A Biblical Examination of “Men, Women and Biblical Equality”, the Founding Statement of the “Christians for Biblical Equality” Organization
Introduction: The Organization
“Christians for Biblical Equality” [hereafter referred to as CBE] was organized in 1988 to agitate for a radical reconstruction of the Christian family, society, and church life, to make it conform to the reigning spirit of the age – radical Egalitarianism in its feminist expression. It would have been more honest for them to have called it “The Society for the Promotion of Christian Feminism”. In fact, they have now come close to doing just that: the following subtitle has recently been added to their founding document, ”Defining Biblical Gender Equality”.
The name they have chosen for the organization is self-contradictory. It is neither Christian nor biblical to say that men and women are equal in status and also functionally equivalent. What the Bible teaches is not the equality of men and women, but rather that woman was made from man and for man (1 Corinthians 11:8-9) – both which facts are interpreted by the Apostle Paul to prove her subordinate status (11:10). He even states that the man “is the image and glory of God, but the woman is the [image and] glory of the man”(11:7) – which places man in a relation to woman analogous to God’s relation to Adam (see also 11:3). Hence, we are told that godly Sarah obeyed her husband Abraham, calling him “Lord”, and was commended by the Apostle Peter, writing under inspiration, for doing so (1 Peter 3:6).
There is no such thing as a “biblical equality” of the sexes in the sense that CBE means – that is, that the woman is not subordinate to the man. Nor would such a constitution of things be good. God is too wise to have made the family a two-headed monster. The sexes are rather designed to complement each other by assuming God-ordained distinctive roles, and submitting to the performance of specific duties not shared by both. This division of labor according to designed predisposition and capability is wise indeed, and has served the human family well for six thousand years.
The Origin of Modern Egalitarianism
The myth of “Equality”, on the other hand, was the brainchild of a degenerate French philosopher of the so-called “Enlightenment” named Rousseau. History has shown us its bitter fruit: the Jacobin revolution in France, famous for its “Reign of Terror”, the Bolsheviks and all their mass violations of humanity, Castro’s bloody reign that drove the Cuban people into exile, the “killing fields” of Pol Pot, and Mao’s mass slaughter of dissidents, suspected dissidents, and every believer in any god that He could get his hands on. All the unspeakable, inhuman outrages of these violent revolutions were justified by the specious pretext of “equality”.
The modern form of egalitarian, Marxism, is usually called “Socialism”, which seems innocuous; but it is the same thing as Marxism, Bolshevism, and Communism in its principles. Its adherents are still shedding blood in Socialist revolutions around the world.
Why has Egalitarianism caused so much bloodshed? Because it is rebellion against God, and that is where all rebellion tends – to the contempt of His image in our fellow-men, to self-justification and pride, to ruthlessness in the pursuit of victory and vindication and power. Radical Egalitarianism is rooted in envy and feeds on the hatred and mistrust of those placed over us by the providence of God. It is anarchistic: it strikes out at all authority and order, except what it can itself impose. All who hate Divine Wisdom love death (Proverbs 8:36).
But quite apart from the disastrous historical record of Egalitarianism is its more immediate threat. Socialism is not dead; and we all know what evils it can produce if it gains the ascendancy in a nation. The lawless Regime under which America groans claims to be big on equality; but we see what this means: we, the people are to be equally subjected to limitless totalitarian rule. But, as in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, some of us are more equal than others. The criminals and usurpers are never bound by the laws they make up and ruthlessly impose upon the masses.
“Equality”, then, is just a specious pretext for the destruction of social order by removing the traditional and necessary authority structures that sustain society and allow it to function in a way that is beneficial to mankind. It is a tool for the abolition of any institution that might hinder it in the illegitimate acquisition and abuse and perpetuation of power. It reduces the complex social order to a mass society of atomistic individuals, stripping them of the protection of their rights by free institutions ordained by God or lawfully imposed by lawful authority.
All the havoc in society wrought by the Suffragettes, and their heirs, the modern radical Feminists, is owing to this demand for equality. Both church and family are on the brink of total collapse – and in no small part due to the ravings of these fools, who refuse to learn anything from the Bible or from history. They choose rather to revise history or to re-interpret Scripture in order to make both bow down to their their idol – their inviolable interpretive principle of “equality”.
How radical is the CBE?
If you think that my characterization is too harsh, just take a look at the website. There you will find book reviews with titles like “When Men Rule(d) the World: Confessions of a Former Patriarchalist”, “How to Use Male Privilege to Create Space and Opportunities for Women in Churches”, “Why Can’t Women Do That? Breaking Down the Reasons Churches Put Men in Charge”, “How God Sees Women: The End of Patriarchy”. One article is titled “Who Is Pulling Your Strings? Wisdom for Women Clergy and Leaders”.
These are strong words, and to make them good, I should be able to refute their own official founders’ statement, set forth in a document called, “Men, Women and Biblical Equality”.
I first saw this “Manifesto” as a two-page paid advertisement in the pages of Christianity Today, in 1989. Now it is posted on their Internet website. The “Manifesto” (I will call it that from here on, for convenience’s sake) was removed from the front page of the CBE website and buried in some other place, after I showed them a series of articles that I had published online, refuting their claims; but the original statement is still online here. It has been translated into more than thirty languages; and is still being used to draw in the unwary. It only remains for us to compare the statements in their Manifesto with those found in the Bible to show how shallow – and indeed, without foundation – is the idea that the equality of the sexes is a biblical and Christian idea.
My plan has been to go through the document part-by-part, omitting nothing from my expose‘. This will forestall the accusation that I am only answering their weak arguments – for I have thus been forced to deal with all. In so doing, I have created a complete handbook of the arguments for anyone who wants to study this matter in depth.
Why I Have Written This
Let me be clear at the outset: this is not an “inquiry” or an “examination” of the Manifesto, to see whether it is Scriptural or not. It is a refutation in detail of something so contradictory to commonsense, so contemptuous of the common experience and wisdom of mankind, so disdainful of our fathers in the faith and the Prophets, Apostles, and holy men that authored the Scriptures, so flagrantly insulting to the God who made us and gave us our roles in the created order; that it would be hard to name an ideology more blasphemous and destructive!
I intend, by the help of God, to so thoroughly demolish the claims of the Manifesto, that no one in his right mind can afterward read it without being struck by the fragility – nay, the lack of substance – really, the nothingness of those claims! The author or authors of the Manifesto say that they are willing to let Scripture decide the question. On that we seem to agree; but with this difference: I claim that the loci classici – the passages that speak directly and explicitly to the issues raised must determine the question; whereas the Manifesto will not allow those voices to be heard until a multitude of false witnesses have first been called in against them, and their credibility has been impeached.
The Manifesto presents an alternative method of biblical interpretation based on what they call “the totality of Scripture”. That is all they can do. They cannot defend their doctrines by appeal to the obvious teachings of the Bible, which even the simplest man can understand. They cannot appeal to the traditional teaching of a single branch of the church of Christ. They cannot even point to any nation in more than six thousand years of human history that ever made the experiment of implementing their theory of sexual equality until the Bolshevik revolution.
The Manifesto advocates an interpretive rule that is very simple and easy to understand: whenever a text of Scripture could in the remotest possibility tend to support their position, that is conclusive proof. If a Scripture plainly says something they don’t like, it must be re-interpreted.
The Preamble: First Paragraph
Let us begin, then, with the preamble, which consists of two paragraphs. The first reads:
“The Bible teaches the full equality of men and women in Creation and in Redemption (Genesis 1:26-28, 2:23, 5:1-2; 1 Corinthians 11:11-12; Genesis 3:13, 28, 5:1).”
The first thing that we notice is the use of ambiguous terms, and a lack of definition. For the reader may well be puzzled by the term “full equality”. What meaneth this? Is this supposed to mean that men and women are the same in every respect? Surely not! “Full equality”, used here without qualification, would, however, seem to suggest that there are no differences at all in the origins, natures, roles, capabilities, or status of men and women. That is a preposterous claim; but if that is not what is intended, then different language should have been used.
What is needed is language that will distinguish those aspects of human nature that are the same in men and women from those that are not. This would not have been difficult to do, had the authors of this document wished to do so. Their vagueness may be related, however, to their agenda, which is to assert equality of status or rank – “political” equality, if you will – and to simultaneously de-emphasize the differences between the sexes, whose existence tends to support the idea of differing status and sex roles. To assert that the Bible teaches a broad, “full equality” between the sexes would hardly be credible; but this studied vagueness helps to create confusion of categories, and thus hide the real intent from the insufficiently alert reader. In other words, when they say “full equality”, they don’t really mean it. This is propaganda, and should not be mistaken for serious theology; despite the biblical veneer and the proof-texts.
It will hardly clear things up if we read the rest of the sentence. For what is the meaning of “full equality… in Creation”? Again, this is very vague! Will anyone pretend that there are no differences in the biblical account of the way men and women were created, the Divinely-appointed circumstances of their separate creations? Or will anyone claim that men and women are physically identical? Or that they function identically in all respects – physically, emotionally, and mentally? For nothing less will suffice to warrant the term “full equality” in connection with the word “creation”.
There is not much help in the next clause “full equality… in redemption”, either. To be sure, both men and women are redeemed in exactly the same way, by the same priceless blood of Christ. The atonement applies equally to all classes of humankind. Is that all that is meant here? Then how is it germane to the premise? No, once again, we must keep in mind the agenda, which is to justify the abolition of any sex-based restrictions on women in any sphere. This is merely a ruse to open the doors that God has shut so firmly against them. What the words fairly mean is not what they want the reader to think when he reads them. They want to pretend that “full equality in Redemption” somehow means that redemption means a cancellation of sex roles and sex-based distinctions; because they want to find some way to get around the scriptural prohibition against women abandoning the home, speaking in church, appearing before God uncovered, preaching to mixed audiences, and becoming officers in church and state.
This is not a mistaken interpretation of holy Scripture — it is an intentional turning of things upside down for their advantage. Like all radical revolutionaries, they are dishonest. They cloak their intention under fair words, and manipulate – rather than reason and persuade – the minds of their hearers. Mixing Egalitarian ideology and Christian doctrine is like mixing oil and water: they cannot be made to cohere. So it is of the first importance that they be made to seem compatible by means of obscuration – in other words, “smoke and mirrors”.
Now, to the proof texts. Since the Manifesto has failed to furnish us with an unambiguous definition of their position at this point, it is of course impossible to say for sure exactly what the texts are supposed to be proving. But since their agenda is clear, we will not hesitate to examine the texts to see if there is anything in them to support the new dogma of sexual equality. And we begin with Genesis 1:26-28, a favorite with feminists; but unfortunately for them, no real proof of their position:
“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
As to “full equality”, we find here neither the word nor the thing. The subject is not discussed. Man and woman are made in the image of God, but that does not eliminate all the God-created differences between the sexes. It does not make woman equal to man in status or rank, nor does it mean that they share the identical role. That she is intended to share in the dominion (as a Queen with her King), and in the overall task assigned to him (as his helper) does not make her his equal.
Next we come to Genesis 2:23. It will help if we also quote v. 24 as well:
“And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”
But there is no mention of equality here, and no evidence of equality, either. The expression, “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh” does not imply equality, but oneness. Adam is saying that she is a part of him – that they are “one flesh”, as v.24 declares. He recognizes that she is both like, and unlike, himself . So he calls her – not man (Hebrew, Ish), which would imply full equality, but – woman (Hebrew, Isha), which is the feminine form of the word, indicating the difference in sex.
We commonly refer to our children as our “own flesh and blood”; but that does not mean that they are equal to us – only that they are our own natural children. As Paul says, a child “differeth nothing from a servant” (Galatians 4:1), because he is completely subject to his parents.
In fact, the text highlights the fact that Adam was the source of Eve’s being; so how could he ever be merely her equal partner? The clear meaning of the revelatory Divine act by which Eve first began to be, as interpreted by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:7-10, is that man is endowed with a dignity and authority that woman does not possess. This is confirmed by the fact that he has the authority to name her, as he does here, before the fall, with her generic name (woman); and as he does again in 3:20, after the fall, with her personal name (Eve). Only someone with authority over a thing (or person) can rightfully choose its name.
Next, Genesis 5:1-2:
“This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created.”
What there is here to justify the claim of equality escapes me. We have already discussed the significance of the fact that both male and female were made in the image and likeness of God. All that remains to discuss is the phrase, “and called their name Adam”. But what, you say, has this to do with sexual equality? Good question. But before the answer, a few notes on the translation are needed.
First, it is probable that the first sentence belongs with the previous chapter, and is a tolodeth that identifies the book that comprises the previous three chapters of Genesis as Adam’s personal history. Similarly, the words in Genesis 2:4 comprise a tolodeth that marks the proper end of the creation account which begins at 1:1. This view is argued persuasively in The Genesis Record, by Dr. Henry Morris.
Second, verse 1 of chapter 5, if the above premise is correct, is only the second instance (the first being at 4:25) of the word “Adam” used as a personal name. Before that time, when he is mentioned, he is the only man, and therefore is referred to as simply, “the man”. He is there uniformly spoken of as “the man” (ho adam); and “man” (adam), without the article, is uniformly used generically.
Third, the Hebrew word, adam, is usually translated “man”, and should be here in 5:2 as well; for God is naming the species, inclusive of male and female – or, in other words, “mankind”. It seems more reasonable, therefore, to render the phrase in question, “and called their name ‘man‘”.
Hence, the meaning of that phrase is that Adam, before Eve was created, had already received from God the generic name of “man”. This is supported by the fact that God had said, prior to his creation, “Let us make man…”; and in fulfillment of this, we read “So God created the man…” And since there is no record of God extending that name to Eve after she was created, it is reasonable to understand that she inherited the name from Adam, just as his children would, because she was of the same kind. Adam, in the day he was created, was mankind, and all the rest of mankind – including Eve – came from him.
This argues inequality. There is surely a connection between the fact that God is everywhere in Scripture represented as masculine, the fact that the Divine Son, the image of God, assumed a masculine nature, and the fact that His first created image was a man – not a woman. It would not be incorrect to say that Adam was distinguished from Eve as the more “God-like” of the two.
Next, we must consider 1 Corinthians 11:11-12:
“Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.”
Having already referred to the preceding verses above, the reader should easily see that these verses are not proof of equality. The opposite is true: these truths are spoken for two practical reasons: first as a consolation to woman, lest she be downcast, because it has been so strongly stated before (11:4, 7-10) that man is over the woman; and second, because men are apt to go too far, and to abuse their authority, unless some check is offered to their vanity. Men need to be properly appreciative of women, and to recognize that any superiority they may have comes from God. These considerations, which are given parenthetically, cannot properly be used to deny what is taught in the preceding or the succeeding context.
Then there’s Galatians 3:13:
“Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:”
Feminists use this verse in connection with the claim that woman was originally free from man’s authority, but was reduced to subjection as a penalty of Eve’s sin. They abuse it to teach that Christ has reversed the “curse” of being under male authority, thus restoring the original equality of the sexes. But this verse plainly has no color of relevance to the subject at hand. As the context shows, the “curse of the law” under discussion is that which brings eternal death on lawbreakers. Bear in mind the intimate connection of verse 13 with verse 10:
“For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.”
