This entry was posted on Wednesday, October 25th, 2006 at 1:18 pm on therebelution.com
The following article was originally written for a philosophy class back in 2004. It is not without error, though we believe it communicates the thrust of our position on the nature of equality between men and women.
Feminist beliefs have existed throughout history, but feminism itself did not become widespread until the mid-1800’s. At that time many people regarded women as inferior or less valuable than men and both the law and social customs reflected this opinion. Women were barred from voting in elections, from most professional careers, and were unable to own property.
Feminism was born then in the belief that women should have economic, political, and social equality with men. Despite strong opposition, this belief gained strength during the 1800’s, winning a number of new rights for women.
In 1833 the Oberlin Collegiate Institute (now Oberlin College) became the first co-educational college in United States history, and increased education among women led to increased demands for equal employment, land ownership, and suffrage—all of which were eventually granted. In the 1900’s women gained what they called “reproductive freedom” as laws and customs became increasingly sensitive to the feminist position.
Feminism: A Predictable Movement
From a Christian perspective, the development of such a movement is entirely predictable. In the book of Genesis, chapter 3, verse 16, after sin enters the world for the first time, God says to the guilty Eve: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”
This word “desire” is properly translated as, “a desire to conquer”, and implies that Eve would have a wrongful desire to usurp authority over her husband. Furthermore, the word “rule” as used in the phrase, “he shall rule over you,” is a strong term usually used to refer to monarchical governments and containing nuances of dictatorial or absolute, uncaring use of authority.
The feminist movement understandably responded to this type of male dominance, but with an unwavering tendency towards female usurpation—a Biblically predictable scenario. At its core, however, feminism seeks to promote equality and combat harsh male dominance, two necessary and worthy goals.
Biblical Roles: Equal But Different
On the other side of the fence you have biblical teaching regarding man and woman. When God created mankind, He create both “male and female” in His image (Genesis 1:27).
As Dr. Wayne Grudem says, in his book Systematic Theology: “We are equally in God’s image, [therefore] men and women are equally important to God and equally valuable to him. [This] excludes all feelings of pride or inferiority and any idea that one sex is ‘better’ than the other.” This equality is both amazing and wonderful in that it sets Christianity apart from almost all religions, societies, and cultures.
However, the Bible clearly teaches fundamental differences in roles and authority. This is based on the parallels the Bible draws between the Divine Trinity and husband and wife. The Bible teaches that the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) share equal importance, personhood, and deity—and that they have distinct roles and functions which make them necessary, valuable, and complementary.
Similarly, the Bible teaches that man and woman are equal in importance, but have different responsibilities. Coming from a biblical perspective, equality finds its base in male and female, created in the image of God, who both fulfill necessary and complementary roles.
Comparison: Feminism vs. The Bible
So which is better: feminism or the Bible? They are both concerned with equality between men and women, as well as with preventing harsh male dominance, yet both have chosen different means to reach those goals, which have led to very different results.
Especially today, feminism attempts to reach equality by abolishing all distinctions between man and woman, based on the assumption that to be equal is to be identical. The Bible, on the other hand, assumes equality from the very beginning and uses that equality as a guard against abuse either in the form of male dominance or female usurpation.
According to the Bible equality is inherent in our very nature as distinct male and female and each gender’s value is highlighted by the way their different, necessary, and complementary roles interact and overlap. However, the ultimate consequence of core feminist theory is a complete lack of distinction between genders, which, according to the economic rule of supply-and-demand does not increase the value of woman but rather decreases the value of both male and female.
The Bible predicts that if the feminist movement reaches equality, it will not stop there. Instead, woman will replace men as the dominators—and perhaps that is their true goal. But the feminist who is truly concerned about equality would do well to consider the biblical argument, which, when fully embraced, sidesteps both male dominance and female usurpation by emphasizing distinct roles—recognizing that both men and women are irreplaceable due to the parts they play.
It is much like a high school football team, in which both offense and defense are important and irreplaceable components for success. There is nothing more beautiful to watch than a team that has both functioning and flourishing in their roles. Roles, I might add, that are consistent yet flexible (i.e. the defense can score off an intercepted pass).
The key difference between feminism and the Bible is that feminism sees any such distinctions as negative whereas the Bible holds that true equality and joy in being male or female require these distinctions.
The Bible teaches that female usurpation and male dominance are the result of mankind’s fall into sin, but biblical manhood and womanhood are God’s cure for both evils. On the road of history mankind has fallen into both ditches, as predicted by Genesis 3:16, but true equality will only be found in the Bible’s teaching that man and woman are necessary because they’re complementary and equal because they’re different.
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