The category of “women preachers” has drastically risen in recent days and while some celebrate this trend—others are very concerned. How did we arrive at this juncture? Why are more women pursuing the pulpit and why are more Christian leaders promoting this movement? While we can’t be certain about the motives of certain leaders who seem very complicit in this uptick in women preachers, we can be certain that there is reason for concern.
The Increased Numbers
In 2017 Barna Research Group pointed out that there was a rise in the number of women pastors. According to their study, “One of every 11 Protestant pastors is a woman—triple as many as 25 years ago.” In a new statistical analysis, “State of Clergywomen in the U.S.: A Statistical Update” the numbers indicate that within “most Mainline denominations, the percentage of clergywomen has doubled or tripled since 1994.”
While this is mainly Mainline denominations, the trend still demonstrates an uptick across the board. When adding totals from American Baptist Churches USA, Disciples of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ and United Methodist denominations, the numbers indicate 32 percent of clergy from those denominations in 2017. Compare the most recent percentage total (32%) with numbers from 1994 (15%) and 1977 (2.3%) and the trend is easy to follow. The numbers reveal an explosive growth of women serving in the office of pastor.
It seems that while evangelical churches are still slow to respond to this trend, there is an increase nonetheless. However, if you remove the office of pastor from the statistical analysis within evangelicalism—you would discover that many women are regularly preaching in conferences and church settings. This trend has continued to rise through the popularity of Beth Moore and Priscilla Shirer along with others who are popular within the LifeWay brand and the Southern Baptist Convention. Look for these numbers to drastically grow in the coming days, especially if the recent heated debate on the need to elect a woman as the president of the SBC is any indicator of where this conversation is headed in the future.
Social Justice Agenda
Russsell Moore recently talked to Laruen Green of Fox News and suggested that “The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel” is about race and a refusal to pursue racial reconciliation. Not only is this a poor assessment of the issues at hand, it’s a complete misrepresentation by Russell Moore. To make matters worse, he actually stated the following:
What we’re really talking about is race. And so, I think we have a long lasting issue within evangelicalism of people saying ‘Let’s not talk about issues of racial reconciliation, unity, and justice—that would be a distraction from the gospel.’ That’s exactly what was happening in the 19th century as it related to human slavery. That’s exactly what was happening in the 1920s and 1950s as it related to Jim Crow and it persists among us.
According to Russell Moore, the Statement on social justice is merely about race. In an unbelievable slanderous manner, he aligns us with the oppressive and sinful agenda of the Jim Crow era. Not only is that unbelievable, but he didn’t want to address Lauren Green’s point about Voddie Baucham’s involvement with the Statement and his positions as a black man who served as a pastor in the United States for years before moving to Zambia. Furthermore, what Russell Moore didn’t want to discuss is the Statement’s denial in Article XI on Complementarianism where we point to the unique roles of biblical manhood and womanhood and insist that remaining consistent in our positions of complementarianism will not prohibit women from flourishing within the church for the glory of God. Out of a total of fourteen articles in the Statement, only two of them are specifically designed to address the issue of race.
Victimology has replaced theology beneath the banner of social justice. To play the victim card in our culture today is like playing the Ace of Spades in a card game. The victim approach to ladder climbing is both politically correct and extremely powerful. According to specific data, women are claiming to be discriminated against in their work environment—claiming that unreal expectations are placed upon them on a regular basis. Now, with the rise of the #MeToo hashtag, it’s clear that women are speaking out, speaking up, and demanding that when they step up—they must be accepted.
The social justice movement is driving a strong egalitarian agenda down Main Street of evangelicalism. Some would argue that this is an unfair assessment, but let’s be honest, if it’s not egalitarian—whatever we call this trend, it shouldn’t be labeled complementarian. When Beth Moore stepped into the #MeToo world with her twitter account and social media presence, it was like throwing gasoline on an open flame.
What I’m not suggesting is that women who have been mistreated or abused should remain silent. What I am suggesting is that this social justice agenda is now claiming that we must not only admit wrong in the past by how we have mistreated, discriminated against, oppressed, and held back women from serving in the life of the church—but now we must empower them.