Verses 11 and 12 discuss justification from the curse. And in verse 13, we have Christ “hanging on a tree” (the crucifixion) to redeem us from this curse. I repeat – this has nothing to do with some supposed “restoration” of the claimed “original equality” of the sexes. The eternal “curse of the law” (the soul that sinneth, it shall die) is not to be confused with the temporal curse pronounced on Eve after the fall, “Thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”. Experience tells us that this dynamic is still all too prevalent. Will anyone dare try and persuade a woman in labor that the curse on childbearing has been removed by the death of Christ? Why not, if the other has been? So this verse has nothing to do with the subject in hand. Redemption will eventually reverse these curses – but not yet. In any event, as we have already shown, Adam’s authority over Eve is not founded in any curse, but in the original created order before the fall.
And Galatians 3:28:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
But let’s look at it in context with verses 26-29:
“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
At last we come to the most popular egalitarian proof-text! But what does it really say? Does it say that Jews now cease to be Jews? That Greeks are no longer Greeks, slaves are no longer slaves, or freemen no longer free? Does it say that males and females are now neutered? Of course not! It merely says that those outward distinctions that restricted access to the typical presence of God under Mosaic Judaism no longer obtain; that the status of children and access to God are conditioned upon faith in Christ alone. Parallel statements are found in 1 Corinthians 12:13 and Colossians 3:11, with the difference that “there is neither male nor female” only appears here in Galatians 3.
The text has nothing to do with the abolition of sex roles. In context, it has nothing to say about the social order. To make it into a statement of male and female equality, one would also have to say that it abolishes bond-servitude; contradicting Paul’s strong and explicit teaching elsewhere. Paul recognized the master/slave relationship as valid and lawful, returning the runaway slave, Onesimus, to his master, Philemon. He taught that slaves are to be content in that role, and to serve their masters in the fear of God; while masters are to be just to their slaves, remembering that they have a Master in heaven. (1 Corinthians 7:20-24; Ephesians 6:6-9; Colossians 3:22-25; 1 Timothy 6:1-5; Titus 2:9-10)
And last of all, Galatians 5:1. But we’ll look at it in context, verses 1-6:
“Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.”
The subject is the necessity of circumcision for Gentiles, and Paul says that if you are circumcised in the hope of being justified by the law, then you will have missed Christ and salvation. There is not a hint that this text bears on the subject of sexual equality.
So there you have it! Definitions that don’t define and proof texts that fail to prove. It must be remembered that these are their strongest proof-texts. If this is the best they can do, what need is there to read any further? Nevertheless I will examine in detail the second paragraph of the Preamble, which is meant to define their position on holy Scripture.
Undermining Biblical Authority
The Preamble: Second Paragraph
The second paragraph of the preamble is a statement of CBE’s view of holy Scripture. As we have observed before, lucidity is not the strong suit of this document. Accordingly, we find in it a weak, ambiguous, and misleading statement on Scripture authority and interpretation:
The Bible teaches that God has revealed Himself in the totality of Scripture, the authoritative Word of God (Matthew 5:18; John 10:35; 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). We believe that Scripture is to be interpreted holistically and thematically. We also recognize the necessity of making a distinction between inspiration and interpretation: inspiration relates to the divine impulse and control whereby the whole canonical Scripture is the Word of God; interpretation relates to the human activity whereby we seek to apprehend revealed truth in harmony with the totality of Scripture and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. To be truly biblical, Christians must continually examine their faith and practice under the searchlight of Scripture.
Concerning Scripture itself, we find none of those good old strong terms used by orthodox Protestant theologians: “verbal plenary inspiration”, “infallibility”, or even the more modern (and considerably weaker) “inerrancy”. The statement says that the Bible is “God’s word”, in some sense; that it is in some way “inspired”, that it has some authority; nothing more.
Now, the theologically astute know what this means. All the terms used here have been used before by theological Liberals to disguise their unbelief of God’s holy word. In a public declaration like this, the omission of more robust terms must be presumed to be by design. In a day when most theologians and preachers openly admit that they believe Scripture to be a merely human production, full of errors and prejudices introduced by “primitive” man; in a day when a man can be considered conservative and orthodox, even though he believes that the Bible we have today is very different from the Bible as it was penned; in a day when we are told that dumbing down the Bible is a practical necessity – even if the meaning is substantially altered in the process; in such a time, a weak statement on Scripture such as this can only mean one thing: its authors and subscribers have no intention of denying the modern errors, either because they agree with them, or (which is practically the same thing) they think such matters unimportant. There is nothing in the terms chosen to lead the reader to believe otherwise.
Likewise, concerning interpretation, new and undefined terms like “holistic” and “thematic” take the place of traditional terms descriptive of Protestant hermeneutical methodology: “grammatical”, “normal”, “literal”, “historical”, “contextual”.
Remembering that the point of this whole document is to invalidate the traditional interpretation of many texts, and to substitute novelties that would never have been imagined by unbiased readers, we can discern some of the reasons why this statement has taken the form it has.
For example, the use of the phrase “the totality of Scripture”, used twice in this paragraph, is commonly used to appeal to some supposed “tenor” of Scripture against the plain sense of particular texts. Here, we read not that God has revealed Himself in every word of Scripture; but that He has revealed Himself in its “totality”. Egalitarians, used to reading Scripture with their biases, truly think that the Bible is an egalitarian book. They interpret every passage in the light of their prejudices, and so when they come to what they call a “problem passage” (by which they mean a passage which does not “fit” their views) they evade its plain grammatical sense by an appeal to “the totality of Scripture”. We will see instances of this in this document as we proceed.
The same idea appears in their definition of inspiration, which says that “inspiration relates to the divine impulse and control whereby the whole canonical Scripture is the Word of God”. This sounds like an endorsement of plenary (full) inspiration; but in reality it is something quite different; for plenary inspiration in the orthodox sense means that every word is inspired, which this statement fails to affirm.
Again, we read that Scripture is to be interpreted “wholistically”. This may seem like the Protestant principle of “the analogy of faith” championed by Calvin. Obviously, Scripture must be interpreted in light of the presupposition of its own consistency. But “wholistic” interpretation turns out to be a back door that allows subjectivity to enter into the hermeneutical process.
This paragraph is not just a gratuitous recitation of commonplace truths. It is double-tongued, saying one thing to the initiated, who know the “code”; and something else to the naive and unsuspecting outsider, who will probably interpret it in an evangelical sense out of charity. Why stress something so obvious as the distinction between inspiration and interpretation? Because to them it means this:
“The traditionalists think that their interpretation is inspired, and that it can’t be wrong, just because it has held sway so long. But they do not understand how to interpret correctly (as we do). And they don’t appreciate that every human interpretation is fallible and tentative (except ours).”
The Created Order
Biblical Truths: Creation
We have hitherto addressed issues raised within the document’s preamble. The next section is called “Biblical Truths”, and contains 12 points arranged under 4 heads as follows:
Creation Points 1-5
Redemption Point 6
Community Points 7-10
Family Points 11-12
I shall direct my remarks this time to the five points under the first of these heads. The overall picture is clear. According to this statement, the universally accepted understanding of “sex roles” by the Christian church, from earliest times until now, was wrong. Adam and Eve were created as equals in every respect, and Eve was only placed under Adam’s authority after the fall. From there, it is but a short step to affirming that redemption has undone this result of the fall, making the Christian woman fully equal again; and therefore as fully qualified for every function and office in church and state as men are. In order to reach the desired conclusion, the Scriptural data must be stretched in some places, trimmed in others, and much of it ignored altogether. This part of the statement attempts then, to reconcile feminism with the Bible.
Point 1. “The Bible teaches that both man and woman were created in God’s image, had a direct relationship with God, and shared jointly the responsibilities of bearing and rearing children and having dominion over the created order (Genesis 1:26-28).”
We begin with the truism that man and woman both were created in the image of God, citing Genesis 1:26-28. Now this would pass well enough as a general statement, but it is not what the Bible actually says. It needs considerable qualification if proper balance is to be given to all aspects of the truth. For what the Bible really says is that God created “the man” (ho adom) in God’s image – not the woman. The woman was made from man, and is his image and glory, as man is God’s (1 Corinthians 11:7). She bears God’s image – it is true – but in a derivative and secondary sense. She is like to man, yet unlike. She is not his equal, but a subordinate, created to assist him in his calling.
Next, we must consider the assertion that man and woman both at first had “a direct relationship with God”. Where is the evidence for this? Adam was made first, and given the prohibition regarding the tree before Eve was created. He must then have communicated this crucial information to Eve. He was therefore to that extent a mediator between God and the woman. He names her, acting as God’s agent. Once again, the man stands in a direct relation to God, and the woman receives instructions from him that have divine authority for her. The assertion of equality is false.
I have often called attention in my writings to the fact that the so-called “creation mandate” is not a mandate, but a benediction. As such, it has nothing to say about the specific responsibilities of the man or the woman, or the division of responsibilities between them, because it is not about responsibility, but about the blessing of fruitfulness and the successful propagation of the human family until the earth is filled with men. God is to be seen here as granting their natural desire to have a numerous and prosperous offspring, rather than as imposing responsibilities upon them. But after all, even if we grant the premise that God was laying a task upon them for which they would be jointly responsible, it would not demonstrate an equality of gifting, of functions, or of rank between them. For the members of a military unit, consisting of a hierarchy or chain of command, all share in the responsibility to complete their mission, but not equally.
Point 2. “The Bible teaches that woman and man were created for full and equal partnership. The word “helper” (ezer), used to designate woman in Genesis 2:18, refers to God in most instances of Old Testament usage (e.g. 1 Sam 7:12; Ps 121:1-2). Consequently the word conveys no implication whatsoever of female subordination or inferiority.”
The next point is the bare assertion of “full equality”, followed by an argument that falls short of proving it. For the fact that ezer does not always imply subordination does not settle the matter in question. The argument would have substance only if it could be proved that an ezer is never a subordinate. As any interpreter knows, it does not matter how a word is used most commonly; but only how it is used in each particular context that counts. However often God may be said to be one’s helper, it does not change the fact that He does not descend to equality with man in so doing.
However, the case of Eve is very different. Genesis 2:18 reads as follows in the A.V.:
“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.”
I am not a Hebraist; but I can make use of the language tools that are accessible to all. From this I learn that there are three Hebrew words in the last clause of verse 18: aw-saw'(I will make), e’zer (him an help) and neh’ghed (meet for him).
God here states that the reason for making the woman was entirely for the benefit of the man; and that the role which she had been designed to play was to be not an e’zer merely, but an e’zer neh’ghed. Her life was to be defined in terms of relationship to him – not as his equal; but as a helper created to be subordinate to him and his needs.
Paul says the same thing: “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” (1 Corinthians 11:7-9)
So when Eve is called a helper for man, her subordination is implied. For God does not exist for the purpose of helping anyone; whereas Eve was made for the stated purpose of being Adam’s helper. In other words, God is not defined by the term, helper; but Eve is thereby defined.
Now, to draw a conclusion from the occurrence of one word, interpreting it in a manner which does not meet the demands of the context must be due to either ignorance, carelessness, or an intent to deceive. In any case, it must not be allowed to go unchallenged.
Point 3. “The Bible teaches that the forming of woman from man demonstrates the fundamental unity and equality of human beings (Genesis 2:21-23). In Genesis 2:18, 20 the word “suitable” (kenegdo) denotes equality and adequacy.”
Again we have the assertion that the Bible teaches something, but not a shred of proof that it does teach it. This argument could only persuade someone already predisposed to believe in the myth of equality. Here is the argument: “The forming of woman from man demonstrates the fundamental unity and equality of human beings.” The citation of Genesis 2:21-23 adds nothing to the assertion, for it is only a reference to the account, which teaches no such thing. It is sufficient for my purpose to call attention to the fact that the inspired apostle drew from the same account the opposite conclusion (1 Corinthians 11:7-9, I Timothy 2:11-13), arguing from that inequality that women should cover their heads and be subordinate to men. It is true that man and woman in marriage are one flesh, but they are one in a sense consistent with inequality.
As for the word neh’ghed, translated “meet for him” in the AV, the idea of similarity is included in it, but not equality. Literally, it means “before”, and the range of meanings is broad. The key idea is that of relationship. Eve was to be defined by her relationship to Adam as his counterpart. She is to be his reflected image. John Gill, reputed to be one of the greatest Hebrew scholars of his or any other time, discusses the meaning of the word in context:
“I will make him an help meet for him; one to help him in all the affairs of life, not only for the propagation of his species, but to provide things useful and comfortable for him; to dress his food, and take care of the affairs of the family; one “like himself” in nature, temper, and disposition, in form and shape; or one “as before him” that would be pleasing to his sight, and with whom he might delightfully converse, and be in all respects agreeable to him, and entirely answerable to his case and circumstances, his wants and wishes.”
Point 4. “The Bible teaches that man and woman were co-participants in the Fall: Adam was no less culpable than Eve (Genesis 3:6; Rom 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).”
This is not only untrue, but irrelevant. Both Adam and Eve sinned, and both fell, but nothing could be more illustrative of the fundamental inequality of the sexes than the account of the fall. Satan concentrated on Eve, whom he knew to be the weaker vessel, and the more easily deceived (as much as Satan tries to persuade us that there are no significant differences between the sexes, he knows and makes use of his knowledge of those differences every day). She was seduced by being urged to take the initiative, independent of God’s authority and her husband’s. The fruit also appealed to her on a sensual level. Adam was tempted in a different way. He was not deceived, but he failed to accept responsibility for the decision, allowing his wife to get into trouble before acting, and then following her lead into sin with his eyes open.
It cannot be proved that they were equally culpable. Adam’s fall was more significant in the sense that the fate of the race was tied to his own. But Eve’s fall was prior, and the occasion of Adam’s, as Paul reminds us (I Timothy 2:14). Where does the Scripture say that they shared the blame equally? Nowhere. But what if it did? There is no necessary logical connection between equal culpability (if such a term has meaning) and equal status.
Point 5. “The Bible teaches that the rulership of Adam over Eve resulted from the Fall and was therefore not a part of the original created order. Genesis 3:16 is a prediction of the effects of the Fall rather than a prescription of God’s ideal order.”
This point has a grain of truth in it: the words, “He shall rule over thee” do not describe “God’s ideal order”. But this is not a mere passive description of what would happen: it is a penalty – a part of the curse that fell on Eve for her disobedience – namely, that man would now abuse his rightful authority over woman. God intended that she would come to see that, by seducing her husband into sin, she had brought upon herself no end of trouble.
Upon reading the CBE statement, one feels like saying, “Is this all? Have they no better case than this?” He who defends a bad cause must use bad arguments. There are no good arguments for sexual equality. Everything in the Bible presupposes inequality. Hence, to abuse holy writ for the sake of defending a lie, as this document does, is irreverent, sacrilegious, and presumptuous.
We have here a classic case of Scripture-twisting: trying to make the Bible somehow say the opposite of what it explicitly teaches by appealing to verses out of context, or pouring modern assumptions into words that were never meant to bear them. To commit such outrages upon the holy word of God argues great stubbornness and hardness of heart. Such persons will never be won by mere reasoning from the Scriptures. A change of heart is needed, which only God can give.
What is Woman Redeemed From?
Biblical Truths: Redemption
Point 6. “The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ came to redeem women as well as men. Through faith in Christ we all become children of God, one in Christ, and heirs to the blessings of salvation without reference to racial, social, or gender distinctives (John 1:12–13; Rom 8:14–17; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 3:26–28).“
On the surface, this article contains nothing that any Christian could disagree with. Who does not know that “Jesus Christ came to redeem women as well as men”? Who doubts that “Through faith in Christ we all become children of God, one in Christ, and heirs to the blessings of salvation without reference to racial, social, or gender distinctives”? So that one may wonder why it is even here.
