Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Feminism and Roles

Leslie Basham: Here’s Mary Kassian.

Mary Kassian: We don’t determine how we best glorify God. God determines that. So we need to look at God’s heart, at His heart for male and His heart for female, His heart for authority, His heart for leadership. We need to look at all that and say, “God, You tell me how I best glorify You, and I will bring myself in line with that.”

Leslie Basham: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Friday, September 16th. Here’s Nancy.

Nancy Leigh DeMoss: We’ve been talking all this week about a revolution that has taken place in our culture in the last fifty years, known to many as the feminist revolution. Our guest has been Mary Kassian who has been helping us understand how this movement took place, what some of its roots have been, how it has developed historically, and what that has come to mean for our lives as women. Mary, thank you for being with us on Revive Our Hearts.

Mary Kassian: Thanks, Nancy, glad to be here.

Nancy: Mary, you wrote a book about a dozen or more years ago now called The Feminist Mistake. The subtitle of that book is: The Radical Impact of Feminism on Church and Culture. Now, we’ve been talking for most of this week about the more radical elements of feminism and how they began to penetrate and infiltrate our society, our culture, the political system, the educational system.

But one of the things that was so fascinating to me when I first began to read this book was the way that you tracked the parallel development of feminist thinking and ideology and theory within the church. How has that come to be, and what are some of the roots of that way of thinking?

Mary: Well, it’s really interesting because really the development of feminist thinking in the church took place alongside the development of feminist thinking in secular society.

Actually, when you think back to the 1960s, the whole Civil Rights Movement, the whole movement for the rights of all people being equal was really born in the church. It was really born in the church where Martin Luther King was very prominent at that time, and so there were a lot of things about that that were quite legitimate in terms of addressing real issues and real problems in society.

But then the development of feminism, seeing women as an oppressed group and needing to change all these things, and really needing to re-address the roles of male and female and needing to redefine what it means to be a man or what it means to be a woman, this took place side-by-side. As the feminist movement was progressing in society, it was also progressing in the church.

For example, one of the major areas is just taking a look at redefining God and taking a look at language. Last time we talked about women believing that their experience was a legitimate source of truth. And so taking a look at the development of theology and saying men have always interpreted the Bible, men have always been involved in the development of theology, it was male authors that wrote the Bible, so it is missing this female perspective.

Nancy: What do they know about us? And how can they identify with us?

Mary: That’s right. They have left out this whole piece. They have left out this whole portion of truth, and we need to go back and contribute. We want to contribute our voice to religion and to who God is.

One of the main areas that we talked about last time is: Is God really male? Should we be worshiping a male god? Should we be saying about God that it is he, that he’s a father, that he is a king, that he is a judge? Feminist women found this quite offensive, so they suggested that we re-evaluate language about God, that we re-evaluate how we think about God. And within mainline churches, feminists back in the 1970s and 80s began taking a look at language and changing church language so that it adopted more of a rounded-out perspective.

Nancy: So what did that look like in a practical way?

Mary: Well, in a practical way they began taking a look at the hymns of the faith, of ways of talking about God in church, and saying we need to change this. For instance, instead of singing faith of our fathers, well that’s offensive. We need to change that to include faith of our parents, faith of our mothers, as well, because women have been excluded.

Talking about God as judge and king perhaps is a little bit too masculine of an image, and we need to look at His more nurturing aspects. They suggested that we probably use more neutral terms like “source.” Instead of the Trinitarian formula of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit using instead Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer or Source, Servant, Guide and softening the language to include the feminine perspective.

Nancy: Was this just a matter of semantics or did altering those symbols really alter something more important than the symbols?

Mary: Whenever you change the symbol, you change the meaning. We have before us here, Nancy, just an example of the Lord’s Prayer that really illustrates this.

Nancy: I thought this was fascinating because you have side-by-side the traditional reading. Let me just read a few phrases from that, and then you tell me what the modified reading with the more inclusive, feminized language would say.

For example, the traditional reading starts, “Our Father, who art in heaven.” And the modified says . . .

Mary: The modified would say, “Our Mother/Father or our Heavenly Parent who is everywhere.”

Nancy: “Hallowed be thy name.”

Mary: “Holy be your names.”

Nancy: “Thy kingdom come,”

Mary: “May your new age come,”

Nancy: “Thy will be done,”

Mary: “may your will be done.”

Nancy: “on earth as it is in heaven.”

Mary: “in this and in every time and place.”

Nancy: And then you move to the end, and it says in the biblical reading, “For thine is the kingdom and the power . . .”

Mary: Feminists would change this, “For yours is the wholeness and the power,” because kingdom is a male term and offensive.

Nancy: “. . . and the glory forever” (Matthew 6:9-13, KJV). 

Mary: “The glory” they would change that to, “and the loving forever.” So when you try and take the male imagery out of the inspired text, it really changes the meaning to something that is far away from what God intended it to be.

Nancy : So it’s really altering God to be something, someone He is not.