It’s precisely this language of empowerment that is quite disturbing. J.D. Greear released a short video just prior to the 2018 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting at which he was elected as the president of the SBC, and in that video he pointed to the need for empowering women. He likewise tweeted back to Beth Moore and stated that he saw a need for the “tearing down of all hierarchy.” Therefore, it seems clear that many in the SBC, including Russell Moore are committed to this new direction and social justice is the platform that’s being used to make it happen. In a recent post on Instagram, Russell Moore who serves as the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) of the SBC, posted a picture of himself with Beth Moore and Jamie Ivey. The caption for the picture read, “What a joy to get to minister with two heroes in the faith @bethmorrelpm and @jamieivey here at #erlc18!” Now, if you read the comments, you would find a lady (inesmcbryde) who responded with these words:
sooooo jealous that you get to hear her! she was the first woman preacher i ever heard in the USA when i was in college. made my preacher heart awaken! love mama beth. 💜
If God had a plan from the beginning that was spelled out in the Garden of Eden and rooted in creation why must we suddenly change directions now? If the early church recognized God’s intent in the differing roles and responsibilities of women as revealed in the sufficient Word of God—why now are we suddenly hearing a consistent drum beat of empowerment within the social justice conversation?
We need doctrinal clarity, definitional clarity, and methodological clarity in evangelicalism on issues related to complementarianism. When the Word of God takes the central place in the life of the local church and the church body is consistently looking to the elders for leadership and shepherding through God’s Word—what will emerge is a healthy church where both men and women flourish for the glory of God. When social justice and any other cultural fad takes the focus off of God’s plan for his church—then the people will walk down a broken road filled with many pains.
Throughout history, different degrees and forms of liberation theology have emerged within Christian circles. This has been true of Christian circles in America and beyond. The Church of Jesus has faced Black Liberation Theology, Women’s Liberation, and the Civil Rights movement. Today, we are witnessing a rebirth of many liberation ideas under the banner of social justice. With all of these different brands of liberation theology—why are we not arriving at the ultimate goal of liberty?
Liberation Theology Is Fueled by Politics Rather than Theology
Liberation theology often embraces Marxist ideas which emerge through the political streams that find their way into Christian circles. Today’s social justice movement is politically motivated on three fronts: race, women, and homosexuals. American culture has been through the slavery debate, Jim Crowe era, and the Civil Rights movement. We know what it looks like to fight over the color of a person’s skin. However, if anyone should know better—it would be the Church of Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the political race debate has now found its way into conservative evangelical circles and it’s a very hot topic that’s dividing people. Many are crying foul and claiming that “White Privilege” exists in evangelicalism and is driving a systemic racist approach to the local church and denominational life.
Throughout our American history, we have witnessed the fight over the equality of women. The Women’s Liberation movement championed the idea that women are equal and should be treated as such in all areas of life and culture. Sadly, the culture bought into the ideology of the Women’s Liberation movement and it led women astray from God’s intended plan. Suddenly, we are now revisiting these ideas within evangelical circles as many are suggesting that the evangelical system is guilty of systemic oppression and injustice against women. This has become another very hot topic and one that’s gaining steam quickly.
While homosexuals have been beating a drum for equality and acceptance within the American culture for years and now that they’ve reached legal recognition in society, they’re demanding the same within the Church. That’s why conferences like the recent Revoice event (2019 is already being planned) are becoming more popular. Should we normalize the lifestyle of homosexuality and accept the false category of LGBT Christianity in the Church? This is one more extremely hot debate that doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. They are using social justice as their platform to speak to these issues of equality and acceptance.
These three groups are turning to political strategies (intersectionality, religious affirmative action) and demanding to have their voices heard regarding equality, acceptance, and empowerment. They are demanding for a whole new hierarchy of leadership within the local church and denominational structures. We continue to hear politics, elements of Marxism (especially as it pertains to equality and economics), and an enormous amount of pragmatic strategizing rather than biblical theology at the center of these heated conversations. Politics cannot force unity and bring about the results of the gospel. We must remember the dangerous results of the Civil Rights movement  and the Women’s Liberation agenda that resulted in placing people in positions that led to oppression rather than liberation. Anytime we seek to change God’s plan that’s rooted in creation, it will never lead to liberty. Sin always leads to oppression. We must not turn our backs on the sufficient gospel of King Jesus.
Liberation Theology Produces a Victimhood Approach to Life
Many look to James Cone as the father of Black Liberation Theology. In his book, God of the Oppressed, he writes:
The hermeneutical principle for an exegesis of the scriptures is the revelation of God in Christ as the liberator of the oppressed from social oppression and to political struggle, wherein the poor recognize that their fight against poverty and injustice is not only consistent with the gospel but it is the gospel of Jesus Christ.” 