But the feminists are building their case, brick by brick. To them, it is significant that both women and men are redeemed; because this shows that there is no difference between men and women anymore. What are women redeemed from? The curse of subjection to men! That the passages they quote have to do with redemption from our bondage to sin does not seem to bother them.
The key to understanding their abuse of these Scriptures is in the last citation, which is one of the most popular and most often insisted upon by Feminists:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)”
But if the gospel frees women from male authority, and bondservants from their masters, then from whom does it redeem men? Since men as well as women are redeemed; then it would seem to follow that men are also redeemed from whatever authority has been imposed upon them. Any sane person will reject this anarchist position. But it follows from their misinterpretation of Galatians 3:28. And I am bold to say that, since it does not free men from the authority of their rulers, neither does it free bondservants from their masters, or women from the authority of men.
This verse has nothing to do with our social relations or positions. The gospel does not affect these things at all. If these relations were lawful before Christ came, then they are lawful afterwards, for Christ said that He did not come to abolish the moral law revealed through Moses (Matthew 5:17-18).
As for bond-service, we have the clearest proof that Paul did not consider the institution to be immoral. He wrote to the Corinthians the following directions:
“Let every man abide in the same calling wherein he was called. Art thou called being a servant? care not for it: but if thou mayest be made free, use it rather. For he that is called in the Lord, being a servant, is the Lord’s freeman: likewise also he that is called, being free, is Christ’s servant. Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men. Brethren, let every man, wherein he is called, therein abide with God.” (1 Corinthians 7:20-24)
So much for the gospel setting the bond-servant free! That it is bond-servants in view is proved by the words, “if thou mayest be made free”. Only one in bondage can be made free. As a Christian bond-servant, he is spiritually redeemed, not manumitted. He must still fulfill the obligations that accord with his station in life. He is not to run away; but if he can be lawfully set free – say, by paying a price (Acts 22:28) – then he should do so. Freedom is an asset, but not a necessity, in the service of Christ. And the gospel is not intended to destroy the structure of society; which it would have done, if every Christian servant in the first century had claimed a right to freedom, and had abandoned his position!
In just the same way, redemption, in the case of a woman, does not mean that she is freed from her husband’s authority. It does not mean that she has, or ought to have, equal status with her husband in the family, or equality with men in the church, or the community. There is no place in Scripture which teaches that a woman is now made free from her husband’s lawful authority. These Feminists claim that the rule of men over women is a part of the curse which was announced to Eve after the first transgression, which the gospel reverses. There are two misunderstandings here:
First, that Adam was not placed in authority over Eve in the original Divine order.
Second, that the curse was lifted when Jesus Christ redeemed us. Both of these matters were discussed in Part 1 of this series.
We see the word “leadership” substituted for “rule”, “headship”, governance“, or any other word that represents authority throughout this document. The claim is made that the only right which man had to rule over woman was a part of the curse, and before the coming of Christ. He is not to bear rule now; but only lead. But the New Testament does not teach this. A woman is not only under her husband’s leadership; but under his rule. The elders of the churches do not merely lead the churches: they rule over them. This is a good old word that has virtually fallen out of use in modern English. It is a Bible word. Here are some proof texts:
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.” (Ephesians 5:22-24)
“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?)” (1Timothy 3:2, 4-5)
“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. (1 Corinthians 14:34)”
Let us look at the curse which they claim has been reversed; for if any part of the curse is still in effect, then the whole must be:
“Genesis 3:14 And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: 15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; 18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; 19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
First, there is a curse on the serpent. That this is not a curse on the animal kind called “snakes” is proved by verse 15, which can only mean Satan. The serpent was the innocent victim of the Evil One who possessed him. The point is that the Wicked One was cursed to go about “on his belly” like the snake that he had chosen for his malicious scheme. He was to experience increasing humiliation from that day forward:
First, he failed to utterly ruin mankind; for God in His mercy redeemed Adam and Eve; and many of their numerous progeny would be saved through “the seed of the woman” who would “crush his head”. He failed to destroy any of the elect. He will fail to hold on to the power he now has in the world. And he will finally be utterly defeated when Jesus Christ commands that he be cast into the lake of fire!
Is Satan still under this curse? It has not been removed yet, for we read in the New Testament, “And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly…” (Rom 16:20a) Christ is the seed of the woman and of Abraham and of David. And all the spiritual seed of Christ – all who believe in Him – are the seed to whom the promises apply. We shall walk on him ourselves (Luke 10:19), and the Lord Jesus will personally “crush His head”, and finish him off. Satan is still accursed. Why would the curse on Him be lifted? Christ did not die for Him.
Next, we come to the curse on the woman. John Gill explains this much better than I could:
“I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception, or ‘thy sorrow of thy conception’, or rather ‘of thy pregnancy’; since not pain but pleasure is perceived in conception, and besides is a blessing; but this takes in all griefs and sorrows, disorders and pains, from the time of conception or pregnancy, unto the birth; such as a nausea, a loathing of food, dizziness, pains in the head and teeth, faintings and swoonings, danger of miscarriage, and many distresses in such a case; besides the trouble of bearing such a burden, especially when it grows heavy: and when it is said, ‘I will greatly multiply’, or ‘multiplying I will multiply’, it not only denotes the certainty of it, but the many and great sorrows endured, and the frequent repetitions of them, by often conceiving, bearing, and bringing forth:
“in sorrow shall thou bring forth children, sons and daughters, with many severe pangs and sharp pains, which are so very acute, that great tribulations and afflictions are often in Scripture set forth by them: and it is remarked by naturalists, that women bring forth their young with more pain than any other creature:
“and thy desire shall be to thy husband, which some understand of her desire to the use of the marriage bed, as Jarchi, and even notwithstanding her sorrows and pains in child bearing; but rather this is to be understood of her being solely at the will and pleasure of her husband; that whatever she desired should be referred to him, whether she should have her desire or not, or the thing she desired; it should be liable to be controlled by his will, which must determine it, and to which she must be subject…
“and he shall rule over thee, with less kindness and gentleness, with more rigour and strictness… the subjection of her to him was more pleasant and agreeable than now it would be; and this was her chastisement, because she did not ask advice of her husband about eating the fruit, but did it of herself, without his will and consent, and tempted him to do the same.”
Finally, the curse on the man was pronounced:
“Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”
The effects of the curse on the ground can still be seen. It is hard work to raise crops, especially with the simple tools of ancient times. Weeds must be dealt with, and insects and other animals will eat as much as they can get of the ripe fruit. Blights and diseases will destroy their share. The farmer, and even the raiser of cattle must deal with all kinds of problems and discouragements that did not exist in Eden. The curse on the ground, on man’s labor is still in effect. Here is what Paul says:
“For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Rom 8:19-21)
“The creature” in this context means the lower creation: what we call “nature”. It is not the sons of God, the new creatures in Christ; for there is a patent distinction between it and them. Nature “was made subject to vanity”, that is, cursed for the sake of man’s sin. It is now in the bondage of corruption, but it will be delivered when the sons of God are manifested – at the return of Christ. (see 1 John 3:2; Colossians 3:4) The curse remains in effect.
The curses will never end until Jesus comes again and creates a new heaven and a new earth, in which the glory, peace and perfection of Eden will be restored.
I have digressed from our subject to show that the curse pronounced in Eden was not removed from woman at the first coming of Christ. Like all the other curses of Genesis 3, it remains in effect. So that, even if I were to grant that the subjection of woman to man’s authority was because of the curse laid upon her after the fall; since that curse has not been revoked, she remains under his authority today.
Should Women be church Officers?
Biblical Truths: Community
This section, which includes points 7-10, attempts to prove from the Bible that women can and ought to be deacons, elders and preachers. It begins:
Point 7. “The Bible teaches that at Pentecost the Holy Spirit came on men and women alike. Without distinction, the Holy Spirit indwells women and men, and sovereignly distributes gifts without preference as to gender (Acts 2:1–21; 1 Corinthians 12:7, 11, 14:31).”
The key phrase is “without preference as to gender”. But the proof texts do not support this. Just because women have the Holy Spirit and gifts of the Spirit does not mean that He gives the gifts of the Spirit without reference to the sex of the recipient. Elders and deacons must be men, or they could not be required to be “the husband of one wife” (1 Timothy 3:2,12; Ti 1:6) so there is no reason to suppose that women are ever given the gift of government in the church. Moreover, the clear and full instructions of Paul, which the feminists want to hide from our view, preclude any woman from even speaking in the meetings of the church. How then can they be officers? It is absurd.
It is unfortunate for them that they extract a text from 1 Corinthians 14; for it draws attention to a part of Scripture that they would be advised to stay away from, as we shall see. Verse 31 reads:
“For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.”
Notice the word, “all” which occurs three times. Paul uses the word, “all”, so (they say) it means women as well as men may prophesy in the church. But the word “all” should always be interpreted in the light of its context. After his completion of the instructions on the use of public gifts in the church, Paul immediately follows with the words:
“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35)
The meaning of this is obvious. Lest anyone think that he was using the word, “all” (Gr. pas) in verse 31 in a sense that includes females, he states in clear, forceful, and unequivocal language a universal prohibition of women engaging in any of the activities discussed in verses 26-33. The expression “Let your women” implies that the men of the church are to govern their women, and to keep them from speaking. This is a clear proof of the inequality of the sexes.
The force of this passage is remarkable. Notice the repetition of the same command in three ways, to avoid any possible misunderstanding:
Let your women keep silence in the churches:
for it is not permitted unto them to speak;
but they are commanded to be under obedience
A further argument, and a powerful one, is contained in the words,“as also saith the law”. Two truths can be inferred from this phrase. The first is, that the moral law of the Old Testament is still in force. If this were not true, then the argument from its authority would fail. Second, the law speaks to this issue, or else Paul would never use it in this controversy. Where does the law say that women are to be subordinate to men? In every institution of the law of Moses, women are implicitly placed under male authority. Hebrew culture was consistently patriarchal.
But specifically, I believe that he has reference to his previous discussion of the subject in Chapter 11 of this same epistle, in which his doctrine of the superior status of men is based on the Genesis account of the creation of man and woman. One thing is certain: if Paul tells us that the law supports his teaching, then it does. He is an inspired apostle, giving normative teaching for all the churches.
Then, the women are told:
“And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home“
Does this need explanation?
Finally, they are warned that the violation of this rule would be a “shame”. The word is stronger in the original. It is equivalent to “an abomination”.
“for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.”
It would be impossible to overturn the commandment contained in these two verses. It is a signpost set deep in the ground with cement. It was put there to guide travelers surely in the right path. Any one who says that the whole tenor of Scripture runs counter to the interpretation I have found, self-contained in these verses, is simply wrong. This plain, natural, grammatical interpretation cannot be overthrown by any sophistry that man can devise. And it destroys the whole foundation and superstructure of so-called “Christian feminism”!
But there is more! Paul is not finished. Knowing the hardness of the human heart; and especially the tendency in women to usurp authority over the man, he gives a stinging rebuke intended for anyone who would presume to reject his teaching:
“What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man (anyone) think himself (or herself) to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him (or her) acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” (verses 36-38)
The parenthetical words indicate that the neuter gender is used in these places. He is not only rebuking men, but women as well.
Listen to the word of God, you Scripture twisters! Repent of your stubborn resistance to its plain truth! Christian feminism, like all egalitarian dogmas, was born in Hell, invented for the purpose of overturning the God-ordained order of church and society. There is no truth whatever in the assertion that God distributes His gifts without respect to sex!
Women and the Ministry Gifts
Biblical Truth: Community
Point 8. “The Bible teaches that both women and men are called to develop their spiritual gifts and to use them as stewards of the grace of God (1 Peter 4:10–11). Both men and women are divinely gifted and empowered to minister to the whole Body of Christ, under His authority (Acts 1:14, 18:26, 21:9; Rom 16:1–7, 12–13, 15; Phil 4:2–3; Colossians 4:15; see also Mark 15:40–41, 16:1–7; Luke 8:1–3; John 20:17–18; compare also Old Testament examples: Judges 4:4–14, 5:7; 2 Chronicles 34:22–28; Proverbs 31:30–31; Micah 6:4).”
Once again, undeniable truth is used to support error. The first statement is perfectly accurate. The second is, however, demonstrably false. The author’s case is so weak, that he finds it necessary to overwhelm us with the sheer number of his proof-texts, in a show of strength. The problem is its declaration that “women are divinely gifted and empowered to minister to the whole Body of Christ”. This might seem innocent; but what it is really saying is that it is proper and orderly for women to be called to be preachers and officers in the church. This analysis will be confirmed by the choice of proof-texts, and in the rest of the document.
I have gone through all of these, one by one, and summarized the relevant contents of each:
1 Peter 4:10–11 We are admonished to use our gifts for God’s glory.
Acts 1:14 Women were present in the upper room when the apostles prayed.
18:26 Aquila and Priscilla took Apollos to their home, where they updated him (for he only knew of John’s baptism) concerning the one that John had introduced to the world: Jesus, his ministry, death and resurrection.
21:9 Philip had four daughters who may have had the gift of prophecy. But the text only says that they “prophesied”. This might be understood of the ordinary setting forth of God’s word which all believers are encouraged to do.
Rom 16:1–7 The church at Rome is exhorted to receive Phoebe with honor, and to assist her in whatever business she came to Rome for.
12–13 They are to greet Aquila and Priscilla for him.
15 They are to salute the sister of Nerius.
Phil 4:2-3 Paul calls on two women in the church who were at odds to be reconciled, and mention is made of “those women which laboured with me (Paul) in the gospel.
Col 4:15 Mention is made of a person named Nymphas, of whom John Gill says “And Nymphas’; which some, unskilful in the Greek language, have took for a woman.”
Mark 15:40–41 “There were also women looking on afar off: among whom was Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the less and of Joses, and Salome; (Who also, when he was in Galilee, followed him, and ministered unto him;) and many other women which came up with him unto Jerusalem.” This is a list of the women who had ministered unto Jesus.
16:1–7 Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint Jesus’ body.
Luke 8:1–3 List of the principal women who traveled with Jesus and “ministered unto him of their substance.”
John 20:17–18 “Jesus saith unto her, ‘go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God.’ Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and that he had spoken these things unto her.”
Judg 4:4–14 The unusual case of Deborah, a prophetess, the wife of Lapidoth, who judged Israel. In a time of spiritual declension, when men had become dissolute and cowardly, God used a woman to deliver them, and at the same time to shame them. See Judges 4:6-9.
5:7 Deborah’s song of triumph, in which she calls herself “a mother in Israel”.
2 Chr 34:22–28 In a time when Manasseh’s son Amon had all but eradicated the true religion from Israel, a single copy of the book of the law is discovered; and the new king, Josiah, alarmed at the judgment which he saw must come upon Israel for their sins, sends to the prophetess Huldah for advice. She prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem. Another exceptional case that proves the rule.
Prov 31:30–31 The God-fearing woman is highly praised.
Micah 6:4 “For I brought thee up out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed thee out of the house of servants; and I sent before thee Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.” Miriam is best known for her song of triumph after the crossing of the Red Sea, which she taught to the women of Israel, and led them in singing. We do not know what else she may have done, until she rebuked Moses and was afflicted with leprosy for seven days. Neither she nor Aaron were equal to Moses, but she was a woman, subordinate to both her brothers, so the sin was greater, and accordingly, she was punished.
