Tom Pittman's WebLog

2023 July 17 -- Evangelical Feminism

Seeing my less-than-eager support for feminists in the church and "Feminazis" in general -- the derogatory term was originally coined by the late Rush Limbaugh, but it is accurate, see my blog post "Feminist vs Feminazi" ten years ago and especially the footnote in "Feminazi Blunders" three years later -- my friend Mark sent me a link to a paper "The Hermeneutics of Evangelical Feminism" by Paul Felix apparently published in an internal journal at The Master's Seminary. This is a carefully researched paper with a very narrow focus, which unequivocally establishes the traditional perspective on men and women in the church as the only view consistent with a "high view of Scripture" that is, which considers the Bible as the final authority in all that it teaches. I hold that position myself, and I found nothing in that paper to disagree with.

However, and apart lack of appropriate credentials and the time to do the necessary research, I could not have written that paper myself. I'm not criticizing his focus, but I take a more wholistic view of Scripture as both necessarily and actually consistent with everything we see in the world, good and (by contrast) evil. I started with a "no opinion" clean slate, and let the data lead me to this conclusion. It does. In high school, despite my parents' best efforts to the contrary, I bought into the Darwinist Lie, supposing that "probably" evolution was the means of creation. Then a professor at the University of California invited me to "look at the evidence," and I did: I can no longer hold that opinion (see my essay "Biological Evolution: Did It Happen?"). I later looked more carefully at what exactly the Bible teaches, and concluded that either the Bible teaches a 144-hour Creation Week, or it cannot be trusted to teach anything at all -- which is inconsistent with everything we know about historical documents, including recent documents like the Declaration of Independence and the science and technology books that enable our technology. We cannot live that way. I cannot live that way (see my personal essay "What's Really Important").

In some 30+ years since this view of the world solidified for me, I have only seen it confirmed, never denied. I built a pretty robust "BS Detector" that does not always tell me when people are telling the truth, but it is pretty good at telling me when not to trust them. "Trust" is a value in this world and in our culture -- especially the evangelical culture I live in -- that is far too often undeserved. The Bible teaches us to "Put not your trust in princes" (people) but rather to trust God.

So why all this meandering prologue? Just this: I live in the real world, and I need help navigating my course through the real world, and abstract theological principles are useless without evidence that they are consistent with the real world I live in. Could all those Feminazis be Wrong? I cannot know unless and until I investigate the evidence. OK, Felix tells me that the Bible is pretty clear on the subject. I believe him. I actually thought so before reading his paper, because I read my Bible rather carefully. Perhaps the so-called "Biblical Feminists" might be correct and the Complementarians Wrong (in the Real World, as distinct from Biblical teaching)? I need to know. Those who claim to base their ethics on the Bible but do not believe the Bible when it disagrees with their (otherwise determined) positions are liars, deceiving themselves if nobody else. That takes care of the "Biblical Feminists" but what about the atheists (and crypto-atheists) who unashamedly prefer their own opinions over the Bible, could they be right? I need to know.

This takes me back to my Areopagus essay, What's Really Important." I can look at the Real World out there, and what do I see? Women really are different from men, and it's not just this culture, it's true in every culture all over the world. Everybody knows that men have stronger bodies than women, that's why there are separate men's and women's events in the Olympics. There is good scientific evidence that women's brains are wired up differently form men's -- but no right-thinking man in today's divisive "Politically Correct" culture would ever publish such a finding, all the research has women's names on it (they are not wrong, and nobody on the other side of the ideological fence dares to claim otherwise). Also there are gender differences in one (only one) of the MBTI temperament indicators.

Let me focus on two undeniable physical differences:

First and most obvious, a woman cannot -- it is physically impossible for a woman to -- perform coitus on an unwilling man. She can entice him, but if he does not want to, she cannot force him. The reverse (though he ought not to do it) is both possible and far more frequent than anybody wants to admit.

Second, and not insignificant, men have greater upper-body strength than women. Who starts barroom fights? Not women. She can beat on her guy, but only if he lets her; when he wants it to stop, he wraps his arms around her and it stops, whether she wants to or not. Who physically abuses their spouse? Not women, they cannot, men can always win those fights -- if they want to; pusilanimous or polite men might choose otherwise.

These two, together and alone, can and must have a profound effect on how a woman sees the world. Guys in leadership, if their subordinate refuses, he can physically force submission; women can't do that and everybody knows it. Sure, talking your opponent down is better, but if Hitler wants to make war, you must make war back; talk didn't and cannot work. When the Bible was written, guns and A-bombs didn't exist, but even today, if you don't want to kill them, then the guy has the physical advantage. Everybody knows that. She can cajole, she can persuade (the word "manipulate" often gets used here), but if the guy doesn't want to, she's out of luck. That results in a very different kind of leadership than a guy can do. Where and when women succeed -- or perhaps only appear to succeed -- in leadership, it is solely by persuasion: unruly men under her supervision must be subdued by men, which gives those enforcement men on her team an implied power over their leader. That is not true leadership in the usually understood sense.

That, all by itself, is why you should not put a woman into a leadership position over men. No Biblical instruction needed. Paul only put into words what everybody already knows. As Felix admits in his paper, Paul was solving a problem in a local church, but he did it in the same way he and John did elsewhere in the NT, by appealing to common knowledge in support of his argument. No, the Apostle did not use force to impose his instruction on Timothy, not only did he not need to (nor was it possible at that distance) but Jesus told his Disciples not be that kind of leader, but elsewhere Paul did tell church leaders to eject unruly people, and force might be required in those circumstances. Jesus used force to eject the moneychangers from the temple: imagine a woman attempting that! They would instead have ejected her.

I'm not saying that's the only difference, nor that what women can do is better or worse than what men can do, only that there is a fundamantal difference in what kind of leadership is possible. There is no equality here.

So while I applaud Dr.Felix and might (slightly) wish to be in his place, I would have written a different paper, one that also shows that the Bible is neither wrong nor irrelevant in the Real World, at least not in this topic.


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