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Do Christian Feminists Exist? A Response to Julie Clawson

November 13, 2007

Courtney Tarter responds to Julie Clawson regarding Christian Feminists.

Julie Clawson, a wife, mother, egalitarian and emerging church pastor, asked this question on her blog a few weeks ago. She says:

"I do understand that there are various streams/waves of feminism and while I have serious issues with some of them (the ones that hate men or think that sexual openness means equality), I am not willing to give up the entire history of the movement because of some fringe views (kinda like I feel about Christianity). I am a feminist because I am a Christian. I believe all people are created in the image of God and are therefore worthy as imagebearers. We are all called to serve God in the ways we are called (in ministry, work, the home, school…) and to say otherwise is to stifle the will of God. Since it has been women who have generally been seen as inferior, I think feminism is necessary to overcome that lie."

At the end of her post she takes her stand for Christian feminists:

"So I am a feminist. I think women are people too. I think we are worthy of respect and human rights. I think God is big enough to use whoever he wants to serve him. And I will stand up with feminists against those who out of fear or hatred try to tell God otherwise."

I am a complementarian, and I readily agree with Julie that women are people too.  She is absolutely correct that women are worthy of respect and human rights.  I think God is bigger than we all can imagine, and that He is a speaking God who's Word we should obey.  But feminism will not achieve her goals.

Feminism is not necessary to overcome the lie of oppression. The gospel is.  We can never forget the centrality and sufficiency of the gospel in talking about gender. Jesus Christ, the perfect God-man, is our hope, and it is to him that we look.  History has shown us that feminism leads to oppression even as it cries out against oppression.  It leads to women exercising "free choice" to murder baby girls in the womb because they are seen as an intolerable burden.  And it is the "liberated woman" of pornography who pretends to represent to men how women truly are. 

I do not deny that there are men in churches who are not biblically-driven complementarians, but oafs and tyrant wannabes.  I am saddened by them. Nor do I deny that there are women in our churches who see biblical womanhood as being a doormat, and that is grievious.  But personal experiences and the examples of sinful men and women do not serve as the foundation of our faith or complementarian position.

The whole point of the gender discussion is Jesus Christ. I want people to see Jesus, despite how flawed my presentation of him may be. God has spoken to us, and we must listen. If our theology of God is not rooted in biblical truth, we run the risk of being disillusioned at the first harsh word from our husbands or fathers.

A Christian feminist must be categorized as an oxymoron. A recovery of true equality and dignity for women will first begin at the Cross, and in men and women living in the way that God designed them to be. If we abandon that, we will eventually abandon the gospel itself.

Mary Kassian says in her book The Feminist Mistake:

"Many Christians view feminism as an ideology that merely promotes the genuine dignity and worth of women. If this were true, feminism would definitely be compatible with Christianity, for the Bible does teach that women and men are of equal value in God's sight, co-created as bearers of God's image. But the philosophy of feminism adds a subtle, almost indiscernible twist to the basic truth of woman's worth. Feminism asserts that woman's worth is of such a nature that it gives her the right to discern, judge, and govern that truth herself. It infuses women with the idea that God's teaching about the role of women must line up with their own perception and definition of equality and/or liberation. Feminism does not present itself as an outright affront to the Bible, but it nevertheless contains an insidious distortion that erodes the authority of Scripture. Acceptance of the feminist thesis may not drastically alter one's initial beliefs, but if followed, will naturally and logically lead to an end miles away from the Christianity of the Bible."

Instead of running from God's design in the quest for freedom, the quest for equality should drive us to our God-ordained distinctions, because only there will we find true freedom and true worth.

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