Dr. Roger W. Maslin
Evidently the masculine gender is a big problem for scripture translators, for politically correct interests and even in church attendance. Even the masculine pronouns seem to be a problem for some in translations and communications. However, it doesn’t seem to be a problem with an almighty triune God who has revealed himself in masculine terms, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Not by any stretch of the imagination can father and son be construed as mother and daughter. And in John 16:13-15 Jesus repeatedly refers to the Holy Spirit as “he”. The Holy Spirit is a person, the third person of the godhead, not an “it.” In Romans 8:26 the RSV, NEB, and HCSB correct the KJV of “itself” to “himself.”
The Problem in Church Attendance
Leon Podles in his book, THE CHURCH IMPOTENT, traces the history of this problem from the 13th century to the current situation. The western church has not been effective in enlisting men. The awareness of the lack of men does not even seem to register. Podles contends that “the mainline Protestants do not seem to think there is a problem. The Methodist Church is a woman’s club at prayer.”(p.xv in Introduction)
“Cotton Mather puzzled over the absence of men from New England churches, and medieval preachers claimed women practiced their religion far more than men did. But men do not show this same aversion to all churches and religions. The Orthodox seem to have a balance, and Islam and Judaism have a predominantly male membership. Something is creating a barrier between Western Christianity and men, and that something is the subject of this book.” (Page ix Introduction, THE CHURCH IMPOTENT The Feminization of Christianity, Leon J, Podles,Spence Publishing Company, Dallas 1999
Admittedly, the problem is not as great in conservative and fundamentalist churches as it is in the mainline liberal denominations and some of it is due to the number of widows who live longer than men generally. Where there is a spirit of evangelism it focuses on all individuals including the head of the family and is not content until they are reached with the message of the Gospel and the claims of Christ are pressed upon them. These churches are usually growth churches as distinguished from maintenance churches. The conclusion of Podles is clear and enlightening:
“Even if men are attracted, they will not long stay in a feminized church whether in its "conservative" or "liberal" forms. The current campaign to establish feminism and the toleration of homosexuality as the new orthodoxies can only drive men even further from the Church, as indeed seems to have happened in the past decade. The Church must develop a right understanding of the meanings of masculinity and femininity, an understanding that is consistent with human realities and with the data of Scripture. The Church must also find a way of evaluating the development of metaphor so that a change does not distort the message of the Gospel.” (p.208)
The Problem in Translating the Scriptures
Here even the masculine pronouns have been made a problem by gender inclusiveness. Some translations cannot resist finding their viewpoints on contemporary social issues in the ancient text. Some are more interested in the feminist’s concerns than they are accuracy in translation. The American Standard Version was noted for its accuracy and was widely acclaimed because of it and its readability. Two sources best describe the problem with some translations today:
“Some people today ignore the Bible’s teachings on distinctive roles of men and women in family and church and have an agenda to eliminate those distinctions in every arena of life. These people have begun a program to engineer the removal of a perceived male bias in the English language. The targets of this program have been such traditional linguistic practices as the generic use of “man” or “men,” as well as “he,” “him,” and “his.” http://www.broadmanholman.com/hcsb/faq5.asp
“Gender-neutral Bible versions originated as an attempt by feminists to transform both the language and the beliefs of Christians. They were welcomed in liberal circles, but were met with strong resistance among evangelicals.” http://www.bible-researcher.com/inclusive.html (Michael D. Marlowe: The Gender-Neutral Language Controversy, article)
A recent translation that seeks for accuracy and readability is the Holman Christian Standard Bible. It is not influenced by political correctness or social and political ideology. An evaluation by Rev. Ken Collins, a Disciples of Christ minister, is interesting:
“The translators represent a large number of denominations. They used the latest technology, the best methods, and the best of contemporary textual criticism in their work. I think their respect for the biblical text keeps them on the straight-and-narrow, making this a solid translation for all Christians…The translators stayed in the middle ground between word-for-word (‘literal’) and thought-for-thought (‘dynamic equivalent’) translation techniques. While they do not use masculine terms where the Greek is gender-inclusive, they also do not change Greek gender-specific terms into English generic terms, nor do they pluralize singular forms.” http://www.kencollins.com/bible-t2.htm
The Problem in Political Correctness
The whole movement toward political correctness has not dealt fairly with the masculine gender, nor does it appear that they intend to do so. The masculine is often portrayed by the media to reinforce the idea of the simpleton, foolish, irrelevant, out of touch, unreasonable one. The masculine does not have a place at the table of political correctness. He is not one of the favored classes that are listed as victims. They are females, blacks and homosexuals. Any unfavorable comment in these areas is viewed as racist, sexist, or homophobic. While this is the order of the day , Christians, and especially conservative Christians are fair game for any kind of derision the media wants to heap upon them. Some would have us think the masculine was unnecessary and obsolete. I make no excuse for the depravity of man or woman. Nor can I understand or appreciate the sentiment of some feminists as expressed by a feminist leader, such as, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” God made us male and female, not as identical, but different, to complement each other. If you did not have one you would not have the other. Both fathers and mothers have their place in God’s economy and male and female are essential for the preservation of civilization. Both are crucial and neither should be regarded as unneeded. In both instances we need godly fathers and godly mothers to make the community a place where you would want to live. It is strange that with this attitude feminist leaders would marry. Yet, Molly Yard, Patricia Ireland, and Eleanor Smeal, and others married and had husbands.
Some years ago Christina Hoff Sommers wrote a book entitled WHO STOLE FEMINISM? In it she describes how women have betrayed women. She said: “I have been moved to write this book because I am a feminist who does not like what feminism has become.”
Tama Starr, in an article, “Reactionary Feminism,” on the Reasonline Web Site, gives a pretty good review of this book and an understanding of Feminism.
