Monday, October 1, 2018

Sorting out a Theology of Women

I said at the beginning of the year that I would work towards sorting out what I actually believe about the role of women. I have been avoiding it for a long time because the discussion quickly would make me angry or emotional. But now I am actually needing to make life decisions that are influenced by what a god-ordained role is for women in the family, in marriage, in church, and in society.

So I started asking for recommendations. I started out just trying to figure out what the categories were. I knew that in evangelicalism there are the complementation and egalitarian camps, but is that just about church leadership, or is it comprehensive? I assumed there were people on the extremes and more towards the middle. I went looking for good resources, not so much on peoples' journeys to what they believe, but on exegesis of scripture and an overall theology of women.

I started with the resources I already had, which was Tim and Kathy Keller's book on marriage and then Kathy Keller's book on the complementation position about church leadership. The Kellers are a softer complementarianism. Those were brief and not in-depth works meant for popular consumption. The next book I'm nearly done with is Paul and Gender by Westfall, which is a comprehensive scholarly work with lots of exegesis and is egalitarian. That has been paired with watching Pearce's lectures about gender and theology at Biola. To compare this in-depth egalitarian interpretation with an in-depth complementation perspective, I will next read the Kostenberger's book God's Design for Man and Women.

I've also tried to listen to the teaching of my home church. I don't feel that I have to land in agreement with their position, but I respect and love my church and its leaders and I want to take their teaching very seriously. So I have listened to Todd Wagner's sermons on women and JP's recent talk with Jennie Allen at the Porch. My church is rather conservative in their position.

It was fascinating to arrive back in the USA deeply wrestling and thinking through this personally, as the nation is right in the middle of the #metoo movement and the evangelical world is responding to scandals with Paige Patterson and Bill Hybels and has voices like Beth Moore pushing for the church's attitude towards women to be dealt with. I have found that many women are right with me in wrestling and rethinking this issue, or facing it for the first time. Within my own family, in my sending organization, among my old friends from college and my old co-workers, so many have provided opportunities to sit down and really talk over this. What a gift! I started off this journey feeling very alone, and I do not feel that way at all any more.

I feel at peace with needing time. The core passages here are complicated and require careful exegesis and reading up on the context in that day as well as the linguistic structure of the passages. The reading is pretty scholarly and intense so I move through it slowly. I'm lucky that my husband reads Greek and Hebrew and has all kinds of resources so that when I am stuck in a discussion about a particular word he whips out all these different things comparing word usage across scripture, across all literature of the time period, and various scholarly definitions. I just recognize that it's more than just figuring out if that passage in 1 Timothy says women can't be pastors. A systematic approach to teaching on gender and marriage and sexuality in creation and across scripture, struggling to see how Paul applies the creation narrative to his context and determine how to appropriately apply it to ours... it takes time.

I also feel quite at peace with the process right now. It is better to be engaging instead of avoiding and feeling angry. There's still clarity how to act and think because the instructions for believers in the New Testament are the fruits of the spirit and mutual respect and love. Those things I can implement even as I look for solid framework about women in scripture.


Anonymous said...

I’m a practicing Catholic, and I struggle with my church’s position on women in the church. That said, so does my spiritual director, who is a Jesuit priest, so I guess I’m in good company. But obviously he doesn’t have kids— it’s rough raising a thoughtful, intelligent daughter in this faith. I’ve met ministers in various denominations who are amazing women, and I wish that were an opportunity for us Catholics too. But Catholicism feels like my spiritual home. Best of luck with working and studying through this.

Kacie said...

Yes. And I think if I come to the conclusion that scripture teaches an egalitarian position of men and women in leadership roles, then I will have to wrestle with what to do when I am in churches and organizations and places that do not support women in leadership but agree with me on most other theological positions. Especially as a mother of kids, thinking of what messages my kids are absorbing, that would be the challenge.