Now it’s time to reveal a little secret. For 17 years, I have from time to time spoken of a certain woman on a panel with me about the topic of world missions. This woman had heard me speak on Christian Hedonism. So on the panel she said, “I don’t think you should say, ‘Pursue joy with all your might.’ I think you should say, ‘Pursue obedience with all your might.’” To this I responded, “But that’s like saying, ‘Don’t pursue peaches with all your might, pursue fruit.’”
Well, that was Elisabeth Elliot and the panel was at Caister (the EFIC summer gathering) on the east coast of England. She was allergic to anything that smacked of mushy, mawkish, sentimentalistic emotionalism. Amen, Elisabeth! O how I loved sparring with someone I could not have felt more in tune with.
And then there was her tough take on feminism and her magnificent vision of sexual complementarity. When Wayne Grudem and I looked around 30 years ago for articulate, strong, female complementarian voices to include in our book Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, she was at the top of the list. But the list was not long.
Partly because of her voice, that list today would be so long we would not know where to stop. I love her for this influence. Her chapter in our book is called “The Essence of Femininity: A Personal Perspective.” The title is intentionally (and typically) provocative. She was already seeing with the eyes of a prophetess.
Christian higher education, trotting happily along in the train of feminist crusaders, is willing and eager to treat the subject of feminism, but gags on the word femininity. Maybe it regards the subject as trivial or unworthy of academic inquiry. Maybe the real reason is that its basic premise is feminism. Therefore it simply cannot cope with femininity. (395–396)
She spoke, on the one hand, “from the vantage point of the ‘peasants’ in the Stone-Age culture where I once lived” (395), and on the other hand from a sophisticated vision of how the universe is put together:
What I have to say is not validated by my having a graduate degree or a position on the faculty or administration of an institution of higher learning. … Instead, it is what I see as the arrangement of the universe and the full harmony and tone of Scripture. This arrangement is a glorious hierarchical order of graduated splendor, beginning with the Trinity descending through seraphim, cherubim, archangels, angels, men and all lesser creatures, a mighty universal dance, choreographed for the perfection and fulfillment of each participant. (394)
When we deal with masculinity and femininity, we are dealing with the “live and awful shadows of realities utterly beyond our control and largely beyond our direct knowledge,” as Lewis puts it. (397)