Egalitarianism ruins everything. And that includes how we read the Bible.
When we read the Bible through the lens of an ideology (like feminism or egalitarianism) that is contrary to the Scripture, it is like wearing blinders. We end up missing very basic things about the biblical text. This TGC article is a good example of this kind of problem.
The article is well-intentioned, as it seeks to find Christ in all of Scripture. But it goes wrong in a fundamental way. One of Augustine’s foundational rules of biblical interpretation, given in his work On Christian Doctrine, is the union of Christ and his bride/body. When we say the whole Bible is about Christ, what we really mean is that it is all about Christ and his church. In Scripture there are both Christ figures and bride figures; Christ and the church are both prefigured in the Old Testament Scriptures. By finding bride figures in the biblical narratives, we can see how these stories are relevant and applicable to us today since we believers are, after all, the bride and body of Christ.
Take a quick look at how each example in the article can be better understood if viewed as a church figure rather than a Christ figure.
In Judges 4, Jael drives a tent peg through Sisera’s skull. It is true that Christ is the ultimate skull crusher. He fulfilled Genesis 3:15 on the cross — his heel was bruised at the cross but as he hung on the tree, Golgotha, the place of the skull, was under his feet. But the bride of Christ also crushes Satan under her feet. As a woman, Jael should be connected not with Christ but with the church. She foreshadows the skull crushing Paul refers to in Romans 16:20: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” If we see Jael as a Christ figure rather than a bride figure we will end up missing the victory that God has promised us over Satan! Jesus has defeated Satan, but because he has defeated Satan, his people do as well. Note that Jael actually crushes Sisera's skull using female tools and tactics: As a tentmaker/homemaker, she kills the enemy in domestic context. She uses righteous deception (a common weapon of bride figures in the Scripture when they encounter Satanic tyrants) that plays off of her nurturing nature, as she makes him think she will serve him in her kitchen and provide a place of refreshment for him. She does not deal with Sisera the way a man would have on the battlefield. She executes vengeance on him in a fiercely feminine way. If we turn her into a Christ-figure she can teach us about neither womanhood nor the church. But properly read, the story has lessons in both areas.
In the book of Ruth, there is no doubt that Boaz is the Christ-figure. He is the mighty man of valor who plays the role of kinsman-redeemer. If we treat Ruth as a Christ-figure as well, the way the TGC article suggests, the story has one Christ figure marrying another Christ figure in the end — an odd conclusion and not exactly what we should be looking for. The book of Ruth makes more sense if we see the title character as a church figure. She represents the bride because she becomes a bride. She represents "mother church" because she becomes a mother. This does not detract from the connection between Ruth 1:16-18 and Genesis 2:24; in fact, it reinforces that connection of covenantal love. The fact that Boaz takes a Gentile bride is interesting. The gospel is about the marriage of Christ to his church, but we find in the New Testament that his church is composed largely of Gentiles. Thus we can say: The gospel tells the story of an interracial/interethnic marriage. The book of Ruth presents Boaz as redeeming both the Jew Naomi and the Gentile Ruth, so it is a clear picture of Christ coming to redeem all nations. Reading Ruth as a church figure allows us to make all kinds of applications to the people of God today -- our identity, our love, our faithfulness, our mission. Jesus is the greater Boaz and the church is the greater Ruth.
Finally Esther. Esther is a bride, married to a king, and should certainly be viewed as a prefiguring of the church. It is true that Christ enters the holy of holies to pray for us. But rather than seeing Esther as a picture of the praying Savior, it makes much more sense to see her as a picture of the praying church. After all, the church is invited to come into the holy of holies, to come before the throne of grace, and make her petitions known to the King of kings. The church is the queen of heaven; we may be sure that our beloved king hears us and answers our pleas. Esther foreshadows not the intercessory ministry of Jesus but the intercessory ministry of the church. As we advocate for others in prayer, they experience God's deliverance. The story of Esther means not less but actually far more for us today if we see the title character as a foreshadowing of the church. The church is the greater Esther.
The reality is that when we read biblical narratives, the sex (maleness or femaleness) of the characters matters. Imagine reading a Jane Austen story in which the sexes are reversed. Is Emma the same story if it features a Mrs. Knightley instead of a Mr. Knightley? Of course not. So it is with the Scriptures. Sex (maleness or femaleness) matters, and God has built the meaning of sex into the fabric of the creation precisely so he could use the sexes to symbolize his work of redemption. Again, the writer of the TGC article is to be commended for seeking to find Christ in all of Scripture. But the best way to honor these women is not to turn them into Christ figures but to understand them as church figures. What I find troublesome is that so many evangelicals can read the Old Testament narratives as if they are about Christ apart from his church. But Augustine was right: When we find Christ in the Scripture, we find his body as well. The key that unlocks these stories is totus Christus — we must find in these stories the whole Christ, head and body, husband and bride. The problem with the article is that in seeking to honor women, it actually dishonors both women and the church. The way to honor women is not acting as if they only have value if they do what a man would typically do. This is the problem with so many feminized super-heroine movies today, and it's the problem with modern feminism: They force women into manly roles, as if the only way for a woman to make her life count is to live as if she were a man, doing conventionally masculine tasks in conventionally masculine ways. A proper reading of these Old Testament stories gives us a better path forward: Women acting as women have great value. Women in the Bible can have value without doing masculine, messianic tasks. Their value is found in doing feminine things in feminine ways. Women in the Bible are associated with the church, with the bride. Just as men symbolize either Christ or anti-Christ, so women can symbolize either the bride or the harlot.
Read the last two paragraphs of the article again:
The ways in which the Old Testament anticipates the Messiah are so varied and multifaceted we often miss their depth. Just as when we gaze at a cloudless night sky and our eyes see more and more stars the longer we look, so too pausing to gaze at the Old Testament reveals layer upon layer of messianic anticipation.
Slow down and look for more. Pause to gaze. Jesus is longed for and predicted in diverse ways in the Old Testament. May the Spirit aid us in seeing them all, not least through the females who foreshadow Christ.
But those paragraphs are just as true and make more sense if we read them this way:
The ways in which the Old Testament anticipates the church are so varied and multifaceted we often miss their depth. Just as when we gaze at a cloudless night sky and our eyes see more and more stars the longer we look, so too pausing to gaze at the Old Testament reveals layer upon layer of ecclesial anticipation.
Slow down and look for more. Pause to gaze. The church, the bride of Christ, is longed for and predicted in diverse ways in the Old Testament. May the Spirit aid us in seeing them all, not least through the females who foreshadow the church.