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Many evangelicals unwittingly live according to dictates of feminism, Moore tells ETS audience

November 28, 2005

Egalitarians are winning the gender debate because evangelical complementarian men have, in practice, embraced contemporary pagan feminism, Russell D. Moore said in a presentation at the 57th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society.

VALLEY FORGE, Pa.—Egalitarians are winning the gender debate because evangelical complementarian men have largely abdicated their biblically ordained roles as head of the home and have, in practice, embraced contemporary pagan feminism, Russell D. Moore said in a presentation at the 57th annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) on Nov. 17.

Moore called for a complementarian response built upon a thoroughly biblical vision of male headship in which men lead their families and churches by mirroring God the Father whom Scripture portrays as the loving, sacrificial, protective Patriarch of His people. Moore is dean of the School of Theology and senior vice president for academic administration at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Since many complementarians are living according to egalitarian presumptions, research has shown many conservative and evangelical households to be among the “softest” when it comes to familial harmony, relational happiness, and emotional health, Moore said.

“Evangelicals maintain headship in the sphere of ideas, but practical decisions are made in most evangelical homes through a process of negotiation, mutual submission, and consensus,” Moore said. “That’s what our forefathers would have called ‘feminism’—and our foremothers, too.”

Egalitarian views are carrying the day within evangelical churches and homes, Moore said, because complementarians have not sufficiently dealt with the forces that animate the feminist impulse: Western notions of consumerism and therapy.

This therapeutic and consumerist atmosphere has led evangelicals away from a view that sees Scripture as the external, objective standard of truth and has pushed them to gaze inside themselves to find ultimate truth, Moore said. Because self and not Scripture is the final authority, evangelical homes and churches—while holding complementarian views—have rejected male headship as an outmoded principle and mostly practice egalitarianism, he said.

“Complementarian churches are just as captive to the consumerist drive of American culture as egalitarians, if not more so,” Moore said.

If evangelical homes and churches are to recover from the confusion wrought by egalitarianism, they must embrace a full-orbed vision of biblical patriarchy that restores the male to his divinely-ordained station as head of the home and church, he said.

Moore pointed out that the word “patriarchy” has developed negative connotations even among evangelicals in direct proportion to the rise of so-called “evangelical feminism,” a movement that began in the 1970s. However, the historic Christian faith itself is built upon a thoroughly biblical vision of patriarchy, he said.

“Evangelicals should ask why patriarchy seems negative to those of us who serve the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the God and Father of Jesus Christ,” Moore said.

“We must remember that ‘evangelical’ is also a negative term in many contexts. We must allow the patriarchs and apostles themselves, not the editors of ‘Playboy’ or ‘Ms. Magazine,’ to define the grammar of our faith.”

The authentic biblical patriarchy/male headship that evangelicals must rediscover is tied irreducibly to Scripture’s teaching of the fatherhood of God, Moore said. The Bible portrays God the Father as existing in covenant relationship with the Son in a way that defines the covenantal standing and inheritance of believers, he said.

The fatherhood of God is central to the gospel and male headship, when practiced biblically, offers a living picture of the redemption believers have in Christ, Moore said.

“Even the so-called ‘egalitarian proof-texts’ not only fail to demonstrate an evangelical feminist argument, they actually prove the opposite,” he said. “Galatians 3:28, for example, is all about patriarchy—a Father who provides his firstborn son with a cosmic inheritance, an inheritance that is shared by all who find their identity in Christ, Jew or Greek, male or female, slave or free.

“This understanding of archetypal patriarchy is grounded then in the overarching theme of all of Scripture—the summing up of all things in Christ (Eph. 1:10). It does not divide God’s purposes, His role as Father from His role as Creator from His role as Savior from His role as King.

“To the contrary, the patriarchal structures that exist in the creation order point to His headship—a headship that is oriented toward redemption in Christ (Heb. 12:5-11).”

An embrace of biblical patriarchy also protects the doctrine of God from aberrations such as the impersonal deity of Protestant liberalism and the unstable “most moved mover” of open theism, he said.

A rejection of male headship—a biblical understanding of patriarchy—leads to a redefinition of divine Fatherhood and divine sovereignty, Moore said. He pointed to open theism, a view that argues God’s knowledge of the future is limited, as an example of the dangers of rejecting biblical patriarchy. Open theism is built upon a denial of the Scripture’s portrayal of God as the sovereign Head of His creation, he said.

“Open theism is not more dangerous than evangelical feminism, or even all that different,” Moore said. “It is only the end result of a doctrine of God shorn of patriarchy.”

Moore pointed out that a growing trend exists within evangelicalism in which “soft” complementarians seek to indict a more robust biblical complementarianism for not writing frequently against spousal abuse. This charge is a red herring, Moore said, because complementarians address the issue consistently.

This charge itself, however, reveals a tacit acceptance by evangelicals of a fallacious egalitarian charge that postulates male headship as leading to abuse, he said. Instead, Moore said a biblical view of male headship and gender roles actually protect against spousal and child abuse because it does not posit male privilege, but instead demands male responsibility.

“Ironically, a more patriarchal complementarianism will resonate among a generation seeking stability in a family-fractured Western culture in ways that soft-bellied big-tent complementarianism never can,” Moore said.

“And it will also address the needs of hurting women and children far better, because it is rooted in the primary biblical means for protecting women and children: calling men to responsibility. Patriarchy is good for women, good for children, and good for families.”

Moore’s entire paper is available here:

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