Among the chief distortions of the Gospel to be found in contemporary life is the commonplace rejection of God-ordained social roles for men and women. This rejection is evidenced across the entire range of social being, and has become a prevalent topic among Christian leaders, who we find frequently concurring with feminists on the need for liberation of women from traditional social roles – or any social determination of the range of their activity. From the elevation of women to positions of political power, to the ubiquity of single motherhood and female primary breadwinners, the triumph of feminism seems nearly total. Demonstration of social triumph is typically seen in the mooting of certain lines of critique that call into question the validity of this triumph. These critiques are considered obsolete not merely in the academic or political sphere, but also in the religious. Christianity has undergone radical transformation in the last several decades, first absorbing, and, later, placing its imprimatur on, many of the achievements of feminism.
Feminism’s most singular achievement has been the development of a form of social veneration and impunity that sacralizes the female “gender” – where gender is to be understood as a fluid psychological construct of unlimited morphology. The sacralization of the female sex spawns something called “gender,” which in turn forms an instrument of complete liberation from any religious or social determination, not merely of the female sexual role, but of the meaning of femininity itself. Historically, these constructions of femininity have been rooted in biology, and the traditional social functions that accrete around the reality of biological constraints. Moreover, the God of scripture is the God of biology (nature), and scriptural accommodation for biological constraints are in scripture reinforced, never negated. But scripture goes beyond flesh in its regulation of sexual roles, in its establishment of male headship and sexual differentiation and hierarchy of function (see Titus 2:5, etc.). For this reason in the West there has historically been consonance between the church’s view of the role of women and that of tradition in the broader society. With modernity and postmodernity, this accord has been broken. Not only have the sex roles become unmoored from religion in Western societies, but the understanding of those roles within the church itself has been profoundly altered. Nor is this a denominational phenomenon. Rather it spans denominations and creeds, having transformed the understanding of the role of women across the entire body of the church, across multiple continents and cultures. The social strictures imposed on women have been vigorously rejected by the modern Evangelical church, in particular, and Western Christianity more generally. Cultural obsolescence of traditional female roles is the most frequent rationale. However an attack on this basis presumes that human nature can change over time. This presumption is a core tenet of atheistic progressivism, yet if God made man in his image (εἰκόνα), then that image is fixed, just as God is fixed.
Exponents of feminism express the immodest aspiration to pull down and extinguish all vestiges of binary gender consciousness, and, eventually, binary sexuality itself. To do this, women, however they choose to define themselves, must be elevated above critique, and, in practical terms, made the objects of worship. We would be mistaken in confining this development to secular-civil institutions. This thinking has thoroughly penetrated the mainline Protestant denominations, and is now making important inroads into historically more conservative Evangelical circles. Recent debate over the comments of Donald Trump on the culpability of women in the crime of abortion show that many Christian leaders and their flocks subscribe to the unlimited impunity of women. A characteristic of human deification is that it becomes the source and author of law, and therefore above that law, immune to it. Jarring discrepancies between men and women in length of prison terms for equal crimes, and in other areas, lends substance to claims that deification of women is not the product of a febrile, “misogynistic” imagination. It is quite real.
The blogger Dalrock has written extensively and intelligently on this subject. I have a few thoughts below I would like to contribute to the discussion. I believe I’ve landed on a more direct approach to the question of the worship of women in Christian ranks. He is correct to point out the presuppositions shared between the contemporary Christian view of women and third-wave feminism. The deification (or, for the feminist, the self-apotheosis) of the female, in conjunction with their categorical impunity, makes the contemporary right-to-life movement a close relative of feminism. Just as with the latter, increasingly in the church women are seen as authors of life: that within themselves they knit out of the raw materials of their own bodies life from nothing. Is it not the mark of a god, this ability to create ex nihilo? The male contribution to this process is diminished nearly to extinction, though life cannot come into being without it. The basic question of female deification devolves on the essence of creation. Women do not create life. Thus the cornerstone is unsound even from before the edifice of deification is begun. By the distortion of the Gospel, weakness becomes strength in the church. Dependency becomes independence. Women become the equals of God through their immunity from his Law. What once was an accommodation to that weakness has now become a pretext for the rejection of accountability.
