The following article entitled Feminism in the Reformed Churches by Michael Spangler, a teaching pastor in the OPC, was posted at Purely Presbyterian on 8 May, 2020. Purely Presbyterian contributors are: Paul J. Barth, Seni Adeyemi, drdowname, Christian Herring, Carlos Gonzalez, Nick Schoeneberger, William Sandell, Orthobilly and Zach Dotson. As of 12 May, 2020, Barth, Adeyemi, Herring, Schoeneberger and Sandell are all members of the Facebook group called the Genevan Commons. According to site contributor Paul J. Barth,
“All the contributors and n this site are RPCNA laymen. Most of our posts are excerpts from Reformed theologians.”
Note: I share this information solely as a resource for informational purposes. This is in no way an endorsement of this article, its positions, Mr. Spangler, his associates or Purely Presbyterian.
Feminism in the Reformed Churches: 1. The Leaders
The Reformed churches have found themselves at war. The battle lines are drawn, and the conflict is underway. This article is the beginning of a series, in which I make a plea to godly readers, to recognize the enemy, and to take up arms against it.
The enemy is feminism. By feminism I mean the ideology that disputes the following facts:
1. God made men stronger, and appointed them to public work, and to rule in family, church, and state. (1 Sam. 4:9; 1 Cor. 16:13; Gen. 3:19; Prov. 31:23; 1 Tim. 3:1; 1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:23; 1 Tim. 3:4; 1 Tim. 2:8, 12; 3:2; Titus 1:6; Ex. 18:21; Prov. 31:23; Num. 1:2–3)
2. God made women weaker, and appointed them to domestic work, and to submit to the rule of men. (1 Peter 3:7; 1 Tim. 2:14; Prov. 31:27; 1 Tim. 2:15; 5:14; Titus 2:5; 1 Cor. 11:7–9; Eph. 5:22; 1 Cor. 14:35; Ps. 68:12; Isa. 3:12)
A good one-word summary of these facts of nature, and of Scripture, is patriarchy, “father-rule.” Feminism is its opposite. The desire that unites all feminists is, as they say, to “smash the patriarchy.”
The oft-repeated objections to the above facts are too many to be dealt with here. Our concern here is the definition: feminism is the ideology that disputes these facts. And by that definition, feminism has invaded our Reformed churches.
Here I begin to prove this claim, by introducing the generals of today’s feminist army. They are women, and three of them in particular.
First in prominence is Aimee Byrd. The easiest way to prove her feminism is simply to read her blog. Here she complains that women don’t write more theology and aren’t encouraged in higher theological learning, and wonders why “all the women publishing good academic works are egalitarian.” Here, here, here, and here she promotes the writings of egalitarians. Note, egalitarian is a polite term for feminist. Here she criticizes the Nashville Statement on human sexuality. Here she warns of the perils that attend teaching abstinence from premarital sex. Here she praises a book called “Vindicating the Vixens” for its focus on “gynocentric texts” and its teaching that “the women’s voice in Scripture corrects any promotion of androcentrism.” Here she praises an author for denying that Scripture is “a hopelessly patriarchal construction” and for explaining the “gynocentric interruption of the dominant androcentricity of Scripture.” These articles and others repeat claims basic to feminist exegesis: that women were the first heralds of the resurrection, that Junia was a female apostle, that Priscilla is a model for female theologians, that women’s voices in Scripture and in theology are historically marginalized and misunderstood, etc.
She has also shown her feminism in her books, especially her recent Why Can’t We Be Friends?, and the soon to be released Recovering From Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (here, video study here). In the first she comes out hard against the “Pence Rule” (held by our Vice President, and also by Billy Graham). She argues that adult women and men, though not married to each other, should not make rules against time alone, but rather cultivate intimate personal friendships. See the weighty critiques of this book collected here. The second book tells on itself before it even opens: its cover makes a clear allusion to the feminist short story “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and its title boldly challenges the book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (here), which is one of most well-known contemporary works written to fight feminism and promote masculine leadership according to the word of God. For a thorough survey and critique of the book, see Andy Naselli’s pre-publication review, here.
