Someone recently suggested to me that the possible responses of the Church to feminism are threefold. He said,
- You could denounce feminism and argue feminists disagree with the Bible. Of course that approach actually supports feminist arguments so it might very well have the opposite effect in terms of convincing people.
- You could try and nit pick at the facts feminist arguments are based on. This might work but you don’t have a congregation full of conservatives. Most of them could do the same thing with the Bible, so in that fight feminism probably wins.
- You could say that metaphor is a type of fashion and every believer can construct there own metaphorical language. There is no real Tiamet to worship, however it’s possible to relate to the God of the Bible in a female way. Christianity never asserts that God has actual gender. You could use female pronouns for “God the Father.” Jesus represents the dying Corn God. You could start using that sort of language, “he died so that all life could be renewed.” Try and create a syncretic faith and then pull that syncretic faith closer to orthodoxy and thus win the people’s hearts for Christ.
I disagree. I think a good starting point for a Christian response to feminist thought is to look at what feminists are actually saying. Many feminist theorists express their theory in terms of vision and strategy. Vision refers to envisioning a world that does not yet exist; one that is better than the one that does exist. Strategy refers to practical means for creating the envisioned world. Visions and strategies vary among feminist theorists, but many feminisms can be seen in terms of their vision and their strategy.
There are a number of reasons why it’s ineffective for the Church to respond to feminism simply by taking issue with the facts asserted by feminists, or to simply point out the ways that the Bible is at odds with their theory. Feminist theory is prepared for both these approaches. Feminist epistemology undercuts the truth claims made by the Church with regard to the facts and demonstrates that they are indeed a part of the very oppression that feminism set out to redress in the first place. Feminist theory also demonstrates that the claim Christians make about the Bible’s authority only perpetuates this oppression.
It’s also ineffective to syncretize in the hope of captivating those compelled by feminism and draw them somewhat nearer to orthodoxy. This does not address the real issue. The real issue is not that feminists hold an unorthodox view. The issue is that they are more compelled by a vision of the world as it could be than they are by Christ and the kingdom He is bringing about. We want feminists to be captivated by Christ and the righteousness of His kingdom, not to agree with us about certain propositions that constitute what we define as orthodoxy. If they come to agree with us about propositions because we have engaged them with a theological bait and switch, but they are not captivated by Christ, then we have not made progress. To put it another way, the problem is not what they believe but what they find compelling. If we change what they believe by making our arguments sound more like what they find compelling, then what they find compelling has not changed, and changing that is the very thing we must do.
In this light, the Church’s response cannot be to argue with feminist theory or to make orthodoxy sound more like it. Feminist epistemology sets it beyond the reach of argumentation and syncretism fails to come to the core of the issue. On the contrary, if the Church is to respond to feminism, it must do so by becoming better than feminists at telling stories. A theory will not carry the day. A vision is necessary. We must present a vision of the Glory of God and the beauty and perfection of His kingdom that is more compelling than the vision which inspires feminist theorizing. We must also pray the Holy Spirit to regenerate the lost and make them into a people who are compelled by Christ and his Gospel. This can be our only aim because if the Holy Spirit does not regenerate, does not make folks into lovers of the Gospel, then no appearance of headway will suffice.