The hermeneutics of evangelical feminist stands in direct contrast to evangelical grammatical-historical hermeneutics. Paul W. Felix Sr. highlights these radical differences in chapter 13 in Robert Thomas’ Evangelical Hermeneutics: The New Verses the Old. Felix defines an evangelical feminist as “one who has a high view of Scripture and believes the Bible teaches the full equality of men and women without role distinctions between the two.” This puts evangelical feminist in a different class from “secular feminists,” “religious feminists,” and even “Christian feminists.” All of these have lower views of Scripture.
A representative of evangelical feminism is Christians for Biblical Equality (C.B.E.). A position paper states their mission: “The goal of evangelical feminism is that men and women be allowed to serve God as individuals, according to their own unique gifts rather than according to a culturally predetermined personality slot called ‘Christian manhood’ or ‘Christian womanhood.’”
Why is there so much debate over the role of women in the leadership of the home and church? Hermeneutics! Felix quotes Robert K. Johnson: “For behind the apparent differences in approach and opinion regarding the women’s issue are opposing principles for interpreting Scripture—i.e., different hermeneutics. Here is the real issue facing evangelical theology as it seeks to answer the women’s question.”
Felix discusses seven principle of evangelical feminist hermeneutics which contradict evangelical grammatical-historical hermeneutics.
1. The Principle of Ad Hoc Documents
Gordon D. Fee, who originated and popularized this prinicple wrote in reference to the passage in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. This passage forbids women usurping authority over men in the local church: “It must be noted again that 1 Timothy is not intended to establish church order but to respond in a very ad hoc way to the Ephesian situation with its straying elders.”
According to 1Timothy 3:14-15, this pastoral epistle is a “church manual” for all local churches in this age.
2. The Principle of an Interpretive Center
This principle states that one clear or defining passage, such as Galatians 3:25, should serve as a filter or grid for all other related passages (such as 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 and 1 Timothy 2:11-15).
One major problem with this principle is the plenary inspiration of Scripture which teaches that all Scripture is profitable for instruction, not just verses that favor our view. Another grammatical-historical principle of interpretation is the rule of non-contradiction. All of the Scripture Paul wrote on this subject do not contradict each other, therefore a interpretive center or locus classicus is not necessary. I will discuss the other evangelcial feminist hermeneutics principle in my next post.