In a recent batch of personal mail, I received an announcement for the upcoming Institute of Biblical Research annual meeting to be held in Kansas City in November. IBR is a society of Christian scholars, most of whom are professors of theology or Biblical studies at universities and seminaries across the U.S. and Canada. The annual meeting normally consists of a Friday evening banquet and speaker, followed Saturday by several seminar presentations. One of the Saturday presentations scheduled for this year's meeting is by a self-professed "Biblical feminist" who teaches at an evangelical seminary on the East Coast. Her topic: "God as Mother, Not Mother as God: A Biblical Response to the New Feminism."
This speaker doubtless views herself as providing a great service to the convening IBR members, hoping to adjust the focus of what she believes to be a distortion of theology. Even with a brand of feminism which is perhaps less shrill than that of her non-religious counterparts, she is nonetheless one among many who have adopted prevailing social currents in the realm of theology.
Several months ago I was asked to edit a chapter of a book written by a well-known evangelical leader. This excerpt was being published separately in booklet form by a prominent evangelical publishing house in the Midwest. The editorial staff, without notifying the author, had taken the liberty of changing numerous words (mostly pronouns) -- I counted approximately forty such cases in this short booklet -- in order to conform to a more "inclusive" canon of language. The author, from whose best-selling book this chapter had been excerpted (with permission), was appalled to learn after the fact that such editorial license was taken without so much as a phone call or letter of request. While not altering the author's basic thesis, the gelding of the text had effectually, in the opinion of the outraged author, changed the tenor and force of his argument. Evidently, his language was deemed by this evangelical publisher to be "politically incorrect." The ethical implications of such aggressive and unsanctioned editing, to say the very least, are disturbing.
What these two instances underscore is the extent to which the feminist mindset has penetrated Christian, indeed evangelical, circles. With the full incursion of feminist thought into the evangelical world, one is forced to consider the driving impetus behind this phenomenon. The stridency of feminist conviction, to be sure, is not confined to religious feminism. However, with minimal interest in Biblical literature, the Church has good reason to scrutinize a construct of feminism which purports to have "Biblical" justification, since whatever prevailing social currents are at work in modern culture will inevitably come to roost at the Church's doorstep.
Historically, challenges to orthodox faith were viewed as matters of "heresy" and met with a Christian apologetic; today, they are accommodated as being in step with the times, and any counter-response by the Church is vigorously condemned as socially "reactionary" and obscure. The whole debate over "inclusive language" may serve to illustrate this point. At stake is not merely an issue of linguistic precision. Rather, the aims of the "inclusivists" are ideological. It can be argued that the problem has even less to do with the Church's understanding of ministry, important as that is, than with its understanding of the nature of man and the nature of God Himself. Indeed, the doctrines of the Fatherhood of God and the Sonship of Christ are the fundamental beliefs upon which historic Christianity rests. Thus, for the feminist, a process of doctrinal reconstruction must be applied to the very heart of Biblical revelation itself. In the end, the question comes down to this: Are we prepared to receive God's revelation of Himself? Writing in the late 1940's, C.S. Lewis noted:
Christians think that God Himself has taught us how to speak of Him. To say that it does not matter is to say that all the masculine imagery is not inspired, is merely human in origin, or...quite arbitrary and unessential. And this is surely intolerable; or, if tolerable, it is an argument not in favour of Christian priestesses but against Christianity. Due to the sheer volume of literature feminists are publishing, whether secular, religious, or so-called "Biblical" in orientation (discussions of oxymorons aside), I cannot hope to examine the available literature in the scope of this essay. In general terms, however, what is perhaps most striking about feminist dogma is the stridency with which it promotes itself. It is incumbent upon the Church to consider not only the nature of the arguments feminists set forth but also the spirit in which such arguments are couched. Sadly, the great majority of feminists drive their impetus from a reaction against something: they are, by and large, driven by an overriding sense of hostility. Reduced to its essence, feminism would appear to be a "chip on the shoulder disguised as a philosophy, a misguided conviction that rage is the proper response to...society...."
