It was the middle of the night; my friends and I were vacationing in Orlando, Florida, and somehow we got horribly lost on the back roads of Disney. I know, I didn’t even know Disney had back roads until this night, but I am not making this stuff up.
There we were on a road that had suddenly turned from pavement to gravel, staring at these huge nuclear reactor “things” with the backside of Space Mountain in the background. Somewhere along the lines, we had made a devastatingly wrong turn, and we were not where we had intended to end up.
Andy Stanley calls this “the principle of the path.” Every path has a destination. And the path on which you are traveling determines your destination….not your desired destination…your actual destination. We ended up on the back roads of Disney, not because we desired to go there (although it has made for a memorable event), but because that was the path we were driving on.
This principle of the path is just as true with gender role reversal. Now, I’m not talking about gender reassignment surgery or men living as women and vice versa, that’s a completely different topic with a completely different set of issues. I’m talking about when the roles that God created men and women to have are reversed. “So, what’s the big deal in that?” you ask. So what if there are women preachers, or husbands submitting to their wives? Many Christians don’t understand why it’s so important, especially since the women’s movement has liberated us from many of the restrictions set on us unjustifiably by society (ie, denial of the right to vote, own property, achieve a higher education). The problem, though, lies with the principle of the path. Confusing these gender distinctions sets us on a path which has devastating results. And going down this path will lead to a destination that few ever intended on entertaining when they started out.
For many Christians, this first part of the path looks very similar to the path they want to be on. Maybe a woman leads a Bible Study of mixed gender or a guest speaker takes the pastor’s pulpit one Sunday and they are a woman, or maybe the path takes us a little farther and our pastor is a woman, but she’s really great at her ministry and can preach like no other! Isn’t that ok? I mean, is women becoming the leaders, or pastors, or teachers of our churches really that big of a problem?
Most evangelical feminists who say it’s okay for a woman to preach approach Scripture with an understanding that those commands were written to, about, and for the first century church. And they have to. Some sort of explanation must take place when one wants to allow for gender equality in church practice regardless of what Scripture says. To do this, they take Galatians 3:28 out of the context, and they say I Timothy 2 and I Corinthians 14 are culturally-bound and meant only for the first century church and not them today. However, this is a problem, especially when looking at 1 Timothy 2 where Paul references the creation account, a culture existing thousand of years before the Ephesian church he was writing to. Creation is Paul’s biblical basis for male headship and woman’s submission to it.
Continuing down this path, feminist theologians like Rebecca Groothuis see Christ’s ministry on earth to be focused on liberating mankind, women included. The Good News, according to Rebecca Groothuis, is that Christ came to set us free, not just from sin. No, Christ came to set us free from the evils of “societal repression” as well. In doing so, she sets her followers on a path that calls for something beyond salvation from which Christ has set us free.
The feminist who promotes role reversal does not want to be told that they have to submit, so they set out further down the path to change their roles within the family unit. William Lederer, in his book, The Mirages of Marriage, says,
“If workable marriages are to exist in this century, the artificially determined roles of male and female…must be discarded and replaced…”
Scarzoni and Hardesty, in their book All We’re Meant To Be, see submission in marriage to be antiquated and not in keeping with today’s culture. Yet to swallow what they dose out, one has to deny the truth in quite a few passages in Scripture.
Because gender roles find their foundation in creation, like so many biblical principles we must go back to the beginning to establish its importance. In the creation account found in Genesis 2, there is an order of events: first, man is formed, placed in the garden and then woman is created from man’s rib. She is not an afterthought; instead, she fulfills a purpose. Then Satan comes along in Genesis 3, and who does he target? The woman. His reasoning was strategic, though. He wasn’t going first to the woman because she was weaker, ignorant of what God had said, or more easily deceived. Rather it was the first attempt at turning the God-ordained order upside down. By going to the woman, Satan could get her to overthrow the leadership Adam had in the decisions they would make as a couple.
