Is Christianity Sexist?
By Lisa Quintana
I was not raised a Christian. Through God’s grace, I got saved at 25 years old, coming out of a secular-humanist ideology with strong feminist roots. At the time of my salvation, I was biblically illiterate and did not know what the Bible said about women. I just had simple faith. But I was challenged by those around me who claimed that the Bible was sexist. Back then, I did not have a good answer to that challenge. In this article, I hope to provide one.
Today, women want what men have: to be given the same opportunities, equal pay for equal work, the same achievement potential, etc. That is perfectly reasonable and something we should want for all people. However, any difference in roles appears discriminatory. Yet in a biblical worldview, differences are not viewed as discriminatory. To understand a bigger picture example of this, consider the roles of the Trinity. There is equal value but different roles among the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Similarly, equality among men and women can be seen as constituting equal value and worth but different in roles and/or characteristics. In a contemporary understanding, that appears sexist. However, this is not what the Bible affirms.
From my research as an apologist, I have found that oppressive views of women primarily stem from a historical or a cultural bias, but they are not correct biblical views. Oppression of women is a misconception of what Jesus modeled and taught. Instead, a better understanding of what the Bible teaches is a liberating force for women. In fact, if Christianity was so anti-woman, one would wonder why it is that women make of up most of the church’s demographics today. According to the Pew Research Center’s Religious Landscape Study, in America the largest demographic of Christians are not only women, but women of color. This statistic is also reflected in the global church.
When one wants to know about any religion, it is always a good idea to examine its leader. What did Jesus do? He not only paid for the sins of humanity, but came to reverse the effects of the fall (see Genesis 3), and redeem that which was lost—restoring our relationship to the Father and our true humanity. In Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). This was a radical idea in ancient times, and it still defies modern norms. The truth of Christ transcends established social structures. Jesus was inclusive of all to become disciples in a type of “surrogate family.” We read in John 19:26-27, as Jesus is dying on the cross, he looks to his mother and the disciple John, and tells her: “Woman, here is your son,” and to John, “Here is your mother.”
Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12 of inclusion and a oneness of the functioning of the Body of Christ. Each person has a different function within the Body, and without that particular part, the Body would not operate as efficiently.
An “all-in-one” concept was the basis of the Body of Christ in a new creation of unity as the Holy Temple of God: a relational concept. There is a larger concern here for a loving unity of God’s people in their differences.
“Equality speaks to one’s personal privileges and rights, whereas love describes one’s willingness to prioritize others.” New Testament scholar Michelle Lee-Barnewall states that Paul’s overriding concern is not the rights of the individual, but the glory of God as seen through the church. The focus is more towards a transcendent way of functioning as Christians for the “sake of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:22-23).
The Value God Places on Women
In a biblical worldview, men and women are not interchangeable. They have different things to do, and were created differently by God for a purpose. We should, instead, celebrate differences, not suppress, denigrate, or attempt to conflate them.
To me, it’s very telling that Jesus came to earth through a woman. He could have just been created out of the dust, like Adam was, but instead, He chose to come into the world via Mary’s womb. God incarnate chose to be born of a woman. That’s a big deal.
Yes, Jesus’ closest, inner circle of disciples were men. But this is understandable given the lack of credence a close woman disciple would have faced in that ancient society. However, Jesus did have several women disciples. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna are just a few mentioned in Luke 8:1-3.
Let’s not forget Mary, the one who sat at Jesus’ feet while Martha ran around like a chicken with her head cut off, feeling frustrated because her sister wasn’t helping her with the “women’s work.” We often focus on Martha in this story, saying she did not choose the better thing. But what I see is that Jesus was allowing a woman to sit at the Rabbi’s feet and learn. He validated Mary as his student, and turned the tables, so to speak, on a male-dominated cultural norm. In those days, women were not welcomed to sit and learn at a rabbi’s feet. To me, the bigger story in this famous passage is that Jesus encouraged Mary to be His student (Luke 10:38-42).
In what I see as the final stamp of His approval, the Risen Lord first appears to women. Jesus trusted women to deliver the pivotal message of the Good News to the other followers (Luke 24). In essence, women were the first evangelists. This was significant back then because, sadly, women were not even considered trustworthy witnesses in a court of law. So, appearing to women as the first eyewitnesses to THE event in all of history was a massive validation—a game changer.
As we take a look at the whole of Scripture, there is a movement towards a better ethical treatment of women. We can infer from this progression that God wants us to continue towards a higher ethic. I would assume God wants us to learn and grow beyond how things operated in the ancient Near East. God meets people where they are at culturally, and works within the free will of humanity while cultivating a better way. It is God’s plan for men and women to work together in a blessed alliance, no one less valued than the other. This is what the church needs to embody, and this is what true, biblical Christianity ultimately teaches.
“Equality,” in the modern sense of the word, is not the primary goal. Unlike the modern concept of equality between the sexes, the Christian faith is better understood as one of interdependence between male and female—that is the primary goal.
 In the Oxford Dictionary, “sexist” is defined as traditional stereotypes of gender roles, prejudices and/or discrimination against women.
 Pew Research Center, Religious Landscape Study, https://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/, accessed 9-10-21.
 Michelle Lee-Barnewall, Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016), 85.
— Lisa Quintana earned her Master’s Degree in Apologetics from Biola University, is an adjunct professor at Christian Life College (Madison, Wisconsin campus), and assists with the women’s ministry at her local church. She is on the Board of Directors for Women in Apologetics, where she also serves as a Senior Writer. She has a passion to use apologetics as a tool for evangelism to reach a highly skeptical American culture. She wants people to know Jesus like she knows Him—as the author of love and life. Find her online at: thinkdivinely.com.
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