True Womanhood – An Offensive Gospel

In Women by Caris Adel27 Comments

I love this print. Click on the picture to buy!


In response to Titus 2:3-5 (all quotes taken from this session, mostly from 27:00-33:30, and apologies for the length):

“Those words are really, really counter-cultural.  They are radical!  They are not politically correct.  But can I just remind us that that is God’s way?  And that God says these things are good…these are not burdensome.  These are a delight.  These are the way to experience God’s blessing…..These qualities are what flow out of believing sound doctrine.  You can know your Bible backward and forward.  You can call yourself a Christian, you can be active in ministry, but if you do not exhibit behavior fitting for those who are holy, if you use your tongue to slander others, if you are self-indulgent, have an addictive lifestyle, if you don’t love your husband and children…if you’re not managing your home well…if you’re not submissive to your own husband, then profess what you want about being a Christian, something is wrong with that picture.  So many, many professing believers today have this huge gap, this fundamental disconnect between what they say they believe, and the way they live.  And according to scripture, no such separation is legitimate.”

Powerful stuff.

When she asks, “Does your life cause your husband, your kids, or others, to disrespect or doubt God’s word?”, who wants to say yes to that?

This study is so confident.  So, so, so confident that by living this way, and only this way, that you glorify God.

“You cannot claim to be a saved woman and not live like a saved woman.  Your lifestyle either proves….or disproves your claim to be a child of God.”

But what if it doesn’t?  What if someone looks at this ideal of a submissive, home-based wifely mother and sees the opposite of God?  What if someone sees the restriction of women’s roles and duties and thinks it actually maligns the Word of God?  What if someone looks at this whole set-up and thinks it is anti-Jesus?

What then?

Is there a place, in this socio-economically diverse world, for someone to look at this and believe all the mandates and facts and truth are actually anti-love?  Anti-truth?  Anti-Jesus?  And what if that person actually loves Jesus and isn’t just hating on the Bible?

“There seems to be an assumption made by the apostle Paul that young women will be wives and mothers.  This is God’s norm….it’s part of God’s plan and his story….[singles] are the exceptions, not the rule.  And so we see that our homes are the first and primary sphere where we as women live out the gospel.”

Is there room in this study for differing opinions?  Is there any humility in this?  Any awareness that this might be offensive to people?  Is it possible for people to understand where this study is coming from and still think it’s offensive?

Where is the space for that?  When you stand up and put on conferences and build a (sadly) very well-designed website, and pastors and bible study leaders promote all of it – damn it!  Do it with a little bit of empathy!

“You see this list of how a Christian woman is to reflect or illustrate the gospel.”

Where is the self-awareness that when you say ‘thus sayeth the Lord’, people are going to legitimately disagree?

Because, I’ll tell you what.  You want to know why people won’t come to church?  People won’t come to church, because to be validated as human beings with legitimate thoughts, we have to toe the party line.

And I’ll tell you what else.  When someone comes to you and says, ‘hey, this is actually really offensive to me,’ the answer is not ‘oh, I didn’t think so.  Actually I thought it was really respectful.  And, you know, Bible.

I’m telling you F&%$ing what.

That is not an adequate response!

The globe is a beautiful, glorious thing, and history is a fascinating thing to study.  It is horrific and amazing, sometimes at the same time.

What would the world be like without Rome? But what would the world be like without Nero?

Would we have Starry Night if the church was perfect?

Where is our self-awareness that history repeats itself?

People are going to be legitimately and illegitimately offended at what we say or do.  Can we at least have the courtesy to realize that we are capable of perpetuating harmful beliefs?  And to listen when people feel harmed or excluded?  Especially in Jesus’ name????

“You do not realize the impact that your life has on an unbelieving world, and others around us.  As we make the gospel believable, or not, by the extent to which our lives reflect sound doctrine and the gospel of Christ.”

That cuts both ways, Nancy.  (Fun fact.  My first 2 years of summer camp were spent at her ministry headquarters.)

What if this does not realize?  What if this study equals the not for some people?  Where is the availability for that?  And just saying ‘the darkness doesn’t like the light’ or ‘the gospel is offensive’ is a cop-out.  It takes a special arrogance to be so sure we are that right about every single damn thing we believe.  Is the church really willing to die on the hill of gender roles, even causing people to walk away from Jesus and the church because of it?