Byrd has spoken at many church-sponsored events and conferences (just do a Google search), and has exercised great influence as a co-host on the podcast Mortification of Spin, which like her blog is published under the auspices of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. There will be more to say about her work in future articles.
Second is Rachel Miller. She is known mostly for her recent book, Beyond Authority and Submission. As with Byrd’s new book, the title says it all, but for more, read this review. Byrd wrote the foreword to the book, calling Miller a “discerning and helpful voice on men and women in the church” (here). Miller was also for a time the News Editor of the Aquila Report.
The third woman is Valerie Hobbs. She was previously a fellow at the Greystone Theological Institute, working alongside noted Reformed ministers and professors. A senior lecturer in applied linguistics, one of her pet projects has been researching the treatment of women in conservative Reformed churches: see her journal articles here, here, here, and here. The abstracts reveal her animus against the teaching of Reformed churches about women. Her popular level articles reflect the same, e.g. this one in which she positively cites well-known feminist Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Aimee Byrd, and suggests that 1 Corinthians 16:13, “Quit you like men,” might be faithfully rendered, “Act like women.”
Moreover, these three women are not working independently. Miller in the acknowledgements of her book says, “Aimee Byrd and Valerie Hobbs are my ‘kindred spirits.’” Hobbs defended Miller’s book on Byrd’s blog (here), as did Byrd herself (here). Both Hobbs and Miller have been featured on Mortification of Spin, which Byrd co-hosts. The three are fighting together for the same goal, which appears to be the eradication of patriarchy from the church.
These women, influential as they have become in their own right, do have help in their fight for feminism from various men. A few have distinguished themselves, so as to become as if lieutenants to these lady generals. Among them three ministers deserve mention.
First is Carl Trueman. Perhaps of all people he is most at fault for the encroachment of feminism into the Reformed churches. He promotes Aimee Byrd by being her co-host on Mortification of Spin. He gave a glowing endorsement to Miller’s Beyond Authority and Submission (see it here). And because he is a gospel minister (OPC), with a name as an historian and cultural critic, his word carries great weight. His reputation has probably done more than anything else to lift these women into the limelight.
Second is Todd Pruitt. He is also a minister (PCA), and a host on Mortification of Spin. He is a useful moderate in the feminist cause, for he expresses wise concerns about confusion over sexuality in the churches (here), but then when it comes to the confusion promoted by the feminists above, he argues they are not as bad as people think (here), and complains that the discussion needs more “sober and well-qualified voices” (here).
Third is Todd Bordow. He is Rachel Miller’s pastor (OPC), and his church hosted a conference (here) featuring her and Aimee Byrd. He’s made his own contributions to the feminist cause, one of which was arguing in public (here and here), in opposition to his church’s Confession of Faith (24.6, here), that “emotional abuse” should be added to adultery and desertion as a third cause for lawful divorce (briefly answered here). We will address more of Bordow’s feminist teaching later.
These three men and the three women they support are, as far as I can see, the most prominent public leaders in the recent assault of feminism upon our Reformed churches. I publicly call out their names here, because their public teaching against the Bible, or their public support for such teaching, requires it. Paul did the same with Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 4:14), Demas (2 Tim. 4:10), and even the apostle Peter (Gal. 2:11). Christ did it with the Nicolaitanes (Rev. 2:6, 15) and “that woman Jezebel” (Rev. 2:20). God is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), and every Christian has a duty, when it comes to public teachers, to search the scriptures (Acts 17:11; Isa. 8:20), try the spirits (1 John 4:1), and know men by their fruits (Matt. 7:20).
In the next three articles I will give further proof that these feminist leaders and their followers are a threat to our churches, by discussing their tactics online, in books, and in the church itself.
Michael Spangler is a minister at Providence Church (OPC) in Greensboro, NC.
On 12 May, 2020 an unnamed author posted the following on the Purely Presbyterian Facebook page.