Only as individuals, cultures, groups, and generations grasp the equality of females and males intended by God at creation can the legacy of pain inherited by all women from the fall continue to be reversed.
The partriarchs are coming to church! But what kind of persons would claim such an epithet? In fact, the neopatriarchs who are now coming are those who identify with the ancient, old-order patriarchy. And why are they now arriving on the scene and in our churches? And what is their agenda, hidden or spoken?
Amid the patriarchy of the ancient world, early Christianity had a particularly liberating and redemptive place for women, one significant enough to be mentioned by Christianity’s first major critic, the second-century philosopher Celsus.
Etienne Gilson spoke of medieval theology as an attempt to build great “cathedrals of the mind,” mental constructions meant to bring glory to God and to inspire worship as soaring stone cathedrals across Europe have since the same time period. Like any architectural achievement, these mental cathedrals brought together the many pieces of Christian doctrine into coherent and often beautiful structures of thought, building idea upon idea until great theological and philosophical systems emerged from scriptural foundations. This architectural analogy implies something important—it is rarely possible to shift the ground floor of a building without the entirety of the construct tumbling down. Only with great caution and preparation, whereby new supports are carefully constructed before the old are removed, can such a change go smoothly. Unfortunately, evangelical theology finds itself today in a situation where a great shift in a foundational doctrine of Christian theology has occurred—in the doctrine of the Trinity. This shift threatens several important Christian teachings and compromises the basic orientation of Christian ethics. As complementarian theologians increasingly speak of the eternal functional subordination of the Son (hereafter EFS), they move a central pillar of the cathedral of Christian doctrine, unaware that such a change could bring down the entire edifice of Christian theology.
The complementarian conviction that women are under male authority and therefore must be excluded from (some) positions of leadership, rests in no small measure on their interpretation of God’s eternal, created order as established in Genesis 1-2.
A whole generation of conservative evangelicals has embraced a new-fangled version of the ancient Trinitarian heresy of subordinationism. They do not hide their motives. They are determined to see in God what they wish to see in humanity: a subordination of role or function that does not compromise (they insist) an essential equality of being.
If you are a conservative Christian, you may be worshipping at the altar of Baal. A conservative is anyone who wants to preserve the existing social order. While a conservative Christian may identify himself or herself as one who safeguards the orthodoxy of Christian doctrine, often there is also blind allegiance to customs having no divine sanction.
As I reflect on Genesis 3:16, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe,” I realize that barrenness, miscarriage, and stillbirths are part of that curse; the ability to be “fruitful and multiply” would be hindered for both genders and on many levels.
As a scholar of rhetoric and as a Pentecostal Christian, I notice that, although rhetoric and religion embody quite different theoretical perspectives, rhetoric, religion, and gender collide when we examine who is given the authority to speak and who is believed within the church.