This is why we should be so, so, so careful about what we consider fundamentals of the faith.  Why we should be incredibly cautious as to what ideology we attach to Jesus.

Because if we attach our cultural beliefs to our timeless God, rejection of the former can equal rejection of the latter. 

And the oblivion with which we cause offense, and the lack of understanding we reveal when we cling to our rightness, can do more to undermine the gospel than any form of womanhood could ever do.


This post is part of a series reviewing and discussing the True Woman 101 Divine Design study, by Mary Kassian and Nancy Leigh Demoss:

Part 1 – True Womanhood – Why Airplanes Aren’t in the Bible

Part 2 – True Womanhood – Death to Certainty

Part 3 – True Womanhood – Affirming Female Ordination?

Part 4 – True Womanhood – June Cleaver as Jesus

Part 5 – True Womanhood – An Offensive Gospel

Part 6 – True Womanhood – Compassionless Christianity

Part 7 – True Womanhood – Oppressing Women since Creation

Part 8 – True Womanhood – Get Abused, Win A Crown!

Part 9 – True Womanhood – Cookies and Chains

Part 10 – True Womanhood – Tension, Cracks, and a Concrete Faith

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  • Christina

    “Because if we attach our cultural beliefs to our timeless God, rejection of the former can equal rejection of the latter.

    And the oblivion with which we cause offense, and the lack of understanding we reveal when we cling to our rightness, can do more to undermine the gospel than any form of womanhood could ever do.”

    It’s so true. If you look at the reasons Paul always gives for his gender-related commands (to make the gospel winsome to unbelievers, to refrain from causing undue offense, etc…), it becomes obvious that the current focus on gender roles in the church is having the exact opposite effect. I get the feeling that, if the two conflicted, Paul would absolutely value the reputation of the gospel over rigid interpretations of gender roles.

    Also, I feel slightly guilty about how much I love that picture. I would totally make it my profile on Facebook if I didn’t have to be careful about picking my battles.

    • Caris Adel

      bahaha! I kwym. I love that print, but yeah, I’m afraid to actually print it out and hang it up anywhere, haha.

  • perfectnumber628

    The whole “the gospel is offensive” thing drives me crazy. Like Christians can and should just say and do whatever, without caring how it affects people, and if there’s any criticism we just say “well Jesus offended people too- the gospel is offensive”… seriously?

    Maybe some parts of the gospel can be offensive in certain circumstances. But oh my goodness, the gospel is so ATTRACTIVE. The gospel is good news! And I am a Christian because the gospel SOUNDS REALLY GREAT and awesome and life-giving. I mean seriously, if the point was just to offend everyone, why would anyone be a Christian?

    • Caris Adel

      Right? It’s like there’s no possiblity that the problem might be us. I know someone who is a pretty new christian and she ran into that and I told her, yeah, it’s kind of common, and she was like, ‘why would you be proud of that?’

  • Joy in this Journey

    Have you written about those years at summer camp? I want to hear this story! Also, I love that you’re doing this series. Bravo.

    • Caris Adel

      No. It was just a typical christian summer camp. It shut down after I had gone there 2 years, and I started going to a Baptist camp instead.

  • Jennifer Stahl

    This is one thing that always bothers me about church. Unless you toe the party line about modesty, purity/chastity, fertility, being female, and their way of disciplining *your* kids; you are a heretic.

    You can agree to disagree on so many points, but if you don’t agree with those points above: Poof! Be gone!

    I am so frustrated with that. (and a few other things… *looks around rather shifty*)

    I don’t understand why people can’t just BE the hands and feet. Why we can’t LOVE first, and win people with that.

    I mean, there were so many WOMEN that converted to belief in the infancy years of our faith, simply because it was SO liberating. And now we have so many people (mostly women!) walking out of the building because those who are shepherds are turning us away by being so restricting. :(

    • Caris Adel

      Exactly. Frustrating for sure.

