Is Christianity Oppressive or Liberating for Women? – page 6




Is Christianity
Oppressive or Liberating
for Women?

by Amy Orr-Ewing,
Europe/Middle East Director for Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, and Director of Programs for the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics (OCCA)

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Following on from all of this, we see that women played a really important and prominent role as historic witnesses to the central events surrounding Jesus Christ. Think about it like this: Mary is the only witness to the annunciation of the virgin birth, and she’s the primary witness to that reality. Joseph becomes a secondary witness, but Mary is the primary witness to the Christian doctrine of the incarnation. She’s trusted with that. It’s a group of women that stood at the foot of the cross. While John is also mentioned in one of the gospel narratives, women are primary witnesses to the crucifixion of God and therefore to the doctrine of the atonement. And guess what, women are first at the empty tomb. They’re the first to arrive to witness the resurrection. Incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection.

It’s striking for us to remember that the word of women was perceived as having less value than the word of men, so it’s actually enormously important that the most significant events of Jesus’s life, identity, death, and resurrection were witnessed firsthand primarily by women. This is seen as strong evidence for the veracity of the gospel accounts. It’s inconceivable that if you were making up a story, fabricating a historical event, that you would position female witnesses so prominently. This is enormously important. If we’re not prepared to listen to the teaching of women, we can’t have the incarnation, crucifixion, or resurrection. So good luck with Christian theology. After all, what is Christianity without Christ? My colleague Michael Ramsden likes to say, “If you take Christ out of Christian, you’re left with the letters ‘i a n’ and ian can’t help us very much.”

Jesus demonstrated how women should and could be regarded, and this is an extraordinary and unique apologetic in any other worldview. I know of no other coherent, intellectual foundation for the value of women that comes close to this. And in our world, where women are at sea, abused, experiencing sexual violence and objectification and all of that, this is incredibly good news.

Dorothy L. Sayers wrote in an essay [Are Women Human?], “Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man — there had never been such another.” And so the question comes, and if I were speaking in an evangelistic context, this is what I would be asking. The question comes: What will we do with their testimony and the witness of those women who have passed on to us this story of the incarnation of God, His atoning death, and His resurrection? And in our context of women objectified as objects, susceptible to self-objectification, increasingly pursued as the targets of sexual aggression, sociologists tell us that it is the humanity of women that is at stake. And it is into precisely this question that Jesus Christ speaks, upholding that Genesis ideal of male and female created in the image of God, human life as sacred, precious, having transcendent value. Christ enacted the truth in His treatment of women. Jesus was radically countercultural in His treatment of women. And, if we have time to look at it, we see that the early church upheld this.


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