Volume 7, Issue 3: Husbandry
Feminism has had far more influence on the church than we dare admit. But we
sometimes assume that feminism has only made in-roads on the left wing of evangelicalism
where mom has her career, and the kids are in the licensed hands of some professional
caregiver. But feminist assumptions have surrounded us for over a century, and
serious compromises have been made with this ideology among "traditionalists" as
well. Of course, these compromises are not openly acknowledgedtraditionalists
certainly consider feminists to be with the enemy. Nevertheless, in a perverse
way, one key tenet of feminismthat society has the right to define femininityhas
somehow been enshrined as a traditional value.
In many cases "traditional family values" really only mean ninteenth-century Victorian
valuesthe era which autonomously placed women on an unbiblical pedestal, and
so the china-doll model of femininity gained popularity. Just imagine a Puritan
housewife from an earlier era staring in amazement. Then society changed its
mind, and women had to clamber up on another humanist pedestal, the one sponsored
by Virginia Slims . Now in the fight for scriptural values, some Christians
have mistakenly thought this means a return to the earlier pedestal. This is
like a man who falls from a hundred-story building, now at the tenth floor, who
wants to see a return to the fiftieth floor.
So what does feminist traditionalism look like? A neo-Amish sisterhood is starting
to develop in some quarters of the conservative Christian community. It is a
movement that certainly is touting the advantages of male leadershipbut unfortunately,
this movement is heavily matriarchal. Like the modern feminists, this movement,
led by women, disparages the intellectual capacities of women. The feminists
leading the modern "women's movement" arrogantly assumed that the rest of their
sex were just a bunch of cows, waiting to be herded into liberation. In the same
way, many traditionalists share the same low opinion, and have assumed that
if a woman has picked a quart of huckleberries, she has somehow found her level.
According to Scripture, a married woman's focus and orientation is required
to be towards her home. But while the Bible teaches that a woman's priority
is the home (Tit. 2:11), the Bible most emphatically does not teach that a woman's
place is limited to the home. Her place is in the home (1 Tim. 5:14), real
estate (Prov. 31:16), agriculture (31:16), evangelism (Phil. 4:3), philanthropy
(Prov. 31:20), logistical support for ministry (Rom. 16:1,6), explaining theology
(Acts 18:26), and more. In all of this, the central responsibility is of course
the home. This priority on the home is not threatened by geographical location;
it is threatened only by sin and disobedience.
But if a woman's priority is the home, some might reason, then why should any
Christians want to educate their daughters according to the world's expectations?
The scriptural focus of a woman is to bear children to her husband (1 Tim. 2:15),
and to assume, under her husband, a critical role is the education of those children.
She is called to domesticity. Now in the education of young women, teaching
them to sew sounds very "traditional and home-centered"and it is certainly scriptural
(Prov. 31:21). Studying calculus does not have the same flavor for us, but as
Christ taught us, we must learn to make right judgments. If a woman studies calculus
so that she can leave her kids in daycare for a career in engineering, she and
her husband have an obvious problem. But if she studies calculus so that she
can help her husband teach his sons and daughters in a homeschool (for just one
godly example), then her mathematical work should praise her in the gates.
Difficulty often arises from our refusal to understand the hierarchical, anti-egalitarian
nature of all human society. The Bible does not teach that women are to submit
to men; it teaches that a wife is to submit to her own husband. Far from requiring
general submission of a woman to men, this is a prohibition of such general
submission . A woman who submits to her husband will be protected, by definition,
from any attempted exercise of authority by other men. Moreover, if her husband
is a leader, she has incredible influence over other men through her relationship
to her husbandwhether for evil (1 Kings 21:5-7) or good (Est. 9:13).
The intellectual capacities of individual men differ widely. The same is true
of women. This does not provide anyone with an occasion for boasting (1 Cor.
4:7), but it does present us with a social phenomenon which radically affects
marriage and family. Now the Scripture teaches us that the woman was made for
the man (1 Cor. 11:9). This means an educated and intelligent man is going to
want educated and intelligent sons to stand with him when he contends with his
enemies in the gate (Ps. 127:5). In order to accomplish this, he needs help
from a woman an educated and intelligent woman.
A man not gifted this way is not less important in the body of Christ (Gal.
3:28), but he does not need such an educated wifeindeed she would be a grief
to him. But all Christian women should be educated to their capacity , just
as the men should be. And having received such an education, both men and women
should marry wisely, and to the glory of God.