By cultivating anger and self-pity, not tolerance and Christian service, the feminist aims to create a consciousness which can shed the shackles of oppressive patriarchy. One feminist is explicit: "How," she asks, "could feminist consciousness have developed without anger? ...To submit to the guidance of traditional religion is to become vulnerable to a kind of spiritual rape." The feminist, then, fights the battle of the sexes in deadly earnest. "It is hardly possible," notes a feminist writer, "to call to mind a single feminist theologian, whatever her phase of development may be, who does not find the image of the Father-God a challenge and a direct confrontation." Indeed to perceive or acknowledge God as Father would confirm the status quo of "patriarchal" society. It is this fundamental dilemma which gives birth to the feminist response illustrated by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenze in her book In Memory of Her,  in which the New Testament undergoes a curious "reconstruction." 
Thus, in analyzing the resultant antagonism which undergirds the feminist mindset, one is left to question the spirit with which feminists aggressively promote their agenda.
Before the advent of deconstructionism, meaningful communication stressed the significance of not only what was being said but also how it was being expressed. Such basic rules of dialogue, of course, are not limited to the interpretation of literary texts, nor are they confined to "professional counseling" techniques; indeed, they govern the whole of normal discourse. In writing to the Christians at Ephesus, Paul admonished the Church to "speak the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15). The fundamental idea expressed by the Apostle is not that love and truth stand in a tension, rather that they facilitate one another. Truth expressed through love, i.e., in an appropriate Christian fashion, allows truth's application to be most effective. Thus, how we communicate is an evidence of the validity of our argument as well as the level of our maturity (Cf. Eph. 4:13-16).
Broadly speaking, there is a tendency among "Biblical feminists" to utilize a flawed hermeneutic. Texts which do not seem to suit their philosophical aims are conveniently -- and often conspicuously -- avoided, or they are dismissed as cultural anomalies. Such is practiced, for example, by Gretchen Gaebelein Hull in her book Equal to Serve: 
Everything I know about God indicates that He is indeed love, so loving that He came Himself to die for me. Therefore, I put to one side passages like the Imprecatory Psalms or the Canaanite Wars that I do not understand. But I do not throw out the truth "God is love," simply because some passages about the nature of God puzzle me.A very typical feature of the "Biblical feminist's" hermeneutic is her handling of Galatians 3:28. This will more than likely entail an uncritical reading of Paul's thought in Galatians 3, predicated on the faulty premise that role distinctions, leading to male "domination," were introduced first as a result of the fall, not at creation.
So we should also treat the three "hard passages" about women [I Cor. 11:2-16; 14:33b-36; 1 Tim. 2:8-15], which we find in the New Testament and which appear to place specific restrictions on women only. To these we could add Colossians 3:18; Ephesians 5:22-23; and 1 Peter 3:1-6... Therefore we may legitimately put these Scripture portions aside for the very reason that they remain "hard passages" -- hard exegetically, hard hermeneutically, and hard theologically.
We can grant that forms of sexual bias, and hence, forms of discrimination, are affected by the atonement. Precisely how the Cross applies to the sexes in bringing about unity and equality is in need of further definition. Let us consider, then, the basis for this unity and equality.  How has Christ achieved such? And what is to be our (men's and women's) response?
The implications of abandonment of the self-life were very real for Saul of Tarsus. He could state autobiographically that he had thoroughly died to Christ (see, for example, Phil 1:20-21 and 3:10). Anything of the flesh which was formerly dear to him was laid at the foot of the Cross. This was no sentimental journey down memory lane for the Apostle. It meant total brokenness in everything intimately associated with his personhood. Moreover, death to the self-life for Paul was an ongoing process (I Cor. 15:31 and Col 3:5).
