Androgyny is literally paganism
Feminism, egalitarianism, even complementarianism are all simply new versions of androgynism—a doctrine at the heart of pagan religions, which images their denial of the creator/creature distinction.
Long before the Flat Earth Society, there was Satan. Thousands of years before bored nerds began their ambivalent relationship with long-distance lasers, the Serpent of old also wanted the cosmos to be flat.
Satan doesn’t care about the shape of our planet, of course. But he cares very much about the shape of our cosmos—our moral, social, and spiritual world. He cares about maintaining a grip on the kingdom of man, so that it does not become the kingdom of God (Rev 11:15; cf. John 3:16).
We have talked about the shape of creation before:
This shape is central to God’s kingdom—and so flattening it is central to Satan’s plans. He is the great homogenizer of old. From the very beginning he sought to confuse how God had ordered the cosmos. This was both his goal—removing mankind as God’s rulers—and his method—tricking the woman into doubting the boundaries that God had established, and inverting the creation order by getting the man to heed her error.
Because flattening out the creation order is Satan’s goal, it is thus the goal of all his sons:
You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. (John 8:44)
It is therefore a staple feature of pagan religions, which are “held captive by him to do his will” (1 Tim 2:26), that they flatten the creation order. This is obvious in the case of the sexual alphabet soup we’re dealing with today—but feminism is also a modern iteration of this pagan ideal. This includes not just secular ideologies, but Christian offshoots like egalitarianism, and even consistent complementarianism, which relegates the significance of sexual differences to roles in the home and church rather than to created natures, and further reduces headship to a tie-breaking vote and servant leadership. In other words, complementarianism presupposes androgynism:
Feminism, egalitarianism, and complementarianism are all just particular forms of androgynism.
Understanding this is critical for fighting it within the church, in two ways:
It clarifies that the disagreement is over religious doctrine, not social conduct. What we mean by this is that androgyny is a “gospel issue.” It is a kind of sexual immorality, the practitioners of which will not see the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9). In other words, androgyny is not a faux pas, where you violate the social expectations of men and women in God’s kingdom. It is a heresy, where you violate the integrity of the gospel itself by syncretizing it with another religion.
It prevents quibbling over labels. When pagan religions infiltrate the church and faithful men point it out, the quislings and patsies say, “We reject that religion by name, therefore this is not that!” Many Christians are weak on biblical sexuality, but deny that they are feminists, unorthodox on homosexuality, etc. Getting stuck on semantic arguments muffles the bugle’s call to battle (cf. 1 Cor 14:8). The answer is to stop using ideological labels, like “feminism,” and start using descriptive ones, like “androgynism.” This exposes what is actually being promoted, and its connection to foreign religion.
In this article, we are going to go deep into androgyny, to help you understand the hell we have created for ourselves—especially within the church—by confusing, flattening, attacking, and overturning the creation order. Seeing how feminism, egalitarianism, and complementarianism are all just modern versions of androgyny is a critical foundation for reforming the church. We must know our enemy in order to cut it off and destroy it—and we must know what we are building in order to build it.
“Creation order” means “creation hierarchical distinctions”
To understand what’s going on with androgyny, we need to first understand what it means that God is a God of order and not of chaos, of peace and not confusion (1 Cor 14:33). In Scripture, order means that everything is in its correct place—but also that every place is in its correct rank.
The fact that God cherishes order in this way is clear in the first chapters of Genesis. It is one of the very first things we learn about him.
When he creates the world from nothing, for a brief time it is “waste and void”—as Calvin puts it, “rude and unpolished, or rather shapeless chaos.” Why would he make it this way? To order it—and thus to model for man what his own task will be as God’s representative, carrying on dominion in his stead (Gen 1:26–28). This process of dominion, of forming the world into something “very good,” is fundamentally a process with two halves: dividing and filling:
God fills the world with light, and divides the light from the darkness. By doing this, he also divides the cosmos into two fundamental realms: night and day.
He divides the waters from the waters, establishing two more realms: sea and sky.
He divides the waters from the land, establishing another realm: the habitable earth.
He fills the earth with vegetation, divided by kind.
He fills the sky with luminaries, divided by magnitude.
He fills the seas and skies with swarms of creatures, divided by kind.
He fills the earth with beasts, divided by kind.
