Reimagining Patriarchy

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At last week’s Evangelical Theological Society, I argued for a word contemporary Christians greet with fear and loathing: patriarchy. The paper, “After Patriarchy, What? Why Egalitarians Are Winning the Evangelical Gender Debate,” can be accessed here. Since then, the conversation has continued, with Presbyerian theologian Peter Leithart interacting with the paper on his commentary site.

The stakes of the gender debate for all of Christian theology are apparent even at the ETS meeting itself, with egalitarian theologian Alan Padgett arguing for mutual submission between Christ and the church from Ephesians chapter 5. In his presentation, Padgett argued that Jesus “submits” to the church at the cross. This proposal assumes that service means submission. The church did not send Jesus on the redemptive mission; the Father did. Jesus everywhere notes that he is freely offering his life in obedience to the Father’s mission. Moreover, Jesus in his love for the church refuses to submit to the foundation stones of his church, when they demand that he will never be delivered over to the Romans. Instead, he sets his face like flint toward Jerusalem. That is servant leadership, and that is headship.

Stunningly, in his paper presentation Padgett argues that the church’s submission to Christ ends at the eschaton. This is sub-Christian at best; Canaanite at worst. An article about the Padgett presentation can be accessed here. If this is where evangelical feminism is going, it is clear that the movement is even more self-consciously more feminist than evangelical; more egalitarian than Christian.

We live in a fearful and cowardly time. The crisis we face is not a crisis of clarity but a crisis of courage.


About Russell Moore

Russell Moore is Public Theologian at Christianity Today and Director of Christianity Today’s Public Theology Project.