In the letter of I Corinthians, a notable thread running throughout much of the epistle is the discussion of personal freedoms. The Corinthians prided themselves conspicuously on their inherent "freedom" in Christ. This posed, however, difficulties for the community as a whole. Individualism, at the expense of corporate edification, was destroying the collective life of the Church. Many in the Corinthian church deemed individual liberties more precious than the building of the whole Body of Christ. In the midst of his impassioned correspondence, Paul injects a very transparent piece of testimony. Chapter nine records the Apostle taking great pains to describe the process in his own life by which he had laid aside various claims to apostolic "rights." Legally, at least in the courts of heaven, any personal rights or privileges inherent to his office were justifiable. Practically, however, Paul was moved to forego some of these rights for the sake of others.
The force of the Pauline polemic aimed at the Corinthians was designed to offset the strident libertinism characteristic of that community. Rather than be obsessed with "rights" and personal liberties, the Corinthians were to humble themselves, seek the interests of others, and strive to edify the whole church. In short, this would entail a dying to self. The material found in 11:2-16 is a window into the clash between individual rights and corporate edification which was taking place in Corinth. Paul, while assuming and acknowledging the ministry of women already operative within the assembly (note, for example, 11:5), admonishes the church nonetheless to honor a traditional social norm and thus maintain the highest degree of unity in the body by preventing distractions based on sexual liberty which resulted from unloving insistence on rights.
Paul's own convictions about "rights" are instructive. They square with Jesus' teaching on servanthood. Servanthood is foreign to the human spirit. Rights are inherent to the self-life, a life which, for the Christian, is initially crucified by an act of faith and subsequently requires ongoing recrucifixion in response to the demands of Christian discipleship. This understanding is integral to Jesus' imperative of taking up one's cross. For Christians, the "cross" of discipleship which we carry is not our sexuality or our identity; rather, it is how we handle our sexuality, how we represent Christ through our lives in the context of a fallen world. Moreover, Jesus' Cross is not our Cross. He bore sin and injustice;  we do not. We are to rest in His salvation, otherwise we run the risk of negating his atoning work. Historic Christianity, it should be noted, while it always freed men and women from the bondage of sin, never eradicated distinctions of sex roles. It is because of human alienation from God, not patriarchy, that the Cross was necessary.
It is also highly instructive that modern feminism was not born in African, Asian, or East European cultures, where the plight of women, viewed in relative and global terms, might seem appalling. Rather, it emerged initially in western culture some twenty-five years ago, gaining a foothold formally in the social sciences and subsequently spilling over into other domains. As is characteristic of the disciplines of theology and Biblical studies, which tend to embrace prevailing cultural trends often ten to fifteen years subsequent to their introduction in the secular realm, feminism has in recent years become a "major hermeneutical player." Religious forms of feminist thought, following suit ideologically with their secular counterparts, have imported the totalitarian language of rights and entitlement. "Biblical feminists" argue that women's ministry has been suppressed by the traditional male-dominated Church.
Although in the eyes of the world servanthood is demeaning and hence to be absolutely loathed, in the eyes of God it is a state of exaltedness. Servanthood, properly seen, is the ultimate expression of true freedom. Whereas preoccupation with self will necessarily breed a fixation with rights, a healthy preoccupation with the theology of the cross will liberate us from politicizing the purposes of God. In their critique of precisely this "politicization," Brigitte and Peter Berger comment:
Sexist language is an invention of the feminist movement...[It] is a theory that elevates infantile misunderstandings to the level of hermeneutics... What matters...is that the theory legitimates a linguistic offensive that is part of a general political strategy. In this strategy, every pronoun purged from a text, every insertion of "person" as a general suffix, constitutes a symbolic victory in the larger struggle.It is precisely from this politicization -- a profaning of creation and the divine economy -- that feminism must be saved. Surely the result will be dramatic. Rather than vying to see who will be leading the Church or exercising power, we will be far more concerned about serving one another.
The Church, as the full expression of the people of God, is viewed similarly to the Old Testament covenant community -- in nuptial terms (Eph. 5:22-23). She is described as being prepared by and for the bridegroom (Eph. 5:26-27; cf. also John 3:29). As a virgin, the Church is to be obsessed with the love of her Spouse, for Whom she awaits with great anticipation, and in Whose name and identity she derives her deepest satisfaction.
