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Dangerous first step

Interview | Scholar Wayne Grudem on how "evangelical feminism" undermines Scripture and leads to theological liberalism

Issue: "Darfur," Nov. 25, 2006

Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Bible and Theology at Phoenix Seminary in Scottsdale, Ariz., is the author of books including Systematic Theology and Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. His latest is Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism? (Crossway, 2006).

WORLD: Why do many churches feel pressured to deny male leadership in the home and in the church?

GRUDEM: The culture! Ask any pastor if he likes to preach on male headship in marriage and you'll get a sense of how strong the cultural pressures are against the Bible's teaching. In every generation, the culture always pushes the church toward denying the Bible in various ways, and thus there is a constant pressure to move toward liberalism. Today evangelical feminism is pushing the church toward liberalism.

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WORLD: What do you mean by "evangelical feminism" and "liberalism"?

GRUDEM: Evangelical feminism is a movement that claims that there are no unique leadership roles for men in marriage or in the church. I call it evangelical feminism because these writers accept the Bible as the Word of God. But theological liberalism is in conflict with that because it is a system of thinking that denies the complete truthfulness of the Bible as the Word of God and denies the unique and absolute authority of the Bible in our lives.

WORLD: Do you really think you can prove that evangelical feminism moves churches and denominations toward liberalism?

GRUDEM: Absolutely. Some people don't move toward liberalism (such as several friends that I name in the book), but their arguments regularly undermine or deny the authority of Scripture, and the next generation moves quickly toward liberalism.

Many Christians think that the disputes over men's and women's roles are just another doctrinal difference that doesn't matter much, like the differences over predictions of the end times. But my research found at least 25 well-documented arguments, widely used by evangelical feminists, that undermine or deny the authority of Scripture. Once people give in to these feminist arguments, they accept methods of interpretation that lead them down the path toward liberalism.

People sometimes wonder how churches that used to believe the Bible have become liberal in their views of Scriptures, and I show in this book that we are seeing it happen before our very eyes, with evangelical feminism as the common path they follow.

WORLD: You show in your book that all theologically liberal denominations have adopted feminism and have women at all leadership levels. Could this be because denominations suddenly become better interpreters of the Bible passages on women in the church when they become more liberal?

GRUDEM: No, definitely not! By conviction liberal groups undermine and deny the authority of Scripture. They don't interpret the Bible better, but they invent sophisticated academic arguments to show why women should be pastors in spite of what the Bible says about this. And now several of the same arguments used by liberals to justify ordaining women 50 years ago are being adopted by evangelical feminists today.

I trace a trend toward liberalism in several denominations in this book, and in every case when a denomination abandons the inerrancy of the Bible it moves quickly to approve women as pastors and elders. But I also show historically that the strongest resistance to ordaining women comes from the several denominations that hold firmly to the inerrancy of Scripture (for example, the Southern Baptists, the Presbyterian Church in America, and the Missouri Synod Lutherans).

WORLD: How do evangelical feminists deal with the clear teachings of 1 Timothy 2:12 and 3:2, or Titus 1:6?

GRUDEM: They have a lot of different ways to evade the force of these verses, and most of them undermine Scripture. Some appeal to a "trajectory" of thought, saying that Paul and other New Testament authors had not reached a mature understanding of doctrine and ethics, but we can see the direction they were heading and we can go beyond the New Testament to find an "ultimate ethic" that is better for us today than what we read in the New Testament. William Webb of Heritage Theological Seminary (Ontario) holds that view, for example, as does New Testament scholar R.T. France of England. But that view means that our authority is not the New Testament but our idea of the goal it was "moving toward."

Other evangelical feminists say that Paul was wrong about women in the church, or that Genesis does not record actual history when it says Adam was created before Eve. Another evasion of the authority of these verses is to dismiss them by saying they are "disputed" and "hard to understand," which turns out to be a neat way to get rid of any verses that you cannot explain but you do not want to obey.

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