Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Time for a reminder: The Definition of Feminism

Now I know some will disagree with me on this, particularly my Catholic friends who have embraced the "New Feminism" spurred on by JPIIs use of the term in Evangelium Vitae, but I believe that feminism is feminism is feminism and, as I've said before, I'm not a great fan of "isms".  In the months since I first developed this definition of feminism (with the wise guidance of some faithful brother-theologians, I will add), I have not felt the need to seriously revise it.  The definition includes both the genus, feminism and the particular species of feminism with which I am most concerned, religious feminism:

Feminism is the belief which denies the created order of the sexes. Religious feminism, in particular, is the heresy which denies the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the authorship of Scripture and denies the paradox at the heart of orthodox Christian anthropology - that man and woman are equally created in the image and likeness of God and that, by creation and sovereign decree, God has established the headship of the man over the woman.

Yes, there it is again.  I used both the "h" word and the "p" word.  If there is one thing religious feminists hate more than the implication that they are not the schismatics, that they are not the ones causing the current rift, that patriarchalists are not trying to put something in Scripture that was never there to start with -- it is the implications of that necessary and beautiful paradox at the heart of Christian anthropology.


Anonymous said...

I have long wanted to sit down with you and some coffee and pick your brain for hours! I married into a family of religious feminists and I've found that a conversation doesn't have to go far before one's opinions on these things shines through. I have a question for you...in your definition of feminism, you say the feminist denies the authorship of the Holy Spirit in Scripture, but my in-laws simply say it is a matter of interpretation. What would be your response to that?
Jennifer E. GR, MI

Kamilla said...


Thank you so much for the kind words!

Yes, it's always a matter of interpretation, isn't it? I have two problems with that. First, that I question the value of any radical new interpretation, and this is where one part of the Holy Spirit's work comes in. He wasn't only the author of Scripture, but was promised as our guide to truth. Why, then, has it taken so long for Him to get around to this basic, basic truth? If men and women are to take positions of equal authority or co-authority in the Church and home, why wait until now to help us understand this? This is such a basic part of our understanding of who we are and how we are to be in the world, it seems strange it would take all of, not just the Church age, but all of human history to get us here. And then, only when our culture has come to this understand do we "discover" this was the true meaning of Scripture all along? Because, then, you also have to explain how God managed to keep falling back into patriarchal structures - Israel being established as a patriarchy by God's design, for one example.

I'm not buying it.

But second, while the religious feminist will accuse the Complementarian or Patriarchalist of proof-texting, it is the religious feminist who is limited to a few proof-texts they have been able to force novel interpretations upon. I think the tit for tat arguments between Wayne Grudem and Cathie Kroeger (for instance) are nothing more than a side show. It's as if they are standing in front of a Suerat painting* and arguing about six dots of paint in the lower right corner! You can't understand Seurat without standing back far enough to take in the whole picture. The Bible is like that. You can't understand the picture until you stand back and look at the whole. When you do, you will see the great themes of Scripture - and the over-arching wedding theme. History starts with a wedding, when the first woman was made from the man and for the man and brought to the man. The Old Testament is largely the history of Gods' relationship with his unfaithful wife, Israel. In the New Testament, we have the relationship that will end in the wedding feast that ends all of history - the wedding supper of the Bridegroom Christ and his Bride, the Church. Within this Great Story, the relationship of man and woman, husband and wife is a sign. The individual, the small, tells us about the great, the whole. In this context, mutual submission as the religious feminists conceive it is nonsense. The wife is called to submit to her husband because it is a picture of the Church's submission to her Lord, Christ.

The real argument religious feminists have with Christ and his Church is not over authority, it is over prestige and power, title and position. They are looking for the sort of power of office that allows one to command and direct others. When, in truth, wives and mothers have a genuinely huge amount of authority in terms of influence. Do you recall the old truism, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world"? Think about the reason it is true and you will begin to understand where a woman's true authority lies.


*check out pointilism and Georges Seurat on Wikipedia if you're not familiar with the painting technique.

vielleur said...

> it seems strange it would take all of, not just the Church age, but all of human history to get us here.

And just in the nick of time, too -- as the advanced civilization that only recently discovered this "truth" is imploding everywhere you look. We claim to be smarter than out ancestors, but ignorance reigns supreme at all levels of society. So much for enlightenment. To me, it is no coincidence that so much error is embraced today, and that goes well beyond the realm of religion.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response. I've found that I can't really ask honest questions of feminists because they get offended and angry so quickly. I hope you write your book; I'd buy it!
I appreciate your comparison with Suerat; what a great image.
Power and prestige...hmmm...I've heard some feminists in our church complain about not being able to teach mixed classes and I want to say, "What am I? Chopped liver?" In spite of all of the "empowering" they say they want for women, it's as if their service doesn't count unless it includes authority over men.
Jennifer E.