 C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, (London: Macmillan, 1979) p. 90. For an excellent treatment of feminist dismantling of Biblical revelation, see William Oddie, What Will Happen to God? Feminism and the Reconstruction of Christian Belief, (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1988).
 Several feminist works which have served as "primers" for religious feminism include Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father; Towards a Philosophy of Women's Liberation (Boston: Beacon, 1973); Rosemary Radford Ruether, New Woman, New Earth, (New York: Seabury, 1975); idem, Womanguides: Readings Toward a Feminist Theology, (Boston: Beacon, 1985); Letty Russell, The Liberating Word, (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1976); Naomi Goldenberg, Changing of the Gods: Feminism and the End of Traditional Religions, (Boston: Beacon, 1979); Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow, eds., Womanspirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion, (New York: Harper & Row, 1979); LInda Clark et all., eds., Image-Breaking, Image-Building, (New York: Pilgrim, 1981); and Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her, (London: SCM, 1983).
Among Christians who argue for a vitually complete uniformity in sexual roles are Letha and John Scanzoni, Men, Women and Change, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1976); Aida B. Spencer, Beyond the Curse, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1985); Gilbert Bilezikan, Beyond Sex Roles: A Guide for the Study of Female Roles in the Bible, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1985); idem, "Hierarchist and Egalitarian Interculterations", Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 30 (1987) pp. 423-24; Patricia Gundry, Neither Slave Nor Free: Helping Women Answer the Call to Church Leadership, (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987); idem, Women Be Free! The Clear Message of Scripture, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988); and idem, Heirs Together: Mutual Submission in Marriage, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988).
Added to this list are egalitarians who assume that Paul is in conflict with himself in various texts -- e.g., Krister Stendahl, The Bible and the Role of Women, (Philadephia: Fortress, 1966); Paul K. Jewett, Man as Male and Female, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975); and Viginia Mollencott, Women, Men and the Bible, (Nashville: Abingdon, 1977).
 Katherine Kersten, "What Do Women Want?", Policy Review, (Spring, 1991) p. 4.
 Fredricksen Landes Paula, book review, Signs: A Journal of Women and Culture, 6/2 (1980) pp. 328-29.
 Catherine Halkes, "The Themes of Protest in Feminist Theology against God the Father". God as Father, (eds. J.B. Metz and E. Schillebeeckx: Concilium 143; (New York: Herder and Herder, 1981) p. 103.
 (London: SCM, 1983).
 It is a notably rare occurence to encounter a feminist who comes from a home environment in which there was to be found a firm and loving father. This familial element is frequently coupled with pressure from professional peers to adopt current prevailing social trends. It would seem, based on the proliferation of "Women's Studies" programs in the last ten years, that the academy provides the ideal environment in which feminists can pool resources to begin reconstructing society.
 An intellectual sleight of hand, deconstructionism seeks to "dismantle hierarchies" in literature and life. In entails a sort of devil's advocacy taken to the extreme -- and perhaps beyond. Deconstructionism had taught a generation of literary critics that there is no "text" apart from the subjective interpretation of the reader, that the author has no more authority than the reader. The movement believes there is so little connection between words and reality that meaning is absolutely up for grabs. Historians have also discovered that history as well can be decontructed. Gertrude Himmelfarb, the distinguished professor emeritus of history at the City University of New York, aptly notes: "In one discipline after another, the deconstructionists promise to do what Marxists before them tried to do: to 'demystify' received truth and liberate us from the tyranny of 'facticity'" ("The Right to Misquote", Commentary, [April 1991] p. 34.).
In some institutions, deconstructionism is past its prime; in others, it is only now coming into prominence, achieving in some intellectual circles almost talismanic status. The movement initially appeared among French pseudo-intellectuals, before being brought to America by Jacques Derrida, who presently teaches at the University of California at Irvine.
