Years ago, the Women’s Liberation Movement rolled through America and forced its way into conservative evangelical circles. In 1970, Germaine Greer wrote The Female Eunuch which not only suggested that motherhood was a handicap but it went on to claim pregnancy was an illness. Germaine Greer taught women to be “deliberately promiscuous” and to do everything possible to avoid conceiving children. It was a common thing for the militant feminist to describe the role the mother in nurturing and caring for her children as a form of oppression and slavery.
In the ’60s and ’70s the feminists permeated that language into the minds and hearts of women seeking to change the direction of women in America. Unfortunately, we have allowed their movement to become less offensive, the lines have become blurred, and in some cases, their agenda has infiltrated the church. What seemed like crazy talk in the ’70s has become the norm today. This has always been the case with liberation movements. In ancient Rome, women would announce their independence from men, leave home, refuse to have children, and deny the responsibilities of a woman in society—including the wife and mother in the home. Similar feminist movements have occurred in American history, but sadly they should never have an impact upon the Christian community because of the true liberation of the gospel.
While we can certainly agree that the equality of women was not granted to women in American society in the past—flowing from the Women’s Liberation Movement came a liberation theology that continues to suggest that evangelicals (across denominational boundaries) have been guilty of systemic oppression. In other words, what was in the culture eventually made it into the church.
The Women’s Liberation Movement was founded upon a Marxist foundation rather than the gospel. Therefore, it sought to elevate women to the highest levels of power and freedom across the culture as a whole. In the process this liberation movement took direct aim upon the sufficiency of Scripture and the complementarian doctrine established by God at the point of creation. The Women’s Liberation Movement suggested that evangelical men simply wanted women to remain “barefoot and in the kitchen” (with a few children clinging to their legs). The question has become a hot topic issue with the current social justice agenda, and now suddenly we’re hearing leaders within denominational structures and academic circles suggesting that we must now apologize for this great error and empower women. In short, evangelicals are being accused of systemic oppression (across denominational lines). According to the social justice leaders—in order to overcome this oppressive culture, we must empower women to the highest levels of leadership in order for women to flourish for God’s glory.
Do women need to be liberated again? Is the liberation of the gospel not enough? Not only is that simply not true—it’s a tragic rebirth of the women’s liberation movement of the past that will have a lasting negative impact upon evangelicalism.
The Sufficiency of Scripture
The battle for the Bible will always involve a battle for the dictionary. We witnessed that reality in our recent battle over the definition of marriage. Anytime a group (even a loud minority population) can convince people to turn their backs on the Bible and the definitions that emerge from the Bible—they can rewrite essential definitions to fit their agenda. That happened with same sex marriage, and it’s now continuing in our day through the social justice agenda as we’re being forced to reconsider and potentially redefine complementarianism.
Do Christians need political strategies and cultural methods such as intersectionality to enable women to flourish? In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, Paul pens these words to Timothy:
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
The Scriptures are sufficient for the work of pastoral shepherding—both reproof and correction. In fact, they are sufficient to deal with the positive and negative – correction and equipping. Therefore, Christian women (of all ages) can learn to flourish as they are equipped by God’s Word through the faithful preaching of Scripture. If Timothy had decided to preach the cultural trends of the day rather than the Scriptures—it would have been a tragic and soul-damning mistake. Paul understood these pressures and that’s why in his final letter before his head was chopped off in the streets of Rome—he pointed his beloved young pastor to the Scriptures.
Far too often liberation theology (social justice is a modern liberation theology) imports baggage into the white spaces between the black text. It’s a movement from culture to Scripture (which is one reason why a presuppositional approach to apologetics and hermeneutics is helpful) and it’s guilty of the tragic sin of eisegesis. Faithful exegesis looks to God’s Word and brings out what’s there while eisegesis inserts ideas and opinions of man into the very Word of God.
Submission, Roles, and Flourishing
In Ephesians 5:22-24, Paul writes the following to the church at Ephesus (and the surrounding cities):
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.
The Satanic attack on the family has resulted in a reversal of roles in the home. Once upon a time, as in the Garden of Eden, it was God’s design for the husband to be the head of the wife and that headship involves the responsibility of physical provision and spiritual leadership. Eve rebelled against God’s role as she took the leadership role in the Garden – over her husband – taking the advice of Satan and eating the forbidden fruit. Paul points to the design that’s rooted in creation—namely that the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church. Just as the church submits to Jesus, so too must the wife submit to her husband.
The world has taught young girls that submission is equivalent to oppression. William Hendriksen observes, “A home without a head is an invitation to chaos. It spells derangement and disaster worse even than that which results when a nation is without a ruler or an army without a commander.”  The world, we must remember, has many ideas and many paths and they all seem good. However, there are many ways to miss the bullseye—and to deny the roles of God is to miss more than the bullseye—it’s to miss the entire target! R.C. Sproul once stated the following:
It is the Lord’s will that the wife be submissive to her husband, and if she wants to honour Christ, then one of the concrete ways she does this is by being in submission to her husband. If a woman is contentious and refuses to follow the leadership of her husband, she is in rebellion, not simply against him, but also against Christ. 
Remember, the unbelieving world looked at the cross as a foolish thing. The unbelieving Jews had no idea why their long awaited Messiah would surrender himself to the cross without a fight. Quite simply put, the whole redemptive plan of God seemed illogical and was ridiculed openly. In fact, the very oldest picture we have of Jesus is one that was found on a prison wall and it depicted the body of a man on the cross with the head of a donkey. To add to the blasphemy, it depicted a man below the cross bowing down and the whole picture not only mocked Jesus it mocked the man who was a follower of Jesus.
Is the Bible sufficient to teach women how to be faithful mothers and God-honoring wives? Are the Scriptures sufficient to teach women how to disciple their children for the glory of God? Is the gospel of Jesus Christ powerful enough to liberate all Christian women from the sin and to free them to flourish and bloom for the glory of King Jesus? The answer is obvious.
We must never forget that to follow Jesus will result in great criticism. Therefore, when a woman submits to the leadership of her husband and seeks to make the home her focus—the world will view this as oppressive and backward. The best way to flourish is always to follow Jesus—no matter what the world’s opinion suggests. In fact, it must be stated that to follow the world’s way is to enter into great oppression – no matter how free and liberated the sin makes a person feel. Liberation theology that differs from the gospel of Jesus Christ leads to oppression rather than liberation. Only through the gospel of Jesus can a person experience genuine liberation and only through the gospel can a person flourish with the gifts and roles that God has designed from the beginning.
Is the gospel enough? What is the modern social justice movement trying to communicate?
- William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of Ephesians, vol. 7, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 248.
- R. C. Sproul, The Purpose of God: Ephesians (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 135.