“In Who Stole Feminism?: How Women Have Betrayed Women, Christina Hoff Sommers, associate professor of philosophy at Clark University, describes the appropriation of the movement once known as feminism by a cadre of party-line bureaucrats promoting an agenda of victimism and victimology-based revolution, with serious implications for the wider world.”
“Sommers draws a clear distinction between "equity feminism," the classical-liberal position characterized by the unobjectionable slogan, "Equal pay for equal work," and "gender feminism," the aggressive self-pitying whine of an army of professional victims that has come to dominate discussions of women's issues. Ideological correctness, the suppression of dissent, and salvation through thought control and governmental fiat are the new orders of the day.”
“Gender feminism, as Sommers points out, is now an industry, with generous research funding, grant money, and careers available to those who propose to root out ever more arcane instances of oppression. There is only one pool of approved "experts" in the field, since any questioning of the approved orthodoxy is labeled sexism, "backlash," or delusion. It isn't strange that the "experts" should seek to protect their turf.” http://www.reason.com/news/show/29521.html
Charles Colson and Ellen Vaughan, in their book, BEING THE BODY, also recognize the militant nature of the modern feminist movement. They recognize that “When people are forced to use the feminist dialect, they are being forced to signal agreement with the agenda. If they don't use it, they're accused of being bigots.” (p.266) Their words that follow are one of the best summary evaluations of feminism and political correctness:
“But the politically correct movement is interested in much more than fairness or sensitivity or equality. Lurking just beneath its surface is an angry, militant agenda that is not really concerned with the words themselves. Rather, the words are part of a litmus test that separates those who agree with an extremist agenda from those who don't. Sort of a not-so-secret handshake or a campaign button that classifies the wearer. These are code words of what one writer calls "a feminist orthodoxy"-and this inclusive language represents subscription to the entire agenda.” (p.266)
“So when Christians uncritically take up the language of the movement they are, perhaps without even realizing it, embracing an ideology that inevitably raises serious attacks on biblical authority. For what the militants seek is not equality, but the elimination of all gender distinctives. This, despite the empirical fact that there are biological differences, and despite the clear distinctions in Scripture: Men and women are created by God as equal partners, but with different gifts and roles relating directly to the biblical character of the family and the patriarchal character of God Himself.”
”Thus, while it may parade under the banner of sensitivity and relevance and other benign terms, the militant feminist agenda at root is an assault on the revealed, propositional truth of God and His plan for men and women. And the tragedy is that it has duped a lot of people, preying on the understandable frustration of some Christian women and imposing unwarranted guilt on some Christian men.” (p.266, 267)
The mainstream media are willing partners in helping them achieve their objectives. The first ones with access to the microphones and cameras are the feminist women’s organizations who represent only a slight percentage of American women. They are organizations that have spent their entire careers on protecting the right of women to kill their unborn babies. They are in the forefront with other liberal organizations to protect Roe v. Wade. The larger organization, Concerned Women of America, which represents the viewpoint of millions of Americans, is rarely given a hearing by the mainstream media.
The evangelical feminists are not helping either in loyalty to the authority of God’s Word in regards to the Scriptures that define the differing roles of men and women in the home and the church.
Wayne Grudem, research professor of Bible and theology at Phoenix Seminary, in his book Evangelical Feminism, analyzes all of the spurious hermeneutics and devious ways used by evangelical scholars and writers to nullify any relevance of these scriptures to today’s culture. He shows how this is a step leading to the acceptance of liberalism and its denial of the authority of the Bible:
“There is tremendous pressure in present-day culture to deny male leadership in the home and the church. To prove that, just ask any pastor if he enjoys preaching and teaching about male headship in marriage and the church today. Almost nobody wants to tackle the subject! It is "too controversial," which means it will stir up objections and many people will be upset. It is not easy to stand against the culture. It is much easier to give in and say women can do whatever men can do in the church and in the home.
But what about all those Bible verses that talk about male leadership in home and church? Something has to be done with them, so for the last thirty years evangelical feminist scholars have devised thousands of pages of arguments attempting to show that those parts of the Bible don't apply to us today, or don't mean what people have always thought they mean, or aren't part of the Bible, or are contradicted by experience, or are simply wrong. And so, …the authority of the Bible is undermined.
When that happens, little by little, step by step, colleges and churches and denominations start to slide toward liberalism. This is because the claims and arguments that evangelical feminists adopt about these specific passages in the Bible set in motion a process of interpreting Scripture that will be used increasingly to nullify the authority of Scripture in other areas as well. One by one, the teachings of Scripture that are unpopular in the culture are rejected, and, one issue at a time, the church begins to sound more and more like the secular world. This is the classic path to liberalism, and I believe that evangelical feminism is leading Christians down that path one step at a time today.” (p.17,18)
Conclusion: The best answer to the absence of men in the church is for the church to focus on an evangelistic and evangelical message and forget the left-wing ideology promoted by the social engineers in our culture. It is important to win the men to faith in Christ as Saviour and Lord. It is also best to avoid modern translations of the Scriptures that have a gender-inclusive bias and seek answers in the translations that major on accuracy. We will never be able to satisfy the disciples of political correctness since that is not our religion. Here is some practical and helpful advice for us in this area:
“So believers must not be intimidated. We must make sure our language is loving and respectful, recognizing the God-given dignity of every person. But we need not, in a headlong rush to seem relevant, salute the god/goddess of political correctness and his/her/its underlying opposition to the biblical world-view.” BEING IN THE BODY (p.267)
Furthermore, it never helps to distort the clear teachings of God’s Word in this area to justify contemporary cultural practices in religious life. It can only lead, step by step, to explaining away the clear teachings of the Bible on other subjects we may find distasteful in our culture. The Bible then ceases to be the all-sufficient rule for our faith and practice.