No one should diminish the important – really, the indispensable – role that godly women have played in the church throughout history. All honor to those Hebrew and Christian mothers who brought up so many godly sons and daughters by their faithfulness; laboring often without recognition or appreciation! All honor to those wives who made their husbands better men by their diligence to make their homes havens from the world – places of comfort, of beauty and sweet companionship! All honor to those women who spent themselves and their substance supporting the ministries of men who were called of God and ordained to preach the gospel! All honor to those women who opened their hearts and their homes to the poor, making sure that they had something to wear and to eat, and giving them hope through the gospel of Jesus Christ!
Nevertheless, one cannot help but feel that these “proof-texts” have been assembled to give credibility to the notion that woman is on the level of man in all this. But the attempt fails, because the Scripture emphatically opposes it. That ship founders on the rock of 1 Corinthians 14:36 ff and other Scriptures that we will look at later. It is useless to collect a long string of verses that do not teach what the Feminists claim that they do. There is not a shred of evidence that women deacons or elders or evangelists belong to the normal order of things. Two women prophets appear in the Old Testament; and they both arose because the times were so bad that there were no men of the character that was requisite for a man of God. It is significant that no male prophets are mentioned in the records of those times of national apostasy.
Later, a woman of infamy (Jezebel) will to all intents and purposes bear rule over the Northern kingdom, usurping the authority of her husband, and instituting the worship of Baal. Meanwhile, In the Southern kingdom, a woman (Athaliah) will kill all the royal seed of Israel and usurp that throne. Neither one ended well; but in the meantime, it was a great humiliation to Judah and to Israel to be ruled by women. It signaled God’s great displeasure. No man wants to be placed in that position; for we all know instinctively that it is a humiliation, and against nature. Other than these two, Israel never had a queen that ruled instead of a king. Other than the two prophetesses, Israel never had a prophetess as the spiritual authority of the nation.
Point 9. “The Bible teaches that, in the New Testament economy, women as well as men exercise the prophetic, priestly and royal functions (Acts 2:17–18, 21:9; 1 Corinthians 11:5; 1 Peter 2:9–10; Rev 1:6, 5:10).”
My first observation is that the language is insufficiently clear. Are these three functions of the church? I assume that they are; but whether the church in its character as a community or in its public worship I cannot tell. The title favors community, but the aim of the Manifesto in general, and this section in particular, is to raise women to the offices of the church which have been traditionally occupied by men. Then what exactly are these functions? What is meant by the prophetic function? What is the priestly function? Is there any such thing as a royal function; and if so, what is it? Presumably, the proof texts will shed light on some of these questions; but proof-texts ought not to be used for any other purpose than to prove propositions that have already been set forth definitively. But I will proceed under this disadvantage, and do the best that I can.
Does the Pentecostal event represent an ongoing prophetic function that belongs equally to men and women?
The first proof text offered is Act 2:17-18. This text makes plain that men and women both “prophesied” on that day; and that this was in fulfillment of the pre diction of the prophet Joel. There is no mention of a normative “prophetic function” here, and certainly nothing to indicate that this kind of event ought to be repeated throughout the present age.
You must pardon me if I seem to spend too much time on this particular proof-text: I find it impossible to explain it thoroughly in a few words. And this analysis will save us time when we consider the rest. The words are:
“And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy:”
The question remains unanswered whether the event described here represents a so-called “prophetic function” that is normative for the whole present age, or whether it was a unique event of the kind that was only to be expected during apostolic times.
What does “prophesy” mean?
The answer to this question is a part of the larger question of the meanings of the word “prophesy” in various contexts in the New Testament. I will just offer a summary statement from the great Reformed scholar, Albert Barnes. commenting on these verses:
Shall prophesy – The word “prophesy” is used in a great variety of senses:
(1) It means to predict or foretell future events, Matthew 11:13; Matthew 15:7.
(2) To divine, to conjecture, to declare as a prophet might, Matthew 26:68, “Prophesy who smote thee.”
(3) To celebrate the praises of God, being under a divine influence, Luke 1:67. This seems to have been a considerable part of the employment in the ancient schools of the prophet, 1Samuel 10:5; 1Samuel 19:20; 1Samuel 30:15.
(4) To teach – as no small part of the office of the prophets was to teach the doctrines of religion, Matthew 7:22, “Have we not prophesied in thy name?”
(5) It denotes, then, in general, “to speak under a divine influence,” whether in foretelling future events, in celebrating the praises of God, in instructing others in the duties of religion, or “in speaking foreign languages under that influence.”
How does this bear upon the question under consideration? The first question that must be asked is “Which definition best fits the words of the text?” The first two definitions can, I think, be ruled out of the discussion. But if the prophesying spoken of in the text answers to definition 3 above, “To celebrate the praises of God, being under a divine influence”, then all must grant that this kind of activity will and ought to go on throughout this age; but then, is this what is meant by a “prophetic function”? Given the lack of definition in the statement, I cannot say.
If definition 4, “To teach – as no small part of the office of the prophets was ”to teach the doctrines of religion“ is what the authors of this document meant, then I just must say that I disagree; for it seems to me unlikely that this kind of activity was going on. Most of these people had not been trained, as the Apostles had; nor can it be assumed that they were all mentally furnished for that function. Further, the thought of so many voices speaking different languages at the same time would hardly have created an atmosphere appropriate for the teaching of the word of God. If the Pentecostal event is an instance of ”exercising the prophetic function“, then prophesying must mean something other than teaching the doctrines of Scripture.
Is the fifth definition what is meant, ”in general, to speak under a divine influence, whether in foretelling future events, in celebrating the praises of God, in instructing others in the duties of religion, or in speaking foreign languages under that influence”? This seems to accord with all the details of the text. But is this what is meant by the “prophetic function”?
Does this verse lead us to expect that this prophecy is to be an ordinary or extraordinary phenomenon? Is it to be normative, or was it a miracle of the Apostolic age, a “sign of the apostles”?
Several considerations come to mind. First, there is nothing in the text to show that what was happening at that time was to recur, in its essentials, throughout the age. Joel does not say so. Peter said “…this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit… ”
What is meant by the phrase “in the last days”? Does this refer to the entire present age, or the last days of the Mosaic period? Opinions differ. Obviously, it makes a difference to our discussion how you view this phrase. Furthermore, there is nothing in the language of Joel that would help us to determine whether this was a unique event or a standard for the whole present age. He simply says “in” the last days, not “at one point in” or “throughout”. Consider the words of Jesus in Mark 16:17-18:
“And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.”
Is this intended to be normative; or is it an eloquent summary of what we saw happening in the book of Acts? Is it prescriptive or descriptive? Charismatics say that it is the normal experience of the church. The reader can draw his own conclusion. But I do not believe that the church is supposed to be awash in miracles. One thing that makes a miracle a miracle is that it is not an ordinary event. My judgment? The passage is descriptive; but there is no evidence that it is prescriptive.
Joel’s words do not decide the question whether Pentecostal happenings were unique to the Apostolic times, or whether they are to continue to the end of this age. His prophecy is a general statement, and is meant to provide a scriptural context for the Pentecostal event; rather than a normative statement concerning the exercise of prophecy in the ordinary life of the church. Like the passage in Mark, it is descriptive, rather than prescriptive.
But Peter, in his sermon, says that the events of that day were the result of a very significant and unique event:
“This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.” (Act 2:32-33)
The outpouring of the Spirit and the miracles that drew attention to it were proof of the seating of the Lord Jesus at the right hand of God, foretold in Psalm 110:1. This is the significant fact that the whole account leads up to: Jesus is Lord! The kingdom of God has come! Acknowledge his lordship and repent of your sins. Believe and be baptized, and you will be saved from His wrath! The preaching of this message will characterize this whole age; but the historic importance of Pentecost is its unique and powerful witness to Christ’s resurrection and exaltation.
Another reason for believing that events like this are not to be expected after the death of the Apostles is the fact that there are other things mentioned in the prophecy of Joel that are not observed in our churches today, namely “…your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams”. These sorts of miracles were common in the time of Peter and Paul; but the testimony of the early church fathers is that after the Apostles were gone, miracles became rare. They insisted that the signs of the Apostles were not passed on to them; that they were inferior in every way to those first followers of Jesus. However, as the church deteriorated under the early Popes, the unsubstantiated claims of miracles began to increase. Modern day claims of tongues, prophecies of future events, dreams and visions, immediate healings, etc. have not, in general, stood up to scrutiny; and it is well-known that many of them are simply frauds. They may indeed happen – God is not bound – but not often; and this is the main thing: they do not define any ordinary functions of the church.
So this text should not be alleged to prove that “in the New Testament economy, women as well as men exercise the prophetic function” of the church in our time; unless we mean by prophecy Barnes’ third definition “To celebrate the praises of God, being under a divine influence.” This occurs all the time in our churches, when spirit-filled men and women sing hymns together, take their part in the responses of the liturgy together, read Scripture responsively together, etc. But does this constitute “the exercise of the prophetic function”? I would say, “in part”. But surely the regular preaching and teaching of the word by ordained clergymen and appointed laymen is the chief exercise of the prophetic function. And from this role, women are explicitly excluded.
I have spilled a lot of ink on one proof text; but in the process, I have introduced some principles and some facts which will help us in dealing with the others. The texts are:
Acts 21:9 “And the same man had four daughters, virgins, which did prophesy.“
We have a notice here that four virgins prophesied. Prophesied, in what sense, on what occasions, is unknown. Did they have the gift of prophecy? Did they only prophesy on this occasion? It does not say. Now, why were they mentioned? If women prophesying was an ordinary occurrence, why mention it at all?
Maybe it was because they were so young. Jewish women usually married between sixteen and twenty. Some did not marry, but this was the exception to the rule. If the eldest was twenty when the Apostle visited Philip, and there were no multiple births, the youngest could not be much more than seventeen. If the eldest was sixteen, then the youngest was thirteen or under. It would then be a notable thing that Philip and his wife had brought up four maidens who knew the Scriptures well, and loved the Lord. It would then have been stated as a compliment to him, which makes perfect sense.
I say this only to show that the text is too sketchy to help the Feminist cause. Only by importing their own meaning into it can they make it appear otherwise.
“But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.” (1 Corinthians 11:5)
It is almost humorous to see a Feminist using a verse from this passage as a proof-text! They don’t believe a word of the text, and yet they quote it as an authority! Do they cover their heads? Do they believe that not to cover their heads is a disgrace – a symbolic rejection of their female role? Not a bit of it! Yet they shamelessly draw attention to it because it seems to be a prop for their tenuous (I’m being kind) theory of sexual equality.
But what does it prove? That women did, in some sense, “prophesy” in the early days of the church. What’s wrong with this? First, it is not clear in what sense they prophesied. The text does not resolve the question for us. The reference is incidental. The main point is the necessity of covering the head. The fact that this prophesying was being done does not say whether they should be doing it or not. Nor does it give the occasion – whether in the church meeting or not. It is simply said that if a woman prophesies, she ought to cover her head.
1 Peter 2:9–10 “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.”
I do not deny that the church, as a body, women included along with men, is all these things; nor do I wish to. These are glorious privileges, that are ours in common with all the saints in all ages, because of sheer grace!
But does that mean that women are to exercise all the same ecclesiastical functions; or if they do, in the same way? The text does not supply the answer, because the text is not talking about functions or roles at all. If we read it in context, (verses 4-10) we discover that verses 9-10 are part of a contrast with verses 7 and 8. On the one hand, there are the disobedient, that stumble at the word. On the other we have “you which believe”, to whom Christ is precious.
The references are to the Jewish people and the Christian church. Peter says that the honors and titles that once belonged to the Hebrew nation are no longer theirs; but have now been given to the new people of God. The contrast is between these two people groups. But because we have been made the true people of God, our response ought to be gratitude and service. This is where the individual comes into view.
Verse 5 reads: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” That this priestly function is performed by men and women is acknowledged by all; but that is because it is not, per se, a public function. We all pray, we intercede, we bear others’ burdens, we praise God, confess our sins, and praise Him – in private and family prayer, and also publicly, when we pray silently while one man leads. The text does not prove that women are to lead men or the congregation in prayer. That subject is not addressed by Peter here. Other Scriptures answer this question, and I will get to them bye and bye.
The Reign of the saints
Revelation 1:6 “And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
5:10 “And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.”
These texts are intended to prove that there is a royal function which women exercise on an equal basis with men. However, women are not in view here; for it says “kings” not “queens”. (In Greek, the word is in the masculine gender. There is a feminine form of basileus, and it means “queen”.)
To reign is to rule. It is the exercise of authority. The rule that is represented in these two texts is not a rule over the church of God; but over the world. The last phrase may be rendered, “and we shall reign over the earth”. This idea of the saints’ universal dominion goes back into the Old Testament, especially the Psalms and the prophets. Daniel’s prophecy comes to mind:
“And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” (Daniel 7:27)
The idea that there is some sort of rule over the church that women share with men is not in these texts. The rulers of the church exercise ministerial authority, not magisterial authority, in the church in Christ’s name. But none of the names of royalty belong to them. They make no laws; and their formal acts are always subject to the judgment of Christ their Lord.
This completes our survey of the proof-texts for the first statement under point 9.
CBE’s Evasion of the Principal Texts
Biblical Truth: Community
We have been looking at the first statement of point 9 of this section. Now, let us direct our attention to the second statement, in which the authors of this document treat us to a lesson in hermeneutics. This would be laughable, if it were not such a serious business. Let me say it again: the way that these Feminists handle the holy Scriptures is ludicrous! It is irrational. It is the turning of things upside down and inside out to try to find a way to inject sexual equality into the Bible. As such, it is sacrilege!
Now, let me say that if you want to know what any document says on any point, you look for a place in it where that particular point is under discussion. Having found that, you look for explicit statements and conclusions. Then, having found those, you have a basis for understanding any incidental references to the same point (apparent or real) in other places.
You do not avoid those places that speak clearly and fully, just because you do not like what they say, and then look for clues scattered throughout the document that seem to support your foregone conclusions. You do not then use these clues (such as texts isolated from their contexts) to create a framework constructed of your own opinions and call it what that document “really” says. Finally, you do not then set aside the obvious message of the key passages of the document on the basis that they cannot mean what they seem to say, because that would go against the framework of opinions that you have constructed. That is not the way a reasonable person would proceed; and that is not how a humble seeker after truth would go about it. However, the document gives us this remarkable statement:
“Therefore, the few isolated texts that appear to restrict the full redemptive freedom of women must not be interpreted simplistically and in contradiction to the rest of Scripture, but their interpretation must take into account their relation to the broader teaching of Scripture and their total context (1 Corinthians 11:2–16, 14:33–36; 1 Timothy 2:9–15).”
Here is their justification for burying the three prescriptive texts (listed here; but not as proof-texts) that set forth the proper understanding of male and female sex roles as they are to be expressed in the life of the church. These, they say, are nothing more than a “ few isolated texts”. Few they may be; but they are the only texts that address the exact question at issue. Two or three witnesses to the same fact are sufficient. Nay, in holy Scripture, a single statement, properly interpreted, is enough to establish any fact. The fewness or the plenitude of confirming witnesses them has nothing to do with anything.