Not only is this a socially charged statement—it’s completely out of step with the gospel of Jesus. The hermeneutical approach of Cone leads to victimhood where people complain about injustice and demand to be liberated. In the history of American politics, this leads people to run to the government rather than to God for such liberation. It often encourages the cry of victim rather than encouraging hard work and perseverance through difficulties. When we teach people that they’re victims of sinful behavior and that they’re owed something as a result—it creates a posture of welfare and affirmative action rather than hard work and a fixation on the God who will make all things new at the return of Christ. Are we expecting for paradise to appear through social strategies and political ideas or are we looking forward to the city whose builder and designer is God (Heb. 11:10)?
If we’re honest, James Cone’s idea that Jesus came as a Liberator to fight against poverty and injustice is not only off base—it’s simply heretical. It creates a different gospel than the gospel of Jesus. Therefore, when we hear people discussing social justice from the lens of Cone or cultural Marxism—we should stand in opposition. Did Jesus promise us a safe life without hardships and oppression? The Bible promises us pain and suffering for walking in the footsteps of Jesus. That promise came from Jesus and the apostle Paul (2 Tim. 3:12). Christians will be the recipients of great injustices and tragic persecution, but we are not called to cry victim—instead we’re called to count it all joy (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:1-5).
While the Church of Jesus should stand in opposition to injustice and care for the poor—we must not encourage the victim mentality that flows from liberation theology. Furthermore, the Church has a mission that centers on the gospel and from the gospel flows a commitment to biblical justice. If we’re committed to being champions of social justice, local churches will turn into a humanitarian organizations that care for the needs of the poor and oppose injustice while ignoring the greatest need of reconciliation for broken sinners to a sovereign God. We must avoid such mission drift. We must likewise avoid misusing the Bible to make such claims as James Cone. There is a much better hermeneutical approach to studying the Bible.
Jesus Did Not Come as the Liberator—He Came as the Savior
When the angel spoke to Joseph, the words were not, “She will bare a son and you shall call his name Jesus, for he shall come to be the Liberator of poverty and injustice.” Instead, the angel said, “He will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). When Jesus ministered, he called the outcast, the unclean, the poor, and the lowly to serve alongside him. He called a bunch of misfits to himself and then sent them out with the gospel that would turn the world upside down. Jesus spent time with publicans and sinners. Jesus did not call many wise, nor many mighty, nor many strong (1 Cor. 1:26-31). When Jesus was preparing to leave, in his Great Commission, he didn’t commission his followers to go and be champions of social justice. Instead, he sent people out to make disciples (through the gospel—Matt. 28:18-20).
The way to change a culture is not by preaching sociology and politics—it’s by the power of the gospel (Rom. 1:16). It’s not the message of James Cone or any Civil Rights leader that sets the captive free—it’s the message of the cross. If Jesus came to set captives free from poverty, injustice, and oppression—many people would have considered his mission an utter failure. Especially those early followers who were cast down from the temple pinnacle, dragged out of the city and clubbed to death, boiled in large basins of boiling oil, exiled to Patmos, crucified on crosses, stabbed with spears, fed to wild beasts, and burned at the stake—all while experiencing poverty and injustice. Was Jesus’ mission a failure then and does it remain a failure today?
The answer is absolutely not. Jesus came to reconcile sinners to God (Rom. 5:10). Jesus was successful in his work. He did not fail (John 18:9). He fulfilled the will of the Father. Jesus accomplished what the first Adam could never do. Jesus was the prophet greater than Moses, the priest greater than Melchizedek, and the king greater than David. Jesus cried out, “It is finished” in his dying moments and accomplished the work of redemption (John 19:30; John 8:32-36; 1Peter 2:24). While many Christians will suffer injustice and oppression in this life, one day when Christ returns he will bring an absolute end and final conclusion to all injustice, oppression, sin, death, and tears—for the former things will have passed away.
Until then, we long for his return and we must seek to change the culture through the hearts of men, women, boys, and girls (2 Cor. 5:17). The way to true change is from the inside out. It may be possible to convince people to tolerate other ethnic groups and to work alongside women, but it will never be possible to deliver the Kingdom of God through the lens of secular political strategies. The dream of Martin Luther King Jr. will never be realized in this life. So long as sin fills the hearts of people—oppression, racism, injustice, and brokenness will fill the land. Liberation theology is like a well without water as it provides false hope. Liberation theology produces victimology that replaces biblical theology. Only in Christ’s rule when he returns will every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord and only then will we see no more death, pain, tears, oppression, racism, injustice, and brokenness because those former things will be passed away (Phil 2:5-11; Rev. 21-22). Only through the gospel will people experience true liberty. Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
Even so, come Lord Jesus!
- James Cone, God of the Oppressed, (Ossining, NY: Orbis Books, 1977), 81-82.
