Lead Like a Woman: Why Rebekah Merkle Doesn’t Understand Feminism

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This post is in response to “Throw Like a Girl: Why Feminism Insults Real Women” by Rebekah Merkle

Complementarians continue to misrepresent feminism, especially Christian feminism. Rebekah Merkle, daughter of extreme patriarchal preacher and author, Douglas Wilson, recently wrote an article entitled, “Throw Like a Girl: Why Feminism Insults Real Women.”

She acts as if she is addressing secular feminism, but the article is written for “Desiring God,” which is an organization founded and run by leading complementarian, John Piper. So, let’s be honest here, this article is actually addressing Christian feminism.

It is yet another jab at egalitarians; a jab that literally makes no sense, because it misrepresents our view, yet again.

Please take note, complementarians: Egalitarians do not believe that men and women are the same, and in actuality, most secular feminists do not believe this, either. We would all have to be intellectually brain dead to believe that men and women were exactly the same. We can see the differences. We are not blind. Rather, we believe that men and women are deserving to try for the SAME LIFE OPPORTUNITIES.

Rebekah states,

The idea that women are equal to men is not a feminist idea; it’s a Christian idea. The apostle Paul said it long before Elizabeth Cady Stanton or Gloria Steinem when he taught us that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Galatians 3:28).

Well, on that we can agree. Rebekah goes on to say,

Think of the way our society cheers for the women who make it into the Navy Seals, or anything similar to that. It’s honestly the same reaction as when the really, really slow kid finally chugs across the finish line of the race, twelve minutes behind everyone else. We women need to stop being so easily flattered by that kind of admiration. If you pay any attention at all, you realize it’s not really a compliment.

Although I think this statement is ultra insulting towards women who are Navy Seals, for the sake of my general argument, I will allow Rebekah to have this one.

In most cases, women are physically weaker than men and in some cases slower. Fine, but what Rebekah fails to mention is that most women are not trying to be Navy Seals.

Many women are trying to be Pastors, CEO’s, Doctors, Lawyers, Business Owners, and the list goes on. And guess what? We as women would like to earn equal pay doing these things and be equally considered for the job in the first place.

We would also like people like Doug Wilson and John Piper to stop writing oppressive, unjust, and simply poor theology books that make it more difficult for trained female seminarians to get hired for pastoral positions.

Last time I checked, it does not take physical strength or male genitals to pastor a church. Women don’t want to lead like men. Women want to lead like women.

We don’t want to show up to the Church or the work place dressed in a suit and tie. No, we want to show up in our pin-skirt and red lipstick, looking like women.

Women want to be women, for the most part. Most women like to shop, and to dress attractively for work. Many women like to keep up with the latest hair and nail trends. Many women enjoy jewelry and all of that girly stuff, but we have passion, brains, spiritual gifts, and strong leadership capabilities that the Spirit of God blessed us with.

Women want to offer their unique feminine style of leading, and that goes way beyond clothes and makeup.

It is high time that the Church supports us and stops writing these non-sense articles that misrepresent women, egalitarianism, and feminism. How sad that Rebekah, a woman herself, would write an article that completely simplifies her very complex sisters in Christ, made in the image of God.

It makes me mad thinking about all of the men who cheered and retweeted this article. Rebekah should be on our side; but instead, she is doing what her dad taught her to do, she is batting for the patriarchy and all of the complementarian men are saying, “You go, girl!”

Don’t think I have not noticed how women get opportunities over in complementarian land. If women are willing to speak out against their sisters or against feminism/egalitarianism, they will get more writing and speaking opportunities.

At complementarian conferences where men are present, women are not permitted to preach, unless of course, they preach against women preachers. It literally makes me sick how complementarian men use their women, and the women just let them. But this is how evil patriarchy works.

Women seek the approval of men and are taught submission to men from a very young age. If they please the men, they are rewarded with praise and retweets. If they go against the grain, they are treated like crap and called names like false prophet, jezebel, false teacher, heretic, etc.

They will even have their women call other women these things. I know, because I have been called these things by both complementarian men and women. It is highly dysfunctional over there in patriarchy land. Obedience equals rewards for women. Disobedience equals punishment for women.