Neither are they isolated texts. What does that mean anyway? Does it mean that some text doesn’t belong where it is? Or that it has nothing to do with the context in which we find it? [Someone please explain that to me.] Or is there some quality inherent in the text itself that means it has no authority, so we can ignore it. Isolated from what? Each text belongs in a certain context, and we traditionalists interpret it in that context.
For example, 1 Corinthians 14:36-38 follows logically from the other Pauline directives which are to govern the exercise of the gifts (verses 1-33). And it should be noticed that verse 1 and verses 39-40 are, as it were “bookends” that show the unity of the whole chapter. The latter verses remind us of the things summed up in the first verse – the purpose and guiding principles of the exercise of the gifts: the primacy of prophecy, and the necessity of order. Therefore, it cannot be maintained that this passage forbidding women from speaking in church is “isolated” in any sense; nor that we “isolate it” by taking it out of context.
No matter how few, if these passages are clear (and they are) then no recourse needs to be had to the Feminists’ favorite texts, though they be many.
Next, the word “appear” occurs:
“…the few isolated texts that appear to restrict the full redemptive freedom of women”
The texts have already been discredited as “few and isolated”, so now it can be safely said that they only “appear” to contradict their egalitarian theory of sexual equality. Hmm, let me see… How about this one:
“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God. Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”
Or this one:
“Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only? If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord. But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.”
Or this one:
“Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve.” Does this only appear to contradict the Feminist position?
No, it is not appearance only, but substance, as anyone can see. Accordingly, as we shall see, any stratagems devised to invalidate them must fail.
But then they tell us how to interpret these “few isolated texts”; or rather how not to interpret them:
“…the few isolated texts that appear to restrict the full redemptive freedom of women must not be interpreted simplistically and in contradiction to the rest of Scripture.”
Claiming to have already proved the “full redemptive freedom of women” (in the sense that they mean the phrase) they demand that we give up the obvious and natural sense of these texts in favor of interpretations that they have made up out of whole cloth!
First we are told that we must not interpret them “simplistically”. What exactly does this mean – “Simplistically”? I can only guess that it is something that they are attributing to the traditional interpretation – something lacking in the sophistication of former interpreters such as – well, just about every biblical scholar from the church fathers to the eminent Bible scholars of the 19th century, and most of them in the first half of the twentieth. They were all only “simple” men, no doubt, who lacked the intelligence and hermeneutical acumen to understand the complexities of Scripture! Though some of them were admittedly very learned, they were all affected by the prejudice against women which prevailed in their times, and accordingly misunderstood and mistranslated these texts according to their appearance, in contradiction to the whole teaching of Scripture.
I admit that I am “simplistic”: I “simply” take the texts at face value, without arbitrary eisegesis and exegetical gymnastics. I am not one of those sophisticated Feminist theologians who, by virtue of their vast learning and exceptional intelligence, have avoided the fatal trap of interpreting the Scripture according to its mere appearance! Perhaps someday I will attain to the heights and rarified air in which these scholars dwell – but not now. I am just a simple man.
We are also cautioned against contradicting the rest of Scripture by our simplistic interpretation. Thank you very much for the warning! But it is not really necessary. I learned a long time ago that when someone is dishonest or self-deceived, he will often attribute to his opponents the very thing that he is doing. That observation applies here. They are the ones who are contradicting “the broader teaching of Scripture and their total context”. They have it exactly backwards!
Finally, the term, “the full redemptive freedom of women” appears. This is, I believe, the first time that the term is used in the Manifesto. What does it mean? Let’s review what they have said already. Here, in their own words, is the substance of the doctrine that is meant by that term.
“The Bible teaches that woman and man were created for full and equal partnership.”
“The Bible teaches that the forming of woman from man demonstrates the fundamental unity and equality of human beings.”
“Without distinction, the Holy Spirit indwells women and men, and sovereignly distributes gifts without preference as to gender.”
“The Bible teaches that both women and men are called to develop their spiritual gifts and to use them as stewards of the grace of God. Both men and women are divinely gifted and empowered to minister to the whole Body of Christ, under His authority.”
“The Bible teaches that, in the New Testament economy, women as well as men exercise the prophetic, priestly and royal functions.”
“The full redemptive freedom of women” means that men and women are equal in every sense except their biology. There is no difference in the status of men and women. Women are free to do any work and to assume any role in the church that men do if they have the gifts for it. They are not subordinate to men, so they are not to be barred from the diaconate or the presbytery because of their sex. So that any passage of Scripture that seems to deprive women of this freedom must be reinterpreted.
Now, let’s see what that means for the interpretation of the three texts that they wish to revise. I have already discussed 1 Corinthians 14:36-40 in Part 4 of this series. Let’s examine another one of the signposts that they must re-write if they are going to win this debate.
The first of the “few isolated texts” in their list, that appear to restrict the full redemptive freedom of women” is 1 Corinthians 11:2-16. Before looking at the text, permit me to make a few opening remarks.
Paul is dealing with various abuses in the church from the very first chapter of this epistle. This is a subject that differs from the others; for it is merely teaching given to prevent an abuse – perhaps one which was just beginning to take hold. It differs from what Paul says in the other cases he comments on, in that Paul says “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you.” The obvious reason why he would open this section with this compliment is that the practice of women covering their heads is included in these ordinances. He does not tell them to start covering their heads, as we would expect if they were neglecting the ordinance, or if it was a new practice that they were not familiar with. If he was instituting it at this time, it would have to have been explained in more detail.
The next section begins with the contrasting declaration,“Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not…(1 Corinthians 11:17a). These two statements are obviously meant to contrast with each other. They are like bookends, and clearly mark the beginning and ending of the section under consideration. The passage is therefore independent of both the previous and the ensuing context for its meaning. I do not isolate it by interpreting it as an intentionally differentiated section. It carries within itself all the information that is needed to interpret it correctly, with the help of several links to the book of Genesis contained within it.
Obviously, Paul’s purpose in writing this passage is to deter Christian women from uncovering their heads in public. (Some limit it to the meetings of the church; but there are good reasons for not doing so.) He also prohibits men from covering their heads. His interest, then, is in the clear delineation between men and women that ought to be expressed and maintained by differences in dress (Deuteronomy 22:5).
Paul’s purpose is served by teaching both the men and the women the biblical principles that govern the practice of covering the head. It is not my purpose to expound the whole passage; but rather to show what it teaches that relates directly to the subject in hand. (Those who want a fuller treatment of the passage are encouraged to read my book, The Myth of Sexual Equality. You can purchase a signed copy from ‘Howard’s Classic Books’ on Amazon.com.)
2 “Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you. 3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.”
Let’s begin with verse 3. What does it say? It says that everyone but God the Father has a head over him. He is subordinate to the person who is his head. That is what headship means. Man is subordinate to Christ; woman is subordinate to man; and Christ (as the mediator, in His Divine/human nature) is subordinate to God. It is in vain to claim that headship has nothing to do with authority and subordination.
Is man not under the authority of Christ? Then what does it mean to “keep His commandments”?
Is Christ not under the authority of His Father? Then what did He mean when He said “…as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.” (Joh 14:31)
Headship means authority. Simple as that. Woman, then is under the authority of man.
4 “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. 5 But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven. 6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered.”
As I said, I do not intend to discuss the practice of head covering; but it is impossible to make sense of what follows without reading these verses. A man who covers his head while praying or prophesying dishonors it; but a woman who does not cover her head dishonors hers. This is not just advice. Verse 6 closes with these words of command, “…let her be covered.”
Then we come to the remarkable statement in verse 7:
“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.”
God made Adam in His own image (Genesis 1:27). He was the image of God before Eve was made. He was not an incomplete part of the image of God, which had to be completed by the creation of Eve, as some say. If that were true, it would follow that neither one was made in the image of God. He was made in the image and likeness of God. Here, we read “image and glory of God”. These two words are used together in Hebrews 1:3 to describe the Son of God:
“…Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his [that is, God’s] person…”
It would appear that the word “likeness” and the word “glory” are closely related in some way; so that Adam could be called either. Now most people would assume that the same thing could be said of the woman as is here said of the man. But not only does he not say that; he makes it a point of contrast, referring to man as God’s image and glory, while he denies her that dignity, and says that the woman is the glory of the man instead! He further uses that point of contrast to dictate a rule concerning the covering of their heads.
7 “For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man.”
This text alone demolishes any notion of the equality of the sexes! The battle is over. No other discussion is needed. You cannot possibly establish the Christian Feminist cause while this verse remains in the Bible!
But we proceed:
8 “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. 9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”
Paul has stated that the man and the woman are not equals. Now he gives us two of the reasons why he says this, both drawn from the account of human origins contained in the early chapters of Genesis. The word, “for” connects verses 8 and 9 to verse 7. It means “because”. These two arguments are insuperable. Verses 7-9 taken in the context of the head covering discussion, demonstrate Paul’s position on sexual equality. It is this inequality that explains why women need to cover their heads, and men must not.
The Feminists know that this text is fatal to their system; and so want to discredit its plain teaching. To cover the head as a sign of submission to male headship is oppressive – a humiliation not to be born! So the passage must be gotten rid of in some way. It is only one of a few, they say (as if that mattered). It is wrongly interpreted if it is isolated from the overall teaching of Scripture (they mean the framework that they have constructed). It’s “real meaning” is – whatever they say it means.
Some try to escape its force by saying that the great Apostle was mistaken, since he was trained in the misogynistic view of the rabbis. The opinion found in this text is not inspired truth, but one man’s opinion. This only shows how desperate some of them are to have an excuse for living lives of rebellion against God’s ordinance. They had rather sacrifice the plenary inspiration of Scripture than admit that they are in the wrong. How sad! There is nothing I can do to help them.
We come now to the third signpost – forgive me,“isolated text” which is 1Timothy 2:9-15:
9 “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; 10 But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. 11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. 12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. 15 Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety.”
Paul is admonishing Timothy, his apprentice, to maintain good order and Christian standards of conduct for both men and women. Having addressed the men first, he now turns to the females. He begins by telling them that they must not be luxurious or extravagant in either dress or appearance; which excess is inconsistent with the shamefacedness (bashfulness) and sobriety that are becoming to Christian women. Rather, they are to be modest, shunning the limelight, not seeking to draw attention to themselves. They are to show inner beauty by quietly going about doing beautiful (Gr. kalos, “good, beautiful”) works.
In keeping with this modesty and seriousness, he commands Timothy to “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.” Does this sound familiar? As in 1 Corinthians 14: 34, woman’s silence in the church is an expression of her subjection to God’s order. “Subjection” in this place and “obedience” in 1 Corinthians 14:34 are the same word in the Greek.
In saying “let” he is not merely giving them permission. It translates the imperative mood of the verb. He does not say “women”, which might mean a particular group of women; as if it only applied to one congregation, for example, in which the women were unruly. No – he says “woman”, which shows that it is woman in the generic sense that is meant. And it is not “the woman”, for the article is absent. It is “a woman”, that is, a woman simply considered as a woman – not a boisterous woman, or a foolish woman – just a woman. The command is therefore universal; that is, for all women in all the churches.
Then he adds, with emphasis:
12 “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. 13. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. 14. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (1Timothy 2:12-14)
Once again, the language is explicit, and impossible to misunderstand. Not only is she prohibited from teaching in the place of the man, which is a usurpation; she is rather obligated to keep silence. This is not a strange or unnatural thing, nor is it oppressive to women.
Anyone, man or woman, who has ever been in a court of law has been required to keep a strict silence until the proceedings are finished. This is to facilitate the hearing of the parties concerned, so that nothing is misunderstood or wrongly recorded. It is necessary for the judicial process to go on without distraction. The same solemnity ought to be observed at the meetings of the church.
Paul gives two reasons for this injunction. The first is the order of creation. This is a brief allusion to the record of the creation of Adam and Eve. Man was made first, and then the woman was made of his substance, to be a fit helper for him. These facts demonstrate man’s superior status, and the reason that the woman is to be subordinate to him, and therefore to keep silence in the church.
The second reason derives from the account of the fall. Eve sinned first, being tempted by the serpent. The fall was begun by her, because she allowed herself to be deceived. Paul is saying that woman is more vulnerable to deception than man is. She was deceived – he was not. The contrast is plain. This is not just a historical fact: it was still true in Paul’s time, and it is still true today. Otherwise, why would it be a valid reason to forbid women from teaching? This is an unpopular fact; but a fact nonetheless. Unless we are willing to set aside the testimony of the Apostle Paul, and the doctrine of the inspiration of Scripture, we must accept what is written.
This is the third of those “few isolated texts that appear to restrict the full redemptive freedom of women” – so they say. I say that, like 1 Corinthians 14:34-40, it is a locus classicus, one of those foundational passages which gives the standard teaching on the subject. It is foundational to the relationships between men and women in the family, in the church, and in the broader community.
We have briefly examined what the Feminists would have us to believe are just a few isolated texts that seem to contradict the doctrine of sexual equality, but do not. I cannot for the life of me agree with what seems to me a fantastic notion, and possibly one of the most egregious hermeneutical errors of all time! The passages speak for themselves. They are in entire agreement with each other, and with the background of patriarchal social structure instituted in the earliest times and established by the law of Moses as the norm for the community of God’s people.
Point 10 closes the section labeled Community with a statement that revolves around a word that has been substituted for authority, rule, etc. in the modern church – even in some modern Bible translations. That word is “leadership”.
Point 10. “The Bible defines the function of leadership as the empowerment of others for service rather than as the exercise of power over them (Matthew 20:25–28, 23:8; Mark 10:42–45; John 13:13–17; Genesis 5:13; 1 Peter 5:2–3).”
Notice the deceitful way that this begins: “The Bible defines leadership as…” Wait a minute! The Authorized or “King James” Version, the standard English Bible, does not even use the word – ever! The ESV uses it once, as does Young’s Literal Translation, in Numbers 33:1, where the Hebrew word means “hand”. The AV and NKJV translate the place,”under the hand of”. YLT gives us “by the hand of”. How then can the Bible be said to define a word it never uses?
Besides, the Bible knows nothing of leadership without authority. All through the Bible, we meet with expressions like “rule” or “ruler”, “king”, “lord”, “governor” “dominion”, “kingdom”. These words are incompatible with mere “leadership”. They have to do with authority and the exercise of it; with power, and the exercise of power.
The document before us refuses to acknowledge that there is order and authority in the church and family, as there is in the state. Let us continue:
“The Bible defines the function of leadership as the empowerment of others for service rather than as the exercise of power over them. (Matthew 20:25–28, 23:8; Mark 10:42–45; John 13:13–17; Genesis 5:13; 1 Peter 5:2–3).”
Since the Bible does not define leadership, the truth must be that it is the Feminists defining it; but to what purpose? All this has nothing to do with what the Bible teaches. Nevertheless, we must be patient. Perhaps they are saying the same thing that we are; only in different words. The core of this statement is that “the function of leadership [is] the empowerment of others for service”. If we substitute a Bible word for leadership, then we have “the function of [government, or rule, or kingship, or authority] is the empowerment of others for service. Is this true? Does anyone think that this is true? Of course not.
The function of government is to exercise authority, in order to maintain justice and order in society. Everyone knows this! Governments in this fallen world do not always do a good job of this; but nevertheless, that is what they are for (Romans 13:1-7). That is why we are to respect and obey the ordinances and laws of our country, the laws of our churches, the rules given us by our fathers.
