Ref 21, Books & Culture, and the Feminist Slippery Slope

Rick Phillips

In the Jan/Feb 2007 issue of Books & Culture, respected home school guru Susan Wise Bauer laments criticism of her recent endorsement of John Stackhouse’s book Finally Feminist. Stackhouse follows the well-trod path of arguing that the Bible’s teaching on gender relations is so complicated and even contradictory that we cannot take its prohibitions at face value. He also equates the struggle for gender equality with the struggle against slavery, and criticizes conservatives for offending the culture by “not rejoicing in the unprecedented freedom to let women and men serve according to gift and call.”

Bauer expresses disappointment at criticism of her endorsement, as if evangelical feminism was an established reality among evangelicals, which it most certainly is not. Moreover, she lauds Stackhouse for not seeking to settle the issue through careful analysis of the Bible’s propositions, but instead for seeking “a paradigm, a pattern in Scripture which would make sense of the puzzling statements that Paul makes about the place of women in the redemptive community.” This, too, is a well-worn strategy, namely, that of declaring unpopular Bible propositions to be “puzzling,” and then laboring to find a “paradigm” that will “make sense” of them.

But the main point of her article was to express dismay over the “slippery slope” argument employed by some conservatives against evangelical feminism. Actually, it wasn’t just “some conservatives,” but Al Mohler on his blog and Lig Duncan and I here on Ref 21. In reading her critique of our “slippery slope” argument, in which Al, Lig, and I drew a straight, descending line between the ordination of women and the ordination of homosexuals, it was clear to me that she had not understood our actual argument. It is helpful to realize when this has happened, and it is good to explain more fully.