I Learned Feminism From Jesus

(I think the true title of this article, in good puritanical form, would best be entitled “I Learned Feminism From Jesus or How the Failure of the Church and Weak Teaching Is Making People Lose Faith in the Church and the Bible.”)

Early mornings for me are normally made up of bleary-eyed blinks, sore-throated grumbles and boiling-hot showers. This particular morning I had made it through the initial steps of waking up and had moved to munching on a bowl of cereal. The “ding” of my computer let me know I had some emails to catch up on. This particular morning I was thrilled to see some old friends had emailed me.

It should never be surprising to see friends shift and change from the truths they believed and behaviors they once had. Still, I can’t help but mourn in my heart when I hear friend after friend who has suffered third-degree spiritual burns at the hands of a church or a family.  That’s what I read between the lines (and sometimes explicitly) as I realized I was absolutely in the minority of those who continue to hold on to a lot of old thinking and ways of living. I had not had a massive paradigm shift. In fact, I had become more convinced of what I believed “back then.”

I couldn’t help but wonder as I sat there at the breakfast table: why do people s0 radically change what they believe?

I can tell you this: it is not the failure of the Bible that causes people to radically change their thinking on any particular topic. It’s the failure of those handling the Bible. The Bible has never changed. It remains strong and true, an unflinching bastion of Truth.

Yesterday the talented writer and blogger Rachel Held Evans eloquently related her story of becoming a feminist. I appreciate Rachel’s candor in her writing and her evident desire to have the gospel guide her life and thinking. I also find her story and her life fascinating, particularly since our backgrounds seem incredibly similar, yet our conclusions about life and doctrine are so distinctly far apart.

Honestly, as I read Rachel’s blog post, tears came to my eyes. Not because of her conclusions, but because of what drove her to her conclusions.

How does a person walk away from a conservative college and a conservative church and radically change their thinking? Here’s some of what I learned from reading her post:

It happens when our churches don’t understand true femininity and teach what womanhood really is to younger women. Womanhood is not about dresses, frills, and being a “princess of the King.” Womanhood is so much deeper than that. It starts with the heart.

It happens when so called “pastors” preach morality and that immodest women are “asking for it” in regards to rape. Modesty, once again, begins in the heart. Pastors who preach this filth are heartless, cruel, and need to pick up their Bible again. We should weep and mourn over the effects of sin.

It happens when Sunday School teachers tell girls who have sinned sexually that they are broken and no one will ever want them. This is beyond wrong. This is absolutely nowhere in Scripture.

It happens when men dishonor women and consider themselves privileged and better than the weaker sex. Paul calls me to treat my wife better than I treat my own body, sacrificing for her and honoring her any way I can.

It happens when hate and malice are shown towards those who have sinned instead of grace and mercy. This always hurts my heart. The Church must be a place where sinners come for grace and mercy, not hate and malice. Even when we disagree, and strongly disagree, I should never hate another person.

I find it appropriate to pause and on behalf of the those messed up churches and families and simply repent. These things are wrong. They are not representative of Jesus’ church and certainly shouldn’t be representative of “complementarianism.”

As I ate my breakfast that early morning I realized how incredible it was that I had navigated through the muck and mire and reality of sinful human beings known as the Church. This was not done with my own power. It was done because my sights were fixed on the only unchanging thing in front of me: an inerrant Bible. It never changed. Not for one moment. In it flows the spring of life. In it is the glorious story of the gospel.

There is certainly much more to say, but I will say this: as I hold fast to God’s Word, which I believe is completely without error, I continue to stand firm in the Truth. My hope and prayer is that my friends and others like Rachel will not look at the muck and mire of sin and make their theological decisions.

My hope is that they instead look to the Word, which helps us truly understand our roles and functions as believers, as men and as women.

9 responses to “I Learned Feminism From Jesus”

  1. You are right, reading her post just makes me sad. May we be reminded that our words and actions matter.

  2. Mattie says:

    Question! Do you believe there is a distinction between infallibility and inerrancy?

  3. Tim Sweetman says:

    Here is my foundation: the Bible is sufficient for all life and doctrine. All of it. I can counsel a person who has schizophrenia with the resources I have in the Bible. Of course the Bible doesn’t specifically speak to certain topics (like the Bible doesn’t say anything about my iPhone), but I can still take the clear and true principles and apply them to using my iPhone.

    I believe the Bible is inerrant, as in there are no error. Grudem defines it: “The inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.”

    Augustine has said “it is not allowable to say, ‘The author of this book is mistaken’; but either the manuscript is faulty, or the translation is wrong, or you have not understood.”

    Infallibility in more recent times I think allows for the Bible to have factual errors, etc. If that is your definition of infallible, I would not hold to that at all. I believe the BIble does not contain errors.

    • Mattie says:

      Right, right, I get that. But do you agree with Augustine’s quote?

      Do you think that the Bible is BOTH inerrant and infallible? Do you think that the historical context and literary genre issues are relevant enough to perhaps make the “literal” style interpretation (as just one example, “6 day creationism” without reference to the literary genre differences in narration and order of events in Gen 1 vs. Gen. 2) a blunt tool for a fine task?

      … related: what do you think of RHE’s series of posts on N.T. Wright’s work/how we view the Word?

      • Mattie says:

        Part of where I’m coming from is influenced by my studies in English literature and understanding how words interact and how genres subvert themselves sometimes, and how authorial intent isn’t all the work can ever say, and how historical context and the net effect of a work’s influence and cultural impact can subvert what the text actually says in some bizarre ways.

  4. Tim Sweetman says:

    I could go further on and lay out more arguments, but yes, I totally affirm what Augustine is saying here.

    We can just bring up the elephant in the room: Honestly, I think REH and others who affirm egalitarian views just don’t like the clear reading of the texts when it talks about women not teaching or submitting to their husbands. It’s uncomfortable to think your “rights” might be taken away. I really don’t mean to be harsh.

    As I said above, I think so-called complementarians have abused those texts, but that does not mean we should ignore the clear reading of the text.

    • Mattie says:

      “Clear meanings of the text” is a bit strong–some of those texts were mistranslated (“submit” for one), some were addressing specific instances in a specific church and we’ve inappropriately extrapolated them to be universal mandates (women being silent in church–was about women gossiping among themselves during the service), and so forth.

      The elephant in the room is this: Augustine isn’t saying what you are saying.

      • Tim Sweetman says:

        How is “submit” mistranslated? That is a lot of mistranslations…

        Just in general, I don’t see how in a marriage in particular there isn’t some kind of submission from one of the spouses.

        As far as women not teaching in the church, I can’t see how that could be any clearer.

        I’m a little stunned that Augustine isn’t saying what I’m saying. I’m arguing for authorial intent – what we are disagreeing on is that interpretation.

        • Mattie says:

          I’m saying that authorial intent still stands, but that there are mistranslations and historical contexts which are commonly overlooked in the positions you’re holding.

          Re: submission–true! And here’s the catch: it’s *mutual* submission, as seen in the “defer to one another out of love” verse and others like it usually prefacing statements about submission.

          If the women-not-teaching-in-the-church was as clear as you suggest, then where do Phoebe and Junia and Pricilla fall into that narrative?

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