- NOTE: Not everything the Civil Rights movement did was bad. In fact, through those days, many injustices were brought to the surface. However, the system as a whole was driven by politics rather than theology. It’s important for Christians to admit this rather than embracing everything within the movement without proper discernment.
*This article was first published at The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel
The Reformation was a recovery of God’s Word. For ages, the Bible had been lost in the darkness of Roman Catholicism. Once the Word of God was unleashed upon the people—light entered the scene. When talking about church history, people often ask what Martin Luther’s great accomplishment was in the work of the Reformation. Some point to his Ninety-Five Theses while others point to how God used him to reintroduce singing into corporate worship. Without a doubt, his greatest accomplishment was the translation of the German Bible. This project unleashed light into a world of darkness and was the fuel of the Protestant Reformation. When people lack a sufficient Bible they lack a guiding light.
We have seen this pattern work its way into evangelical circles in the past. With the rise of theological liberalism, it was more than the Swiss theologian Karl Barth (1886–1968) and German theologian Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976) who were permeating the ideas of an insufficient Bible. Theological liberalism ran through seminaries and local churches and major denominations such as the Southern Baptist Convention. The Conservative Resurgence was a return to the Bible and anytime in history where there is an awakening—the Bible is at the center. That reality presupposes the fact that for darkness to prevail, people must be led away from the Bible. That was the pattern in the pre-Reformation era and it was the same pattern in the days prior to the Conservative Resurgence.
Make no mistake about it, the Word of God is sufficient and the very moment that we take a step away from the sufficiency of God’s Word we take a step into darkness. Let me begin by stating that while I disagree with the social justice agenda and believe it to be a dangerous movement, I likewise believe that we can be guilty of talking past one another and at times—misrepresenting one another in this debate. We need to deal with the issues, the terms, the definitions, and connect the dots to the problems while at the same time seeking to represent people properly. We all have blind spots in this area, and for that reason, I open myself up for correction where necessary, but I do not apologize for standing in opposition to the social justice movement.
What is social justice? In short, it’s a movement that positions itself to aid the oppressed within a group or a society. That could be a society as a whole or a group within a society. The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel was not framed to address the secular culture’s version of social justice. It was formed to speak into the culture of evangelicalism itself and to point out the inaccuracies of the evangelical version (which is connected to the secular movement too). Some people may be asking why it’s wrong to aid the oppressed? A better question would be—who is truly oppressed within evangelicalism and how are we seeking to help them? Is there really an evangelical system that’s committed to holding specific people back from serving God? Is “White privilege” really alive and well within evangelical circles preventing gifted Black brothers and sisters from serving God?
When we do find oppression at any level (individual or systemic), is it through political strategies like intersectionality that we need to engage or is it through the sufficient Word of God and the power of the gospel? That’s the issue, and that’s why I feel the need to engage at this point. Is the Word of God sufficient or have we arrived at a juncture where we must employ other tactics and trendy political strategies in order to reach the pinnacle of unity and to further fuel a God-glorifying mission?
Social Justice Has an Incorrect Beginning and a Flawed Conclusion
Social justice has a really bad starting point. Rather than beginning in the Word and seeking biblical justice—social justice by its very definition begins in the social environment and imports ideas from sociology, politics, and a wide array of disciplines into the Scriptures. This is why you hear gifted theologians talking about justice through the lens of intersectionality and systemic racism as opposed to James 1:27.
In many ways, the starting point of social justice likewise denies a key hermeneutic that goes beyond the presuppositional apologetic—it actually denies the literal, grammatical, historical approach to biblical interpretation. This is clearly put on display by what one preacher recently stated in a sermon:
Social justice is a biblical issue…it’s not a black issue, it’s a humanity issue. It’s not a hood issue, it’s a global issue. And until we understand that Jesus himself said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to preach liberty to the captive, to set free those who are oppressed.” If that ain’t social justice, I don’t know what is.
Aside from the obvious support of Nike, Bishop Rudolph McKissick, Jr missed the point. The clip above was a quote from Luke 4:16-30, where Jesus preached in the synagogue on what was one unforgettable Sabbath. Jesus read from Isaiah’s scroll and then proclaimed himself to be the fulfillment of that prophecy. When the people of Nazareth pressed upon him to do in his hometown (miracles, signs, and wonders) as he had done elsewhere (as if they deserved some special privilege) he explained that God’s ways are sometimes illogical. While many widows were present in Israel during the days of Elijah, he was sent to one widow in the land of Sidon. Jesus continued by explaining that there were many lepers in Israel during the days of Elisha, but he was sent to none of them. Instead, he was sent to Naaman the Syrian.
