The Biblical and logical fallacies of Sarah Beesey’s Christian Feminism

ChristianFeministThinking

Contrary to the assertions of Sarah Bessey and her Egalitarian friends, Jesus was not in fact, a feminist. Last year Candace Cameron was in the news for proclaiming her unashamed beliefs about the Biblical idea of male headship. This sent a chill down the back of every feminist and egalitarian who heard her words, and Sarah Bessey, one of the most prominent of Christian feminists, just had to respond to this defense of this archaic and patriarchal worldview that has held women back for thousands of years.

Let me first state before I continue, that while Candace Cameron and I would agree on many issues when it comes to Biblical male headship and submission, Candace does not go far enough in many areas and tries to soften these teachings to make them more acceptable for a modern audience. She also appeals to the idea of complementarian marriages working better than egalitarian marriages.

Complentarian marriages are not perfect

I agree with Candace that there are many Complentarian marriages that work beautifully. But in the Complementarian marriages I have seen that do have problems – there are one of two problems that are the major causes:

Problem #1 The controlling husband

One reason complementarian marriages sometimes have problems is that the husband is not being a servant leader as Christ was, but is instead abusing his God given headship and is brow beating his wife with it(either mentally or physically), he tries to control every thought and action his wife has and this is not what God intended.

Problem #2 The rebellious wife

But in our modern era of full blown feminism, that vast majority of complementarian marriages that have problems are due in large part to the rebellion of modern women. Modern women (Christian or otherwise) have little to no concept of what respect and submission toward their husbands looks like. Many Christian women, while giving lip service to male headship and submission, actually attempt to dominate and manipulate their husbands and they constantly fight for control, until their husband finally gives in, or the woman seeks a divorce (70% of divorces today are filed by women).

Egalitarians like to paint this ugly and untrue picture that all Complementarian marriages have at their core mentally, or physically abused women. They believe that any relationship that calls on one person to be subject to the other could never in their view be a healthy one.

But Egalitarian marriages aren’t so perfect either

The dirty little secret about Egalitarian marriages and why they often “work”, is because the women actually run these homes. I have seen some of these relationships, and have talked with many Egalitarian couples online in Christian forums, as well as in person. What they all have in common are that the women actually dominate the men.

This domination is not always overt, but is often subtle. Egalitarian wives often go out of their way to fool the people around them, and even themselves into thinking their marriage is truly a 100% mutual relationship. They may even “allow” their husbands to get their way on an issue from time to time, so they can convince themselves of how “mutual” their relationship is.

The fact is the men in these relationships have surrendered their God given position of leadership, and their wives have “graciously” stepped in to fill the void. These husbands then get to pat themselves on the back and their wives can show them off for the “evolved” and “sensitive” men that they are.

Now let’s take a look at some of the attacks against Biblical male headship and patriarchy as well as Sarah’s defense of Christian feminism (or Egalitarianism as it often referred to).

Sarah Bessey’s full response to Candace Cameron can be found at http://sarahbessey.com/disagree-bure-biblical-marriage/

Just because it works does not make it Biblical

Let me begin with a statement by Sarah that I partially agree with:

“I believe that Candace Cameron Bure is wrong here. Of course, even simply scientifically, we know that there are millions of egalitarian marriages that “work” very well. But also, biblically, there are problems with her words.

This method or strategy may well be how her marriage works – and if so, lovely – but it’s not necessarily biblical”

Sarah is absolutely correct that just because something works, does not necessarily make it Biblical – Amen! I recently wrote a post on this subject of “if it works” in marriage called “What does a successful Christian marriage look like?”

I completely agree with the concept that just because the complementarian model works well in some marriages and the egalitarian marriage model works well in others, does not make either the correct model.

What makes something right, is whether it is Biblical or not. This is where my agreement with Sarah Bessey ends and where my disagreement begins.

Sarah then makes a statement that would make any Christian who holds to Biblical inerrancy and a literal interpretation of the Bible have their mouth fall open in disbelief:

The idea that a Man is the Head of the Home has its roots in secular ancient culture, not in the Word of God or the created order of humanity.”

ThinkingUnbelief

I guess these Scripture passages must be figments of our imagination?

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

Ephesians 5:22-23(KJV)

“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.”

I Corinthians 11:3(KJV)

“That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”

Titus 2:4-6(KJV)

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands

I Peter 3:1(KJV)

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.”