He divides man from the earth, and then divides woman from the man, in order for them to fill the earth and continue his work.
By the end of this process, the cosmos is no longer “rude and unpolished,” chaotic and confused. It has been ordered into something pristine and beautiful, something where peace reigns because everything is in its place. (In scripture, peace is not a synonym for quiet; it is a synonym for harmony and flourishing.) God himself declares that it is very good.
In so doing, he also communicates a foundational principle which underlies the whole process of his dividing and filling: the principle of telos. In Genesis, as in providence, God does everything for a reason. The realms into which he divides the cosmos, and the things with which he fills them, have meaning, because they have purposes which he intends for them when he makes them. They are very good not because they are morally upright (only persons can be morally upright), but because they fit very well the purposes for which he made them.
God’s ordering thus goes beyond the mere shaping of chaotic mass into physical harmony. There are unique aesthetic, symbolic, spiritual purposes to each thing he makes. Some of these purposes are revealed; some are not. It isn’t important here to trace out, say, the unique telos of light and darkness—or badgers and bullsharks. What is important is to note two things:
All creation shares, participates in, and reflects one ultimate purpose: to serve and bring glory to God.
Each created thing participates differently in this ultimate purpose, according to its unique place and design.
In other words, the overarching purpose is not imposed homogeneously onto created things in a way that flattens or blurs or downplays or removes the distinctions between them. Rather, the overarching purpose is why those distinctions exist in the first place. The divisions between things are how God orders them all toward the ultimate goal of glorifying him. A creation without distinctions is a world that is waste and void, formless and empty, chaotic and futile. Creation is not and should not be a homogeneous mass. It can only glorify God when everything is in its place—not when all things are mushed together.
The importance of this is impossible to overstate. To give an analogy, sharing in the common goal of winning a football game does not eliminate the distinctions between the players. Rather, it is why the team is divided into those positions in the first place. A team with 11 quarterbacks is not a “very good” team.
By the same token, sharing in the common goal of producing power does not eliminate the distinctions between the parts of an engine. Rather, this common purpose is why the engine has parts at all. If you were to melt everything down into an undifferentiated mass, it would no longer produce power. It would not be a “very good” engine.
This is true also of bodies (1 Cor 12:14–26), both literal and symbolic. A man with a head only, and no torso or limbs, is hardly a “very good” man. An army with everyone in command is an army with everyone confused. In the immortal words of Syndrome…
Syndrome understood chaos. He understood what he was trying to achieve, and he understood that it was “not good.” He understood what is true of the creation as a whole: that vertical divisions are just as fitting, just as important, just as necessary, just as indispensable as horizontal ones. It is good that all creatures are subordinated beneath their creator. And it is also good that some created things are subordinated beneath others.
Modern evangelicals are quick to defend the importance of God dividing things horizontally—e.g., different kinds of plants. But they are reluctant, even recalcitrant, to acknowledge the significance of his dividing them vertically.
Because they live in a culture that shames rather than glorifies the vertical ways that God divided creation.
But divide he did. The land and the sky are raised above the sea. The sun is a greater light than the moon, ruling over a greater realm (Gen 1:16). The beasts of the field are stronger than the beasts that crawl. Even “star differs from star in glory” (1 Cor 15:39–41).
In other words, God’s ordering of creation by division is not just a separation into kinds, but into hierarchies. Authority and submission, strong and weak, height and depth, holy and common, inner and outer, greater and lesser—these are all built into the structure of the cosmos from the very days of creation…and they are all very good.
Hence, when God divides the man from the earth, the man is over the earth—and God is over the man. This is the structure of the relationship between God’s place, man’s place, and the earth’s place. And when God divides the woman from the man, the woman is also over the earth, but the man is over the woman. This is the structure of the relationship between man’s place, and woman’s place. Authority flows downward from God, to man, to woman. When you hear that archaic saying that “a man should know his place”—or when someone dares suggest the same of a woman—you are hearing a statement of God’s original design. It may or may not be correct in assuming what that place is; but it is entirely correct in assuming that both man and woman have a place—and our fellowship, joy, and productivity are found in knowing and keeping it. The Fall itself can be aptly summarized as woman not knowing her place, and man not keeping his.
This brings us back to Satan. It’s no coincidence that villains in stories are almost invariably agents of chaos. But chaos doesn’t necessarily mean disarray or pandemonium.
