The increasing acceptance of egalitarian/feminist theology among evangelical scholars and especially the younger generation is more serious than it might appear. There are three issues that deeply concern me.
Challenging the authority of Scripture
The first issue is that Christian feminism undermines the authority of Scripture. Who wants a Bible that says one thing (and even defends it) but means the opposite? That is not a book worthy of our trust. Frankly, it would be far more honest for egalitarians to say, “I disagree with the Bible on this issue,” than to try to reinterpret the Bible so that it agrees with modern secular egalitarian thinking. The latter is far more damaging to the credibility of the Scriptures.
The same kinds of Scripture-twisting methods are also being used by a growing number of evangelicals to justify same-sex marriage and dismiss any Scripture text that condemns homosexual practices. I find it very enlightening, even instructive, that these new interpretations of Scripture on gender and sexuality have come about only after the changes first made in secular culture starting in the 1960s. It appears to me we are following and conforming to secular philosophy.
Changing the truth about Jesus
The second issue of concern—and this has not been emphasized enough—is that egalitarians make Jesus Christ out to be a coward, frightened to stand up for women’s equality with men. At the key moment in history, when he could have appointed six men and six women as apostles, he chose twelve male apostles. Thus Jesus “caved in” to the cultural pressure of his day, not wanting to offend the ancient, patriarchal order or the religious authorities. Certainly, if this were true, he failed women when he had the opportunity to remove all differences between male and female roles.
But how can this be when Jesus stood against other deeply entrenched traditions such as man-made, legalistic Sabbath rules, fearlessly declaring himself to be “Lord of the Sabbath”? For opposing these Sabbath traditions, he paid with his life.
But Jesus was not a coward, nor was he afraid of the religious establishment. His teachings were “new wine.” His choosing twelve male apostles was part of divine order as declared by the Old Testament Scriptures and affirmed by the New Testament apostles (1 Cor. 14:33b-40; 1 Cor. 11:2-16; 1 Peter 3:1-7; Eph. 5:21-33; Col. 3:18-19;1 Cor. 7:1-40; Titus 2:3-5; 1 Tim. 2:8-3:2).
We also know that Jesus was not afraid of women. Women especially were drawn to him as a safe person and as a loving male leader. He was not like the harsh male leaders of his day, who, in the end, despised women. Jesus both elevated the status of women and acknowledged their differences from men in the divine order.
Shifting our perspective on the Gospel
My third concern is that the arguments have shifted from Bible exposition and interpretation to human rights, compassion, tolerance, and gospel acceptance. Some claim that to reject egalitarianism or homosexuality is to hurt the advancement of the gospel message. Contemporary Western people do not want a gospel that teaches male headship (even if it is Christlike headship) or that homosexuality is sin. Such a gospel is an offense to modern ears.
In my discussions with younger Christian egalitarians, I’ve realized that they have been so secularized that many of the teachings of the Bible are foreign to them, even offensive. A powerful secular tsunami has run over them, drowning out a biblical conscience. Often, they are more concerned about the latest movies from Hollywood than the deep truths of Scripture. They do not have the kind of trust in Scripture that they should.
What I see among many evangelical churches, seminaries, and young people is what is so sadly witnessed in Israel’s history: dissatisfied with God’s ways, the people said, “we want to be ‘like the other nations’” (1 Sam. 8:19-22), although it was the will of God that they be different from the other nations. Today we see too many evangelicals wanting to be like the culture, bowing the knee to the idols of egalitarianism and sexual and gender liberation. They fear being different, discriminated against, or persecuted. But this is the very problem Paul warns against, “Do not be conformed to this world” (Rom. 12:2). In simple, old-fashion terminology, I am afraid we are becoming worldly minded and ashamed of the gospel.