By K.E.

Stegall ©

I’ll admit it. I feel frustrated… …when talented and educated Christian women defend women’s subordinate place in the church on Sunday with the same confident vigor they use to drive themselves in their own cars to their responsible jobs in the most demanding areas of society, such as our schools, hospitals, social welfare agencies, courts of law, the media, and business institutions, where they will make decisions affecting the lives of others on Monday. …when I read statements like this, “…I believe profoundly in equal rights and equal opportunities for women, and I am deeply grateful to the women whose tireless crusade opened the voting booth, the universities, and the board rooms to women. … Today their rights to these things are enshrined in law, and barriers of all kinds are crumbling in spheres of work and public life.”1 Amid articles in Christian publications which criticize feminism, with some good reason, yet never discuss or defend as biblical truth this “public life” equality in which they profoundly believe. …when church leaders expound on what they believe the Bible teaches about the subordinate role of women in Church and family with a brief disclaimer about how this does not apply to the role of women in the world.

These people want to have their cake and eat it too. The women want to enjoy the equality they instinctively know their humanity demands, and yet continue to be, to themselves and others, good Bible believing Christians. They don’t mind giving up that little corner of equality in the church if they can have all that. The men want to recognize the equality of women which has become obvious to our society while still maintaining some small sphere where they can continue to feel superior and be in charge.

Satan loves dichotomies, divided thought. They are one of his greatest weapons. If he can just contain the applicability of God’s Truth to one small area he doesn’t lose too much territory. This particular dichotomy, which holds that women are equal with all others in society but must be subordinate in the church, is a very subtle, and thus more dangerous, deceit. Unlike most dichotomies, t applies God’s truth outside the church, but not inside. But this is just fine with Satan. He knows that if it isn’t applied inside the church, soon it won’t be applied very well outside the church either. Why? Because Satan knows, as we should, that the church is “the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (I Tim. 3:15) Let me back up just a minute to explain what I mean.
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Katherine Kersten. “How the Feminist Establishment Hurts Women,” Christianity Today, June 20, 1994, pg.21.

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There is only one cause of the status and freedom which women enjoy today. That solitary source is the grace and truth of God through Jesus Christ. Around the world the degree of human equality, dignity, and respect which women experience is directly proportional to the measure of Christian truth which has been brought to bear on their cultures, societies, families and individual lives, regardless of whether that truth has been recognized as Christian truth or not.2 The equality of all human beings is based on three simple Christian truths. (1) All have been created by God in his own image and commissioned by him as stewards of his creation (Gen 1:26-31). This is the law of humanity’s creation. (2) All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23, 5:12). This is the law of humanities death. These two truths set up the fundamental and tragic dichotomy of all human life, in God’s image/short of God’s glory. The third truth is the good news which overcomes the bad news of the second truth and restores to fullness the unity, wholeness and integrity of the first truth. (3) All who believe receive God’s righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:22,24). This is the law of God’s grace, or of humanity’s recreation. These are the facts, the laws of the human condition, the truth. This is what they mean: “THERE IS NO DIFFERENCE,…” (Rom 3:22, 10:11-13) “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you,…” (Matt 7:12) and thus “’Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matt 22:39) This is the consequent moral imperative, the law for all human interaction. As these truths have been believed and preached by the church and applied to an ever widening circle of society, freedom and equality for all people have advanced. In cultures highly influenced by Christianity these simple truths have raised women to the high pinnacle of freedom and equality which we now enjoy.

--------------------Jesus Said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (John 8:31-32)------------

But in the women’s issue perhaps Satan has found a vehicle to tear it all down because… …if this Christian truth, these laws of the human condition, does not mean that women are equal in the church, the pillar and foundation of truth (I Tim 3:15), on what basis can women be equal anywhere else?