Many evangelical feminists view marriage with a sense of mutual submission. The wife submits to the husband, sure; but the husband, in turn, should also submit to the wife…mutually. However, when we look at Ephesians 5, this becomes a problem. Ephesians 5 is The “Go-to” passage when laying out what a biblical marriage looks like: wives submit to their husbands, who are their head; husbands love their wives as Christ loved the church. Ephesians 5:32 gives the reason behind this: marriage is a picture of Christ’s relationship with His bride, the church.
However, following the path evangelical feminism takes us, a role reversal would not only go against Scripture’s clear teaching in Ephesian 5 for male headship, but also misrepresent the relationship between Christ and the church. The direction it’s headed goes beyond just differing cultural trends. It suggests that Christ is submissive to the church. If men now have to mutually submit, then Christ must also follow suit and mutually submit to the church in order to keep the analogy consistent.
Following this road of gender-role reversal, one continues on a path that leads to the distortion of the Gospel. Groothuis, as well as other feminist theologians, take the Gospel message and focus solely on the liberating work of the life of Christ as the point of His ministry rather than the messianic purposes He came to fulfill, or the saving work of His cross where atonement was made for man’s sin. But Christ’s purpose wasn’t to overthrow the power of big bullies who were domineering to women, it was to free us from the power of sin and bring us back into fellowship with Him. Understanding these truths is crucial in understanding the Gospel message.
Another distortion occurs in questioning the inerrancy of Scripture. If Scripture is limited to its cultural context like feminist theologians would say it is, then what does it have to do with me? Why read it? Furthermore, if Scripture is not relevant to life in this present culture, the Gospel is also limited then because it is found within the confines of first century culture, not mine. As inadaquate as feminist theology seems to make the Gospel message, the path doesn’t stop here; feminist theology presses farther attacking the source of the Gospel: God Himself.
Goddess worship may seem extreme to many conservatives out there who are vacillating on whether or not gender-role distinctions are of great importance. To them, the worship of a false god/goddess is a far stretch from not limiting the restraints of women in ministry. This, however, is the furthest trajectory feminist theology will take you: renaming God. Feminist theologians in their efforts to feminize God and fashion Him into a deity they are comfortable worshipping end up creating a god for themselves. They will look at Proverbs 1 and Proverbs 4, and personify wisdom which in the Greek is sophia. Works by renowned theologians like Elizabeth Johnson, prove their path is headed this way. In her book, She Who Is, Johnson seeks to establish Sophia has the one true god.
“Her (speaking of Sophia) identity, evoked in a fivefold metaphor, is intrinsically linked to the mystery of God: she is a breath of the power of God; a pure emanation of the glory of the Almighty; a radiance of eternal light; a flawless mirror of the working of God; an image of divine goodness. Through [Proverbs] the divine prerogative of omnipotence is ascribed to Sophia.”
It’s not hard to point out the heretical leanings of claims like this, especially when they do more than merely lean. However, Johnson does great harm with her credentials and scholarly approach in suggesting that the wisdom of Proverbs 1 is in fact Sophia, goddess. Feminist theologians like her seek to replace the God who calls for submission of their wills to His own with a god who will allow them to do whatever they want.
So, what’s the big deal with gender-role distinctions? Most evangelicals, however liberal their theology may be, would never purposely seek out the distortion of the Gospel message, the deterioration of the Trinity, or the deification of a false god like Sophia. However, the path they begin on has an ultimate end whether they wanted to arrive at that destination or not. The problem about gender roles is the lack of exit ramps on this path. You can’t just stop at one conclusion without sooner or later, completing it to its furthest logical end.
The path of gender-role reversal is a gradual one. You don’t suddenly go from being an evangelical feminist and supporting women in pastoral roles to worshipping the goddess Sophia in a year. It’s a slow fade. And that’s the ultimate danger with this type of path. You don’t know you’re lost until the road has changed to gravel and you’re not where you intended to be. And that’s when you know…it is a big deal. To stay off of this path, we must stay true to Scripture. The Bible is, after all, our road map to the issues of life.
“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” – 2 Timothy 2:15