The fundamental aim of radical feminism is the eradication of patriarchy from our society. They see the structure of patriarchy as an oppressive and abusive system designed to subjugate and enslave women. Thus any institution that maintains distinctions based upon gender is the enemy of radical feminism. That being the case, God, the Bible, and the church have all come under heavy criticism from radical feminists.

However, patriarchy is not the defective brainchild of self-serving men, but rather it is a manifestation of the wisdom of God. It was God who from the very beginning placed the man in a leadership position (1 Corinthians 11:3-12). This leadership was not designed to oppress or enslave women, but rather to enrich and liberate women from responsibilities that would belong to the man instead.

Has patriarchy ever been abused? Of course it has. I can’t think of a single good institution that hasn’t been twisted and perverted by people themselves who were twisted and perverted. But don’t equate patriarchy with the abuses that occur under a patriarchal system.

God designed men and women differently. While radical feminists may argue long and loud that men and women are the same and gender is neutral, it simply is not the case. The Holy Spirit instructed the apostle Peter to write that women are to be treated with a special measure of honor as a “weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). When God created Eve, he did not simply replicate Adam, but he created a woman, different from the man, but who was suitable and who complemented the man (Genesis 2:18).

While there are many philosophical mistakes within radical feminism, the overarching mistake that I see is that they see “fairness” and “equality” as the same thing as “sameness.” But they are not. Any parent with children can attest to the fact that “fairness” doesn’t mean you treat your children the same way. Likewise “equality” is not to be confused with “sameness.” It is because of this confusion that radical feminism is opposed to God, the Bible, and the church, for they recognize and approve of gender-based role distinctions.

There was a time when in the days of the apostle Paul, he and other Christians were accused of turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6). However, today it appears that the impact of the radical feminist movement and their message of “gender-neutrality” are turning the church upside down.

In order to understand how this has been accomplished, we might begin with Galatians 3:28. This verse affirms, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Are the radical feminists correct in affirming that Christianity should be gender-neutral? After all, this passage does teach that in Christ, we are neither male nor female.

To reach such a conclusion is a tragic mistake. In fact, it is a very old mistake. It is the very mistake made by Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and On which we read about in Numbers 16. In this passage, Korah and his companions gathered themselves together against Moses and Aaron, and accused them of “taking too much upon themselves.” In other words, they were accusing Moses and his brother Aaron of doing some things that some of the rest of them would like to do. They didn’t think it was fair for them to be able to do certain things while they were excluded from doing them (the “fair = sameness mistake”).

Note carefully their reasoning which led them to their thinking that Moses and Aaron weren’t being fair. They said, “For all the congregation is holy, everyone one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?” (verse 3). The mistake that Korah was making was that he was confusing “value” and “right standing” with “responsibility.”

In other words, he was saying, “Since God loves all of us and we are all holy, and equally valued, then we should all be able to do the same things.” But Moses refuted this line of reasoning by reminding Korah, who just so happened to be a son of Levi, that he himself was privileged to serve God in ways that the rest of the congregation could not. Of course, the outcome of this disagreement was settled by God when Korah and his followers were swallowed up by the earth. Moses was right. Value and responsibility are not the same thing. Equality and responsibility are not the same thing. While God may value His people equally, that does not mean His people all have the same responsibility.

This is the very mistake that radical feminists are making with respect to Christianity and the church. They oppose the church for practicing male spiritual leadership, using Galatians 3:28 as a proof text.

However, Galatians 3:28 is not speaking about responsibility, but is rather affirming that regardless of one’s nationality, social status, or gender, we are all one in Christ and heirs of Abraham. The mistake they’re making is their incorrect assumption that equal standing and worth before God equates to equal responsibilities. But such is not the case and can easily be proven. In 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, when God limited the eldership to men … no, men who are husbands … no, men who are husbands and who are also fathers, He demonstrated that role distinctions exist within the church.

While God is a God of justice and equality, He did ordain gender-based role distinctions in the home as well as in the church. God ordained the husband to be the head of the wife (Ephesians 5:23), and He ordained that the wife is to be subject to her husband (Ephesians 5:24). This difference is not an issue of equality, but rather an issue of responsibility. The responsibility of headship that has been given to the man is not given to him so that he can “prove he’s a man” by some sort of heavy-handed, oppressive leadership. Rather, it is given to him so that he can “prove what kind of man he is” by leading his wife in such a way that it demonstrates that he loves her more than his own life (Ephesians 5:25).

Likewise, within the church God ordained gender-based role distinctions. He ordained that the men would be leaders in the church (1 Timothy 3:1-2; Titus 1:5-6), and that women were not to preach or have authority over the man (1 Timothy 2:11-15). Again, these differences are not an issue of equality, but rather an issue of responsibility.

While it may not be politically correct to teach male spiritual leadership in the home and the church due to the influence radical feminists have had in our culture, it is precisely the message that is needed today. Culture must not determine the teachings of the church. That should be determined by the Bible. And while some may not understand why God chose to use patriarchy and male spiritual leadership and are too near-sighted to see its benefits, it is God’s way, it is His Word, and His way is always best.

The irony of radical feminism is that in their effort to supposedly free women from “bondage” to men, they have in reality brought women into bondage to feminism. Unwittingly, women have become slaves in the name of freedom! In short, radical feminism is born out of selfishness and rebellion; rebellion against God’s divinely appointed order for the home and the church. The freedom that so many women are seeking is not to be found in picking up the burden of radical feminism, but rather by giving their burdens to Jesus and making him their Lord.

“And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free … Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (John 8:32; Galatians 5:1).

By Steve Higginbotham

This article appeared in the September 2013 issue of Think magazine. For more info or to subscribe, click here.