Chaos is simply disorder. It is any situation where things are not in the places that God assigned to them.
Thus, most chaos is actually quite orderly—it is simply the reorganization of God’s structure into something different. Of course, it can be highly disruptive for those not doing the reorganizing, and so can certainly be chaotic in the more typical sense of the word. But the desire for structure is built into us (we wouldn’t be very good at dominion if it weren’t) and sin does not eliminate our natural inclinations; it corrupts them. People with power, therefore, don’t generally want to eliminate structure; they want to reorganize it to better suit their wicked inclinations—whether it be mob bosses competing with God-ordained authorities, or the Galactic Empire competing with the God-given liberty of the Rebel Alliance. So most agents of chaos are actually highly-regimented. The mafia follows a rigid code of its own, and the Empire rules with an iron fist. Mussolini made the trains run on time—or claimed to.
Because creation naturally falls into the patterns God assigned, it requires the continual exercise of power to reorganize its structure and keep things in the new places you have dictated for them. Hence most forms of chaos tend to be highly ordered forms of disorder.
Some men just want to watch the world burn
But there is another way to create disorder. There is an alternate strategy to removing things from the places God assigned: you can eliminate structure altogether.
Syndrome in The Incredibles was an agent of chaos because he was an agent of homogeneity. When everyone is super, no one will be. By the same token, Heath Ledger’s Joker was a compelling villain because he didn’t want to build a new structure; he wanted to reduce all structure to ashes.
It was perhaps the first kind of disorder that Satan was aiming for in Eden. He sought to reorganize God’s structure, to overturn the hierarchy of God, man, woman, creation. Reading between the lines, it’s not hard to figure that his reason for doing so was that he thought God had got this order wrong in the first place. Surely the greater beings should rule over the lesser—and so surely the order should be God, angels, man, woman, creation (Heb 2:7).
But by aiming for this order, his tactic was actually to remove a place from God’s structure. He did not merely seek to get dominion over man; he sought to destroy man altogether, by tempting him to do the one thing that he knew would result in his death.
In order to achieve this, he set a match to the root of the structure, burning it down from the base: the animals were meant to be subject to the rule of mankind, and yet we find a serpent counseling the woman. The woman was meant to be helper to the man’s work of representing God, and yet as the flame of temptation works its way up, she encourages him to foolishly rebel against God. And Adam, the lord of creation whose wife should have heeded his counsel, instead heeds hers and uses the authority delegated to him to set up his own kingdom instead of God’s.
But God is not mocked. His world only works because it is held together by the word of his power (Heb 1:3). He cannot be replaced. He will not submit to Adam. The fire that Satan uses to burn down the creation order cannot affect its creator. It is unnatural for a father to submit to a son, a king to a prince, and a creator to a creature. Will the thing molded say to the molder, “Why did you make me thus?” Or will the potter ask advice of the clay? No.
Adam was not just put back in his place. He was removed from it. Treasonous usurpers are sentenced to death.
God would have been just to execute man as Satan had planned. But he is rich in mercy and wisdom—mercy to redeem man, and wisdom to defeat the serpent rather than hand him summary victory. So he makes a way for man to be restored as the royal priests of his creation.
But it is not an easy way. Man has chosen a life outside of God’s rule and order. Although God will eventually restore him to his proper place, the creation structure is upset and damaged. Thus a curse accompanies the promise of redemption. Life outside of God’s rule and order is a life cursed with death and difficulty.
The harmony between God and mankind is broken because of Adam’s rebellion. The fellowship between man and woman is cursed because of them inverting it. The very earth pushes against its disgraced rulers. Where previously all the pieces of creation fit together seamlessly, now they are malformed. Where once the diversity of creation had participated harmoniously in the purpose of glorifying God, now it competes against itself. Where originally the world had been unified in its divisions, now it is easily divided by them.
Satan continues his primordial strategy of turning the sexes against each other—and against God. He’s like Iago, turning Othello against Desdemona. He loves to sow confusion. He sought, and continues to seek, to convince mankind that life is better outside of God’s created order. That life can be redeemed and made perfect apart from its redeemer and perfecter.
Is there a gender war?
This is the origin of the gender war. But it is not the war you’ve been taught to think.
