Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Evangelical Feminism

I enjoy train journeys - a good chance to catch up with reading.

On Saturday I had a meeting in London, which gave me three hours to read. Among other things, I picked up the latest copy of Priscilla Papers, the theological journal produced by CBE.

I discoved, to my surprise, that I had missed hearing about the latest book by Wayne Grudem, published in 2006, Evangelical Feminism. But an excellent review by Kevin Giles told me as much as I probably need to know.

In my optimistic moments I dream that one day I'll read that Wayne Grudem has had one of those lightbulb moments and changed his views. But that's not happened yet, and his latest book continues his crusade to buttress his view of the permanent subordination of women as God's ideal. That is the theme of this latest book.

But I discovered that it's getting even more unpleasant. This time, Grudem gives a long list of names - eminent evangelical Bible scholars, whom he regards as 'liberals'. The book seems to move Grudem's case out of the world of reality into fantasy: all those who don't believe that women are permanently subordinated to men are 'liberals'. In other words, 'If you don't agree with me, you're wrong, and a liberal.'

The redeeming feature of reading about this depressing book was Giles' sense of humour: 'Why this humanly devised theological construct should be judged the only true interpretation of Scripture escapes me.'

Giles also takes issue with the use of the word 'feminist', which he contends Grudem uses deliberately, and is inevitably loaded. Most of those who believe in gender equality don't use the word 'feminist' but Grudem knows that by attacking 'evangelical feminism' he may find assent, in some quarters at least.

What makes me really angry is the effect of books like this on people who have read nothing else. They will not know that the views he attacks have been modified, that this book his previous books, depend on a (recent) heretical view of subordination in the Trinity, or that Grudem is a lone voice, citing only his own works and those of few others who agree with him. So many Christians will continue to believe that egalitarians are 'secular feminists in sheep's clothing who in reality deny the authority of Scripture.'

Nothing could be further from the truth - but reading about the book made me wonder if recent attempts to create an 'us and them' mentality within evangelicalism in the Church of England are suffering from an overdose of Grudem.


Rachel said...

Thank you for this Rosie - I feel equally exasperated by Wayne Grudem and also some, but not all of the writings of John Piper. In my experience, it is definitely apparent that people who read Wayne Grudem, select like-minded theologians alongside him and rarely venture to consider the viewpoints of anybody else. I feel suspicious at the moment about the material produced by the Good Book Company because it seems so 'Grudemesque' but perhaps I am also slightly paranoid.

Love Rachel

Charles Read said...

I've been two a couple of CBE conferences in the US (and spoken at one) and we organised a CBE and partners event in Durham a few years ago. Their material is very helpful.

Unfortunately, we are starting to get the Gruden subordinationist heresy in the C of E - twice at General Synod from evangelicals trying to suggest that women bishops etc undermines the Trinity!

Revd John P Richardson said...

Rosie, in speaking about "a (recent) heretical view of subordination in the Trinity", I wonder if you have read Rob Doyle's review of Giles's own The Trinity and Subordinationism. Doyle seems to me to have some weighty criticisms of Giles. "Heresy" is, in any case, a very serious accusation to make - the theological equivalent of going nuclear. Should I view you as a heretic (and therefore not a true believer) because you don't hold the view of subordination in the Trinity which I believe to be correct? If so, we cannot be part of the same church - and that would seem an odd conclusion to reach!

Charles Read said...

John: I have just returned as it happens from teaching a class of ordinands and Readers about subordinationism and it seems to me the more I teach and read about this stuff the more convinced I am that Giles is correct and Sydney and grudem really would fall foul of being labelled subordinationist and yes that was condemned as heresy in the early Church.

So if it walks like a duck,and quacks like a duck, pour orange sauce over it and stick it in the oven of an Oxbridge college....

Revd John P Richardson said...

Charles, two questions. 1, have you read Doyle's critique? It seems to me to raise serious questions about Giles's work. 2, do you accept that if you are wrong, you are a heretic?
I ask the last question because I don't actually believe this warrants the heresy label within the present discourse, but if you think you're a non-duck, you must allow you just might be a duck!