    • Daisy

      Jennifer, I have to disagree respectfully. I am in my 40s now, was waiting for marriage to have sex – and I’ve not been married. If anything, I see the opposite: much of Christian culture today does not truly support virginity, sexual purity, or celibacy among older adults. They give those concepts “lip service,” at least for teens, but if you find yourself a Christian virgin over the age of 25 / 30, the church will either not realize you exist at all (they assume everyone marries by 25 years of age and is having sex), or they treat you like a weirdo for not having sex, just as Non Christian culture does. The common assumption by many preachers and on many Christian blogs (both liberal and conservative) is that only a Superhero can resist sexual urges past one’s mid 20s, that everyone will give in and have sex, so there’s this assumption that all unmarried people are not ‘sexually pure,’ but they get told, ‘that is all fine, though, because God forgives sexual sin.’ Sexual purity / virginity/ celibacy are either ignored by most Christians, or dismissed as being impossible ideals. They’re not. There are older virgin Christians out there, but they are dismissed or ignored by the rest of the Christian community. There might be some Christians who are very legalistic about sexual purity and so on, but that is not what I am seeing from the whole of the Christian community on these issues. I actually see Christians railing *against* sexual purity and celibacy teachings on most blogs quite regularly.

      • Daisy

        P.S. to Jennifer Stahl. I agreed with most everything else in your post, though. I was only disagreeing a little with part of your first sentence. It’s funny that the people (gender complementarians) telling women how “freeing” such rigid gender roles can be, are actually driving some Christian women away from church, or from the Christian faith itself (it’s one reason of a few I’m thinking about leaving the faith).

        I tried to accept the gender comp teachings as a teen, but their views on one or two cherry picked New Testament verses about married women or women teaching didn’t match up with all the other biblical examples and verses that talked approvingly of women who did lead men, teach men, etc.

        Because of those particular biblical interpretations and inherent sexism of those who hold the views, women are not permitted to meaningfully serve in most churches, especially not single ones. Churches typically only have “mother and parenting” type positions for women. I’ve never been particularly maternal, so the idea of babysitting in a church nursery is not appealing. I don’t feel as though I am wanted or needed at most churches, due in part to these narrow gender role teachings. So I don’t go anymore (I have other reasons too, that’s just one.)

        • Jennifer Stahl

          I am unsure of your background; but I was raised very fundamentalist with baptist leanings (Independent Fundamentalist, very conservative SBC), Assemblies of God, Presbyterian and Non-denominational that was highly Calvinistic and leaned highly Baptist.

          I was homeschooled from 6th grade-12th. My homeschool material was über conservative Old Order Mennonite. Where my churches left off on gender role/modesty/women can only do xyz stuff – they took over and ran the whole alphabet in every language of what was and wasn’t acceptable for women, mixing of genders, clothing style, first time obedience – you name it.

          Other than mothering, tending children, teaching up to 5th grade boys (no higher!! then you’re leading “men”!!) serving food and hosting parties and bible studies (not leading, G-d forbid!) – there was no place for a woman unless she was a deacon’s/pastor’s/missionary’s wife. (caveat: Unless she had a really juicy testimony!)

          For my 20+ yrs in the church; women were stifled, held back, the Spirit quenched, women left. Women were called out for their clothing choices or given clothing to wear. If she spoke up in a business meeting that was bad news.

          I was constantly in some sort of trouble and am still the Black sheep. I never went wild. I never went to parties. I had no friends. I mostly obeyed my parents and lived at home until I married DH and moved overseas. I didn’t have sex outside of marriage. I don’t drink or go clubbing, never smoked – yet – **I’m** the wild one.

          Most of the teen girls I grew up around wouldn’t so much as touch or kiss a boy until their wedding day. I’m not joking. I was “wild” for DH and I kissing and hand-holding when he was in the country. [DH is German, I’m American.]

          I was 26 when I got married to my DH, he was 27. He and I both were virgins. It’s not impossible, but things can happen; and there is grace for everyone! Sex isn’t the unforgivable sin. Neither is Homosexuality. [I was more or less taught otherwise!]

          I have a huge problem with how people were ostracized or made to have shotgun weddings and then removed from any/all positions in the church and treated worse than someone you’d witness to on the street and invite in the doors. Especially if they had children and kept them instead of aborting or putting up for adoption.

          There were just so many things wrong with what happened in those 12+ churches (I moved around a lot thanks to the US Military) that I attended as a child to teen. I left a church as an early 20 something due to how awfully cultish and wrong-headed a lot of their teachings had become. I was more or less driven out and left before I was given the left foot of fellowship.

