Feminism As A "Heresy" Worthy Of Church Discipline?

There are heights of arrogance not easily scaled.

Of course, anyone can write anything.  Even the most astoundingly grandiose words can find themselves flying from a keyboard as easily as “Jesus loves me, this I know.”   But there’s something in the healthy human heart that conceals those things that, if spoken, would reveal the speaker/writer’s delusions of grandeur.  They may inflame the deluded, but they don’t embarrass him by finding their way into the public.  I may think I’m the best mom in the world, or that my take on immigration policy demonstrates a depth of understanding few can reach, but general good mental health and a desire to not look like an ass keep me from self-promotion or from making pronouncements of  certainty greater than my actual qualifications deserve. 

Then again, I’m not Douglas Wilson, who last week announced that feminism, rather than an understanding of culture and society that many feminists, not incidentally, glean from the Scriptures, is, rather, a heresy whose severity ought to result in the unrepentant feminist’s being placed under church discipline and thus denied a place at the Lord’s Table.  Cue the Masculinist Amen Corner:  It’s the fault of a sentimentalist Church gone soft and girly-like that’s resultde in a Church generally unwilling to exercise discipline in accordance with Matthew 18. And so feminism is, all in its lonesome, both the precipitating cause and the direct subject of the issue at hand. Quite a trick, really, even if feminism were a heresy.

It isn’t, of course.  It’s just offensive to Wilson, which, God be praised, is not sinful and quite often, in fact, reveals a deft understanding of theology and hermeneutics.   

“Heresy” is defined by theologians as a teaching that strikes against a core, fundamental teaching of the orthodox, historical Church.  Bennie Hinn’s assertion, for example, that each of the three Persons of the Holy Trinity possesses Father, Son, and Holy Spirit within, resulting in an un-Biblical “novunity,” is a heresy.  T.D. Jakes’ United Pentecostalism understanding of the Trinity is considered heretical by evangelical theologians for the same reason; Jakes’ “Jesus Only” grasp of the Triune God is faulty, although charity requires us to presume lack of understanding and not malice in their error.

The historic creeds of the Christian Church didn’t simply codify foundational Christian beliefs, but did so in response to heretical teachings that threatened the unity and fidelity of the nascent Church.  The Athanasian Creed, for example, reiterates the complete ontological equality of the Son to the Father in the eternal economy of the Trinity — meaning that a fully-God, fully-human, fully-equal Jesus Christ willingly emptied Himself IN THE INCARNATION of some of his deitific prerogatives and powers, but never of His divinity.  Further, He and the Holy Spirit, also ontologically equal to the Creator we call Father, Yahweh, are in no way subordinated to each other in the dance of equality, mutuality, and selfless love of the Triune One. 

Sadly, the popular complementarian teaching of Jesus’ subordinationism, which has flared in popularity as masculinist theologians and pastors have attempted to craft arguments against the full integration into church, home, and society of women, is perilously close to the heresy that Athanasius addressed.  In placating women by insisting that, like Jesus is fully equal to the Father, women are fully equal to men, and that, as Jesus is perpetually subordinated to His Father, women must be perpetually subject to men, these teachers commit the error of subordinationism — the first step toward the full error that prompted the Athanasian Creed.  “Be like Jesus — be eternally in subjection” is horrendous counsel and even worse teaching particularly because it does damage to the historic, Biblical teaching of the Trinity and does damage to women.  Wilson is a subordinationist; if he cares little about damage to women, his belief in his theological prowess ought to prompt some care about a true and faithful understanding of the Trinity he worships.

I believe, passionately and unequivocally, that the Kingdom of God and the work wrought in its establishment by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Scriptures — and not just in the “red-letter” words of Jesus — has as at its core the desire to reconcile humankind to the Holy One and to reverse, here on this earth, the toxic, violent effects of the Fall.  Women and men were created with both ontological and functional equality; no responsible reading of Genesis teaches otherwise.  The subjugation of women to men is a grotesque deviation from the mutuality and harmony God created them in and intended for them to live in.  Yahweh’s solemn words to Eve — “Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you” — were God’s warning to the Woman that she would be forced into subjection as a result of their sin, not a prescription revealing a sudden change in God’s will for men and women.  These words predicted the rise of sinful patriarchy — patriarchy  – as defined not as “one man over all his women,” but “one man over all he deems his inferiors.”

Feminism, unlike subordinationist-fed complementarianism, does not strike at the nature of the Trinity.  It says nothing in opposition to Christ Jesus’ work in the redemption of humankind.  It doesn’t deny the authority of Scripture; it doesn’t sow unwarranted division in the Body.  The teaching of full ontological and functional equality of women to men, whether called “feminism” or not, upholds the nature of the Biblical Trinity and rightly extends Christ’s redemption to all, male or female, who call upon Him in faith.  It respects the teaching of Scripture and calls the Body into full service, full participation, and full inclusion in the mission of the Gospel.

Masculinism strikes at those foundations — and yet I could not in good conscience dare presume that someone who differs with me in understanding Biblical teaching on sex roles is a heretic unworthy of my fellowship, unworthy of inclusion at the Table, and unworthy of the name “saint.”  See, Wilson and I don’t just differ in our beliefs regarding complementarianism and egalitarianism.  We clearly have very different and remarkably clear differences in our understanding of just what constitutes delusionalyl self-aggrandizing, divisive theological edicts and what simply is a reasonable analysis of doctrinal differences.  I hope to forever be found frolicking with the healthy and humble in the latter and pray that Wilson would leave the former to join us. 

Because, unlike Doug Wilson, I have a pretty healthy understanding of the infinitely vast difference between me and the Holy Spirit.

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