Mary: When we begin to address Him in different ways or begin the change the language of the Word of God, it is as though we are putting our experience as the ultimate authority above the authority of the Bible because we are saying, “In my experience this doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel right, so I’m going to change it.” Therefore, I become a greater authority, and I put myself above the Word of God, instead of under the Word of God.

Nancy: Really then put ourselves in the place of God.

Mary: That’s right.

Nancy: How is the view of the Bible changed?

Mary: Well, the view of the Bible is that the Bible is a source of knowledge about God, but not the only source of knowledge about God. So in mainline churches they have drawn on a lot of other sources and incorporated them standing alongside the Bible.

So it’s really interesting. If you were to go into a mainline church, you will find that the Bible will be used, but there will be other sacred texts used. There will be even pagan texts used, even texts from witchcraft and Wicca religions used because they are saying, “Whatever my experience affirms as being right can be included as part of my authority.”

Nancy: And conversely, if there are things in the Bible that my experience does not affirm, then I have to reject those parts of the Bible. So there’s been the adding of additional texts as authoritative but the rejecting of whole parts of Scripture that are not considered acceptable to us as women. What would be an example of some teachings of Scripture that have been rejected?

Mary: The main one, of course, is the authority that lies in the headship of the male that is intrinsic to marriage and also within the authority structures within the church. That’s the main one saying, “Well, we cannot have men given more authority by God in relationship. Women have the same amount of authority. “

The role interchangeability saying that men and women . . . . They may be different but their roles are interchangeable, and the woman can assume leadership in the home over spiritual matters, just as well if not better than men. All these things, all of the passages that speak to the roles of men and women, those are being rejected saying, “No, that doesn’t sound right. That doesn’t fit my frame of reference. It doesn’t fit my experience; therefore, it’s not authoritative in my life.”

Nancy: One of the primary fronts on which the liberal, mainline churches women began to pursue, equality in the church had to do with the whole issue of ordination of women.

Mary: It had to do with the issue of, “I can do this just as well as he can; therefore, I ought to have the right to do it.”

Nancy: There are women who can teach the Word as well or better than men, so why should they not (in just a moment here we’re not going to exhaust this subject). But what’s wrong with that way of thinking? If women can do it better, why shouldn’t they?

Mary: It’s the wrong question, Nancy. The whole question of who can do it better really focuses on us. It focuses on me versus someone else. Am I able to do it better? And it’s the wrong question. The question is how do we best glorify God?

We best glorify God in the manner He says we best glorify Him. We don’t determine how we best glorify God. God determines that, and so we need to look at God’s heart—His heart for male and His heart for female, His heart for authority, His heart for leadership. We need to look at all that and say, “God, you tell me how I best glorify you, and I will bring myself in line with that.”

Nancy: Whether I understand or not?

Mary: Whether I understand or not?

Nancy: Whether it makes sense or not, whether it fits into the cultural norm or not, I submit to his authority because He is King and Lord.

Mary: That’s right.

Nancy: Now, I realize that much of what we’ve talked about today and in fact over the last few days may seem really radical and extreme to some of our listeners. You may be thinking, “Well, they don’t do that in my church. We don’t add pagan texts to the Bible as authoritative in our church. We haven’t rejected the authority of the Scripture. We still believe in the responsibility of men to provide the primary spiritual leadership in our churches and in our homes. So what does all this have to do with me and with us as evangelical, Christian women today?”

Here’s what it has to do with us. If you and I are not grounding our lives and our thinking in the Word of God, if we’re not studying and understanding what the Word of God teaches about—what it means to be male, what it means to be female and how those roles are to function within the home and within the church and within the culture—then sooner or later we will be vulnerable in our homes, in our churches, in our little Christian cultures to the very same kinds of thinking that have turned this secular culture on its ear in the last fifty years.

So this is not just an issue for others to be concerned about. This is something we need to be educated about. In studying and seeing where we’ve come, what its philosophical moorings and shifts have been, there can be for us a caution and a warning to make sure that our lives and our thinking are really grounded in a proper understanding of the Word of God.

Listen, theology matters. Your view of God will determine your view of every other aspect of life. So let’s make sure we are not sloppy in our theology, that we’re not casual, that we take it seriously, and that we really are women of the Word.

Leslie Basham: That’s Nancy Leigh DeMoss explaining that theology isn’t just something that academics debate. It’s something we live every moment of our lives. Our guest, Mary Kassian, can help you form a well-reasoned, biblical theology of God and women. She tackles some tough subjects in her book, The Feminist Mistake. By reading it you’ll understand better how feminism rose as an idea and how it gained some wide spread acceptance. You’ll also see what the Bible says and learn how to guard against wrong thinking.

You can order The Feminist Mistake by calling 1-800-569-5959, or order online. The web address is ReviveOurHearts.com.

Next week we’ll hear about a man who took care of ten thousand orphans in his lifetime, and he did it without ever receiving a normal, consistent paycheck from his employer. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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