The authors of the document, however, need to get far from the notion of any authority of men over women; so they have to resort to the pretext that the exercise of authority itself is not appropriate in the Christian community. So they not only substitute leadership for government; but pervert some passages of Scripture to say that it is wrong to exercise authority at all. And the first Scripture that they offer in support of this is Matthew 20:25-28:
“But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. 26 But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; 27 And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: 28 Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
The Feminists claim that this verse plainly shows that no one should exercise dominion or authority in the church; but that is not what this says. The key to understanding the verse lies in the choice of the verbs used by Jesus, whose meaning is somewhat obscured in the AV. Any first year Greek student can tell you that these verbs are compounds of the preposition , kata and a common verb. The basic verbs are kurieuouo which means to exercise lordship and exousiazo, which means to exercise authority. Kata, when used as a prefix, loses its ordinary meaning of “down”, and simply adds emphasis to the verb. The compound verb, katakurieuouo then becomes “lord it over”, and katexousiazo, “play the tyrant”. See A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures of the New Testament, comment on Matthew 20:26. These words do not speak of the use of power, but the abuse of it. Otherwise the verbs would appear without the prefix.
Therefore, the Feminists are wrong in their understanding of this whole paragraph. The contrast is not between exercising authority and what they call “leadership” without exercising authority. The contrast is between two different ways of using lawful authority. One can use it to hurt people, or to help them. One can use it to make them servants, or to become theirs.
It is virtuous in a ruler to use the advantage of authority to make his people prosper. For example, by executing justice on the wicked, he makes the world safer for the good. By advancing good men to positions of power, he prevents the all too common corruption of the government. Without his authority, he could do none of these things. He would not be a servant of the people, he would be a burden on them, and a curse.
So it is with the rulers of the church. They are not to lord it over anyone; they are to use their lawful authority for the peoples’ edification and blessing. Anyone acquainted with the New Testament ought to be familiar with these words of Paul in 2 Corinthiansverse 8:
“For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed:”
If the reader will start at verse 2 and read through to verse 11, he will better understand these words in their context.
A final word about Matthew 20: 28, where Jesus says “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” That he served us to the greatest extent possible, saving us by his humiliation and death, does not at all contradict the fact that He is our Lord and Master. Authority is not inconsistent with self-sacrificing service. They should not be set over against one another.
Next comes Matthew 23:8 “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.”
It would be wrong to take these words literally. That would mean that we could not address our fathers as “father”.(v. 9) This text is meant to inculcate humility. There is nothing wrong with a Christian minister being honored with the epithet, “teacher”, or even “master”. Jesus often uses the antithesis as a way of teaching. He is saying that one ought not to desire, much less insist upon, being honored with the titles of the great. He should instead remember that he is just another servant of the One Master of all.
Mark 10:42–45 is virtually the same as same as Matthew 20:25-28, and so adds nothing to the discussion.
John 13:13–17 reads:
“Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. 14 If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. 16 Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. 17 If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”
It is hard to see how this applies to the subject at hand. It has nothing to do with “the definition of leadership”. It is a very non-egalitarian verse, after all. Jesus says that He is their Master and Lord; not their “leader”. He is washing the disciples’ feet to demonstrate the humble service that He requires of His disciples, who are going to become the rulers of the church after His departure.
He enforces the lesson with the a fortiori argument. ‘If I, who am greater than you, can humble myself to do this; much more ought you.’ Then in one of those few places that He uses what is almost an oath, the emphatic “verily, verily”, He brings home the lesson: “’The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.”
Help me out here. We have servants and masters, people who send people and people who are sent. We have people that are greater than others. Am I missing something? Is it possible that the Feminists do not see that they are shooting themselves in the foot? There is not a word here about “leadership”. There is not a trace of the thing itself. There are explicit references to persons in positions of authority and not one bad word about them. How is this a proof-text for their novel theory of leadership versus authority?
In Galatians 5:13 we are told: “For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.” We might be tempted to dismiss it as obscure, since it proves nothing at all. But in the light of the premise that the Feminists are trying to prove, and the false dichotomy that they are peddling, there is only one way to see this verse: ‘Unless the men who rule the church are willing to surrender their authority (so that they can join with those spiritual persons who are serving one another in love) then they are using their liberty for an occasion to the flesh. Rule is fleshly and loveless. Leadership is loving and unselfish.’
But I’m dying to ask this question. What do the Feminists want to place women in the eldership for? Why can’t they just be leaders without titles? Surely they don’t need positions of authority to exercise “leadership”! I say, lead away! No one’s stopping you. Take your little band of radicals and go somewhere. It’s a free country. Just don’t presume to thrust yourselves into an office from which your sex excludes you, and to change the sacred order instituted by Jesus Christ!
Their last proof-text shows how deliberately perverting God’s word leads to a mind void of judgment. 1 Peter 5:2–3 reads, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; Neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.”
Who in his right mind would find in this text a proof that ministers must not exercise authority? Let me ask you, what is oversight? Is an overseer on the same level as the ones overseen? Or doesn’t the first part of the word indicate a certain superior position? Surely it does. There can be no question of an overseer exercising authority over others. That is what they are paid for. They act according to their orders from the higher authorities, so that they may enforce the orders given to those under their authority, and thus, hopefully, to get the work done.
Oversight implies authority as surely as it implies responsibility. No one would willingly accept a managerial job that demanded of them a certain result; but which didn’t give them the authority to appropriate the monies they will need to buy supplies, etc. or the authority to give orders to the workers and to hold them responsible. Authority must correspond to responsibility.
Here is what these verses really say:
The oversight of God’s people is not to be taken on because some minister presses it upon you against your will, or your better judgment – and not for the salary you expect to receive. It is only to be undertaken willingly, with a sense of Divine calling to it. Nor is the office to be abused, as by severity towards the people under your care. He is not to “lord it over” the flock of God, but to shepherd it. He is there for its sake; not it for his.
As we have seen in the examination of proof-texts in other parts of this document; there is nothing in them that really proves what they are so desperate to prove: the equality of the sexes, and the propriety of women serving as officers in the church.
This completes my exhaustive treatment of the text and proof-texts of the section titled “Community”. Next, I will turn my attention to the section that tells us what ”Christian Feminism” means for the Christian family.
Re-inventing the Family
Biblical Truths: The Family
I wonder if it has ever occurred to the framers of the Manifesto how arrogant and how dangerous it is to advocate the complete reconstruction of society’s fundamental and indispensable institutions! And this remodeling is to be based on an interpretation of Scripture which has no precedent before the nineteenth century, when the secular philosophers of the “enlightenment” began to advocate the revolutionary principle of egalitarianism. The “Christian Feminist” interpretation is sheer Modernism.
They offer us two statements on the family; the basic and most necessary institution in society. It is really astounding that people who claim to believe the Bible can have the hubris to monkey around with this sacred institution, ordained by God himself, in Paradise! What makes it worse is that they are not just fiddling around with a few things that they think need reform: they are striking at the very heart of marriage and the family!
I know I am repeating myself; but let’s review what the Scriptures actually teach about the biblical relationship of husbands and wives. We learned from 1 Corinthians11:7-9 that man has a superior status to woman by order of creation, since he is the image and glory of God; but she is the image and glory of the man. [The words in italics are implied.] She derives the image of God through the man from which she was made. Man was not made to be her helper; but she was made to be Adam’s. She was made different from him in order that she might complement him. Her life is to center in her husband; and from him she is to receive her direction. She is subordinate by the order of creation.
“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”
This is supported by 1 Corinthians 14: 34-35 and by 1 Timothy 2:11-13:
But the Manifesto says otherwise.
Point 11. “The Bible teaches that husbands and wives are heirs together of the grace of life and that they are bound together in a relationship of mutual submission and responsibility.”
I cannot object to the first part of the statement; for it is literally what the Apostle Peter wrote. But it needs no mention, since it has nothing to do with the question under discussion. The second part, however, is radically unbiblical!
“…they are bound together in a relationship of mutual submission and responsibility.”
As I have observed before, the Manifesto generally lacks clarity. The same is true here. The expression, “mutual submission” is not only unclear: I hold that it is nonsense. And it is not clear whether “mutual responsibility” is meant, or that we should read it – “in a relationship of …responsibility”? Probably the former is meant, but a statement of this kind ought to be written with more care.
Now, why do I say that “mutual submission” is nonsense? Because it is impossible for two people to submit to each other at the same time. If the relationship is defined by this principle, then it would seem to be a universal principle that governs the relationship at all times. If not, then what determines who is going to submit at any given time? Who is to decide?
Are they supposed to have an argument, and whoever wins gets to either submit or make the decision? Perhaps they could take turns submitting to each other. Or they could just be like the two very polite chipmunks in the cartoons, each insisting that the other go through the door first, until something happens that forces them to squeeze through together.
But, in another place in the Manifesto, the answer to this question is explicit:
“In case of decisional deadlock they should seek resolution through biblical methods of conflict resolution rather than by one spouse imposing a decision upon the other.”
I can only assume that these biblical methods involve a third party in the business of the family whenever the wife chooses to disagree with her husband. Then, this rebellious wife is going to try to get another person or persons to side with her and persuade her husband!
No, submission means that one person makes the decision and the other submits. And the thing that determines who is to do the decision-making is the status of the persons. Any other arrangement is not only impossible: it tortures the meaning of the word “submission” in English, and the Greek word hupotasso. This word derives from the prefix hupo that means “under” and the word tasso, which means “to arrange”. In the passive voice, as here, it means “to subject oneself”.
As to the phrase, “mutual responsibility”, I can agree that both parties have a responsibility to each other. More, they are responsible to God to serve one another in love. He is to serve her by ruling her and the rest of the family well, in a way that is always considerate of her. She is to serve him by submitting to him in everything.
But if the expression means that their responsibilities to each other are the same, then I must reject it, as it implies that they are equal in status also.
As I said, it was not Christians, but the heathen, who first advocated the equality of the sexes. It did not come out of the prayerful study of the word of God. It was seized upon by people in the church who were already inclined to accept it. Accordingly, we should not be surprised that they can find no real support for their positions in Scripture. So they must pile up supposed proof-texts in order to impress the ignorant and vulnerable; as if the number of texts matters, when there is no support for their radicalism in any of them. Ten times zero is still zero!
Nevertheless, I promised at the outset to do a thorough job; not evading anything. So here we go again! The first text to consider is 1 Corinthians 7:3–5:
“Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife. Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency.”
There is indeed an equality in marriage in this respect. One partner cannot deny the other that which is due by the nature of marriage. The traditional wedding vows for both the man and the woman include the words, “to have and to hold”. But this does not prove a generalized equality beyond this one sphere. The traditional wedding vows also require the woman to promise obedience to the man in the words,“to love, honor, and obey”.
Next we have Ephesians 5:21 “…Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”
Talk about taking verses out of context! The very next verse reads: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” Now, I think that any reasonable person would agree that, whatever verse 21 means, it cannot contradict the very next verse. So what we have here is a case of “cherry picking”. There is a rule in hermeneutics that says we should interpret the obscure in the light of the clear. I do not admit that there is anything obscure in verse 21, once we take everything into account (of which more later); but I claim that there is not a verse in the Bible whose meaning is more clear than v. 22: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.”
But what the Manifesto asserts is the exact opposite of this command to wives. Whereas this verse says that there is a one-way kind of submission – that of the wife to the husband – the Manifesto says that the submission goes both ways. But this verse says that she is to submit to her husband as to the Lord, that is, once again in a one-way kind of submission; for who would ever suggest that the Lord is to submit to her as well! Isn’t this reminiscent of 1 Corinthians 11:3, which says that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is the man?
What, then, does Ephesians 5:21 mean? It seems to me that it is an introductory remark related to the following passage, 5:21 to 6:9, which prescribes duties to all classes of men. Several of these duties involve submission to authority: in particular that of wives to husbands, verse 5:22-24, 33; children to their parents, 6:1-3; bond-servants to masters, 6:5-8. In each of these cases, one group is commanded to submit; and the other group is then commanded to rule over the subordinate persons in Christian love – not abusing their authority. Notice that, in each case, the command to submit is placed first, in the emphatic position; while the cautions against the abuse of power are treated second. This may be because submission is the hardest thing in all the world for a sinner to do.
Taking account the emphasis on submission throughout this passage, I suggest that the meaning of verse 21 is something like this: “In the following duties that require the submission of one to another, let the fear of God motivate you.” This is an interpretation that is in harmony with verses 22 and following, and which emphasizes the last clause of verse 21, that submission is to be “in the fear of God”.
Lest anyone think that this view is novel, or that it originated with me; here is Albert Barnes’ commentary, written in the 19th century:
“Submitting yourselves one to another – Maintaining due subordination in the various relations of life. This general principle of religion, the apostle proceeds now to illustrate in reference to wives Ephesians 5:22-24; to children Ephesians 6:1-3; and to servants, Ephesians 6:5-8. At the same time that he enforces this duty of submission, however, he enjoins on others to use their authority in a proper manner, and gives solemn injunctions that there should be no abuse of power. Particularly he enjoins on husbands the duty of loving their wives with all tenderness Ephesians 5:25-33; on fathers, the duty of treating their children so that they might easily obey them Ephesians 6:4; and on masters, the duty of treating their servants with kindness, remembering that they have a Master also in heaven; Ephesians 6:9. The general meaning here is, that Christianity does not break up the relations of life, and produce disorder, lawlessness, and insubordination; but that it will confirm every proper authority, and make every just yoke lighter. Infidelity is always disorganizing; Christianity, never.”
Next we come to 1 Peter 3:1–7:
1“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. 3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; 4 But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. 5 For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: 6 Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. 7 Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life; that your prayers be not hindered.”
I admit that I’m puzzled by this. Perhaps the reference contained a typo. This could not possibly be a proof-text for Feminism, could it? Verses 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6 are explicitly in favor of the traditional teaching. That’s 5 out of 7. Verse 3 is not directly relevant. That leaves verse 7, which tells husbands how they must treat their wives, who, being the weaker vessel, need special consideration and understanding. No one disagrees with that, right? So I’m left scratching my head.
And finally we come to Genesis 21:12.
“And God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called.”
This one is a really a reach: it’s grasping at straws! What could better show the weakness of their position?
For what does the text say? “God said… hearken to her voice”, “her” being Sarah his wife. So this was the normal relationship that they had? Or was the norm what Peter says it was: “For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.”
But what else does the text say? There is a lot of biblical background to this; so I will try to be selective and as brief as possible. At the time of his call, Abraham was given a promise that he would become a great nation (Genesis 12:1-3). But he was old, and so was his wife. It seemed to both of them that what was promised was impossible. Chapter 16 records Sarah’s decision to help Abraham beget a son, so that God could fulfill His promise, that Abraham would become a great nation through the promised seed. Since Sarah was past the time of child-bearing, she gave her bond-maid, Hagar, to Abraham as a concubine (a sort of legal “wife” without all the rights of a wife).
A son was born of that union, who was named Ishmael. Abraham hoped that this would be the one through whom the promise would be fulfilled. But when Abraham was ninety-nine and the boy thirteen, Abraham was explicitly told that Ishmael would not be his heir – the one through whom the promise would be fulfilled. He was promised that he would have a son by Sarah, whose name would be Isaac, and that this would be the heir. (Genesis 17:18-21).
Now, when Isaac was weaned, Abraham held a feast in his honor. On this special occasion, Ishmael mocked the child; which greatly displeased Sarah, who now understood that Isaac, and Isaac only, was the one that God had chosen to be the heir.