Ultimately Jesus was pointing to the wideness of God’s grace and mercy that extends beyond the Jews, but the ultimate fulfillment is that Jesus came to release those who were oppressed by sin and to give sight to the blind by setting the captives free from the prison of human depravity (John 8:32). Social justice focuses on the social needs (and sometimes the wants that supersede genuine needs) rather than the need of the soul. If we want a picture of true justice, we must look to the Scriptures rather than sociology books.
Social Justice Allows Victimology to Replace Theology
It must not be understated that one of the central problems with the social justice agenda is its fascination with victimology. In many ways, the evangelical version of social justice is following in the footsteps of the secular version. Colin Kaepernick, a former quarterback in the NFL, was unsuccessful as an athlete, but eventually became the face of the National Anthem protest that was greatly controversial. Although he was unsuccessful as a professional athlete, Kaepernick has become the face of a movement and is now one of the leading faces of the Nike corporation. How did Kaepernick receive a lucrative contract from Nike? It wasn’t because of his performance on the football field, it was because of the fact that he took a knee as a victim to “systemic racism.”
There is power in victimhood, and many women have come to recognize that reality. Following closely behind racism is the oppression of women. Within evangelicalism there has been a sudden surge among women who want to have their voices heard too. More than that, they expect absolute equality of roles and position across denominational lines. This trend for women under the banner of social justice was fueled by Beth Moore who wrote an article titled, “A Letter to My Brothers” at the beginning of this summer. In the article she complained of mistreatment and systemic oppression within the evangelical community.
Her letter resulted in a flood of support from major evangelical leaders and a massive tidal wave of support from her fans across evangelicalism. Thabiti Anyabwile responded with an open apology letter titled, “An Apology to Beth Moore and My Sisters.” In his letter Thabiti Anyabwile writes:
I do now commit to being a more outspoken champion for my sisters and for you personally. Not that you need me to be but because it is right. I hope, with God’s help, to grow in sanctification, especially with regards to any sexism, misogyny, chauvinism, and the like that has used biblical teaching as a cover for its growth.
Dear Beth, and all my sisters, I hope you will forgive me.
Just like that—a new wave of “women empowerment” and “women equality” was fueled. It was one more example of how to use victimhood as a means of moving forward into greater success. I’m not at all suggesting that people haven’t mistreated or misrepresented Beth Moore in person or online, but the victim card is the new method of instant success. Beth Moore’s move was one that not only helped her, but it added a great deal of momentum behind conversations regarding how women should serve in evangelical conferences, in denominational positions, and within the local church. Suddenly, a large percentage of people within evangelical circles are rethinking the historic position of complementarianism.
Other groups are quickly following behind seeking to get a seat at the social justice table as well. One such group is the “LGBT Christian” group who claims to be oppressed within evangelicalism and is demanding that we redeem queer culture (the language used in the recent Revoice conference) and embrace them as brothers and sisters in Christ. There is no avoiding the issues in the social justice agenda—and it quickly becomes a slippery slope that leads to disaster. Many different voices are claiming to be oppressed and are demanding an apology for their victim status.
Social Justice claims to run to the aid of the oppressed and the victims of discrimination, racism, and other evils of society. What Christian doesn’t want to help the oppressed? What Christian wants to turn their back upon the evils of discrimination and racism? The problem with the social justice movement is that it leads to oppression rather than liberation. Social justice fuels the idea of victim status while promoting false ideas of systemic racism and systemic oppression of women within evangelicalism. Finally, social justice often uses political methods and cultural ideas as the answer to these problems rather than the sufficient Word of God.
In the early church, they courageously stood on God’s Word and turned the world upside down. During the days of the Reformation, Luther, Calvin, Knox, and others wrote, published, and relentlessly preached the Word of God. In the days of the Downgrade controversy, Charles Spurgeon relied upon God’s Word to expose false doctrine. During the inerrancy controversy (the Conservative Resurgence) in recent history, faithful men brought us back to the inerrant Bible. Sadly, while we embraced the inerrant Word, we have apparently turned our backs upon the sufficiency of the Bible. I conclude with the words of Spurgeon:
This weapon is good at all points, good for defense and for attack, to guard our whole person or to strike through the joints and marrow of the foe. Like the seraph’s sword at Eden’s gate, it turns every way. You cannot be in a condition that the Word of God has not provided. The Word has as many faces and eyes as providence itself. You will find it unfailing in all periods of your life, in all circumstances, in all companies, in all trials, and under all difficulties. Were it fallible, it would be useless in emergencies, but its unerring truth renders it precious beyond all price to the soldiers of the cross (Sermon: Matthew 4:4).
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.