On the surface, you might think it obvious that there’s a war between the sexes. Isn’t that what feminists have been saying for generations? Isn’t that what all the Men Going Their Own Way are acknowledging? Why would Men’s Rights Activists exist if there wasn’t a war being waged on manhood by the Feminine Imperative? Doesn’t the very ubiquity of the term toxic masculinity demonstrate that masculinity is under attack?
All of this is true—yet it is also nothing but confused skirmishing between combatants who themselves are unwitting victims in a far larger conflict: a protracted assault on the very division between the sexes themselves.
The gender war is not between the genders. It is on the genders. Gender itself is under siege.
Consider Warren Farrell. Although he is widely regarded as the father of the men’s movement, he actually advocates that “there should be neither a women’s movement blaming men, nor a men’s movement blaming women, but a gender liberation movement freeing both sexes from the rigid roles of the past toward more flexible roles for their future.” Or, in the pithier words of feminist icon Gloria Steinham, “We need to raise boys more like we raise girls.”
Why though? It’s simple: these people rightly see that sexual distinctions are a source of conflict. Absent unity with and through God, the divisions built into creation do divide. Rebelling against God and his order does not eliminate that need for redemption and perfection. And so their solution, to achieve this redemption and perfection, is to get rid of the source of conflict: to get rid of the sexes themselves.
If we can mush the genders into a homogeneous humanity, there will be no more divisions, no more tensions, no more conflict.
It’s not male versus female (misogyny), or female versus male (misandry). It’s humanity versus sexual distinctions.
The enemy of our day is androgyny.
Androgynism: the war on gender
The very heart of the androgynist project is succinctly summarized by clinical psychologist and marriage counselor Randi Gunther, in her Huffpost article Why Great Husbands Are Being Abandoned (all emphases ours):
…it became more and more apparent that quality people of both genders would be happier and more fulfilled if they could combine power and nurturing. Men would develop their feminine side and women their masculine. No longer would it be that the bad boys were sexy and the good women were virtuous. Now quality men needed to add chivalry to their power, and women to claim their ability for independent thinking and leadership. They could imagine a relationship where both were equally blended and free to be the best they could be. “She” and “he” became the new idealized “we.”
This project has been ongoing for generations now, and as Randi says, it has produced a great many men who are “the androgynous guys that their women have asked them to become.” But Randi explains, evincing some bemusement, that this hasn’t ended nearly so well as anticipated:
You would think that the women in these new relationships would be ecstatic… Well, guess again. Fifty percent of marriages are still ending in divorce, and women continue to be the gender that initiates those endings. In the past, their reasons for leaving most often had to do with infidelity, neglect, or abuse. Now they’re dumping men who are faithful, attentive, and respectful, the very men they said they have always wanted. Why would women who have accomplished the female dream suddenly not be satisfied with it? Why are they leaving these ideal guys, and for what reasons?
I am currently dealing with several of these great husbands. They are, across the board, respectful, quality, caring, devoted, cherishing, authentic, and supportive guys whose wives have left them for a different kind of man.
You may think that these women are ruthless and inconsiderate. Those I know are far from that. More often, they still love their husbands as much as they ever did, but in a different way. They tell me how wonderful their men are and how much they respect them. They just don’t want to be married to them anymore.
The women I have treated who have left their husbands for more “masculine” men believed that their new relationships would be able to both excite and nurture them. Sadly, that has not always happened. The veritable saint with balls is as elusive as ever.
Note the scare quotes around “masculine”—Randi is still in denial that androgyny is not the ideal, because she is religiously committed to it: to couples who “intensely want to create a new kind of connection that blends the beauty of traditional roles with the freedom to move between them, and to blend the best of the past with an as-yet-unwritten future.” She writes an article dedicated to documenting how destructive androgyny is to marriage—and yet concludes by affirming that couples must simply figure out a way to make it work. She herself, a psychologist and marriage counselor, has not the slightest idea how to make it work. But she cannot consider any other option, because that would be misogynistic and toxic.
What this shows us is the religious underpinnings to androgynism.
Androgynism as a defining doctrine of paganism
Anyone who has observed the war on gender, let alone fought in it, knows that the commitment to androgynism is religious, not scientific. The madness of transgenderism is an exaggerated example, as is the incorporation of women into the armed forces; but just about every element of the androgynist agenda is unscientific at core, since it works against the natural structures of creation.