It is only with this history in mind that the proof-text can be understood. Here is the text in its immediate context:
“And Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, which she had born unto Abraham, mocking. 10 Wherefore she said unto Abraham, Cast out this bondwoman and her son: for the son of this bondwoman shall not be heir with my son, even with Isaac.
11 And the thing was very grievous in Abraham’s sight because of his son. 12 and God said unto Abraham, Let it not be grievous in thy sight because of the lad, and because of thy bondwoman; in all that Sarah hath said unto thee, hearken unto her voice; for in Isaac shall thy seed be called. 13 And also of the son of the bondwoman will I make a nation, because he is thy seed.
14 And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba.” (Genesis 21:9-14)
Now, we see that this occasion of Sarah’s apparent insubordination was occasioned by her faith in the promises of God at a time when Abraham was more concerned about his first son than the covenant and promise of the Lord. She was quite right in insisting that the two boys would not be co-heirs. In this, she was faithfully reminding her husband of the word of God, which she had personally heard the Lord speak shortly before Isaac was born (Genesis 18:9-14).
But even then, Abraham was not able to act against his natural affection for Ishmael (v. 11). So God intervened and told Abraham that his wife was right; and he would have to reconcile himself to the fact that Ishmael had a different destiny from Isaac. Accordingly, Abraham acknowledged that his wife was right, and obeyed the command of the Lord.
It should be clear, then, that this was an exceptional case, in a matter of great significance, rather than the usual way that their relationship operated. This is the only time in the somewhat detailed account that Scripture gives of the life of Abraham when she even seemed to set herself on a level with her husband. This text is, therefore, in no respect proof of the so-called “relationship of mutual submission and responsibility” of which the Manifesto speaks.
Point 12. “The Bible teaches that both mothers and fathers are to exercise leadership in the nurture, training, discipline and teaching of their children.“
What does this mean, and why is it important? First let’s consider what it means to the CBE. It means that both parents are equal in the realm of child-rearing. This is one of the tenets already stated, and which they are aiming to prove. ”The phrase “exercise leadership” is used to disguise the fact that there is no final authority in their version of the family.
It says that “both mothers and fathers are to exercise leadership in the nurture, training, discipline and teaching of their children.” Now, the truth is that both mother and father have authority over their children. Her authority is limited by his ultimate authroity as the head of the family: it is a delegated authority. When it comes to their children, they are both more than mere “leaders”. But, even the word “leadership” means nothing if not the making of decisions. And the one making the decisions is in control, at least, if he can persuade someone to follow him.
A casual reader would assume that the leadership (control) involved was simply leadership (control) of the children; but this is not what it says.
It says “leadership in” [the process of ] “nurture, training, discipline and teaching”. But if both parents can make decisions about the same thing independently, is this not a design for confusion and strife? On the other hand, if they make decisions together; but every time there is a disagreement they must appeal to an outside authority, then the family is effectively under the authority of whatever outside agent they appeal to at any given time. Thus we see that the tenet of equality in marriage is not only unnatural and unbiblical, but illogical as well.
If this point were granted, however, then it would follow that the parents must be equal in every other respect; for the decisions relative to child-rearing are among the most important that must be made on a daily basis. But this is unworkable. If the man has no final word, and the woman has veto power, then will this not lead to strife, as each parent attempts to win out over the other? And if, as this document elsewhere states, whenever a deadlock is reached, counsel must be sought outside the home, then both will come to the advisor(s) as adversaries, if not enemies. Then what becomes of marital harmony?
But the authors of this document want us to believe that this is all biblical. Here are the proof-texts they offer.
Exodus 20:12 “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.”
Here we have a commandment to honor both parents and nothing more. I do not know of anyone who would disagree with this. But what it contributes to the discussion is obscure to me. Father and mother are both worthy of honor; but this verse says nothing at all about the point in question.
Leviticus 19:3 “Ye shall fear every man his mother, and his father, and keep my sabbaths: I am the LORD your God.”
This is to the same effect as the first; and one wonders why the obvious would need repeating.
Deuteronomy 6:6–9 “And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.”
These words require all Israelites to know and constantly remind themselves and others of the law of God. They were to teach them to their children. Again, nothing here is involved in the controversy. No doubt women were also obligated to keep the law; and to share in the teaching of the children, especially when they were small. But it says nothing for or against the supervisory role of the father, which extended to all things in the household. (Ephesians 5:24)
Deuteronomy 21:18–21 “If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and that, when they have chastened him, will not hearken unto them: Then shall his father and his mother lay hold on him, and bring him out unto the elders of his city, and unto the gate of his place; And they shall say unto the elders of his city, This our son is stubborn and rebellious, he will not obey our voice; he is a glutton, and a drunkard. And all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die: so shalt thou put evil away from among you; and all Israel shall hear, and fear.”
Granted, both of the parents complain to the magistrates that their son would not obey their voice. So mothers as well as fathers have authority over their son, as I have3 already admitted. The question is – does the father exercise authority over the wife in such matters as instruction and discipline? I maintain that the woman exercises authority in the absence of her husband according to the rules laid down by the husband. And in his presence, she has nothing to say; for her superior will take over.
Moreover, this law teaches us that parents are always to take God’s side, even if it means bad consequences for their own flesh and blood (Deuteronomy 13:6-10). In this case, a son who is incorrigible, must be brought to justice – in this case, death. No one could be put to death without two or three witnesses. The parents would be the last persons to accuse their own son falsely, so they would be the most reliable witnesses against him. The mere knowledge that his parents held his life in their hands should have been a strong deterrent to his vicious ways. But he still went on in his wickedness, and was cut off. The mere fact that both parents gave witness against him proves nothing to the point.
27:16 “Cursed be the man that maketh any graven or molten image, an abomination unto the LORD, the work of the hands of the craftsman, and putteth it in a secret place. And all the people shall answer and say, Amen.”
Presumably, there is supposed to be some significance in the fact that “all the people” (including women) are to say, Amen. But the traditional interpretation does not conflict with this biblical fact. There is no suggestion that because they join in a liturgy, they are therefore equal, in the respect that I am defending. It shows how weak their case is, when they have to heap up all these irrelevant Scriptures in defense of it. But then, most people are not going to bother to check them.
Proverbs 1:8 “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother:“
Proverbs 6:20 “My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother:”
Ephesians 6:1–4 “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
Colossians 3:20 “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord.”
2 Timothy 1:5 “When I call to remembrance the unfeigned faith that is in thee, which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice; and I am persuaded that in thee also.”
I will not bother commenting on these last five, because not a one of them proves the equality of husband and wife in marriage or even in child-rearing. In fact, I should probably not have commented on any of them; for not one of all these texts prove anything against the traditional view or for the egalitarian view. As I have said before, the Feminists are reading their own doctrines into these texts, and making them say what they were never meant to say.
This concludes the part of the Manifesto that purports to teach us “biblical truths” of which we had not before been cognizant.
Are Men and Women called to the Same Ministry roles?
Application: The Community
It is time to pass on to the part of the Manifesto called “Application”. Having (as they imagine) proved their doctrine from the Bible, they now pass on to concentrate on its practical implications.
The Manifesto ends with this section, called “Application”, with five statements: the first two dealing with Community issues, and the final three with the Family.
Before I respond to the Manifesto itself, it is of vital importance to consider how things stand. The reader, if he has patiently followed me through my critique, will be aware that I have not been timid about stating conclusions based on the Scriptures themselves as I progressed in my critique. That is because this is not an investigation; it is a refutation. I have made no pretense that the Manifesto might be right after all, and the traditional view wrong. All that is necessary is for anyone to open the Scriptures and read them, in the fear of God, to know who is right. The point of this critique was not to find out where the truth lies.
I wrote this to show, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that the Manifesto is wrong throughout; and that it is also revolutionary, and dangerous. I wrote it for the benefit of those who might be influenced in favor of the Manifesto through ignorance of the Scriptures or through lack of skill in applying the principles of logic and right reason to the questions it raises. I wrote it to show the true character of those people who want to overthrow the Divine order, so that my reader will be better able to recognize the wolf in sheep’s clothing the next time he meets with it.
The first application is to the community, by which is apparently meant the church. I can only speculate about why it is so titled.
Point 1. “In the church, spiritual gifts of women and men are to be recognized, developed and used in serving and teaching ministries at all levels of involvement: as small group leaders, counselors, facilitators, administrators, ushers, communion servers, and board members, and in pastoral care, teaching, preaching, and worship.
In so doing, the church will honor God as the source of spiritual gifts. The church will also fulfill God’s mandate of stewardship without the appalling loss to God’s kingdom that results when half of the church’s members are excluded from positions of responsibility.”
I have called the authors of this document “Feminists”. If you doubt it, then please explain to me why they have deliberately chosen the phrase, “women and men”, where most of us would naturally say “men and women”? After all, they call themselves “Christian Feminists”: I did not invent the label. Whether any of them are Christians is not mine to judge; but the message of their Manifesto is not only unchristian, but unnatural and immoral. Feminism and other forms of egalitarianism are never Christian; for the Bible does not teach egalitarianism.
Egalitarian doctrine has been responsible for the shedding of more blood than any other dogma. Communism and fascism are both professedly egalitarian. It is no accident that they are also atheistic. Tens of millions were murdered and countless numbers tortured or maimed during the last century in the name of the equality of all people, and, by the way, the equality of men and women.
Egalitarianism is revolutionary. It calls for the restructuring of the entire social order. Some Feminists insist that the number of women must be equal to the number of men in every vocation and that women must be paid the same as men who do the same work. They say that any discrepancy in those numbers is an injustice. This is nothing less than a complete rejection of God’s sovereignty, for God appointed women to work at home (Titus 2:5); and He makes both the rich and the poor (Proverbs 22:2. See also Matthew 20:1-16).
God has distributed His gifts to human beings unequally, according to His sovereign will. One is born poor; another rich. The one has little liberty, being bound by his circumstances to spend most of his time providing the basic necessities of life; the other has enough, and is able to do what he wants with his time. Children are not equal to adults. Ignorant people are not the equal of educated persons. God has ordained all these conditions, as it has pleased Him. It is well if someone can improve himself and gain more liberty to serve God; but in general, God has called us to be content in our present callings. It is no shame to the laborer to be under a superintendent. It is no shame to be poor. In God’s eyes, the faithful poor man is better than a rich man who does not believe.
To say that women are inferior in status to men is simply to acknowledge that God has ordained a natural order in human society and the human family which must be respected. It is not about ability, per se. There have been women better able to rule over a nation than most men. Some wives are more competent, wiser, more godly than their husbands. It is unfortunate for such women; but it cannot be lawfully remedied. God’s order must be respected. She must obey her husband in all things. That fact in itself precludes women from divorcing their husbands, which is the ultimate act of disobedience.
There is likewise a general subordination of women to men as a class. This is expressed in the exclusion of women from the offices of the church, the biblical custom of the covering of the head on the part of women and in the silence of women in the church. These things should be encouraged by ministers of the gospel; not discouraged and undermined, as they are in this Manifesto, which says:
“The… spiritual gifts of women and men are to be recognized, developed and used in serving and teaching ministries at all levels of involvement: as small group leaders, counselors, facilitators, administrators, ushers, communion servers, and board members, and in pastoral care, teaching, preaching, and worship.”
Let’s strip away the non-essentials and get down to the core of the matter.
“The…spiritual gifts of women… are to be… used in… teaching ministries at all levels of involvement: as small group leaders, counselors, facilitators, administrators, ushers, communion servers, and board members, and in pastoral care, teaching, preaching, and worship.”
This I emphatically deny. But, buried in the excess verbiage, is an honest statement of what the Feminists intend to achieve; a statement consistent with the doctrines that they advocate, which are refuted in the earlier parts of this series.
The Manifesto assumes, without proof, that women are given the gifts of government, prophesying (“preaching”) and other gifts which qualify them for the offices that are currently dominated by men. Many men make the same mistake, sometimes mistaking natural gifts for spiritual gifts, and aspiring to offices for which they are not fitted. I deny that God gifts and calls women to those offices from which He has chosen to exclude them, categorically and perpetually.
“In so doing, the church will honor God as the source of spiritual gifts. The church will also fulfill God’s mandate of stewardship without the appalling loss to God’s kingdom that results when half of the church’s members are excluded from positions of responsibility.”
The church honors God as the source of spiritual gifts when she recognizes and honors those who use them biblically. But according to these people, the church has never recognized in women the same spiritual gifts that it has recognized in men. If this were true, it would indeed be a tragedy! The promise of the Holy Spirit to lead the church into all truth will have failed! In that case, it would inevitably follow that women would have been abominably treated by even the best Christians we can name until now! Does anybody really believe this stuff?
“… the appalling loss to God’s kingdom…”! Please, ladies! Less drama and more reasonable discussion!
It is absurd to make these preposterous claims! First of all, how are we to know that women receive the gifts that belong to the ruling offices of the church? By whose authority are these claims to be substantiated? It is a very tenuous basis that you demand we acknowledge – your own opinions of yourselves, and the opinions of other like-minded persons. Well, I for one am not impressed. For me, and many others, the final authority in matters of religion is the holy Scriptures.
You Feminists claim that by the traditional view of women in the church “half of the church’s members are excluded from positions of responsibility.” Do you hear this, all you women who are content to be wives, mothers and homemakers? This is the opinion that your Feminist sisters have of you. Is your vocation not a responsible one? I have a feeling that you would not only not agree with that evaluation, but that you would resent it. You are responsible to be supportive to your husband in his calling; to make his home a place of refuge from the world, and to rear his children with such a thorough training in sound morals and fundamental knowledge that they will be capable of living responsibly and changing the world for good.
The Feminists flee from this “lowly” calling as unworthy of them; but in fact, they are unworthy of it. They are deserters, having abandoned their biblical role for one that is forbidden to them. They think that they could never be happy as house wives; and this is probably true. If they attempted marriage, it would probably not last two years. What man could live with such a woman, who is constantly contradicting him, doing things behind his back, neglecting the house, spending all his money, and refusing the duty that belongs to her sex unless she can get something for it! There are some men who have so little self-respect; but (I hope) not many.
This is the real tragedy, the “appalling loss to the kingdom of God”! The destruction of the family, the sowing of the seeds of conflict between man and woman! There will be a bitter harvest in ruined lives and institutions as the Feminist vision is increasingly realized. When all the women are judges and congressmen and bishops and CEOs, who will mind the children? Who will meet their husbands’ needs? Who will keep the house? Other women, probably hired women, who will not care about some other woman’s children; though they may be willing to take care of another woman’s husband!
And when women usurp authority over men, no good can come of it; but only a deep resentment in the hearts of the men so disgraced as to be placed under their authority. When women are advanced over men preferentially, either because of some quota, or because the big boss wants a sex kitten in the office, the strength of the institution cannot but suffer. She may not be the best qualified person for the job; but she is there, taking up space, nonetheless.
The next statement goes further:
Point 2. “In the church, public recognition is to be given to both women and men who exercise ministries of service and leadership. In so doing, the church will model the unity and harmony that should characterize the community of believers. In a world fractured by discrimination and segregation, the church will dissociate itself from worldly or pagan devices designed to make women feel inferior for being female. It will help prevent their departure from the church or their rejection of the Christian faith.
I have said enough about the subject of the first two sentences. I want to concentrate on the last two, which read:
“In a world fractured by discrimination and segregation, the church will dissociate itself from worldly or pagan devices designed to make women feel inferior for being female. It will help prevent their departure from the church or their rejection of the Christian faith.”