Any connection between deconstruction and feminist thought is not incidental. Endemic in feminist and deconstructionist thinking is a hostility toward "hierarchical" structures. Paramount to both is the quest for freedom from patterns of authority which involve some sort of subordiantion, whether of ideas or human beings. This very striving for autonomy is what makes feminism -- in its more secular and religous forms -- so antithetical to the Christian tradition. Structures of authority, whether in the political sphere, the church or the family, are not to be abolished but redeemed.
Deconstructionists hold all texts to be equal; thus, we cnanot make value judgments. Any attempt at a value judgement is consequently to be viewed as a play for power and position. Literary criticism, then, can easily be converted into a litmus test whose only purpose is to uncover "sexist" evidences. So throughgoing is deconstructionist scepticism, that it tends to silence all of language, thereby destroying meaningful communication. The resultant intellectual void must be filled with some type of belief, and often a greater degree of intellectual and cultural oppression will ensue.
 In truth there is no relatively "benign" form of feminism., in light of its foundational assumptions -- non-differentness, cultural determinism of the sex roles and certain changeability (see Michael Levin, "The Feminist Mystique", Commentary [December 1980] p. 25). These unswerving tenents form an uncompromising empirical doctrine leading to social action which is intended to transform culture.
 The core assumptions of contemporary feiminst thought are that male oppression of females governs all of social intercourse and that patriarchal social institutions (of which the church is a prime example) inhibit women from attaining a just and egalitarian world. In contradistinction, the Bible does not accord the status of demonic to either sex -- male or female. Rather, both sexes, are fallen and in need of redemption, stand indicted before a holy God.
 (Old Tappan: Fleming H. Revell, 1987). The title itself is a bit odd, since genuine servanthood does not look over its shoulder to monitor fairness.
 Sadly, such an approach to the Scriptures is irresponsible, at the very least, and dishonest, at worse. To dispute some passages which are "hard" and conveniently set them aside as unauthoritative in the formulation of Christian sexuality, and hence, not worthy of Christian obedience, is to overthrow the truth of God.
 Paul's argument in Galatians 3 is not that Christians will treat each other identically in some sort of mechanical fashion. Rather, all qualify as heirs of God in Christ; all are Abraham's offspring. The error of a feminist reading of Galations 3:28 is that social theory is imported to the text. Paul is not saying that all in Christ are homo-sexual. Galations 3:28 must square, for example, with I Peter 3:107.
Evidence would indicate that the feminist minimization of sex role differentiation contributes to a confusion of one's sexual identity. Given this disorientation, it is not uncommon for individuals who have grown up in more conservative evangelical traditions eventually to affrim homosexual relationships. See, for example, Letha Scanzoni and Virginia Mollenkott, Is the Homosexual My Neighebor? Another Christian View, (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978). Along similar lines, the October 3, 1986 issue of Christinity Today contained an article reporting a split in the Evangelical Women's Caucus over the question of whether there should be "recognition of the presence of the lesbian minority" ("Gay Rights Resolution Divides Membership of Evangelical Woman's Causus", Christianity Today, [October 3, 1986] pp. 40-43].
 Modern fminists have expunged the rather bothersome notion that all human beings, not merely males, are inherently flawed and hence incapable of producing a truly just society.
 Sin, not distinct sexual roles, has falsified human sexuality. In addition to feminism's disregard for collective human fallenness, it denies divinely given (and limited) attributes. To deny the discinctiveness of the sexes is to deny the richness of God and His creation. Human sexuality, from the very beginning, is sacramentalized in the balance of the masculine and feminine. The words of Genesis before the fall emphasize the distinct role of the sexes: "God created man in his own image and likeness... Male and female he created them" (Gen. 1:27). The irony of feminism is that its proponents adopt characteristics which traditionally have been considered masculine, not those considered feminine. In countering the libertine spirit in the Corinthian church which was inhibiting corporate worship, Paul reminded his readers that bearing the image of God sexually was based on the creation model (11:7-9). For the Apostle, that model was still standing firm and bearing on the context of public worship in the Corinthian assembly.