Androgyny, in fact, has a long and storied history as a focal point of pagan religion. This might sound strange because most pagan religions are also set within cultures that, sociologically, strictly uphold the natural divisions between male and female. There is an interesting tension here: the traditional gender duties found within majority-world cultures are a practical necessity. When you are living near a subsistence existence, you simply don’t have the luxury of indulging in gender-bending. Women don’t have the strength or speed to cut down trees, build houses, hunt dangerous game; and men can’t bear children to keep their households from dying off.
So pagan cultures often have an ambivalent relationship with androgyny.
The one place, however, that androgyny really can be indulged is in spirituality and ritual. As documented in an excellent paper by Peter Jones in JETS (43/3 (September 2000) 443–469), androgyny is a recurring and persistent pattern in pagan mythology throughout history, and indeed constitutes the pagan sexual ideal. Sociologically, pagan cultures uphold the created order. But religiously, they upend it. From the Sumerian cult of Ishtar with its sexually ambiguous priests, to the cult of Bacchus with its initiation by homosexual rape, to the literally emasculated priests of Cybele, to the homosexual pederasty of famous theosophists, paganism produces and glories in androgynism.
In fact, it is inevitable that paganism will produce and glory in androgynism. Androgyny is a foundational doctrine and necessary outworking of paganism.
Because God is just, and his justice is both consistent and wise. When people sin, therefore, he will always judge them; and when he judges them, his punishments always fit their crimes. When he curses sin, he does not do so randomly or haphazardly, but rather in keeping with the transgression. For instance, Adam was made by God to keep the earth; when he rebelled against God, the earth was cursed to rebel against him. Eve was made by God to help Adam rule; when she rebelled, she was cursed with a rebellious spirit against his rulership. Satan was made to have authority in the heavenly places; when he rebelled by trying to get power in the earthly places, attacking its weaker ruler (the woman), he was cursed by being made lower than the earthly beasts, and being promised death at the hands of the woman’s seed.
And so in the same way, Romans 1:18–27 tells us that when man exchanges the glory of the immortal God for images of created things, God also puts them under a specific curse fitted to their sin:
For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever, amen. For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error. (Romans 1:25–27)
Ritual androgyny, typified in sodomy, is the sacrament of paganism.
But why? What is the logical connection between exchanging the worship of God for the worship of creation, and the vilest forms of effeminacy and butchness?
The answer is simple:
The physical images the spiritual.
As we discussed in part 2 of our podcast on the doxological purpose of sex, everything seen is a representation of something unseen:
In his excellent book, The Story of Sex and Scripture, Bill Mouser notes (probably following J.I. Packer), that God is not anthropormorphic; rather, creation is theomorphic. Male and female themselves are an image of the creator and creation: what God does in creating Eve from Adam is a microcosm of what he had already done in creating the world. The world came from him, is distinct from him, and has the purpose of union with him. Eve came from Adam, is distinct from him, and has the purpose of union with him.
This is not our unique interpretation; we get it explicitly from Paul in Ephesians 5:31–32. This speaks specifically of the church, but when we compare Colossians 1:16–20; Romans 8:20–23; Genesis 9:9–17, we see that while the church is the pinnacle of God’s intention, he extends his covenant to creation more generally. It would take us too far afield to expand on this here, but we encourage you to compare these passages in your own time to see that what we are saying is true.
The upshot is this: the principle of male and female does not originate in Adam and Eve. It originates in God and creation. Adam is the first offspring, the generation, of heaven and earth (Gen 2:4). At the macroscopic scale, there is a masculine pattern in heaven, and a feminine pattern in the earth—representing the creator/creature distinction. And that pattern is recapitulated at the microcosmic scale in Adam and Eve.
So what happens when you consciously reject the distinction between God and creation? What happens when you start believing that God and the cosmos are ultimately the same thing? What happens when you start treating the cosmos as divine, believing that all the created order, all the natural divisions in the world, are mere expressions of a single, unified, deified reality? What happens when you try to religiously remove the infinite divide between the creator and the created, and worship what is made instead of its maker?
You start to follow your father the devil in confusing, denying, and ultimately trying to obliterate the image of that divide in the human realm. You start to sacralize androgyny.
