Darrow Miller and Friends

What is “Difference Feminism”?

  1. What is “Difference Feminism”?
  2. Male and Female: Complementarianism vs. Egalitarianism

A friend in India sent me a number of articles on the issue of the relationship between men and women to explain why he holds an egalitarian position (men and women are equal in being and in function).

One of the articles, “Differences between Complementarian and Egalitarian Positions,” describes the distinction between the two views. I am thankful for this engagement and have spent some time reviewing the documents.

In this response I’m seeking clarity rather than agreement. Once we have clarity we can see where agreement is possible. Agreement without clarity is hollow.

I have had interest in this subject for years. My heart has been broken over the way women and girls are treated around the world. It is important that the church engages, and important how the church engages.

First, in the spirit of openness, after years of Bible study and vigorous discussion I have concluded that the complementarian position best reflects biology as well as the biblical revelation.


As we have written elsewhere, First Wave Feminism (AKA Maternal Feminism) in the 19th century and extended into the 1920s. It was born out of the conviction or memory of the biblical worldview and the Trinitarian culture.

Second Wave Feminism (AKA Modern Feminism) began to manifest itself in the 1960s as a challenge to the global sexist culture rooted in the lie that men are superiorDifference Feminism celebrated the differences between men and women to women. This perverse and cruel sexism is born of pagan culture. It demeans women and destroys the natural family.

Modern feminism blessed the world by challenging the sexist culture. Feminists did what the church should have been doing; they had the courage to challenge the stranglehold of this pagan idea on the culture.

But modern feminism was not operating from the biblical worldview which recognizes men and women as equal and different per the unity and diversity of God Himself. Rather, this feminist challenge came from the worldview of modernism, a system which denies any transcendent feminine and masculine. The only differences are biological.

Now, driven by postmodernism, feminism has morphed into Third Wave Feminism characterized by Social Justice language and action.

Early in the rise of modern feminism, 1970-1980, a group promoted what was called Difference Feminism (AKA Essential Feminism). These feminists acknowledge biological and physiological differences between men and women. For example, women are essentially more nurturing then men. While acknowledging these differences, these feminists argued that no value judgment could be placed on the differences and that, in fact, both genders have equal moral status as persons.

This concept of feminism is a natural bridge to the biblical concept of complementarianism: men and women are similar in many ways, essentially different in other ways, and yet are equal in dignity, value and moral status.

Difference Feminism lost the debate

If Christians concerned about the dignity of women had engaged in the fight they would have found natural allies in the Difference Feminism movement. The tide of modern feminism may have turned at this point. But as the feminism rooted in atheistic materialistic culture grew in power and influence in the 1980s, the movement split into two branches: the “equality feminists” versus the difference feminists. The latter lost the debate, and equality feminism took hold.

Equality feminism is a subset of Second Wave Feminism. It focuses on the basic similarities between men and women. Its ultimate goal is the equality and interchangeability of women and men in all domains of life, including the political and economic arenas. They wanted equal opportunity within the workplace and freedom from oppressive gender stereotyping. The more women out of the home and into the workplace the better.

Postmodern culture, manifested in the Social Justice movement that bridged the 20th and 21st centuries, challenged binary reasoning and reality, and, for that matter, reason and science in general. This marks the transition from Second Wave Feminism, which denied any transcendent masculine and feminine, to Third Wave Feminism, which abandoned biology and physiology altogether. Science was discarded in favor of an irrational and illusionary world which rejected male and female binary categories for androgynous gender identity.

The church and feminism

The church was leading the way when Maternal Feminism emerged. More recently the church has been reactive. We did not confront pagan sexist culture by explaining the beauty and wonder of the Trinitarian God. We did not actively proclaim the beauty of binary relationship in male and female covenant marriage. Christians finally joined the party as the debate between Essential Feminists and Equality Feminists was ending.

As radical feminism roared in the 1980s, the church began to examine the sexist culture rooted in the church. As the church engaged the debate, division arose between those who sided with the Equality Feminists and those who joined, late, with the Difference Feminists.

Mary Pride writes,

At every turn Christian women found that their biological, economic, and social roles were considered worthless. Men’s ministry, men’s money, men’s building and programs – these were the areas that mattered.

In 1984, a group of Christians in England formed the organization Men, Women and God, to advocate for the egalitarian position in the church. Three years later, in the United States, a sister organization was founded, Christians for Biblical Equality. In the same year, in the United States, The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood was formed. The CBMW is in basic agreement with the Essential/Different Feminists movement. These complementarians argued that men and women have essential and important differences which complemented each other and yet are equal in dignity and honor.

It is the arguments that these two groups represent that we will address in the next post.

  • Darrow Miller


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Darrow is co-founder of the Disciple Nations Alliance and a featured author and teacher. For over 30 years, Darrow has been a popular conference speaker on topics that include Christianity and culture, apologetics, worldview, poverty, and the dignity of women. From 1981 to 2007 Darrow served with Food for the Hungry International (now FH association), and from 1994 as Vice President. Before joining FH, Darrow spent three years on staff at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland where he was discipled by Francis Schaeffer. He also served as a student pastor at Northern Arizona University and two years as a pastor of Sherman Street Fellowship in urban Denver, CO. In addition to earning his Master’s degree in Adult Education from Arizona State University, Darrow pursued graduate studies in philosophy, theology, Christian apologetics, biblical studies, and missions in the United States, Israel, and Switzerland. Darrow has authored numerous studies, articles, Bible studies and books, including Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Culture (YWAM Publishing, 1998), Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women for Building Healthy Cultures (InterVarsity Press, 2008), LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day (YWAM, 2009), Rethinking Social Justice: Restoring Biblical Compassion (YWAM, 2015), and more. These resources along with links to free e-books, podcasts, online training programs and more can be found at Disciple Nations Alliance (https://disciplenations.org).


  1. Jon

    August 22, 2019 - 9:42 am


  2. bekako

    August 22, 2019 - 10:43 pm

    I support the article. However the arguments need biblical verse support for what we relate to the bible. I am also struggling to know more on the subject. Is there detai biblical and theological studies conducted on both complemtarianism and egalitarianism schools of tought. If there is i wish to read.

    • admin

      August 29, 2019 - 7:03 am

      Good Morning Bekako
      Good to see your interest in this subject.
      Here is a summary of Biblical texts that describe the two positions: https://cbmw.org/uncategorized/summaries-of-the-egalitarian-and-complementarian-positions/.
      There has been much written on the subject of egalitarianism and complementarianism. Here are two sites where you can begin your theological reflection by people who hold the differencing positions. Here is the Danvers Statement: https://cbmw.org/uncategorized/the-danvers-statement/, and here is a response http://freecwc.blogspot.com/p/response-to-danvers-statement.html.
      This is a very important issue worthy of our study and reflection. The bottom line, whatever your position, is that women are made in the image of God, are inherently morally equal to men and are to be treated with dignity and respect. They are not, as sexist culture implies, simply objects who can be treated like property and slaves.
      But, Bekako, the texts were only half of your question. You have written: “However the arguments need biblical verse support for what we relate to the bible.” This is true, but only half of the picture. While it is important to study chapter and verse on a subject, there is also a larger Biblical perspective that students of Scripture often forget. Your question deserves a more lengthy response which I will give in an upcoming blog. So please be looking for it.