According to this Manifesto, “the church” needs to “dissociate itself from worldly or pagan devices designed to make women feel inferior for being female.”
This seems reasonable enough to most people, I suppose. Who wants to make women feel inferior for being female? Who wants to drive women from the church or to reject the Christian faith? The only problem is, the “worldly or pagan devices designed to make women feel inferior” are those things taught in Scripture which they are attacking throughout the Manifesto; and which I have been defending: the subordination of women, their exclusion from the ministry and the practice of covering the head.
In other words, it is worldly and pagan to expect my wife to obey me. It is worldly and pagan to prevent women from preaching. The biblical custom of covering the head is worldly and pagan. And what else? Dressing like a woman, with long hair, and with modesty? That’s probably worldly and pagan too; since Feminists have generally and visibly rejected that as well.
Anything that reminds a woman of her inferior status and subservient role is a worldly and pagan device designed to oppress women! Did you catch that? “Designed”, it says. Apparently, worldly and pagan men designed these things to conquer women and rob them of their dignity. But these institutions have, for the substance of them, existed from the foundation of the world! How is it that no prophet of God ever inveighed against these “worldly and pagan” practices? Will you dare to say that it is because the prophets were mostly men? Men they were; but they spoke under inspiration against all kinds of errors and abuses. Why not these? Abuses that destroyed and ruined women like this – is it reasonable to think that God can have passed over them for thousands of years without comment?
And how did these wicked practices become incorporated into the congregation of the Lord? How could the Apostles of Jesus Christ have defended these “worldly and pagan” differences based on sex?
The answer is that these things are neither worldly nor pagan, nor are they designed to rob women of their self-respect. They are God-ordained and holy, and designed for the blessing of men, women and children. Men must be free to make their own decisions and their own mistakes without running into opposition from their wives. They need her feminine contributions to their lives – beauty, sympathetic conversation, erotic love, a clean and orderly home, and a woman’s unique devotion to their children. This is what a wife is for, and it is a high calling that will take all that she can give! A woman that can accomplish all of these things will find a contentment and fulfillment that nothing else can ever give her. And happy is the child who is born to parents who live together in love and harmony, according to God’s holy word!
How to Create Chaos in the Home
Application: The Family
The Manifesto concludes with a section, called “Applications”which contains three statements on the Family.
Point 3. “In the Christian home, husband and wife are to defer to each other in seeking to fulfill each other’s preferences, desires and aspirations. Neither spouse is to seek to dominate the other but each is to act as servant of the other, in humility considering the other as better than oneself. In case of decisional deadlock they should seek resolution through biblical methods of conflict resolution rather than by one spouse imposing a decision upon the other. In so doing, husband and wife will help the Christian home stand against improper use of power and authority by spouses and will protect the home from wife and child abuse that sometimes tragically follows a hierarchical interpretation of the husband’s “headship.””
This statement confirms that I have neither caricatured nor exaggerated the “Christian Feminist” position on the order God has ordained for the home. Notice the following key words and phrases descriptive of the biblical relationship of husband and wife:
to seek to dominate the other
imposing a decision upon the other
improper use of power and authority
wife and child abuse
hierarchical interpretation of the husband’s “headship.”
Let’s examine each of them, one by one, in their contexts, and the broader context of the teaching of the Manifesto, in order to ascertain their true meaning.
“In the Christian home, husband and wife are to defer to each other in seeking to fulfill each other’s preferences, desires and aspirations. Neither spouse is to seek to dominate the other but each is to act as servant of the other, in humility considering the other as better than oneself.”
This creates a false dichotomy between serving each other in love and humility on the one hand, and exercising authority and accepting subordination on the other. But there is no incompatibility between the two. The husband serves by bearing the burden of authority, provision and protection of the family. The wife serves by being his companion and lover, by honoring him, by making and keeping a beautiful home, bearing children, and caring for the young. There is a difference between ruling and domination. One may rule unselfishly; but “domination” implies self-will.
“In case of decisional deadlock they should seek resolution through biblical methods of conflict resolution rather than by one spouse imposing a decision upon the other.”
The word, “impose” can have a negative connotation or a positive one, depending on the context. It is clear that the Feminists, with their theory of “mutual submission” view it as a bad thing for a husband to tell his wife what to do. In their opinion, any time that the husband and wife cannot agree on a course of action, they must take up the matter with some person or persons outside the family!
What then? Does the process of conflict resolution that they envision involve a decision made by the third party and imposed on both of them? Or do they have to go back and try once more to decide on a mutually acceptable answer to the original conflict? Or do they argue about whether to follow the mediator’s recommendation or not? And who chooses the mediator or judge? The opinion of the third party might depend on who that person is. Will the husband and wife dispute the choice of the third party and have one more thing to fight about?
Anybody should be able to see that this whole idea of sexual equality and mutual submission is ridiculous! The natural and biblical arrangement of a husband exercising a sympathetic, considerate authority over the family, under God, and in the fear of God, cannot be improved upon. It is efficient and practical. The godly husband only asserts his authority when it is necessary to do so. He does not arbitrarily impose his will; but there are times when a decision must be made, and there is no time to discuss it. Or it may be that there has been a thorough discussion, and the wife still does not agree with her husband. Then the husband needs to have the fortitude to do what he thinks is best; and she must accept the decision and leave the matter to God.
All the while, she must believe that her husband is trying to do what is right; for “love believeth all things”. And if it turns out that he was wrong, he alone will bear the burden of having erred. There can be no argument about whose fault it was. This is how men learn from their mistakes, and grow.
“In so doing, husband and wife will help the Christian home stand against improper use of power and authority by spouses”
Let’s notice the blatant inconsistency here. If there is such a thing as the “improper use of power and authority”, then there must be a proper use of it. But this whole document contends that there is no authority in the home; only mutual leadership and mutual servitude. How is this explained? According to the document, any use of power or authority is oppression, domination, and imposing upon another free and equal party.
”In so doing, husband and wife will help the Christian home stand against improper use of power and authority by spouses and will protect the home from wife and child abuse that sometimes tragically follows a hierarchical interpretation of the husband’s “headship.”
Let’s begin with the last phrase, for it is key: “a hierarchical interpretation of the husband’s ‘headship.’” This is the way the document describes the biblical doctrine of male headship. Notice that “headship” is in quotes. That’s because they have their own definition of headship; and regard our view as unworthy of the name. Now, this view of ours is associated with wife and child abuse. True, it does not say that it causes them (only follows from them); nor does it say that this always happens. But it definitely implies that, if their system were adopted, these things would not happen – that the home would be protected from these evils; which however, our system is at least partially responsible for. Will anyone still dispute that this is a revolutionary document, intended to overturn godly order in our families?
Point 4. “In the Christian home, spouses are to learn to share the responsibilities of leadership on the basis of gifts, expertise, and availability, with due regard for the partner most affected by the decision under consideration. In so doing, spouses will learn to respect their competencies and their complementarity. This will prevent one spouse from becoming the perennial loser, often forced to practice ingratiating or deceitful manipulation to protect self-esteem. By establishing their marriage on a partnership basis, the couple will protect it from joining the tide of dead or broken marriages resulting from marital inequities.”
The paragraph begins:
“In the Christian home, spouses are to learn to share the responsibilities of leadership on the basis of gifts, expertise, and availability, with due regard for the partner most affected by the decision under consideration.”
Instead of the scriptural assignment of primary responsibility and authority, “spouses are to learn to share the responsibilities of leadership”.
And this sharing is to be based on “gifts, expertise, and availability”. I take this to mean that, instead of being based on the objective fact of each person’s sex, as the Scriptures teach, it is to be based on the subjective evaluation of multiple factors, of which Scripture makes no mention.
Finally, decision making is not to be based on the fixed principles of the Bible, but “with due regard for the partner most affected by the decision”. This means that, if the wife feels hurt by the decision of her husband, then the integrity of her husband must be compromised so that she gets a pass. The infallible weapons of a woman are two-fold: defrauding her husband and shedding tears. This statement virtually legitimizes them.
Then we are told that “In so doing, spouses will learn to respect their competencies and their complementarity.” It ought to read “each other’s competencies”. As written, it could mean that they learn to repect their own. I only point this out because it is another example of the carelessness with which this supposedly definitive document was drawn up.
But my main criticism of this statement is that it assumes that there cannot be due respect and real complementarity unless sex roles are abolished, and men and women become interchangeable parts in a marriage. This is nonsense. Men and women are different in so many ways – both physical and psychological – that the division of labor according to sex roles is the natural order of things. Men are generally not as good as women at things that women do; and women are not as good as men at what men do. The strength of women is in their femininity; and the strength of men is in their masculinity. There is no such thing as sexual equality: nature is against it, and so is God’s word. For the order of nature was ordained by the Creator.
Further, we are told,
“This will prevent one spouse from becoming the perennial loser, often forced to practice ingratiating or deceitful manipulation to protect self-esteem.”
Wow. So the submissive wife is a “perennial loser.” Who knew that marriage was supposed to be a contest? And God’s order “forces” – forces! the poor “perennial loser” to become dishonest? And she must do this to protect her self-esteem? I thought that the way of blessedness was in submitting to the Lord’s will. I always thought that self-esteem is destroyed when we do things contrary to conscience; when we lower ourselves morally by committing sins: for example, a wife stooping to dirty tricks, deceit, sexual blackmail, etc. to control and manipulate her husband. How that could protect her self-esteem I cannot imagine.
Now, we get to learn a new phrase: “marital inequities”.
“By establishing their marriage on a partnership basis, the couple will protect it from joining the tide of dead or broken marriages resulting from marital inequities.”
It is obvious that by this is meant the inequality inherent in the relationship defined by masculine headship. This is said to be the cause of “the tide of dead and broken marriages”. They have to say “dead and” because the numbers simply don’t support the idea that traditional marriages are more often broken than “partnership marriages”(to use their expression). Dead marriages are of course, something for which reliable statistices are conveniently unavailable. The known causes of dead and broken marriages are such things as easy divorce, women in the workplace (giving them economic independence and temptation to adultery), pornography and the rampant promotion of the sexual dimension of life, and marriages based on romance rather than wisdom. For thousands of years, men and women have lived in marriage to the same spouse for life. In Christian societies, divorce was a disgrace, and sometimes even illegal. These marriages produced more children per couple than ours do. The economic destruction of both parties that is so often a by-product of divorce was unknown. Children grew up in stable homes, without the sexual confusion that results when parents refuse to accept the sex roles that God has ordained.
Contrary to the dreams of the Feminists, the sure way to destroy marriages is to sweep away the basic and necessary foundations of marriage, namely, the natural order and God’s word, as they do.
Point 5. “In the Christian home, couples who share a lifestyle characterized by the freedom they find in Christ will do so without experiencing feelings of guilt or resorting to hypocrisy.
I object to the use of the term, “lifestyle” when what is being considered is really much more serious – namely, what I prefer to call a “way of life”. A lifesyle has to do with what is superficial, like a hairstyle, or a style of dress. A way of life is really a reflection of culture, the sum total of societal norms. What the Feminists advocate is not merely a change of lifestyle; but of a way of life that has worked well (allowing for the sinfulness of both men and women) for hundreds of generations. The word “lifestyle” tends to minimize the radical nature of the Feminist vision.
These “partnership marriages” are supposed to be “characterized by the freedom they find in Christ”. There is no such freedom to make marriage what we want it to be. This is not freedom, but license. The theological term is antinomianism, which means any teaching that diminishes or destroys the obligation of Christians to keep the moral law of God, either in part, or as a whole. The words of the Apostle Peter apply here: “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.” (2 Peter 2:19) The freedom found in Christ is a freedom from the dominion of sin. Jesus saves us so that we may become holy, sanctified by His word. This is the true liberty, and our highest happiness.
The advantage of partnership marriages, we are told, is that couples who engage in it “will do so without experiencing feelings of guilt or resorting to hypocrisy.” Why would they have feelings of guilt, if the Bible so clearly supports them in it? Following one’s conscience does not cause guilt feelings. When you are a Christian, and the whole world is against you; but you are assured that you are doing what is right, God’s spirit will assure you, and give you peace. If you are oppressed by feelings of guilt, it’s probably because you are doing something that you know to be wrong, or at least, that you don’t know to be right.
Another advantage of the partnership marriage is that the couple is “freed to emerge from an unbiblical ‘traditionalism’ and can rejoice in their mutual accountability in Christ”. This is just more of the same stuff – the condemnation of traditional marriage as unbiblical, etc. By now, it needs no comment.
Finally, the Manifesto declares that adopting the partnership marriage lifstyle will allow the couple to “openly express their obedience to Scripture, will model an example for other couples in quest of freedom in Christ, and will stand against patterns of domination and inequality sometimes imposed upon church and family.” Yikes! What a perversion of the truth this is!
First, the partnership marriage is “obedience to Scripture”. We have seen already that this is the diametrical opposite of the truth.
Second, it is said to be “an example for other couples in quest of freedom in Christ”. God forbid! One bad apple spoils the barrel. It is too true that sinners (and the saints are still sinners) will be tempted to that which is sinful.
Third, it will allow them to “stand against patterns of domination and inequality sometimes imposed upon church and family.” Once again, headship is equated with “domination”; as if a man cannot be both strong and decisive, and yet kind at the same time! And does not this reflect a fundamental distrust of men, if not a dislike of them? I suspect that this is the reason why so many women are unwillingly to marry men who are manly.
I don’t deny that there are men who are chronic – or even criminal abusers of their wives. It is all too common in our day, and growing worse as our nation moves away from God. Even good men often wrong their wives, because no one is pefect. But – and this is not meant to justify the wrongs of men – is it not just as true that women frequently wrong their husbands? This fact, the fact of human sinfulness, is no justification for abandoning God’s institution; or remodeling it in the attempt to make it perfect. Nothing on earth will ever work as it should while people are sinners. We all sin every day in thought, word, and deed.
This concludes our examination and critique of the Feminist Manifesto, known as “Men, Women and Biblical Equality”. There only remains the postscript, which precedes a list of the authors and then of the signatories to the document. You may be interested in their names. Some of them you will recognize.
The Manifesto closes with these words:
“We believe that biblical equality as reflected in this document is true to Scripture.
“We stand united in our conviction that the Bible, in its totality, is the liberating Word that provides the most effective way for women and men to exercise their gifts distributed by the Holy Spirit and thus to serve God.”
On the other hand, I believe that “biblical equality” is a myth that is opposed to Scripture, and devastating to the family, the church, and the broader society. The church in all ages before our own has always affirmed and protected traditional sex roles. I believe that the claim of “faithfulness to Scripture” for such a vile, unbiblical and destructive doctrine is tantamount to blasphemy. I believe that men and women must use their gifts within the framework that God has really ordained; and that they greatly err who think otherwise.
I believe that this refutation is justified by the fact that the CBE still propagates this document in several languages around the world. Something ought to be available that refutes it directly. I am not aware of any other such thorough refutation extant. It has been an arduous work; but I hope to be rewarded by the help it will give to some who need to be equipped to stand against it; and by some who may be kept by it from making one of the biggest mistakes anyone can make in life – namely, by marrying a spouse who does not understand how marriage is supposed to work, or who is unwilling to accept the role that belongs to his or her sex.
Howard Douglas King
Last revised on May 10, 2022