The devil loves and encourages paganism, because it overturns the creation order he hated from the beginning, affording his best chance to swap places with God (cf. Isaiah 14:12–14). Paganism is Satan’s religion. Thus he loves and encourages androgyny. As Peter Jones puts it in his paper:
The physico-theological mechanism seems to function as follows: androgynous persons, whether homosexual or bi-sexual, are able to express within themselves both sexual roles and identities. In the sex act they engage both as male and female, equally as penetrator and penetrated, the “hard” and the “soft”—and thus taste in some form or other both physical and spiritual androgyny. As in classic monistic spirituality, they have, on the physical plane, joined the opposites, proving and experiencing that there are no distinctions. Just as the distinctions inherent in heterosexuality point to the fundamental theistic notion of the Creator/creature distinction, so androgyny in its various forms eradicates distinction and elevates the spiritual blending of all things, including the idolatrous confusion of the human with the divine. This seems to be the very same logic that brings Paul to a similar conclusion already in Romans 1:18–27…
Clearly God is interested in sex, or Satan would not be so passionately committed to its deconstruction. To destroy God’s created structures, the Evil One rips from the body politic the sexual distinctions hard-wired into creation to recall the deep truth about existence—the absolute distinction between the Creator and creation.
Secularism is paganism
When we speak of paganism, it’s important to define our terms, because we don’t mean what students of comparative religion might assume. Rather, pagan is a placeholder for the way of thinking that Paul speaks of in Romans 1:18ff. A pagan worldview is any worldview which collapses the creator/creature distinction. We use the term interchangeably with monism, or what Dr. Peter Jones calls one-ism: a belief system which entails that all reality is ultimately a unity in which plurality disappears.
This is the natural view of anyone who collapses the creator/creature distinction, because you cannot collapse this distinction without further collapsing all the other distinctions that depend upon it.
Secularism is thus a kind of paganism; its only innovation is in collapsing the creator/creature distinction differently to prior religions, by either denying the existence of God—à la modernism, represented in philosophical naturalism—or by relegating him to irrelevance—à la postmodernism, represented in moralistic therapeutic deism and other vague spiritualities. The one reduces all reality to matter in motion, while the other reduces it to the individual’s point of view.
But both reduce it just as much as any form of idol-worship or animism.
Contrary to the popular saying, “I’m spiritual but not religious,” Scripture teaches us that secularism is inherently religious. Religion, according to the Bible, does not require any clear doctrine, nor any overt ritual. In the modern age, where individualism is the name of the game, paganism may have no considered doctrine or coherent philosophy at all, nor any obviously religious activities.
Yet it is still religion—because religion does not inhere in doctrine or practice, but in man himself.
Doctrine and practice are expressions of particular religions, not definitions of them. Religion starts in the heart, where God has placed eternity (Ecc 3:11). Whether or not it overflows into the development of orthodoxy or orthopraxy, man remains in every way very religious, because God made him for a religious purpose: to serve his creator.
This means that there is a clear and crucial distinction between being irreligious and being unreligious. Religion has to do with worship of a deity. We have come to associate this in turn with certain kinds of beliefs and rituals—hallmarks which irreligious people eschew. But the Bible does not have such a narrow view. It does not confine worship to doctrine and ritual.
Rather, it defines worship primarily in terms of service.
This is because service is what man was created for—to do that which God requires of him. This extends far beyond performing rituals in certain times and places—which is why the stock phraseology throughout Deuteronomy parallels serving and worshiping (Dt 8:19; 11:16; 17:3; 29:26; 30:17), just as the wording of, e.g., Exodus 32:8 parallels sacrificing and worshiping. Similarly, passages like 1 Kings 11:33 and 2 Chronicles 7:19 put worship in parallel with walking in God’s ways and obeying his statutes.
It is through our service that we are supposed to glorify and enjoy God forever (cf. Ps 29:2; 99:5; Rom 12:1; Jas 1:27). This is built into us; we can’t not do it, just as a star can’t not shine. If we reject God, we don’t stop doing what we were made to do; we simply do it wrong. It’s like a clock: you can make it tell the wrong time, but you can’t make it tell no time at all. A compass can point in the wrong direction, but it cannot point in no direction. Even in our fallen state, we are unwittingly groping for God (Acts 17:22, 26). So if we refuse to glorify and serve and enjoy him, we automatically will be glorifying and serving and enjoying something else.
This is all worship.