Rebekah, sister, you are fighting a losing battle, for men who are on the losing side. John Piper and your father will not win this one, because the Spirit of God is on the egalitarian side. The Bible is in full support of women leaders, including Junia, a female apostle (Romans 16:7).

We have been over this before, but, if God was cool with a female apostle, which was the highest level of church authority in the early church, he was most certainly cool with a female pastor, elder, or any other leadership position.

Complementarians are wrong, plain and simple. There are no gender roles in the kingdom of God, for we are all one in Jesus Christ. Jesus taught us to pray, Thy Kingdom Come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Do we really believe that there will be gender roles in heaven?

Further, why would God not want as many pastors as possible to preach His kingdom and shepherd His people? Complementarian doctrine is simply not reasonable. It is unjust towards women and it only slows down the Gospel from reaching the nations faster.

There are no such things as biblical manhood and biblical womanhood as New Covenant Christians.

There is only “Biblical Christian-hood.” Both men and women are all trying to be like Christ. We are all following after Him. It is that simple. He is our example. Complementarians are overcomplicating the Gospel and the Trinity, and with time, more and more Christians will wake up and walk away from this false doctrine.

May all complementarians repent and turn away from this unjust and unbiblical doctrine that has wounded countless women and men alike, and continues to do so.

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27 Comments

  • Fwiw, I wouldn’t worry too much about the perceived insult to female Navy SEALS, as there are none.

    A larger question I do have, though, is raised by your last point, that there is no such thing as biblical manhood and womanhood. I get that you are signaling your disagreement with Piper here, but beyond that, do you think that women have anything to offer that is unique to women? I struggle with this question, and I wonder at times if feminists want to have their cake and eat it too, arguing simultaneously that if women are excluded, then the female perspective is excluded to everyone’s loss, but also that there is no meaningful difference between men and women such that we should distinguish between them. Which is it?

    Of course, I get that if we exclude women, we are excluding qualified people to our detriment. But beyond that, is there anything unique and inherently valuable to the perspective a woman brings? I admit I am not sure. As a man, I have been profoundly shaped by a series of extremely intelligent women, which has helped to rid me of whatever chauvinist ideas I used to hold. But at the same time, I am unsure whether I am partly fortunate to have their input because as women they offer a perspective I could never have, or is it just good that they weren’t excluded so I could learn from them?

    Put another way, are you totally sure there is no such thing as biblical manhood and womanhood, even if it were to look totally different than Piper’s [weird] vision of it?

    • Hey there. Great question. I do believe that women have something to offer that men don’t and that is the feminine side of God. Woman represents the partial image of God that is the female side. Not that God is made in her image, but that she is made in God’s image (just as man is). As I stated in the post, I believe women are different than men, but I do not believe there are a different set of rules for women, as Piper suggests in his arguments for Biblical Womanhood/gender roles.

      As Christians, our rules are all the same. We are all under the same New Covenant, no matter our gender, race, or social status. We are all seeking to follow after Jesus and obey His teachings. Women do not have a different set of teachings to follow.

      • Thanks so much for the response Jory. I appreciate your thoughts here.

        As much as I like your response in some ways, I wonder if we haven’t just kicked the intellectual can down the road. After all, saying that what makes women unique is their capacity to image the feminine in God just leaves us asking what is distinctly feminine about God. Isn’t your definition basically a tautology? If God is both male and female, are we really talking about gender at all, or have we erased all such distinctions in our attempt to blend them together in God?

        Put another way, we might also say that each of us as individuals only has the capacity to image God in part, and can only together as the church begin to image him in whole. You have a great mind, and so you image God’s intellect with your mind. Let us say that I do not, but that God has given me some skill to build things with my hands. I do manual labor and image God with my toil and sub-creation; you likewise exercise your intellect and image God with your thoughts. Neither of us are deficient for failing to excel in the other’s gifts; all of us simply image God in the capacity we are given.