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Of course other religions or secular philosophies may affirm and even teach various aspects of real truth, thus promoting and supporting a degree of health for temporal life. The source of much secular thought, though once rooted in Christianity, is now ignored or unknown. But it is still the truth of the one and only triune God. That unbelievers are able to recognize some real truth is evidence of God’s making it plain to them through his creation (Rom 1:19-20), and of his common grace toward all humanity (Matt 5:45).

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…if the church, the family and household of God, where all are sons of God (I Tim 3:15; Gal 3:26-29), cannot accept women as equals, on that basis will anyone else? …if the church, the body of Christ where all are members of that body (I Cor 12:27) and accepted by Jesus as his own brothers (Heb 2:11; Rom 15:7), cannot accept women as equals, on what basis will anyone else? …if God’s truth cannot support equality for women in the church, nor, consequently, in society, how will God’s truth support equality for anyone? What other truths are there that can support the equality of all people in society? There is no other basis. There is no other truth. In theory the church knows this. We preach that the Bible contains the very truths of life itself. We say the truth of the gospel is the foundation for all other truth and applies to all of life. We tell the world, “All truth is God’s truth.”

For the essence of the idea of Scripture is that it alone is the criterion of truth.3 …Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2:3)

So if there is no other truth than God’s truth; and the church, God’s people, says God’s truth does not yield equality for women; then there must e no truth to women’s equality anywhere. Thus, no one will have reason to consider women as equal to men as to value, status, opportunity, right, responsibility, privilege or freedom. Without Jesus Christ’s redemptive and reconciling truth, without the leavening power of the Christian recognition of female equality, and without the church’s example of Christian equality alive in its body, the status of women will revert to the death grip of the curse, “Your desire will be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Gen 3:16) This is a given, a specific of the law of death, which cannot be avoided through lack of recognition, in spite of a politically correct lip service to women’s equality. If this is the case, how has Christianity therefore been able to promote the advancing equality of women throughout history while at the same time continually affirming the subordination of women within church walls? Here’s how. No one thought about it. For centuries the subordinate role of women in the church as been accepted without question, so the dichotomy of thinking was not apparent. The church preached the basic gospel truth without saying much about women specifically. Consequently, that truth was more and more applied to women in society.
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Cornelius Van Til, A Christian Theory of Knowledge, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1969, pp. 43.

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But now the issue has been raised. In answer, much of the church is loudly proclaiming that these basic gospel truths do not yield equality for women in the church. On what basis, then, will society not question the validity of these truths for supporting equality in society. Furthermore, on what basis will society not have greater reason for their continuing and ever increasing doubt about the validity of these so called truths themselves. And if these Christian truths are not really true then neither human equality nor the gospel itself can be valid. You see? A Christian affirmation of the subordination of women in the church says two things to the world: (1) It says there is no truth to support the equality of women anywhere. (2) It declares Christian truth itself to be false. The unbeliever sees this and finds comfort in the conclusion that the church is only hypocrisy built on superstition. Thus he is reinforced in his unbelief. He feels it proves false the primary and ultimate Christian truth, that Jesus Christ, the Truth, is the ground of all being.

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth …he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. … ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’” (Acts 17:24-28)

So the dogma of the women’s subordination undermines both the equality of women and the gospel itself. It is a “pretention that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,…” and causes the church to blaspheme God’s truth among the unbelievers (II Cor 10:5; Rom 2:23-24). It destroys, not with wellreasoned argument, but through the slow and subtle dissolution of the bedrock. The crumbling and shifting sand deep beneath a great edifice will have the same effect whether the building is a state house or a cathedral. Nothing big may happen for some time, just the small things which have to be expected anyway. The windows can no longer be opened properly. A mysterious leak develops in the roof. Cracks begin to mar the beautiful colors of the interior paint. A homeowner confronted with such problems may install new windows, fix the roof and repaint many times before anything big happens. He just never thinks to look underneath everything else. But someday, just as Jesus said, it will fall with a great crash because it was not built on the rock. (Matt 7:2427) Inside the church where Jesus Christ is central women’s lives are greatly relieved of this curse. Their equality in Christ is a given, a specific of the law of grace or human recreation, which cannot entirely be avoided through lack of recognition, in spite of a policy of women’s subordination. (Rom 8:2) Why then does the church seem wary of delineating a biblical base for women’s equality while generally affirming women’s equality in society? This compromising dichotomy is the result of the church’s inward wrestling with its unregenerate nature, the new man against the old. It ignores the law of grace, the church’s only reason for existence, and reflects only that first-cause dichotomy – in God’s image but short of his glory. The Christian mind may often seem unwilling to listen to a biblical defense of women’s equality because we know it will inevitably lead to unsettling and painful change as well as a humiliating 4

