Following on from last saturday's article on gender roles I thought I would post part of an article by Dr John MacArthur which critiques feminist thought and how it has badly influenced intepretation of Scripture and in turn the exercise of a Christian worldview when it comes to understanding what it means to be a biblical man and a biblical woman.
WHERE THE FEMINISTS GO WRONG! (Article by Dr John MacArthur)
If more Christians understood the methods of feminist thinking and what kind of biblical interpretation they must do in order to arrive at their conclusions, they would likely be more hesitant to accept the feminist position. To understand the feminist interpretation process, we begin by examining their view of Galatians 3:28 and how their interpretation of that verse affects their interpretation of the rest of the New Testament.
FEMINIST VIEW OF GALATIANS 3:28 - The foundation for all feminist interpretation of the New Testament is Galatians 3:28--"Their is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Feminists interpret this verse to refer to an equality which is both theological, regarding men and women’s standing before God, and also social, regarding all of their relationships in day-to-day living. If men and women are equal before God, feminists say, then there can be no differences within their roles and responsibilities in society. Feminists therefore use this verse as the basis for the elimination of all role distinctions between men and women in Christianity. They then interpret all other New Testament verses on women in light of the feminist understanding of Galatians 3:28, thus demanding that no other verse be allowed to teach role distinctions for men and women.
PROBLEM WITH FEMINIST VIEW OF GALATIANS 3:28 - Feminists fail to interpret Galatians 3:28 in its proper context. The verse concerns the subject of justification and the believer's relationship to the Abrahamic covenant. Paul was not seeking to establish social equality in the relationships he mentioned. Rather, he was showing that all, regardless of their standing in society, may participate by faith in the inheritance of Abraham to be sons of God. He was teaching the fundamental equality of both men and women in their standing before God. Even the feminists emphasize that this is a theological passage rather than one dealing with practical matters.
Equality of being before God does not require the elimination of all role distinctions in society. Equality of being does not rule out authority and submission in relationships. We could point to many examples of relationships in which there is equality and yet a difference in roles involving authority and submission--the Trinity, the President and U. S. citizens, parents and children, employers and employees, Elders and church members.
The theology of Galatians 3:28 will result in certain social implications, but they will be the ones given in the Bible. Where authority and submission are discussed in relationships in the New Testament, instructions are given for how those relationships may be regulated so that they function in Christian love and harmony and not with abuse. The Bible does not eliminate authority but cautions that authority should be exercised in a way that honors Christ. Those in authority (husbands, Elders, parents, employers) are instructed to use their authority in a godly way. And also, those who are to submit to these authorities (wives, church members, children, employees) are instructed to submit to authority in a godly way.
Because feminists want to rule out the submission of wives to husbands and of women to male leadership in the church on the basis of Galatians 3:28, they face a serious problem in biblical interpretation when they come to the Pauline passages which explicitly teach the submission of wives to husbands and women to the male leadership in the church. Beginning with their interpretation of Galatians 3:28 that all role distinctions must be abolished in the name of equality, they seek to interpret these other Pauline passages (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; I Pet. 3:1; Ti. 2:5; I Tim 2:11-15; I Cor. 11:1-16; I Cor. 14:34-35) in light of that questionable interpretation of Galatians 3:28. Feminists of various persuasions have come up with four different ways of handling this biblical material in order to reach conclusions favorable to the feminist viewpoint:
FEMINIST VIEW #1 - The New Testament passages which teach the submission of women were not really written by Paul but were added by scribes, and thus are not part of the inspired Word of God.
PROBLEM WITH VIEW #1 - This position reveals a low view of the inspiration of Scripture. According to this view, some of the Bible was inspired by God and some was not. Therefore, the Christian, rather than submitting to Scripture, must function as the judge of Scripture--always making decisions about what is inspired and what is not inspired. Both II Timothy 3:16 and II Peter 1:20-21 indicate that God inspired all Scripture, that he was overseeing the process of the writing of Scripture in such a way that the end product is His Word, not the product of human authors. Thus, the Christian views all of the Bible as God's inspired Word and does not set himself as judge of the Bible.