        So, what are the things that are unique to women that men cannot do? What is unique to men that women cannot do? Or, to use your language, what is the feminine in God that men cannot image, and what is masculine in God that women cannot image? I am struck by this question because the [chauvinist?] complementarian argument is essentially drawn on these exact lines–the masculine in God (namely, the capacity for teaching, leadership, and “headship” [what a stupid word]) is masculine. It is therefore not a deficiency in the female’s capacity to image God that she is not called to image him in these ways; it is supposedly just not her calling, just as it might not be my calling to be an intellectual powerhouse, or yours to be especially talented at digging ditches or mending fences. How might we escape this line of thinking, even if we draw the definitions along different lines?

        • Hzd, you’re on the right track. Men and women are created with different talents and proclivities. It is not hateful or sexist to recognize that God calls us to act and serve in accordance with our nature. Just as our bodies reflect God’s plan and design, so do our temperaments, talents and interest. It isn’t culturally mandated oppression, gender roles are the norm throughout human history. To pretend that there is this giant global conspiracy is foolish. This egalitarian outrage seems to focus its anger only on the culture that has done most to promote women. They rebel only because they can rebel in peace and because their voice will be heard. Why is this so?? Because Christianity’s high view of women has created a culture where they are protected and recognized. It is from this platform that they have found fault against those who gave them their voice. Egalitarianism is a rejection of the true God and an embrace of the spirit of the age. Rebeckah Merkle is not an oppressed, silenced, or deprived woman. Any familiarity with her will quickly dispel that notion and clearly undermine the whole thrust of this post. I encourage you to take some time and read some of her writings, especially her latest book. Blessings!!

  • I would have been tempted to answer the Q “What is distinctly feminine about God” had that comment ended right there…but on and on and on it went…the signal right there is that the Q is asked so it can be refuted rather than answered.

    There are many great books out there that answer the Q…I suggest you search them out for your answer. Me? I have been assaulted enough online that I don’t care to engage with anything other than open and sincere mutual discussion…

    Is that me judging? Prolly…me and my inner bruises. Meh…that’s the biz.

    • That’s fair; I definitely talk too much. I couldn’t help myself because I have been thinking for a long time about this question, and I don’t have a good answer to it. I think I tend towards the other option. I don’t know what meaningful difference there is aside from genitalia, which has nothing to do with God as far as I am aware. But I thought Jory might have some other input here.

      Sorry if I have been annoying.

      • My short answer is that this is the wrong question. 🙂 Nowhere in Scripture are men called to become more manly, nor are women called to be more feminine. That type of language is totally absent from the Bible. Rather, we are all called to be conformed into the image of Jesus. Full stop. I think when we get so caught up in trying to figure out what is feminine and what is masculine, when we get so bent on *dividing* human traits into gender, we kind of lose the image of Jesus part.

        For example, compassion was a characteristic of Christ, but so often it is socially perceived as a feminine trait. No. Men should grow in their compassion as should women… with the understanding that our differences (as influenced by biology and sociology) might make us live out our compassion in different ways as unique individuals, and men/women as a group (with plenty of exceptions) might *tend* toward a certain expression of it.

        The bottom line is that how women/men express those differences as they pursue Christ-likeness shouldn’t exclude them from exercising those gifts fully. When it comes to leadership, which is often the sticking point in these conversations, women leaders have been shown to more often have a relational (less authoritative) leadership styles (who knows if that is biological or socialized?). But that doesn’t mean that they should not be allowed leadership roles simply because the way they lead is often different than that of (most) men.
        We are all called to use our gifts for the church to the fullest (1 Peter 2:4), and we know leadership is given across the gender board (Romans 12:8). So the point isn’t worrying about how that is expressed and whether it is feminine or masculine… the only thing we really should be concerned with is “does it look like Jesus?”

  • I followed the link to read the original article because I believe in hearing what people have to say, whether or not I agree with them. The trouble is that the author, while willing to share her perspective, is unwilling to hear anyone else’s, or even allow them the courtesy of being able to ask questions.

    The trouble is it sends the message, “I’m right and ‘they’ are wrong, so shut up and submit to my truth.” I’ve seen a lot of that in the church, and it no longer works on me.

