profoundly altered our culture's concept of what it means to be a woman. … there has been some good that has come out of [the feminist movement]. There were some serious inequities that were changed by [it]. I'm grateful for the short-term gains, but the long-term consequences are profound…
I think you should stop saying you're a feminist, because you're not. This isn't about keeping the peace with men, but about truth in advertising. When you describe yourself as a feminist, you're giving people reason to believe things about you that aren't true. This may be why Christian men respond the way they do. But I also believe you should reject the label because feminism is opposed to God's design for male and female.
God created both male and female in His image (Genesis 1:26-27). As bearers of the divine image, men and women are equal in worth and value. He also gave the new man and woman an assignment together: They were commanded to have dominion over creation as stewards and to be fruitful and multiply. Even as God created them equal in worth and value, He assigned different roles to the man and woman. He is provider and protector, given the primary responsibility for working the garden, and she is his helpmate and mother of all living, tasked with helping Adam in his work and bearing and nurturing new life. We know from the rest of Scripture that these roles are normative, not descriptive (Ephesians 5:23, 1 Corinthians 11:3, 1 Corinthians 11:1-16, 1 Timothy 2:11-15).These are not easy passages to understand or to embrace. They're often maligned as evidence for why Scripture can't be trusted. But rather than give in to the temptation to set yourself over the Bible as its judge, I urge you to go deeper. For further help understanding these difficult passages, I highly recommend the wise and pastoral book 50 Crucial Questions About Manhood and Womanhood by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. These unique roles in no way diminish the worth of women, nor do they mean women are in any way less than men. One is not better than the other.
What's most problematic about calling yourself a feminist goes back to the Garden of Eden. In The Accidental Feminist, a new book from Boundless contributor Courtney Reissig, she writes,
Since the fall of Adam and Eve, we have been in a battle of the sexes, but—more importantly—we have been in a battle against our Creator.…the Bible presents a view of male and female that is decidedly not feminist.
True freedom is found in understanding our Creator and how he wants us to live. True freedom is knowing that this world has meaning, and we are created for a purpose. True freedom is knowing that God had a good design when he created us male and female.
Instead of labeling yourself with the language of the culture, it would be far better to grow deeper in knowing and understanding what the Bible reveals about God's design for male and female and to boldly live that out as a strong, godly, secure woman who knows her worth at the foot of the cross and as a daughter of the living God. This is biblical womanhood, not feminism.
I pray the Lord will guide you.
Copyright 2015 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.