Colossians 3:18(KJV)

Sarah continues:

“And the idea that, as a wife, I would need to “become passive” or smaller or somehow less in order to make my marriage work is damaging and wrong.”

Sarah’s idea here is one of the great flaws of feminist and egalitarian philosophy. Basically the philosophy goes, if one person (the wife in this case) has different rights, different privileges or must submit to the other person that somehow makes them less of a person.

Another way of stating this is, Egalitarians believe that unless all people have exactly the same rights and privileges, then those who have less rights or privileges are being treated as less than human. You will see this theme throughout most of her writings.

Feminists never consider the fact that in many adult relationships adults are required to submit to and follow the leadership of other adults. In the military, is an officer more of a human being (or “larger” to user Sarah’s logic) because he has authority over the officers and enlisted men in his command?

Is it “damaging” to a solider that he has to submit to his higher ranking officers?

Is it “damaging” to an employee that they have to submit to their manager?

Equal rights and privileges have nothing to do with equal personhood. A woman is just as much of a person as a man, even though God created woman for man, and calls on wives to submit to their husband’s headship in marriage and in the home.

Sarah then says:

“But don’t get me wrong: I believe in submission.

I just don’t believe that our call to submission in marriage is restricted to me.

I submit to my husband. And he submits to me, too. And together, we submit to Jesus.”

This false concept of “mutual submission” is another one the central tenants of Egalitarian teachings. Their teaching comes from a wrong interpretation of Ephesians 5:21:

“Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”

Paul said this statement right before he said this in Ephesians chapter 5:

“22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”

So Sarah and her Egalitarian friends say “See! Paul was telling husbands and wives to submit to one another, submission is not specific only to wives, but husbands are supposed to submit to their wives too”.

I would ask Sarah this question – you talk about how you submit to your husband, and your husband submits to you, and together you submit to Christ – does Christ submit to you and your husband too?

Because if we follow Paul’s logic in Ephesians 5 that a woman is to submit to her husband as the Church submits to Christ, then Christ must also submit to his church too then right? In other words Christ submits to you and your husband in the same way that you submit to him right?

Later Bessey has to basically admit that Peter and Paul actually did teach male headship, but only for this reason:

“Peter and Paul worked within imperfect systems because any outright challenge to the law of the land would bring persecution down upon the Church in great number. In fact, the Apostles “advocated this system, not because God had revealed it as the divine will for Christian homes, but because it was the only stable and respectable system anyone knew about” at the time, according to Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe of the Women’s Bible Commentary.”

PeterAndPaulAfraid

Oh ok – so really a wife submitting to her husband was not a beautiful picture of the God’s people submitting to him, but instead was because Peter and Paul did not want to challenge the social laws of their time for fear of persecution?

Is any other student of the Bible, or even Christian history in general, not falling out their chairs at such a ridiculous statement? Or maybe the Apostles Peter and Paul were not as advanced as modern Christians like Sarah and other Egalitarians who know better than to have these outdated patriarchal systems right?

These kinds of statements from Christian feminists and egalitarians prove their own very weak view of the Scriptures. After all, the Bible is just a bunch of men’s opinions steeped in cultural bias and ignorance right? Oh except for the few parts of the Bible Christian Feminists and Egalitarians decide really are the inspired Word of God right?

Sarah states:

“Not only is the idea that wives alone are to submit to their husbands poor exegesis, it is damaging.

It is damaging to the image of God carried in women and in men. A woman who is held back, minimized, or downplayed is not walking in the fullness God intended for her as an image bearer”

Is it “damaging” for Church members to submit to their Church leaders?

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”

Hebrews 13:17(KJV)

Is it “damaging” for children to submit to their parents?

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.”

Ephesians 6:1(KJV)

If the answers to both these questions are no, then somehow it is “damaging” for a woman to submit to her husband even though the God’s Word commands this multiple times?

But then we have the supposed “image bearer” problem Sarah presents. I just wrote an article “Is God more like a man, more like a woman, or a combination of the two?” on this topic of “image bearing”, and let me just summarize it, there is no problem with image bearing here for women. Woman was created in man’s image, not God’s image. Woman was created for man, not man for woman. So don’t worry Sarah, there is no minimization of a woman’s image when she obeys God’s command for her to submit to her husband.