          I was then called out because I left without my dad’s permission. He was my spiritual covering and I was attending a “cult” (Messianic Jewish Synagogue). Wow. yeah. There was that.

          I’ve found grace and forgiveness, where I was taught strict rules and secret rules and being taught that if you aren’t male, you aren’t worth squat. If you have boobs and curves (ME!! Me!!), you’re going to cause lust, best just never interact with males. Dude, I can’t win! I give up.

          Since moving overseas, I’ve begun processing all the hurts and damage I
          have had put upon me from the church and my family of origin. I’m
          reading the bible on my own, and it doesn’t say half of what the cherry
          picked favorite passages and “packages” say.

          The wildest I’ve gone is becoming more “hippie”, fair trade, grace-filled and I extend grace to people rather than judging them. I don’t know their heart, G-d does. Give the Spirit place to move and take people under your wing. Don’t beat them with the Bible. [IOW: If you have ever seen “SAVED!” – that was sort of like my teen years.]

          We use grace-based discipline for my kids. I’m a heretic because we don’t beat them and tell them how depraved and sinful they are; also because we’re Messianic, we eat Kosher; because we’re egalitarian. Because I now wear short sleeves (usually with a sweater or jacket because I still can’t always stop those stupid tapes in my head) and pants after 10 years. . . oh the evil bifurcated only for men garments!

          Probably if you’ve ever heard it said of women or girls or how purity culture should be, I lived it.

          That’s what I was talking about when I said “…unless you toe the party line, you’re a heretic.” Because that’s what I face as my every day with my family. I am that heretic. I am in danger of my children seeing hell fire due to my poor influence and my beliefs.

          I have some lovely descriptors for that, but I’m nice and keep those to myself. 😉

          • Caris Adel

            Oh my gosh Jennifer, that’s awful. Thanks for sharing all of that. That’s a heartbreaking way to grow up. :(

          • Jennifer Stahl

            thanks. I keep trying to figure out how to blog about it, but it honestly needs its own book, and I have no idea how to change names/places enough for family to not know it’s about us. I’d totally do it if I could though.

  • Bethany Suckrow

    Wow, Caris. You are on fire. You make so many good points here, not just about their theology itself, but about the ways in which they ostracize people with their methods. I love this part, because it so well explains my frustration with the faith community and tradition I grew up in : “People won’t come to church, because to be validated as human beings with legitimate thoughts, we have to toe the party line.”

    And this : “just saying ‘the darkness doesn’t like the light’ or ‘the gospel is offensive’ is a cop-out.” YES x 100000000000. I am SO sick of hearing people say that in response to those who express genuine hurt and concern. They might as well just say “f*ck you” or “have fun in hell.” That’s not the kind of “offensive gospel” Jesus meant.

    • Caris Adel

      Thanks Bethany :)

  • Marvia Davidson

    Because really what matters is the heart. Gods not looking at our pomp and circumstance. He’s not interested in our man made rules or deceptive legalism. God is after the heart. Your post, Caris, reminds me to be gracious because God is gracious – to live the hearts of this’d who are the broken, disenchanted, marginalized, and even the undignified who refuse to fall into the religious right.

    • Hannah_Thomas

      WOW! You said a mouth FULL! Amen!

  • Bethany Grace Paget

    I mean yeah. I’ve said it before. I dig you and your heart to speak the truth, to help open eyes and hearts to the out of the box gospel. This is what I love about you 😉

  • Leanne Penny

    Really truly good point. So important. Glad I tuned in.

  • Barry Kerzner

    I trust you will forgive me my thoughts here. Although I am not a woman, I still feel that a God of love would NOT subjugate women in any way. God (supposedly) wants all to be respectful and adhere to his (her??) teachings out of respect for our fellow humankind. This IS what Jesus taught. “The greatest is love…” The bible was written by man, for mankind. God gave us free will, and a moral conscience. We are here to serve each other and help each other succeed and reach our potential.

    Frankly, I WANT a woman who wants to do, and be. I want a PARTNER. I am not scared of that. People that attempt to keep women down spiritually, mentally, physically, and in their place of worship, are small. They are on control trips, power trips, and are fearful. Jesus did NOT intend for women to be treated as lesser beings. To those “representatives” and “officers” of the Church who advocate such policies I say “Shame on you. You are perpetuating a lie.”