To put this in the simplest terms, the Bible doesn’t just treat worship as something done on your face. It is not only a sabbath activity. It is also something done on your feet. Remember, in the original creation, before Christ, the sabbath was at the end of the week—it was the culmination of all one’s service out in the world. Doing obeisance is merely a physical image of one’s larger service to one’s god. For Christians, this looks like Romans 12:1–2, and James 1:27:
Therefore I exhort you, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice—living, holy, and pleasing to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may approve what the will of God is, that which is good and pleasing and perfect.
Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
The corollary is that, for non-Christians, it looks like whatever they do instead (cf. Matt 25:31–46).
So although it’s easy to think that people who don’t engage in religious ritual are not worshiping, this isn’t how religion and worship works according to the Bible. They may have no sabbath worship, but they certainly have weekday religion. Paul tells us that greed is idolatry—and we know that idolatry is worship. So, do you know any people who never engage in overtly religious rituals—yet spend eight hours a day in a cubicle just to make money for the weekend, coveting some new purchase or some new experience? What are they serving? What are they glorifying? What are they enjoying?
Answer those questions, and you will also discover what (and how) they are worshiping.
We are not engaging in some kind of religious psychoanalysis here. We’re not suggesting that really, deep down, people who don’t think about religion actually have secret pagan beliefs. Quite the contrary. We are saying that really, right on the surface, they have exchanged the glory of God for the creation—and that God himself tells us how he curses such people in a consistent, logical way by giving them over to certain kinds of depravity (Rom 1:18ff). This depravity specifically includes imaging their religious error through their physical bodies.
To explain it from another angle, G.K. Beale famously drew attention to the Bible’s presupposition that you become what you worship; what you revere will be what you resemble:
Their idols are silver and gold, The work of man’s hands. They have mouths, but they cannot speak; They have eyes, but they cannot see; They have ears, but they cannot hear; They have noses, but they cannot smell; They have hands, but they cannot feel; They have feet, but they cannot walk; They cannot make a sound with their throat. Those who make them will become like them, Everyone who trusts in them. (Ps 115:8; cf. 2 Cor 3:18; 1 John 3:2)
As Doug Wilson observes in his Sexual by Design lecture series, “you can’t believe that ultimate reality is infinitely malleable, and not think that you have the right within your particular subset of that world to morph and shift and reinvent however it suits you.”
And how it suits you will look like rebellion against God, expressed through rebellion against his created distinctions.
Paganism within the church
As you know, this pagan curse, this war on gender, is not just outside the church. Siege-works are built up in our pews and in our families, and they have been for some time.
Moreover, the spectrum of attacks is so broad that it’s easy for many committed androgynists to camouflage themselves as orthodox next to the more virulent false teachers. When we first published this paper, Rachel Green Miller had just received critical acclaim from trusted names in the Reformed world for her book Beyond Authority and Submission—yet what she and her allies were teaching then, and continue to teach now, is fundamentally pagan at heart. Bennie Castle documents this well in his review of Mrs. Miller’s book:
The only differentiation she allows is found in the stubborn realities of biology in the home and ordination in the church. Biology plainly teaches that women are built to bear children, and one cannot contradict biology. Paul plainly teaches male only ordination, and one cannot contradict the apostle.
But wisdom is found in knowing the causes of things. Why did Paul teach what he did? This is never addressed in Mrs. Miller’s book. The reason for this lacuna is a failure to wrestle with relevant ontology.
In other words, modern androgynists like Mrs. Miller and Byrd, who camoflaged themselves for many years under the label of complemenarianism, share in the blasphemy common to paganism: they don’t believe in the ontological divides presupposed by Scripture, grounded paradigmatically in the divide between creator and creation.
They don’t believe that the Bible’s commands are based in ontology.
Or, put differently, they have rejected utterly the hierarchy of nature which God built into the cosmos. For instance, Mrs. Miller claims that “submission in marriage and in the church is an example of equals agreeing to submit to the authority of leaders they have chosen for themselves. There is order, but not subordination” (p. 117). Yet obviously, order without subordination is not God’s order. It is a reorganization of God’s order according to human rebellion.
In other words, it is religious chaos. It is paganism.