In fact a woman “maximizes” the image God created her with, when she does what God designed her to do, and that is when she serves her husband to the best of her ability.

“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man…Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”

I Corinthians 11:7 & 9(KJV)

In the end Sarah closes with this statement:

“In a Christian marriage, Christ is meant to be the head of our homes, and within marriage, we are meant to submit to one another – even as Candace Cameron Bure rightly defines it, “so, it is meekness, it is not weakness. It is strength under control, it is bridled strength.”

Yes, yes, it is. For both men and women.

My husband and I submit to one another as we both submit to Christ. We learned that from our Bibles.”

It is interesting how Sarah says she believes Christ is the head of her home which the Bible does teach, but she rejects another teaching of the Bible that Christ has given her husband leadership over her (“For the husband is the head of the wife” – Ephesians 5:23).

Also if you know the whole “head” argument of egalitarians it also kind of funny that she uses the term “head” in reference to Christ being head of her home. Whenever the Bible says man is head over woman – it just means “source”, but has nothing to do with leadership, or so Egalitarians would have us believe. But apparently when it comes to Christ, “head” actually means leadership.

In closing – Sarah, no you did not learn this false idea of mutual submission and lack of headship in marriage from your Bible, you learned it from the false teachings of your charismatic church and the many women in those charismatic churches who have in fact “usurped authority over the man”(I Timothy 2:12).

 

A Response to Sharon Hodde Miller on the Modest is hottest debate

Womans in different dresses sit on sofa

Sharon Hodde Miller wrote a piece for ChristianityToday.com back in 2011 about how the ‘Modest is Hottest’ movement was hurting young women. I was not blogging back then, and in fact had not heard of this movement until recently. I have a 12 year old daughter and we have been exploring what our family believes Biblical modesty to be.

From other posts I have read of Mrs. Miller, she could rightly be understood as a Christian feminist, I do not say that to discredit her work, but only to offer a little background on where she is coming from in her thought processes.

The main site for “Modest is Hottest” can be found at http://www.modestishottest.com/

Sharon Hodde Miller’s response to this movement can be found at http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2011/december/how-modest-is-hottest-is-hurting-christian-women.html?start=1

In this post I will primarily be examining Mrs. Miller’s response, and showing where I agree and disagree with her critique.

Mrs. Miller writes:

“The Christian rhetoric of modesty, rather than offering believers an alternative to the sexual objectification of women, often continues the objectification, just in a different form.

As the Christian stance typically goes, women are to cover their bodies as a mark of spiritual integrity. Too much skin is seen as a distraction that garners inappropriate attention, causes our brothers to stumble, and overshadows our character. Consequently, the female body is perceived as both a temptation and a distraction to the Christian community. The female body is beautiful, but in a dangerous way.”

This is the typical teaching of feminists that the problem is not with women, but with men. We need to teach men to stop seeing women as sexual objects, but as people, or so we are told.

In the Feminist, and Christian feminist mindset, it is practically impossible for a man to see women as both people and objects sexual beauty and desire, it is either one, or the other in their view.

If anything, most feminists actually think men can have their minds reprogrammed, to sort of have a “sexual on and off switch”. So that only when it is appropriate, for instance in the context of a committed relationship, or in marriage would a man ever be sexually attracted to a woman. But the idea of men being attracted to women, minus any relationship context, is pure evil to the Feminist and her cousin the Christian Feminist.

I actually have had discussions with some Christians (some who are feminists and some who are not) who believe that a man being sexually attracted to women before marriage, or being attracted to other women other than his wife after marriage, is part of the corruption of sin from the fall in the Garden of Eden. They believe that God’s original plan was that man would only desire a woman sexually after marriage, and then only that woman, and no other woman.

The problem is, this kind of thinking is never supported from the Scriptures. God made men polygamous in nature, and his Word even regulates how polygamy may occur. Many of the great Patriarchs of the Bible, including Jacob the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, were polygamists. God pictures himself as a polygamist with two wives (Judah and Israel) in prophecy.

You can read in more detail about what the Bible says about Polygamy from my series:

Why polygamy is not unbiblical

The reason I have said all this is – goes back to Mrs. Miller’s assertion about men seeing women as sexual objects and that is the problem we should focus on – in her view. I would not disagree with the fact that there are men who purely see women as sex objects, completely divorced from their person-hood, and that is Biblically wrong behavior. God wants men to respect and honor women as human beings, and he wants them treated with human dignity.