    For these (and many other reasons) I have not been involved with a church or organized religious order for many years now. I don’t hold my self up as superior, only somewhat enlightened and not taken in by BS. I worship in my own quiet way. I try to live up to the teachings as best I can. Most days I fall short. But I will not be a part of any organization that is hypocritical to its own supposed basic tenants.

  • Kate Schell

    “People won’t come to church, because to be validated as human beings with legitimate thoughts, we have to toe the party line.”
    Yes yes yes. This applies to so many issues, not just a woman’s proper role. If there’s no room for questioning, for diversity, for flat-out disagreement, then there’s no room for me, or anyone, there. Who wants to go to a Stepford church?

    • Caris Adel

      Stepford church – that is an excellent phrase!

  • Beth

    Amen. Amen. This: “What if someone looks at this ideal of a submissive, home-based wifely mother and sees the opposite of God? What if someone sees the restriction of women’s roles and duties and thinks it actually maligns the Word of God? What if someone looks at this whole set-up and thinks it is anti-Jesus?”

  • Daisy

    Someone at another blog linked to your page here. I apologize in advance that this will be kind of long. I hope you don’t mind me pasting in the same comments here I made on the other blog in response.

    First, a little about me: I became a Christian before the age of ten, always wanted and expected to be married, but I find myself still single in my early 40s (and barely holding on the faith for several reasons, not just the singleness issue), and I am a woman.

    Your blog post contains many quotes by a biblical gender complementarian (Mary Kassian, I assume? I’m not sure of the spelling). Gender complementarians such as her rarely factor un-married adults past the age of 30 (and particularly never-married Christian women) into their thinking or teachings, which is, in my view, one of the biggest gaping holes in their views on gender and marriage.

    If your views on gender cannot be lived out among singles, or are not equally applicable to single women, as they are by or to married women, that should be a very huge clue that your gender role views are not biblical and that you are placing far too much emphasis upon marriage than even God does. Anyway, here is a copy of what I said on the other blog:

    Kassian (?) the Gender Complementarian said, “[singles are the exceptions, not the rule]”

    Singles (including never-married Christian women over 30) are becoming the norm in America, however, in that we are becoming so common.

    People are not marrying right out of high school or college as they used to 40 or 50 years ago. Many of us are not intentionally choosing to remain single into our 30s and beyond and are not choosing career over marriage; we simply have not come across eligible partners. We desire marriage but there is nobody to marry. (Often gender comps assume older singles are deliberately avoiding marriage, and this is not true.)

    As the article “The single life: Some people never find the love of their lives. And live to tell about it” (hosted on Washington Post, dated Feb. 10, 2012) says,
    “… Just 51 percent of the [American] adult population is married, down from 72 percent in 1960.”

    While it’s tacky and unbiblical (IMO) that the author is apparently linking how a woman upholds or lives out gender complementarian views of what a woman acts like to proof of her salvation, it’s funny that that the gender comp author (based on the quotes I see on your page) does not provide the “exceptions” (that is, the single women) with models of how they too can demonstrate their godliness, or salvation, or whatever.

    The author says a woman can prove she is godly and saved by how much she submits to her husband – okay, I don’t have a husband; how does an unmarried woman demonstrate she is godly and saved? I guess singles don’t matter in the world of gender complementarians. Just say, “Singles are not the norm” and shove them aside.

    I don’t see where the Bible says that marriage is the norm. If anything, Jesus Christ and Paul tore down the view that “marriage is the norm.” In their day and time (2,000 years ago), a woman had to be married to receive financial support and stability. Also it seems that not having a child back then (which you could only do in marriage) was viewed as a disgrace, or a curse by God.

    Christ’s message (and Paul’s) that a person can remain un-married and not have kids, that either one was okay, was revolutionary for the culture and time. Singleness was taught as being on equal footing in God’s sight to being married. Culture (including American) may view getting married as being a “norm,” but God does not.

    • Caris Adel

      excellent points. They do have one, 2.5 minute video specifically on singleness, and they just talk about how singles need to respect and uphold marriage and family, and support their married friends. so………….yeah, that’s helpful. :/

    • Jennifer Stahl

      Yep. I was odd-ball out for being “single”. The rule at our congregations was that I had to answer in every way to my father. If I had no father, to my deacons and pastor. Uh??


    *standing ovation*