Many shepherds of the church have, and continue, to endorse pagan prophets like this. It often represents a subtler, more easily-disguised version of paganism than that of people like Greg Johnson (Revoice). It permits the illusion of biblical fidelity by dressing up paganism in biblical words. Indeed, we have been stewing in androgyny culturally for so long that much of it looks completely normal; as the Overton window has shifted, the thing that has begun to seem strange and offensive to us is God’s design.
The upshot is that if you ask Christian androgynists why women are not to be pastors or heads of houses—why, in other words, it is always the woman who must “choose” to submit in these relationships of equals?—they do not have an answer. It is as if God simply declared it by fiat to test our faith. They strenuously deny that women should not be pastors because of their ontology, their being. If they were to accept that, they would also have to accept that women should not be presidents or policemen for the same reason—and that is unthinkable in a culture of androgyny. As Mark Jones puts it in his own review of Mrs. Miller’s book, “What is the actual reason for submission/subordination? Is it simply because God says so (positive law) or is it also because God has made it so (creational, fixed)?”
It is at the heart of paganism to deny that God has made it so.
Thus we have reached the point where the church’s theology of sexuality is so flat that men and women are interchangeable; they are androgynous spirits, divided only by cosmetic differences in the bodies they inhabit:
Women can therefore do anything an unordained man can do, and the reason why only men can be ordained is one of those hidden things that belong to the Lord.
This theological sewage flows freely on social media. Consider a couple of representative examples from the acolytes of Reformed theologian R. Scott Clark, responding to Castle’s review of Mrs. Miller’s book:
To which a quote attributed to Jerome, but representing all Christianity before the rise of feminism, is the apt response:
If the women shall not rise again as a woman nor the man as a man, there will be no resurrection of the body for the body is made up of sex and members.
R. Scott Clark is one key captain of the androgynist fifth column—but there are so many now that it is futile to canvass them all. This is not a paper documenting false shepherds in the church, but rather one documenting false religion, with some representative examples to help you recognize it. To that end, remember that false teachers often capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions (2 Tim 3:6). In the modern day, they recruit such women to act as lieutenants—women like Mrs. Miller and Aimee Byrd. They in turn attract a large cohort of similar women, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth (v. 7), who take advantage of social media to supercharge the old wives’ tales of 1 Timothy 4:7:
The path to victory
If the church is so compromised by paganism, what can be done? Is there any hope?
We have faced worse. From Baal worship to Arianism to Roman Catholicism, the Lord has always preserved a remnant, and eventually cleansed and restored his people.
But he does so through battle. He fights for us, but he also fights alongside us. The church is ripe for reform, but it will require taking up the sword of the Spirit, presenting ourselves to God as living sacrifices, exercising dominion.
This will be the subject of other articles. Until then, now that you understand the religious nature of the war we are in—be watchful, stand fast in the faith, acquit yourselves as men, be strong, and let all that you do be done in love.
Tim Bayly, ESV: The Complementarian Subversion on Warhorn Media. Tim calls attention to the ESV’s historically unorthodox replacement of “man” and “woman” in 1 Corinthians 11 with “husband” and “wife,” noting that what makes complementarians unique across church history is their denial that God’s creation order is foundational to human sexuality.
Jen Wilkin, 3 Female Ghosts that Haunt the Church on The Gospel Coalition. This piece, from 2015, is worth reading for insight into the mind of another very popular androgynist, Jen Wilkin of the Village Church. It is essentially an exercise in intense gaslighting-cum-self-reassurance; an effort to convince us all that obvious red flags about a woman are actually red flags about you. (Doug Wilson responds.)
Matthew King, Marxism Alienates the Worker From Home on The Reformed Conservative. There are clear connections between Marxism and feminism: both seek to flatten and destroy fundamental natural distinctions, especially in the household, as a microcosm of the world. This is worth exploring to become more fluent in spotting and tracing these connections.
Lyman Abbott, Why Women Do Not Wish The Suffrage on The Atlantic. This is the most insightful and incisive analysis of any topic we have read for some time. It was written in 1903 by an American minister, to explain why 96% of women didn’t want suffrage. Although he was apparently a Unitarian heretic, he had a much clearer view of what a household is, and what it is for, than we do today.
Yours truly, Mission first, brothers on the It’s Good To Be A Man Podcast. In this, we discuss another outworking of paganism in the concept of soulmates, which is a helpful addition to what we’ve covered here.