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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Losing the War

In our day the "Gender War" is about over. From a world that was abundantly clear what was "masculine" and what was "feminine", a world that had no doubt what constituted "male" and "female", we've arrived at "gender fluidity" where gender is whatever you want it to be and suggesting anything otherwise (like "science", "biology", or "the obvious") is considered hateful. In places once dominated by males we now have women taking the lead. They are CEO's and congress-persons and even running for president. They dominate the universities and colleges. They are in the military and going to combat. There is hardly a corner that is not being taken over by women. And our society considers that a good thing. Today more wives divorce their husbands than husbands their wives, more women are working, the "stay-at-home mom" is an outdated and unwise concept, and the old "house and home and baby makes three" concept is right out. Where men in former days made the mistake of making life "all about me", women have come into their own with a vengeance.

So inculcated are we in the church1 with the culture of the day -- to include feminism, radical feminism, the demeaning of the masculine, and "gender fluidity" -- that it seems almost impossible to figure out what actual "role of men" there is in the church. In fact, for many the simple phrase "role of men" is an affront because, as we all know, men and women are equal. Any suggestion, for instance, that "women should keep silent in the churches" (1 Cor 14:34), "the head of a wife is her husband" (1 Cor 11:3), or "do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man" (1 Tim 2:12) is wrong, wrong, wrong ... a product of outdated and immoral patriarchy from male-dominated days that we, bless God, have outgrown today. "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord" (Eph 5:22)? Not today's wives. As everyone knows, "there is no male and female" (Gal 3:28). As a result, more and more men are leaving the churches. "I guess we're not needed here anymore. We can probably just go watch football." Or they're conforming, getting in touch with their "feminine side". "You can stay as long as you don't call up any of that 'male leadership' nonsense."

Lay that alongside Scripture. The Bible is not unclear.
I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. (1 Cor 11:3)

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, His body, and is Himself its Savior. (Eph 5:22-23)

God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. (1 Cor 14:33-35)
None of these is popular these days. Some are downright ignored. Others are reinterpreted.

How about this bit of sexism straight from the pen of Paul? "Man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man." (1 Cor 11:8-9) You can do what you like with that passage these days ... except take it at face value.

And everyone knows that Paul did not mean what he wrote to Timothy.
I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness--with good works. Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing--if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (1 Tim 2:8-15)
All wrong. Men pray ... fine ... but not this stuff about women adorning themselves with modesty and self-control and certainly not all this submissiveness and keeping women out of authority over men! Never mind that Paul roots his argument in Creation Order. It's wrong. And we know it.

Well, you can decide. On this topic, do we "rewrite" Scripture using a cultural lens, or do we stick with Scripture and ignore culture? The Bible isn't vague. It's not some "guess". Nor has the Church in all its history had any question on the basic nature of gender or on the differing roles of men and women as different by design. It was only here in the last century or so that we've decided they've been wrong all that time. It would seem obvious that anyone who holds to a view of Scripture as God's Word -- reliable and authoritative -- would need to deny modern "gender fluidity" especially as it is expressed today in gender roles (or the lack thereof) in the church and in Christianity.

But here's my problem. I've been raised in this. I mean, it has been this way for as long as I've been around. Oh, it has changed. It has increased, grown, overgrown, flooded the churches. But ever since the Industrial Revolution when men left the homes to go to work and churches adapted to a largely women-and-children structure, the church has been "feminized" to varying degrees. So I don't know what a "masculine church" would really look like. I don't know what Peter or Paul had for church. Clearly from the texts we have it was not like ours today. So where do I go to find out what they thought it should look like? It's a quandry.

1 It's interesting. There is a website called that offers a kind of user-driven topical section about just about any topic you might want. People will "Suggest a Verse" to give references on whatever topic is at hand. In the Gender Roles topic, you'll find something that speaks volumes. The texts offered at the top of the page are largely a denial of male leadership or male-oriented roles. First, for instance, is the Gal 3:28 verse that the egalitarians say denies any difference between male or female. Instead of the clear texts I included from 1 Cor 11 on husbands as head over wives and such, they reference 1 Cor 11:12 -- "As woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God" -- deemphasizing male roles. Instead of "Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." (Eph 5:22), they first enter "Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ." (Eph 5:21) There are references to Deborah, the prophetess, Priscilla and Aquila, and "the women who announce the news" (Psa 68:11). In other words, in this user-driven topical Bible, the feminists are taking the lead.


Alec said...


Well done for writing these things clearly. This is yet another example of how far the "evangelical" church has fallen from the model of Scripture and is just not "cutting it".

In terms of what we can do, the first step is for us as Christian men to speak about these things amongst ourselves - and keep speaking about them. There are contemporary examples we can learn from - the Amish and Mennonite come to mind.

And what about headcoverings? Christian women who suggest these things are given a hard time. How many would even dare to try wearing one? Yet up until 1960 or so I believe headcoverings were the norm in American churches.


Stan said...

When we've arrived at the point that the phrase "a woman's place" by itself is an affront, I think that the mere suggestion of "headcoverings" will be sorely resisted. Not because there is no biblical support, but because of ... culture?

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

First, I wouldn't set up the Amish or the old order Mennonites as examples. They are very legalistic in their teachings, and very cultic to boot.

Secondly as to the head-covering issue, the problem is that over the years the teachings about it from Scripture were abused and totally taken out of context. I wrote and article about the issue many years ago when dealing with people who claimed head coverings were to be a virtual 24/7 thing, based on the false teachings of people like the Amish. I posted a summary on my blog a few years later:

David Phillips did an even more thorough study and his work is well-worth reading:

Stan said...

I share concerns about the Amish and Mennonites as general examples, although I understand that the point is not to use them as overall examples of church, Christianity, or doctrine, but to simply wonder whether they are examples of those who have refrained from feminism and retained a more biblical role for males.

And the headcovering thing is of interest, I suppose, but not really relevant to my question of male roles in churches or what a biblical church would look like without the feminism overhaul.

Glenn E. Chatfield said...

The head covering thing was just in response to Alec.

Stan said...

Yes, I got that. And mine was just a reflection on it. :)

Alec said...

Hi Glenn,

Good points. Stan got what I meant - not to hold either group up as general examples, just in terms of contemporary cases in which more traditional roles seem to still be in force.

Certainly the church at large is at the other extreme of the headcovering issue now. The real issues are modesty for women and headship for men. Wouldn't you agree Glenn we could stand to have some healthy Biblical discussion about these? I know you agree!


Glenn E. Chatfield said...

Modesty for women and headship for men would be EXCELLENT topics for teaching in the assembly. Sadly, it will never happen.