  • Yikes. Are you terribly offended when you read passages like Eph 5:22, Col 3:18, 1 Peter 3:1, 1 Tim 2:11, and 1 Cor 14:34-35? I’ll admit, they can offend me a little bit. But when I’m offended by something in Scripture, I recognize that there is something fundamentally wrong with me, not something wrong with Scripture that I need to go to extreme lengths to reinterpret it according to my liking. I don’t think these passages are meant to enslave me or keep me out of the important things. No, I believe that God has higher ambitions for me than I could ever have for myself. Those ambitions are different than a man’s, but certainly not less important because of their difference. When God (through Paul) tells me that my role is not to lead in the church (see above passages, as well as God’s requirements for overseers in I Tim 2), I don’t think he’s excluding me from kingdom work, just directing me to a different kind of kingdom work that he has created me for. Are men supposed to feel excluded because they can’t bear children? We see all over Scripture that God builds His kingdom through the raising up of Godly children. Yet clearly, biologically, men are “excluded” from a certain part of this kingdom work. (Before you claim I think women don’t have an identity or role apart from the home…I’m a single 23 year old woman in full time ministry at a pregnancy care center.)

    These ad hominem attacks at the Wilson family and complementarians in general have no place in this debate. It’s fallacial, it avoids the substance of the conversation, and it can easily be turned back on egalitarians. For every example of bad complementarianism, I can show you a hundred excruciatingly horrible examples of feminism (think along the lines of abortion, free birth control, vagina hats, etc.) “Feminism” is poorly defined- does it mean men and women are 100% equal in value and rights? Sure, I’m on board! Does it mean men and women’s differences don’t really matter, we were all created to have the same roles and do the same things? Not on board there, given that created order and Scripture contradicts that view. Does it mean that women have the right to kill an unborn baby that is inconveniencing them? I sure hope we both disagree with that, but lots of women, even women who claim to be Christians, are marching and demanding these “rights”.

    What I would like to see, instead of ad hominem attacks, is a rational, measured response to Rebekah Merkle’s interpretation of Scripture and understanding of the created order. If we are all seeking to be Christ-like, to fulfill the purpose for which we were created, to follow and obey God, then the conversation should be rooted in His Word.

  • No Jory, scripture doesn’t support your thesis anymore than scripture supports the failed second coming of Jesus in 1844 held by the Millerites or the resulting work around theology of this failed event which is also “supported” by scripture by the seventh Day Adventists. You see, they used an incompatible outside source as their Rosetta stone to read and interpret scripture. They just formed scripture to fit their surroundings like a wax nose.
    The pro gay marriage movement also claims to use scripture to support their recent ideology. In doing so, this movement disconnects itself from the teachings of Jesus and then teaches their own ideas. They believe the bible is a piece of literature that can be re-arranged and re-interpreted and this act can alter reality. This would be true if scripture were merely the ideas of men, however, it is inspired by God who designed humanity to function within the order He created.
    I understand that conjugal/traditional sexual and marriage relationship is offensive to anyone who holds to the revisionist/egalitarian ideal. The difference between the two are evidence the values and desires of a society. When a society desires sensuality and materialism, then the relationships of that society will function to pursue this desire and evolve to the egalitarian relational model. The egalitarian model is based on the equality of women with the function as men since they have the ability to sustain a career and earn money while being sexually active and free from childbirth and raising children. Hence, contraception, abortion and no fault divorce are essential tools to achieve equality and pursue sensuality and materialism. This feeling is so strong that a mother will even abandon their child to day-orphanages as they drive off happily to work. Egalitarianism created a new sexual and social ethic that determines the morality of sex, marriage and divorce by the individuals own subjective feelings and romantic love. Once this new moral standard was accepted, it had to logically include any other relationship that is based on feelings and romantic love like premarital sex, adultery and same sex sexuality-and many others that will eventually become accepted. However, prostitution will probably retain the status quo and be tolerated as a form of entertainment since it doesn’t involve romantic love. The core of egalitarian sex and marriage is where equality is achieved by the standard of male functionality. This would normally be offensive to most women, but no offense is taken because this accomplishes what is sought after and desired. You see, the egalitarian philosophy severs sex from procreation from marriage and destroys the relationship between the sexes to sustain and raise children. Once this is accepted the bibles sexual ethic falls apart at the seams and disorder can only result until that society self destructs. You may re-interpret any passage you personally dislike, but this doesn’t alter the physical realities that scripture deals with.
    The same chain of events that contributed to the fall keep repeating into the manifestation of the fall of every society, civilization and empire. This also includes the church. In Genesis, Adam and Eve are a couple, but they also serve as archetypes of all of humanity. The foundations of any society and the church are built by the social and sexual relationship of its couples.
    The conjugal/traditional practice of marriage doesn’t need to be revised and supported with grand worked arounds in order to be forced into the text because it is embedded in the scriptural DNA. Again, what a society values and desires is witnessed by the actions of its couples. When a society values the procreation and raising of children, then the sexual and marital relations will align itself to pursue this desire and be conjugal/traditional. The husband is obligated to provide for his wife and any children born to their relationship, hence, children don’t change the relationship because it revolves around the reality and potential for the bearing and raising of children. The wife’s career is not in danger because her family is her career. Divorce in a society that upholds conjugal marriage is difficult to obtain because the relationship is primarily about bearing and raising children instead of the feelings of the adults. Jesus was not teaching about the permanence of marriage to support some consumer and sensuality driven egalitarian post modern marriage where children are secondary consideration. This is not reality!
    Why do you think virginity is valued in a first marriage? I assure you it is not about offering a spouse a unique sexual experience or an ego boost on their wedding night. This has more in common with the 99 virgins promised to Islamic Jihadists. Virginity is unique to a conjugal marriage since both partners are so dependent and invested in each other which creates a high level of vulnerability. Therefore, virginity is a sign that each person understands the purpose of their sexuality and has not used themselves or other people as objects to be used for their own sexual gratification. A person who objectifies others will also tend to objectify a spouse and children. This is even more important in our day since we live in an society that legally defines and enforces marriage by the egalitarian model. This is why there are no legal penalties for adultery, in fact, the courts even recognize adultery as a legitimate relationship which can be used against the victim to gain child custody rights. In an egalitarian society, the housewife places herself at great risk because she is expected to help provide for her husband and alimony is typically only for a short time until she can get a job. I could go on and on, but what you are teaching is something much different than what is found in scripture.

