The Feminist Challenge

John C. Rankin (1989)

The assumption of biblical sexuality rooted in the order of creation is simple – the trust located in chastity outside of the marriage of one man and one woman, and fidelity within. The rise of pagan and secular feminism takes objection.

Christine Overall, in her introduction to Ethics and Human Reproduction, gives a succinct definition of feminism that assumes five essential components:

  1. Women’s experience;
  2. Women’s victimization by male dominance;
  3. Understanding the origin of male dominance;
  4. Rebellion against male dominance; and
  5. The creation to structures to teach and reproduce a worldview that succeeds in such a rebellion.

Here is her specific language:

  1. “First, a feminist perspective involves a commitment to understanding women’s experience, beliefs, ideas, relationships, behavior, creations and history. It stresses women’s own perceptions; that is, how events, institutions, social groups, and individuals are apprehended and interpreted by women …. This focus is justified by the fact that women’s experience and history have for the most part been suppressed, ignored, manipulated, and exploited, both in the past and the present ….”
  2. “Second, a feminist perspective is founded upon and fully informed by an awareness that women have been and are the victims of oppression under patriarchy, the system of male dominance ….”
  3. “Third, a feminist perspective includes some sort of theory about the origins of the oppression of women ….”
  4. “Fourth, a feminist perspective is guided by a determination to avoid perpetuating or acquiescing in the oppression of women and to contribute, whenever possible, to the further understanding and dissolution of sexual inequality. In this respect feminism moves beyond the awareness of women’s victimization to a vision of women’s present and potential empowerment ….”
  5. “Finally, a feminist perspective is characterized by the deliberate and self-conscious (in a positive sense) nature of its worldview. In its most developed form it fosters the creation of new or alternate epistemic, ethical, and cultural systems. This is the most original aspect of feminism, and also its least developed” (pp. 2-4).

This agenda has had great success, to the detriment of society, but more importantly, in reaction to the prior evil of male chauvinisms. Overall’s critique is rooted in a reaction to broken trust between men and women, and the only remedy is to become rooted in the prior and proactive biblical assumptions of trust. Thus, when it comes to a question of the origins of male chauvinisms, it is not possible to grasp it apart from the biblical storyline of creation, sin and redemption. “Sin” is best defined as broken trust, and Overall is painfully rooted in the experience of broken trust.

Only the Gospel brings the answer, and this feminist challenge is addressed in Chapter Six of Genesis and the Power of True Assumptions.

From the angle of another feminist scholar, Harvard psychologist Carol Gilligan published her influential work in 1982, In a Different Voice. In an intramural challenge of the pagan feminist movement, she made clinical observations that women think differently than men, and accordingly, models for healthy psychologies cannot be made to apply to girls if the only studies are done on boys – as the reigning psychological paradigm of Lawrence Kohlberg then assumed. Gilligan, despite some good analysis, and in view of Kohlberg’s imbalance, said that the problem “all goes back, of course, to Adam and Eve – a story which shows, among other things, that if you make a woman out of a man, you are bound to get into trouble. In the life cycle, as in the Garden of Eden, the woman has become the deviant” (p. 6).

Gilligan’s comment about the nature of Adam and Eve and the Garden of Eden is unfortunately the norm among many scholars. Such an assumption then influences those who read these scholars, which translates into the influencing of the cultural elite who determine so much of what assumptions are filtered for the rest of society to hear. Thus, public perception and public policy are affected – many times against the better instincts and common sense of the population at large.

Somewhere in her experience and/or training, Gilligan accepted an item of biblical eisegesis. That is, this reflects some woman’s interpretation of the text that comes not from an understanding of the Bible on its own terms, but from refracting the Bible through the myopia of sin and brokenness. And the chief sin here is that of male chauvinism, where too many girls grow up not seeing the power to give in their father or father-figure, and thus they cannot see the power to give in God the Father, and in the biblical witness.

And again, I address such concerns in Chapter Six of Genesis and the Power of True Assumptions.