 It should be noted that even the duties and practices of Chirstian husbands and wives, between whom there exists some overlap in terms of responsibilities, are not purely identical or interchangeable (see, for example, apostolic teaching in Ephesians 4, I Corinthians 7, Colossians 3 and I Peter 3). A mature Christian marriage will manifest neither a domineering spirit nor egalitarianism. Husbands will be seeking to minister uniquely to the needs of their wives as Christ sacrificed Himself for the Church, and wives will be seeking to love their husbands unqiuely as the Church loves Christ.
If a woman is subodinate to a man, a man is subordinate to Christ, Who has voluntarily subordinated Himself to God the Father (see 1 Cor. 11:3 an d15:24-28). None of these "hierarchical" relationships are demeaning. We are speaking here of a subordination wholly consistent with the unity and equality of the nature existing between members of the Godhead. yet such an understanding of equalty, as William Oddie (p. 58 [see n.2]) notes, requires that we distance ourselves from any merely human or emphemerally political understanding of the Word. Our relationships are to be viewed "in Christ". Based on the overwhelming affirmation of sexual distinctions throughout the Bible, the "Christian feminist" faces a dilemma: how to live out this distinction (acknowledged or not) against the background of a culture whose proclivity is to obliterate all human distinctiveness.
 That men and women have differing roles in the liturgy of the Church does not constitute "injustice".
 Many Communist societies -- notably the Soviet Union, China and Cuba -- have shown themselves to be truly abismal regarding the plight of women, despite their rhetoric of sexual neutrality. In practice, they turn out to be more "patriarchal" than most western nations! The simple fact is that a genuine matriachy does not exist anywhere in the world -- it never has, and this is based on universals rooted in creation. The closet model of egalitarianism to which feminism has looked for the purposes of articulating utopian expectation is the Israeli Kibbutz. For a discussion of feminist research findings pertaining to the Kibbutz, see Nicholas Davidson, The Failure of Feminism, (Buffalo: Prometheus, 1988) pp. 233-34, and David J. Ayers, "The Inevitiblity of Failure: the Assumptions and Implementation of Modern Feminism", (unpublished paper), pp. 14-18. On biological and psychological aspects of the egalitarian question, see Stephen Goldberg, The Inevitability of Patriachy, (New York: William Morrow, 1974); James C. Neely, Gender: The Myth of Equality, (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1982); and Nicholas Davidson, Gender Sanity, (Lanham: University Press, 1989).
 What is inspired by the Holy Spirit is not driven by coercion, rather it is led and gently prodded. On this count, feminism fully disqualified itself based on fruit alone. There are two types of wisdom, according to James: the earthly variety, which breeds envy, ambition, disorder and a denial of truth (3: 14-16), and a heavenly conterpart, which is pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive and full of mercy (3:17-18).
 The War over the Family, (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1983), p. 48.
 It should not be surprising that sexual revolt is the most profound expression of human rebellion. In creating us male and female, God has made human sexuality integral to our very being -- a reality which is owing not to the fall, rather to human creation itself. And this creation is the very crown of divine handiwork. Our human and sexual indentity, which entails both equality and distinction, is proportional to our acquiesence to this glorious fact. For this reason, Paul can write that a distortion of human sexuality constitutes the ultimate in rebellion against God's authority (Rom. 1:18-32). To deny the realities of male and female sexual identity is to mock the Creator and languish in the futility of a darkened understanding (1:21), resulting in the exchange of truth for a lie and ultimate depravity (1:25-28).
 For an excellent discussion of the interconnection between the institutions of the family and the church, see Vern Poythress, The Church as Family (Wheaton, Il.: Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 1990). Assuming that Ephesians 5:22-33 presents us with a permanent model for irreversible roles in marraige, Poythress attempts to demonstrate that such irreversibility carries over into the context of the life of the church. Precisely the converse can be argued as well: if, in fact, distinct roles exist in the life and function of the chruch, then they exist as well for the family. The theme of family relationships is particularly prominent in Paul's first letter to his "son" Timothy. The interconnection between family and church is assumed in 3:2-5, especially v. 5: "If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God's church?"