Part Six: The Christian Father and Modern Feminism
Defining modern feminism is a daunting task. Into what category should we put the topic?
Is it a movement? If so, of what sort is it? Is it social, political, ideological, economic,
theological, or a combination of them all? With all the variations of feminism, is there a
common theme that unites feminists of every description? Is feminism something that can
be expressed in words that combine to make assertions and cohere in a sensible way? Or is
it a feeling that can’t be put into words?
The standard dictionary definition of feminism is that it is a movement for social, political,
and economic equality of men and women. We find no mention of God, the church,
theology, or the structure and nature of the family in this definition. So then, it is
theologically neutral – right? Just as one can hold to sound Christian theology while
advocating for or against a protective tariff, the Electoral College, or wearing blue jeans to
work, one can hold to sound Christian theology while favoring or opposing the goals of
But it is not that simple. There is an underlying assumption of feminism that needs to be
examined. If this assumption is left unexamined, the feminist movement can quickly
undermine sound doctrine. The assumption is that we can measure a human being by such
concepts as social, political, and economic equality.
Let’s make it personal. I will use my wife and me as examples. We are identified with each
other in such a way that whatever social status the one has the other has as well. As far as
political equality is concerned, each of us can and does vote, and neither of us has ever run
for political office. As far as politics in the home is concerned, I am the head and she is the
manager of daily affairs. In regard to economic equality, what is hers is mine and what is
mine is hers. I have earned most of the money – until our children were grown, almost all
of it – but her job as manager of the home gave her the responsibility of spending much of
it. There was never a question of whose money it was. It was ours. We have always shared
what we own. No, we don’t wear one another’s clothes and she doesn’t borrow my pool
cue, but beyond that whatever we hold we hold in common.
Thus, the question of social, political, and economic equality between my wife and me is a
moot point. It doesn’t apply. Such matters are entirely beside the point.
To which the feminist will respond: You are missing the point. Your wife may choose the
arrangement you and she have with each other. That is her prerogative. But she should
have the right to choose a different kind of arrangement that doesn’t entail marriage and
children, and if it does, to arrange such matters in a way where there are not
To which the traditionalist Christian will respond: You are missing the point. The
traditional relationship between a man and a woman in marriage and the family is not
merely a social construct that evolved over time and may be exchanged for a different sort
of arrangement. In fact, in the beginning, God made us male and female, and joined a man
to a woman and a woman to a man, and blessed that union with children. The man and the
woman did not choose to be men or women. They did not choose to define marriage this
way or that way. They didn’t even choose to have children. God, their heavenly Father,
made these choices for them.
Feminism is indeed a political creed. But that does not mean it has no theological
implications. Far from it! It defines man and woman as political entities in the first
instance. It identifies politics as the natural arena within which men and women obtain
their goals. Politics is about power. It is ultimately the power of the sword.
Christian theology is the power of the Spirit. The power of the Spirit is not coercive,
punitive, or domineering. The Holy Spirit leads us into all truth. He makes the unwilling
willing. He uses the gospel to change hearts and lives. Politics is ultimately coercive. The
civil powers do not and cannot care about the hearts of men and women. They can deal
only with external behavior. That is what they are there to govern. When we define the
goals of manhood or womanhood as political goals we define man and woman as political
animals and we deny their essence as children of God created in the image of God and
animated by the Spirit of God.
Feminism reduces human relationships to their politically expressed least common
denominator. Then it complains about the result! Here’s the bitter fact that feminism
cannot tolerate. Patriarchy is inevitable. It’s not a question of whether. It’s a question of
what form it will take. The reason patriarchy is inevitable is because God made men and
woman to be different. They are not equal. Questions of equality or inequality are false
and foolish questions to ask because the very question is mixing apples with oranges. It is a
confusion of categories. Equality is a construct that doesn’t correspond to reality.
When patriarchy becomes the enemy, Christianity becomes the enemy. This is not because
all patriarchal systems are Christian. Far from it! As we have seen, the patriarchy of Islam
is very different from the patriarchy of Christianity. It discards the gospel in its entirety
and substitutes an oppressive legalism in its place.
When feminism attacks patriarchy, it attacks the first article of the Creed. “I believe in God
the Father, almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” In the beginning, God made Adam out of
the dust of the ground. He said that it was not good for him to be alone. He put him into a
deep sleep and took a rib from his side and made a woman. He brought the woman to the
man and the two became one flesh.
The special status of celibate men and women is recognized in the Bible, by the Lord Jesus
personally, by St. Paul the apostle, and was reflected in the early government of the church
where widows were give special consideration. That marriage is normal is not to say that
the single life excludes anyone from the mainstream of church life or family life. In fact,
single men and woman are members of families as much as married men and women are.