  • This is just… really concerning. I have no other suggestions other than to back claims with Scripture (more more more.) Otherwise your understanding of the roles of women is based solely on your understanding of the roles on women which… see where I’m going with this? From one woman to another, both of us image bearers of the one true God of the Universe, we can disagree theologically. You and I agree on that point. But please, please, before things become spiritually and theologically dangerous, search scripture, and as you make arguments which claim to be grounded in the name of God, do so for the glory of God, based not on how you or we or women feel about God, but based on what God says about Himself.

    • I would recommend that you do the same, Christine. God does not prescribe women a certain role in the New Testament. Men and women are both filled with the Spirit of God; and our roles are the same – to honor Christ with our lives. There is not one way for a woman to honor Christ. It is legalism to give women some sort of gender role that is not biblical, but cultural. God bless.

      • God doesn’t prescribe women a certain role in the New Testament? What about “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet”? Or “…to train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled”? That seems like pretty specific prescription to me. If you say that God doesn’t assign specific “roles” for men and women based on their different design, then you deny the Word of God.

        • As for 1 Tim. 2:12 – Paul is speaking to a specific church’s women, because those women were false teachers who were perverting the gospel. We know that Paul does not command that all women be silent in *all* churches because we see him praising women leaders/preachers in other churches (especially in the Roman church). For example, Apostle Junia & Bible teacher, Priscilla. So, this is not a gender role that Paul is prescribing for every woman, for every church, for all time.

          As for the other things you named; Paul encouraged men to love & submit to their wives as well (Eph. 5:21). Also, God’s Word says that men too should love their children, be controlled, pure, and kind. So, again, no gender role there.

          As for “women working at home,” there is no scriptural command for that. We see Lydia in the New Testament, who was a business woman and did ministry with Paul.

          There are no gender roles in Jesus Christ; in fact, we see Jesus praise Mary (who got out of her cultural gender role); and scold Martha (her sister) for judging her for it.

          The Spirit of God is on both women and men – there are no gender roles in Christ (for we are all one). We are to *all* reflect the fruits of the Holy Spirit and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.

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