But that does not change the fact that men seeing women as objects of sexual beauty and desire is NOT the problem here, it is not a defect, it is by the design of God. A man desiring women’s beauty, is symbolic of God desiring the beauty of his church. That is why God has designed women to want to be beautiful, and why he has designed men to be attracted to the beauty of women.

Psalm 45 which is a messianic prophecy of Christ and the Church says this:

“So shall the king greatly desire thy beauty: for he is thy Lord; and worship thou him…The king’s daughter is all glorious within: her clothing is of wrought gold. She shall be brought unto the king in raiment of needlework…”

Psalm 45:13-14(KJV)

Just as God desire’s the beauty of his church, so too as symbol of that spiritual relationship, he designed man to naturally desire the beauty of women. That is why men are much more visually oriented then women most of the time. This is not some mistake of the fall – it is by design.

The Early Church fathers and their anti-woman teachings

Now where I have some agreement with Mrs. Miller is when she writes about Christians teaching that women needed to cover themselves as to not cause their brothers in Christ to “stumble”, and the fact that a woman’s body is said to be “beautiful, but in a dangerous way.”

She alludes to the harsh teachings of some of the early church fathers against women.

“Of course, this language isn’t new. Consider how profoundly the female identity has been negatively linked to her body throughout church history. For several decades now, feminist theologians have critiqued the mind-body dualism by which Christians have equated men with the mind and women with the carnal body. Citing Eve as the original “gateway for the Devil,” thinkers such as Tertullian have peppered Christian tradition with hostility toward the wiles of femininity. Origen likened women to animals in their sexual lust. According to author Jane Billinghurst, “Early Christian men who had to greet women during church services by shaking their hands were advised to first wrap their hands in robes so as to shield their flesh against their seductive touch.””

First let’s understand something, only the Apostles were inerrant in their writings and teachings on Christian doctrine, because they were directly and perfectly guided by the Holy Spirit of God. Their followers who came later, and other church teachers who lived years after them were not perfect or inspired in their teachings. They wrote some good commentary on the Scriptures at times, but they also fell into heresy.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 2 fighting against this errors that were creeping into the church, the errors of Gnosticism and Asceticism. Unfortunately, not long after the Apostles deaths, and for centuries to come, church fathers like Origen, Jerome, Ignatius, John Chrysostom, and Augustine all came to embrace and teach the false doctrines of Christian Asceticism.

Christian Asceticism taught that all forms of physical pleasure were wrong, and that the body was completely evil in every way. They actually looked at sex as a necessary evil for reproduction, as opposed to a gift from God and part of his grand design. It was common for church leaders to have Christian married couples who already had children to take vows of celibacy and never have sex anymore. Because of this false belief about sexuality and physical pleasure, they came to see women as the enemy because of how men could desire them, and this desire was seen as sinful.

So we have on one side, Feminists and Christian feminists say it is wrong for men to see women as objects of sexual desire, and on the other side we have the Christian Ascetics and many of their teachings that still survive to this day saying almost the same thing.

The reality is – both sides are WRONG. Men are not wrong in seeing women as both people and objects of sexual beauty and desire, these two concepts are not mutually exclusive, but are in fact the only way to understand sexuality in a healthy manner as God designed it to be.

Sexual desire before marriage, and physical sexual consummation after marriage are by the design of God. There is nothing dirty, or shameful about this truth, and no man needs to apologize for his visual sexual nature, or the fact that he can be sexually attracted to a woman without knowing anything about her person. Where the right and wrong come in, is what he does with that natural sexual desire, does he channel it within the bounds of God’s law, does he treat these women with respect, and does he keep the physical consummation of sex for marriage?

Mrs. Miller writes near the end of her article:

“…we must affirm the value of the female body. The value or meaning of a woman’s body is not the reason for modesty. Women’s bodies are not inherently distracting or tempting. On the contrary, women’s bodies glorify God. Dare I say that a woman’s breasts, hips, bottom, and lips all proclaim the glory of the Lord! Each womanly part honors Him. He created the female body, and it is good.

Finally, language about modesty should focus not on hiding the female body but on understanding the body’s created role. Immodesty is not the improper exposure of the body per se, but the improper orientation of the body. Men and women are urged to pursue a modesty by which our glory is minimized and God’s is maximized. The body, the spirit and the mind all have a created role that is inherently God-centered. When we make ourselves central instead of God, we display the height of immodesty.”