admission of sin. Yet the Christian heart seems compelled to affirm women’s equality in society because we know that before God all humanity is equal. The church “knows” these things because the very essence of believing is the humble acknowledgment that God’s laws of the human condition are true truth, not just for ourselves, but for everyone in every circumstance. A person doesn’t have to believe in or even know about electricity to benefit from the light it produces. They only have to trust the light switch enough to flip it when light is needed. Now of course, if their trust and knowledge go no further than the switch they will be at a great disadvantage when a light bulb burns out or a fuse is blown. They won’t know how to bring the light back again. Not knowing about or believing in electricity they may try to substitute a glass bottle of a size and shape very like a light bult, or even a crystal goblet, certainly more beautiful than a light bulb, as a replacement for the burned out light bulb. Of course neither a bottle nor a goblet, no matter how beautiful, can bring back the light. But if someone can help him change the bulb, someone who knows that only a light bulb can properly channel the electricity and change it into light, then even the electricity nonbeliever can live in the light. But suppose the workers at the electrical power plant stop believing in electricity. Or maybe they believe in electricity, they just have forgotten that there is any connection between electricity and light. Suppose they begin to believe the light will continue even without the electricity, so they stop applying electricity to the community’s lights. Will the light continue just because they believe it should? Will the light come on again when they hurry to replace all the light bulbs?

Jesus said, I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12) You are the light of the world. …let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matt 5:14,16)

A biblical defense of women’s equality is the connection needed to link the electricity of God’s truth to the lamp of women’s equality in the world. Then the power will flow and the light will shine. For such a connection to really produce light its theory must be firmly founded on the truth, the laws of the human condition, and its power must be derived from the essential and ultimate power of the universe, the source of all other power, the one and only creator God who has revealed his TRUTH as Jesus Christ. The equality of women, whether in family, church or society must derive its theory from Scripture and its power from Jesus Christ. There is nothing else.

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Jesus said, Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. (John 17:17, 1:1, 14:6, 5:39-40)

We cannot ignore the biblical discussion of women’s equality for fear of causing disunity, for the church’s only hope for unity lies in our meeting in the truth. Truth is the magnetic field which draws Christian believers out of dichotomy, with its division of action from truth, mind from heart, and member from member, and into unity. And truth can only be based on the Truth. Unity in TRUTH is our light to the world.

Jesus prayed, I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one. Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. … I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:20,21,23)

So its not just a question of women accepting the small inequality of being denied full participation in the church. It is a question of women being denied their God-given humanity. It is a question of women’s equality everywhere. It is a question of all human equality and the biblical bedrock of truth upon which it is founded. It is question of the nature of that truth, the church’s commitment to that truth, and the world’s perception of that truth. The dogma of women’s subordination is salt without savor. It gives no taste. It does not protect, sustain or preserve. It is good for nothing. It is a lamp with no light. (Matt 5:13-16) It tells no truth to the world. It demonstrates no grace or reconciliation to the lost. It redeems nothing from death.

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Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell. (Ps 43:3) But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God. (John 3:21)

But if the church will pursue, articulate, and affirm God’s rock-solid truth through a biblical defense of women’s equality in all of life, both the church and the world will see by its light.

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen (Rom 11:36)

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