I say this to counter the feminist claim that we who support the Christian view of marriage
and the family take away from a woman the choice of whether she will be joined to a man,
consigning to her marriage as the only good option available to her. But that is not so. The
fact that families are often torn by the absence, failure, or death of the father or mother
lends a value to the service of aunts, uncles, brothers, and sisters who may assume, out of
need, paternal and maternal duties.
But again, I am assigning value to a woman on account of what she can do to benefit the
family. No. I am not assigning value to a woman. It is not my place as a man to do so. The
God who created her in his own image and redeemed her by his own blood and sanctifies
her to be his temple is the One who assigns her value to her. He values her and he values
what he gives her to do. When she gives her life in service to God by being a faithful wife
and mother she gives what God regards as precious. The piety of a Christian woman is
more valuable than all material wealth. Its value is practical. It is practical in the most
fundamental sense of being put into practice for the benefit of the children God gives her.
Here is where the issue lies. Feminism can tolerate a woman as a mother as long as the
woman is in charge of her life. As long as it is her choice and she makes the critical
decisions pertaining to it. But a Christian woman who marries a man, entrusting herself to
his headship and care, and trusts that God will bless her with the children he chooses to
give her and that God will provide for the children he gives her – how is that empowering
her? How is that emancipating her? How is that granting her the equality to which she is
entitled? She must be the one to define what womanhood means for her. This, of necessity,
entails reproductive rights. It is she who may decide if and when she is to be a mother.
Whatever rights the unborn child has, they cannot supersede her fundamental right, as a
woman, to choose if she will bear a child. If she is required to bear a child against her will
she is not truly free.
Christians who want to be feminists are faced with some very difficult contradictions. They
may think that feminism agrees with the Christian faith. After all, St. Paul writes that in
Christ “there is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; there is neither male
nor female.” (Galatians 3:28) There is a superficial similarity between the feminist creed
and certain biblical statements. What the Christian must keep in mind, however, is that
feminism as a social movement defines the human being not according to our creation in
the image of God as male and female, but as we choose our identity for ourselves. Our
choices determine our identity. I may choose to be what I feel I ought to be. And my will in
this matter is sovereign.
The Christian must object. Jesus says that whoever humbles himself will be exalted and
whoever exalts himself will be abased. Jesus teaches us that our true worth as men and
woman is not ours to achieve. It is ours to accept through humble faith in the promises of
Christian patriarchy is not men pushing women around. It is Christian families who are
bound together by the word of God. The Fatherhood of God is revealed where Jesus Christ,
his only begotten Son, offers himself up on the altar of the cross to be the propitiation for
our sins. He takes away the anger of God against us. He reconciles the world to God. There
is no Fatherhood of God apart from the gospel of Christ. Thus, Christian patriarchy is the
very opposite of what feminists say it is. Far from being domineering, dehumanizing, and
mean, it exalts womanly service as precious and praiseworthy. It often feels like mundane
drudgery and the woman feels burdened by it. The feminist creed exploits this feeling by
telling her that she is being oppressed by those she has devoted her life to serving.
But the feminist can offer her no real help. She doesn’t need political or economic power.
She needs spiritual encouragement. Her Christian husband is the one best situated to help
her. He loves her, not because of her beauty he sees, but because she is God’s gift to him.
Her beauty is displayed in her care for her children, which is her holy offering to God. This
is her gift to her husband. For such a prize, he doesn’t seek his manhood in sexual
conquest, running around like an ally cat, to prove he is what he doesn’t feel he is. His wife
shows him what a man is by joining him in raising children who will honor him as the head
of his home, not because he has earned it, but because God our heavenly Father has
established fatherhood in the home as the strength of children and the comfort of the wife.
There was once a pious Christian woman by the name of Hannah who was barren. She
couldn’t conceive. She prayed to God that God would give her a son and promised that if he
did she would give the son back to God. A little girl thousands of years and thousands of
miles away heard the story and prayed that God would give her many children. She was a
Christian child. She was a girl. God made her a girl and she knew it. God answered her
prayer. In spades! She is today the mother of eleven sons, a daughter, and forty three
grandchildren. She has no need for what the feminist cause or creed offers. She sought
God’s blessing in the institutions of marriage and motherhood that God established in
creation, redeemed by Christ’s blood, and sanctifies today by the gospel. And God blessed
her. What demonstrates the wonderful and hidden working of God is how this woman who
has sought none of the power that feminism promised her generation of women, has
through her children and their children more influence than any woman I know.