Why Does the Bible Suppress Women?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, June 25, 2016 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

As I prepared to write on this question we received, I interviewed a couple people in my family who lived through the “Women’s Liberation” era. It was a learning experience for me in seeing the historical threads they lived through, and how it helped give rise to where we are today. Much of what they shared helped me see a larger scope of American history, but it also helped me step back from my own assumptions in regard to ‘gender equality.’ I saw that what we in America seek as “women’s rights,” is really symptomatic of a much larger disconnect that we overlook.

Before I dive in, let me deal with the flaw in this question. To be somewhat blunt, the question of why the Bible suppresses women assumes God’s intent and is not a question seeking understanding - it is an accusation toward God. I have found this question usually comes from a very limited understanding of the Bible and its context. The simplest answer is that the Bible does not advocate suppression of women or ‘second class citizenship’ for females.

How can I be sure? Both the Old Testament and the New Testament have female heroes, celebrated for doing what men would not or could not do, in their faithfulness to God. In the Old Testament, Deborah and Jael are heroes as they were willing to do what Barak was afraid to do (Deborah also held a position as a Judge of Israel). Ruth‘s loyalty and faithfulness to Naomi saved an entire family’s legacy and established the lineage for King David. Esther was elevated to queen in order to rescue her entire nation, in the face of blatant bigotry and deception. And even Rahab the prostitute is a hero and is in the lineage of Jesus.

In the New Testament we see heroes like Mary, Elizabeth, Martha, Mary Magdalene, the Samaritan Woman who has great faith, as well as the women who were strong supporters of the missions of the Apostle Paul, and of the ministry in the early Gentile churches. Lydia, for example, was a business woman who sold and used purple dye and supported ministry personally through her home. These are just some quick examples of women celebrated in the Bible.

So, let’s just deal with the ‘elephant’ we are being asked to swallow in the question. The question suffers from bias created by powerful cultural conditioning and propaganda. The Bible does NOT suppress women, nor does it even suggest validation for the suppression of women.

And at about this point those who think they are really really smart are going to say, “What about Paul? Doesn’t Paul advocate women being silent, not talking in church and only asking their husbands questions?” To which I will ask a logical question: why would a man who celebrates business women, even highlights their support and work within the church, advocate suppression? Clearly he is not afraid of them, and he appreciates what God has given them to contribute to the community of the church. So then why the statements about silence? Do you think something specific may have been going on at that time which he was trying to address? He specifically appeals to Genesis and the creation account to emphasize responsibilities between men and women; why? If these are sticking points for you, I encourage you to do some digging on these questions and see what you come up with. I am confident you will see that Paul is not suppressing women, but rather he appears to be dealing with an undercurrent in the community that was causing problems.

Whatever the specific issue was that Paul was addressing, I suspect it was rooted in the recurring issue that divides male and female constantly throughout history. The hard thing for us to realize is this is not just a male/female issue, it’s a relational issue for everyone. Feminism has, in part, conditioned us to ignore the roots of the issue. The agendas of feminism (as well as chauvinism) rely on celebrating the principles of independence and self-gratification, against the desperation of dependence and co-dependency. They cannot justify the distrust and control essential to their agenda, without amplifying the fear of manipulation, oppression, and abuse. What do I mean by that?

Let’s take this in one broad stroke for both men and women. Look at history, and look at the descriptions of historical events in the Bible. Is it too broad to say that EVERY moment of division, dissention, suppression, and oppression has begun from a people or person pressing their advantage for their own gain?

Think carefully about this. We are a people designed to be INTERDEPENDENT with others as we mature - not independent (autonomous), not dependent (subjected), not co-dependent (addicted/parasitic). I challenge you to look at every oppression of a people group (including women in every culture), and try to find suppression and oppression without some fracture of trust and interdependence. I am willing to bet that in every case you will find that someone pressed their advantage, someone broke trust, someone decided to take what they COULD without considering if they SHOULD. Every time that happens there is fallout, reaction, and consequence.

The Bible records and deals with those moments with grace and consistently points people back to the Truth of our need for one another. The Bible consistently exposes our need to be faithful and trust one another. And God even uses the picture of a healthy male/female relationship as the comparison for His relationship with the Church.

Read Ephesians 5:21. Look at this carefully.
- Notice it says, “submit to one another...”
- Notice we are reminded to do this, “...out of reverence for Christ [fear of offending Christ]”.
- Why would not submitting to one another be offensive to Jesus?

ALL Biblical pictures of male/female interactions MUST start with “submit to one another.” This is NEVER a one-way street for our relationships. And it offends God when we take selfish opportunities toward or against one another, because God Himself has never acted that way toward us. When men assert dominance over women, they break the example they are to be of God’s submission to His Church. And when women assert dominance over men, they break the example of the Church’s submission to God. All our relationships should reflect this, but especially as men and women. When we do not submit to one another, we create the kind of broken trust our country now suffers from. Our society and our families pay a horrible price when men and women cannot or will not submit to one another. This is the broadest statement of what I find the Bible addressing in regard to women (and men). From here, it gets much more specific, and our history has many examples of how broken relationships and larger events like wars, tragedies, etc. can create independence, dependence, or co-dependence - all at the price of trusting, interdependent, loving, and respecting relationships.

So, if the initial question has been something that has bothered you about the Bible or Christianity, I encourage you to start examining this whole gender equality issue from this perspective regarding interdependence. Start exploring the Bible and see how God addresses our selfishness toward one another. Consider what it would be like for us if we really did live the way God asks us to. Would gender equality even be an issue?

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