/ Nathan Eshelman

Fighting the Patriarchy?

The famous Parc des Bastions' Mur de la Reformation was vandalized on July 15, 2019 in rainbow colors. Earlier in the year, the phrase "Where are the Women?" was scrawled across it. The claim was that the recent vandalisms were to "fight the patriarchy" of the reformation and its influence on theology and culture. Farel, Calvin, Beza, and Knox were all damaged, but are being cleaned today as the image indicates.

What is not understood is that the reformation was a movement that brought women out of the oppression of the late-medieval period of European history. The reformation did not oppress women, but liberated them from physical, cultural, philosophical, and theological oppression.

Until the early modern era, women were not considered equal image bearers of God; they were seen as deficient and deformed men; they were discouraged from pursuing education; and viewed only valuable to the kingdom of God when in the convent (not even in the home!). Women and their role in society as wives and mothers was seen as merely a necessary evil for the propagation of the race.

The reformation brought equality as women were understood to be equal with men as image bearers of God.

The reformation brought vocation to women, and allowed them to pursue interests outside of the convent.

The reformation encouraged (and in some places required) women to learn to read and to be educated.

The  reformation brought liberty of conscience to women for the first time.

A 19th century pastor and historian wrote concerning the Bible's influence on women in society:

History, which will ever be found to corroborate revelation, proves that in most pagan and [Islamic] nations, whether ancient or modern, woman has been cruelly and wickedly sunk below her proper level in social and domestic life, hated and despised from her birth, and her birth itself esteemed a calamity; in some countries not even allowed the rank of a moral and responsible agent; so tenderly alive to her own degradation that she acquiesces in the murder of her female offspring; immured from infancy; without education; married without her consent; in a multitude of instances sold by her parents; refused the confidence of her husband, and banished from his table; on his death, doomed to the funeral pile, or to contempt that renders life a burden. In such a condition she has been the household drudge, or the mere object of lust. She has ministered to the gratification of man's indolence or sensual appetite, but has not been his companion, his counselor, or his comforter. In barbarous countries she has been a slave; in civilized ones very generally little better than a kept mistress. Her mind has been left untaught, as if incapable or unworthy of instruction. She has been not only imprisoned in seclusion by jealousy, but degraded and rendered inferior and miserable by polygamy. Sometimes worshiped as a goddess; next fondled as a toy; then punished as a victim, she could never attain to dignity, and even with all her brightest charms could rarely appear but as a doll or a puppet...
Neither paganism nor [Islam] ever yet understood the female character, or conceded woman's just claims. In many nations the degradation has been excessive. You remember probably the reply of a pagan mother, who having been expostulated with for the murder of her female child, contended that she had performed an act of mercy in sparing the babe the miseries of a woman's life. All travelers and all missionaries attest the fact of woman's humiliation, beyond the boundaries of Biblical revelation.
If we go to the Bible, we shall learn that it is to Christianity, as contrasted even with Judaism, that woman owes her true elevation. Polygamy is, and ever must be, fatal to female dignity and happiness—this, or at any rate concubinage, was practiced, no doubt under mistaken views, by the patriarchs; not that it was ever positively sanctioned by God, for from the beginning he made one woman for one man, and by the providential and remarkable fact of the general equality of the sexes as to numbers, he still proclaims in unmistakable language the law of monogamy. But to use an expression of the apostle, "he winked at" these things—he did not regard it as innocent or convenient, yet he did not say much about it, or punish it—but left it to punish itself, which it most certainly did. If we examine the Levitical code we shall find that even it, though a divine dispensation, contained some regulations which evinced that the time of woman's full emancipation from a state of inferiority had not yet arrived—and that it was reserved for the glorious and gracious economy under which we are placed, to raise the female sex to its just position and influence in society.
Christianity as in other things, so in this, is an enlargement of human privileges; and among other blessings which it confers, is its elevation of woman to her proper place and influence in the family and in society. --J. A. James, (1853)
Nathan Eshelman

Nathan Eshelman

Pastor in Orlando, studied at Puritan Reformed Theological & Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminaries. One of the chambermen on the podcast The Jerusalem Chamber. Married to Lydia with 5 children.

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