FEMINIST VIEW #2 - The New Testament passages which teach the submission of women were written by Paul, but he was wrong. Those who hold this view believe Paul was too much influenced by his rabbinical background and that in his writing of Scripture he had not reached a full understanding of how the gospel related to relationships between men and women. Thus, he was mistaken in some of the passages he wrote.
PROBLEM WITH VIEW #2 - This position is also based on a low view of the inspiration of Scripture. In this view, too, the Christian must become the judge of Scripture to determine for himself what is correct and what is incorrect. This view assumes that twentieth century man has a better understanding of God's truth than did the Apostle Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Again, II Timothy 3:16 and II Peter 1:20-21 indicate that God worked in and through the writers of Scripture in such a way that the end product was God's perfect Word and not a conglomeration of truth and error put together by human authors.
FEMINIST VIEW #3 - The New Testament teaches the submission of women, but the teachings are no longer applicable in the twentieth century. According to this view, Paul was teaching the world view of his own culture in the first century, but our twentieth century culture is more enlightened about the equality of men and women, so the teaching no longer applies. Or sometimes it is said that writers of the New Testament knew that the ideal was to abolish all gender-based roles but feared to hinder the gospel if they broke so radically with their own culture. Thus, these Pauline passages are relegated to temporary cultural truth rather than universal truth for all cultures and all times.
PROBLEM WITH VIEW #3 - The foundation for Paul's teaching on the role or responsibilities of women is never the culture of his own day but rather the purpose of woman's creation and the woman's failure in the fall as Paul points out in I Corinthians 11:1-9 and I Timothy 2:8-15. Adam was created first, and Eve was later created as a helper for him rather than their being created simultaneously and independent of each other. Eve was deceived and led her husband into sin rather than submitting to his leadership. If the reason for the woman's submission is related to the creation and the fall, than it is not something which can change from year to year and culture to culture. Rather, it is a universal principle.
Some feminists say that there was no submission for the woman in creation but only as a result of the fall, that Genesis 3:16 was the beginning of authority and submission. But Genesis 2:18-25 teaches a submissive role for Eve in relationship to Adam, and Paul interprets it that way in the New Testament. Thus, the cross does not rid us of authority and submission, but it brings harmony to authority and submission relationships.
FEMINIST VIEW #4 - The New Testament, if rightly understood, has never taught the submission of women. If the literary context, the historical context and the theological context were carefully studied, Paul would be clearly seen to be egalitarian, and thus the New Testament teaches that women may fulfill any responsibilities in the marriage and the church that men may fulfill. Thus, “headship" means only "source" and never "leader" or "authority." "Be subject" means only "relate yourselves to" or "respond to" or "adjust yourselves to" and never "submit to."
PROBLEM WITH VIEW #4 - In these last two views the confusion among the various feminist representives comes to the surface. Both groups read these same passages, and some say they teach submission and others say they do not.
Greek lexicons include "authority" as one of the meanings for "head" and "submit" as one of the meanings for "be subject" so that only prejudicial interpretation could limit these words to pro-feminist definitions. This last view is so unconvincing that other feminists even reject it.
If one wants to arrive at pro-feminist conclusions, there are a limited number of ways to interpret the biblical context in order to reach such a position. These four are the alternatives which feminists have devised thus far.
Each alternative has serious flaws which cause the Christian, in the process of feminist interpretation, to sacrifice either a high view of inspiration of Scripture or else to use a false hermeneutic, or principle for interpreting Scripture. Either is too high a price to pay. All of these exegetical gymnastics become necessary just to force the Pauline passages to harmonize with the feminist interpretation of Galatians 3:28. If Galatians 3:28 were interpreted correctly in context to refer to the fundamental standing of men and women before God, and if the feminists did not totally reject any concept of authority and submission, harmony of all the biblical material on the subject would be rather simple.
Go On To Episode 5
Go Back To Episode 3
Go Back To Episode 1