The desperate efforts in certain quarters of the scientific community to create what has been called synthetic sperm reflect a tacit acknowledgement that women don’t actually create life of themselves. The motives behind this undertaking are not difficult to guess: by “liberating” reproduction from the involvement of men, not only will feminists have removed one of the principal bases for binary sexual relationships, but will have further advanced the claim that women are the sole creators, and therefore the sole owners, of human life. Scripture is clear on who the Author of Life is. But this knowledge won’t arrest female narcissism (and its facilitation by men) in the attempt to erase the dependent nature of reproduction, and displace men from their critical role. The contemporary gospel has become subordinate to the requirements of social fashion. That is, it has become a false gospel. Not only is all tolerated, but all is made holy, from the rejection of male headship to single motherhood. In no area of life is a woman culpable or fully accountable for her actions. One has only to look at the different treatment of adultery by sex in the church to see this.
This deification we are addressing is merely another chapter in Eve’s ongoing usurpation of the privileges and authority of Adam. Worship of the female sex originated in the capitulation of the First Man to her grasping ambition. It might be said that Adam’s real sin was the idolization of the woman, above the truth of God, through which he becomes a creaturely being, abandoning the Spirit-led, aristocratic life of Created Man. Adam’s part in completing destruction was his immediate dismissal of his own responsibility in the matter, saying, “The woman thou didst give me…” Feminism and perpetual boyhood were both born in the shadow of forbidden knowledge: that mankind is free to elect death and servitude to sin. The Father of Lies supplies his goad of falsehood: only sin can prove freedom. The perpetual boyhood of Adam gives free and unlimited play to infantilism, from which we inherit the thousand tyrannies of modern government, established in social near-consensus. Tocqueville warns us in Chapter IV of Democracy in America,
Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing.
When man rejects God, he will have the state as his god – for man will have a god. The state-as-god traffics in sexual distortion as a source of power. Woman-as-man desires this power. Only man-as-man – by abilities delegated by God and authorized in obedience – is able to deflect her from this course. Man-as-woman is similarly distorted: he desires only escape and irresponsibility – to be Peter Pan. Only woman-as-woman – possessing her own unique and delegated capabilities – can coax him from the shadows of perpetual childhood. These powers of mutual correction are the gift of God, acquired by obedience to His counsel, by which men and woman come to know what they are. The false and worldly view of sexual complementarity – such as that promoted in the Danvers Statement on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and affirmed by Dr. John Piper here – does away with the ordained (and traditional) marital and social roles of the man, and becomes its own baptized form of feminism. It does this by omission rather than commission. By projecting functional fungibility on what God ordained to be both a hierarchical and a functionally differentiated relationship, Piper’s view provides a rich medium for the growth of female anomie and woman-worship.
Our churches have failed us here, as elsewhere. Spiritually frail, woman-worshiping ministers not only fail to respond appropriately to female sin, but do not emphasize the subordinate, dependent role that women have in the mystery of reproduction. It is God who creates the child within the woman, by the agency of his will, through both the man, and the vehicle of female physiology, which she no more created herself than she did Saturn or Mount Everest.
The woman is the receptacle and steward of life, not its creator. It is the weakness, dependency, and subordination of women that must form the motive of genuine chivalry, not a false view of the magical, god-like properties of the female sex. The West has traditionally afforded high status to females, especially in comparison to their status in other religions and cultures: assumed protection from violence, shielding from economic competition, reduced penalties for certain crimes, social deference, favoritism in divorce law. It is only a right view of sexual complementarity, one that secures both female dignity and accountability in prescribed social and marital roles, that can arrest the growth of woman-worship, and the distortion of the Gospel by feminism.