The feminist movement that fights for women’s equality is well known but very controversial for many people, especially Christians. Recently, I had the chance to survey a number of Regent students and conduct my own research, which helped me to gain a greater understanding of feminist views. There are two main views that I found particularly interesting: radical and biblical. I discovered that 58.3% of Regent students believe that radical feminism has negative consequences, and 89.6% believe that there is a biblical perspective on feminism that is godly in the way both men and women are viewed. This article will contrast radical and biblical feminism and explain why I believe biblical feminism is a better perspective. Both perspectives stem from an understanding that both women and men should be valued. However, they differ on how that value should be perceived by the world.
Radical feminism protests the patriarchal structure that controls women’s choices concerning their position in society. Radical feminism claims the roles of motherhood, family life, government, religion, etc. are affected by patriarchal principles. This viewpoint describes patriarchal principles as a way to keep women submissive while granting men more privileges. Radical feminists’ goal is to gain equal social status by fighting against the oppression women face from the government and society that follows patriarchy. The foundation of these feminists relies on a lack of trust in societal structures, believing they are designed to control women. Radical feminism holds that one must completely dismantle the societal systems (i.e. family) that have been in place for centuries to take down the patriarchal structure. While the belief that women should be able to have a say, work, and make a difference is not wrong, radical feminism tends to take it to the extreme of not just equalling men and women but putting women above men. On the other hand, biblical feminism acknowledges the importance of women without dismantling the family system or rejecting the value of men.
Biblical feminism acknowledges that there is a God-instituted order of authority: God, man, woman (Ephesians 5:22-23). This marital hierarchy is not arbitrary. Instead, it is a beautiful picture of submission and trust. God asks man to submit to Him and woman to submit to God and man. With this order, God is creating a divine structure and putting humans in the roles for which they were created. God designed both men and women to play equally important yet different roles that complement each other. For example, men are naturally stronger and more muscular while women possess a softer grace. Men tend to be dominant and women to be more agreeable. Men remain rational while women are habitually emotional. Men desire to fight and protect while women instinctively nurture. These qualities are not meant to put men and women in a box, they are meant to show our strengths and weaknesses so we can complement each other and grow.
Countless examples of biblical feminism can be found all throughout the Bible. One amazing story is Queen Esther’s. God used Esther, a young Jewish girl in a foreign land, to save the people of Israel. God’s path for Esther was scary because of her position. However, with grace, beauty, and faith, Esther was able to make a huge difference for the Kingdom of Heaven. She didn’t have to overpower the king and fight her way through any army. Instead, she used the gifts she was given by God (i.e. beauty, intelligence, bravery, etc.) to make a difference. Esther has been an example for many Christian women today inspiring them to trust God’s plan.
When considering how to live out biblical feminism, Regent junior Katelyn Condrey shared, “I look to examples like Ruth and Esther in the Bible, and Deborah, who led an army on behalf of God. I think women, although they may be different than men, should be equal with men socially and politically.” Her take on feminism is God-fearing, recognizing that He made men and women different but also of equal value. Biblical feminism that shows respect to both genders honors God by living out Christ-like character.
A Defense for Biblical Feminism
Some would argue that the Bible makes a case against women’s importance in Ephesians 5:22-23 by declaring that wives must submit to their husbands. However, Jay Payleitner explains that “submit” does not mean “control.” Instead, he explains that submission is about putting others’ needs before your own. He also references Ephesians 5:21, which states every Christian should submit to one another with devotion to Christ. Therefore, the act of submission goes both ways in the relationship; both husbands and wives must put their needs aside to serve the other. Scripture says that wives should submit to their husbands, and at the same time, husbands must cherish their wives just as Jesus does with the church. Husbands and wives are an example of mutual respect, which should be applied to all men and women.
A female student at Regent aptly describes the importance of the woman’s role, saying, “While women are able to do many things a man can (doctor, lawyer, etc.), God has specifically called them to have a huge influence on their household and children. If He has called 50% of the population to this role, then we have a strong hint of its importance and should not abandon this God-given role just because another job looks more entertaining or rewarding in the moment.” This quote beautifully notes the importance of men and women working together to glorify God. God has not created them to be in competition with each other but to complement and help each other.
Women are valuable and can do amazing things. However, their value is not found or accentuated by pushing men out of the picture. Rather, their value and role is found in who God their creator made them to be. This is why biblical feminism is a better view than radical feminism. Radical feminism wants to reduce the role of men below women. However, Biblical feminism promotes a godly view of men and women by highlighting how they have different roles that are equally important. Like Esther, God has given women in the 21st century incredible roles to play. I would encourage you not to miss your role! Seek God and pursue where He is leading you. If that’s to be a pediatrician, great! And if it’s to homeschool six kids at home, also great! One calling is not worth more than the other when you are doing all of it unto the Lord. With Biblical feminism, women don’t have to worry about proving themselves because God has provided us with the tools, such as the Bible, to understand our role in His kingdom.
I would like to thank all those who participated in my student survey! It was a big help in writing this article.