When I read this line from her the first time – “Women’s bodies are not inherently distracting or tempting” I almost fell out of my chair laughing! Only a Christian Feminist could write such non-sense! I am sorry, but common sense tells us women’s bodies are in fact “distracting and tempting” to men. Not only common sense proves this, but years of scientific research into the area of male sexuality proves how visually wired men are, and how they are distracted and tempted by the female body.

But we have to ask ourselves again, is this wrong? Or is it by the design of God? I know Christians are saying – “God would never want us to be tempted to do anything wrong” – and you are absolutely correct. But that is why I would take the word tempted, and replace it with “attracted”.

Men are distracted by the female form, because they are attracted to the female form. One reason that I alluded to earlier that man is attracted to the beauty of woman is, this is symbolic of God’s attraction to the spiritual beauty of his Church.

But this attraction to women’s bodies that God designed in men, has a second purpose. It also has the purpose of driving men to pursue women, to pursue marriage and having children. Neither feminists, nor church leaders should shame men for this very strong attraction to women, they ought to be praising God for it! The human race would not be here today, except for the strong attraction of men to beautiful women!

So I 100% agree with Mrs. Miller when she writes “Dare I say that a woman’s breasts, hips, bottom, and lips all proclaim the glory of the Lord!” That is an absolutely Biblical statement to make.

I also agree with Mrs. Miller that we need to have an “understanding” about the female “body’s created role”. While all human beings were ultimately created for the honor and glory of God, our bodies were also created for some very practical and physical purposes in this life and world.

God not only created woman for his own glory, but he also specifically created woman for man. Thus her body is also created for man – this is the female body’s “created role”.

“Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”

I Corinthians 11:9(KJV)

Does this mean a woman was created only for man’s sexual pleasure? Of course not! She was created to be a helpmeet to him. She was created to “bear children” and “guide the house”, to be his companion and mother to his children.

But there is no escaping the fact that a large part of the “created role” of a woman’s body was for the visual and sexual pleasure of man. Her body is both visually attractive, and physically pleasurable to a man, and this is not by accident, but by design. A woman’s body is given to man as a blessing, to be enjoyed.

“Even by the God of thy father, who shall help thee; and by the Almighty, who shall bless thee with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lieth under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:”

Genesis 49:25(KJV)

“Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.”

Proverbs 5:18-19(KJV)

“I am a wall, and my breasts like towers: then was I in his eyes as one that found favour.”

Song of Solomon 8:10(KJV)

Did you know human females are the only mammals on the planet that have constantly protruding breasts? Other mammal’s breasts only protrude when they are pregnant, or nursing and after nursing the protruding breasts go away. God design a human female’s breasts to constantly protrude, for the visual and physical pleasure it gives to men before and after they bare and wean their children.

So the next time a wife says to her husband when he looks at her breasts – “those are for babies, not for you”, that is actually a very unbiblical statement to make. If they were just for babies, they would disappear after nursing, like they do on all other mammals, but instead God design them for the pleasure of man.

I would encourage the reader to look at my posts Why God made woman and How God made woman for a lot more detail on this subject of how God designed a woman’s body and why he designed it the way he did.

Conclusion

I disagree with both the “Modest is hottest” crowd on one side, and the Christian feminist crowd on the other side (represented here by Mrs. Miller). The Biblical truth lies in the middle of these two extremes. A woman should dress modestly – meaning appropriate to the occasion. If she is at the beach, then a bikini might be appropriate to that occasion. If she is going to church, she needs to be fully clothed. A woman ought not to dress like a prostitute, but at the same time she does not have to hide her beauty.

A woman does not need to dress in a way that hides her body from men in order to not “cause them to stumble”. A woman does not need to be ashamed of the beautiful body God has given her, and a man does not need to be ashamed of being attracted to women’s beautiful bodies. God calls us to self-control, and to not have covetous thoughts. So if a man is appreciating a beautiful woman’s body, whether at the beach or elsewhere, no sin has occurred. But if he begins to sexually covet her (lust after), by thinking of ways he could get her to have sex with him outside of marriage, then he has stepped outside of God’s boundaries and his design.

See these related posts to this topic:

What is Biblical Lust?

What does Modesty mean in I Timothy 2:9?

7 Biblical principles for how to dress as a christian woman